Canadian Musician - November/December 2017 - Page 22

ROAD TEST Nugen Audio MasterCheck Pro By Adam Gallant In May of 2017, Spotify lowered its loudness target to -14 LKFS, providing its listeners with more dynamic range and fidelity – another sign that perhaps the loudness wars are behind us. With most music consumption happening via popular streaming services, mixing and mastering engineers require modernized tools that make measuring the volume information of our content thorough and tailored to stream- ing services. Nugen’s MasterCheck Pro is a loudness measuring and me- tering tool that has the added benefit of simulating real-world, consumer endpoint listening. It is a tool that takes the guess- work out of optimizing mixes and masters to specifications in a loudness-normalized environment such as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Pandora, Tidal, television broadcast, and more. Hitting Loudness Targets In the world of streaming music, there is no longer a benefit to providing a “hot” master. The vast majority of service providers will effectively turn loud content down at playback to avoid consum- ers reaching for the volume knob as songs change. This means our limited-to-as-loud-as-possible mixes will end up sounding dull and lacking dynamics/transients when piped down to listeners via the most popular streaming services. Nugen MasterCheck Pro makes it easy to pull up a variety of popular loudness targets and gives the engineer the full advantage of mixing and mastering with the increased dynamics that would otherwise be lost to the loudness normalization process. The target loudness is dependent on the plug-in’s selected preset, and MasterCheck allows for user presets with custom targets to easily be created in the settings section. Measuring Dynamics With MasterCheck on your master buss, as audio plays, the plug-in will measure the program loudness. This value is continually updated and displays a reading for all the audio measured since the last reset. By default, MasterCheck will reset the meter every time playback is stopped and then restarted. MasterCheck displays loudness measurements in LKFS and peak-to- loudness ratio (PLR) in both vertical bar format and numerical values. It displays the standard short–term loudness meter on the left, a peak-to- loudness ratio indicator bar, and a stereo true peak meter (which reveals inter-sample peaks) on the right. There is also a switch for mid-side display and customizable colour indicators for user-defined workflows. Avoid Clipping Music streaming service providers use compression codecs to reduce file size and bandwidth. The amount of compression can be depen- dant on connection quality/bandwidth, your subscription tier (as in Spotify Premium allowing higher resolution downloads at 320 kbps vs. their standard stream of 160 kbps), and the type of codec used (MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, etc.). Nugen MasterCheck Pro allows producers to hear what mixes and masters will sound like through a wide variety of codecs and compres- sion levels, all the while displaying clips with its inter-sample true-peak metering. Note that this feature is only available via MasterCheck Pro 22 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N and not the regular version. A nice design element of this Pro feature is that the plug-in can display up to five codecs simultaneously, speeding up the QA process. A/B Your Mixes This plug-in also has a quick way to compare your material to other commercial mixes with an external reference input. By simply import- ing audio into your session and placing the included Nugen Send plug-in on that channel, MasterCheck will display loudness informa- tion from the send in the target loudness area. External references can also be