There is a wide range of Loudness meters out there now. In the last of our 3 part series on Overview - Loudness Metering Plug-ins And Resources we focus on loudness metering plug-ins aimed at the music mastering sector.
It's safe to say that the way in which the vast majority of people consume their musical content these days differs greatly from even a decade ago. Essentially, platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music, have now become the norm. With this evolution of our industry, we see a multitude of different platforms, codecs, deliverables, and loudness standards making their way into our daily mixing workflows.
So this leaves the question - how do we go about mixing for these new standards, whilst still maintaining full control over our program material, and the effects of the various codecs on the downstream? Well, there is always trial and error, but this can prove to be difficult. As within each of these standards, we often see different tiers we must account for.
TC Electronic LM1n
TC Electronic’s LM1n measures loudness using the exact same algorithm as LM2n and LM6n, which we featured in part 1 of this series. It displays the key numbers for Program Loudness (I) and either Loudness Range (LRA), Max Momentary Loudness (M), Max Short Term Loudness (S) or Sliding Loudness (10 Sec) as well as True-Peak clipping. TC Electronic developed the LM1n as a simpler solution for those who have found that they sometimes need to deliver content that complies with a certain broadcast standard, including outside broadcast production workflows.
The advantages of the LM1n is that it doesn’t take up much screen real estate, as you can see the comparison between the LM1n, LM2n normal size and the LM2n Big display. The LM1n’s simpler display also makes it ideal for multi-skilled staff and for use in other sectors like mastering for music streaming and albums.
In this tutorial video from our premium video platform, I cover how to use the baby in the TC Electronic plug-in loudness metering family - the LM1n showing how to use the LM1n in CD and album mastering workflows. As part of the process of assembling an album, the mastering engineer will adjust the relative loudness of each track so that when the album is played as a whole, the listener doesn’t have to adjust their volume control because some tracks are too loud whilst others are too quiet. Now with a loudness meter like the LM1n on the CD Master preset, you can run each track through the LM1n and get a quantitive measurement of the loudness of each track. To make this even easier and quicker it is possible to use the LM1n is a non-real-time mode. For example, in Pro Tools, you can use the AudioSuite version of the LM1n to analyse the clip in non-real-time.
Mastering The Mix LEVELS
Metering plug-ins can be really difficult for non-technical people to understand so mastering engineer Tom Frampton from Mastering The Mix teamed up with developers 29 Palms to take a completely different look at a metering plug-in for mixing and mastering that creatives could easily understand and LEVELS is the result.
As a mastering engineer Tom Frampton has plenty of experience of having to deal with issues on tracks clients sent to him to master, and that got him thinking, could he design a plug-in that would alert mixers and producers to those common problems and help them resolve those issues at the mix stage rather than at the mastering stage where it can be much harder to solve because all you have is the stereo mix file.
The plug-in does more than just measure loudness, it has four segments around a central circle with each quadrant representing one of four parameters, Headroom, Stereo Field, Bass Space and Dynamic Range. If all is well the quadrants stay green, but if there is an issue the appropriate quadrant goes red alerting the user to a problem which needs attention.
I have used LEVELS on several projects including speech-based programming as part of my post workflow and although LEVELS hasn't been designed for this with a couple of adjustments to the Settings tab I found it very useful.
For me, LEVELS is one of those turning points where someone takes a fresh look at a problem and comes up with a very different solution. Those different solutions don't always work, but this one very definitely does work. I am going to be recommending this plug-in to post clients who do a lot of their own editing but who struggle to get to grips with levels and other mastering type issues.
In this video review, Pro Tools Expert team member Dan Cooper takes a look at LEVELS v1.1 by Mastering The Mix.
- Design - Retina ready. Slick and responsive user interface.
- Simplicity - The intuitive visuals in each section let you quickly diagnose and fix any issues.
- Time saving - LEVELS only draws your attention to issues.
- Performance - Very low CPU. An advantage when your session has many plugins.
- Price - Affordable for producers at all stages of their musical careers.
- Customisation - Adjustable settings to suit your needs.
- Convenience - 7 indispensable mixing and metering tools in one plugin.
- Learn - If you get stuck, click the (?) to learn how to fix your issue.
Where Can I Buy Levels From?
- LEVELS can be purchased direct from Mastering The Mix for £69
Nugen Audio MasterCheck Pro
MasterCheck Pro is designed to be the complete solution for optimising your mixes for today’s music delivery services. Streaming apps, download stores, websites and podcasts all use data compression, loudness matching or both. These processes can affect your mixes in various undesirable ways: your loud punchy mix could end up quiet and flat, or suffer clipping or distortion. The good news is you don’t just have to mix for CD and hope for the best. MasterCheck Pro reveals problems ahead of time, and enables you to deliver masters perfectly tuned for specific playout systems.
In this free detailed overview video, Production Expert team member Marcus Huyskens gives an in-depth overview of how to use Nugen Audio's MasterCheck Pro for delivering to specific loudness delivery specs on multiple platforms.
He starts off by covering the basics of MasterCheck Pro, and demonstrates the benefits of working with the included presets to meter, as well as monitoring through various different codecs. In closing, he demonstrates the process of mixing a cue using stems, to meet the Spotify loudness delivery spec.
Quite often these days, as engineers, we are required to deliver multiple or different masters for a specific track. You may have a general purpose master that will get sent out for creating CD’s, another one specifically for using in a broadcast mix, and yet another meant for a streaming service such as Spotify or Apple Music.
Each one of these platforms can require a different deliverable spec with regards to its true peak level, and program loudness range. In addition, these masters may even possibly be ‘adjusted’ in the downstream to fit in line with a specific requirement. So needless to say - it's within our best interests to make sure we hit the target thus avoiding any unwanted surprises.
In this free video tutorial, Marcus demonstrates how to quickly and effectively use Nugen Audio’s MasterCheck Pro to aid in the process of creating a Spotify master from a previously rendered broadcast mix.
We hope that this 3 part series will prove helpful for people wanting an overview into loudness, in both the audio post production workflows as well as music mastering for CDs and music streaming services.