Spectrogram, check. Bar Graph, check. Waveform analyzer, check. RMS and dBFS meter, check. Phase Correlation analyzer and meter, check. All included in a single clear, comprehensive, and flexible plugin that can also run standalone? Oh. This is where VISION 4X comes in.
Featuring 4 different high-quality audio analyzers, an array of customizable aesthetic and technical settings, and the ability to run as standalone software outside of the DAW, VISION 4X by Excite Audio and NOISIA is the newest and one of the most precise audio analyzer tools now available to artists, producers, sound designers, and audio engineers of all styles and genres looking to upgrade their kit, or condense their workflow into a single program.
Here is a list of the main features in which I’ll be talking about in this article, and showcased, along with a few key ones that make the tool a real standout, in the video below.
- Spectrogram – Visual analysis of loudness of frequencies at a given time.
- Bar Graph – Spectrum analyzer of gain level of frequencies.
- Waveform Analyzer – Visual representation of an audio signal’s waveform.
- Phase Correlation Meter – Analysis of left and right channel phase differences.
- Settings – Various customization options for aesthetic and detail.
You can read more about the technical details of VISION 4X here.
Before getting in to the review, I want to be as transparent as possible- I believe VISION 4X has a real positive impact in the studio, and was one of the first things to be released going in to 2023 that truly excited me. It’s had this influence on me for two main reasons:
1.) It features all of the audio analyzers ever needed in one tool.
2.) Piggybacking off of number 1 – consistency. What I mean is, each analyzer included is consistent with each other, whereas multiple plugins with different personalities means subtle differences that can compromise workflow. That consistency is also in quality, which is evident by the creators, who have that pedigree.
Let’s take a look at VISION 4X, the multi-dimensional power tool from Excite Audio and NOISIA.
Upon opening VISION 4X in its default setting, the first window you’ll notice is the spectrogram. As mentioned above, the spectrogram creates a visual representation of loudness of frequencies of a given time. What makes the spectrogram different from something similar like a bar graph is the way it represents what its analyzing by using boldness or “saturation” of color to represent the loudness, and the amount of “blur” to represent the amount of time that frequency exists for. This is all massively important information for seeing things like kick and bass relationship as I demonstrate in the video review.
Things I like:
- Incredibly easy to read and clear
- The first (and arguably the most important) window to be front and center, and point identification with information listed at the bottom.
- Lots of fun and even easier-to-understand colors when customized using settings. Will talk about that later.
Things I don’t like:
- Nothing. Trying to think of something to come up with to fill “but” space is just unnecessary.
Directly to the right of the spectrogram is the bar graph analyzer. The same as mentioned above, a bar graph analyzer creates a visual representation of gain of frequencies using bars to quantify the gain. I’ve never been a big fan of bar graphs due to simply using a spectrum analyzer or EQ to analyze frequencies, but the bar graph in VISION 4X has completely changed my mind because of a couple key features.
Things I like:
- The color of bars change according to gain of specific frequencies (helpful for seeing which instruments might be eating up a lot of space
- Adjustable range of bars per frequencies (less bars means more range, more bars means more specificity.)
- Adjustable bar speed
- REFERENCES. My favorite feature. VISION 4X comes with 17 reference curves for a wide variety of different musical genres such as Pop, House, D&B, Dubstep, and Trap, that when engaged, show when frequencies of your sound or mix are poking too far out of the standard range of one of those given genres by representing the bars as red. Of course these are always a guideline and never set rules, but what an incredibly useful feature.
Things I don’t like:
- The bar graph is on its side when VISION 4X is loaded as default. Tic-tacky at best, however, and can be rotated upright in the settings then saved as a preset.
Directly below the spectrogram is the waveform analyzer and accompanying level meters. These are important for distinguishing transients, envelopes, pitch, and volume of a sound or full mix over a length of time. In VISION 4X, these elements are also mapped by color- in the default setting the waveform appears as white, and the intensity of a sound is shows as a bright bold white. However, this white appearance can be changed in the settings to follow the color mapping of the program overall, such as the default blue and white color scheme. The analyzer feels high tech and is easy to follow.
Next to the waveform analyzer are the level meters which keep track of a signal’s dBFS (decibels full scale) and RMS which measures the overall loudness of the signal. The speed of metering can be changed in the settings which can help distinguish the overall loudness.
Things I like:
- Color of transients and moments in signal change according to gain of specific frequencies. Louder signals appear as a bolder white when in default, or bright red for example, if following the “Turbo” color map scheme.
Things I don’t like:
- Nothing. Straight forward waveform that flows well.
Finally on the bottom right is the phase correlation analyzer, or the goniometer if you want to get real fancy. This analyzer is made up of a Lissajous figure; the abstract scribbling that shows how much stereo information of a given signal, and the phase correlation meter that visualizes stereo compatibility from -1.0 to 1.0 i.e. overly stereo, to totally mono.
