If you are cruising the plugin market looking for the best spectrum analyzer, then this article has got you covered up. Firstly, you have to understand what exactly you need a spectrum analyzer for. Almost all spectrum analyzers function in the same way.
What Is Spectrum Analyzer?
Spectrum analyzers are tools that provide a user with detailed information about the sounds by dividing the frequency spectrum to show the range of frequencies. The horizontal (x) axis corresponds to the frequency and the vertical (y) axis corresponds to the amplitude of the frequencies.
The frequencies displayed on a spectrum analyzer are normally from 20Hz to 20kHz which is the range that can be heard by a human ear.
What Is The Purpose Of The Spectrum analyzer?
Spectrum analyzers are very useful to check the overall frequency balance of the mix or when comparing certain parts of a mix. This makes it especially useful when mixing using lower-quality monitors or in a non-treated (acoustically) room which can lead to an accidentally unbalanced mix.
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What is the difference between a Signal Analyzer And Spectrum analyzer?
Both signal and spectrum analyzers have the same function. The only difference is that signal analyzers have digital signal processing (DSP) in order for it to solve functions like fast Fourier Transform (FFT). Signal analyzers can also have very high bandwidths.
What Is The Difference Between an Oscilloscope and a Spectrum Analyzer?
Oscilloscopes are normally used to find the time delay between two signals. On the other hand, spectrum analyzers are used to display and edit the frequency properties of a signal.
The difference between an oscilloscope and a spectrum analyzer is that the graph displayed in an oscilloscope is a graph of the signal against time, whereas the displayed graph in a spectrum analyzer is of the signal against frequency.
The figure above shows an example of an output waveform in an oscilloscope and it shows a square wave in a time domain.
(Image from https://iconcollective.edu/spectrum-analyzers/)
The figure above shows an example of an output waveform of a spectrum analyzer showing a graph of amplitude (in dB) against frequency (Hz).
What Is Reference Level In Spectrum analyzer?
The reference level is the maximum level of amplitude that can be displayed. For example, if we have the highest peak in volume of our signal at 20 dB and we set the reference level at 15 dB, then half of the waveform of that peak will be cutoff.
The 10 Best Spectrum Analyzer VST Plugins
1. Voxengo SPAN Review
Voxengo SPAN is one of the most popular and widely used spectrum analysis plugins that you can find. It is a FREE plugin that manages to compete shoulder to shoulder with industry giants.
SPAN has an extremely flexible system that allows users to set up the spectrum analyzer preferences. Users can specify the Fourier block size in samples, set the percentage for the FFT window overlap, and specify the spectrum’s visual slope. In addition to that, Voxengo SPAN supports multi-channel display in both real-time and all-time maximums.
- Voxengo SPAN has a real-time FFT spectrum analyzer
- This plugin has a phase correlation meter that enables users to detect phase cancellations
- Colorful interface with interchangeable colors
- Users can listen to a specific frequency through a bandpass filter
- K-level metering to prevent extreme loudness
- Notes can be viewed as semitones and cents which is not a common feature among many other paid spectrum analyzers
- GUI is scalable and users can zoom in into the spectrum to view specific ranges in detail
Voxengo has also released an extended version of the SPAN and it’s called SPAN Plus. On top of the features mentioned, SPAN Plus has many additional features like spectrum export into a PNG image, static spectrums display, and real-time spectrum import/export for comparisons between two tracks.
Voxengo SPAN and SPAN Plus require Windows XP or higher for PC and macOS 10.11 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems for Windows but only 64-bits for macOS. Download SPAN here.
Overall, Voxengo SPAN comes as a surprise to many users due to its incredibly high quality and it being free which is very rare. This makes the Voxengo SPAN a very popular spectrum analyzer plugin that is used in many professional studios by engineers. We have seen very little to no flaws in this plugin and we highly recommend that you check it out and judge for yourself.
2. iZotope Insight 2 Review
Much like most of the plugins developed by iZotope, Insight 2 is another standout spectrum analyzer plugin that provides users with all the tools required to have an in-depth vision of the track frequency range.
iZotope Insight 2 is an upgrade to the original iZotope Insight spectrum analyzer. Insight is made up of 5 modules that can all be opened in one resizable window. These 5 modules are:
- Spectrogram – this displays the frequency and amplitude distribution for the signal as a function of time.
- Sound Field – this displays the sound signal position and users can choose between mono, stereo, and surround viewing modes. Mono/stereo mode is a Vectorscope. Vectorscope has three further analysis modes i.e. Polar sample which shows each sample separately as dots, Polar level which displays the average levels of the samples, and Lissajous Vectorscope which displays a plot of the samples on an oscilloscope. Surround mode is a Surround sound view.
- Spectrum Analyzer – displays a graph of frequency against amplitude. Users can zoom in over an area of interest by using the mouse wheel or by dragging a box over the area. Different spectrum types like Full and 1/3 Octave, or Critical bands can be selected for a better understanding of the graph.
