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Reference track in daw while mixing/mastering?

I usually just play a reference track from the files app but it’d be better to have it in the daw for various reasons. Only thing with that is if I bring it in as an audio track, it’ll go through the mastering chain completely defeating the purpose. I guess I could deactivate each bit of the mastering chain but it’s a bit slow for ab testing.

Is there anything on iOS that’s like Magic AB?

What do others do?

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Comments

  • Which DAW are you using?

  • edited April 21

    I like to mix into a limiter too but its only for reference
    I never render it
    I like to keep composing / mixing / mastering separate tasks otherwise I mess up.
    play from other app is your best option I guess

  • I use Auria Pro for mixing and mastering and always use reference tracks for both situations.
    In order to not affect the reference track I don’t load my mastering plugins in the Master Bus but in one of the eight available SUBs, leaving the Master empty. So I send my mix to the “mastering” SUB and the reference track to the “reference” SUB. This way I can solo each SUB to compare my mix with the reference.

    Hope this helps,

  • edited April 21

    @CracklePot said:
    Which DAW are you using?

    Stagelight

    @Rodolfo said:
    I use Auria Pro for mixing and mastering and always use reference tracks for both situations.
    In order to not affect the reference track I don’t load my mastering plugins in the Master Bus but in one of the eight available SUBs, leaving the Master empty. So I send my mix to the “mastering” SUB and the reference track to the “reference” SUB. This way I can solo each SUB to compare my mix with the reference.

    Hope this helps,

    This does help, thanks. I’m using stagelight which unfortunately doesn’t have ‘subs’ I don’t think. Can I add a feature request @MatthewAtStagelight 😁

  • wimwim
    edited April 21

    @gregsmith said:
    ... I’m using stagelight which unfortunately doesn’t have ‘subs’ I don’t think. Can I add a feature request @MatthewAtStagelight 😁

    With just a bit of setup you can fake it though.

    • Create a send. You need to add an effect, such as the limiter, but you can set the effect to inactive if you want. It helps to rename the send to something like SUB 1.
    • On the tracks you want to bus, set the send routing to “Pre Send Audio” and add a send at 100% [edit] default level to the Sub track.
    • Mute the audio of the tracks you send to the Sub.
  • @wim said:

    @gregsmith said:
    ... I’m using stagelight which unfortunately doesn’t have ‘subs’ I don’t think. Can I add a feature request @MatthewAtStagelight 😁

    With just a bit of setup you can fake it though.

    • Create a send. You need to add an effect, such as the limiter, but you can set the effect to inactive if you want. It helps to rename the send to something like SUB 1.
    • On the tracks you want to bus, set the send routing to “Pre Send Audio” and add a send at 100% [edit] default level to the Sub track.
    • Mute the audio of the tracks you send to the Sub.

    Brilliant, thanks for the tip! Does this not eventually go through the master though and into the mastering chain?

  • wimwim
    edited April 21

    Yes, but you can always mute it. I’m don’t really understand what you’re trying to accomplish though. Maybe that’s not what you want.

  • @wim said:
    Yes, but you can always mute it. I’m don’t really understand what you’re trying to accomplish though. Maybe that’s not what you want.

    Basically I have a reference wav that I want to bring into stagelight and be able to A/B it with the master track whilst mixing/mastering. If the reference plays through the master channel it’s pointless as it’ll be effected by the mastering chain. I could just deactivate all the effects in the mastering chain one by one then turn them back on again but it’s a bit of a slow A/B test ;)

  • wimwim
    edited April 21

    It might be a too much bother, but you could put everything except the reference track on a “bus” (see above) and put your mastering chain on there instead of the master. Then you could A/B with no issue by muting the reference track or the bus.

  • @wim said:
    It might be a too much bother, but you could put everything except the reference track on a “bus” (see above) and put your mastering chain on there instead of the master. Then you could A/B with no issue by muting the reference track or the bus.

    Gotcha. But yeah, slightly too much bother. Thanks for pointing out the pre send audio thing though - that makes sense now.

