Audio, Reviews

MasterCheck Pro lets you master for loudness normalised channels

The MasterCheck Pro plug-in analyses loudness for audio that is delivered through loudness normalised channels. It helps mastering loudness normalised audio. Nugen Audio came up with MasterCheck Pro because loudness normalised audio makes it crucially important to understand how your music will reach the consumer. If you do not take this into account, there is a good chance that it will not sound as you originally intended.

Consumer audio consumption is increasingly being delivered through loudness normalised channels. iTunes Radio, Spotify, Windows 8 and others all incorporate loudness normalisation. This is designed to ensure that the user receives audio at a consistent level and doesn’t have to constantly reach for the volume knob from track to track. This has repercussions for the audio producer. The hot master will be turned down automatically at playback, which means there is no longer an advantage in mastering for the highest level of loudness than the level determined by the output system.

Loudness normalisation means that simply pushing your audio into the master limiter could in fact make your productions seem quieter and flat compared with the competition. MasterCheck allows you to experience this effect. By placing a limiter on the master bus and MasterCheck after the limiter, and then making a heavily compressed traditionally loud mix, you will probably be reading loudness levels around -11 or -12 LKFS if the limiter is working hard. MasterCheck Pro also allows you to hear how your audio will be heard by the listener, using its Offset to Match feature.

Although MasterCheck by itself doesn’t have any mastering functionality, you can and should use it to mix to loudness normalisation targets. It will enable you to produce dynamic masters that make full use of the available headroom without them automatically be turned down at playback time.

MasterCheck Pro even lets you hear that part of the sound that gets lost when you’re pushing the master too hard. As usual with Nugen Audio’s applications, it’s all very user-friendly.

One of the things that makes MasterCheck Pro really easy to use is a generous list of presets, although the list does come with a caveat. Different audio listening / music streaming platforms use different PLR and loudness targets that are subject to change. To make matters worse, they are in some cases approximate, as the underlying algorithm can only be deduced by measurement. Which is a different way of saying you shouldn’t rely too much on the presets.

How MasterCheck Pro works

As you play your audio, MasterCheck will measure Program Loudness. This value is constantly updated and gives a reading for all the audio measured since last reset. By default MasterCheck will reset the meter every time playback is stopped and then restarted.

MasterCheck introduces a new numerical measure of dynamic range, the Peak to Loudness Ratio (PLR). MasterCheck provides both a short-term meter, showing the dynamic content of the audio at playback and an integrated program measure.

The Program Loudness for a piece of music is the value acquired by playing the entire piece through the meter from start to finish. This can be thought of as the average loudness for the track. It is the value used by playback systems to achieve a consistent average loudness from track to track.

You can use the Offset to Match button to automatically match loudness for your audio to the target. The loudness offset applied is indicated on the interface.

MasterCheck can also be used in Mid/Side mode to examine the Mid/Side relationship of the PLR values when using Mid/Side compression techniques.

Buying the Pro licence will add Audio Data Compression Codecs monitoring to MasterCheck’s functionality. Audio streaming services use data compression techniques to reduce bandwidth. These codecs generally struggle to cope with transient peaks and can distort unpleasantly when attempting to reconstruct levels in the uncompressed original audio approaching -1dBTP, especially at lower bit rates.

MasterCheck Pro allows the monitoring of several codecs simultaneously to simulate different services and listening conditions in order to achieve an acceptable level of distortion for chosen target services.

The Pro plug-in costs €187.55.

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