Back to the top

Audio

TC Electronic Clarity M Stereo Review

Clarity M on Box
TC Electronic Clarity M Stereo

The Clarity M Stereo is not only an innovative but extremely versatile tool for the monitoring and visualization of audio levels. Are its features unique? No, but its accuracy and presentation of audio information is comparable to some of the most popular meters on the market. Believe me when I say you will be searching for a veeery long time to find another device that incorporates the tools provided by the Clarity M and also in the form of a tablet at a price that won’t bankrupt you. There are more advanced devices available from companies like DK Technologies and RTW but they can’t hold a candle to the simplicity, practicality and mainly affordability of the Clarity M. If you do have a couple thousand laying around though I would definitely take a look at what those companies are offering! now on to the review 🙂

Clarity M close up
Background

The Clarity M has been around for a while now in a hybrid 5.1 & stereo version but was not well received initially due to (in my opinion) bad marketing. The original incarnation of the device was geared toward editing 5.1 audio and even though there was a lot of 5.1 content being developed at the time, this was done mainly by large studios with hardware that you would typically find in a professional studio environment. The TC Electronic Clarity M Stereo & 5.1 set out to change that and provide a tool that smaller studios and home users could use to visually analyze their 5.1 Surround and stereo content. There was a little problem though, they chose a very niche demographic at a time when 7+ channel surround sound was taking off… Also, with a price of just under $600 the Clarity M wasn’t that appealing either, not when you had software plugins such as the Waves Loudness Monitor, Izotope Insight and  Flux Pure Analyzer available for a lot less money. To be fair though these options would require you to dedicate either a separate monitor, some of your screen’s real estate, or even a separate PC to realize your dream of audio visualization nirvana but they did exist and were definitely being considered at that time.

Clarity M Rear Connectors
Stereo Clarity

The Clarity M Stereo is TC Electronic’s response to a changing market. There are a number of monitoring solutions available including the software solutions mentioned earlier in addition to plugins such as Levels from newcomer Mastering the Mix (My personal favorite). TC decided that they would take the smart route though and go after music producers and small scale video engineers with the stereo version of the Clarity M. They also dropped the price significantly even though the firmware is practically the same and the hardware remains mostly unchanged.

 

Design

The Clarity M Stereo and it’s predecessor are designed around a 7” monitor with a resolution of 840×480 pixels. I was hesitant at first when I saw the resolution of the display but I have to say the information is presented with a level of clarity you would not expect. The field of view was exceptional and I was able to clearly see the display even at extreme viewing angles. The display is encased in a metallic chassis and the knobs and buttons are solid and seem to be very durable. I’ve played around with a few tablets and small displays in my lifetime and I can say with no reservations that this display is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. It comes in second only to the video monitors I use when filming. The Clarity M Stereo has a number of audio inputs and can even be used as a VST plugin via optional software. It can analyze Stereo 96 kHz AES3 digital audio over 75 Ohm BNC connectors and S/PDIF right out of the box. Optional adapters enable you to connect standard AES/EBU and you can also use the TOSLink port for optical input and the USB connection to work seamlessly with your favorite DAW.

Clarity M Rear Stand
Usage

When I initially acquired the Clarity M I was set on using it as a plugin for Studio One, then I thought to myself why load it up as a DAW plugin when I can use it to analyze all the audio from my Focusrite Scarlett interface. It has a plethora of input options available and I was able to seamlessly connect it via SPDIF to the computer via the Scarlett. I use my PC for both audio and video production which typically have differing standards when it comes to audio levels. For example, most videos are normalized to -23 LUFS/LKFS while streaming music is typically normalized to -16 LUFS/LKFS (which is actually “louder” despite the lower number). Having the Clarity M grab the raw audio signal from my computer allowed me to compare my audio levels to an unlimited supply of content available on the internet. This is actually the best feature of the Clarity M compared to software plugins, it’s the ability to run all the unprocessed audio from your PC outputs directly into the monitor. I streamed everything from Netflix movies to YouTube videos to Pandora Radio, I was like a kid in a candy store. I now knew what everyone else was limiting their audio to, so I could now apply those levels to my own creations in real-time.


Interface

The interface of the Clarity M is laid out in a very intuitive manner and is very legible. The signature feature of the TC loudness meters is the LM6 Loudness Radar which shows the history of your contents loudness over a user-configurable time period. The Loudness Radar shows both average loudness and momentary peaks which is not unique by any means but because of its circular design you can fit a lot more information into a smaller space. The colored bands are nice to look at and also easy to read as well so no need to guess what’s being displayed when analyzing your audio streams. The Clarity M Stereo has a number of tools available to complement the radar. There is a Vector-scope for detailed Left-Right analysis, a real-time analyzer with 1/3 octave resolution, a “Balance-O-Meter” to quickly check the Left-Right and Mid-Side balances of your mix, a precision correlation meter that warns you about phase problems and also a scalable true peak meter that can identify clipping in DACs, CODECs and downstream filters.

Clarity M on box close
Testing

I tested the unit by routing the audio stream from my DAW while filming the review of the Clarity M for our YouTube Channel. I also loaded up my go-to plugin meters (iZotope Insight, Waves Loudness Meter and the Levels plugin from Mastering the Mix). I monitored each meter to verify that they were all showing the same information which they were for the most part (They were all within 1LU of each other during the testing process) and also made sure that the stereo balance etc was uniform across all the meters. I’m not a metering expert but I’m fairly certain that as long as they are all showing the same information then everything should be okay. I know that all these meters have presets etc but I’ve never really needed to use them. For those of you in broadcast or television, there are a variety of standardized presets available that you can load into the Clarity M. This is because it has the ability to be booted up as a USB storage device (you can even change the logo if you want to, which is cool). Overall the unit performed as was expected and has now become our go-to meter, I will update this review with reliability information if we run into any issues but the outlook is looking good for this one.


