Analog Summing And Why You Shouldn’t Care

| Mixing, Tips

There’s a big debate looming in the recording world and it revolves around analog summing. People say that mixing “in the box” will never sound as good as using analog summing.

So what is summing, and why is analog supposedly better? Great questions. Today I want to briefly explain the issues at hand and help you to realize that you shouldn’t care.

What Is “Wrong” With Digital Summing?

The concept of summing is a simple one really. When you record and mix many tracks together (whether on a console or in your computer) you eventually have to mix them all down through a single stereo track (your master fader) so you can print (or render) a final stereo file. This process of funneling all your tracks together is called summing. Just like in math, when you add things together you get the sum of those parts.

This originally all took place in the analog domain, inside a mixing console. When digital recording and mixing was becoming a reality, people complained of the sound of the summing that was happening inside the computer. The argument goes that when you take tracks that are digital in nature and sum them together digitally, you get an inferior final mix. It is said that digital summing sounds cold, harsh, and broken.

Analog Summing To The Rescue

The solution then to this digital problem was to take individual tracks (or groups of tracks) out of the digital domain and sum them together in an analog console (or more affordably, an analog summing box like the Dangerous 2 Buss), and then take that final stereo analog signal and bring it back into the computer as your final stereo track. You could keep the advantage of digital recording and mixing in a DAW, but benefit from the “warm, wide, and huge sound” of the analog summing. That’s the idea at least.

Why This Debate Is Silly

There are two huge problems with this analog summing debate. First it becomes a crutch and excuse for poor mixing. Analog summing will not make your bad mixes better. More mixing will help make your bad mixes better. You need experience. Remember, there is no magic bullet in recording or mixing. If there were, no one would need to learn this craft. We would all just go out and buy what we need and instantly be churning out pro mixes.

Secondly there are many amazing pro mixers out there who DON’T use analog summing. They mix entirely in the box (ITB). Guys like Dave Pensado (Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilerra),  Charles Dye (Ricky Martin, Bon Jovi, Sammy Hagar), and even my friend and fellow blogger Kevin Ward (www.MixCoach.com) all mix in the box. Their work speaks for themselves.

At the same time some of my other favorite mixers like Mixerman (check out Zen And The Art Of Mixing) and Fab Dupont of PureMix.net both swear by analog summing. These guys are incredible mixers as well and their work speaks for itself. The point? Analog summing is not the common denominator among these top mixers, their skill and experience is.

So What Should You Care About?

Now that you know that this debate about analog summing is silly and pointless in your quest for better mixes, you should get back to what matters: making more and better music in your studio. Proper use of gain staging, eq, and compression will get you a lot further in your mixing career than an analog summing box. I guarantee it.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Ready to transform your recordings and mixes?

Sign up now and get my BEST material absolutely FREE.

316 Responses to “Analog Summing And Why You Shouldn’t Care”

  1. Kris Hanson

    I’ve never used analog summing, and I don’t know if it sounds any better, so I’m just playing devil’s advocate here….

    It makes sense that analog summing isn’t a magic bullet to combat bad mixing, but I bieve Mixerman’s argument for analog summing is that it makes mixing easier for him and it sounds better to him. While analog summing probably won’t benefit those that are your target audience (less than expert mixers who probably can’t afford a Dangerous 2 Buss anyway), it seems to make a difference to somebody. Mixerman’s stance has always been “try it, if you hear a difference that you like, then use it”. Unfortunately, in some circles this translates into “you must use this equipment or you aren’t pro”. This is unfortunate because it isn’t true for the reasons you said in your article.

    Reply
    • owen sands

      I use analog summing because I use ableton. Ableton summing isnt that great imo. Ableton is amazing for electronic music workflow though so that is why I went this route. Also it makes it easy to incorporate outboard analog hardware compressors and such which in my opinion with the right pieces sound better then any plugins(which some people from your ITB mixes list DO use outboard as well; Dave Pensado). Also you are right. Mixing skills are the first thing to focus on but watch pensado’s place most recent episode with al schmidt to see what he says about analog summing on a console. He says its simply better(to his ears) and he says that there are also great mixes done in the box but that same engineer would have a better mix if he did it on a console. He also he says hes tried the comparison tons of times and analog always wins for him. Its really a matter of preference. YOU SHOULD care about it if you prefer the sound of analog summing, which I do. Telling people they shouldn’t care about it is just silly. You should always be curious about things and try to see if you like them yourself before accepting anyone else’s end all be all statements.

      Reply
    • Crap mixer

      All the talk don’t mean a thing if you don’t have a hit. I use both and some clients like the ITB and others like the console. It pay my BILLS and I just do not worry about analog vs digital. i worry about pleasing the clients…

      Reply
  2. Eric Johnson

    Hi Graham,

    This is a truth-filled article. By pointing out that we’ve heard great mixes (and bad ones) from ITB and Analog Summing proponents, one must realize that the common denominator is the skill and talent of the persons that create the good mixes rather than whether or not they employ Analog Summing. In coming weeks we’ll be interviewing representatives from several vendors with clear bias, but we’ll continue to stress to our readers and listeners that sharpening their skills with experience is the most valuable investment.

    Reply
  3. Smurf

    I decided to try this out by running a mix-down thru my Behringer UB802 mixer, and there was a difference…..if it was good or bad I am still trying to decide! LOL

    Reply
  4. Andrew Bauserman

    Graham – you’re right, it’s not a magic bullet. I’ll parrot Rob Arbittier (Stevie Wonder, AudioNowCast) and say there’s no theoretical reason why ITB summing must be inferior — but some implementations are flawed. Floating-point math (in ProTools 10) is superior to integer math (some DAWs had floating-point years ago). Your friend Kevin Ward uses Harrison’s MixBus, and mentions guys running mixes from other system through MixBus for summing because it’s that much better (and provides Tape Saturation on all output buses just because it can). For $150, the full MixBus system is the price of a plug-in — and a fraction of a Dangerous 2 Bus, or even a Protools 10 upgrade license :)

    Reply
    • Alex

      well, summing and tapes, if calibrated right that they dont color the sound then its no difference if its made in digital or analog domain. But EQs will make difference still — so far I havent found no plugin which sounds like “these british analog eqs”.

