Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins 2022 (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak)

Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins 2021 (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | integraudio.com

In this article, we review five of the best audio metering and analyzing plugins available today and list four excellent free ones.

In the present world of streaming and online broadcasting, mixing and mastering your audio to the standard maintained by specific platforms is essential for quality assurance. Metering plugins are the tools that help you ensure the specs of your music match the specified criteria.

What Do A Metering Plugins Do?

A metering plugin analyzes any audio you feed into it and provides various kinds of information about it. Streaming platforms use this information to assure consistency of their content. So, with a metering plugin, we can make sure our masters are compliant with our intended platform’s standard.

Let us have a look at some of the information provided by such plugins:

  • True Peak
    True Peak is the highest point an audio signal reaches on an analog system. In contrast, the regular peak meters we see in our DAWs calculate the same thing on a digital system. This is important because if your True Peak is higher than 0dB, it could cause clipping on analog amplifiers/players.
  • RMS (Root Mean Square) Level
    RMS is the average amplitude level over a certain period of time. Generally, this period of time is 300 milliseconds. However, some plugins let you adjust the time window as well.
  • LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale)
    LUFS is the same as RMS, except this unit considers human ear perception. To simplify, our ears do not hear all the frequencies at the same level. So, for example, if you listened to a 60Hz sinewave and an 800Hz at 30dB amplitude, you would perceive the 60Hz sinewave as quieter than the 800Hz.
  • Stereo Width
    This analysis shows how wide the stereo field of your audio is. For example, audio with a thin line at the middle of such an analyzer is mono audio, whereas a moving, spaghetti-like visualization signifies stereo.
  • Ranges
    There are two kinds of ranges: Dynamic Range and Loudness Range. Both measure the range between the loudest and the quietest parts of your audio. However, Dynamic Range does so using peak metering (fast), while Loudness Range uses Loudness Unit (slow). Thus, dynamic Range is useful for measuring how compressed elements such as drums, vocals, etc., are in your song. And Loudness Range shows, as an example, how different the loudness of your verse and chorus section is.
  • Frequency Spectrum
    A frequency spectrum displays how loud each frequency is in your audio in real-time. You can analyze a reference song using a spectrum analyzer and EQ your song’s master until it somewhat matches your reference spectrum to get a similar sound. Another similar kind of analyzer is a sonograph/spectrograph. This analyzer displays the loudness of each frequency in a 2D or 3D graph over time.

What Do A Metering Plugins Do & Best Metering Plugins | integraudio.com

There are many kinds of metering plugins available nowadays — some focus on being easy to use, while others focus on being comprehensive enough to satisfy even the most seasoned experts. So, we have done the research for you and come up with a list of five truly note-worthy paid metering plugins in the market.

Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins 2022 (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak)

1. Mastering The Mix LEVELS (Versatile All-In-One Solution)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

As possibly the most straightforward-looking metering plugin available, Levels manages to become a welcome choice for both beginners and professionals alike.

The philosophy of Mastering The Mix Levels is simplicity. Instead of showing you everything it can on one page, it offers a certain kind of visualization per page. So, the information provided becomes easy to digest.

It has all the tools you could need to ensure your track fits the criteria of various music platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, or Apple Music. As we can see in the picture below, there are six kinds of meters in this plugin.

Mastering The Mix LEVELS Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

A few of the pages have filters inside them to help you dissect your audio material even further. We also liked the main input filter at the top of the plugin. It can turn the sound mono or playback only the Mid/Side or just the Left/Right channel.

This feature is beneficial for ensuring your track doesn’t have any phasing issues.

More experienced producers will be happy to know that the settings page lets you adjust the meter warning thresholds and the activation status of True Peak metering. Similarly, Mastering The Mix has provided various presets for beginners that help master your song to a specific platform’s standard.

Next, let’s have a look at each of the pages in the plugin:

“Peak” – Standard Peak Meter:

The Peak page shows the True Peak by default. You can also deactivate it by toggling it off on the settings page.

Mastering The Mix LEVELS Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

“LUFS” – LUFS Metering:

This page shows the LUFS short-term and the LUFS integrated. Clicking on the numeral values initiates them. We would have loved to see an optional LUFS momentary as well. However, it isn’t available.

Mastering The Mix LEVELS Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Bass Space” – Low-End Analyzer:

The Bass Space page is interesting. You can analyze the bass content of your track using this metering. It asks you to mute the bass drum and the bass to see how bassy the rest of the instruments are together. This implies you should use Levels on the master channel of your mixing project. Theoretically, it should help you keep the bass tight and clash-free.

Mastering The Mix LEVELS Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Dynamic Range” – Oscilloscope:

This page shows the relation between the loudest part of your music and the quietest. The lesser the number, the more your music sounds squashed and compressed. So, you can set a certain threshold (manually or with a preset) to warn you when the range goes lower than the set value.

Mastering The Mix LEVELS Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Stereo Field” – Width Visualizer:

This page shows how wide or mono your music is. An optional filter lets you analyze only a specific range of frequencies.

Mastering The Mix LEVELS Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

“LRA” – Loudness Range:

Sometimes confused with dynamic range, the loudness range also analyzes the relation between the loudest and the quietest parts of your song. However, this is done over a longer time scale using the Loudness Unit (LU). As with dynamic range, a higher value is desirable.

