What Is REFERENCE?
REFERENCE helps you get closer than ever to the sound of your favorite music. It does this by giving you the tools and insights you need to get your productions sounding more like your reference tracks. This page will explain the features and show you how to get the most value from this incredibly powerful plugin.
✓ Compare your mix or master to up to 12 reference tracks and create multiple loops so you can quickly compare various sections of your track to your reference.
✓ Instantly and accurately match the loudness of your track and your references. This is crucial for a fair comparison and for making informed decisions on how to shape your sound.
✓ Visual and actionable insights to make matching the true peak, loudness, EQ balance, punch, and stereo width of your reference tracks easier than ever.
✓ Includes an additional source plugin called REFSEND that allows you to bypass entire FX chains to make loudness-matched A/B comparisons.
✓ A great investment in yourself! REFERENCE customers often say this is their most-used plugin. Keep REFERENCE open during your sessions to help you efficiently create pro-sounding music.
Where To Load REFERENCE
To get started, load an instance of REFERENCE on the master bus of your project. REFERENCE should go after your metering plugin (we recommend our comprehensive metering plugin LEVELS of course) but before any headphone or speaker correction.
Wave Transport and Tools
Add A Reference
There are two ways to load reference tracks. You can either click ‘Add Reference Tracks’ and select the files from your computer or drag and drop your files onto the Wave Transport.
MIRROR / FREE
After loading your reference tracks, you will see the MIRROR and FREE buttons in the bottom left corner of the Wave Transport,.
When FREE is activated, you can navigate to any part of your reference track by clicking on the waveform.
MIRROR will match the playback location of your reference to your DAWs transport. This is useful for when you have a different version of the same track you’re working on and want to seamlessly jump between the versions at the same point in the song.
You can create loops in FREE mode. To create a loop, select and drag over the part of the waveform you wish to loop. Loop endpoints are automatically shifted to the nearest beat. You can create as many loops as you want. After creating a loop, click anywhere within the loop to activate it. Adjust a loop by dragging the loop lines and delete it by clicking the cross.
In the bottom right corner of the Wave Transport, you will see the Level Match button. When selected, this will accurately match the perceived loudness of the track you are working on and your reference tracks.
This is an absolutely crucial stage in comparing audio. Louder sounds give humans the illusion that they have a fuller bass and more clarity in the high frequencies. By level matching, you’ll be able to compare the tracks fairly and make mixing decisions with confidence.
The default option is to match your reference tracks to the volume of the original track you’re working on. You can also match the loudness to the quietest track, whether it’s the original or a reference track, to ensure safe headroom. The third option is to match all tracks to -14LUFS short-term which is comparable to the loudness normalization found on popular music streaming sites. You also have control over whether you match the loudness of individual tracks or all tracks.
Our recommendation is to keep Level Match turned on, set to ‘Match To Original’ and ‘All Tracks’ whether you’re mixing or mastering. All gain adjustments will be represented by the gain slider. Be sure to turn off level matching when bouncing if you use ‘Match to quietest’ or ‘All to -14short-term LUFS’ as this can alter the loudness of your original file.
When you have different versions of the same mix or master, there can be slightly different lengths of silence at the beginning of the tracks. It can be annoying and time-consuming when you have to line them up to jump between them seamlessly during referencing. The Track Align button does this laborious job for you in an instant so you can spend your time getting your track sounding it’s best.
If Track Align detects that you have loaded a reference track that is a different version of the track you’re working on (i.e. an alternate mix or master) the Track Align button will pop up in the bottom right corner of the Wave Transport. When you click Track Align, the selected reference will become aligned to the original track you are working on.
If you have multiple versions of the same song, you can align them all in one action by selecting ‘All Tracks’ in the Track Align settings popup.
(Note: Track Align often works best when you play the original in your DAW from the beginning. You can also click RESET next to ‘Automatically Align’ to align when at any point in the original track. Very rarely the track align algorithm may detect an incorrect alignment, in this situation just click RESET or choose Manual Align).
Manual Track Align
If you prefer to manually adjust the alignment, you can click ‘Manually Align’ to open the sample slider.
The slider direction works as if you were moving audio from within your DAW. Move the slider to the left to move your reference track forward, and move it to the right to delay it. Click the ‘Mix’ button to preview both your Original and Reference at the same time. This can make it easier to line up the two tracks manually. Click the cross to minimize the sample slider.
