In this review we will be comparing the new version of the Fabfilter Pro-L 2 it up against the old Fabfilter Pro-L to test it against the previous version, and we'll also shoot it out against other popular plugin limiters so you can see how you rate it to some other industry favourites.
We will be shooting out the Fabfilter Pro-L 2, Fabfilter Pro L, UAD Precision Limiter, iZotope Ozone 7 Maximiser and the Waves L2 Ultramaximiser. We know there are a huge range of other limiters we can also shoot out so will, as soon as possible make up a larger shootout review of an extensive range of Mastering Peak Limiters, but for the moment we are focussing on the brand new fancy Fabfilter Pro-L 2!
Heres what they look like - If you want to go direct to the SHOOTOUTS CLICK HERE
Fabfilter Pro-L 2
UAD Precision Limiter
iZotope Ozone 7 Maximiser
Waves L2 Ultramaximiser
4dB Peak Limiting - Soul Song
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So the first thing we found from this shootout, was that all of these limiters, as you would expect from the legacy of the companies that make them do a really nice job, with each of them delivering slightly different and useful characteristics. Of course at 4dB the amount of limiting is not huge, so you wont be expecting too many artefacts or distortions to be present, but we have chosen this amount as it is (based on semi extensive internet research) in the upper range that many mastering engineers would consider doing on a track and where many claim that differences start to stand out more.
You are really, for this test at 4dB limiting, only going to be getting limiting happening on the loudest parts, parts to really listen to for differences can be heard at these particular points (based on the vocal for ease).
"Never", "World" (especially check the bass note here), "Courage", "Back" (good place to check the snare), "Feet".
Each limiter processes the audio in slightly different ways, so we can of course expect differences sonically, even within a limiter on the different styles (as we have for the Fabfilter Pro-L 2 and iZotope 7 Maximizer. For example, for the two settings in this example (Modern, Transparent) on the Fabfilter Pro-L 2 null when not limiting to around 40dB below the reference sample and is relatively flat across the spectrum, whereas compared to the Pro-L 2 nulling to the Waves L2 the null is to around 35dB in the low end and 50dB in the top end (basically getting to that difference on a gradual slope). These are going to be some of the sonic 'across the board' differences we hear in the shootout, e.g. if it nulls less there is more of a difference between the plugins in that area.
So now to shootout. From this test, we want to start with the Waves L2 Ultramaximizier as it has been a highly popular and well revered limiter in audio circles. First listen for us shows it to seem a little bit wider than, for example the Fabfilter Pro-L 2 and compare it to the UAD Precision Limiter. The Waves L2 seems to also be slightly less forward in the 1kHz region than the Precision and the low end of the bass becomes a little more noticeable. It does seem to add a little more crack to the snare than some of the other limiters, which can be useful, like all of the differences in this test to be honest, its a taste thing.
The UAD Precision Limiter seems to have a nice shine or smoothness on the high end and harmonic feel in the lower mids area, the snare is a little less snappy than the Waves L2. We really like what it does in the 400 to 1.5kHz area
The iZotope 7 Maximizer on the IRCIV Modern setting seems to enhance the signal in some way, both harmonically and in the high end in particular, it seems a little more stereo and cleans up the lower mids (especially on the bass), the transient sound of the hihat is slightly more there than some of the other limiters (for the transparent setting). On the Transparent setting it also seems ever so much softer and slightly less boxy than the Modern setting.
The Fabfilter Pro-L (version 1) pulls things into the mid frequencies a little compared to the original sample, check it out on the hihat, and the reverbs and also the 2kHz area on the hats. When cycling back to the unprocessed, non limited audio file the Fabfilter Pro-L slightly enhances the breathiness and grit on the voice compared to the L2 and Precision and seems a little more forward than both of those Limiters.
So now onto the Fabfilter Pro-L 2. First of all on the Modern setting, one thing that is interesting on this setting is that it really seems to open out the song and make it sound deeper in the sound stage, it seems a really nice step up from the Pro-L. The low end seems more extended, smoother and clearer, (as does the whole mix), to our ears the nicest low end of all the Limiters we tested here. Have a listen to the congas on the right hand side, the Pro-L 2 seems to keep the best transients. Fabfilter seem to have upped the quality on the Pro-L 2 from the Pro-L, which is an impressive feat considering that the Pro-L is one of the most revered Limiters around. It is really worth, we think delving into, and especially checking out the new style options as well. To help you on your way for that here is a player of all the other limiting styles on the new Pro-L 2 at 4dB and 8dB of limiting, so you can compare what they sound like for yourself and see what you think*.
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Coming in the near future: An extensive Peak Limiter review of as many brands as we can muster!
Handy Links -
Check out the Fabfilter Pro-L2 and their full range
Check out the iZotope range here (Ozone is now at series 8)
Check out the UAD Precision Limiter
Check out the Waves L2 Ultramaximiser
Extra info for those interested in how we make our calls on what stuff sounds like -
Listening tests and assumptions are determined, double checked or signed off at Gearshoot HQ on ATC110ASL Pro monitors. We reckon that they give us a pretty good chance at getting it pretty well in the ballpark of what it is going to sound like on most other peoples monitors. We also headphone check on Extreme Isolation EX-29s to hear what is going on in that spectrum and to hear what the world of headphones can show us.
*Please note - Aggressive got auto corrected without one g for some reason that only points to the fact that computers are sentient and conspire against us. Well fix this in due course.