Mastering The Mix LEVELS Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive Metering
    With six kinds of metering, Levels is comprehensive for most use cases. However, it does lack a few basic features like a frequency spectrum or a LUFS-M meter. Despite the shortcomings, however, the straightforward nature of the plugin is a significant factor to consider for people who prefer simplistic workflow.
  • Easy-to-use GUI
    For the most part, Levels has almost no learning curve. Each plugin page is quite self-explanatory, and it also has an optional tooltip feature that gives you some helpful information for the first few times of using the plugin. However, on the side now, You cannot resize the GUI of this plugin.
  • Helpful Presets
    The presets available in the plugin are intended for commercial release. So, if you are looking to get your next song ready for Spotify, then this plugin is useful.
Mastering With LEVELS

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AAX formats.

Summary:

As much as we love the plugin’s simplicity, we must say the lack of resizable GUI and certain meters does drag its value down somewhat. However, if you are a beginner and enjoy having presets, helpful tooltips, and a simple UI, we would highly recommend it.

Related Topic:

Top 6 Reference VST Plugins For Comparison 2022 (A/B Tools)

2. BUTE Loudness Analyser 2 Stereo (Loudness Analysis)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

The BUTE Loudness Analyser 2 displays comprehensive loudness readings on both meters and a graph in a sleek, modern user interface.

Along with the graph and meters display, this plugin also has a compact mode where you still get a comprehensive numeral reading, making it highly screen space and CPU-saving. In addition, the graph keeps logs of your entire timeline. So, you can quickly go back to the middle of your song and have it reread the loudness.

This feature gives you accurate LUFS-Integrated and Loudness Range of the entire song without redoing the whole project.

You can set the meters to read either LUFS or True Peak. And it can also display absolute scale readings as well. The graph shows True Peak, LUFS-S, LUFS-M, and RMS. Each can be enabled or disabled as required.

BUTE Loudness Analyser 2 Stereo Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Complete Loudness Metering
    From True Peak and adjustable RMS to every kind of LUFS metering needed, the BUTE Loudness Analyser 2 offers a truly extensive loudness measurement solution. Similarly, the history logging feature only adds even more value to this plugin.
  • Flexible GUI
    Along with its fully resizable GUI and compact mode, you can zoom freely over the graph view to get as precise as you need. For example, by zooming out completely, you can see which area could be significantly louder or quieter. And, since the playback cursor inside the plugins and your DAW are synced, finding the problematic area becomes even easier. Another thing worth noting is that it displays all the numeral readings where your mouse cursor is placed over the graph.
  • Stereo and Surround Support
    The BUTE also has a version supporting up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 surround sound for sound designers and mixing engineers working on games or films.
  • Presets
    In a metering plugin, presets are used to ensure that your audio specs match the standards of a specific platform. The presets included in this plugin are primarily geared towards broadcasting and film/game audio for balancing dialogs, SFX, and score. There are only a couple of presets specifically for streaming platforms. However, you do get three empty “User” slots for creating your own presets too.
Mastering for Streaming | BUTE Loudness Suite 2 by Signum Audio

Compatibility:

The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.

Summary:

The GUI of this plugin is one of the best we’ve seen around. It focuses entirely on loudness analysis and nothing else. It may be relatively on the pricier side, but Signum Audio offers a 50% discount for students. However, if you are looking for an overall metering plugin with stereo imaging, loudness metering, and frequency spectrum analysis, this may not be the plugin for you.

Related Topic:

LUFS vs RMS vs True Peak – Loudness Meters Explained

3. IK Multimedia T-Racks 5 Metering (Complete Audio Analysis)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Originally included with their T-Racks processing rack exclusively, Metering is IK Multimedia’s one-stop solution for complete audio analysis.

This suite of audio metering tools has two loudness measurement sections, a stereo imaging section, a frequency spectrum, and a spectrogram, making it one of the most valued plugins on our list. Each section is resizable and has settings to fit your needs better. The sections aren’t detachable or removable, though, which would be our biggest wish for a future update.

The loudness metering section on the left has LUFS integrated, short-term, and momentary metering along with RMS, Peak, and Dynamic Range metering. You can set any of the LUFS units to display in the meter or numerically. Similarly, you can also set the peak meter to use True Peak. The RMS window size cannot be changed, however.

The frequency spectrum has settings to change the filter resolution, channel mode, range, and release value. The spectrogram also has a similar set of settings.

IKMultimedia T-Racks 5 Full Metering Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive Metering
    There is almost nothing you couldn’t analyze with this plugin. From loudness analysis to frequency and stereo width analysis, the T-Racks Metering is a complete suite of tools you would need to get broadcast-quality audio out of your masters.
  • Excellent GUI
    The user interface of this plugin is fully resizable, and you can also resize each section inside the plugin to an extent. The stereo imaging section also has multiple display styles to suit your taste. Similarly, the frequency spectrum supports displaying peak values for the selected length of time.
  • Presets
    The loudness metering section has many presets designed to assist in mastering music targeting a particular genre or streaming platform. This could be of significant value to a beginner or an intermediate music producer.
  • T-Racks Standalone Support
    If you prefer to master your tracks exclusively using IK Multimedia plugins, you can use Metering inside the T-Racks 5 standalone experience as well.
T-RackS 5 Metering In-Depth

Compatibility:

T-Racks Metering is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bits. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

With so many tools and options available, you couldn’t possibly go wrong with this plugin. It would have been even better if it supported surround audio as well, though. However, if you only master stereo songs, we highly recommend you give this one an honest try.