Things I like:
- Straightforward and easy to interpret. The Lissajous figure isn’t much of a jumbled mess even with its reaction speed.
Things I don’t like:
- The inability to change the speed of the Lissajous figure. Although this might seem irrelevant due to the speed being intrinsic to the BPM of the audio, being able to slow the speed down and have frozen glow of the stereo information of what came prior over what is happening would be a nice detail for even more precision.
Now that we’ve covered the main features and 4 analyzers that make up VISION 4X, let’s take a look at what options we have in the settings Above is a graphic carousel of the settings for the different analyzers to help better visualize what’s explained below.
- This is where all factory and user presets are stored and saved respectively.
- Here the user can change the channel mode to stereo, left, right, mid, and side. Useful for differentiating the information in the mid and side frequencies of a stereo channel. Toggle “listen” to change between stereo and the desired channels.
- Rotate simply rotates the positions of the analyzers by 90 degrees.
- Trigger restarts analysis through MIDI. Consider it MIDI triggering.
- Gives the user the option to set the time interval of analysis and visual representation in musical time or milliseconds.
- Cool feature, overlay gives the user the option to integrate the time frame of the audio or moment being in analyzed in a DAW into VISION 4X.
- Users can adjust the range of frequencies and dBs being analyzed with the slider parameter.
- Color mapping lives here and gives the user the option to change between 10 different color schemes such as “Turbo,” which is a classic rainbow heat signature style and makes interpretation of the gain of frequencies much easier. Red meaning hot, blue meaning cold.
- The difference between red and blue in the color scheme can be curved using map curve.
- Map Bias essentially increases color boldness and distribution toward desired frequencies.
- Users can adjust the amount, speed, and peak hold of bars on the bar graph here.
- Curve references from NOISIA can be found here and total 17 presets.
- Spectrum Highlight although seemingly separate, adjusts the color distribution of the bars on the bar graph; highlight dictates whether the bars follow the set color map or stay grayed, time adjusts how long the frequency stays colored, and gate sets a threshold for frequency color change.
- Here the user can customize the color scheme and headroom of the waveform analyzer, and the speed of the level and RMS meter. Changing the color scheme of the waveform can be powerful for differentiating gain of transients and instruments in a full mix.
Overall and Extra Features
- Not apparent in the settings is a four-way intersection of arrows in the middle of each analyzer which is a window dragger and gives the user the option to resize each analyzer over the plane of the plugin, completely hide a combination, or leave all but one. This is a great feature if too many things happening at once takes your hearing attention away, which is priority #1.
- The play button next to the settings gear when pressed will freeze the analyzers.
Immediately VISION 4X is an immensely useful program, but these settings for aesthetic and technical customization take it to a whole new dimension of usability and sonic interpretation of the big picture or down to the fine details.
Built by one of the most creative and clinical trios in electronic music (never mind their stamp in music as a whole), and an exciting up and coming music production plugin designer outfit with a real care for quality and ingenuity respectively, VISION 4X by NOISIA and Excite Audio is without question a bonafide visual audio analysis plugin. Although the price may seem on the higher end for some, this is a high quality audio analyzer that has just about all of the analysis you will ever need, and a workflow that can benefit producers of any experience.
For the beginner who may lack audio analysis literacy, this is a tremendously powerful tool for learning how to read multiple kinds of analysis while learning more about themselves as an artist, producer, and/or engineer. Literacy coupled with interpretation makes for a much more meaningful period of artistic and technical growth; that in itself is absolutely worth the investment.
For the intermediate to expert individual, VISION 4X offers a new, but familiar, and sympathetic way of analyzing your music projects that doesn’t feel like jumping from your reliable weekend sailboat to an aircraft carrier. All of which you’re already used to is there and easy to read, but without the hangups of learning a new workflow. A developed workflow, for better or worse, can be hard to want to break out of, and in some cases can get in the way of trying something truly great that can actually enhance the process. Excite Audio and NOISIA have taken this in to account for VISION 4X, and the result is an incredibly intuitive one-stop audio analyzer.
VISION 4X by Excite Audio and NOISIA is available for both Windows and Mac, and can be purchased on Plugin Boutique for $89 here.
Thanks so much for reading.
Have any questions? Feel free to reach out: @iamimaginate across all socials.
About The Author
Bio: Imaginate is a renowned American recording artist and award-winning sound designer known for his unique, eclectic blend of music. In 2019, he began releasing a series of award-winning collections, including Glitch Kitchen and Kaleidoscope Neuro DNB on Loopmasters and Aqua, Charta, Verre, Terra, Metallum, and Aer as part of the Elements Series with Black Octopus Sound, and released on Splice. He has also released numerous synth presets and sample packs with Slate Digital. Imaginate is also a songwriter, composer, and performer of original music which you can listen to here.