Mix engineer Marcel van Limbeek has chosen Nugen Audio's ISL 2 plug-in to provide real-time true peak limiting for a range of music mix and mastering projects, including it as part of a hybrid digital/analogue workflow for the latest Tori Amos album.
As longtime studio and monitor engineer for Amos, van Limbeek found himself relying on ISL 2 during the making of the singer-songwriter's most recent project, a studio recording of her music for The Light Princess – her first stage production – featuring the original London cast.
"I can't recommend Nugen Audio and ISL 2 highly enough, not only as a vocal limiter but for any music recording project," van Limbeek said. "I especially appreciate the transparency of the tool for controlling dynamic range in a very unobtrusive way. Other limiters can distort the sound, but ISL 2 enables us to remove peaky frequencies or sounds that are popping out a bit too much, without changing the original timbre and artistic intent of the music."
Van Limbeek has more than 25 years of experience creating sound for both studio and live recordings. Since 1994, he has collaborated with Amos and Mark Hawley – her husband and house engineer – to record, mix, and master 15 albums and DVD releases – four of which were Grammy-nominated.
For The Light Princess, van Limbeek and Hawley recorded all vocals using Avid Pro Tools, then processed the audio through an analogue workflow that began with a Neve 1084 mic equalizer (EQ) for high-pass filtering. Next, the audio was sent a Universal Audio compressor, before being output to a Manley Massive Passive EQ. The result of this process was recorded back into Pro Tools and put through a final pass with ISL 2, which removed any transient audio peaks that may have added unwanted harshness to the mix.
To achieve more dynamic vocals, van Limbeek applied ISL 2 prior to the analogue chain to provide upfront limiting and ensure that the analogue compressor would not apply excessive gain reduction.
"On The Light Princess, we were working with incredibly talented singers that are trained to perform without amplification in a theatre. With a mix of voices ranging from very soft to much louder, this can create dynamics challenges in a studio setting," van Limbeek added. "ISL 2 was the perfect tool for reducing the peaks in the performances, and it was ideal for our hybrid digital/analogue workflow. We were able to create a rich, warm sound with the analog equipment, and then use ISL 2 to remove unwanted frequencies in a very surgical, precise way."