The Track Tabs display the tracks you’ve loaded into REFERENCE. You can toggle between your different references by clicking on the tabs. Double click on a Track Tab to change the label. Click the cross on a Track Tab to remove the selected file from REFERENCE.
Original / Reference Buttons
When the Original button is selected you will hear the audio you are working on in your DAW. The REFERENCE button will enable playback of whichever reference track is selected in the Track Tabs. The buttons are linked so you don't have to move your mouse to switch from Original to Reference.
(Note: The left arrow key toggles between Original and Reference. You can change this to any key you like in settings)
Both the Original and REFERENCE buttons are linked to peak and loudness meters. For the peak meter, you can select True Peak or Peak Programme, and for the loudness meter, you can select LUFS Integrated or Short-term. Click on the readouts or RESET in the bottom left corner to reset the meters.
The LUFS threshold can be adjusted to suit your preferences in settings. When creating a loud master, you might choose to set your LUFS threshold to around -6 LUFS short-term and work on the loudest section of your track. If you’re optimizing a master for streaming you might choose to set the target to -14 LUFS integrated. Alternatively, you can line up your loudness with your reference track to get a comparable loudness.
You can use the gain slider to adjust the gain of either the Original or REFERENCE track. The gain slider has a default range of -48dB to +24dB.
When using the Level Match feature, the gain of the tracks will be automatically adjusted in real time. You can see any gain increase or reduction on the gain slider. You can adjust the amount if you prefer, though manually adjusting the gain slider will disengage the level matching. To set the gain back to 0dB double click or ‘Alt+click’ on the slider.
Click the icon in the top right corner to jump between normal and compact mode. Click and drag the bottom right corner to change the width.
When you listen to your reference track and you compare it to your own music, it can be difficult to put your finger on what changes you need to make. The Trinity Display uses intelligent algorithms to show you how the frequency balance, stereo width, and punch of your track compares to your reference.
The white Level Line tells you how the EQ balance of your original song differs from your reference track.
The Trinity Display has a thin, faint line through the middle. This represents 0dB.
Use an EQ to match the level line curve to get your music sounding like your selected reference track.
Boost where the level line is above 0dB and cut where the level line is below 0dB.
Note: With the Level Line visual, you can switch between ‘EQ Match’ (default as explained above) and ‘EQ Difference. The EQ Difference setting inverts the Level Line display. Set your preference in settings.
What makes the Level Line completely unique and so useful? Trying to get your mix or master to match the frequency spectrum of a reference track simply will not work. This is because there are so many variables that affect how a track sounds (such as instruments, tuning, performance, samples, etc). The Level Line uses a complex algorithm created to specifically identify how the human ear perceives certain frequencies relative to the balance of the whole mix.
Looking at the example above, we can determine that around 0-200Hz, our original track need to be cut by around 3.5dB to have the same low-end balance as our reference. This might prompt us to reduce the volume of our bass, or add a low-frequency EQ cut to our kick.
We can also see that from 200-2kHz our original track has a similar amount of perceived volume to our reference. So we might not change this at all.
Finally, we can see that from 2kHz to 20kHz, our track needs a boost to match the tonal balance of the reference. We might decide to musically increase the high frequencies in our mix. Alternatively, we might decide that we like the dark sound of our mix and leave the EQ balance as it is.
The Level Line algorithm has 3 refresh modes, short, medium and integrated. With the short refresh mode, the Level Line updates over a 3-second period based on how your current EQ balance compares with your reference. The medium refresh mode updates over 10 seconds. With both short and medium refresh modes you don’t need to click reset for the level line to reflect changes made to the EQ of your track. The third option, ‘integrated’, accumulates input analysis data constantly. This gives a move stable reading but we advise that you click reset after any EQ changes made to your track. You can select your Level Line mode preference in settings.
You can hover your mouse over the Trinity Display to get specific dB and Hz readouts. You can also CTRL + Click to freeze a snapshot of the Level Lines current position. CTRL + Click again to remove it.
(Note: For the best results, use a reference track of the same sample rate as your session (i.e. 44.1kHz). If that’s not possible, use a very good sample rate converter to convert the reference track to the sample rate of your session).