Related Topic:

Top 5 Gain Staging & VU Metter Plugins 2022

4. iZotope Insight 2 (Advanced Metering)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

A highly regarded brand among post-production engineers, iZotope’s Insight 2 provides complete audio analysis, flexible GUI, and more.

Whether you are a music producer mastering a new song for Spotify or an engineer working on a blockbuster film, Insight has you covered. Its interface has “modules,” each with a specific kind of metering. So, you could have only the Loudness module and the Sound Field module on your plugin page, or you could even view just one of the modules on full screen.

For measuring the loudness of your audio, you have the Loudness module and the Levels module. They have LUFS short-term, integrated, and momentary, Loudness Range, True Peak, Peak, and RMS metering.

There is a stereo width measurement module called Sound Field, which has adjustments to match your needs. And as for frequency analysis, you have a Spectrum and a Spectrogram module.

The Spectrogram module in this plugin can display both traditional 2D spectrograph and 3D waterfall view. Both the modules have settings to customize them, zooming and pausing features.

For post-production engineers/sound designers, iZotope has an Intelligibility module, which measures the clarity of your dialogs from the rest of your mix. It even has listening environment emulations to ensure your audio is intelligible for every audience.

iZotope Insight 2 Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive Metering
    iZotope Insight 2 is one of the fully complete suites of metering plugins you could find. It has been used for mastering music and podcasts for streaming platforms to mixing audio for theaters and broadcasts.
  • Customizable GUI
    The user interface of Insight is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The plugin itself is fully resizable. Furthermore, each module can be enabled or disabled, expanded to full screen, and resized inside the plugin. Various settings per module can also help you customize the displays to your liking.
  • Inter-Plugin Communication
    iZotope’s interconnected plugin ecosystem allows Insight to connect with their utility plugin Relay to help you analyze your audio even further. The Intelligibility module uses this feature. Relay also has basic features such as a high pass filter, gain, pad, etc.
  • Presets
    The Loudness module has many presets for targeting various broadcasting standards and streaming platforms.
  • Surround Support
    This plugin also supports Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 surround sound. So, it is an excellent option for mixing game and film audio.
How to Use iZotope Insight 2 for Post Production | iZotope Tutorial

Compatibility:

Insight 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11.6 or higher. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX (64-bit), RTAS (32-bit) formats.

Summary:

Insight 2 is an indispensable tool for anyone who requires high flexibility and advanced analysis. However, the price is difficult to justify for an average hobbyist. Nevertheless, we would recommend giving it a try and seeing if it is worth the high cost for your workflow.

Related Topic:

Top 10 Izotope Plugins & Products 2022 (Paid & Free)

5. Waves WLM Plus Loudness Meter (Loudness Metering With Limiter)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Hailing from one of the long-standing names in plugin development, WLM Plus is an analyzer plugin focused on loudness measurement.

The Waves WLM Plus has all three kinds of LUFS, True Peak, and Loudness Range metering. What it does differently is that along with the True Peak readouts, it also has a True Peak limiter built into the plugin. So, matching your master’s loudness to a standard won’t even require you to switch between two plugins.

There is both gain and input trim to help you with the mastering process.

We also liked its warning and logging system, which records any clippings or under-threshold readings in your audio. However, since it doesn’t have a graphical view, there is no way to tell where the issue occurred.

Waves WLM Plus Loudness Meter Review - Top 5 Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Input Filters
    There is an input low-pass and a high-pass filter for analyzing a set range of frequencies. Similarly, you can also choose to measure a specific channel of your audio.
  • Limiter
    Waves offer an in-built true peak limiter to help you with your mastering process. However, this may or may not be valuable as you could already have a favorite limiter for mastering. However, for mixing dialogs and so on, where you don’t typically introduce a huge amount of limiting, this may come in handy.
  • Presets
    The plugin has many presets for platforms like YouTube, Spotify, etc. The warning feature works great for making sure your audio is proper.
  • Surround Support
    The WLM Plus supports mono, stereo, 5.0, and 5.1 surround sound. So if you often find yourself working on low-budget indie projects, this could be of use.
How to Set Streaming Loudness Levels for Your Masters

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 10 64-bit and macOS 10.13.6 or higher. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.

Note that certain DAWs do not work with WLM Plus’ surround features, despite having surround support. So, make sure you check before you purchase.

Summary:

The WLM Plus is an excellent loudness metering plugin with an integrated limiter. With Waves Shell v12, you can have a resizable GUI as well. However, the price of this plugin without a sale is outrageous. With sales happening at Waves almost every day, though, the discounted price is undoubtedly worth the features.

Related Topic:

20 Best Waves Plugins 2022 For Mixing, Mastering & Producing

The 4 Best FREE Audio Metering Plugins 2022

1. YOULEAN LOUDNESS METER 2

More Info & Download

With such an excellent interface and detailed metering, it is a wonder how the Youlean Loudness Meter 2 is a free plugin.

