Best Spectrum Analyzer Plugins of 2020 – Complete Round-up

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A good music mix is in general a result of placing audio elements well together.

It’s a tiresome job and it requires a lot of practice and experience. 

And while this must be done by using your ears eventually, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use some handy visual tools that may show you precisely what’s going on.

Our Top Picks for Spectrum Analyzer Plugins

  • Loudness standards supported
  • Dialogue clarity Metering
  • Supports Dolby Atmos 7.1.2
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  • Phasing and stereo analysis
  • 8 analyzer modules available
  • Compare two audio sources
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  • FFT spectrum analyzer
  • Multi-channel analysis
  • Resizable user interface
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Comparison of the Best Spectrum Analyzer Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Matches current loudness standards
  • Dialogue clarity Metering
  • Supports Dolby Atmos 7.1.2
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  • Stereo field and phase cancellation analysis
  • 8 analyzer modules available
  • Direct comparison of two audio sources
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  • Fast Fourier transform spectrum analyzer
  • Stereo and multi-channel analysis
  • Customizable user interface with resizable panel
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  • Best Osciloscope Plugin
  • Loop, flow and trigger modes
  • Dual XY scope view for detecting phasing issues
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  • Multi-track analyzer with automatic gain compensation
  • Up to 8 channels surround processing
  • Handy modes that simplifies spectrum analysis
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  • Best Waves Analyzer
  • 52 or 68 band analysis
  • Peak or RMS frequency analysis modes
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What is a Sound Spectrum?

Sound spectrum, (also known as an audio spectrum) refers to the audible frequency range of a certain audio signature at a specific moment. That range spans from 20 Hz up to 20,000 Hz (or 20kHz) and for musical purposes, it would be best if we split those ranges into seven bands:

Sub-Bass- 20-60Hz

These frequencies are more “felt” than “heard”. They are widely emphasized and even exaggerated in modern hip hop and electronic music production creating that familiar pumping vibe. Real instruments can’t go under 40 Hz, so these frequencies are usually generated from synthesizers as a monophonic signal.

Those frequencies also require bigger speakers or subwoofer to be heard.

Bass- 60-250 Hz

When you say that the track sounds fat, you probably will refer to the well-produced bass spectrum. Having too much of it and you will say that it sounds boomy.

Low Mid - 250-500 Hz

Increasing energy presence in these frequencies may clear up your bass sounds.

iZotope Insight 2

Mid - 500-2000 Hz

For music purposes, this is the most crowded band. Everything musical happens here - vocals, keyboards, guitars, saxophone, even snare has its important frequencies in this area, so it’s probably the one that will keep you most occupied. 

Upper Mid - 2000-4000 Hz

These frequencies are the most sensitive ones. Even the smallest knob turns can create a serious sonic change and the most dependent sounds from this band are vocals. 

Presence - 4000-6000 Hz

This range may be considered as both parts of the Mids or High (Treble) frequencies. Like Low Mids cleans the bass band, presence gives the overall clarity to your music.

Brilliance - 6000-20000 Hz

When you think of hiss sound, you’re talking about the brilliance band. That being said, try to exaggerate it and you’ll get the idea what it may do to your sound as well.

What is a Spectrum Analyzer and What Does a Spectrum Analyzer Do?

Spectrum Analyzer is a graphical tool that shows you what’s going on in an audio track. It monitors the frequencies and shows current loudness. Depending on specific features, it can show more than just one graphic so you can monitor stereo channels independently. It may also detect the peaks and minimums and create a log file so the result can be sent or analyzed further.

It is widely used in both studio and live environments for various purposes and there are plenty of plugins out there that have some sort of basic spectrum analyzers integrated in their interface (EQ or mastering plugins, e.g.)

When Would You Use a Spectrum Analyzer?

There are so many ways you can use your spectrum analyzer plugin so let’s name a few most important:

Bad Conditions

It may happen that you have to work on your laptop or that you don’t have premium nearfield speakers or maybe the room you work in isn’t acoustically well treated yet. All those factors may affect the sound output and Spectrum Analyzer might be the most reliable tool in such conditions.

A/B Comparison

The most practical way to sound professional is to compare it with similar tracks you like. Spectrum Analyzer can show the frequency response of both tracks at the same time so you can see what exact frequencies you should take care of.