      Reply
      • Anco

        very true! Not only (vintage) analog EQ’s like Neuman, Aphex Aural Excite or Telefunken are unbeatable……that also goes for analog compressors like Telefunken, Avalon – I don’t think plugins can put up with this.

        Reply
  5. Mark

    If I’m running a high track count in the box, I believe I do perceive a bit of “semearing” in the soundscape coming off the 2 buss now and again although I’m not sure if that’s a case for analog summing or just the limits of my decient but not super high-end D to A converter revealing themselves. I also did a mix for one of my own tunes with a pretty successful mix engineer, tracks on radio, etc and we ran two mixes in the end – one rendered straight out of Pro Tools and one broken out through a Dangerous Box. Honestly, the difference was very slight at best IMO and I actually liked the “in the box mix” better.

    Personally, what I think people are really looking for when they praise external summing is the sound of older, analog recordings and that’s probably just as much, if not more, the result of tape and tape compression than the desk they put that stuf through broken out (although, of course, that does make a difference).

    Ultimately, I think audio peeps always need something to debate but really, at the end of the day, the only thing we should care about is – Is this a great song? Was it arranged, recorded and mixed well enough as to move me in some way? If so, as Graham says, it doesn’t really matter what mix process was used.

    Reply
  6. Dean

    I own a dangerous dbox and I love it! That being said…..i have to agree with you. There truly is no magic gear that will fix any bad mix.

    Reply
  7. Carlos Mitil

    Well Said Mark… “Is this a great song?”.

    I was sent a mono scratch track of a vocal and guitar. One mic in front of the performer. I listened to the song and immediately was moved by it. I enjoyed it so much I burned it as is (plus a little limiting) to have in the car so I can hopefully pull inspiration from for the actual recording and mixing process of said song. “Is this a great song?” Yes,
    sure it can made better, but better from great is what you want.

    Reply
  8. David Dietz

    Better is a subjective classification. DIfferent is more accurate. We offer analog summing boxes to be used as another tool in your toolbox. We always need to be careful when we venture into “better-land” with Audio. Our engineer Terry puts it very well. “With modern DAW software, mixing within the computer has resulted in some great sounding recordings, but I have long been intrigued by the concept of analog summing. I was not prepared to pay $800.00 or more to test that theory, so I engineered and built my own. Then to test the theory, I set out to see if there was any difference in the mixed sound. Much to my amazement and pleasure, I did notice a subtle but very pleasing difference in the stereo separation and placement of the instruments compared to my In the Box mixes.”

    Not Better, Different.

    Reply
    • John

      Analog summing does sound better. This article is just an excuse for this guy to say what he wants to say & add some tech cred. In ITB mixing all summing & staging is virtual. The headroom is not real & you can
      hear it unless your deaf. Adding the Neve Summing mixer saved my mixes. That & using outboard gear. You cannot replace the sound of actual transformers with 1s & 0s. I had outsourced a mix to a pro guy. He said he was going to use his ssl desk. I got the mix back & I called him & cussed him out. He didn’t think I’d hear the fact it was actually mixed in his LE editing studio. What kinda world are we living in? If you can’t hear the difference between ITB mixes & analog summed mixes you should quit music. This article jests these ITB mixes are true ITB mixes. They aren’t. Even if it is in mastering they are going to analog gear. You can do a Justin Timberlake record ITB. Easily. But when all these commercial tracks are mastered they go through a mastering desk. I’m an excellent mixer. Im not spending $400K on a Neve desk. Outboard gear is everything. If you can find blueprints to vintage gear you can pay someone to build cheaper clones. Better that than using trashy plugins. Sorry folks. Huge sonic difference between digital & analog. You have to marry the two. And it’s happening at some point on every album this guy mentions here but swears it isn’t.

      Reply
      • Aaron Poehler

        “You cannot replace the sound of actual transformers with 1s & 0s.”

        Nice to see someone still records on and masters to tape.

        Reply
      • Jason

        Absolutely analog is the go. Back in the day we had no choice but use outboard gear, I then switched to plug ins like everyone else, very convenient but when u revisit analog, u realise what u have lost. Since then I have completely refit my studio back to outboard gear….32 channel large format analog console, api, neve, universal audio, lexicon, ssl outboard and it sounds like real records again, classy and fat. I literally use no plug ins ever. It’s also easier to set up a good mix. Recall isn’t as convenient but it tends to get u to finish songs. I also detest software instruments, analog synths are plentiful and affordable, there is no reason to not use them. ITB mixing is a cop out for the younger guys who have not had a chance to do it real or those who don’t have the money to buy real gear. Denial is delusion. If u can’t afford the gear, then do your best in software, ultimately it’s the song that counts, peace out.

        Reply
      • jermaine

        In the box still sounds good,its older ppl that cant change with the times.if digital is so cold/bad,then clearly going to amastering desk shouldnt help at all right? Life would be boring as hell if everyone did the same old thing.do your analong and let other ppl use digital.they both get the job done and thats a fact.if you dont like plugins then dont use them,but dont be little and trash other ppl because they use them.no consumer. Listens to a damn song and says…damn that analog gear sounds great!

        Reply
        • cheezy

          you soooooo fucking right!!! A great friend of my’s mixed nicki minaj “looking” all in the box with only plug ins and the song is a hit!! older generations just upset how times have changed!! when these records hit the air waves, not a soul who download this music from itunes dislike it because it was “all in the box” or “analog”!! people still making millions with these records!! so I agree with jermaine!!!! If you can mix then it doesnt matter freaking matter which one you prefer!! its all about skills people!!!

          Reply
  9. czar

    Dangerous D-box owner here, so I am a analog summer. After doing a mix on a SSL duality console and comparing the same mix ITB I was sold on analog summing. there is a definitely a difference. Both sound good but I prefer analog summing over ITB. My favorite advantage of analog summing is the increased headroom you get from using 8 or 16 outputs rather than have everything going to outputs 1-2.