- Level Meters – this consists of a Balance Meter and a Correlation meter. The Balance Meter sums up the left and right channels and displays their stereo location. The correlation Meter is responsible for detecting phase cancellation as it shows the similarity level between two channels.
- Loudness History Graph – this shows a graph of short-term, Momentary Max, and Integrated loudness levels against time. Target level violations appear in red and the graph itself can be exported in multiple formats like image, CSV, etc for later inspection.
Insight 2 provides the same functions as the original functions with the addition of a few extra features for better controllability and efficiency. These new features are listed below.
- Intelligibility meter which tells users which frequencies are being overshadowed by the rest of the mix
- iZotope Relay which allows users to route tracks to iZotope Insight 2 for instant inspection
- Insight 2 supports multi-channel audio
- Resizable windows
- Resizable meters
iZotope Insight 2 requires Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.9.5 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and only supports 64-bit systems. Check this tool on Pluginboutique.
iZotope Insight 2 is considered an industry-standard spectrum analyzer by many producers and engineers. It is less expensive than the original Insight plugin but is still a relatively expensive spectrum analyzer plugin.
3. Schulz Audio Spectrum 2 Review
Schulz Audio Spectrum 2 is a highly versatile and easy-to-use multi-channel spectrum analyzer that offers users a ton of interesting features and capabilities.
Spectrum 2 hopes to aid users in finding clashing frequencies and edit them for a cleaner mix. This is a multi-channel plugin which means that it is able to display frequencies from multiple channels at the same time. The plugin also implements a “Zero Routing” technology which allows the signals to overlap each other when displaying more than one channel.
- Schulz Audio Spectrum 2 is lightweight and designed to have smooth graphics
- Zero routing technology to overlap frequencies when viewing multiple channels
- Users can choose colors for each of the displayed spectrums to allow for clearer viewing
- Instances or a range of frequencies can be renamed
- Users get 2 displaying mode options – spectrogram and spectrograph
- Adjustable Block/Window size ranging from 2k to 16k
- Adjustable refresh rate ranging from 40ms to 200ms
- Users can view frequencies in Hz or as musical notes
Schulz Audio Spectrum 2 requires Windows Vista or higher for PC and OS X 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems. For more, check Schulz Audio’s official website.
Overall, the Spectrum 2 by Schulz Audio is another exciting spectrum analyzer plugin. Its most interesting feature is that it allows users to analyze multiple tracks for a single effect which is added to the master channel and is applied to all channels. Its smooth graphics, CPU-friendly design, as well as cheaper price makes it a desirable spectrum analyzer for many producers and engineers.
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4. MeldaProduction MMultiAnalyzer Review
MeldaProduction is well-known for its high quality, high-value plugins that offer professional tools for a reasonable price. The MMultiAnalyzer continues to maintain the company’s reputation and is one of the best spectrum analyzers that you can get.
MMultiAnalyzer is a spectacular multi-track analyzer that enables users to view frequency collisions on a colorful sonogram for users to easily regulate audio inconsistency and frequency collisions.
- Advanced edit mode which enables in-depth manipulation with controls including deharmonization, normalization, and super-resolution
- MMultiAnalyzer has one of the most advanced interfaces on the market. The interface’s color scheme can be changed. It is resizable and is GPU accelerated which ensures smooth performances
- The visualization engine offered in this plugin is distinctive and has classic meters and time graphs
- Automatic Gain Compensation (AGC) feature which helps maintain the track’s overall output volume
- MMultiAnalyzer comes equipped with a safety limiter to prevent harsh transients from causing damage to the ear
- This plugin has 4 multi parameters for multiple channel spectrum display, with each parameter offering a different viewing mode like overlapped, side-by-side, etc
- Highly versatile modulators for better control
MMultiAnalyzer is compatible with Windows Vista or higher for PC and OS X 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems. After purchase you will get free-for-life updates, check details on Pluginboutique.
The MMultiAnalyzer by MeldaProduction is a highly recommended spectrum analyzer plugin and for obvious reasons. Its colorful display as well as in-depth functionality allows for easier and more efficient frequency display and control. In addition to that, it comes at a fairly reasonable price just like most of MeldaProduction’s plugins.
5. Oscarizor 2D/3D Multi Channel Spectrum Analyzer Review (Free/Paid)
Another company that introduces a fantastic spectrum analyzer plugin to the market for a reasonable price is Oscarizor with their 2D/3D Multi Channel Spectrum Analyzer plugin.
The plugin itself is no different than others mentioned on this list in terms of workflow. However, this plugin is one of the few plugins that allow users to display a frequency spectrum in 3D. In addition to that, the 2D/3D Multi Channel Spectrum Analyzer packs an incredible set of features that we are going to discuss.