Volume Optimizing

Spectrum Analyzer can also measure the peaks, which is important for posting on digital platforms. There are certain quality standards you need to follow if you want to get the maximum sound quality.

Feedback Detector

Feedback is something you don’t want to happen on your important live performance. Luckily, with the spectrum analyzers, you can nail every single feedback frequency during rehearsal as it will be displayed as an obvious spike on your spectrum monitor.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Spectrum Analyzer Plugins 

Here are some reminders on the pros and cons regarding spectrum analyzer plugins:

Pros

The following are some pros of this kind of spectrum analyzer plugins:

It Doesn’t Lie

Ears can adapt to a certain sound and may mislead you about the outcome. Also, due to our nature, humans don’t hear the frequencies in the exact same way.

Analyzers will always show you “the truth” so you can rely on them on your long mixing sessions.

Beginners’ Friend

Professionals can tell you all the relevant frequencies by just listening to your track. But, it requires a lot of practice. If you’re just starting out, a spectrum analyzer may compensate for the lack of experience you currently have.

Practical Tool

If you’re all about being productive, no matter how professional you are, at some point seeing frequencies on a display might be much faster than trying to detect them. This may come especially well while mixing sound for live performances. 

Cons

However, it comes with some drawbacks, including:

Use Ears, Not Eyes

Eventually, you will come up to situations where your personal taste and spectrum analyzer doesn’t match. At such points, we will advise you to trust your ears. If it sounds good, it doesn’t matter what such a tool shows.

Treat them as sidekicks, and let your ears be that superhero.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the three best spectrum analyzer plugins:

  1. iZotope Insight 2
  2. NuGen Visualizer
  3. Voxengo SPAN Plus

Review of the Best Spectrum Analyzer Plugins 

A good plugin can save you a lot of studio time, so stay with us to analyze the current offer on the market:

Best Overall:
iZotope Insight 2

PROS

  • Complete metering suite 
  • Supports Dolby Atmos 7.1.2
  • Fully resizable meters, layout, and windows size
  • Intelligibility Meter for enhancing dialogue clarity
  • Matches current loudness standards, including Netflix specifications

CONS

  • Too much information may overwhelm inexperienced users

Features and Specifications

Insight 2 includes dedicated metering meters for loudness, levels, sound field, intelligibility, spectrum, and spectrogram. There are also Layouts, presets designed for every step of music production.

Apart from stereo imaging, it also provides you with the multichannel support in case you need to see how your sound works in Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 surround system. 

Loudness targets can match all the industry standards such as for EBU R128. BS.1770-1, BS.1770-2/3/4, ATSC A/85 or OP-59 while leveling can be shown in true peak, RMS, and K-system metering.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like how graphical and modern it looks, especially Spectrogram. Also, the ability to reorganize the workspace to your personal taste, include and exclude parameters and resize everything from metering to window size is something we don’t see every day.

Intelligibility Meter is a great add-on for any situation where you have to determine how the audience will hear the dialogue in general and should you change the overall mix so that other elements don’t affect the clarity of your dialogues. Pick a listening environment with various noise range and check if your dialogues remain clear and audible.

PROS

  • 8 analyzer modules available
  • Identifying frequencies with conflict
  • Direct comparison of two audio sources
  • User-definable real-time audio analysis plugin
  • Detailed analysis of the stereo field and phase cancellation

CONS

  • Stand-alone version is missing

Features and Specifications

Visualizer is a user-definable real-time audio analysis plugin. It’s made out of 8 modules -  Level Meter, Mono, and Stereo Spectrum Analyzer, Mono and Stereo Spectrogram, Vectorscope, Correlation Meter, and Correlation by Frequency. All these modules can be loaded together in any combination or in solo mode by pressing the dedicated button.

The interface is organized in three sections - a large display screen on the left, a control panel next to it on the right, and the view selector. 

It can be run as a plugin or in stand-alone mode.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like the fact that you can easily organize all the information you need into one single window thanks to intelligent window optimization. Also, it’s not so often that you can directly analyze two sources side by side which might be a very useful feature for mastering purposes.