    Reply
    • Dan Worrall

      “My favorite advantage of analog summing is the increased headroom you get from using 8 or 16 outputs rather than have everything going to outputs 1-2″

      You don’t get extra headroom by summing analogue. Its the other way around in fact: modern DAWs with floating point internal resolution can be considered to have infinite headroom, way more than any outboard summing unit or the converters you run your signals through to get them there.

      Reply
  10. Jacek

    In relation to your RC-Tube video and VCC in general, I still haven’t figured out the right gain staging approach.
    VCC is encouraging you to push the levels instead of keeping them under control. Even Steven Slate says not to worry about that too much.

    Perhaps you could do a video on your approach to gain staging with the inclusion of RC-Tube/VCC.

    Reply
    • Graham

      I don’t do anything differently. I just put VCC on and then mix through it.

      Reply
  11. Dan

    I use analog summing plugin only when i feel my mix is already good enough. They add flavor to the mix, but i never consider them as a magic bullet.

    Reply
  12. DC

    You kind of skirted the more technical side of the discussion and jumped to your conclusion, although I agree: it’s the monkey on the mouse that matters.

    What most summing set-ups require you to do is downmix ITB your numerous tracks to a set number of outputs of your DAW, to match up with a limited number of inputs (8 or 16) of your summing box. So you’ve already” taken the hit” of digital summing (if that’s what you were trying to avoid) in doing so, just in smaller groups. Then, you are adding “analog yumminess” (a technical term) in your summer, only to now have to go A/D with the final mix BACK into the DAW to print your final mix (unless you have the luxury of printing to analog tape and your client can afford the tape, you can get consistent tape stock, don’t mind the tape hiss and low end distortion and image smear).

    Needless to say, I like mixing ITB, I like the total recall-ability, and have learned how to work the software to get solid mixes. Lots of gold and platinum credits to show for it. BTW, I don’t rely on the mastering guy to make me look good… but that’s another rant for another day.

    Last axiom from me: Want better mixes? Record better tracks!

    Reply
  13. Chelo

    I get the point of this article, although I kind of do disagree with you in this one Graham, of course there is no “need” to do analog summing, but even when mixing through the Soundcraft DC2000 in my friend’s studio, mixing is so much easier and fun, and I totally feel that it is because of the 3Dness it adds to the sound, not to mention I sat in a mix session where they used a 2bus LT, and it is just amazing. Although I gotta tell people, you gotta mix through the thing the whole time, not just go through it when ready to print (wrong way of using it, sompe people are doing that). Anyway, if it’s easier and more fun, I take it.

    Reply
  14. Anthony Celia

    I love this site and what I have learned. I also love the discussion. I have come to this conclusion. I am 26. I didn’t grow up with analog boards or 2 inch tape. And most people my age didn’t either. Most people my age who are in a home studio don’t really know what that sounds and feels like from a hands on experience. I am learning that analog summing, or things like the VCC come down to one thing. Does it sound good. Not better or “authentic”. I can’t tell if it sounds “authentic”, because my reference point and “normal” is digital. I have bought the VCC. I don’t know if it really makes my mix sound like it is going through a Neve or SSL. The question is does it add to my mix in a positive way? Sometimes is does, sometimes it doesn’t. Like Graham said, first learn how to get a great mix! I am done ha.

    Reply
    • Graham

      You’re spot on Anthony. I grew up with Pro Tools. Have always mixed in a DAW so it’s the norm for me. I’ve learned HOW to mix in a DAW to get things sounding just right. It’s a bit different than mixing through a summing mixer or a console because of the headroom issue.

      For the analog guys a summing mixer can be a helpful tool so they can mix the way they are used to (pushing the faders etc). For me, I don’t need it.

      Reply
      • John

        Actually an analog summing mixer separates all the tracks & sums them together using real headroom & real transformers. You guys need to study what transformers & capacitors do to effect sound. Some of you guys are saying things like its the tape compression that made the sound not the board. Who are you people? It’s tape that destroyed the sound of the desks.
        Neve added musical harmonic distortion to the gain stages which creates the Neve desk sound. That can’t be done in the digital environment. The only advantage to digital is the freq response range is open. Tape smashed everything. If you
        Guys tried to mix one of my songs ITB it would make you want to quit. You guys need to research what sound is. What amplified sound is. Not beating you up but you guys are just trying to play nice concerning why your ITB mixes don’t measure up. Unless you’re mixing dinky songs & dinky sounds they’re not going to. Sooner you accept that the better off you will be. I spent $6000 on the Neve sum box. Great investment.

        Reply
        • Daniel

          I´ve a question, I hava a Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 (firewire, 32 in-16 out) and I try this: I hava a 9 track song,
          I route each track to a channel on the Presonus so I have 9 tracks via firewire (ch 1 to 9), then I send it out throuht the Main exits of the presonus and conect those
          exits to 2 channles of the presonus again (ch 15-16) and record that sound on the pro tools again. I don`t know if I´ve explained myself.
          that count as analog Summing?

          Reply
      • JSW

        Graham,

        You state “Have always mixed in a DAW….” I thoroughly enjoy your tips, videos, product reviews, etc. But, maybe you shouldn’t write an article about something you’ve never done while having such a strong opinion. Looks like you’ve never mixed on a console or through an analog summer based on your statement I quoted. You probably should have done so for a while, done your own comparisons before writing this article. It just doesn’t make sense.

        Reply
        • Graham

          I understand your point. But unfortunately the original point of this post was not that ITB is better than analog summing. Or that analog summing shouldn’t be used. It was that WAY too many people think that the reason their mixes don’t sound good is because they don’t have an analog summing box or console. When the reason most people’s mixes don’t sound good is because their not good at mixing (yet). My point in this post was to simply point out that analog summing is not needed to make a great mix, so stop worrying about it and get back to what matters.