This plugin is a complete loudness metering tool. It has all three kinds of LUFS (and Max values), various loudness ranges, and True Peak measurement. With the zoomable graph view, you can analyze precise details of your audio.

The plugin also keeps logs of the generated graph, so you can go back in your project’s timeline and overdub the graph view to see the updated levels.

YOULEAN LOUDNESS METER 2 Review - The 4 Best FREE Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Modern GUI
    The GUI of Youlean Loudness Meter 2 is highly commendable. It is fully resizable and scalable. And if you don’t like having the graph view taking up your space, you can switch to a “mini-view” mode, which removes the graph. In addition, there are two skins available for the plugin: light and dark.
  • Comprehensive Loudness Metering
    You couldn’t possibly find a better loudness meter for free. Many people agree that it is even better than some of the paid ones available, as it has LUFS-S/I/M, Dynamic Range, Loudness Range, and Peak Loudness Ratio measurements.
  • Surround Support
    It supports mono, stereo, and 5.1 surround audio as well, making it an excellent choice for engineers working on film/games.
  • Presets
    It has several presets for major streaming platforms, broadcast standards, etc. You could even make your own presets for quick reference. The graph view makes it easy to discover any issues in your audio.
I Use This Plugin On Every Mix and Master - Youlean Loudness Meter 2 Pro

Compatibility:

The Youlean Loudness Meter 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.9 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

We would say that this plugin deserves a spot in your plugin library at all times. The incredible amount of features and convenience it offers for free is nothing short of amazing. And if you need even more features, consider purchasing the Pro version.

2. Voxengo SPAN

More Info & Download

Voxengo SPAN is probably the most famous spectrum analyzer plugin available today.

SPAN offers detailed frequency analysis, stereo correlation, adjustable LUFS/K, RMS, and True Peak metering in a gorgeous user interface. Also, you can customize the frequency spectrum to different FFT resolutions and window times.

You can also have a secondary analyzer display real-time maximum or all-time maximum values. Both the primary and secondary analyzer can be smoothed out for easier viewing as well. SPAN also supports multiple channels, so you could have various spectrums overlayed on top of each other, separated by color themes.

 Voxengo SPAN Review - The 4 Best FREE Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Excellent GUI
    SPAN has multiple color themes and a fully resizable GUI. It also has an option to disable the meters and statistics. The spectrum can be zoomed in and out using the scroll bar edges.
  • Customizable
    The spectrum can be set to have a certain FFT size, slope, and time. You could even change the color of the spectrum to your taste. “Modes” let you use preset settings for various uses such as mastering.
  • Multi-Channel
    With multiple channel support, you could create a send from various tracks and analyze each track with a new spectrum, all in one plugin instance. This is brilliant for checking if certain instruments are clashing with others. Similarly, you could also use it for surround sound channels in a single track.
  • Mid/Side Analysis
    You can have the spectrum only to analyze the mid or side channel. This is handy for analyzing which frequencies of your audio could use a boost in stereo width and vice versa.
MIXING HACK | How to Improve Your Mix Visually with Voxengo SPAN

Compatibility:

SPAN is available for Windows XP and higher and macOS 10.11 and higher. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

You will find SPAN to be an essential plugin once you start discovering its capabilities. Other than frequency analysis, you could use its correlation meter to see if your track has any phasing issues as well. The other statistics it offers are further icing on the cake.

Related Topic:

Top 6 Spectrum Analyzer VST Plugins 2022 – Spectral Analysis

3. TBProAudio dpMeter5

More Info & Download

The dpMeter 5 is an astonishingly capable loudness metering tool, particularly geared towards film/game audio.

What keeps dpMeter 5 different from the rest of the flock is its fully customizable RMS analyzer, LUFS-I/M/S, and Dolby Dialog Gated LUFS measurement. Dialog Gating uses code from Dolby itself to only analyze the loudness of the audio when dialogs are present. This ensures the consistency of volume based on dialog levels.

For music producers, dpMeter 5 also offers excellent features. No other loudness measurement plugin provides as comprehensive an RMS reading as this one does. So, if you are used to the classic, you needn’t give it up.

Another thing worth considering is that it has an input gain. So, you could adjust the gain until it matches your reference level without ever leaving the plugin.

TBProAudio dpMeter5 Review - The 4 Best FREE Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive Loudness Metering
    The dpMeter 5 offers in-depth metering for both LUFS and RMS, with several weighting filters. Its measurement also stays in sync with your DAW’s playback, so the LUFS Integrated readout updates accordingly.
  • Convenient GUI
    The look of the user interface is simplistic, and it is also fully resizable. There aren’t any deep-dive menus to discover in this plugin, so it should pose no difficulty in getting up to speed.
  • Automation Out
    It can write automation for LUFS and RMS readings straight into your DAW. By flipping this automation, you would have an efficient gain rider for free.
  • Presets
    The plugin has several presets for various streaming platforms and broadcast standards. And with its built-in gain, you could easily match your audio to the reference.
dpMeter5 walk through

Compatibility:

TBProAudio dpMeter 5 is available for Windows  7 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.11 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

For a free plugin, it does offer quite a lot of features. It could be of particular interest as a gain-rider or for analyzing film/game audio. And if you enjoy having comprehensive RMS reading, all the more reason to give it a try.

