A video review is forthcoming and will be posted to this web page/blog entry when it’s online. In the mean time, please enjoy the script notes:
sonible smart:limit Review
Title Idea: Hidden Features in Sonible Smart Limit ver 1.0.1 + Review
Version 1.0.1 changes:
added gain reduction readout for Pro Tools
fixed failing AudioUnit validation at 11kHz sampling rate on Apple Silicon Macs
fixed gain reduction display issue
fixed freeze on systems/hosts where OpenGL is not available
*record scratch sound effect* while video pauses
That was my pre-recorded intro, but after watching videos that other audio engineers already produced, there are already over 15 videos that break down all of the controls and play unmastered mixes through smart limit. What I want to do differently is show some lesser known features and try it out on instruments and busses.
Another plugin I’ve been testing out lately is NoiseAsh’s NEED bundle of equalizers, so I’ll be using that and some reverb/delay plugins in combination with smart limit during this video.
Other channels showed you how to use the plugin as it was intended. In this video, we’re going to use it in areas where it wasn’t and see if it still works.
I’m also going to test its results with Youlean Loudness Meter and Loudness Penalty, the two loudness plugins that have been staples in my plugin folder.
Well, that was the intro until I did some deep research into this plugin and realized that there are at least 15 videos out there already demonstrating essentially the same thing. The effectiveness of smart limit during the mastering stage. For this video, I’ll process some other material.
At the end, I’ll play it on mixes and see how its artificial intelligence measures up to loudness metering plugins that have been in my software stable for years. I am reviewing this plugin on the VST3 plugin platform, on a Windows 7 machine. Cockos REAPER version 6.43.
Installation was smooth, with machine based license or iLok hardware dongle activation options.
Hidden Features graphic
A few Hidden Features of smart limit are
To copy/paste states, drag and drop.
Show Automatable controls.
Resize the GUI.
Apparently, pressing auto release removes a manually entered value if you change it within a State.
Channel linking is at 75% by default, which tends to brighten mixes. Set to 0% to tone it down where channels are processed independently.
Delta – what the plugin is changing. Like a polarity reversal.
Constant Gain. Use in conjunction with the Bypass button.
Quality Check – Hidden feature, in the lower right corner it tells you what will happen.
Smart State button, easy to miss. To the right of the Genre names.
“You can go back to the smart state (the parameter settings computed by smart:limit) after making manual changes by clicking on the smart:limit logo right next to the profile dropdown.”
Start and Pause Loudness Measurement (easy to miss, to the left of the word Integrated.
Click Integrated to change the loudness measurement types.
Drag Histogram (on left side of graph)
You may also drag the Reference Loudness by dragging the LUFS number up and down or enter a custom value with a single click.
Turn off Tool Tips or OpenGL for meter glitching.
To delete a preset or change its name, go to
the preset folder in your local file explorer.
Or the user guide said look under My Documents\Presets\sonible\smartLimit
Last but not least, one a couple other video creators showed the introductory tutorial.
Graphic: Unintended Smart Limit Uses
Try it out on tracks and busses!
Intended Smart Limit Uses
Content Aware Limiter
Automatic parameters in seconds.
Extensive dynamics and loudness monitoring.
Unique Sound Shaping Tools
smart:limit will suggest you limiter parameters in seconds, keeps an eye on the loudness and dynamics of your track and guides you in meeting the safe zone requirements for a vast variety of streaming services and loudness standards with its extensive loudness monitoring section. Additionally, smart:limit gives you interactive hints about how to tweak problematic parameters.
Show it off on mixes. Show how fast it works.
Instant Impact Prediction (parameter changes = near real time changes to the meters)
Style: Left = smooth/transparent, Right = Pumping
Balance – Spectral balance
Bass – Low End Enhancement, like Renaissance Bass
Integrated, Short Term and Momentary.
Intelligent auto release
How I used it: Pick a genre. Find the final chorus/loudest part of the song. While playing, click the Learn button. If it sounds good, keep. If not, try a different genre and repeat until you find a good match
Pick your genre or load a Reference music file, pick your Publishing Target.
