Maximizer limiter produces crackling

I’ve never made music before and just started using Renoise, so please try to keep it simple for me.

I have a maximizer (master limit fast) on my master track. But when I listen in my headphones (HD 212Pro Sennheiser) I hear crackling whenever the limiter fires. I also have a gainer on the master track. If I set it to 4.978 db gain it’s just below the threshold (limiter never fires) and it sounds fine. But if I turn it up to 5.361 db (very small increase I think!) the limiter starts firing a little bit and I hear the crackling sound (which sounds awful! like a broken speaker…). If I turn the gainer up to 10 db I basically ONLY hear crackling. And there’s nothing wrong with my headphones. No crackling when listening to other music (only when using the limiter in Renoise). It doesn’t matter if I have the computer volume low or high, the crackling only appears when the limiter in Renoise starts firing.

I also have a stereo. It’s not something for a true audiophile, but it’s still a really nice stereo (Cerwin Vega CLSC-215, Denon Surround Receiver AVR-2311 and Cerwin Vega CXA-8). It cost me like $4000 and it sounds amazing, so I don’t think that it’s missing the frequencies where the crackling occur or something like that. But when I listen to my stereo I hear no crackling. I can turn up the gain 12db and yeah sure, it sounds pretty bad, like crushed and flat, but there’s NO crackling! It doesn’t sound like clipping/broken speaker or anything like the noise I hear in my headphones.

Can someone please tell me what’s going on? I’ve attached a test file. Could someone listen to it and tell me if you can hear the crackling sound? (increase the gain and it should appear) Is there something wrong with my headphones? Am I using the limiter wrong somehow? How do I get rid of the crackling sound?

I can’t make it crackle here (at least not when releasing the slider, during the sliding i hear a slight little crackling but is a transition effect).
Have you tried increasing your playing buffers? Perhaps your buffers are too small for processing the audio that fast.

First of all, you can’t crank up a signal before a Limiter/Maximizer without resulting in crackles at some point. When you’re crossing the 0db line with your Gainer, the logical and unavoidable consequence is clipping. That means, the signal is then clipping already on the Gainers output. A Limiter/Maximizer is not some abracadabra-box performing magic tricks on overloud input, that already enters the Limiter with clipping/crackling.

But like vV said, there’s no crackling in the initial test file setup. So, if it’s not about the buffer settings vV mentioned, you might also want to make sure, the cause is not some component between headphones and soundcard (like bass and/or loudness additionally processed by your receiver) or maybe even some bass/loudness settings of your soundcard. Connect your headphones directly to the soundcard to find out, what’s the source of your crackles and then add one thing after the other.

Short answer: I solved it by using another limiter. :)/>

Long answer:

Do you mean Preferences —> Audio —> Device Settings —> Letancy (ms) ?
I increased it to max (350 ms) and there was no change in the crackling. I have a Intel Core i7-2600K 3,4GHz. So I don’t overloading the CPU is what is causing the problem.

So how do I increase the volume? Without no increase anywhere the sample is hitting -6.3 db. Where should I put the increase? On Instrument Settings —> volume ? Or in the Compressor Makeup on the individual track?

About my stereo: I actually remembered I had a small EQ setting on the reciever (increasing bass and lowering treble) and when I removed it I hear the crackling in my stereo speakers as well.

I had my headphones plugged directly into my computer (the headphone jack on my motherboard). I tried changing to the front jack but no difference. Then I tried plugging them into the surround receiver but no difference. I also tried two different kinds of cheap ear plugs I found. In one of them the crackling is more pronounced than ever. The other pair of earplugs are designed for bass and here I have to turn up the gain more before I start hearing the crackling. Same thing with a really old and cheap stereo I have, I have to turn up the gain more but it’s still there.

I think it’s really strange that you can’t hear it. Maybe “crackling” is the wrong word. I can mimic the sound by putting a distortion effect (drums soft cut) on the track. It sounds a bit like that, put unlike the distortion effect which distorts all of the sound, with the limiter the distortion is only during the part when it fires (the tail of the sound is still clean, unless I turn up the gain really high). Actually, when I listen a bit more, the crackling sound is similar to the clipping that occurs if I simply disable the maximizer limiter and let the red light shine. Anyways, I understand that pushing the sound up into a limiter will make it sound bad/distorted. But at this point the limiter can’t do ANYTHING (not even catch the slightest little peak) without me hearing the distorted crackling /broken speaker noise.

At the moment my songs are laying between -18 db and -9 db. But every now and then on bass/drum hits and intense areas I get peaks approaching 0 db. During some songs it only happens once or twice. But if I raise the volume those peaks will start to clip. That’s why I wanted to use the limiter, to dampen those peaks so the overall volume could be increased without clipping. But with the crackling the limiter produces I can’t increase even 1 db. If I put a EQ after the limiter on the master track and dampen everything above 1 khz the crackling disappears. But then everything else is also effected and all the music sounds like I’m underwater. I understand I will never be able to get the volume up to the same level as commercially mastered music. But having to settle with -18 db is quite depressing.

Update: I got myself the Waves Ultramaximizer limiter and I put it on the master track instead of the Renoise maximizer limiter and now the crackling is gone. I can turn up the gain to max (12db) and no crackling. Problem though is that the window that opens when I press “open external editor” is super small and I can’t see any of the controls, and I can’t figure out how to make the window bigger. And if I use the “show/hide parameter sliders” in Renoise the plugin bugs out. But in any case: I think my solution will be to find another limiter. Still weird though that you two can’t hear the crackling, because it’s kind of a big thing for me, really sounds broken somehow.

just because your ears can no longer discern the digital clipping, does not mean it isn’t there.

Nopes, but i doubt your internal soundcard (probably a Realtek or clone) is a top-notch audio device.
You might perhaps be able to accomplish something with Asio4All, but i would invest in a better audiocard if i were you. (an audiocard that also allows you to attach some extra gear like studio Mics, monitors and at least one midi device)

The Maximizer in your test setup wasn’t even responding to the signal. So one thing is for sure: the cause was definitely NOT the Maximizer.

However, by accident I was able to recreate the sound behavior you described. On headphones I’m usually running my soundcard at a max. main volume level between 25-50%. At that level there is no crackling caused by your setup. When I ran your setup now with 100% main volume, I get the crappy sound you described. I have no idea, what is causing this, either soundcard output or headphones. It’s only one of those two possible. Quite strange, but the way it is. The only thing that’s for sure is, it is not Renoise and not the Renoise Maximizer responsible for this. Just turn down your main volume on the soundcard and everything is fine.

It doesn’t matter, what device you use. When you create a signal beyond 0db, this causes clipping. Always. No matter if as instrument volume, compressor volume or whatever volume. So your prior task and focus within any signal chain is always preventing clipping/crossing 0db at any point. Using a Maximizer, you of course increase volume by boosting with the Maximizer.

The gainer was set to 4.978 db, just below the threshold of the maximizer. You have to increase the gain (so the maximizer starts responding) for the crackling to appear.

My computer main volume level is below 20% so this is not what was causing my problem.

Yes, true. I didn’t think about that. But it doesn’t explain my problem. Because I still hear the crackling in my stereo speakers and also when I connected the headphones directly to the reciever. And when it goes through the reciever the crappy soundcard on my motherboard should not touch the audio. It is direct output through HDMI on my graphic card, and then all the audio processing is done in my reciever which has a really good DAC.

Anyways… problem is solved and I’m happy. Thanks for helping me guys!