Hearing attack and release when mastering

Dear Randy,
first of all thank you so much for the opportunity to ask you.

I came to mastering mainly because I needed to get my own songs ready for the streaming platforms and now I am mastering for a handful of artists in my circle.
I also try to teach them everything I know but one question got me thinking the most.
How can I (or anyone) hear the nuances of the attack and release time of a limiter.

What are you listening for. I can only hear drastic settings, especially a too fast attack time, even tho I feel pretty confident hearing compression (after 6 years, haha)

Would mean the world to me if you take the time and try to explain me your approach.

Best wishes,

HI Ellias,

I try to go for musical ‘feel’ and transparency as much as possible. If I can make it not sound limited, I prefer it to the sound of obvious limiting. Does the blend of instruments feel alive? Can you make out the details of most of the mix elements? Is the limiter bringing the frequency into a balance that I like. This is what I’m thinking about when selecting and setting a limiter. I recommend owning several limiters and A/B several before you commit to using one. I have some favorite limiters and presets which I use to select the right one for the song. I often find that once I’ve selected the one I like, I don’t have to dramatically change the settings. If you want to learn about the nuances of attack and release time differences, I recommend A/B’ing on two separate tracks the same limiter but with slightly different settings and observing what happens. Doing this over time will build a subconscious understanding how attack and release times work.

Best Regards,


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Thanks so much Randy,
your advice helped a lot!

I’ll integrate the A/B testing more in my workflow. It’s really obvious but never occurred to me when mastering.

Thank you for your time and that you share your knowledge in this Q&A and in the video series.

Greetings form Germany,

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