I mentioned the Orban Loudness Meter on the SOS forums, and thought it would be good to start a series of posts here on useful mastering software. So, first up - metering apps. Several of the best editing packages include decent metering, for example Wavelab, and Audacity, but here are a few personal favourites:
- Orban Loudness Meter Great (free!) utility includes a PPM meter, VU meter, ITU BS.1770 meter and CBS Technology Center loudness meter - it's fantastic to have access to these less common metering systems, which offer measurements of perceived loudness, which can be more useful than pure RMS. (Plus it runs well under Parallels on my MacBook Pro ;-)
- Pinguin Audio Meter Not free but comes in several flavours, the Pro version includes an incredibly detailed spectrum analyser, audio phase correlator (more in a later post), PPM & VU monitoring plus a specrogram. Interestingly, Pinguin have done research to suggest that RMS is the most reliable way of measuring perceived loudness.
- Speaking of Spectrograms, there's Spectrogram - and Audacity has this capability, too.
- Finally, the fantastic (Mac-only) AudioLeak - an Leq (Long-term Equivalent Level) Analyzer for audio files and sound input streams. Swiftly discover the average RMS of an audio file, and it's A-weighted counterpart. Just watch out - by default it displays a combined mono value which reads higher than other applications like Wavelab - I usually use the average of the left & right values - they should be almost identical if the L/R balance is right, anyway. Also great for DVD Producers wanting to find the right dialnorm setting for a Dolby Digital encode.
- Update - here's another one - the SSL X-ISM meter. This is useful because it includes checking for inter-sample peaks. This is well-explained on the page I linked to, but briefly: strange as it may seem, when audio has been heavily limited and is peaking at (or very near to) zero, it is possible that the reconstructed analogue output actually peaks above zero. (In theory, up to 6 dB higher !) In cheaper players, MP3 encoders and other utilities, there is often no headroom allowed for this situation, and unwanted clipping can result. This meter will help you watch for this effect and avoid it. As a rule of thumb, don't allow your audio to peak higher that -0.3 dBFS.
Coming soon - how to choose a mastering studio.