A good way to work with this would be to manually create a gold standard master. Then, use that as a reference file.
After that, find the loudest part of your song. Start a few seconds ahead of where it gets the loudest and then press the Learn button right before that section starts.
If it does not sound good, select a different state and then analyze a different section or pick a different genre profile. For reference tracks, I suggest Bob Katz’s honor roll at https://www.digido.com/honor-roll/
Works best for songs that are spectrally/dynamically similar throughout the song. If there are major changes in sections, you’ll need to work differently.
Gives a good starting point for advanced level engineers. Great finishing point if you aren’t an engineer and just want a good sounding track without much fuss.
The ever important Constant Gain function.
The Style dial determines the way how aggressively the limiter hits the audio material. This parameter can be compared to different “processing modes” or “engines” in other limiters, but smart:limit allows you to set this feature gradually.
The saturation dial allows boosting the perceived loudness of your track without increasing the peak level. More than a few people said sonible should release the saturation as a standalone plugin.
Distortion Monitoring display. The spectral representation indicates the amount of distortion in bright red for different frequency regions.
True Peak Limit Line
Sonible suggests at least -1.0 dBFS if audio is going to streaming services.
The Loudness & Dynamics grid of smart:limit can help you to find the right dynamic balance for your signal
Graphic: Smart Limit vs. Loudness Meters
It cannot analyze the entire track, so how well does it pair up with the other loudness plugins that you already use?
Are the genres just parameter presets? Edward Morgan brought this to my attention on YouTube.
Compare it to Ozone’s maximizer, which has an LUFS target.
Pro Tip Graphic
While integrated loudness is very important, short term and the even smaller momentary loudness measurements are just as important so as to not annoy your listener with sudden volume changes.
Loudness Range is also important…indicated by the LRA meter.
Room for Improvement Graphic
Cannot type in Limit and Gain values, which is interesting.
Distortion Meter – Should be larger. Quite unique!
Publishing Targets not being matched annoyed a lot of people.
Does not analyze entire mixes, unlike Youlean or Loudness Penalty.
Add a lot more Genre Profiles or at least give users the ability to generate and maybe even share their own. Like, I want to drop a folder’s worth of Metallica from the 1990s into this and have it spit out a profile.
Custom References are removed from the Profile list. No way to keep them or remove them that I am aware of.
One user did not like the gain fader having a green area visual. It implies that green area is affecting the audio.
Not Native M1/Apple Silicon. Due to iLok.
Saturation aliasing complaints at 44.1/48 khz sample rates.
Missing mid-side options.
Some complained that you cannot use the Sound Shaping parameters without Learning a track first.
NVidia graphics card users, install Studio driver, not game ready driver. Has to do with NvIFR OpenGL support.
Does not optimize the output gain setting. A strange omission considering the Delivery Targets include broadcast standards.
Would love to see the Distortion Monitoring window automatically pop up when the saturation knob is being worked with.
Does not give you the ability to analyze the entire track.
User manual is well written. (show pages 12, 13 and 17 on screen)
Tutorial in the plugin itself should be very helpful for beginners.
The fact that this is a true peak limiter, and not just a peak limiter, is key. Many fail in this department.
Latency and CPU usage.
There was definitely a gap in the market for a plugin like this.
A great choice to have in the Limiter toolbox, since not every limiter is suited for a particular master.
Instant Impact Prediction makes things so much faster.
Works best with songs that have a similar character from beginning to end. If your song does not, you will have to automate.
Works well in conjunction with Ozone 9’s Master Assistant. Replace Ozone Maximizer with this and you’re on Easy Street.
Loyalty discounts are available. Be sure to login to your sonible account before purchasing.
Beats other limiters on price, especially with loyalty discounts.
Great results, fast.
Team Sonible quickly fixed the initial bugs. A solution for the saturation aliasing is on the way in the future.
May not be the best limiter for absolute loudness, but it’s probably the fastest. Elevate, Limitless (shrinks stereo image) and Weiss (does not handle intersample peaks) kept getting mentioned. TC Electronics MD4 Native got a nice mention. Most said it beats Fabfilter Pro-L2 though!