REFERENCE uses SRC (sample rate conversion) when importing a reference track that has a different sample rate to the session. We cannot use super-accurate SRC as this will take too long for a collection of reference tracks to load. What we do in REFERENCE 2 is compensate for any frequency differences as a result of the SRC so that EQ 'matching' is not affected. In general SRC is bad, as it takes a long FIR filter to create a good low pass filter but that in turn affects transients in the source material. It's always best to reference with matching sample rates.
The Stereo Width shows you how wide the audio is across the entire frequency range of either the original track you’re working on or your reference.
Understanding the stereo spread of both your original track and your reference will help you get closer to the sound you want. You can use panning in your DAW or a stereo tool to reduce or increase the width of a specific frequency range in your track.
The Punch Dots in the Trinity Display will tell you how the short-term dynamic range of your track compares to the short-term dynamic range of your reference.
The Punch Dots will move towards the 0dB line if that frequency band is more compressed in your original than in the corresponding frequency range of your reference.
The Punch Dots will move away from the 0dB Line if that frequency range is less compressed in your original than in the corresponding frequency range of your reference. The more opaque the dots are the larger the difference between the punch of your track and the punch of the reference.
In the example below, we can see that the low-end from around 50-200Hz is showing the Punch Dots moving towards the 0dB line. This tells us that our original track has more compression in the low frequencies than the reference track. This might prompt us to reduce the compression on our kick or bass elements.
We can also see that from 200-1.5kHz the Punch Dots are barely visible. This means our original track has a similar amount of compression to our reference.
Finally, we can see that from 1.5kHz to 20kHz, the Punch Dots are moving away from the 0dB line. This means that the high frequencies are punchier in our track than in the reference. We may decide to compress these transients using a multi-band compressor, or we might decide that we actually like the punchy top end and leave it just as it is.
Soloing The Frequency Spectrum
To solo part of the frequency spectrum click anywhere inside the Trinity Display. This will automatically create a band solo that you can move and adjust. Click once more to un-solo that band and listen to the whole mix again, and click the cross to delete the band. Soloing the bands is a great way to zone in on the intricate differences between your mix and your references.
Changing The Scale
The Trinity Display has 4 different scales, ±5dB, ±10dB, ±15dB and ±20dB. By default, the range will automatically change to accomodate the Level Line readings. Each dotted line on the Trinity display represents 1dB.
To change the scale manually to a broader or more magnified setting, click the +/- numerical readouts at the bottom left or top left of the Trinity Display. Manually adjusting the scale will turn the AutoScale off. This can be switched back on in the settings.
If you are mastering a track and you want to visually see the intricate changes you have made then ±5dB would be the most magnified setting.
Trinity Display Settings
The Trinity Display was designed so you can easily see all three visuals simultaneously, but you can choose what visuals are enabled and disabled in the Trinity Display settings located just above the Trinity Display.
Click RESET in the bottom left corner to reset the Trinity Display data.
Note: REFERENCE 2 uses a new algorithm that automatically updates every 10 seconds, meaning you don’t need to click reset as often as you might have done with REFERENCE 1.
REFSEND is an additional plugin installed alongside REFERENCE that allows you to send audio to REFERENCE from within your DAW. This can be useful for when you want to hear the before and after effect of a plugin, an FX chain, or even your entire mastering chain.
Load up an instance of REFSEND in your DAW before the plugins that you want to A/B test. Ensure REFERENCE is instantiated after the plugins that you want to A/B test. Once REFSEND is instantiated, you’ll see a new Track Tab automatically appear labeled ‘REFERENCE SEND’. Select this Track Tab and toggle the Original and Reference buttons to A/B test.
You can use all of REFERENCE’s tools and insights with REFSEND, such as Level Match, Track Align, as well as the metering and all Trinity Display visuals.
Learn how to use music from YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music as a reference track using REFSEND here.
You can change the default settings of REFERENCE to suit your workflow. Click the cog wheel icon in the top right corner, choose your preferred defaults then click save.
Create Your Own Presets
Create and recall presets using the plugin wrapper in your DAW. When you create a preset you will be able to recall the reference tracks, the loops, the Level Match adjustments, and the Trinity Display settings.
We recommend creating presets categorized by genres you work in. You can then quickly recall your favorite reference tracks with the loops already created.