          Reply
  15. jonmgill

    I have a rather interesting workflow that combines mixing ITB and mixing analog, I do all my automation and set up gain structures etc ITB and then essentially send the outputs of subgroups etc to subgroups so I can have a tactile environment for big picture stuff. May not be everyone’s favorite method but it certainly works for me. Then you get all the benefits of mixing ITB but you also get some of that analog character–another way a great number of producers get that analog feel in a digital mix is to print the master to 2-track tape. Ultimately, my workflow allows the best of both worlds and lets me harness the power of both environments, and I daresay that’s the best way to go.

    Reply
    • jonmgill

      …”send outputs of subgroups etc to *[my console] so I can have a tactile environment…”

      Reply
  16. Mixerman

    Digital summing isn’t harsh or cold. That might be part of the problem right there.

    Switching from digital summing to good analog summing shortly after completing your static mix Frame, and at the point when you begin to struggle with the mix. This is the ideal time to understand exactly what you gain when summing analog because your sensitive to changes without being hypersensitive. In descriptive terms, your mix will be wider, punchier, with deeper lows, and more illusion of depth. Done properly you should recognize just how much benefit you’re getting from the analog summing.

    As to me being “used” to analog mixing, I recorded the entire Pharcyde album on a DAW in 1992. I have a vast basis of comparison when it comes to different desks, recorders, converters and platforms, and I find it nothing short of humorous when someone tries to explain away my warnings with age bias. I was used to the auditory schmear that happens from mixing on a desk, yet somehow I managed to transition to midfield mixing with no impediments between myself and the monitors. That’s a strawman argument.

    You realize, of course, you’re basically arguing that you can’t hear something that’s rather obvious and repeatable. Something that I demonstrate for clients (with anything but golden ears) on a weekly basis. To make matters worse, you’re admitting to this in public. I always find that to be a fascinating position to take. “I can’t hear what you hear! Therefore you’re wrong.”

    Huh.

    It’s possible you haven’t had the proper basis of comparison. It’s possible you don’t have a proper space for critical monitoring. I don’t know why you’ve come to your conclusions. All I know is that I’m merely encouraging people to try analog summing for themselves in the way I prescribe in Zen and the Art of Mixing.

    Out of curiosity, what summing have you tried, and how did you perform your comparisons? What kind of program did you use? What was the basic track count? What converters and clock did you use?

    Enjoy,

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • Graham

      Hey Mixerman, let me first say that I’m honored to have you post here on The Recording Revolution. Truly.

      I’m a big fan of your mixing work (especially Lifehouse, thinking “Spin”) and your book “Zen And The Art Of Mixing” is a great read. One of the more practical mixing books I’ve ever read because you describe mixing as more of an artform (big picture stuff) than a science (tell me what knobs to turn). I’ve recommended it here on the blog AND given copies away because it’s one every mixer or aspiring mixer should read.

      That being said, what I’m arguing for in this article is a sense of perspective. Many aspiring mixers can get lost in the sea of gear, upgrades, and plugins that the pros use in search of that magic bullet that will make their mixes sound like a Mixerman mix. But much of the time they would be better served by learning (and practicing) the basics: gain staging, panning, EQ, compression, automation, arrangement, etc.

      When it comes to the practice of analog summing in particular, I wanted to merely point out that how one sums (ITB or OTB) does not determine whether they can make a pro sounding mix or not. Hence why I compared analog summing mixers like yourself and my friend Fab Dupont to guys who simply sum in the box. I wanted to point out that there must be some OTHER common denominator that makes a pro mix: namely experience and tasteful use of inherently accesible tools (EQ, compression, etc).

      In your book you make a very strong case for analog summing. So strong in fact that it seems as if you’re saying one CAN’T get a great mix without it. In the end I know you suggest readers simply try it for themselves and come to a conclusion on their own (a great idea), but it’s clear that you’re passionate about the practice and that it works well for you (and many, many others).

      What I’m trying to make the case for here in this article and on the blog in general is that there is SO much more that goes into a great mix than summing and more often than not, what newer mixers need is more practice, more experience with solid EQ and compression technique, and to develop their tastes as a mixer and listener.

      Cheers,
      Graham

      Reply
      • SG

        I’m (as Mixerman) am still curious:

        ["Out of curiosity, what summing have you tried, and how did you perform your comparisons? What kind of program did you use? What was the basic track count? What converters and clock did you use?"]

        [Edit: Nevermind, saw your answer to that.]

        Reply
  17. David Dietz

    Hey all. I hope this is not too crass, but I have been following this thread and felt compelled to drop in a shameless plug for the Unit Audio analog summing boxes that my pal Terry builds. For about the price of another plugin, you can try real analog summing.

    Reply
  18. Mixerman

    From Zen and the Art of Mixing:

    “That’s right; I’m telling you that your DAW in its stock form is going to make life not just difficult, but untenable as it relates to mixing. That doesn’t mean you can’t make your clients happy (we all have clients that are easy to please). It certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t come up with an amazing arrangement. It means you’re facing a limitation so severe and so critical to mixing that your main instrument is essentially broken. Your results will remain severely compromised until you fix the problem.”

    From the Introduction of Zen and the Art of Mixing:

    “Pulling emotional impact out of a track is accomplished through concrete techniques, so you can actually learn how to do this. Once you begin to recognize all that goes into a great song and arrangement, which in turn should promote an inspired perfor- mance (knock on wood), you’ll start to work on a different level from everyone else. Manipulating sound as it relates purely to sound is irrelevant to music. It’s your ability to manipulate emo- tional impact as it relates to sound that will make you a great artist, producer, or mixer.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t real-world consequences to the gear we choose. Gear surely matters, and we’ll be discussing exactly what gear matters and why. But if you haven’t developed your ears enough to readily identify the differences you’re hearing and how they actually affect sound, then what does it really matter? As you get better at mixing, as you become more adept at hearing and more sensitive to emotional impact, you’ll naturally become more sensitive to what you want out of your gear. You could have the greatest, most accurate mixing setup in the world, but until you have some years under your belt you’re not going to hear even half the things that I do. The good news is that your hearing and mixing will improve concurrently with your gear. Even the most modest mixing setup should be good enough for now, and certainly won’t preclude you from this book. I’ll bet you’re glad to read that!”

