Magic AB Review – Simple Referencing While Mixing
Most engineers are in the practice of referencing finished songs they know and love while working on new mixes in the studio. This is often done prior to mixing in order to “tune” your ears to the room, but also during or near the end of the mix itself so that you can be sure that you are hitting your mark of clarity and dynamic energy. Samplemagic has come out with a new plugin Magic AB that can make the comparison of your mix to reference tracks during the mixing process really easy. This plugin works in all the major DAWs, Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton Live.
A Quick Overview of Magic AB
My old workflow entailed pulling a finished track into my current work session, routing it to a separate output and setting the levels so that it would roughly match my target mix level of around -3db max peak. This way I would solo the reference track any time I needed to compare the two. This technique works fine with the only real drawback being that you are duplicating files within your hard drives, and adding to your track count.
Magic AB is a plugin that sits on your master bus, or any other track, after all your processing so it is not effected by any compression or effects you may have on your master output. The reference files are linked from their original locations into the plugin itself, so you no longer have to copy reference files into your session, and you can load up nine different reference files all at the same time. The plugin will map to the files wherever they are originally stored. The other great thing is that you can save sets of nine files/songs as presets. That way I can have a “dance” reference preset with nine dance songs, a “rock” preset with nine rock songs, and so on and so forth. you can also swap out your reference files at any time and re-save your preset.
One recent case where I found Magic AB particularly useful was mixing audio for four television commercials for the same company. In this case I didn’t use it as a reference to previous commercials, but to the series of four I was working on in order to compare them to each other for clarity and level. As I would finish a mix I would load the bounced file into Magic AB, and move on to the next mix. That way I could check back easily with my finished material at any time, and when I was finished with all four, do a final quality comparison all from within my mixing session without having to pull in additional files. That in itself made me really like this as a reference tool.
You can loop sections of a song within the plugin, easily switch between reference tracks and your current session by just hitting the “A” or “B” button, and you can level match each individual reference file with the easy to access main fader, and individual fader on each file. The plugin even comes with its own detailed and accurate meters to help you be sure that your level matching is really true. The only thing that you won’t be able to do with this is sync a specific section of you mix to a specific section of a reference file. You may want to do that if you were recording a cover of a song, or arranging a new song structurally close to a finished one. In those cases you can still go back to the method of pulling the file into your session and lining it up manually with your new material.
For most normal use cases Magic AB by Samplemagic is a great solution with an elegant and efficient workflow. This tool helps you to save time, and valuable disc space, not to mention the great feature of being able to save presets of as many different genres of material you like.
I would definitely recommend this tool for any serious mix engineer that needs to reference between finished mixes and material you are working on in your DAW. If you have used Magic AB let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.