A good spectrum analyzer plug-in is essential for letting you know what is going on with your audio.
Even if you have a good monitoring system in your studio, a spectrum analyzer will help you identify potential problem areas in your mix.
Here, we run down some of the best spectrum analyzer VSTs available, giving you a range of potentially useful options.
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Top 7 Spectrum Analyzer VST Plugins
iZotope’s aptly-named Insight gives you a broad overview of the spectral content of your audio while giving you the ability to get as detailed as you wish. It comes with plenty metering options to choose from, that can be customized as you fit, enabling you to use it for any type of session. Whether you simply want to check the spectral balance of your mix or you want to tweak the loudness or intelligibility of specific tracks.
Specs and useful features
Insight lets you visualize audio streams in ways that probably only a few spectrum analyzer plugins can. Unlike other plug-ins that force you into a specific way of working, Insight lets you customize the user interface according to your preferences or the demands of the session.
With Insight, you can choose to display only the meters that you need for any given situation. The interface is resizable as well, so you can keep it fairly compact when your screen gets too crowded. If you want to have visual access to more information, you could simply maximize the interface to occupy the full screen.
Of course, you have a great degree of control over viewing the display as well. You can adjust partition sizes however you want, and each meter even comes with dedicated display settings.
“Comprehensive” is one word that is commonly used to describe Insight. It gives users the flexibility to view data however they wish, with zooming, scaling, and even freezing options provided.
The option to choose between 2D and 3D spectrogram displays scored points among many users as well. For users that need the ability to change viewing modes for different projects, Insight stands apart from most other spectrum analyzer plug-ins.
iZotope’s Insight could very well handle all your spectrum analysis needs and then some. If flexibility and accuracy are your primary concerns–as they should be when shopping for a spectrum analyzer–you can’t go wrong with Insight.
NuGen’s Visualizer may not be a household name in the world of spectrum analyzer plug-ins, but that in no way indicates any shortcomings on its part. Just as capable as its more popular counterparts, it provides feature-packed tools for analyzing audio and enhancing workflow. Furthermore, Visualizer helps you recreate optimal mix settings and avoid frequently-repeated errors.
Specs and useful features
Visualizer provides a single-screen interface for viewing the frequency content of the audio material. The interface can be resized freely, taking up very little screen space or providing a comprehensive overview as needed. There are also many options to customize the display, and you could switch to any of several views simply by clicking a button.
But it’s what you can do within those views that matter the most. Visualizer has a useful comparison mode that let you view frequency content and other information from two audio channels in a few different ways. You have the option to view both audio tracks overlaid on top of each other, side-by-side, or in a differential display.
Other features–such as the stereo spectrogram, vectorscope, stereo bias meter, and peak hold control–give you a range of options by which to analyze your audio. You can even view frequencies by how they correlate to each other, making it easy for you to identify potential frequency overlaps.
Users of Visualizer have found numerous applications for the plug-in, particularly during the mixdown and mastering stages of production. One common application is the examination of the differences that a mastering chain imparts on a mix. The plug-in makes it possible to identify frequency clashes quickly, and the ability to customize the display makes audio analysis both easy and efficient.
NuGen Visualizer is a powerful and attractive-looking spectrum analyzer plug-in that can handle a multitude of audio-related tasks. It is a good deal more expensive than other plug-ins in its category, but the extra cost is justifiable given its versatility and range of features.
MeldaProduction is known for its high-value plug-ins that provide professional features at a reasonable price point. MMultiAnalyzer upholds the company’s reputation admirably, with a host of features that make it possible to analyze audio and deal with any issues easily and accurately.
With a selection of audio analysis and enhancement features, MMultiAnalyzer enables you to analyze multiple tracks simultaneously. Simply patch in an instance of the plug-in in each track that you want to analyze, and they will detect each other automatically. All data will then be available to all instances of the plug-in.
Specs and useful features
MMultiAnalyzer is more than just a spectrum analyzer plug-in. It also has a built-in sonogram, and collision detection, loudness comparison, and stereo analysis features. Even with all these features, the plug-in never gets too complicated to use. Whether you use it as a multi-track sonogram, a collision detector, or a stereo analyzer, the MMultiAnalyzer workflow is fast and intuitive.
MMultiAnalyzer also comes with features that make it easy to identify specific frequencies. These include normalization, super-resolution, and de-harmonization features, all of which help you pinpoint problem areas in your audio.
