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Mid Side Limiting:
More Than Meets The Ear

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Who would’ve thought mid side limiting was ever going to be worth the effort?

What’s with the hesitation?

There’s some minor complexities involved...

How so?....

Don't we just set up your file as laid out here, add our limiters to the mid and side portions, and be done??

Well, not quite.

Limiting is the second last step in a master. In addition to adding loudness to a mix (still an obsession in 2011), its most important function is to ensure there are no digital overs that will cause clipping on your listener’s playback systems. No more processing - except for dithering - should be done afterward.


We're limiting two signals independently...

These must be summed back into a single stereo file. So there is definitely a possibility of introducing overs. To prevent this from happening, another, final limiting stage must be added.

Its only purpose is to prevent those overs.

So, a procedure that is a single finalizing step is being used three times!

Since I was always rather wary of employing limiting more than once in a mastering chain, mid-side limiting seemed rather pointless to me.

But BrainworX' invented Mid Side Limiting

...and back in 2011, released a self-contained mid side limiter.

I’ll return to BrainworX’ very intriguing software in a moment!

More often than not, most of the limiting action will happen on the mid signal, because that is where most of the signal energy will be. You can hear this for yourself when you follow these steps for mid-side monitoring of a properly balanced mix.

What this can result in, if done correctly, is to give you a nice tight punchy master with a greater sense of air. Again, you’d do this if the mix requires it. Like anything else in mastering, you don’t apply a process just for the hell of it.

Back to BrainworX...

They've taken care of all the necessary precautions...

...and upped the ante with a few extra features, some unique to it:

  • It lets you correct the placement of the MID signal in the stereo field, and the panorama of the SIDE, in addition to the simple L/R balance
  • It allows you centre and properly balance low (bass) frequencies
  • It lets you preform two-band limiting on the MID signal - a rather thoughtful addition to either boost lo-end punch in a mix; or tame hi-end sibilances
  • It lets you choose and shape side chain and triggering functions
  • Finally, with a function called ‘XL’, it lets you dial in additional 3rd and 5th harmonics giving you an enhanced perception of loudness

In the end, four stages are involved here - instead of three - because two-band processing is used on the mid signal.

It’s quite a versatile tool

...and potentially dangerous in the hands of amateurs.

While it’s possible to set up something similar with a plug in like Ozone, for example (with the exception of mid-side panning and side chain functions), BrainworX presents mid side limiting within a very sleek, logically laid out, single interface.

If the obsession for loudness continues, this option may be worth the effort after all...

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