Every now and then a tool pops up that revolutionizes the way you work (or some aspect of it), and after a while you’re thinking “How did I ever manage without this before?”.
I recently bought this plugin by Sample Magic called Magic AB. This plugin has been nothing short of a revelation for me.
This post is more an introduction rather than a review, because truthfully it’s a very straightforward plugin to use and works like a charm. (And just so you know, I am not affiliated with Sample Magic in any way. I just wanted to let you know about this tool.)
The Magic of Referencing
The Sample Magic Magic AB is built around a simple, but ingenious idea. You load the plugin (VST/AU/RTAS/AAX) directly to the master channel inside your DAW. Within the plugin there are 9 slots for loading up reference tracks. Once you have a reference track loaded and playing, you can quickly switch between your reference track and the mix you are working on. You just hit play in your DAW as you normally would, and use the A/B buttons in the plugin to switch between sources.
Here’s how it looks like:
Just this simple A/B functionality alone would have been enough for me to buy this plugin. But they’ve packed in some other features that make this a killer product:
- You can load up 9 reference tracks at a time, and you can save different sets and recall them very quickly from the preset menu.
- You can save your favorite reference tracks as a default preset so that they are ready to go as soon as you load the plugin. Sweet.
- Zoomable waveform display and loop controls.
- Peak and RMS level meters for both A and B tracks.
- Toggle action for A/B buttons (you can keep clicking on either button and it switches between sources). This is great for when you want to close your eyes and focus on listening.
There is even a mini A/B mode for saving screen space. I also found it useful for when you just want to focus on listening and not get distracted by looking at waveforms or the interface.
I used to have a reference music playlist in iTunes and I would hop in there to play something, then hop back to the DAW to compare. Sometimes I would load up reference tracks directly into the DAW as audio tracks. But this little plugin just beats both methods in so many ways. Very very useful and I can honestly say: Because it is so quick and easy to use I am doing a lot more of referencing, which has improved the quality of my mixdowns. Perhaps even more importantly, I also now have more confidence in my mixes holding up against competition. That’s huge.
Tip: I like to use a spectrum analyzer and a loudness meter after Magic AB in the chain, especially in a mastering situation when I want to get really precise. It’s very cool to flick between A/B and see the differences.
There’s no hard critique towards this plugin that I can think of, but I do have some feature requests:
- I would love to see an automatic RMS level matching option in a future version. Because level matching plays a crucial role in referencing (always remember that).
- The peak/RMS metering is great to have, but the meters are quite small. I’d love to have nice big metering to see things really precisely (and then possibly support for a few different metering standards for the folks who need that).
- It would be nice to have the ability to rename reference tracks in their slots. Because the artist name usually comes first in the file names and then you just see that instead of the actual track name. And if you have several tracks by the same artist, it gets confusing. I know I could rename the files itself on my drive, but that goes against the whole ease of use of the plugin which I love. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to give nicknames to your reference tracks?
Sample Magic, if you’re reading this… How about it?
The plugin sells for £34.90 at the time of writing this. Check it out, here’s a link to the Sample Magic website.