REFERENCE is available in VST, VST3, Audio Unit, and AAX formats.
MAC OSX Requirements
OS X 10.8 or higher. 64-bit AU, VST ⅔, or AAX host.
Windows 7, 8, or 10. 64-bit VST ⅔, or 64-bit AAX host.
When running the Mastering The Mix Global installer you can choose which of our software to install. If you wish to install further software at a later date then just re-run the installer and select the software you wish to install. Installed software will have a tick next to it and it will be greyed out.
(Please note to reinstall software you will first need to uninstall that particular software, see below for details).
AU - (Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Cubase, Garage Band, Presonus Studio One, and more).
VST & VST3 - (Ableton, Ableton Live, Acid PRO, Cubase, Nuendo, FL Studio, and more).
AAX - (Pro Tools).
The support files and software are installed to the following default locations.
On OSX these are:
/Applications/MasteringTheMix - for the Uninstaller program
/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components - for AU plugins
/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST - for VST plugins
/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3 - for VST3 plugins
/Library/Application Support/Avid/Audio/Plug-Ins - for AAX plugins
On Windows these are*:
C:\Program Files\MasteringTheMix\EXPOSE.exe (this was previously installed to C:\Program Files\EXPOSE.exe)
C:\Program Files\MasteringTheMix - for the Uninstaller program
C:\Program Files\Steinberg\Vstplugins - for VST plugins
C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3 - for VST3 plugins
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Avid\Audio\Plug-Ins - for AAX plugins
Following installation, you can move the files to your desired location if required.
* The exact drive letter may vary according to your system.
Please note all of our plugins are now 64-bit only.
To uninstall simply run the Uninstall program and then select the required options.
After you have purchased you will receive an email with a serial code in this format...
Online Authorisation (Default)
Open your Mastering The Mix Plugin in your DAW and click the KEY icon in the top right-hand corner of the plugin wrapper. This will open an authorization page where you can copy and paste your authorization key. Click ‘Authorise’, and you’re good to go! You will have two activations per license purchased.
Copy and paste the license code sent to you via email into the box below that says ‘Product Key’. Your license code will have this format: XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX.
Click 'Generate' to generate your Offline Activation Request XML. This file will be saved to your desktop.
Transfer this file to an online computer.
Upload the file to our website and you will receive an Activation Response XML file download.
Transfer that file onto your offline computer.
Click 'Load' then locate your Activation Response XML file to authorize your software offline.
Resetting Your License
Each license comes with 2 activation slots. These can be deactivated from within your software, or remotely from your online account whenever you need to free them up.
You can reset your license yourself by clicking the ‘key’ icon in the top right corner of the software. You’ll see a button that says ‘Deauthorize’. Click that and you’ll be able to use your license on a different machine.
You can remotely deactivate your license if you don't have access to the software. Login to your account, view the list of your products, then click “Deactivate 1 activation’ to deactivate your license there.
If you bought your license from one of our licensed resellers then you will have to register your license in your account area before you can deauthorize the license. Login to your account, then enter your license into the ‘Register License’ input box, then click register, and refresh the page. Your licenses may take a couple of seconds to appear.
Interactive Help Tips
You can activate/deactivate 'Tooltips’ in the settings. Hover your cursor over a feature to show the tooltip.
You can see if an update is available within the software itself. Just click the (?) icon in the top right corner of the software and you'll see the version number. If an update is available you'll also see a link to download the latest update.
You can find the release notes and latest versions for all of our plugins from the release notes section of our Help Center here.
Your Online Account
Purchases made directly from www.MasteringTheMix.com will automatically sync your downloads and licenses to your online account. You can register your licenses bought from our authorized resellers in your account area to give you access to remote license deactivation and the latest installer download links. Click the 'Register Product' tab, enter your license into the box, and click submit. You will find your license code and your installer download link listed under 'My products' after refreshing the tab.
If you have encountered a bug in our plugins, first of all, make sure that you are using the latest version of the plug-in. You can see if an update is available within the software itself. Just click the (?) icon in the top right corner of the software and you'll see the version number. If an update is available you'll also see a link to download the latest update. If the bug is still present in the latest version, please send us a support ticket and include as much technical information as possible: operation system and version, host software and version, steps to reproduce the bug, etc.