A critical and often overlooked step in mixing (especially when you’re first starting out) is listening to a great sounding reference track to compare your mixes to. That’s easier said then done though, with level matching and instant switching between your mix and the ref track usually taking long for an accurate comparison in a typical DAW setup. That’s why the new Reference plugin from Mastering The Mix is so cool. It provides that instantaneous switch, and much more.
Reference is actually four tools in one. The first is the Trinity Display that shows you how your frequency balance, stereo width and compression compares to your reference track. You can also solo the movable frequency bands allowing you to focus in on the intricate differences between your mix and your references.
Next is the Level Match tool that allows you to accurately match the loudness of your track against your references. This is crucial for a fair comparison. Track Align identifies different versions of the same song and then lines them up automatically so you can seamlessly switch between them. Finally, Wave Transport allows you to create multiple loops so you can quickly compare various sections of your track to your reference.
Since most mix problems tend to come from the low end, the Trinity Display is perfect for analyzing what your track looks like as compared to your favorite mix. It’s a fast way to understand what ideal frequency balance looks like so you can compare it to your mix, which can be a big time saver. Track align is great for when you’ve decided to go back to the drawing board and start a mix from scratch, and then compare whether you’ve actually beaten your previous version (or a mix from another mixer) or not. And of course Level Match is key in actually determining the differences between tracks, since it’s been proven that a level increase of as little as 0.5dB can influence our ears to like that track more.
Reference is available for Mac or PC in all formats at either 32 or 64 bit. It costs a reasonable 49£ (about $63USD) and there’s a 15 day free trial – very inexpensive for a plugin that you’ll likely use on every mix. You can find out more here, or watch the video below.