Apr 1, 2012
The best loudness metering plugins money can buy – and my favourite alternative (for only 9 dollars !)
The TT Loudness Mater is no longer the only (or best) way to measure the dynamics of your music.
One of the most popular posts on this site has always been “How to avoid over-compressing your mix” – an introduction to using the TT meter, plus an introduction to the ideas of “dynamic range”, or “crest factor”.
Over the years since I wrote the post and have been promoting the meter, it’s come in for some criticism for the way that it calculates the DR measurements, and even the idea of measuring “loudness” or making recommendations about it at all.
But just in the last year, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has agreed official definitions of loudness measurement – the “loudness unit” (LU) and both short and long-term “loudness range” recommendations. These are now being adopted internationally as standards – and are even becoming law in the US as a means of regulating the loudness of adverts between programmes.
This means that regardless of whether you think measuring loudness is valid or useful, it’s happening – and in the future, the playback volume of almost all streamed and broadcast music is going to be based on similar measurements.
All music will be standardised to an average playback level, so the “loudness” of your music will have no effect on its playback volume, in many situations
What will have an influence on the way it sounds though, is the use of dynamics.
And understanding how this works, and how to read the new meters that measure these new standards, will be crucial to getting the best results
If your music is crushed up against the 0dBFS digital limit, it might read as little as -6 or -4 LU on the new meters. These values are roughly equivalent to DR6 and DR4 on the TT meter. During playback their volume will be adjusted down to the recommended ITU average of… -23 LU !
(This may sound surprisingly low, but is designed to take account of the much higher peak levels of some broadcast material – for example feature films and classical music.)
So if your music reads -4 LU on the new meters, it will have only those 4 dB to use as headroom above the -23 LU average – for any contrast, for light and shade and dynamic impact.
Whereas something that the TT measures as having DR8 or more will read something like -8 LU on the new meters, and will have all of those 8dB (or more) available to help make it sound great at the new standardised playback volume.
This is what we’ve been talking about all along – the “red herring” of crushing your music in an attempt to make it loud will be completely cancelled out on playback
Music with more dynamics will have more punch, impact and power – in a word, it’ll sound louder !
Learn how the new meters work
To see how the meters work in practise, and how their readings relate to the TT meter, check out the video above – it demonstrates two of my favourites from the new batch of loudness meters that are being released, plus a recap of the TT meter and comparisons between them.
Both the just-released TC Electronic LM6 and Nugen VisLM are excellent, but they cost over $500. However there’s also a plugin I didn’t know about when I made the video, the MeterPlugs LCast plugin, for both Mac and PC. It has a “history” graph similar to the one in the Nugen VisLM, plus the added benefit of being able to zoom in on the history graph, which I really like. Currently the stereo version only costs $149 – to check it out, click here.
(I also tried the Waves WLM meter, although it’s not featured in the video – this also features a comprehensive set of tools for measuring ITU loudness – including the ability to automatically recognise dialogue – but lacks the intuitive graphical displays of the Nugen, Meterplugs or TC meters.)
The final option in the video isn’t an EBU-based meter at all though, it’s quite different – and it might be my favourite of all them. It only costs $9, and I strongly recommend you give it a try
What is it ? You’ll just have to watch the video and find out : )
Happy metering !