Have you ever found yourself unintentionally talking much louder during moments of high excitement, responding to somebody who says “What?” or just managed to stub your toe while live? When these situations occur, the first thought on your mind probably isn’t to turn down or mute your microphone, especially if stubbing your toe is the particular cause of your high-energy moment.
This is precisely where the OBS limiter shows what it’s made of, and why you should probably include the filter at the end of your audio chain as a live streamer.
Properly utilized, this filter will prevent most cases where an undesirable audio issue, known as peaking, can occur. This is specifically important in the world of professional audio – Musicians, Voice Actors, and yes, Streamers and YouTubers need to be aware of this tool. When used correctly, you can save a ton of time by limiting the instances in which you have to retake a recording due to peaking.
However, for live streamers who create their content on-the-fly, this tool becomes particularly desirable, as you can’t simply redo something live.
With that said, time to get into the details on the Limiter filter and how it can help you!
What does the OBS Limiter do?
Think of the limiter as though it was a super-powered compressor. It takes the input of a signal, checks the value of its volume in dB, and then hard limits the value to a defined maximum once a threshold is met. In other words, the limiter filter in OBS prevents your microphone from sounding bad when you get too loud.
Think of the limiter as though it was a super-powered compressor.
What I mean by sounding bad, is that the signal peaks out, or clips. Peaking is an issue that all microphones can have, and it comes in two flavors – Hardware and Software.
Most of you will only ever encounter software-related peaking, and that is what a limiter can help prevent. If you manage to hardware peak the microphone – trying to record the wind during a hurricane or tornado for example, you’ll hear that odd distorted rushing noise. That is hardware peaking, and there is nothing you can do to recover an audio signal that has peaked in this way.
As for Software peaking, this phenomenon occurs when your audio signal reaches the 0 dB maximum. When peaking occurs in this case, the detail within the signal is quite simply clipped off of the top, the result of which is significant distortion. A limiter will sharply lower the signal volume to preserve signal integrity, preventing the distortion issue.
When should you use a Limiter filter?
There may be certain situations where the inclusion of the limiter filter may actually be detrimental. For example, if you are already using a compressor filter that handles the issue at a level that is sufficient, then a limiter may be unnecessary entirely. By adding a limiter, you only increase the total processing overhead in this case.
However, there are certain situations that everyday life sometimes presents you with at inconvenient times. The OBS limiter is designed to be a safety net, in these rare instances where uncontrollably loud noises reach the microphone:
- Barking dogs
- Screaming children
- Noisy cars
- Rude neighbors blaring music
- Planes taking off at a nearby airfield
- Construction work
If you are a victim of these scenarios, then a limiter can help moderate the volume of sound that ultimately reaches the microphone. Though, for some more extreme situations, such as construction work, casual use of a microphone mute key is probably a better solution for your audience, especially when coupled with a limiter to reduce the harshness of the noise.
OBS limiter vs compressor – Which should you use?
Fun fact – The limiter is simply a reduced functionality compressor. As I stated earlier in the article, you can easily use a compressor by itself and forgo the limiter entirely. This is not the case the other way around, as the limiter lacks some features that the compressor offers.
As for what you should use, I recommend that you utilize both. When you do so, you are able to back off on the ratio of the compressor itself, allowing you to reduce its impact on the signal. These filters aren’t perfect, and their use does affect the signal in subtle ways. Our ears can’t pinpoint exactly what the problems are that arise, but they are sensitive enough to notice that something happened that feels out of place.
That said, their benefits outweigh these subtle effects that crop up in most situations. Overall, these filters are a great addition to your audio toolset.
How to add the OBS limiter to your Audio source
There are a few steps necessary to add the limiter to your audio source, but luckily, it is fairly easy to do so. In fact, it’s only four clicks.
- Right-click your audio source
- This can be done from the “Sources” Window OR The Audio mixer itself
- Click Filters
- Look for the + at the bottom left of the new window, and click it
- Select “Limiter”
Et voila! Now you simply need to tune the filter a tiny bit, and you’ll be on your way to creating content without fear of inducing unwanted microphone peaking to your audience.
How should I tune the OBS limiter settings?
When working with the Limiter filter, there are two sliders that control how it works –
|From my Testing, a value of -13 dB to -6 dB works best||From my testing, a value of 50 to 80 ms is ideal|
If you’re playing with this filter, you don’t really want to set the threshold any lower than -13 dB, because, by that point, it will kick in even from normal speech volume, assuming your microphone is within the proper speaking range of -15 dB to -10 dB range.
As for the release, setting this value too low can be detrimental by introducing micro-volume reductions as your signal brushes against the threshold value. You also don’t want to set it too high, as doing so will result in a larger window of overall volume reduction when there doesn’t need to be.
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