4. iZotope Imager 2 (Stereo Width Analysis)

More Info & Download

One of the most sought-after free plugins on the internet, iZotope Imager 2, is both a stereo width analyzer and a stereo enhancement plugin.

The analyzer section of this plugin is essentially the Sound Field module of the iZotope Insight 2 plugin. There are three kinds of analyzing views.

The two faders on the right side are the enhancers. The Width fader controls how wide your audio is, where 50% is the dry input. And similarly, the Stereoize fader controls how deep your enhancement effect is by introducing latency between your audio’s left and right channels.

iZotope Imager 2 (Stereo Width Analysis) Review - The 4 Best FREE Audio Metering Plugins (LUFS, RMS, LRA, True Peak) | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Simple GUI
    The user interface of this plugin is fully resizable. And the multiple modes for imaging analysis make it handy regardless of which kind of imaging you’re used to previously.
  • Stereo Enhancement
    There are two stereo enhancement modes in this plugin. Stereorize I adds a phasing effect to your audio, whereas Stereorize II mode adds only subtle enhancements. They help make a mono sound seem wider and fatter.
iZotope Ozone Imager 2 Demo

Compatibility:

This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11.6 or higher, both at 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Often, your tracks seem dull and congested. Imager 2 can help you adjust the stereo width of individual tracks to create a balanced stereo space. You could also use it for getting fatter-sounding synth pads or leads. However, you will need to make a free iZotope account and install the Product Portal software to get this plugin.

If you are okay with the extra install, we highly recommend giving this plugin a try.

Bonus:

sonible true:balance (Metering, Referencing, Analyzing)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

true:balance is a plugin for spectrum analysis, frequency balancing, stereo balancing, and referencing your mixes. 

The plugin gives you the real-time frequency analysis of your audio, divided into three ranges: low, mid, and high, for each of which it gives separate decibel (dB) ratings, width ratings, and correlation meter ratings. Further, you can load up presets of genres like Rock, Jazz, Hip-hop, etc., for which you can compare the different frequency ranges and their energies. 

Key Features:

  • Great referencing
    The plugin allows you to load up custom references. You can load reference song(s) on the plugin and compare their lows, mids, and highs, in terms of amplitude and stereo width, with your mix. The plugin will inform you about the range by which you’re close to the reference track. Then, you can adjust your tracks according to those suggestions and get a better-sounding balance.
  • Flexible metering
    The plugin shows you a decibel meter, a correlation meter, an advanced spectral balance meter, and a meter for stereo width. Further, there’s also a “Mono Check” feature in the plugin that lets you check the mono compatibility of the mix.
  • Intuitive Interface
    The plugin has a beautiful GUI and is overall easy to use and intuitive. The suggestions that the plugin gives make it even more intuitive. You can easily load up genres and references, and the plugin allows multiple windows. Hence, you can simultaneously target spectral balancing for an EDM song, Pop song, reference song, etc.
  • Versatility
    The plugin is designed for experienced professionals and determined bedroom producers/engineers. You may not have the highest-grade equipment, but with true:balance, you can achieve the highest-grade references and spectral monitoring. The hints and insights you get with the plugin can be the missing link in your mixes. 

Compatibility:

true:balance requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 or Windows 10 operating systems, 4 GB RAM, Intel DualCore i5 processor, and is available in VST2, VST3, AAX, and MultiRack Native plugin formats

Summary:

true:balance is one of the most advanced and easy mixing plugins, and it can help you get your balances just right, ensuring that the output is compatible with most devices and systems. It’s especially great for bedroom producers with limited monitoring resources and systems. 

Conclusion

Even with the best studio monitors or headphones, you would still need audio analyzing plugins to ensure your audio is problem-free. These plugins also help you predict how various streaming platforms analyze their content. So, you can prepare for any potential change they may make to your audio.

And with free plugins offering almost as much functionality as paid ones nowadays, truly anyone could get broadcast-ready masters. We hope this article has helped you decide which one you are going to get for your studio.

Similar article:

Top 6 Reference VST Plugins 2022 (Best A/B Tools For Your DAW)

This article will explore the best reverence VST plugins of 2022 for A/B comparison purposes.

Reference plugins are very intimidating to many producers. And understandably so. It takes courage and a lot of dedication to sit down and listen to your music side by side with professional records by top-level producers.

Referencing your tracks to professional records is a great idea because it will help you better understand what you are lacking in your production and mixing. For example, you can see what frequency areas your song is weaker compared to a professional tune and how your dynamics hit compared to songs you love.

Choosing a song that is in a similar style as yours and by an artist, you admire and are influenced by is a good place to start. Try looking at things like frequency response during various sections of your song and compare them to the professional song.

Then move into dynamic range, loudness, and overall tone. You can also get many benefits as a producer by studying the structure of other songs you love with reference plugins. There’s really no limit to what you can gain. With that in mind, let’s dig right into our list!

1. Sonnox ListenHub 

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

ListenHub is an audio toolbox and monitor controller by Sonnox.

ListenHub is a CoreAudio device that functions as a virtual audio interface. It has four stereo input channels that send the incoming signal to several tools for analysis and then onto one of two stereo output channels. Unfortunately, being a CoreAudio device means ListenHub is available only to Mac users.