    I’m pretty clear in the book. At some point in your career, when making the transition from hobbyist, to part-timer, to professional, you should carefully investigate analog summing. It will make mixing easier, you’ll fight the audio less which allows you to concentrate on the music more, and as a result your mixes will greatly improve. I lay out an exact methodology for accurately testing analog summing for yourself, and I explain clearly that you must have adequate critical monitoring (which includes the acoustic space in which the monitors reside), and some time mixing under your belt in order to notice the marked improvement analog summing offers.

    EQ and compression techniques are a wank. These merely need to be practiced. Nothing more, nothing less. I can give you precise instructions on how to use a compressor, and you’ll still fuck it up on your first batch of mixes. And I’m not suggesting a neophyte go out and purchase summing. It’s far more important to have accurate monitoring. Of course, once you have accurate monitoring, then other problems become more obvious. Any PROFESSIONAL who finds himself struggling to mix in an accurate room needs to seriously consider analog summing. If you find yourself getting good at mixing but not over the hump, try analog summing BEFORE you purchase that big expensive plugin bundle. The summing will make the bigger difference by a mile.

    I certainly don’t mind push back to my arguments, and I’m all for a good debate, but the benefit of analog summing is something I can prove time and time again to anyone who sits in the room with me. Given this, I’m quite curious what summing boxes you’ve actually personally put through their paces, and how you did it.

    Thanks,

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • Graham

      I’m not disagreeing that analog summing is a helpful tool for many. My point is that clearly it’s not necessary for great mixes, even Grammy winning mixes. If it were, why would we have other pro mixers mixing in the box? Wouldn’t they just get a summing box or sum through a console as well?

      To your question about me personally. I worked in a studio where everything was summed through an SSL and I’ve taken part in other people’s blind tests (comparing summing out and in the box), but I’ve never been interested in doing my own tests. I’ve basically grown up in Pro Tools land and that’s what I’m used to (as explained here: http://therecordingrevolution.com/2012/05/14/embracing-the-pro-tools-generation/). I’m not remotely interested in analog summing. If however, I saw that nobody who’s anybody in the pro mixing world was mixing ITB then I would need to strongly consider it.

      I’m sure you find me ignorant, and that’s OK. Your work speaks for itself, as does your career. Mine is a little less impressive. Regardless, the heart of this blog, and my heart personally, is to help people get away from debates like this (summing OTB vs ITB, 44.1khz vs 96khz, Apogee converters vs stock Digi/Avid converters) and instead focus on technique and experience. That’s where people are going to actually see improvement in their mixes and in their understanding of working with audio.

      If in time some people want to play with different summing options (or sample rates or converters) then they should. But I personally don’t believe that those things are what will make or break their results.

      Reply
  19. Mark Bacino

    Mixerman,

    Much respect to your ears and your work, obviously they speak for themselves, and no doubt there is a difference between in the box and broken out mixes (whether one is better or worse is, IMHO, a personal decision) but I think what Graham’s trying to do with this post (and really with this whole site) is encourage folks, especially younger musicians, to dive into the art of music making – recording/mixing, etc – without feeling held back by their lack of experience or “proper/expensive” recording gear.

    For the first time in history musicians coming up have access to incredibly proficient creation tools. One could argue the average teenage musician has a more powerful means of recording via his/her laptop than The Beatles had access to when making “Pepper” (I’m jealous I had a quarter in. 8-trk reel to reel and a crappy Fostex board), but unfortunately along with all that power and freedom comes, for some, an intimidation factor, so I think a lot of the folks that read this blog are just looking to overcome those feeling and simply begin to get their ideas on tape (drive ;-). As you mentioned, summing choice is probably a worry these budding engineers should grow into (if they choose to) once they’ve got the basics down and as such, maybe this is a discussion best reserved for Gearslutz or some such forum.

    Lastly, all debate aside, in the end, I always keep reminding myself as I work (and I think you’d agree) it’s first and foremost about the song anyway…

    Crappy Song + The Best Mix (in the box or out) = Crappy Song

    A lesson I’m far more worried about folks learning than any engineering practice.

    All the Best,
    Mark

    Reply
  20. Carlos Mitil

    I would like to jump in here and say that before I found this site I was never finishing projects… Never. I spent more time researching gear and saving to buy gear then I did on recording. I felt like I just didn’t have enough of “the necessities” to make great music. Not to mention that I had no clue how to implement the basic fundamental ITB tools, such as EQ and Compression. Today, (almost entirely) because of this site and Graham’s tutorials, I am actually recording and truly having a blast doing it. Sure I still want certain pieces of gear and am curious to try new things out but the point is, that it is not necessary to have that “one mic”, that “all powerful plugin”, or that “must have outboard gear” to make great music. If I go back to that mentality, then I’ll be sitting around waiting and never feeling adequate enough to even try.

    Reply
  21. Mixerman

    “Much respect to your ears and your work, obviously they speak for themselves, and no doubt there is a difference between in the box and broken out mixes (whether one is better or worse is, IMHO, a personal decision) but I think what Graham’s trying to do with this post (and really with this whole site) is encourage folks, especially younger musicians, to dive into the art of music making – recording/mixing, etc – without feeling held back by their lack of experience or “proper/expensive” recording gear.”

    And my point is that my book puts a heavy emphasis on approaching mixing from the music side of things, and I don’t know how one could read my book and think otherwise. I mean, here you are telling ME that the song is the most important thing, despite my having written over twelve years ago on Usenet my Ten Steps to Better Mixing, in which number 2 is: If the song sucks the mix is irrelevant. So, you can’t bring up the importance of a song as debating point, when I’ve already given the song supreme importance, well over a decade before the debate began.

    Next you’re going to tell me how much important the performances are than the summing. Let me save us all a little time. I stipulate to that!

    So, we shouldn’t care about our tools because of that? There’s a big difference between making music for fun, and making music for money. And when I get paid for something, I make sure that there’s nothing getting in my way of a killer product. This way, on those occasions when I’m working with a killer singer and an amazing song, I can rest easy knowing I’m not allowing the technology to get in the way. Great songs will transcend lesser recordings. That doesn’t mean we don’t try hard.

