so, i have a question about distortion, to be exact, im using the distortion that comes with Cubase.

It looks like it hard limits the levels.
my kick would show dynamics but after adding distortion i loose the dynamics as if its hard limited…does this make sense?..lol, its hard for me to explain.

:question: :question: :question:

  • what does this mean?
  • can i take it to having more headroom because i loose the dynamics and i can raise the level more?
  • if the added harmonics make it sound louder and gives me more headroom why not add it to my master bus to finalize the entire mix? or in the same use like parallel compression? or bus to a channel with a limiter and distortion to make it ridiculously loud? etc etc

im curious because without the proper knowledge it seems like a quicker alternative to using compression. all you have to do is plug it in and set to the lowest settings.

i hope this isnt a stupid question as i have the tendency of overlooking things :unamused:

Big thanks!

Distortion does level out things a lot, that’s why a distorted guitar is very compressed, and you don’t get any loud peaks at high gain settings. Of course it also depends on the distortion algorithm/device used.

Others might know more about the exact science of distortion, so I’ll shut up and let others give a proper answer. :mrgreen:

This turned out to be more of a general limiter-info post rather than an answer to your question, but hopefully someone will get something out of it.

Imagine an “ideal” limiter, a function that leaves no samples above your target threshold, the simplest type would have instantaneous time constants (attack and release). This would equal hard digital clipping, pushing your master into the red. The more you push the signal into the red the more your waveforms change from sinusoid to square-like. Square waves consist of odd harmonics, the first one being the fundamental harmonic, the second one being the third harmonic, then the fifth, seventh and so on. This type of signal sounds very harsh, the ear does not like distortion with a loud third harmonic component.

To overcome this problem, a limiter made for audio signals introduces time constants, most notably the release time since in the typical way a limiter is used, it would not be of much use with anything else than an almost instantaneous attack.
Now you have to make tradeoffs between release time and effectiveness. Too short a release and you’ll more or less hard clip the signal, too long and you’ll lower the total volume of your track, just like lowering the master fader. Not to mention all the pumping in between.

When using a distortion effect you are looking at the whole thing from a different direction, the reduction in dynamics is a byproduct of the waveshaping taking place and it is not very versatile as a limiter. In comparison with the first example, a distortion effect works in quite the same way regarding time. The difference being that it typically introduces a lot of second harmonics, sounding subjectively good to the ear, but also components higher up the spectrum which will sooner or later sound harsh too. In comparison with a normal audio limiter, you will, as you almost say, have to introduce a ridiculous amount of distortion to achieve an equal amount of limiting, and I’d not want to listen very long to such a mix.
A subtle amount of distortion in combination with a carefully adjusted limiter might be better practice (a lot of people do this by running their mixes onto tape to get saturation distortion or through tube amplified -insert random gizmo here-), but I always recommend people to limit their mixes as little as possible, dynamics are awesome!



that clears things up though. i also ran into something about ISP after watching a tut on Fabfilters youtube page.

its just a theory but, im starting to think that distortion purposely uses ISP (or something like it) and HP, LP filters to distort the signal which creates crazy peaks and therefore needs a build-in limiter to help suppress it so its easier to control. shrugs :confused:

IF im right, then i can answer my own question :sunglasses: :

  • what does it mean?
    build-in hard limiter prevents the boosted ISP(or similar) frequencies to go above 0db.
  • more headroom?
    yes but added harmonics can alter overall EQ adjustments
  • bussing and such and scuh?
    yes, to add saturation/color to your sound(s) or fx, however, stacked saturation/color/harmonics = noise and therefore is aesthetically unpleasing to the ear and is not musical.

    maybe im totally wrong, but until i find an answer, ill stay away from using Distortion as an alternative to making my sounds louder,even at its lowest settings. Ill use the proper tools for it for now :stuck_out_tongue: :laughing:

With the almost infinite possibilities offered by dsp to FSU available today there is no single concept about how a distortion effect should work and there’s all kinds of crazy ideas floating around plugin space.
My comment was based on a more traditional look on distortion where you pass the linear range of an amplifying element of some sort. And with that said, I was even a bit misleading in a sense writing that the limiting is a byproduct of the waveshaping. On the theoretical level, the limiting is the cause and the distortion is the effect. But from a practical viewpoint, it’s the other way around.

I don’t think you should decide to do one or the other, test everything and use your ears (critically).