Sonnox ListenHub - Top 6 Reference & A/B Plugins For Comparison | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Four stereo inputs
    ListenHub has four stereo inputs to help you gather songs and signals from different sources. The first input is always configured to carry the system sound, which means you can use this channel to route songs from YouTube, Spotify, Apple music, or whatever platform you use straight into ListenHub. After this, you could set one of the other inputs as your DAW’s output channel. This way, you can keep track of your song and the reference clearly and neatly.
  • Plugin format
    If your DAW does not offer the feature of routing your output to a different device, then don’t be alarmed. Instead, you can use ListenHub’s plugin version and insert it into your mix bus. This way, ListenHub, and your DAW will share the same hardware outputs (monitors or headphones).
  • Level-match
    ListenHub automatically listens and analyzes the loudness of the input signals, which it then matches. This provides automatic level-matching to ensure that you compare your song with a professional song at the proper levels for maximum benefits. ListenHub also helps you with the output volume level and the interpretation of volume levels to an actual acoustic dB level. By doing all of this hard work, ListenHub provides you with a consistent normal monitoring level which you can get used to over time and mix better.
  • Tools
    The toolbox is where you can start having fun with ListenHub. This is where the loudness meters are located. You get short-term LUFS and PSR dynamics metering options to help you get your song at the right loudness level. There is also a big spectrum analyzer that offers visual feedback on your song’s frequency response. It has different frequency bands, which you can isolate to focus on. There are sub, low, low-mid, high-mid, and high bands. Furthermore, you can solo different channels of the stereo image, like mid, side, left, and right. This is extremely helpful in achieving rich stereo spaces that are similar to the song you are referencing.

Compatibility:

ListenHub is available on macOS 10.13 or higher only in VST3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

ListenHub is a great tool to use while mixing and mastering your music. It makes comparing your song to reference songs easy and straightforward by taking care of all the tedious and technical work behind the scenes. The features you’ll play with the most are the loudness meters, frequency bands, and stereo image channels, all of which will help you understand what your song lacks compared to a professional record. 

2. Mastering The Mix REFERENCE 2

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

REFERENCE 2 is a reference and comparison plugin by Mastering The Mix.

This plugin uses intelligent technology that will level-match your song to the reference and help you by offering guidance during your mix’s EQ, compression, and stereo widening process. 

Mastering The Mix REFERENCE 2 - Top 6 Reference & A/B Plugins For Comparison | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Level-matching
    Level-matching is crucial when comparing tracks. As humans, we naturally perceive loud songs as better-sounding songs. REFERENCE 2 helps with its level-match switch. Once you click it, your song and the reference tracks will be brought to the same level, so you can start analyzing and comparing without any bias.
  • Loudness controls
    In the center of the interface, you’ll find volume meters. These will display the loudness of the audio in your choice of peak, short-term, true peak, or integrated LUFS. There is also a helpful button for switching back and forth from your song to the reference.
  • EQ match
    At the bottom of the interface is the trinity display. This is where a few useful tools are located that help you get your song closer to the chosen reference. Firstly, you get an EQ graph which, as you play through the two tracks, will listen, analyze, and show how your song is louder or quieter in certain frequency bands. If you want, you can select the EQ match mode, which will adjust the onboard EQ accordingly to match the reference. If you select the right reference song, this can be a powerful feature. You also can isolate certain frequency bands.
  • Width and compression
    The second tool in the trinity display is the stereo width tool. This tool shows you how wide your song is on selected frequency ranges compared to the reference. It can also help you match the reference by making relevant adjustments. Finally, you get Punch Dots, a tool that helps you identify how dynamic your song is on certain frequency bands. By understanding the information it projects, you can then use a multiband compressor to adjust your dynamics accordingly. 

Compatibility:

REFERENCE 2 is available on Windows 7 – 10 and macOS 10.8.5 or higher in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

REFERENCE 2 is an excellent reference plugin. The interface and workflow are things I haven’t mentioned yet but are easy and clear to use. All you have to do is load REFERENCE 2 as your first plugin on your master chain.

Then you can drag and drop one or more reference tracks in its interface. You can loop a certain section (for example, the chorus), saving up a lot of your time. The trinity display is extremely powerful, especially the EQ match-mode. Overall, this is a great tool for all producers to have.

3. ADPTR AUDIO Metric AB 

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Metric AB is an A/B comparison plugin by ASPTR AUDIO.

Its purpose is to make an A/B comparison between your song and a reference track effortless. It achieves that through a workflow that feels intuitive. Once you load the plugin on your master chain, you can set up to 16 different reference tracks.

Then it’s a matter of switching from one to your song, listening, and paying attention to the visual cues Metric AB offers. 

