Gate Vs Limiter: How To Know The Difference

Do you know the difference between a gate and a limiter? If not, we’ll explain what they are shortly. There is plenty of equipment that gets used with music production.

You may not be a sound engineer by trade. By the time you’re finished reading this, you’ll know why gates and limiters are useful.

One of the things about the production process is to truly get the sound right. You want it to be perfect without the slightest bit of flaw. For someone looking to do their own audio engineering work, this can be a challenge if you don’t know what you are doing.

We’ll talk about what a gate is and how it’s useful for music production. We’ll also explain what a limiter is and how it’s used. If you are producing your own music at the moment, you’ll definitely want to know more about these two pieces of equipment.

Creating music is one thing, but doing the technical work is another, and it can get frustrating, especially if you know very little about the technical side of music production. With that said, let’s dive right in and discuss more about gates and limiters.

What is A Gate?

A gate or a noise gate is designed to cut off an audio signal if it reaches a specific level. This will prevent unnecessary noise from being included in your music recordings. You’ll want to set an expander to a certain level that will act as a gate for the unnecessary noise that you want to keep out of your recordings. 

When you listen to your recordings, you may notice noise that feels like it shouldn’t be there. The purpose of the gate is to keep it out so all you hear is just the music.

What is A Limiter?

A limiter acts in the similar manner of a gate. The purpose of this is not to allow the sound to get any louder than it should be. For example, if the limiter sets the audio threshold to 2 dB, it will not allow the sound to get any louder than that.

It’s important to make any necessary adjustments to the limiter. Sometimes, the sound you want can be blocked out since it might be louder than what the limiter allows. There are plenty of reasons why music gets recorded in so many takes (and this is one of them).

Using a limiter is better than clipping, which can cause distortion. 

Gate Vs Limiter: How Are They Different?

Gates and limiters may serve a similar purpose, but they are two different things. For one, gates will cut out any noise softer than the trigger level.

Meanwhile, limiters will block out any sounds that are louder than the threshold it’s set to. Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: a gate is not a noise reducer. Both gates and limiters operate with the intent of keeping out sounds if they are not within specific levels (too low or too high). 

Now, let’s talk about other pieces of equipment that get mentioned in the conversation with gates and limiters. Let’s talk about expanders and compressors.

What are Expanders and Compressors?

Expanders are used to expand the dynamic range of an audio signal. If the signal falls below the preset limits, that’s when the expander will do its job.

If the signal drops below a threshold level, the expander will act as a gate. Any noise below that threshold will not be recorded.

A compressor is the opposite of an expander. Compressors will reduce the dynamic range. It needs to know how much it should compress and when it should be done.

That’s when you need to set the threshold by turning the knob to a specific setting. The sound has to be loud enough to where the compressor is activated and goes to work.

Is There A Difference Between A Gate and An Expander?

There really is no distinct difference between a gate and an expander. In fact, they are similar to each other. Likewise, the same might be said for compressors and limiters. Compressors and limiters will reduce the sound if it’s too loud.

Where to Get Expanders and Gates?

Expanders and gates are widely available online. The good news is that not a lot of them are ridiculously expensive.

You can purchase one based on your budget. Some may have different features than others. Pay close attention to what factors you need to consider while looking for an expander and gate.


Is A Limiter A Gate?

A limiter is not a gate per se. A limiter acts as more of a compressor that keeps the noise from getting too loud.

When Should You Use A Limiter?

You should use a limiter when you want to limit the intensity of an audio signal when you are recording music. 

For instance, if the drums are hitting too loudly, it may be a good idea to use the limiter so the sound doesn’t get too muffled but can still be present.

What Should A Noise Gate Be Set At?

A noise gate should be set anywhere between 5 to 10 dB. The gate shouldn’t be too wide to where it can allow any unnecessary noise into the recording. Keep playing around with the adjustments if you want to until you get that sound to be almost perfect. 


Now that you know what gates and limiters are, you can use them for your musical recordings. To get that professional-quality sound, you’ll want to use these, so the noise is just perfect.

You don’t want your music to sound too soft or too loud. A trained audio engineer can be of good use if and when you need to record your demos. Otherwise, a recording studio may have its own audio engineer on staff to help deal with the technical side of things.

Or if you want to do it yourself, there are plenty of options out there for equipment.