Loudness meter for correctly setting up tracking and mixing levels (gain staging).
The digital revolution brought many advantages to the field of audio processing: higher fidelity, less noise, non-degrading copies and the endless possibilities of digital signal processing. Unfortunately, however, digital audio also introduced some problems of its own.
Whereas the analogue domain is relatively inert against very high levels (overdriving some analogue equipment actually sounds pretty good), the digital domain punishes even small transgressions into forbidden territory with harsh clipping.
Professional analogue audio equipment is designed to be run at a nominal level of +4 dBu. This leaves a headroom for peaks of at least 20 dB to the clipping point.
Now let’s transfer this to the digital domain. First, choose an analogue reference level for your converter. Then, record with an average input level of -20 dB FS RMS.
I also recommend recording with a maximum level of -10 dB FS peak. This will leave enough space for sudden jumps in level and may also improve the sound of your recordings.
Sadly, most digital audio equipment only has peak meters. This is readily understandable as you want to avoid digital clippings by all means. However, badly chosen meter ranges and scales often render these meters useless. And the lack of average meters does not exactly facilitate gain staging.
When I had realised this, I started coding traKmeter. It has evolved with my growing knowledge and recording experience, but the underlying ideas haven’t changed at all.
traKmeter has an average level meter that is centered around -20 dB FS RMS and a peak level meter that is aligned to -10 dB FS peak. It supports stereo and 8-channel audio signals, has two scales, two ballistics modes and is very easy to use. Additionally, all meters have been thoroughly validated.
- Windows 7 (and above)
- LV2 plug-in
- VST2 plug-in
- VST3 plug-in
- stand-alone executable
As traKmeter was coded using cross-platform code, it should be easy to compile a version for Mac OS X. Unfortunately, I happen to not have a Mac…
In case you want to help, please see the manual for ways to contact me. You’ll need sufficient experience in coding, compiling and debugging, though, so no beginners please!
The current version is 2.4.6 (built on 2019-03-23). It requires a processor which supports the SSE2 instruction set. On Windows systems, you may also have to install the Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2017.
|GNU/Linux||2.4.6||32 bit||LV2 plug-in|
|64 bit||LV2 plug-in|
|Windows 7||2.4.6||32 bit||VST2 plug-in|
|64 bit||VST2 plug-in|
Please report bugs using the traKmeter bug tracker. You may also use the bug tracker to place your wishes or ideas.
traKmeter is free software, and I’m not going to ask for money. Period.
In case you still want to show your gratitude, simply donate to a cause of your choice and tell me about it. Thanks!
This is free software and licensed under the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3).
Please note, however, that the VST2 SDK is not free. I provide a VST2 plug-in because it is a de facto standard that makes life easier for musicians and engineers who just want to make some great sounding albums.
But if you are a free software advocate, you might not want to use the VST2 plug-in. The pre-built GNU/Linux stand-alone, LV2 and VST3 plug-ins really are free software in the sense of the Free Software Foundation.