What are the primary differences between the usage or definitions of the terms “AGC”, “compressor”, “limiter”, and dynamics processor? They all seem to be forms of playing with gain knobs.

  • $\begingroup$ you left out CFAR receiver $\endgroup$
    – user28715
    May 21 '19 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ "dynamics processor", IMO, is a catch-all class that includes compressors, limiters, and AGC. A limiter is sometimes called a "ducker" and is meant to change gain quite rapidly to prevent a spike from clipping. A compressor (not to be confused with data compression nor time compression) has a more musical application in which signals with amplitude above a specified threshold have the gain adjusted according to a compression ratio. An AGC sorta has the purpose of a limiter but with the speed (or lack of speed) comparable to a compressor. That's my spin on it. $\endgroup$ May 21 '19 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ it's a good question, hot. $\endgroup$ May 21 '19 at 23:12

one category has a protection property and has a very fast response to large amplitude transients.

another category attempts to maximize sensitivity.

another group tries to put the receiver in a predictable “sweet spot” or operating point.

some can be “slow” and others are “fast”.

none of these are mutually exclusive.

advances in converter bit resolution (dynamic range) moves these techniques along.

One might consider schemes that adapt to be related.


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