Whether you're a producer, mix engineer, or mastering engineer, limiters play a crucial and essential role in almost every aspect of your work if you focus largely on Hip-Hop and Electronic music; both genres rely on huge, maximized, in-your-face mixes that simply aren't achievable without careful control of the dynamic range of both the overall mix and it's constituent parts.
We're always on the lookout for new and innovative approaches to limiting, and that's exactly what we found when we put Newfangled Audio's latest release, Elevate, to the test—its a truly unique and incredibly powerful multiband limiter that goes far beyond what almost every other plugin on the market is capable of. If you're on the lookout for a limiter that can not only get your mix loud but radically sculpt its tone and impact, you should give Elevate a serious look.
Setup and First Impressions
Elevate installs as an AU, VST2, VST3, or AAX Native plugin for use in just about any DAW. Opening the plugin's interface for the first time reveals a large spectral display (more on this in a bit), along with controls for the plugin's main parameters: limiter gain, limiter speed, output ceiling, transient emphasis, and spectral clipping.
While Elevate packs some of the most advanced functionality I've ever found in a limiter under the hood, it's remarkably simple to use if you want to stick to the main parameters page; even when using these basic macro controls, Elevate sounds phenomenal and is right up there with the best and loudest limiters on the market.
If you choose to dive deeper, Elevate presents four main sub-modules for tweaking: Filter Bank, Limiter/EQ, Transient, and Clipper.
The Filter Bank is both the least intuitive and most interesting of the sub-modules, as Elevate is based around a 26 band triangular filter bank which splits the incoming audio signal apart based on how the human inner ear is built. According to Newfangled Audio, Elevate is truly unique because it's adaptive limiting algorithms analyze all 26 bands independently in real time, adjusting the gain, transients, and limiter speed for each, doing so in a way that sounds as natural (and as loud) as possible to the human ear. While the Filter Bank is fully customizable, you'll usually be best served by simply leaving it in its default 26-band state, unless you need the plugin to save on CPU cycles; the sound quality and maximum loudness of the plugin improves as more bands are used, although the increase in quality does come with a tradeoff in processing power required.
Following the Filter Bank in the signal path, you'll find the Limiter/EQ section, which allows you to customize the gain for each of the 26 bands—making Elevate quite simply the most robust multiband limiter I've come across to date. While its always better to fix it in the mix—not on the master buss—mastering engineers often don't have this luxury, and Elevate is an ideal tool if you're working with a mix that has a particular region (or regions) of the frequency spectrum that are preventing the limiter from reaching target loudness levels.
Next up is the Transient module, which similarly offers 26-band control over transient gain; I've never seen anything even remotely like this before, in a limiter plugin or otherwise. One of the most frequent and undesirable side-effects of limiting is a loss of impact and transients, and being able to customize transient impact in such detail is an incredible luxury for mix and mastering engineers alike.
Lastly, you'll find the clipper module, which offers variable soft and hard clipping (0 to 100%) and up to 12dB's of gain on the clipper alone. If you're looking for that last bit of loudness before printing your mix, Elevate's clipper is a phenomenal tool to get that last bit of gain without losing transient impact or squashing dynamics.
Elevate is right up there with the most impressive limiters I've ever used, and in many cases, it's capable of delivering a louder and more natural sounding result than anything else I have in my plugin folder. While I initially wasn't quite sure what to make of the 26 band functionality and claims of adaptive algorithms driven by artificial intelligence, there is most definitely something special under the hood here, and Elevate is a uniquely powerful tool, especially when you're given a mix with problems in a particular frequency range.
While it's always preferable to fix frequency imbalances in the mix and not on the master buss, most mastering engineers will tell you this is simply a daily requirement of the job; its not infrequent to have a client deliver a rough mix that's got far too much bass, sibilant highs, or a range of other issues. Elevate is uniquely situated to deliver the loudest and most commercially viable possible master given imperfect source material; being able to customize the per-band limiter gain over 26 granular bands means you can achieve impressive RMS levels even if a kick or sub bass is mixed too loud on the premaster mix. In addition to offering highly detailed control over the impact and tonal balance of a mix, I do believe there's something to the claims of Elevate's bands being built around how we naturally perceive sound. While I'm usually not a fan of multiband limiters whatsoever, as they can easily create phase and transparency problems of their own, Elevate is the real deal, with none of the typical drawbacks I'd expect from a multiband dynamics tool.
Similarly, the highly flexible and granular transient control is simply something you have to try to believe. While it's common in 2018 for limiters to offer some kind of transient emphasis or recovery—with wildly different results, I should note—this is unlike anything I've found before. Elevate is capable of extremely detailed transient manipulation using a stereo master file in a way that no other plugin on the marketplace is at the moment. Elevate's multiband transient mode isn't just phenomenal for the master buss either—it's the kind of detailed tool you can use to bring out (or suppress) snap and punch in any area of the frequency spectrum on drums, synths, guitars, or busses and stems. On the master, it means you can easily get your snare or kick poking cutting through a crowded mix without changing the dynamics or the transient impact of other frequency bands—pretty much a holy grail for any mastering or mix engineer.
In Conclusion/Recommended For
Newfangled Audio Elevate ranks right at the very top of our best-of limiters list, and its capable of going louder with more transparency than any other limiter in my plugin folder more often than not. Elevate offers truly unique and unprecedented multiband control over both frequency balance and transient impact, and its the most useful tool I've found to date for fixing many common problems encountered when mastering less than ideal mixes. While it may not be the simplest limiter on the market, Elevate is surprisingly easy to get comfortable with despite its advanced functionality, and we'd highly recommend it if you're looking for a versatile, flexible, and stunning-sounding limiter.
- Sounds amazing
- Capable of incredibly loud but natural sounding results
- Multiband controls are stunning
- Can be CPU-intensive