This plugin, a collaboration between 29Palms and Mastering The Mix, is designed to quickly help you identify the elements of your mix that need fixing. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the interface is innovative and forward-thinking.
We’ll have a review of this excellent plug-in within a week or sooner. So stay tuned to AskAudio. In the meantime, here’s all the info you could possibly wish to know about Levels.
The home display has four sections labelled HEADROOM, STEREO FIELD, DYNAMIC RANGE and BASS SPACE. LEVELS assesses your audio as it passes through. If there are no issues with your mix, the sections will glow green. If there is an aspect of your mix that needs to be fixed, the section will glow red. The four section icons are clickable and open up a new dedicated central display. These dedicated displays give you a relevant insight into the technical details of your mix. If an issue has been resolved you can reset the section from red back to green by clicking the section icon. You can navigate back to this home display by clicking LEVELS in the top left corner.
The MONO button sums your dual stereo signal into one single output. This summing process can cause dramatic changes to your mix. Many listeners will experience your music in mono when they are in clubs or bars. When auditioning your mix in mono it is advisable to listen through one monitor. This is because the low end can feel 'hyped' when listening in mono though two monitors. Select MONO and then either the R or L [right or left] buttons to limit the output to either the right or left monitor respectively.
The central display has a true peak meter which gives you a reading of how close your track is to 0dBFS [decibels full scale]. Each bar represents 1dB [decibel]. When the 'mixing' preset is engaged the central threshold is set at -6dB. The goal is to keep your audio under -6dB and in the lower green half. If your audio breaches the threshold of -6dB the meter will start moving into the upper red half and it will turn the HEADROOM icon red.
The LUFS [loudness units relative to full scale] measurement scale was standardised in 2011 and is devastatingly accurate in displaying the perceived loudness of audio material. It's an extremely useful insight to have whilst mixing and mastering. Navigate to these LUFS meters by clicking the LUFS button in the headroom section. There is a short term LUFS meter on the left and an integrated LUFS meter on the right. Similarly to the peak meter, each bar represents 1 unit. The defaults for mixing are set at -14 for short term and -16 for integrated.
The short term meter will display the LUFS measurement over the last three seconds. The integrated meter shows the accumulating LUFS level of your track. You can reset the meters by clicking on the readouts. You can change the thresholds in the settings to suit your needs. If you material breaches your set LUFS thresholds, the HEADROOM icon will turn red.
The vectorscope displays your audios placement in the stereo field. When the dots are spread out across the circle, your mix is wide. When the dots are simply one thin line down the middle, your mix is mono. The L R [Left Right] meter at the bottom of the central display area shows how even the left and right outputs are. If the pointer is central, then your music is evenly balanced between the two speakers. If you have an unbalanced output the pointer will hover either too far left or right and will glow red, this will also turn the STEREO FIELD icon red.
The correlation meter on the left side of the circle shows the degree of similarity between the left and right channels. A reading near +1 indicates a well-balanced mix. If the pointer hovers passed the central point towards -1 it indicates that the mix has phase issues. This can cause the mix to fall apart when played back in mono. A breach of the stereo correlation threshold will also cause the STEREO FIELD icon to turn red.
Having low frequencies placed very wide in your mix can have negative effects on your mix. Wide bass frequencies might suffer from phase cancellation when played in mono, making your mix sound weak. Bass also takes up a lot of space, so by keeping it mostly mono you can utilise the rest of the stereo spectrum for other elements in your mix. When LOW PASS is engaged, you can see the low frequencies that are too wide glowing yellow and red in the vectorscope. The goal is to keep the low frequencies in the more central green area. This will lead to a more powerful and balanced mix. If you have wide low frequencies, you could try using a stereo placement plugin to place the low frequencies of your kick and bass in mono.
The oscilloscope in the central display circle will react to the audio material passing through LEVELS. The visuals will immediately show you how dynamic your music is. If your music has a dynamic range above the set threshold, the oscilloscope will glow green. If your music approaches the threshold it will begin to turn orange. If your music breaches the threshold, the oscilloscope will turn red.
LEVELS creates a ratio of the 'short term LUFS' to 'peak level' of your track and gives you a DR [Dynamic Range] reading. The lower the number, the less dynamic range your track has. The dynamic range is not relative to the loudness of your music, so if your music is over compressed the oscilloscope will turn red regardless of how quiet the track might be. The default dynamic range threshold is set at 12DR for mixing and can be changed in settings.
BASS SPACE identifies if any channels within your mix are outputting unwanted low frequencies.
For your kick and bass elements to sound powerful and clear, they need as much space as possible. To use BASS SPACE first mute your kick and bass elements within your DAW. The frequency bars in the central display area will give you a reading at 40Hz, 80Hz 120Hz and 160Hz. They will jump into the upper red half of the circle if there is too much low-end energy. If this is the case you need to identify which channels are outputting the excess low frequencies. Solo the individual channels to find the culprit and then use a high pass filter to clean up this excess low-end rumble to maximise the clarity and power of your track. Be careful to not remove the material you actually want to hear in your mix.
Available in VST, VST3, Audio Units and AAX formats (all both 64-bit and 32-bit) MAC - OS X 10.8 or higher. 32-bit or 64-bit AU, VST 2/3 or AAX host.
Windows - Windows 7, 8 or 10. 32-bit or 64-bit VST 2/3 or AAX host.
Price (inc VAT): £69 GBP