There are a good number of BS1770 compliant loudness meter plug-ins available from the likes of Nugen Audio, TC Electronic, Waves and RTW themselves to name but a few. But we don't always work in the box or there maybe be workflows that don't lend themselves to a software based loudness meter, like mixing live. That is where the hardware based loudness meters come in and RTW are a brand leader in this market. In this review we are going to look at the baby of the range the TM3 and also tell you about a very special offer from Aspen Media.
The TM3 includes features from the larger TM7 and TM9 versions and is controlled using a touch-sensitive display. The TM3 consists of a display unit, with a capacitive 4.3“ touch screen, for vertical or horizontal use and a remote interface box. It handles analog or digital stereo signals (TM3) and digital 6-channel signals (TM3-6CH). TM3‘s flexible user interface allows the selection of up to 10 presets quickly and simply with just a finger swipe.
When it comes to configuring presets you use the Devicer DC1 software application, which is available for both Windows and Mac OS X. Existing presets can be easily personalised and adapted to individual needs. Furthermore, Devicer DC1 allows to create several configuration sets each with different presets, which can be uploaded to TM3 as required.
The Metering In The RTW TM3S
As well as BBC style PPM and true-peak instruments, the TM3 offers a full range of loudness metering in compliance with various standards around the world, including EBU R128, ITU BS.1770-2/1771, ATSC A/85 and ARIB. Instruments include single-channel and summing bar graphs, an LRA instrument as well as numerical displays and buttons to control both the PPMs and loudness metering.
The I/O On The RTW TM3S
There are unbalanced stereo analog inputs as well as an S-PIF digital input with a loop-through SPDIF buffered output, all on phonos on the side of the box. On the end of the box is a 25pin D-SUB connector which has stereo balanced analog inputs, as well as 6 channels of AES digital inputs and buffered loop-through outputs, making it easy to insert the TM3 in your signal chain.
Using The RTW TM3S
I plugged it up very easily, although when I took the unit out of the box the display and I/O box seemed to be permanently connected by an umbilical. However on closer inspection although the cable is captive on the display, RTW have used an HDMI connector to plug the display into the I/O box. Being able to separate them made the installation much easier. In fact reading the manual the standard 2m cable can be extended to up to a total length of 15m using HDMI extender leads which makes it possible to have the I/O box in your machine room if that is more appropriate.
Once it had booted up then I was able to select the appropriate preset from the factory supplied presets using a tablet type swipe movement with my finger and then tapping the screen to load the chosen preset. The standard presets cover both ATSC and R128 loudness via the various audio inputs. As I had used an S-PDIF lead from my Pro Tools HD Omni for the purpose of this review, I flicked through the presets until I found an R128 preset using the S-PDIF digital input and away I went.
Editing RTW TM3 Presets Using The DevicerDC1 Software
If you want to edit or create your own presets and configurations, then you can download and install the DevicerDC1 software. RTW have both Windows and Mac OS X versions available to download from their website. In the slideshow below you can see how I was able to create a new "Demo Preset".
- Start by clicking on the + icon and naming the preset and then clicking OK.
- Select the appropriate audio input. In my case I am using the SPDIF input in stereo. Select the loudness spec type, which for me is EBU R128 and click OK.
- Start to fill the TM3 screen with different instruments and button sets. To start with I selected a BBC PPM moving coil instrument. You can choose from a wide range of moving coil options including VU meters, whatever floats your boat.
- By doubling clicking on the preview screen in the app you can edit the instrument, in this case I changed it to a BBC PPM with an inbuilt loudness meter.
- Next I dragged in an LRA meter and edited it so that it would display the LRA with the magic eye display which I find a very helpful way of displaying LRA.
- I dragged in a bargraph loudness meter, but because space was limited, and I already have an Integrated loudness display in my BBC PPM instrument, so I chose to only display the Momentary and Short Term loudness.
- I chose to edit the target zones so that the Momentary meter turned green within a 3LU range of target loudness and Short Term was within a 2LU range of target loudness.
- I added buttons for the loudness metering to start, stop and reset the integration process. I added a Loudness Number display choosing only to display the Integrated and Short Term loudness.
- With my preset built, I uploaded it to the TM3 over the USB connection by clicking on the big red upload button.
- The DevicerDC1 app then updated the TM3 display to reflect all the changes.
- At the end of the upload the app asks you to touch and hold the TM3 screen.
- You can take your finger off the screen once the Loading screen is displayed.
- Finally you can select your new preset and away you go.
Conclusions On The RTW TM3S
For me the RTW TM3S is perfect in so many ways. The display is small and you can see that it sits nicely under my computer screens when used horizontally. The versatility and ability to edit all the instruments to personalise it to my exact requirements is brilliant. All in all, this comes across as a grown up and mature tool that would sit well in any audio or video suite or control room.
Special Offer On RTW TM3S From Partner Brand Aspen Media - Over £400 Off
Aspen Media have a special offer on at the moment. They are offering the RTW TM3S for just £600 exc vat instead of the normal price of £1070. So if you are looking for a hardware loudness meter then do check this offer out. You can call Aspen Media on +44 (0)1296 681313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org As for me, the unit Aspen Media won't be going back. I am keeping it and sending them money.