Like all MeldaProduction’s plug-ins, MMultiAnalyzer is customizable to a remarkable degree. The interface is freely resizable, and users have the option to display the controls as knobs, buttons, or sliders. Even with all the impressive technical features onboard, the plug-in’s customizability is what stands out the most among many users.
Of course, the aforementioned technical features are the main draw for professional users and serious hobbyists. The ‘smart’ metering is one of the most advanced of its kind, giving users the option to display frequency measurements in a variety of graphs and meters.
MMultiAnalyzer is one of the most versatile spectrum analyzer plug-ins around. It is absolutely flawless in terms of accuracy, and the degree to which you could customize the interface is a definite plus. Even with so many capable spectrum analyzer plug-ins available, this one stands apart from the rest.
Blue Cat Audio Analysis Pack
Blue Cat’s Audio Analysis Pack gives you pretty much everything you need to analyze and measure the frequency content of audio in one convenient package. The pack contains a dazzling array of useful plug-ins, all of which are available individually as well. Among these are two frequency analysis plug-ins, both of which provide performance equal to that of dedicated spectrum analyzers. Furthermore, these plug-ins let you can control other plug-ins–and even MIDI instruments–with the resulting measurements.
Specs and useful features
Because this is a review of spectrum analyzer plug-ins, we will focus on those specific types of plug-ins in the pack.
First up is FreqAnalyst Multi, which provides a variety of spectrum analysis features for multiple tracks. Ideally-suited for mixing and mastering, it provides a detailed view of the frequency and time of several tracks simultaneously, all from a single screen. A useful and versatile mixing tool, it will also find plenty of use as a frequency overlap detector.
The second smartphone plug-in is FreqAnalyst Pro, which adds automation generation capabilities and a 3D viewer to the standard set of spectrum analysis features. Offering much of the same functionality as the free FreqAnalyst plug-in, it provides an extremely smooth and high-resolution view of frequency as well as time.
The individual plug-ins in the Audio Analysis Pack come with an impressive wealth of features that provide tremendous value. Most users seem sufficiently impressed with the amount of information provided, with the automation and MIDI capabilities simply being the icing on the cake. For many, the clever implementation of CC/automation generation features makes these tools so much more versatile than most standard spectrum analyzer plug-ins.
The overall value provided by the Audio Analysis Pack is pretty impressive. Even if you opt to purchase just the individual spectrum analyzer plug-ins, expect to get plenty of bang for the buck.
To describe Photosounder’s Spiral as a music analysis plug-in would be accurate–but it does underplay its capabilities a bit. Spiral certainly does a great job of revealing the frequency content of music, but its fresh and innovative approach to audio analysis places it so far ahead of other plug-ins that it is almost in an entirely different category.
Frequencies are displayed in a spiral (no surprise there), with a chromatic band encircling it. It is a simple enough concept to be sure, but the ability to see what is going on in your music quickly and intuitively is noteworthy. Spiral also provides many other features that give you a more detailed and informative view of your audio.
Specs and useful features
In the Spiral display, individual instruments have specific colors that represent their unique positions in the stereo mix. The plug-in also makes it possible to capture or record bits of audio into memory and play it back at slower speeds. This feature is helpful for identifying individual notes or deciphering chords.
You can even adjust the resolution at which stored audio plays back. You can lower the resolution for more precise time measurement for instance, or increase it when you need to analyze low-frequency instruments or complex chords.
Users found Spiral to be as useful as an audio analysis tool as a musical aid. The bright colors and stereo separation make it possible to identify tones and notes quickly and accurately.
As a learning tool, Spiral is pretty much incomparable in the world of spectrum analyzer plug-ins. Its ability to highlight specific sections of the audio, capture it, and play it back at slower speeds are features that simply don’t exist in any other spectrum analyzer plug-in.
Spiral probably isn’t the best choice for analyzing audio for mixing or mastering purposes. More a musical aid than a frequency analysis tool, it should nevertheless find a welcome place in your plug-in collection.
2nd Sense Audio Mixing Analyzer
2nd Sense’s Audio Mixing Analyzer hides an impressive wealth of features in a simple and modernistic interface. Like the best spectrum analyzer plug-ins, it allows the real-time monitoring of multiple tracks of audio, with the data viewable from a single window. It also identifies instances where frequencies collide and mask each other. Whether you need to pinpoint problem frequencies in specific audio tracks or simply want to check your level balances, Audio Mixing Analyzer could be a useful tool.