  • edited April 21

    As explained by @wim I also believe the only way is to put your mastering chain on a “fake” SUB, since you need to leave your master bus clean of effects in order not to process your reference track. This is basically the same I do on Auria Pro, but just a little bit more intrincated.

    This is how I would set it up:
    -Create a Send and rename it to MASTERING SUB (or whatever you like)
    -Put all your mastering plugins (EQs, Compressors, Saturation, etc) on this SUB in the right order (Limiter is always the last one)
    -All tracks of your song have to be sent to this MASTERING SUB (except the reference track)
    -Send level can be anything, but all tracks with the exact same value. I would recommend default value, or preferably 100%.
    -Leave all sends as post-send audio, this way you will be sending the already mixed levels

    Working procedure:
    -Mute the MASTERING SUB and the Reference track
    -Mix your song
    -You can Solo the reference track at any time to compare with your mix. It will work as an A/B button.
    -When you have your mix ready, you can solo your MASTERING SUB and tweak your mastering plugins.
    -You can compare with your reference just soloing your reference and unsoloing your MASTERING SUB, and viceversa.

    Example with 2 tracks mix, a reference track and the MASTERING SUB

    .
    .
    Tracks Sends and Mastering Plugins (please notice that reference track is not sent to the SUB)

  • This is a good setup, and really not much trouble. It also solves another issue I believe you brought up earlier, @gregsmith. You were having issues with an analyzer plugin on the master not responding to level changes. This would also solve that.

  • @Rodolfo @wim thanks so much for taking the time to explain this. Really helpful.

  • edited April 22

    @gregsmith said:
    @Rodolfo @wim thanks so much for taking the time to explain this. Really helpful.

    One issue I’ve found with this is that I already have sends setup for delay and reverb and I can’t route those sends through the mastering sub send I don’t think? Can’t send a send to a send? :)

    This wouldn’t be a problem if I was mastering a wav file but I tend to compose, mix and master in the same project file.

    I realised if there’s an au effect that will simply play a wav file, I can just put that at the end of the master chain. I’ve tried with re-1 but every time I try to load my reference wav it crashes and needs reinstalling to open again. Are there any other au effects that do can just play a wav?

  • @gregsmith said:

    @CracklePot said:
    Which DAW are you using?

    Stagelight

    @Rodolfo said:
    I use Auria Pro for mixing and mastering and always use reference tracks for both situations.
    In order to not affect the reference track I don’t load my mastering plugins in the Master Bus but in one of the eight available SUBs, leaving the Master empty. So I send my mix to the “mastering” SUB and the reference track to the “reference” SUB. This way I can solo each SUB to compare my mix with the reference.

    Hope this helps,

    This does help, thanks. I’m using stagelight which unfortunately doesn’t have ‘subs’ I don’t think. Can I add a feature request @MatthewAtStagelight 😁

    Yes and thank you!

  • @gregsmith Personally I stay away from comparing mixes reference etc.
    Reason being you cannot tell if the eq etc for the reference track was done via Mastering or Mixing.
    Thats just me though each to their own. My method these days is to mix how I want it to sound then do reference Mastering/Compare.
    One key most important thing I used to tell my students ( was a sound engineering tutor for a few years back in the day) key thing most important before any mixing/mastering is to clean your ears Sound crazy but so true. Cotton buds number one in my tool kit

  • @stormbeats said:
    @gregsmith Personally I stay away from comparing mixes reference etc.
    Reason being you cannot tell if the eq etc for the reference track was done via Mastering or Mixing.
    Thats just me though each to their own. My method these days is to mix how I want it to sound then do reference Mastering/Compare.
    One key most important thing I used to tell my students ( was a sound engineering tutor for a few years back in the day) key thing most important before any mixing/mastering is to clean your ears Sound crazy but so true. Cotton buds number one in my tool kit

    I tend to only use a reference track whilst mastering at the moment but was going to start using it in mixing as well. You raise a good point though. I think as long as it’s just a guide rather than aiming for a carbon copy it’s useful though.