    Graham wrote: “I’m not remotely interested in analog summing. ”

    It’s interesting, because I don’t typically write entire articles about things I’m not interested in. It seems to me, that you’re not interested in is doing the comparison. That only makes you ignorant. Why would you ever want to be ignorant? More importantly, why would you admit to wanting to be ignorant about a subject you’re giving advice on?

    Seriously. You can’t reasonably claim I’m wrong when you haven’t even tried it for yourself in the way I prescribed.

    Enjoy,

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • Mark Bacino

      Mixerman,

      Agreed that professional engineers, mixers, etc should care deeply about the quality of the work they’re creating and the tools they use to reach that end but again, I think you’re missing the core point of this post/site (as I believe it to be, not speaking for Graham) which is to encourage folks starting out to simply get in the game of recording, not be held back by their lack of gear and to help them make good recordings with the stuff they have (which these days is of pretty high quality even if they own Garageband & a cheap I/O). From what I’ve seen, most people who visit this site are not pro engineers and as such really shouldn’t concern themselves, at this point, with analog summing, vintage mic pres and the like.

      May be presumptuous of me to say, so forgive me, but you might have gotten the gist of this site and it’s user-base if you looked around here a bit before you posted but probably no more presumptuous than you assuming I’ve read your book (I haven’t) or some post you put up on Usenet 12 years ago concerning your thoughts on the importance of the song (although glad to hear we agree on that point).

      Best,
      Mark

      Reply
      • Mixerman

        Hey Mark,

        You know, the article IS right above this discussion. So, I and everyone else can read exactly what it is that Graham is saying, which is different from what YOU are saying. I get that the site is geared towards hobbyists. And I agree completely that hobbyists are a ways from worrying about analog summing. But I’m exceptionally clear in my book not to worry about the gear, that your gear will improve concurrently with your abilities. I even posted the exact quote in a post above here. How is that message at odds with yours?

        I know you want to rewrite history on this, but it’s quite clear that Graham insists I’m wrong about the issues with digital summing. He says so directly, and he backs up his statement with mixers who I know personally, and whom he has likely never even spoken to. Then, when we dig a bit deeper, we come to find out he hasn’t even tried a direct comparison between analog and digital summing himself. He’s worked on an SSL years ago. Oh great. So much experience!

        Graham also calls the summing debate a silly one. Yet he can’t be bothered to actually figure out if there is some merit to the position first? Now THAT’S what I call silly.

        Graham, would you like me to arrange for you to try this for yourself?

        Enjoy,

        Mixerman

        Reply
        • Joe Knouse

          What’s with the anger? You are a professional, successful, wealthy, and accomplished human. If you are so certain of your process, why are you even reading this blog? Don’t you have work to do? Why do you sound so threatened?

          Reply
    • Joe Knouse

      All of your artless plugs for your book are actually driving me away from your suggestions.

      Obviously your career speaks to a person who at the very least is a very talented salesman/businessman, and therefore intelligent. But perhaps your lack of ability to get a great mix ITB simply proves that you don’t want to put in the time.

      The point is: if you can’t or don’t want to spend 6k on equipment, you can still make an artful mix and make music you love and not wait until people like yourself approve of the methods.

      One day everyone who does things the “time-tested” will be dead and then everyone can waste their time convincing everyone else about the next newest way, and so on and so on.

      Whatever. Play guitar. Write songs.

      Reply
  22. Mark Bacino

    Hey Mixerman,

    I totally get that you’re argument with Graham is over the validity of analog summing. That said, and again I can’t speak for Graham, but as a reader of this blog for some time I think I benefit from a little perspective/context that perhaps you don’t when I say that given Graham’s past posts I believe the greater message he’s trying to convey with this piece (and the whole blog) is for folks to not get caught up in the gear but to focus on improving their skills with whatever it is they have available to them. If you truly feel the same, as you say above, i.e – “not to worry about the gear” then I suppose ultimately there’s really no reason to debate the validity of analog summing, right? ;-)

    Anyway, I’ll leave that to you and Graham. My food’s getting cold…

    Keep making great mixes (however you do it).

    Best,
    Mark

    Reply
  23. sam bates

    Mixerman,

    Good to see some blood-and-guts debate on here. To throw my hat in: I succumbed to GAS a few years ago and bought a summing unit. Best thing I ever did. It not only improved the sonics of my mix, but taught me a thing or two about patching, buss compression, soldering… Basically improved my skillset in the analogue domain.

    I’m interested to know what you think of stuff like Slate Digital’s VCC? A little off-topic but I have it and am pretty impressed. Not a replacement for summing through our Series 75, but surprisingly close!

    Cheers

    Sam

    Reply
  24. Magnus Lindberg

    I stubled on this debate I just had the urge to chip in.

    Completely agree with Graham on this one. I have always mixed on analog consoles, not even touching ITB mixing until just a couple of years ago. And for me the biggest difference is WORFLOW. Once I got used to the workflow of DAW mixing I felt like i could make as good mixes as OTB. Now, I still like analog colour and distortion (which is why I have my fav pieces of outboards) which I do use regardless if I am mixing on a console or not. BUT to me, summing itself is not the problem with ITB mixing, its the lack of unlinearity and the “left side of the brain” type of workflow (fixable with e control surface).

    The summingbox hype of today is just ridiculous. And yes I have made tests with several different summing products. The onle one I thought made a difference had a big transformer on the main outputs, which again had nothing to do with the summing itself…

    /M

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      Hey Magnus,

      Cool! Which units have you tried? Specifically how did you perform the testing (i.e. explain the proces of testing so I can understand what you’re listening to when you do it)? What kind of material did you perform these tests on?

      Enjoy,

      Mixerman

      Reply
      • Magnus Lindberg

        Hello Mixerman

        I tested the Vintage Design 16ch summing (cant remember the model name), the SPL Mixdream and the Speck X-sum.

