Master the Mix have already provided us with a couple of very useful measurement and analysis tools in the form of LEVELS and REFERENCE (Which we already raved about a bit) and now they’re back with a very comprehensive quality control tool called EXPOSE.
Expose Yourself! (Please Don’t)
EXPOSE isn’t technically a plugin but we don’t follow anyone’s rules. Not even our own… we can play with standalone applications now and then if we want. And you may be glad we’ve brought this one to your attention, so drop it.
What this application does is analyse your final mix or master audio file and give you a nice, clear visual report on everything you screwed up on it. Well almost everything. It won’t tell you if your guitars are out of tune or you fluffed your lyrics. And it’s not here to analyse the internal balance of your mix (which is the job of LEVELS). What it does report on is the loudness, peak levels, stereo field and dynamic range.
These are the technical aspects of your audio that, if not kept under control, can have a negative effect at the next stage of your music’s life.
Fit for Purpose?
EXPOSE has a number of presets that you can use depending on what that next stage is. If you’re analysing a mix prior to mastering then you can choose from Balanced, Punchy, Dynamic or Loud as the targets you measure against. If you’re checking a final master before release then you can use presets for CD, Club, Composer, MFiT, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud. There are also broadcast and user definable presets.
If you’re not aware of why you need to think about these different platforms then you need to look into how your music is normalised when it’s being streamed. Basically, if it’s too loud it will be turned down and potentially sound less dynamic than tracks that have been mastered quieter. The presets in EXPOSE are set up to match the settings on each platform or otherwise reflect best practice.
Expose your Problems
The beauty of EXPOSE comes in the clear and simple way it displays the analysis results. You simply drag and drop your audio file into the application and after a few seconds processing you are shown all the measurements and a waveform with all the problem areas highlighted. You can select each measurement individually to see where the issues are (highlighted in red) and click to listen from that point so you can hear exactly the bit that needs attention.
The actual values displayed are Integrated LUFS, Short Term LUFS, True Peak (dBTP), Sample Peak (dB), Short Term Dynamic Range and Loudness Rang (LU). There’s also ‘heat maps’ to show stereo spread and phase correlation. Pretty useful info!
Changing the preset changes the display to highlight only those that are over the limits for that preset, so you don’t have to run the analysis again. You can also load in multiple audio files to compare them side by side (or on top of each other if you’re gonna be pedantic).
All in all this is a very useful analysis tool to have when you’re preparing files to send for mastering or publication and can save you being disappointed with the sound of your music once it’s online. How you fix the problems highlighted is down to you, though the application does make basic suggestions such as using less compression on parts without enough dynamics.