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Sonible true:balance

Reference Metering Plug-in By John Walden
Published August 2023

Sonible true:balance

When it comes to achieving a balanced frequency distribution in your mix, Sonible’s true:balance metering plug‑in can let your eyes support your ears.

Comparing the overall frequency balance of your mix with that of well‑regarded material in the same style/genre remains an important quality control step, even for seasoned engineers in the very best studios. But it’s arguably a more critical step for those working in project or home studios, where the monitoring environment is usually further from perfection. Your ears must be your primary guide in this process, of course, but a visual comparison of the frequency distribution of your track with that of those you’re referencing can offer helpful confirmation that what your ears are telling you is correct.

Plenty of plug‑ins offer a visual indication of the frequency balance, ranging from the frequency analysers found in so many EQ plug‑ins to more specialised software designed specifically to make this comparative task easy. In the latter category, Sonible now offer the modestly priced true:balance, which can be bought on its own, or in a bundle with the company’s true:level loudness and dynamics meter.

Polished Visuals

As with other Sonible plug‑ins, true:balance’s GUI is a stylish affair. The central portion is dominated by a frequency display that shows three key components: a real‑time frequency analyser for your audio input (in solid green); a time‑averaged version of the same signal (the pale green line); and an envelope (in grey) showing the frequency response of your chosen reference audio. This enables a direct visual comparison with your own audio.

At the top of the screen you can choose the source of your reference. This can be one of the genre‑specific presets supplied by Sonible (on the left) or up to eight reference tracks of your own choice, which you can load into the available slots on the right. Beneath this, you get numerical and visual feedback indicating how closely the frequency response of your own audio matches that of the selected reference across three broad frequency zones (lows, mids and highs). If you engage the Balance Check button, you also get text prompts overlaid on the graphical display that suggest specific adjustments to your track’s EQ balance that you might consider if your aim is to more closely match your reference.

Below the frequency display, you get similar numerical/visual feedback on the stereo width of the same three frequency bands and, again, engaging a Mono Check button will generate text‑based advice for you to consider. For example, it can help you identify whether your audio might suffer when monitored through a mono playback system. If you drag on the level scale on the left of the display, you can scroll the range of values shown to best fit your source track’s input signal level range. Finally, on the right edge of the display, there is an output meter showing peak and RMS values.

By default, the low/mid and mid/high crossover frequencies are 150Hz and 4kHz respectively, which seem perfectly choices sensible to me, but if you wish you can change these by clicking and dragging on their labels on the display. At the base of the frequency display, you can also adjust the speed and resolution settings for the time‑averaged (light green) frequency curve of your own audio.

The Speed and Resolution options allow you to adjust the visual detail of the graphical display.The Speed and Resolution options allow you to adjust the visual detail of the graphical display.

Good References

Sonible provide a good selection of genre‑based reference presets.Sonible provide a good selection of genre‑based reference presets.Given true:balance’s primary function, the options for choosing reference sources are an important feature. The supplied genre‑based presets cover a good selection of musical styles and, as might be expected, the frequency distribution envelope for each style is somewhat different. These are presumably based upon some pretty sizeable databases of commercial material within each of the named genres. But if you have more specific targets in mind, you can easily load your own choices into the eight user Reference Track slots; I had no problems loading WAV, AIFF or MP3 files.

Usefully, as you hover the mouse over a specific slot, you get a reminder of the file name for the reference source in that slot. Even more usefully, you can toggle individual slots on/off: the reference envelope adjusts itself to represent an average of the active slots, and you also see a colour‑coded line within the envelope that represents the time‑average for each active reference individually. I found this flexibility very useful: not only is it helpful if you wish to match your own track with a specific selection of tracks in your target genre, but also for when you’re trying to ensure tonal consistency across an EP or album project.

The frequency display also includes an intriguing A (Reference Anchor) button. With this engaged, the reference envelope will automatically adjust itself on the vertical dB‑based scale to follow the signal level of your source audio. With this disengaged, you can drag the anchor up/down. This opens up some additional possibilities. For example, in addition to your visual frequency matching, you could visually level‑match multiple tracks in an album project to a specific reference curve/level combination. This could result in a more consistent batch of mixes to work with when mastering. (That said, this functionality doesn’t replace a dedicated loudness meter.)

