Sample Magic makes the leap from samples and MIDI packs into the world of plugins. The result is a simple but highly effective tool for AB referencing.
Sample Magic’s software debut is one of the most obvious ideas I’ve come across in a long time, but it’s so effective that it’ll surely have countless other plugin developers kicking themselves for not thinking of it first. The plugin simplifies the straightforward, yet often tricky, task of comparing a mix in progress with a reference track of your choice.
The guidance offered by a reference track is often invaluable. Not only does it present a framework to help structure and mix your session, but it also provides your ears with a much needed refresher. Unfortunately, AB referencing is usually a bit fiddly no matter which DAW you use. We’re probably all familiar with the process of juggling media player windows with DAW transport controls, trying to skip quickly from one track to another to hear how our own track compares to a commercial mix.
The Magic AB plugin makes it easy to set up and use reference tracks from within your DAW. I opted to place it on my master channel after my mix bus processing, but it’s equally at home on a sub-mix bus if you just want to compare, say, a drum group or bassline. The plugin doesn’t colour the sound in any way, so you can quite happily place it permanently at the end of a channel strip until it’s needed. (It can actually be placed anywhere in the chain but I can’t think of an obvious reason why you’d want to put it before your master channel processing. Still, the option’s there if you find a need for it.)
There’s not a huge amount to say about Magic AB in action; it just works. Up to nine reference tracks can be loaded simultaneously. Levels can be matched with the horizontal trim sliders. Select one of the reference tracks as the B channel, then hit the big B button to switch the output. Crossfade time can be adjusted to allow your ears a moment to adapt to the new signal.
The option of setting a loop within the plugin is a great feature. You can compare the reference track and the mix at any point you choose, or if there are particular parts of different tracks you want to reference, you can load them into the other channels and set loop points for each.
I can think of very few improvements which could be made to this simple but effective tool. A spectrum analyser might be useful for a bit of visual feedback. It might also be handy if there was an option to start all the reference tracks at the same time (or even sync them to the position of the DAW’s play head) in order to compare different versions of the same track – different mix bus compression settings, different vocal levels, different synth or drum sounds, and so on.
Sample Magic has achieved something very rare in today’s over-saturated plugin market. By focussing on providing the user with a simple and well-designed way to achieve what many find to be a time-consuming and fiddly process, they’ve created an essential tool.
At a very fair £24.90 – and especially at the introductory £19.90 price point – Magic AB is a necessary purchase for anyone looking to simplify the process of AB referencing. It’s a simple but essential plugin for your mixing, production and mastering processes.
Price: £24.90 (introductory price: £19.90)
Purchase: Sample Magic Magic AB
The Final Word
A simple idea which works perfectly.