    Something like this on iOS would be amazing:

    https://www.meterplugs.com/perception

  • @Rodolfo said:
    As explained by @wim I also believe the only way is to put your mastering chain on a “fake” SUB, since you need to leave your master bus clean of effects in order not to process your reference track. This is basically the same I do on Auria Pro, but just a little bit more intrincated.

    This is how I would set it up:
    -Create a Send and rename it to MASTERING SUB (or whatever you like)
    -Put all your mastering plugins (EQs, Compressors, Saturation, etc) on this SUB in the right order (Limiter is always the last one)
    -All tracks of your song have to be sent to this MASTERING SUB (except the reference track)
    -Send level can be anything, but all tracks with the exact same value. I would recommend default value, or preferably 100%.
    -Leave all sends as post-send audio, this way you will be sending the already mixed levels

    Working procedure:
    -Mute the MASTERING SUB and the Reference track
    -Mix your song
    -You can Solo the reference track at any time to compare with your mix. It will work as an A/B button.
    -When you have your mix ready, you can solo your MASTERING SUB and tweak your mastering plugins.
    -You can compare with your reference just soloing your reference and unsoloing your MASTERING SUB, and viceversa.

    Example with 2 tracks mix, a reference track and the MASTERING SUB

    .
    .
    Tracks Sends and Mastering Plugins (please notice that reference track is not sent to the SUB)

    Very detailed.👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽I can only dream of the day something similar could be done in Cubasis 😊

  • I think there's a spot in the iOS market for a utility plugin that's placed after the master bus chain.

    Probably the best example of such a plugin for desktop DAWs is SampleMagic's Magic AB.

    https://www.samplemagic.com/details/184/magic-ab

    I wouldn't be concerned about toning that's added during mastering vs mixing as most mastering engineers will tell you that they only aim to use EQ correctively not creatively.

    It's a very useful tool to have in the DAW. But not something which you should be slavishly attached too. SampleMagic's Magic AB is IMO the most rounded product for accessing reference tracks within a DAW. And because you place it at the end of any master buss chain, you ensure that it's not being processed by any other plugins.

    The only thing you need to get used to is that a mastered track will have greater a RMS level average so you'll want to reduce the output of Magic AB so that you don't attempt to match the volume. Unless you know what you're doing it's all too easy to end up with an over compressed mess, that no post mix mastering will be able to fix.

  • @gregsmith said:

    @gregsmith said:
    @Rodolfo @wim thanks so much for taking the time to explain this. Really helpful.

    One issue I’ve found with this is that I already have sends setup for delay and reverb and I can’t route those sends through the mastering sub send I don’t think? Can’t send a send to a send? :)

    This wouldn’t be a problem if I was mastering a wav file but I tend to compose, mix and master in the same project file.

    I realised if there’s an au effect that will simply play a wav file, I can just put that at the end of the master chain. I’ve tried with re-1 but every time I try to load my reference wav it crashes and needs reinstalling to open again. Are there any other au effects that do can just play a wav?

    Well, there’s a workaround for sending to a “send” in StageLight.
    If you own apeMatrix, it comes with some AU extensions that can be used in other audio hosts. One of them is the “Mixer Send Receive” Audio Unit that can be used to send the audio signal of an audio track to another audio track within the host.
    So, instead of “sending” your track to an FX, you just insert the “Mixer Send Receive” plugin in that track. Additionally, you need to create another audio track and insert the same plugin (Mixer Send Receive) as the first insert in the track. Then you add your effect as the second plugin. This way, a copy of your original audio track is “sent” to this new audio track in which you load your effect and finally you send this last track to your MASTERING Bus.
    You can set up to 16 “send” buses with “Mixer Send Receive” plugin.
    Hope this helps.

  • @Rodolfo said:

    @gregsmith said:

    @gregsmith said:
    @Rodolfo @wim thanks so much for taking the time to explain this. Really helpful.

    One issue I’ve found with this is that I already have sends setup for delay and reverb and I can’t route those sends through the mastering sub send I don’t think? Can’t send a send to a send? :)

    This wouldn’t be a problem if I was mastering a wav file but I tend to compose, mix and master in the same project file.

