They say, “mix with your ears and not your eyes,” but what if I tell you that’s not necessarily right? In fact, relying only on your ears might be why your mixes don’t sound as great. And, using the free plugins listed below may be able to help!
Most audio professionals in today’s world work on projects in studios in their rooms. Most of these do not have a reliable acoustic treatment or even monitors, in most cases. This common situation limits your ability to rely solely on your ears because you’re working in a deceitful environment.
That’s why you need free metering plugins because they let you see with your eyes everything that you can’t with your ears.
In this article, we’ll talk about the 6 best free metering plugins to use on your mixes and masters and get better results.
What Do Metering Plugins Do?
Metering plugins can help you monitor the balance of the frequency spectrum, the phase correlation between elements, the dynamic range, the crest factor, RMS and peak values, and the overall loudness of the signal, which is superbly essential for the result.
These plugins give you visual representations of your audio sources so that you can measure several aspects of them to make sure it’s suitable for streaming platforms and other playback formats. You will also find them helpful when trying to match the EQ curve of a track or, if you mix with headphones, to avoid translation issues.
Remember, though, that metering plugins will give you a mathematical measurement of your audio and will be extremely helpful in finding issues and match levels. However, they’re only references; every audio is different, so don’t take them too literally.
The Different Types of Metering & Why They Matter
- Loudness & Level Meters
- True Peak – Gives you an accurate calculation of the maximum amplitude level of a signal.
- RMS (Root Mean Square) – judges the loudness of a signal based on its voltage. High RMS levels mean a higher perception of overall loudness.
- LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale) – judges the loudness of a signal based on a human’s perception of loudness. LUFS is the standard loudness scale in the industry because it gives you the most accurate representation of the listeners’ true perceived loudness.
- Goniometer (Stereo Width) – shows you how your sound is distributed across the stereo field.
- Frequency Spectrum Analyzers
Shows you the relationship between frequencies between 20hz and 20khz, which is the range, or spectrum, of frequencies that are audible to human beings. These are commonly seen in several EQ plugins and are excellent visual references during the tonal balancing stage when mixing or mastering.
- Phase Correlation Meters
This type of meter is critical if you mix in headphones because it helps you prevent frequency cancellations and unintentional phasing during playback.
This type of meter gives you all of the above in one interface. They’re good because of their comfortability and practicality.
Are Free Metering Plugins Good or Should I Get A Paid One?
Free metering plugins are as fantastic and helpful as paid plugins. Nevertheless, paid plugins usually bring more to the table, like unusual meters (such as crest factor meters, DR, etc.), limiting, self-correction, and presets, which can help optimize your workflow.
It’s important to note, that paid plugins will not make you instantly better at mixing or mastering. It’s advised to learn your DAW fully before investing in anything paid. There are incredible tools out there, but if you’re not up to skill yet, then it’s pointless to shell out on them.
What Are The Best Free Metering Plugins?
Here’s the complete list of the best Metering plugins:
- Youlean loudness meter
- Flux Stereo Tool
- Voxengo Span
- Voxengo Correlometer
1. Youlean loudness meter
Youlean loudness meter is a free, fully-featured loudness meter that you can use to monitor the loudness of your signal.
- Multi-channel metering with 12 channel configuration options, including mono, stereo, 5.1, and 7.1 surround
- Customizable histogram with four separate visualization modes
- Simple and intuitive to use
- Dynamic range measurement
- 9 Presets with EBU, ITU, ASWG, and other standards for films and videogames
- Scalable interface
- Almost all of the metering options are exclusive to the paid version but loaded anyways
- It's not possible to scale the interface downwards, so you can only make it lager
- Presets for streaming services releases are only available for the Pro version
Youlean loudness meter is a free, fully-featured loudness meter that you can use to monitor the loudness of your signal. A paid version of this plugin unlocks some extra features, like the dynamic range display, presets for different streaming platforms, broadcast, and customization options.
You can use this plugin as a real-time loudness analyzer at the end of your mix or mastering chain to monitor if it stays within the ballpark or if you need to make adjustments and match your levels to a professional standard.
Compared to MLoudnessAnalyzer, the Youlean loudness meter is better because it gives you the same, but in a much more comfortable interface that feels very ordered and professional. In addition, the free version includes nine visualization presets for the film and tv industry.
MAnalyzer is a spectrum analyzer with a spectrogram that you can use to refer during your EQ or to detect issues on your balance.
