SoundBytes Freebie of the Month – July 2017
This month we will look at an excellent free plug-in, the winner of the 2016 KVR Developers’ Challenge, the Youlean Loudness Meter
by Luka Sraka, July 2017
Youlean Loudness Meter is does exactly what it says on the box. It is a loudness meter. We have always used some kind of audio level meters in audio production. From traditional VU meters that are still seen on traditional mixing desks and outboard gear, to RMS and peak meters that we know from our DAW. A while ago a new term appeared: Loudness Units. The new standard of measuring audio levels in LUFS meant that we had to adopt and change our measuring tools. Enter the Youlean Loudness Meter.
In short, the new standards that measure audio levels in loudness units or LUFS instead RMS were developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with the goal of providing a consistent way of measuring loudness and give guidelines especially for broadcasting. These guidelines have now become law in the US and elsewhere. More on LUFS and why did we need yet another way of measuring audio can be found in Home Studio Practitioner in this same issue.
Loudness metering has been introduced in current DAWs with measuring tools or plugins, but I find most of those meters a bit overwhelming. The meter that is native to Logic X, for example, combines loudness, RMS and Peak meters, plus a correlation meter, Analyser and a Goniometer, all in a relatively small GUI. Granted it is advanced and versatile but it’s not very useful if you want to have a detailed view of what is going on with the loudness. The Youlean Loudness Meter on the other hand is a dedicated loudness meter, simple at first glance, but advanced under the hood. And best of all, its free!
The loudness meter from Youlean features international standards compliance (ITU-R BS.1770-4, EBU R128, EBU R128 S1, ATSC A/85, OP-59, ARIB TR-B32, AGCOM 219/09/CSP), a well laid out resizable interface, histogram and distribution display, multichannel support (Mono, Stereo, 5.1 DTS, 5.1 ITU, 5.1 Film) and smart loudness memory which saves all data with the DAW session and recalls it after you reload the session, speeding up your workflow.
The interface is nicely laid out. At the left there is the main meter that shows momentary loudness. Clicking on the stereo button underneath it enables you to change the channel configuration. Right besides the main meter there are some nice and big meters that show you the short term loudness, the integrated loudness and loudness range readouts. Underneath there is the Hold Max portion, which shows read outs of maximum values of momentary, short term and true peak. The numbers are displayed in white, when exceeding the true peak value over the threshold set in settings, the color changes to red. It basically works the same as any true peak meter in your DAW. Clicking on the value resets the parameters. There are three transport controls just under the true peak meter. The A (auto) button, which if activated, resets the measurements after host starts playing or if you jump to the play position in playlist. The Play/Pause button starts or pauses the measurement of integrated loudness and loudness range simultaneously. Finally there’s the X button which resets all the measurements instantaneously. Below the transport section the loudness standard upon which you are operating is displayed. Clicking on the display lets you change from the different aforementioned standards.
The right hand side of the interface is the histogram side. Here you can observe what is happening to your loudness over time. The histogram is customizable to a degree. You can choose between three different histogram modes. Elapsed mode records the loudness at the audio input, scrolling the input to the left as it is received. In Time Code mode loudness data is stored against time-code position. This mode enables the loudness overdub mode. The last mode is the System Time. When in this mode, the time scale will scroll along with the history inspector view to allow events to be correlated with the system clock. The rest of the histogram is self explanatory. Clicking on the wheel above the histogram opens the settings interface where you can adjust the histogram range, true peak threshold relative or non relative scale, etc.
The Youlean Loudness Meter is an easy to use but powerful tool. Compared to generic loudness meters provided in DAW the Youlean is much easier to operate. When trying it next to the different software or plugin meters (free, provided by DAW or paid for) the Youlean showed the same readings as the most expensive one did. This made it this month’s freebie of the month. Download it, put it on your DAW master bus and leave it there permanently!