    I realised if there’s an au effect that will simply play a wav file, I can just put that at the end of the master chain. I’ve tried with re-1 but every time I try to load my reference wav it crashes and needs reinstalling to open again. Are there any other au effects that do can just play a wav?

    Well, there’s a workaround for sending to a “send” in StageLight.
    If you own apeMatrix, it comes with some AU extensions that can be used in other audio hosts. One of them is the “Mixer Send Receive” Audio Unit that can be used to send the audio signal of an audio track to another audio track within the host.
    So, instead of “sending” your track to an FX, you just insert the “Mixer Send Receive” plugin in that track. Additionally, you need to create another audio track and insert the same plugin (Mixer Send Receive) as the first insert in the track. Then you add your effect as the second plugin. This way, a copy of your original audio track is “sent” to this new audio track in which you load your effect and finally you send this last track to your MASTERING Bus.
    You can set up to 16 “send” buses with “Mixer Send Receive” plugin.
    Hope this helps.

    Ace! Thanks. Seems like apematrix is well worth getting

  • apeMatrix send/receive functionality is the icing on the cake. :)

  • edited April 29

    Just wanted to post the steps I use if I ever need a reference track for A/B testing in BeatMaker3 (it might be useful for some):

    1. Add a new audio track. Rename this track 'Reference'
    2. Drag your reference track from the file browser onto the timeline for the reference track.
    3. Find a free AUX channel (or create a new one for this purpose). Let's call this 'AUX3'
    4. Set your reference track channel settings to 'pre-fader sends', drop the fader to zero (-infinity) and increase the AUX3 send to approx. 80%
    5. Mute the AUX3 channel

    Once you've done this, you will only hear your current project unless you Solo AUX3, in which case you only hear the reference track.

    Un-soloing AUX3 returns to normal playback, so you can easily toggle between project and reference track with a single button

  • @stormbeats said:
    @gregsmith Personally I stay away from comparing mixes reference etc.
    Reason being you cannot tell if the eq etc for the reference track was done via Mastering or Mixing.
    Thats just me though each to their own. My method these days is to mix how I want it to sound then do reference Mastering/Compare.
    One key most important thing I used to tell my students ( was a sound engineering tutor for a few years back in the day) key thing most important before any mixing/mastering is to clean your ears Sound crazy but so true. Cotton buds number one in my tool kit

    That's terrible advice.

    Never stick those things in your ear, they push dirt & wax into the ear. If wax build up is a real concern then it's best to use waxsol or whatever drops a doctor might recommend.

    A tutor for which institution?

  • @BroCoast said:

    @stormbeats said:
    @gregsmith Personally I stay away from comparing mixes reference etc.
    Reason being you cannot tell if the eq etc for the reference track was done via Mastering or Mixing.
    Thats just me though each to their own. My method these days is to mix how I want it to sound then do reference Mastering/Compare.
    One key most important thing I used to tell my students ( was a sound engineering tutor for a few years back in the day) key thing most important before any mixing/mastering is to clean your ears Sound crazy but so true. Cotton buds number one in my tool kit

    That's terrible advice.

    Never stick those things in your ear, they push dirt & wax into the ear. If wax build up is a real concern then it's best to use waxsol or whatever drops a doctor might recommend.

    A tutor for which institution?

    @BroCoast A mental institution for the deaf

  • edited April 30

    @BroCoast so you are suggesting I tell a group of 20 students between the ages of 18 - 23 approx to all go to the doctors and get your above suggestions ..fairplay but don’t tell me about “terrible” . Have your say but stop the “terrible” talk. Too many getting too serious on here. Just so you know they survived and learnt what a Revox B77 is . Those cotton buds served several purposes. Now why would I say that - answer if you want . Student to teacher.

  • :D

    A lot better for cleaning a tape machine than ears that's for sure. You seem upset?

    Students would imply some kind of formal institution so what was it?

  • @stormbeats don’t answer. It’s a trap! :joy:

    I think this thread needs a Q Tip interlude...

  • edited April 30
  • @gusgranite said:
    @stormbeats don’t answer. It’s a trap! :joy:

    I think this thread needs a Q Tip interlude...

    :-)

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