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Old 9th November 2019
Lives for gear
Owen L T's Avatar

Originally Posted by hausey187 View Post
Great advice everyone! Thanks! I didn't mean to sound like I thought my gear would do the work for me, and I think you're right in that I really don't have a good understanding of how I should be applying them. The reference mix I referred to is just a finished track from another band that I'm hoping to get in the ballpark of but I'll lay off comparing until I get a better grip on things. I'm also going to spend some time on the 3D mix aspect as I don't think I've been addressing it properly. I'll also def check out those podcasts and blogs.
Reference mixes are an important tool to mixers of all levels, and recommended by everyone from Dave Pensado to Fab Dupont. I think (but am not sure) that CJ got the impression you were talking about using unmastered mixes as a reference, as I can't think of any other reason to suggest that's a bad idea.

They are super useful for keeping track of something approaching true north while mixing, though there is no *real* true north, as every judgement call is a matter of degree, rather than a right or wrong.

Having a number of genre-specific mixes of tracks that you rate highly, and towards which you are working, can be used for all kinds of things, including: overall spectral balance of the mix; specific tonal/volume relationship between different elements, like bass and kick, drums and guitars; how high the vocal sits in the mix; weight of the bottom end. One great insight into this process, for me, was in the Dave Pensado clip on reference mixes, where he mentioned that he referenced Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" as a guide to whether a vocal was tipping over the bright-and-airy threshold, into sibiliance; that he felt that particular vocal was at the absolute limit to how much air a vocal could have, without needing additional de-essing. I had a listen to the track myself, and thought "holy s**t - I hear exactly what he meant by that".

A fantastic plugin called Magic AB is great for that; you put it on the last insert of your 2 buss, and can load a bunch of different reference tracks, all of which you can set to loop to specific parts of that reference. Then, at any point while playing back your own track, you hit the A/B button, and hear the current reference track instead. I usually lower the output of the references by a couple dBs, as they will otherwise sound louder, and the point of reference mixes is not about absolute loudness.


Okay, I went looking for a link to MagicAB, and see that all SampleMagic's plugins are being discontinued, following the sale of the company, and that MagicAB is no longer available.

You may need to google "alternatives to MagicAB" if interested, though here's one I did find.

Pretty dumb call by the new owners. MagicAB was the first reference mix tool, absolutely nailed the functionality, and had zero real competition.