Elephone wrote:For general protective use, for initial mixing, I was told to keep the master control fader at 0dB and place a limiter to prevent the significant peaks from overdrive.
Hmmmm.... The only reason for a 'protective limiter' is to prevent system overload... But system overload is only likely when working with uncontrolled sources and minimal headroom margins. It's a possibility in live broadcasting, and potentially in peak-normalised mastering, but it really shouldn't be in post-production mixing.
The implication of your concern is that you are mixing with very little headroom (hence the risk of overloads) and that's just bonkers in a world of 24-bit converters and floating point DAWs.
Rather than worry about a brick wall limiter, I'd suggest finding a Katz 'K-meter' metering plugin, and learn to mix using that as your levels reference, with the average sitting around the zero mark, and peaks maybe 10dB higher. If you use the K20 scale you'll have 20dB of headroom margin to play with and so shouldn't be troubled with peak overloads while you mix. I use the K20 scale for 'serious' music, and the k14 scale for pop/rock stuff. Alternatively, learn to mix using a LUFS meter with a target loudness of around -15LUFS. Both techniques encourage the sensible use of a generous headroom margin when mixing.
Ideally, the master fader should, indeed, remain at the 0dB mark, but if you need to pull it back a bit as the mix builds, so bit it. Better, though, to reduce the levels of the source tracks if you can.
I've never been too clear on the settings. What attack, hold, decay, threshold, ratio setting is ideal to prevent damage to transients?
As others have already said, A brickwall (protective) limiter will have an extremely fast attack (less than 1ms) and very fast release (below 50ms), so that only the transient itself is affected by the gain reduction. Some work with a look-ahead facility too, to preempt a transient's arrival. The ratio will be more than 20:1, the threshold just below the maximum acceptable level, and no hold or hysteresis.... But a proper brickwall limiter's dynamics settings are usually fixed internally, and only the threshold is adjustable.