- Intuitive graphic visualization
- Includes visualization of different areas of your audio, such as drums, frequencies, octaves, and several pianos
- 20+ analysis presets, including genre-based presets
- Frequency and band soloing
- Mid-side, multichannel, and stereo monitoring
- 14 different styles and a fully customizable interface
- 6 graphs with individual and customizable sonograms and shape
- Stereo width meter
- Low CPU impact
- You can't scale the interface with the sleeve unless you buy the plugin, but you can do it through the settings menu
- It can get pretty crowded, and different meter modes are difficult to find
MAnalyzer is a spectrum analyzer with a spectrogram that you can use to refer during your EQ or to detect issues on your balance. Here’s where the mixing with your eyes thing comes into place because this tool can help you detect issues that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise.
This plugin benefits mixing because you can activate the “areas” visualization. MAnalyzer will let you know the most relevant frequencies to look for in an instrument, purpose, or music genre and even give you an ideal curve to reference.
MAnalyzer’s unique pre-filtering ability lets you draw a target spectrum shape by utilizing their shape editor. This function is ideal if you use reference tracks because it’ll help you achieve similar balances across your mixes and make mastering that much easier.
3. Flux Stereo Tool
Flux's Stereo Tool features everything you need to enhance the stereo image of your music. This plugin lets you manipulate each side's volume levels to match them, flip the polar phase, and control the left and right pan separately and globally.
- Individual L/R panning controls
- Simple to use and intuitive GUI
- Separate input phase inversion
- Individual input gain control for volume adjustments before processing
- Stereo, mid-side, and correlation analysis
- Stereo imaging and panning features
- Vectorscope meter for accurate visual reference of the stereo image
- Phase correlation measurement
- Input & output level and correlation meters
- Doesn't have a global output knob or link, so you have to do it separately
- When collapsed to mono can get too loud
The name Stereo Tool fits perfectly with what this plugin can do. Flux’s Stereo Tool features everything you need to enhance the stereo image of your music. This plugin lets you manipulate each side’s volume levels to match them, flip the polar phase, and control the left and right pan separately and globally.
With the Stereo Tool, it is also possible to manipulate the stereo width of a stereo track, making it suitable for stereo imaging effects. However, I’d advise you to be cautious beyond 1.50db because it can get pretty awkward and create phase problems.
I love to use this plugin on stereo busses with highly dynamic instruments, like guitars, drums, and keys, to get just the right amount of stereo spread and panning, as this plugin allows a ridiculous amount of accuracy and it’s super graphic, so it lets you know pretty quickly if you’re screwing up.
Another cool thing is that it lets you save and recall individual presets for each side for A/B comparison or blend them.
4. Voxengo Span
Span lets you set up the analysis display in terms of smoothing the spectrum's shape, averaging time, and frequency range.
- Stereo, mid/side, and surround real-time analysis.
- Super clear interface with true peak, level statistics, headroom estimation, and clipping indicators.
- Includes a phase correlation meter
- Free-scaling GUI
- Several metering modes
- Channel grouping
- Solo channel monitoring
- K system metering
- The high resolution visualizer is particularly uncomfortable to see after a short while
Span by Voxengo is another spectrum analyzer that can make a huge difference in your audio post-producing workflow. Don’t let the spot on this list fool you. Span is one of those plugins that seem too good to be free because it offers you many options, including frequency soloing and M/S monitoring.
Like the MAnalyzer plugin, Span lets you set up the analysis display in terms of smoothing the spectrum’s shape, averaging time, and frequency range.
In addition, Span allows you to analyze and visualize M/S information simultaneously, which is outstanding in detecting excessive low-mid information in the sides, causing your mix to sound muddy.
You can also surf or sweep frequencies with this plugin by holding control + left click and changing the filter’s bandwidth with your mouse’s scroll wheel. This possibility makes it even easier for you to spot problems in your mix to fix them accordingly.
5. Voxengo Correlometer
Voxengo Correlometer is a multi-band phase correlation meter and a fantastic way to detect problems your ears can't usually hear.
- Super simple and intuitive to use
- Add up to 64 bands for phase correlation metering
- Adjustable bandwidth and averaging time
- Great for quickly finding out-of-phase elements on your mix
- Ideal to measure phase correlation on groups of tracks
- Frequency spectrum analysis
- I honestly couldn't find one
Voxengo Correlometer is a multi-band phase correlation meter and a fantastic way to detect problems your ears can’t usually hear. Phase correlation issues are one of the most common differentiators between amateur and professional sound and probably why your mix sounds flat, thin, or lacking power and punch.
