In the world of audio production, having the right tools is not just a luxury – it’s a necessity. Whether you're mixing a new track or mastering an album, a VU (Volume Unit) meter can come in handy for accurately reading levels and loudness.
Now living in the digital revolution, we’ve moved far beyond the analog meters that once adorned vintage studio gear. Today's VU meter plugins are not only more accurate but also come packed with features that offer insights into your audio that were previously inconceivable.
So, with a plethora of options available, how do you choose the right one? Fret not; we've done the deep dive for you. Here are our top 5 picks for VU meter plugins that will take your metering – and by extension, your sound – to the next level. Dive in and find the perfect tool to enhance your audio journey!
The VU Meter plugin by Waves helps you improve your mixing and recording by achieving proper gain staging levels using an analog-style system. This plugin emulates the analog VU meter system to give you that unique edge with your mix. Not only that, but it also maintains the classic look of a vintage VU console as well.
The Waves VU Meter has a high refresh rate system that allows the needle to pick up sound details and move accurately, reproducing the action of analog systems. It also has very little impact on your system’s CPU or RAM, allowing you to use it on multiple channels at once. On top of the that, the plugin is resizable within your DAW for better viewing.
The Waves VU Meter is fairly affordable when compared to many paid options out there and gets plenty of sales and discounts throughout the year, so you can get it for cheap. All in all, this one is a tried-and-true plugin that will do wonders for your mixing sessions and works with brilliant accuracy.
Next up, we have the Solid State Logic Meter Plug-in, which is one of the most successful metering tools out there. This one is equipped with a variety of excellent audio engineering features to help you produce ultra-refined mixes and masters.
One of the things that we like about this plugin is its user interface. Despite offering a wide range of features, it’s highly organized and offers everything you need in a compact window, so you’re not overwhelmed with tabs, buttons, and drop-down menus.
SSL plugin offers Lissajous phase scope and Dual True Peak system as well as RMS meters to give you accurate real-time feedback on your levels. The plugin also keeps track of your current and maximum readouts in text form with an option to reset them.
Besides the digital aspect, the SSL meter also comes with a stereo analog VU meter to keep track of volume levels along with current and max readouts.
One of the top-selling points of this plugin is its full integration with the SSL UF1 hardware control surface. You can even use different buttons on the UF1 to control the plugin and display separate screens, making it a great choice if you already have the hardware DAW controller.
In terms of price, this one is significantly more expensive than the Waves VU meter, which can be quite a disadvantage considering that they perform similarly when it comes to analog VU monitoring.
If you’re all about customizability, you’re going to love this one! The Process.Audio Decibel is a highly versatile platform that allows you to keep track of your audio system as a plugin or as a standalone measuring system.
The interface of the Process.Audio Decibel is quite large and measures a variety of aspects in your sessions. Besides using this plugin as a VU meter, you can also use it as a frequency analyzer and keep track of max levels in conventional audio bars.
Process.Audio Decibel meter can work on both individual tracks or the master bus to provide precise feedback on the overall level of your mix, allowing you to monitor the volume of each track or the mix as a whole to ensure that your mix is not too loud or too quiet.
Decibel also features a unique semi-circle meter that keeps track of dynamic range and various Loudness Unit Full Scale (LUFS) readings.
Besides the standard user interface, you can also optimize how the meters look by reorganizing their spots, adding and removing panels, and even changing their colors and visualization.
Besides PCs and Macs, the plugin is also available as an app to help you keep track of your volume through your smartphone, so that it doesn’t take any space on your session monitor.
If you’re looking for simplicity but you need a bit more information about your mix, you should keep this one in mind.
The PSP Audioware Triplemeter VU is the successor of the successful 2Meter plugin, and as the name suggests, this one keeps track of VU as well as PPM and RMS.
Each one of these meters can be calibrated separately for optimal accuracy. However, they also have several shared features, such as label strips to tag specific parts of your mix, low and high pass filters, and trim faders.
One thing we really appreciate about this VU plugin is its simplicity, which makes it a great option for beginners who want to get decently accurate information without struggling with complex or unnecessary features.
Lastly, we have the TBProAudio mvMeter2, which is the only free plugin on the list. This makes it a perfect option for someone who’s still experimenting with VU meters or still learning more about them.
Despite being free, the plugin is great at what it does and can give paid options a good run for their money. In addition to the VU meter, it can track multiple variables, including PPM, EBUR128, and RMS in both single and dual meter displays.
The meter comes with a vintage-style default skin but you can change its theme from five options to suit your preferences.
You can also change the size of the plugin to save space on your monitor. It also has some extra features like instance labeling, adjustable gain matching, preset management, meter delay, and more!
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned audio engineer, having a proper VU meter plugin is essential to help you stay on top of your mixes and maximize your metering.
While there are plenty of options on the market to choose from, we pick Waves VU Meter as our overall top option for its simplicity and great bang for the buck.
However, if you don’t mind spending a bit more on additional tracking features, you should consider our runner-up, SSL Meter.
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