ADPTR AUDIO Metric AB - Top 6 Reference & A/B Plugins For Comparison | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Level-matching and filters
    Metric AB starts things off with an automatic or manual level-matching process. You can set the levels yourself or click the loudness match to get an automatic result. Another great feature of Metric AB is the filtering. The filters section enables you to isolate specific frequency ranges in high pass, low pass, or band pass modes. You also get access to five pre-set frequency bands in low-mid, mid, high, bass, and sub. These are handy since they help you understand how your frequency content stacks up compared to your reference tracks.
  • Stereo image, correlation, and spectrum
    Metric AB offers a few more tools for metering and comparing in its spectrum, correlation panel, and stereo imager. The spectrum helps you visualize your song’s frequency content through a spectrogram, while the correlation panel helps you identify any phasing issues you may experience in your mix. The stereo imager sums up your track’s panning and stereo width across a spectrum. All of these tools are presented in a chart with a dB vertical axis and a Hz horizontal axis. You can zoom in or out of the chart or select different ballistics like peak and average hold times.
  • Dynamics
    This is a place where you can analyze and measure your song’s PSR (Peak to Short-Term Loudness Ratio) to achieve an ideal dynamic range. You get to specify a target line which is visualized on the graph as a red line. If the PSR drops below the red line, the signal has a lower dynamic range than the ideal target. It’s a very handy tool if you need guidance when compressing your master chain. For example, a lot of beginner producers over-compress or don’t compress hard enough. This tool could help you identify how much compression you need at your song’s final stage and how to get a good dynamic range.
  • Loudness metering
    One of the most crucial steps in mastering and referencing is the loudness metering. Metric AB does an excellent job with its LUFS targeting and metering setup. You can set your target LUFS manually or select from a list of presets which cater to the biggest streaming platforms on the market (YouTube, Spotify, Broadcast EU). You can view short-term, integrated, or momentary LUFS values. The values can be showcased in meters or graphs. The interface is very well built, so you will instantly understand how to use these and when your song is over or under the desired loudness limit

Compatibility:

Metric AB is available on Windows 7 – 10 and macOS 10.11 – 12 in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.

Summary:

Metric AB is an excellent comparison and referencing tool for the modern producer. It offers a wide range of tools in its spectrogram, stereo imager, filters, correlation panel, dynamics reader, and loudness reader. Due to its extensive arsenal and higher price point, I’d recommend this plugin to the professional producer and engineers who need a top-of-the-line tool for their metering and referencing.

4. Mastering The Mix EXPOSE 2 

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

EXPOSE 2 is an audio quality control app by Mastering The Mix.

Mastering The Mix created an application dedicated to helping you identify common issues that occur while mixing and mastering a song. EXPOSE 2 will analyze your song and let you know if it suffers from true peak clipping, over-compression, or phasing issues.

The interface is simple and easy, where the user simply drags and drops a song and a reference, sets a list of goals and aims, and EXPOSE 2 listens and presents the results. 

Mastering The Mix EXPOSE 2  - Top 6 Reference & A/B Plugins For Comparison | integraudio.com

Pluginboutique.com

Key Features:

  • Straightforward interface
    I think one of the biggest strengths of EXPOSE 2 is its straightforward interface. Since it’s an app and not a plugin, all you have to do is open it and start working without needing a DAW. Then, you can drop a song of yours and choose where you intend to play your song (Spotify, YouTube, CD). Afterward, it’s a matter of setting a tonal balance profile, meaning a set of rules based on which your song will be judged. This could be one of the genre-specific presets or a reference track which you can also load in. Once you load a reference track, EXPOSE 2 will analyze it and tell you how your song stacks up against it in dynamic range, EQ balance, loudness, and stereo imaging.
  • Expose your song’s issues
    It can be disheartening to find out at the last stage of a song’s production that there are issues, but that’s why plugins like this exist to help you learn from your mixing mistakes and improve them in the future. EXPOSE 2 will detect any issues that show up in your master regarding loudness, phase cancellation, EQ balance regarding your reference song or genre, and dynamic range. If an issue arises, the corresponding section will light up in red. Then, EXPOSE 2 will guide you through what you need to do to fix it. For example, if your song is slightly peaking during a certain part of the chorus, the app will show you exactly where the peak is and how loud it is. Then you can go back to your DAW and fix it.
  • EQ balance
    One of the best features in EXPOSE 2 is the compare EQ feature. This is where your song will be compared to either a reference song you load in or a genre-specific preset. There is a spectrogram with an EQ line drawn. The app will shape the EQ line throughout the frequency spectrum to match the reference’s. If the boost or cut is less or more than 3dB, then you are on the right track. However, if the difference exceeds 6dB, you must go back to your mixing or mastering stage and tweak your levels. This is a great opportunity for producers who feel like they’re missing that 5% of finesse in their music since EXPOSE 2 will shake up your mixing and mastering process and allow you to push your mix to its limits.
  • All about guidance
    Finally, EXPOSE 2 guides you to the ideal finished product. The notes button is insanely thoughtful and powerful. This button will show you a list of directions and advice to follow depending on what issues arise in your song’s analysis. For example, the loudness section will tell you how much you need to tweak your limiter during mastering to get the right loudness levels. Or, in the dynamics section, it will explain whether the song is over-compressed or squished. This is why EXPOSE 2 is so useful. Instead of just flashing red warning lights to you, it thoroughly explains why you need to tweak certain parameters and how to approach fixing the issues. 

Compatibility:

EXPOSE 2 is available on Windows 7 – 10 and macOS 10.10 or higher as a standalone application.

Summary:

EXPOSE 2 is a very useful and powerful tool for the modern beginner producer. I’d suggest it to beginners because the knowledge and discipline you can gain from it would be extremely powerful to a producer in his first steps. Imagine knowing early on why certain technical issues appear in your mix. Then, you can start fixing them straight away and build strong foundations for your future music to stand on. 