        What i did was I took a mix project that I had in my DAW and made summing groups (16ch) via my interfaces through the boxes at unity gain etc and then recorded them back into the DAW. All the pannings in the DAW was exactly kept and I used only full LR stereo groups in the boxes. The song was a kinda avant garde rock song with both really quite and really loud parts.

        Now, comparing these mixes with the ITB mix made no real difference to me, (except when using the transformer in the mixdream in which case i could hear a slight coloration/warmth) I would much rather buy another cool piece of gear that I feel actually makes a difference to my sound and/or workflow.

        To make a long story short (not enough time right now to fully elaborate), after a full day of testing and listening I came to the conclusion that it’s not the summing itself that makes people like analog mixing but the unlinearity, the “flaws” etc. I see no real point in buying a really clean summing mixer for the sake of sound only. (A tube one would be a diffrent story though because of distortion)
        Of course a summing mixer can be very useful anyway, routing, insert points etc. And I also have to add that I use SSL Soundscape as DAW, which is a (according to tale) very good sounding daw, whatever that means. So I do not know if Pro-Tools or other DAWs benefit more from summing OTB.

        /Magnus

        Reply
        • Mixerman

          Well there’s your problem Mangus. The way you’ve tested those boxes isn’t going to tell you anything.

          If you want to understand how summing affects your mix, and your ability to mix, you need to do a direct comparison which includes the mixing process. This does not have to be performed blind. The difference is too obvious when performed within the context of an actual mix.

          You’re not looking for some magical coloration that makes you happy. I’m talking about a core and systemic difference in how you will connect with the music you’re making and the decisions you’ll make in the process. Once you understand just how much you actually fight digital summing, then you understand how it’s flawed.

          Here is how I suggest one test a summing box in my boo Zen and the Art of Mixing:

          “Testing Your Summing Box

          If you’re going to try a summing box out for yourself, and I highly recommend that you do, there’s a specific procedure that I recommend. If you mix a song to completion, and then you put it through a Dangerous summing box, you’re going to have a difficult time with the evaluation. The summing box will change your mix. Even though the mix will be far better in some ways, it will also be different. It’s difficult to get past the inherent balance changes that will occur from such a radical change in your summing. Therefore, you don’t want to test a summing box on a finished mix, as it’s really not a comparison that you can accurately evaluate. There is really only one way that I can figure to fairly and accurately judge what a summing box can do for you.

          Start by installing a summing box into your system. Run the analog outputs from your converters to the inputs of your summing box. By running all of
          inputs of the summing box, you remove the sonic nature of the summing box itself as a variable when making your comparison. Mix a song in your DAW by digitally summing through outputs 1 and 2. Make your way through discovery, and frame a decent static mix. Go beyond the point where the mix is singing and you feel good about it, just to the point where you’re beginning to struggle with the mix.

          Now switch your channel outputs so that you’re using all the channels of the summing box instead of just the first two. This switchover takes a few minutes, since you have to select new out- puts for every channel. If you have a good summing box (and the only one I can vouch for is the Dangerous 2-Bus), you should notice a greater depth of field, considerably more clarity in the bottom end, a seemingly broader frequency range, and more overall punch. The difference should be night and day, and you should immediately find yourself struggling less with the mix.

          Don’t be put off by the changes in your mix. If there were no changes, it would be a useless and superfluous box. The whole reason for making the switch at the struggle point of your mix is that it’s not going to cost you time. In fact, the mix should improve so much where impact is concerned that you’ll likely find it considerably easier to mix.

          Now, this isn’t a scientific way of determining a difference. It’s a practical one. You can’t devise a scientific test to prove this for your- self or anyone else. For starters, you can’t perform the switch in real time. The reason you can get away with performing a listening test in this manner is because it’s meant to reveal how much easier it is for you to mix on an operational and process level. It’s not meant as a subjective listening test, although you’ll likely think your mix sounds better. Regardless, if you’re finding it suddenly easier to mix, there’s a reason for it. It’s easier to mix when summing analog.

          I’ve used many DAWs and in my experience they are currently all flawed at summing.

          Enjoy,

          Mixerman

          Reply
          • Magnus Lindberg

            Hello

            Sorry, but to me your approcch is the “magical style” one. I do not see that going from “my test” (finished mix) to your test (almost finished mix) will change much in my perception of difference of the two. You are saying that listening through the summing box even with the ITB summing takes away the sonics of the box from the equation, then theoretically the difference should be even bigger when doing the test my way?
            Anyway, I dont think anyone of us are going to win the other one over, so we can agree to disagree.
            HOwever two factors in this still makes it interesting:
            - You have never used SSL Soundscape (I assume)
            - I have never used the Dangerous.
            But I will probably never test the Dangerous as I have already decided what gear route to take with my new mixing room, SSL Matrix as center piece.

            Regards
            /Magnus

          • Mixerman

            “Sorry, but to me your approcch is the “magical style” one. I do not see that going from “my test” (finished mix) to your test (almost finished mix) will change much in my perception of difference of the two. ”

            Magical style, huh? Now you sound like Ethan Winer.

            You can’t take a finished mix, one you’ve spent hours slaving on, and then just put it through completely different processing and expect to hear anything other than a mix that has changed. Where you gain from the summing you lose from balances that are not as you intended them. The benefit from analog summing affects mix decisions, and makes mixing easier. If you REALLY want to understand what benefit analog summing gives you, it’s not one you can just slap on at the end of a mix. This is the 2-bus we’re talking about here. It IS the mix.

            “You are saying that listening through the summing box even with the ITB summing takes away the sonics of the box from the equation, then theoretically the difference should be even bigger when doing the test my way?”

            Sure, there will be a difference. But that difference is on a finished mix. If you’re happy with the mix, why would you think that putting analog circuitry on the 2-bus, which will change your balances, and thereby give you an apples to oranges comparison. The only apples to apples comparison must be done at a stage in which the mix is in a state of flux.

