Satisfy the Meter Impulse
Many DAWs come with
some sort of digital audio meters; but for a few of us, nothing beats
a pair of good old-fashioned VU meters. They’re great for showing
average levels, and some also have peak indicators.
But those good
old-fashioned meters can cost plenty. This month, we’ll take a look
at a few free plug-in versions that will get the job done.
Studio VU Meter
Audio LVL Meter
Our first option
comes from Naiant Studio’s Jon O’Neil (www.naiant.com).
The VU Meter VST plug-in comes in three versions, one mono meter, one
stereo and one dual-channel. This plug-in can be placed anywhere in
your DAW signal chain that allows it, and it passes audio unaltered.
All versions have a virtual “set screw” to calibrate the meters
to whatever dBFS standard you want between –36 dBFS and –3 dBFS. Another set screw adjusts meter ballistics. There’s also a peak
indicator. This classic design is easy to download and easy to use.
Next up, it’s the
LVL Meter from LSR Audio (www.lsraudio.com),
led by Emmanuel Dubecq. This meter, available in both 32- and 64-bit
versions, shares the simplicity of Naiant’s design, but with a more
“retro” look. Installation starts with required free registration
at the LSR Audio site. Once that’s done, you receive the installer.
Operation is simple, again just a matter of placing it in the signal
chain. In this case, the peak indicators are presented as red needles
that operate behind the meters’ black needles.
Taking things a step
further, Liverpool-based Sonalksis offers its FreeG audio level and
output control. This plug-in provides a virtual LED-based peak and
RMS meter, plus a long-throw output level fader. The output fader
includes pan, trim, polarity and mute controls. The meter also has
bypass and pre/post fader selection. This is ideal for situations
where no independent monitor controls are available. Several other
settings are available, including meter ballistics and pan law. As
with the LVL Meter, download requires free registration at Sonalksis’
Finally, moving away
from DAW Land, we have a standalone offering. The Orban Loudness
Meter is a free tool that looks at the input of your system’s sound
It offers several meters for analyzing your audio, from CBS Labs to
VU to ITU to PPM. All meter settings are adjustable, as are sound
card settings. Even multichannel sound cards can be used by selecting
which pair of inputs to use. If you need a quick check of how your
audio conforms to various national and international standards, this
is a handy, easy to install and easy to use, solution.
— Curt Yengst,