REFERENCE Plugin by Mastering the Mix - Mastering Tutorial Video How to Compare Reference tracks

How to Compare Reference Tracks for Mixing & Mastering with the REFERENCE Plugin [In-Depth Tutorial]

Learn How to Properly Compare Reference Tracks When Mixing & Mastering Using the REFERENCE Plugin from Mastering the Mix

When you Compare Reference Tracks, it’s Essential to Have the Right Tools for the Job:

Get the free demo of REFERENCE:


Common Problems When You Compare Reference Tracks:

We’ve all heard that using reference tracks while mixing and mastering is a good idea.  But how, exactly, do you do this properly? Comparing your music to fully mastered tracks is rife with problems:

  • Your track may not be in the mastering stage, so A/Bing against a mastered track can lead you astray.  
  • If your track is mastered, what if the amount of dynamic range, or loudness, is totally different?  How do you gain match them?
  • How do you objectively compare things like dynamic range, stereo width, or frequency balance?  
  • How can you hone in on how different frequency bands are treated in your referencing process?  

In This Tutorial Video

Merlyn Silva, an Ableton Certified Trainer on our team here at Warp Academy, is here to answer these questions for you.  In this in-depth tutorial, you’ll learn how to properly compare reference tracks when mixing & mastering using the REFERENCE plugin from Mastering the Mix.

This plugin has a unique and useful take on how to handle the referencing process.  It allows you to load in a number of reference tracks, and it allows a detailed analysis of them.  You can loop specific parts of the reference tracks to align them with the proper part of your track.  For example, comparing a drop or a chorus. You can create frequency bands to scrutinize what’s going on in the bass, mids, and highs.  

There’s a special “Trinity Display” that shows you if each frequency band is more or less compressed in the reference track than your song.  It’ll also show the level and stereo width of each band, relative to your reference tracks. Most importantly, it allows you to accurately gain match all the songs you’re listening to using LUFS (loudness units full scale).  This gain adjustment will allow you to load up tracks that have been mastered louder or quieter than yours, and still use them to make very useful judgments.

Final Thoughts

We’ve been using REFERENCE for our own mixdowns & masters for some time now and it’s by far the most effective plugin for the job.  It’s dramatically improved our ability to learn from the production and engineering on tracks we love. It gives you laser focus on exactly the type of details that are important when putting the finishing touches on your new song.  

Follow along with Merlyn as he puts REFERENCE through its paces in a real example with one of his own songs.  

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Skip to Somethin’:

0:10 Intro

1:04 First look at REFERENCE

1:22 Demo of the track to be mastered

1:53 Adding a reference track

2:23 How to A/B between reference & original tracks

3:05 Mirror vs Match function

3:20 How to set up & activate a loop

3:54 Using Track Align & Gain Match

4:51 How to use LUFS to match loudness

6:02 The Trinity Display

6:23 Analyzing dynamic range

6:39 Adjusting dynamic range with multi-band compression

8:08 How to analyze & match stereo width of each band

8:32 Using EQ Eight to adjust stereo information

9:10 Final A/B comparison of the quick master to the reference