Sonible smart:limit review: A stunning limiter for beginners and pros alike
Is this the one limiter plug-in to rule them all? Sonible throws its hat in the ring, with an AI powered, limiting toolbox.
⊕ Clear and flexible GUI
⊕ Superb visual feedback and learning aids
⊕ Several tools in one
⊖ AI parameter results will require a little tweaking
⊖ Distortion Monitoring graph a bit small
A stunning limiter with a clean, open sound, fast workflow, and unsurpassed feedback and guidance for beginners and pros alike.
Combining the tools of several Sonible plug-ins, smart:limit provides transparent limiting, automatic parametrisation, sound shaping, and extensive loudness and dynamics monitoring in one. The mastering limiter market is a crowded place – can this new kid on the block dethrone the tried and tested tools in your plug-in folder?
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smart:limit looks incredibly clean, with plenty of feedback that helps visualise exactly what’s going on. The core limiter provides controls for the ceiling, input gain, attack, and release, with an intelligent Auto Release option for extra transparency. Without using any of the other functions, simply pushing the audio into the limiter provides excellent results, and we were able to get a little louder than some competing plug-ins before things started sounding distorted and squashed.
A useful Constant Gain feature keeps the output at the same level while you adjust parameters, making it easier to hear any audio changes. There’s also a delta listening button that lets you just hear what’s being removed by the limiting process, and a unique Distortion Monitoring graph that highlights parts of the spectrum that are distorting through the plug-ins processing. This window would be far more useful if it was a little bigger and easier to read.
Smart:limit has four sound-shaping dials to refine your track. Style lets you sweep from softer and more transparent limiting styles to a more aggressive sound; Saturation adds warmth and thickness; Bass Control enhances and tightens the low end; and Balance gently flattens the spectral spread and removes resonances (based on Sonible’s smart:EQ3 plug-in).
You might already have other plug-ins that you normally use on the master bus for these functions, but it’s nice to have them built-in so that you can instantly tweak and try out different settings. When used in small amounts, we find these to be a useful set of sweetening tools on top of the main limiter sound.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Sonible plug-in without the smart part. You can select a style from 26 different genres, then hit the Learn button to have smart:limit listen then set parameters for optimum sonic processing. You also have a drop-down list of streaming and broadcast loudness targets that have a further effect on the settings. For the most part, this gives good results, although you may need to further tweak the input gain and final output level to perfectly hit certain targets. If you’re used to crafting masters for the club, you might find the resulting levels a little light but you can load in your own reference tracks as profiles, which gives you more relevant results.
The Loudness Monitoring section is another area where smart:limit truly shines. This graph plots loudness on one axis and dynamics on the other, and helps you hone in on the best balance between the two. You’re presented with target areas that change when you select different delivery platforms, and a fantastic Quality Check feature tells you what you need to adjust to hit those targets. This also includes a built-in penalty figure that tells you how much the platform will turn your track up or down based on your current settings.
As a learning tool, smart:limit is superb. It’s sure to help beginners gain a better understanding of loudness, and help pros hit their targets more efficiently. This wouldn’t mean anything if it didn’t sound good, but we’re happy to report that it excels in this department too, providing an open top end, and good transient definition. The AI mostly works but will require further tweaking to get the best and most accurate results. No one limiter will be the best for all mixes, but as a package, smart:limit provides a wealth of useful tools that make it highly worthy of a place in your toolbox.
- Automatic limiter parametrisation
- Extensive loudness monitoring
- Visually guided loudness and dynamics targeting
- Targets for streaming services, loudness standards, genres and reference tracks
- 4 sound-shaping tools for fine tuning and styling
- Instant Impact Prediction for smooth workflow
- Quality Check for confident settings adjustment
- Distortion Display and intelligent auto release
- Machine authorisation or iLok
- €89 intro price until 22nd January 2022
- Contact: Sonible
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