Specs and useful features
Like other spectrum analyzer plug-ins that allow for the monitoring of multiple audio streams, Audio Mixing Analyzer is meant to be loaded onto each track to be analyzed. All tracks will then be visible on any instance of the plug-in, each in a different color. You can also label each track as you see fit.
A vertical line will pop up on the display if any frequencies clash or overlap. You can then instantly see where two or more parts are occupying the same frequency range. An included threshold knob lets you control how frequencies clashes are displayed, with shorter instances showing up as more pronounced movements of the indicator line.
A scrolling display below the spectrum display provides real-time information on the clashing frequencies, as well as the measure and beat position where they occur. There are also illuminating blocks to the left that indicate the presence of tracks with conflicting frequency content.
Audio Mixing Analyzer may be fairly simple, but users seem satisfied at the amount of information provided. By presenting data as text as well as visual form, users can identify frequency clashes easily, and quickly determine what steps to take to remedy potential issues.
Audio Mixing Analyzer isn’t the most fully-featured spectrum analyzer around. In fact, it is one of the simplest in this rundown, without a lot of esoteric display settings and customizability options onboard. Nevertheless, it is a capable enough analyzer for the most part, and it should find plenty of use in any studio.
Voxengo’s SPAN is something of a classic in the audio world, providing spectrum analysis capabilities equal to that of the best plug-ins. Remarkably, SPAN is free, which makes its professional features and capabilities even more impressive.
Even so, Voxengo saw fit to release an “extended” version of SPAN, dubbing it the SPAN Plus. Building on the already impressive features of its freeware predecessor, SPAN Plus added a static spectrum display option, PNG file export, and the ability to import and export spectrum data in real-time.
Specs and useful features
SPAN Plus has a new “mode” system that gives you the flexibility to set the display according to your preferences. This feature lets you view Fourier block size in samples, and lets you set the overlap percentage of the FFT window. You can also specify the visual slope of the spectrum, change how the secondary spectrum is displayed, and even smoothen out the spectral display as desired.
SPAN Plus makes it possible to perform a variety of analysis methods. You can compare the spectrums of different tracks at the same time, with unique colors for each channel.
SPAN Plus especially impresses users with its ability to perform multi-track comparisons from a single window. The ability to compare EQ curves pre- and post-mastering on the same graph makes it a flexible and useful tool for mixing and mastering.
It is interesting to note that many users find the free SPAN to be just as capable as the SPAN Plus for their needs. But that is more a testament to the excellence of the free plug-in than it is a criticism of SPAN Plus.
SPAN Plus is an excellent spectrum analyzer plug-in in more ways than one. Admittedly, you could get pretty much the same features in the free version of SPAN. But if the ability to compare the spectrums of two different audio sources at the same time is important to you, SPAN Plus is a no-brainer.
Spectrum Analyzer VSTs
What is spectrum analysis?
In an audio and musical context, spectral analysis is the process of measuring the frequency content of audio signals. Using a function known as “Fourier transform”, audio is broken down into its component frequencies and displayed on a screen.
Spectrum analyzers–purpose and function
Spectrum analyzers essentially provide visual representations of sound. They measure the frequencies of audio signals and display the results in a graph in real-time. The horizontal axis represents the pitch/frequency of the audio, while the vertical axis represents the amplitude. Pitch/frequency is measured in Hertz, and amplitude is measured in decibels.
By providing a visual representation of audio, spectrum analyzers make it easier to identify specific areas of the frequency range that may cause problems in the mix later on. When used in conjunction with standard audio monitoring, spectrum analyzers can enhance efficiency during the mixing and mastering processes.
The display is the most important part of a spectrum analyzer. This is where you can see the frequency content of your audio and how “hard” specific frequencies are hitting. You can then figure out which frequencies you will have to cut or boost to fix any problem.
The best spectrum analyzers give you more specific details on frequencies and levels when you place your cursor at certain points on the display. Some plug-ins even allow you to zoom in for a more accurate view of the levels.
How to choose the best spectrum analyzer
Accuracy is, of course, one of the most important aspects of a spectrum analyzer. You will want to pay particular attention to this quality when comparing the different spectrum analyzer plug-ins available.
You should also look into the option to set the FFT block size a few different ways. This feature allows you to view frequencies at different resolutions, which could help you identify problem areas in specific frequency ranges.
One important thing to keep in mind is that spectrum analyzers can not–and should not–take the place of proper monitoring via speakers or headphones. By all means, use spectrum analyzer plug-ins for an added perspective while mixing or mastering. But don’t forget that what ultimately matters is how the music sounds–not how it looks.