But, overall, we find that this software won’t work for both music and broadcast projects but it could also be used for analyzing the acoustics of a studio room as well. It will excel in both identifying problem frequencies or detecting noise in your signal path.

Best for the Money:
Voxengo SPAN Plus

PROS

  • Export spectrum as PNG snapshot
  • Compare spectrums of multiple tracks
  • Affordable real-time audio spectrum analyzer
  • Fast Fourier transform spectrum analyzer included
  • Customizable user interface with the resizable panel

CONS

  • Not the most responsive real-time performance

Features and Specifications

SPAN Plus comes with features such as real-time spectrum analysis including cross-reference comparisons with other tracks option, and static spectrums display along with PNG file export. It also shows you level metering statistics, headroom estimation, and true-peak clipping detection along with correlation metering.

Its output level metering supports EBU R128, K-system metering, and calibration standards and it supports all sample rates.

Regarding the user interface, there is an option to change color schemes, and it also provides you with support for resizing the main panel and it can fit Retina display resolution.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It allows you to define Fourier block size in samples and the option to display a variety of the secondary spectrum. It supports multi-channel spectrum comparison within a single window and allows you to toggle between displaying two different channels or channel groups spectrums simultaneously. 

Unlike other software, it feeds you with specific hint messages that may come in handy for inexperienced users while PNG exporting may come in handy for making screenshots of your current mix progress, or might even be useful for creating presentations or tutorials.

So if you’re looking for a basic and affordable analyzer, we feel that this software might be your best call.

Best Oscilloscope Plugin:
Blue Cat Audio Oscilloscope Multi

PROS

  • Loop, flow, and trigger modes
  • Intelligent CPU idling automation
  • Stereo or mid-side waveform extraction
  • Real-time waveform renderer and comparator
  • Dual channel XY scope view for detecting phasing issues

CONS

  • Improved default settings would be welcomed by beginners

Features and Specifications

This software offers you a stereo or mid-side waveform extraction along with a couple of synchronization modes and all standard sample rates supported. All curves can be compared within a simple A/B comparison button with precise measurement capabilities and it could be named if needed.

The main screen displays waveforms in the XY display and an option to store multiple waveforms into four assignable slots. It also provides you with the Full MIDI control and automation support along with the MIDI Learn feature and a switch to work either in stereo or Mid/Side mode.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a unique software that allows you to visualize and compare a bunch of audio tracks in a single screen and the best part is that you can align waveforms with the latency compensation. 

Thanks to zooming and measurement capabilities you can analyze all the details of the waveforms including the phasing issues thanks to the XY phase scope view.

And, if you’re limited regarding CPU resources, it’s good to know that this plugin won’t spend any power during inactive mode and it won’t turn any noise if you turn it off at some point.

PROS

  • GPU accelerated user interface
  • Up to 8 channels surround processing
  • Very useful collision detector and loudness comparison
  • Multi-track analyzer with automatic gain compensation
  • Normalization, super-resolution, and de-harmonization mode

CONS

  • Spectrum display design may not look appealing to everyone

Features and Specifications

User interface is made from several tab windows showing 6 different parameters - multi-track spectrum, sonogram, collisions, loudness & wave, stereo, and oscilloscope. On the top, there are 6 dedicated knobs so you can readjust parameters such as averaging, smoothness, resolution, gain, slope, decay and de-harmonize.

It supports sampling up to 16x, can apply for automatic gain compensation, and provides full MIDI controller support with MIDI learn functionality and it supports both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. The user interface can be resizable to support even Retina displays and the theme can resemble a vintage or futuristic vibe.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Its features can simplify the whole audio analysis process a lot and make it more comprehensive for a regular musician which is usually not so experienced in audio production tech parts. A collision detector will be especially useful during the regular mixing process.

Its code is optimized to use modern processor structure including the GPU accelerated user interface which helps a lot of inaccurate real-time displaying. Presets can be exchanged online and there is also support for 7.1 channel processing. 

It also offers free updates forever so it may easily be the only spectrum purchase you will make. 

Best Waves Analyzer:
Waves PAZ Analyzer

PROS

  • 52 or 68 band analysis
  • 10Hz steps resolution below 250Hz
  • Peak or RMS frequency analysis modes
  • Real-time vector display with zoom feature
  • Monitor only specific information you need

CONS

  • Visual interface is a bit outdated

Features and Specifications

The PAZ is built from fully bit-transparent plugin components - Frequency, Stereo Position Display, and Level Meters and Analyzer which displays measurements from all three components together.

