THE WAVES L3 MULTIMAXIMIZER plug-in is called the “world’s first multi-band auto-summing limiter.” Designed from the lineage of Waves’ popular L1 and L2 limiters, the L3 takes the best of its predecessors and throws in a serious left hook. You might even say the “L” in L3 stands for LOUD.
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Used on the last insert of your session’s Master Fader, it takes a stereo mix and divides it into five bands with selectable frequency points — using linear phase crossover filters. Next, a new technology called “Peak Limiting Mixer” (PLMixer) uses psychoacoustic criteria to “intelligently” choose how much attenuation is applied to each band — making sure all available headroom is used. What this means is that with a single master control, you can kick the s#%& out of your mix. Just set the Out Ceiling to -.2dBfs and drag the Threshold down until you see it attenuating. Drag it down a bit further until it’s too much, and then bring it back up for a nice punchy sound. Then, simply set the IDR Quantize to 16-bit for CDs or 24bit for most everything else. Done — print it.

Also by choosing some of the well thought-out presets, you can make your life simple. But if you’re like me, and want to dig deeper, there are several options that let you do so. First there are individual “Priority Controls”, offering control over the limiting of each of the five bands. This can help to adjust the overall tonal character of your mix, while still maintaining that hard limiting.

The L3 also offers 12dB of boost or cut per band, placed before the limiting section. This is basically like having Waves’ Linear Phase EQ in-line, allowing for additional tweaking. Since everything is (of course) automatable, I even got some cool effects on the outro of a tune by turning on (soloing) the Band 2 and 3 Solo buttons, providing a nice filter effect. Note that there is 80ms of constant delay on this plug-in, so it’s for final mixing only — don’t track with it or you’ll be playing to a delay. Running on all supported Waves platforms, the L3 comes in two versions: the Multimaximizer, which has complete control over all parameters, and the Ultramaximizer, which uses the same PLMixer but with limited controls.

“It’s an incredibly powerful tool — I use it all the time now,” notes Sterling Sound’s Chris Athens. A mastering/mix engineer with credits such as the Beastie Boys’ To the 5 Boroughs, Erykah Badu’s World Wide Underground, and NERD’s Fly or Die, he tends to combine the best of both analog and digital to pump out the hits. The L3 has just become another digital tool in his arsenal, but I have to remember to remove it from my stereo mix before sending him any tracks. Without delving into the political battles of the “loudness” wars, the L3 truly delivers as promised. (