Summary

The TC Electronic Clarity M Stereo is a great addition to any semi-pro or home studio that needs accurate metering of stereo signals. If I was in the market again I would purchase the 5.1 version at its current price which is significantly less than it was when it was introduced a few years ago. Why, well, because, who doesn’t want extra channels? I may actually make a 5.1 surround sound film in the near future… In all seriousness though, the Stereo version of the Clarity M is actually the 5.1 version without the extra channels so you’re really not missing anything. Plus, Dolby Atmos is the all the rage now so if TC decides to release a meter for that I may consider upgrading until then the Clarity M Stereo has earned its place in my studio!

Specs
  • Professional stereo audio meter for mixing, mastering and post production
  • 7” high resolution LCD display for precision metering in all studio environments
  • USB connection for hassle-free VST*, Audio Units and AAX* plug-in metering
  • Stereo 96 kHz AES3 digital audio on 75 Ohm BNC connectors for broadcast-grade metering
  • Ultimate metering toolbox to diagnose your mix for phase, balances, frequency distribution, loudness, channel weighting, clipping, mono compatibility
  • Vectorscope for detailed Left-Right analysis
  • High accuracy real time analyzer with 1/3 octave resolution
  • Easy-read Balance-O-Meter to quickly check Left-Right and Mid-Side balances of your mix
  • Precision correlation meter warns you about phase problems
  • State-of-the-art scalable true peak meter identifies clipping in DACs, CODECs and downstream filters
  • Legendary LM6 loudness radar meter provides all essential loudness monitoring information on a single screen
  • Detailed statistics overview for all key loudness measuring parameters
  • Provision for custom logo on LCD display
  • Compliant with all major broadcast standards including ITU BS.1770-4, ATSC A/85, EBU R128, TR-B32 and OP-59
  • RAM-mount compatible for wall or ceiling mounting (not included)
  • Stereo Optical Input for TOSLink* source
  • General purpose input (GPI) for meter reset
  • 3-Year Warranty Program*
  • Designed and engineered in Denmark

Start Analyzing Now






Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

$297.99
$296.98  in stock
22 new from $294.99
6 used from $ 279.51
Free shipping
Buy Now
Amazon.com
as of October 11, 2019 7:15 pm

Features

  • Eight analog inputs: four natural-sounding Scarlett mic pres with plenty of even gain; two inst. Inputs, four additional line level inputs. Two 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs; two discrete headphone outputs with dedicated gain controls; MIDI I/O; S/PDIF in and out; ADAT input to expand channel count
  • Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; Super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP; Focusrite iOS Control - download the free Focusrite iOS Control app and adjust cue mixes remotely from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch
  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Venomode DeeQ, Maximal 2, and Pivot, plug-ins upon registration and download.
  • Includes Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite's Red Plug-in Suite, 2GB of Loopmasters samples, Choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Compatible with Windows 7 and higher, and Mac OS X 10.10 and higher. Supported Sample Rates: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz. Frequency response - 20 Hz - 20 kHz ± 0.1dB. 2-year limited warranty on manufacturing defects

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

$525.88
$499.99  in stock
18 new from $499.99
Free shipping
Buy Now
Amazon.com
as of October 11, 2019 7:15 pm

Features

  • Eight of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more Open sound. Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Four monitor outputs with anti-thump technology and speaker switching, and onboard talkback functionality with built-in, front panel talkback mic. Eight balanced line inputs for connecting synthesizers, drum machine and other line-level sources
  • High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
  • Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever
  • Includes Pro Tools | first Focusrite creative pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube time and tone bundle, focusrite's Red plug-in Suite, 3-month splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive keys virtual instrument, All available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Limited time offer: free audiority deleight and distortion 1 plug-ins upon registration and download

Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

$221.00
$219.00  in stock
25 new from $219.00
7 used from $ 174.95
Free shipping
Buy Now
Amazon.com
as of October 11, 2019 7:15 pm

Features

  • Two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gain; two instrument inputs plus two additional line level analog inputs. Four 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs; two headphone outputs with gain control; MIDI I/O; S/PDIF in and out for connecting to other digital devices
  • Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; Super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP; Focusrite iOS Control - download the free Focusrite iOS Control app and adjust cue mixes remotely from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch
  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Venomode DeeQ, Maximal 2, and Pivot, plug-ins upon registration and download.
  • Includes Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite's Red Plug-in Suite, 2GB of Loopmasters samples, Choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Compatible with Windows 7 and higher, and Mac OS X 10.10 and higher. Frequency response - 20 Hz - 20 kHz ± 0.1dB. Supported Sample Rates: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz. 2-year limited warranty on manufacturing defects

MOTU Ultralite-Mk4 USB Audio Interface

$595.00  in stock
6 new from $595.00
Free shipping
Buy Now
Amazon.com
as of October 11, 2019 7:15 pm

Features

  • 24-bit/192kHz USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface with 2 Microphone Preamps
  • Built-in Effects - Mac/PC
  • 18-in/22-out
© 2019 Akiatech Solutions LLC