Frequency analysis contains 52 bands in total by default and you can increase those bands by altering the LF resolution between 40, 20, and 10Hz increments.

Stereo Position Display analyzes the distribution of loudness and detects out of phase components which will be displayed on-screen between 45 and 90 degrees where zones beyond 60 degrees might be disturbing to your monitoring. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like the idea of Frequency analysis plugin having bands that are very similar to frequencies our ears detect naturally. Stereo Position Display will come in handy when you flip the phase on your individual stereo track as the meter will show out of phase sound containing opposite polarity. 

And regarding Level metering, it also takes into account that summed signals can have peaks as much as 6dB higher than either channel separately by subtracting 6dB from the loudness meter.

It also provides you with an option to monitor only specific information you really need and save some CPU-resources for other VST effects.

How to Use a Spectrum Analyzer Plugin

Using Spectrum Analyzer can be really complicated if you don’t know what you should monitor, so, if this is your first time, let’s help you out with some basics:

How Do You Use a Span Spectrum Analyzer?

  1. Open the settings tab and set the Slope knob at 3 - it is closer to what’s considered to be an “industry standard”

  2. Find a track with the production you adore and sounds similar to your current song

3. Find the most important (loud) part of that song - it will probably be the chorus.

4. Analyze the frequency behavior and no matter how it sounds in your room try to get the visual representation as close as possible to that frequency response

5. Analyze your song and check if the frequencies are matched with the same elements - if you’re getting a bass sound from your bass guitar and not your kick drum, approach that frequency band differently.

How Do You Mix a Spectrum Analyzer?

Every instrument has a specific resonance that might harm the mix clarity. A spectrum analyzer can help you isolate those frequencies and tame them by using notch EQ. The same goes for unwanted rumble and hums going on at lower frequencies. 

It will result in a much cleaner and balanced mix.

Check the full overview in video format here: of what was just described:

Conclusion

Modern music has raised a production bar a lot. While we can discuss song quality, the overall sound has never been better and analyzers played a specific support role in making such an achievement.

So, if you want to keep up with the others, you’re gonna need all the help you may find along.

People Also Ask

Audio Spectrum is a music field that has a lot of technical terms, so, it may come in handy to read a little bit more about how to read it properly and also understand the basics regarding the reference level, noise floor, pink and white noise:

How to Read a Spectrum Analyzer

Spectrum Analyzer is mostly made in the form of a two-axis graph. The horizontal axis displays the frequency range going from low to high frequencies while the vertical axis displays the amplitude with louder signals going up. 

This way you can easily see how loud an amplitude is at the specific frequency.

What is a FFT Spectrum Analyzer?

FFT stands for Fast Fourier Transform. It’s based on a theorem that any waveform in the time domain can be represented by the weighted sum of sines and cosines. So, it simply analyzes the input signal, calculates the peaks of input sine and cosine parts, and displays the spectrum based on these measurements.

What is the Reference Level in a Spectrum Analyzer?

Reference Level defines the top line on the screen and it defines the value of the signal peak. Based on how big step sizes of the reference level, the measurement will be more accurate. By default, the reference level is 0dBm and it is highly recommended that all your levels don’t exceed it.

NuGen Visualizer

What is the Noise Floor on a Spectrum Analyzer?

The noise floor determines the lowest signal level that Spectrum Analyzer can measure. It’s simply a sum of all unwanted signals. It can vary a lot depending on the software or the hardware unit and usually goes down around -140dBm. Any noise going lower than this number will remain undetected.

What is White Noise?

White noise has the same amplitude across the whole spectrum. It got its name based on the effect white light provides. It is often used within analog synthesizers as a generator for electronic hi-hat and cymbal sounds or various sweeps and rises. It is also used as a masker for tinnitus treatment.

What is Pink Noise?

Pink noise is the noise that has constant energy inside any frequency band with a constant Q-bands. It is considered more musical than white noise and it is an important audio signal as it represents the average spectrum of an audio signal, and the ears analyze the sound in approximately constant-Q bands.