Need help parsing the Windows Meter Scales?


The Windows Audio Meter displays two scales, one is gray, the other is green. (See screenshot)

When I hear some of the better sounding mixes on any of the typical sites – soundcloud, youtube, etc. – the Gray Scale is often much greater than the Green Scale.

Is the Gray Scale the Peaks and the Green the RMS? If so, what kind of processing – plug-in, software package – would be required to achieve better Peak levels? (Assuming I’ve correctly identified the Gray/Green Scales as a Peak Reading Meter and RMS).

I’ve searched extensively and can’t find any engineer-level information on this. :confused:

Thanks in advance for help with this.

You must be special. Mine only have one green meter. Maybe a Professional vs. Home Premium thing?

Anyway, I have no idea what kind of scale they represent. Don’t really care, either, I guess. :slight_smile:
Windows 7 Home Premium Meters.JPG

Hi Stephen,

As the volume in Windows control panel is set as percentage my guess is the grey showing what the volume would be at 100% while the green showing the volume according to your settings. If you set it to max you should only see green cause they are the same.

Sounds logical. I’ll check that (with actual monitors off).

So, on those mixes where the “Gray Scale” is shooting nearly to the top of the meter range, am I hearing just some kind of extreme limiting?

On some tracks even a solo instrument playing a “quiet part” the Gray Scale is still topping the meter range. I’m not interesting in “winning” a loudness war, but I’d like improve my mixes.


heh – Not caring may be the better choice, but, I’d like to work this out and heaven help us that MS has anything on this (at least as far as I’ve found).

Running Windows 7 Professional, here’s a screen shot of what it looks like on my side. I keep “system sounds” off.
Windows Mixer Scales.png
Am I seeing some kind of extreme limiting in streams? Even solo instruments show this on some tracks. Just puzzled about it. :confused:

Thanks for the answer and screenshot.

Ahhh … yes! I always have my Windows output level at 100%, so I never noticed. Just lowered it and the grey magically appeared.

Most likely.

Interesting. So, the Gray Scale was there but not showing since the levels were already equal. I guess this is one more instance where, perhaps, the best advice is to listen and not look. Some of the better mixes do seem to have higher Gray Scales, but, I may be falling into the “louder is better” trap.

I tried putting limiters and virtually every track of a Project (Rock/Pop) with about 20 “band” tracks (all VSTs in this case), the mix did show higher “gray scales” on playback via Window Media Player, however some of the tracks I see on websites like SoundCloud, etc., still exhibit very high “gray scales” even when the track is just a solo voice.

My Windows Playback has a tick mark on the meter at about the 1/2 way point, Windows claims that is -10.5 dB. It’s very annoying because the the windows interface does not accepted a typed-in Value, nor does any short cut set the meter to this mid-point mark.

God forbid MS provide some reference anyone can find about what their -10.5 dB is referenced to or some information about their audio metering system.

I don’t think it’s as simple as slapping a limiter on every track. Typically, there are many stages involved to arrive at a “loud” master.

“Mixing is an art … it takes years to Master.”

I don’t know where that quote comes from, but I remember reading something along those lines a while back. I think about it from time to time and it reminds me of how far I have to go before I can call myself a master of mixing, let alone a mastering engineer.


I understand that you both want to understand what you see in Windows, as well as make your music better, but every single fiber in my body tells me to tell you to just ignore this completely.

I think the odds that someone at Microsoft coded those meters in any way that is meaningful to us musicians are very, very low. It may be that there is some correlation between what you see and how you think different types of music sounds, but by far your best bet is to get good, professional metering and use that instead. Either use built-in metering in Nuendo, or get something like iZotope’s “Insight”. Learn those meters, and use those to analyze music.

I think you’ll be wasting time with these…

I’m just looking for a simple answer to a simple question. What are the reference levels MS is using for its meter scales?

I completely respect that learning to mix takes years. The limiter on all tracks was just an experiment, partly successful, partly not, but that is beside the point of the question I have. The question is about the MS Meter in Windows. I’ve looked and you’d think MS would have a readily available data sheet on this. If one exists, I can’t find it. Putting a tick mark on a meter gui and saying -10.4 db doesn’t tell us much. Free meters I’ve d/led and worked with have better documentation than MS audio meter that’s on counless million of machines and devices worldwide.

I think I’ll try looking at the input with an external test generator, perhaps. I’ve not done that on this system and it it might help answer the question.


Thanks for that. I watched – posted reference in the lounge – a talk by Andrew Scheps – what comes out of the speakers is all that matters. You’re saying much the same. Thank you. It really is the truth about this. Ignore it is right thing to do. I think your assessment of the meter is also spot on. I won’t get hung up on it.

The meters I’m working with and getting finally more comfortable with are the ones inside Cubase along with some others I have and for use in DAW work. I think I know what we’re seeing in the Windows Meter – very heavy limiting and hyper compression of the source material. Also seeing some very good mixing. But, this Windows Meter really doesn’t matter and I’m going to ignore it. Side-effect of this question was getting better at Channel Strip usage. I’ll need some other tools as well. Those are there when I’m ready for them. My ears will tell me, in consultation with and my purse of course. :slight_smile:

This and these comments by all on this were much better than than the question, ultimately.

Thanks for helping to clear things up. I feel less caught in this “distraction.” Lastly, shame on MS for not publishing an easy to find help page on this simple question. No?

Very helpful, all, thanks.

Yeah, MS isn’t the greatest at giving the user easy to find clear answers. If I’d say anything in its defense it’d be that it’s such a huge company with so many products that… well… I don’t even know how they’d approach it to be honest. Seems superficially like it’d be an easy thing but… oh well…

It’s an impressive operation. I’ve seen bits and pieces of it over the years for product launches, VNRs, etc.

Mattias, ihanks for helping me forget about the MS Windows Audio Meter. I have my meters and other tools (Span, etc), they’re telling me all I need to know in terms of the audio and what’s real. I’m seeing Limiting, Compression, Envelope Shaping, etc. – good Mixing and good Mastering and don’t care at all what that MS meter is doing. It really don’t matter. When my mixes do that ‘gray scale’ “reading,” they’ll do it anyway and the MS meter still won’t matter. That really is the best answer, I think. Thank you, Sir.