- Users can choose to view the spectrum in either 2D or 3D formats which is a rare feature among spectrum analyzers
- DAW host synchronization which is useful for users to exactly compare waveforms
- This plugin makes use of side-chaining and send/receive channels to display parallel waveforms and to allow for spectrum comparisons
- This plugin has an impressive instrument tuner which automatically sets the block size for the FFT spectrum
- Users can view up to 10 channels at the same time
- The user interface for this plugin is totally resizable to fit all screens and DAW displays
- Users can zoom in using the mouse wheel to view specific frequency ranges
- The spectrum itself can be freely rotated in 360 degrees in all axes
- This plugin has 3 view modes i.e. mixed mono, stereo, and M/S
- The 2D/3D Multi Channel Spectrum Analyzer has a big library of factory presets and a presets manager to quickly load and save presets
Oscarizor 2D/3D Multi Channel Spectrum Analyzer is compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports only 64-bit systems. This plugin has a limited free version that does not have a 3D view, multichannel display, FFT customization, and some more controls. Check this plugin on Sugaraudio.
Much like the MMultiAnalyzer by MeldaProducation, the Oscarizor 2D/3D Multi Channel Spectrum Analyzer is a spectacular spectrum analyzer plugin with a lot of unique features that make it a standout among the rest of the spectrum analyzer plugins found in the market. Furthermore, the fact that it comes at a relatively more affordable price, as well as a free version, makes it available for a wider range of users.
6. NuGen Visualizer Review
NuGen may not be a household name in the plugin market. However, it has been gaining a little bit of traction over recent years due to their consistently high-quality products.
The NuGen Visualizer is as capable as some of the more well-known spectrum plugins. It provides users with powerful tools and features to analyze the audio frequency and improve the workflow. Moreover, NuGen Visualizer enables users to recreate optimum mix settings and reduce frequency-repeated errors.
- NuGen Visualizer has a single-screen interface for users to view the audio frequency spectrum. This interface is resizable which makes it flexible to use with multiple screens and DAWs. Additionally, users can customize the display for different viewing modes all by the click of a button
- This plugin has an impressive comparison mode which allows users to display frequency spectrums from two separate audio channels in different ways for comparison. Users can choose to view the audio tracks either overlapping each other, in a differential display, or side by side
- NuGen Visualizer has several level meters like RMS, Peak, K12, and many more
- This plugin provides users with 9 different analysis tools for the frequency spectrum. These tools include a spectrogram, a stereo spectrogram, FFT Spectrum analysis, stereo spectrum analysis, stereoscope, vectorscope, stereo bias meter, stats and parameter module, and a correlation meter
NuGen Visualizer is compatible with Windows XP or higher for PC and OS X 10.6 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems. Visit Pluginboutique for more information.
Overall, the Visualizer tool by NuGen is an incredibly powerful tool with an attractive, controllable interface that can handle a wide range of audio-related duties. It comes at a relatively more expensive price when compared to plugins of its caliber, but its versatility and features justify its price point.
FabFilter Pro-Q 3 Review
Despite being designed specifically as an equalizer tool, Fabfilter Pro-Q3 has one of the most powerful spectrum analyzers.
This plugin is by far one of the most popular EQs and spectrum analyzers in the market. Users have so much control over the spectrum as it is designed to be an equalizer first. However, this plugin manages to display the frequency spectrum in a way that is so similar to the dedicated spectrum analyzer plugins mentioned in this article. The spectrum analyzer in the Pro-Q3 is customizable and offers multiple viewing modes.
- The pre and post buttons that are seen on the top left corner in the image above are used to show the audio spectrum before and after applying EQ
- To view the overall spectrum, the user can switch on the external spectrum from the button as shown above
- Freeze button at the bottom left of the panel shown above. This causes the spectrum to build up a maximum over a period of time, by stopping it from falling or moving out
- Fabfilter Pro-Q3 supports for huge vertical range (up to 120 dB) which can be set manually for better viewing
- A resolution setting to control the precision of the spectrum analyzer
Fabfilter Pro-Q3 is compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.8 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32/64 bit systems for PC and only 64-bits for Mac. It comes as a 30-day free trial. Get Pro-Q 3 on Pluginboutique.
Fabfilter Pro-Q3 is a vital EQ for any producer and engineer. Its in-depth control over sound makes this plugin an irreplaceable one when it comes to the equalizer market. Its ability to display the frequency spectrum in a detailed and controllable way has earned it an honorable mention in this article. It obviously comes at a more expensive price, but the fact that it is more than an EQ justifies that.
What Is The Best Software Spectrum Analyzer?
If you are cruising the plugin market looking for the best spectrum analyzer, then this article has got you covered up. Firstly, you have to understand what exactly you need a spectrum analyzer for. Almost all spectrum analyzers function in the same way. Plugins mentioned on this list differ only in terms of additional features as well as price.
Often times, you may find yourself not needing the extra “cool” features that many of these plugins offer. Thankfully, most of these plugins have a free trial for you to try them out and figure out what you need. If you ask us, we highly recommend getting the Voxengo SPAN since this plugin offers what every other spectrum analyzer offers and it is totally FREE.