Seeing Is Believing?

Used in my own DAW and audio editor of choice (Cubase Pro 12 and WaveLab Pro 11, respectively), true:balance behaved flawlessly during the review period, so that really just leaves the question of how useful this plug‑in is — and to answer that question I need to tell you a little about my studio setup, and to discuss the software I’ve been using in this metering role to date.

I have a dedicated space for my music production work but, as with so many project/ personal/ home studio rooms, despite good use of acoustic treatment and a dollop of room correction software, that space has its limitations. Over the last five‑plus years, I’ve used iZotope’s Tonal Balance Control plug‑in, which is true:balance’s most obvious competitor, in pretty much every mixing or mastering project I’ve worked on — it has been my visual safety net, and I’m sure it has helped me refine my mix balance and achieve more consistent results.

Sonible’s true:balance can easily perform the same role — so if you also have doubts about what you’re hearing in your own mixing space, and could benefit from a bit of additional reassurance, I’d encourage you to try either of these plug‑ins.

An obvious question, then, is whether true:balance could replace Tonal Balance Control 2 in my own workflow, and the simple answer is that I’d happily use either. In terms of their core functionality (the visual feedback, and ability to compare the frequency balance of your own track to some form of reference track), they are very similar in operation, and provide similar information. Even the preset reference curves cover similar genres and seem suitably consistent, although there are some modest scaling differences between the two visual displays.

The Balance Check and Mono Check features of true:balance can be useful, although perhaps that’s more the case for less experienced engineers, since the suggestion that ‘you could reduce the level of your lows by 1.5dB’ doesn’t really offer you much more insight than that you can glean from the curve, envelope and numerical displays. I like the way in which the user section of true:balance’s reference track feature is implemented — it’s both easy to use and visually useful — though it lacks the Tonal Balance Control 2 feature whereby you can assemble a whole list of tracks into a folder on your hard drive and have the plug‑in construct an average reference envelope from them.

Metering plug‑ins may not have the ‘buy me now!’ allure of a new virtual synth... but they can play a hugely important role in your studio.

On Balance

If you’re already a Tonal Balance Control 2 user, then, true:balance might well fall into the ‘nice, but not essential’ category. But if you don’t currently own either, and are looking for this kind of metering option, then there’s plenty to commend both plug‑ins. Despite some feature differences, when it comes to their core function either is more than capable of doing the job. Both have fully functional time‑limited trial versions if you want to compare them for yourself, so it’s at this point that price might become a deciding factor. As a stand‑alone purchase, true:balance is the more affordable option, and is even better value when purchased as a bundle with true:level. That’s likely to be a very persuasive factor for many potential purchasers, though it’s worth noting that Tonal Balance Control 2 is also included in some of iZotope’s bundles.

Metering plug‑ins may not have the ‘buy me now!’ allure of a new virtual synth, sample library or effects processor, but as with good monitoring and acoustic treatment they can play a hugely important role in your studio. It’s so important that you can have confidence in the technical aspects of your mix as it leaves the confines of your own studio space, and Sonible’s true:balance can help to give you that peace of mind — whether the song itself is good, bad or even downright ugly, at least you can be reassured that its tonal balance is in the right ball‑park for your chosen genre!


  • Good visual feedback for comparing the frequency balance of your own tracks to suitable references.
  • Hints may be useful for inexperienced amateurs.
  • Simple to use.
  • Very competitively priced.


  • None really, though not everyone will find the hints useful.


Sonible’s true:balance provides very useful visual feedback on the frequency balance of your mix or master by comparing it to reference sources, and can suggest tweaks too.


true:balance €39. Metering Bundle (contains true:balance and true:level) €69. Prices include VAT.

true:balance €39. Metering Bundle (contains true:balance and true:level) €69.

Test Spec

  • Steinberg Cubase Pro 12.0.60.
  • iMac running OS X 10.15.4, 3.5GHz Intel Quad Core i7, 32GB RAM.