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Level-Matched A-B Comparison (part 2)

How to set up properly for A-B comparison:

In the first part of this series, we discussed the concept of level-matched A-B comparisons as an essential means of bringing your mixes up to professional standards. In this section, let’s talk about what equipment you need to get the most out of the exercise.

One of the drawbacks of DAWs is the lack of a monitoring section you find in large format consoles, which give you the ability to send your mix to different types of monitors on the fly. The lack of this section makes it difficult for professionals to use the A-B technique. Additionally, since many CDs have different overall levels, it can be awkward to listen strictly to the tone, balance, and texture of different recordings. Some monitoring paths are so clouded with an overall “tone,” you can’t really hear through the “mask” in order to make more precise and specific adjustments. If there is too much common masking tone in a system it becomes difficult searching for a subtle change that could make a big difference.

One solution to this inconvenience is the Presonus Central Station. It’s an entirely passive device, with no amplifier stages, op amps, or active IC’s in the signal path. Since it adds no color or character to the sound the tones, frequencies, spatiality, and balance are easy to distinguish. The level-matching controls keep you from being distracted by a difference in volume, which is the main source of discouragement. This gives you an edge by making it easy to compare your mix with the sound of hit records. By really taking the time to A-B your mixes with commercial productions, you can improve your sound by studying the differences in sonics. In this function, the Central Station becomes a mixing tool to discern sound qualities – not just a source-selector.

In the third and final part of this series, we’re going to tell you how to proceed with level-matched A-B comparison; how to listen, what to listen for and other practical tips that will enable you to start bringing the level of your mixing skills up to professional standards.

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