5. MeldaProduction MCompare

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

MCompare is a reference tool by MeldaProduction.

MCompare can help you judge your mix objectively without letting your ears fool you. It provides a simple and easy workflow that can help you get useful information with the press of a button.

You can check your audio levels and details during different stages of your mastering chain but also get true level feedback through the automatic loudness compensation feature onboard. 

MeldaProduction MCompare - Top 6 Reference & A/B Plugins For Comparison | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Automatic loudness compensation
    Automatic loudness compensation is a feature that works similarly to level-matching, which I discussed earlier. The idea is that since you are comparing a mastered reference song to your unfinished one, naturally, the reference will be louder, therefore raising objectivity issues while comparing. MCompare helps you with the ALC button, which, once pressed, will bring the level of the reference track down to match yours. This means you can now judge the mix or master objectively by focusing on the sonic qualities of the two songs, not just volume. What’s even better is that this happens in real time and will be updated constantly as you progress through your song.
  • Multiple versions comparison
    If we’re being honest, most comparison plugins do many of the same tasks. However, MCompare manages to stand out with a function that’s extremely useful and unique. You can compare your song to a reference during multiple stages of your mastering chain. For example, you can compare the dry mix of your song with the reference thanks to the automatic loudness compensation technology, but also a version of your song after the master EQ or after the master compressor. You can pretty much compare your song to a reference every step of the way while mastering for ultimate control over the final product. This is helpful because you won’t need to master a song only to find out afterward something you did ruined it early on in the process.
  • Blind test
    This is another unique feature MCompare offers. Our egos always get in the way of objectively judging a mix. The idea here is that you can compare multiple song versions without knowing which. You only get a selection of numbered panels that you can listen to and choose your favorite. After you choose, you will discover which version of the song you prefer. A good example of this would be using different types of compression on your master track, maybe by different compressor plugins. Then bouncing them down as unique versions and loading them into the interface. Then, by listening to all of them in a blind test, you can objectively choose the most appropriate one for your song.
  • Utility controls
    MCompare offers a few utility controls for advanced monitoring and comparing. You can trigger the mid or side buttons to monitor your song’s and the reference’s mid and side information. The diff buttons are intended for checking the difference between the input and compared signals. Finally, there is a filter section with a lowpass and highpass mode. You can monitor your song’s low end or high end so that it matches that of the reference as close as possible.

Compatibility:

MCompare is available on Windows and macOS in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats. 

Summary:

MCompare is another excellent reference tool that manages to offer some unique and refreshing features. The blind test feature has to be my favorite for comparing and judging your mix, while the automatic loudness compensation is one of the smoothest on the market. The interface is clean and easy to use, while the standard loudness meters and readings are also available. 

6. ADPTR AUDIO Streamliner (Referencing / Metering Suite)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Streamliner is a reference plugin by ADPTR AUDIO.

It’s a plugin used for analyzing how your song will sound on all major streaming platforms. This tool can help combat the loudness normalization penalties modern producers face every time a streaming platform decides to change its minimum LUFS target.

Apart from this, it helps read your true-peak loudness value, compares your song with references, and automatically level-matching them.

ADPTR AUDIO Streamliner - Top 6 Reference & A/B Plugins For Comparison | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Understand normalization
    When you upload your song to your distributor, it’s sent to all the major streaming services. Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and Tidal have their own rules regarding how loud a song should be before it gets compressed. This is so that all songs are on a relatively similar loudness level for the user’s convenience. However, if you send in a song with completely different loudness levels than the usual modern -14 LUFS, this comes at the cost of loudness, and the worst cases, audio quality. To combat this, Streamliner lets you audition your song through the same algorithms all these streaming services use. This way, you’ll know if your song will be simply turned down by a dB or compressed to reach the right level, sacrificing this way your song’s life and balance.
  • Loudness readings
    Streamliner comes with all the necessary meters and readings for loudness monitoring. You can monitor your song’s short-time LUFS, PSR, and PLR values. The meters are beautifully designed, just like the entire interface, which makes for a smooth experience for producers of all experience levels. Once your song reaches a loudness level over the intended streaming platform receiver, you will be notified with a red value and a clip line showing how many dBs you have exceeded the limit.
  • Handy referencing
    Apart from letting you know the fines streaming services will apply to your song’s loudness, Streamliner functions as a great modern referencing tool. You can load a song in the interface and click the AB button to switch between that and your song. An automatic level matching algorithm will bring your songs to the same level for objective comparisons. 

Compatibility:

Streamliner is available on Windows 7 – 10 and macOSn10.11 – 12 in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.

Summary:

Streamliner is a simple referencing tool that offers something different to the modern producer: the ability to understand how his song will be experienced on every major streaming platform before he commits to uploading it. The interface is easy to understand and minimalistic enough for everyone to comprehend. 

Conclusion

Referencing and comparing your song with other professional records can be intimidating, but it is something that will help you grow and evolve your mixing and mastering skills. If you choose the right reference song, you can learn so much about what elements your song is missing and what technical areas you are weak at.

This list is meant to help you familiarize yourself with what to look for when looking at referencing tools. Use it as a guide to finding the most appropriate and ideal referencing tool to help you step up your mixing and mastering game.

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