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Review: Sample Magic Sample AB

June 30, 2014
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Getting a mix reference has never been this easy

Magic AB’s user interface, set here to loop a section of the active reference track.
SHORT OF getting your studio acoustically treated, one of the best ways to compensate for sonic imperfections in your mixing space is by referencing, or A/B-ing, your mix with professionally mixed material of a similar style and instrumentation. Referencing won’t substitute for good mixing skills, but it can help a great deal in areas such as judging the amount of bass in the mix, balancing the vocals against the instruments, and determining how much to EQ the top end.

A key to successful referencing is being able to quickly switch back and forth between your mix and the reference, so that you hear one right after the other. If you have to go through several steps and there’s a pause between A and B, which is often the case in the mixerless world of the home studio, the referencing won’t be as effective.

Sample Magic’s Magic AB is a plug-in designed to make referencing fast and easy. After using it the first time, you will wonder why someone didn’t think of this before. What’s more, Magic AB can preload up to nine reference tracks at a time and switch among them as you A/B your mix.

Magic AB is compatible with all major plug-in formats, including 64-bit AAX in Pro Tools. Installation is simple, and authorization requires only your registered email address and serial number.

One Screen, No Waiting The interface is a single screen with a waveform display at the top, slots and controls for the reference tunes underneath, and a pair of level meters on the right. The manual recommends inserting the plug-in on your master track, after any other effects. The plug-in creates an audio stream entirely separate from your mix. When the A button is pressed you hear your mix, and when the B button is pressed you hear the selected reference track.

Magic AB supports most common audio file types for the reference tracks: 24-bit AIFF and WAV files, mp3, and AAC (m4a) on the Mac; 24-bit files and mp3 on Windows. The Mac AAC support is handy, because it lets you seamlessly import files from your iTunes library.

The A and B streams each have their own volume control, making it easy to set them to an equal level—that’s crucial for successful referencing. You get a detailed display featuring side-by-side level meters that show peak, RMS, and Crest value (derived from the peak amplitude of the waveform divided by the RMS value). You can also adjust the reference track levels from their individual slots.

Sections of the active reference track can be looped in the waveform display. Buttons let you instantly change your loop to 1/4, 1/2, 2x, or 4x its size. You can zoom in on the reference track’s waveform and even adjust the crossfade time (from 0 to 1,200ms) when switching from A to B.

A/B = Results I’ve used Magic AB on all my mixes since I got it: Because it makes referencing so easy and convenient, it has allowed me to A/B a lot more, and that’s helped me get my mixes done more quickly (and without having to run to the car to check the bass level or how the vocals sit against the instruments). In the past it was a hassle just to have one reference song easily available, and now I can have up to nine.

In addition to the increased efficiency that Sample Magic’s plug-in has brought me, the ability to check my work against that of top pro engineers has helped me hone my mixing skills and get better results. I highly recommend Magic AB.

Mike Levine is musician, composer, and music journalist in the New York area.

SUMMARY

Strengths Allows for seamless A/Bing of your mix. Up to nine reference tracks can be loaded at a time. Easy and flexible looping of reference tracks.
Limitations None.
$48.99 MSRP
samplemagic.com

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