What’s so great about Voxengo Correlometer is that, unlike your typical gonio meter, it doesn’t only tells you there’s a problem but also where to find it so that you can rapidly address it and move on.
Correlometer is a tremendous help during mastering, too, because it lets you know precisely when and where phase cancellations occur so that you can fix them and achieve a cleaner master.
In a general sense, this plugin alone can help your mixes go from amateur to pro, as phase cancellation is probably one of the most overlooked and joint problems for project studio engineers worldwide.
MLoudness super helpful when mastering for streaming services because it can automatically match your signal to the prefixed target volume, which already stands out among other free loudness meters and paid ones.
- Automatic gain adjustment
- True peak limiting
- Easy preset management and storage
- Dedicated presets for YouTube, Apple Music, and Spotify
- Ability to automatically gain-match any audio source from your disk to a preset or standard
- Fully customizable interface with different styles and sizes
- Simple and intuitive to use
- Style preferences are not saved in the free version
- You can't scale the interface with the sleeve unless you buy the plugin, but you can do it through the settings menu
Last but not least, we have the MLoudnessAnalyzer, which does pretty much what the name suggests, and it follows ITU-R BS. 1770-1 and EBU 3341 specifications in loudness units or LUFS.
This plugin is super helpful when mastering for streaming services because it can automatically match your signal to the prefixed target volume, which already stands out among other free loudness meters and paid ones.
As with any other Melda Productions plugin, you can arrange the view to match whatever you need to see so that it doesn’t get cluttered with meters you don’t need.
MLoudnessAnalyzer features a “batch auto-gain” feature that lets you search other audio files and batch-process them to fit the specified target volume, which is super helpful if you’re delivering several tracks at a time and need them to sound with a consistent volume level.
Sound Examples – A Mix With Metering & A Mix Without Compared Side By Side
To portray the importance of using meters while mixing, I’ve made a sample of a typical rock song with some guitars, bass, and drums using the plugins in this list. It’s a home studio recording with EZ Drummer drums.
These plugins won’t make an impact directly on your mix, but they will serve to help you make better mix decisions while you are in flow.
Mix without meters
Mix with meters
For this example, I’ve added an instance of Voxengo Correlometer to each bus, including my master bus, and balanced levels using Voxengo Span. Also, I used the Stereo Tool to correct the phase in my overheads and balance the stereo image. Finally, I’ve only used a static EQ to apply the necessary changes.
Notice how these meters affected my criteria when I was making my decisions. What stands out to me the most are the guitars. They seem to be mixed entirely due to the phase cancellation, and I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t used Correlometer.
To recap, here is the complete list of the best metering plugins:
|Youlean Loudness Meter
|Free, fully-featured loudness meter; paid version offers extra features like dynamic range display and presets
|Real-time loudness analysis in mixing/mastering; compliance with standards
|Spectrum analyzer with a spectrogram; “areas” visualization for frequency balance
|EQ referencing; detecting balance issues; shape editor for target spectrum
|Flux Stereo Tool
|Stereo image manipulation; volume level adjustment for each side
|Enhancing stereo image; accuracy in stereo spread and panning
|Spectrum analyzer; frequency soloing and M/S monitoring
|Analyzing and visualizing frequency and stereo information
|Multi-band phase correlation meter; identifies specific phase issues
|Detecting and addressing phase cancellation issues in mixing and mastering
|Loudness analyzer following ITU-R BS. 1770-1 and EBU 3341 specs; batch auto-gain feature
|Mastering for streaming services; consistent volume level across tracks
When working, it’s essential to be aware of many different values, such as RMS, peak levels, and loudness range, to achieve a loud and professional quality. Meters are vital because they’re the easiest and safest way to get there.
In this list, we’ve included a wide range of options, all suitable for any DAW, including Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, FL Studio, etc.
Javier is a mixing and mastering engineer who specializes in Rock and Hip Hop, and writes and produces his own music. He is additionally a TV, Film, and advertising audio editor who has been working freelance for 7 years. He loves sound design and is an avid expert in his field, having written hundreds of articles for other publications online about music production-related topics. To put it simply – Javier knows his stuff.