            It’s the same with comparing a mastered track to an unmastered one. Matching levels and switching back and forth tells you nothing about a mastering job. You have to listen to a large swath of the mastered version, and a large swath of the unmastered version, and if the mastered track makes you feel better, it’s a better job. Comparing audio A to audio B has no relevance. Comparing how the music makes you feel between the two examples has supreme relevance.

            “Anyway, I dont think anyone of us are going to win the other one over, so we can agree to disagree.”

            Actually, you’re just deciding to stick your head in the sand instead of accepting that maybe, just maybe, it’s worth exploring in the manner I’ve presented to you here.

            “HOwever two factors in this still makes it interesting:
            - You have never used SSL Soundscape (I assume)
            - I have never used the Dangerous.”

            “But I will probably never test the Dangerous as I have already decided what gear route to take with my new mixing room, SSL Matrix as center piece.”

            Interesting. I’m the centerpiece in my room. I guess that’s what separates us.

            Enjoy,

            Mixerman

          • Alex

            I really see no reason that you try to sell and promote Your book on someone others website.

          • Namin

            I too am a reader of Graham’s Blog, but I do have you Zen and the Art of Mixing book, and also saw that you are indeed a strong advocated of analog summing. Now, what brought me to Graham’s site was is this valid even in November of 2012? The reason I ask is because we have 32bit and 64bit floating point on DAWs and do you still feel its broken at the 2bus? Have you tried a DAW called REAPER? I also wanted to know if you have ever tried SHADOW HILLS EQUINOX which is a 30 channel summing box, preamp and monitor controller, and I was just curious if ever I will have to make that kind of investment as in for an EQUINOX to make greater recordings. These are people with some big ears. I happen to also see Mike Shipley’s AVID interview where he likes to mix ITB these days as the converters, clocks and plugins have improved. Thank You

  25. Magnus Lindberg

    Mixerman

    You are praising analog summing in such a way that I am sure it gives you what you want, that is good for you. I’ll wrap the up by saying that:
    1. I dont know who Ethan Winer is.
    2. You are indeed right about the feel, and my feeling is that analog summing in it self does not inprove my mixes.
    3. I am not a center piece of gear, I am a human being and I dont need analog summing to make my mixes sound good. My ears will do.

    Cheers
    /Magnus

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      Mangus,

      1. He’s a guy who thinks sound and music can be separated.

      2. You can’t possibly say that, you haven’t tried actually mixing through one.

      3. That statement makes no sense. I’m the centerpiece in my studio, and I too am a human being. Go figure.

      Here’s what I said on page 3 of Zen and the Art of Mixing. Page 3.

      All too often in this business of recording and mixing music we lose sight of the music itself. If you go on the Internet you can find thousands of debates comparing converters, compressors, mic pre’s, DAWs, etc. These arguments always relate specifically to sound—in particular good sound versus bad—but sound is just a means to an end. I was whistling over the noise of a vacuum cleaner and not one person ever asked me to stop vacuuming just so they could enjoy the sound of the whistling. Of course, you’ve never heard my whistling. Just the same, I can assure you it’s the music that’s important, not the sound. Our job, whether we’re the artist, producer, recordist, or mixer, is to deliver that music in a way that causes an emotional reaction. Whether that’s glee, sadness, love, anger—you name it, this is what music brings to our lives.

      Oddly enough, the arguments on the Internet are always about specs and electronic measurements of distortion, jitter, frequency response, blah, blah, blah. Of course, there are usually a few participants who will pipe in with the argument that one has to measure how the gear affects emotional impact—myself included—but this sort of argument always gets dismissed as voodoo or magic, as if it’s irrelevant somehow. The problem is that there’s really only one way to personally measure emotional impact, and that’s with your ears and brain.”

      You’re measuring the wrong things Mangus. Get the magic. Feel the magic!

      Mixerman

      Reply
      • Andrew Bauserman

        I would say:
        1) Ethan is another individual of strong opinions, like Mixerman ;)

        Seriously, though: Ethan co-owns RealTraps and presents on topics he’s most passionate about (room treatment, double-blind tests, audio measurement equipment). He’s on the left in this video:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYTlN6wjcvQ

        He’s generally a nice guy who participates in forums and provides advice and opinion on gearslutz and EQ Magazine’s acoustics forum.

        I’m NOT posting to draw a debate on the guy or his opinions. Take that up with Ethan in the forums – he’s usually good for a spirited debate :) Just telling those who haven’t experienced him where he can be found — and that his opinions are generally thought-provoking…

        Reply
        • Mixerman

          Ethan’s opinions are just that–opinions. He suggests no one can hear the effects of jitter, despite many of us proving otherwise. He suggests that even the lowest grade consumer converter is “transparent,” and that no one could pick blind between source and a soundblaster reproduction. Laughable. He makes all sorts of absurd claims, that are so obviously false to anyone who actually makes records for a living, that he will have sealed his fate as nothing more than a crackpot, with no understanding of what a critical listening chain is, and no understanding of how production decisions might affect audio decisions.

          Here’s the thing. Anyone who finds themselves agreeing with Ethan’s claims regarding converters is either deaf, or is so inexperienced they have no business even having an opinion.

          Enjoy,

          Mixerman

          Reply
          • Magnus Lindberg

            Hmm, ok well unless you can scientifically measure something and get it down on paper as hard figures, (which you obviously cannot do with music, feeling, perception of “good sound” etc etc) then the whole “this is just your opinion” argument is pointless.

            I did a quick google search and found some interesting threads involving both you and Ethan Winer. Not exactly the most mature reading in the world.
            With this said, I do not agree with many things that Ethan is (as far as I have understood from just quickly browsing) saying.

            Going on:
            3. My statement did make at least as much sense as yours, suggesting that I think my gear will do the work for me. You are the one claiming that one really needs a summing box to mix, well (or should I say one specific summing box). What’s important to me has more to do with workflow, integrating outboard gear in a nice way, touching real faders, not loooking too much at a computer screen etc etc etc. Basically like mixing on a real console. When going for a more ITB/Hybrid setup, this is what is important to me. This is when I get the feeling!
            Of course, i want to get out of the DAs, feeding stuff to outboards, doing parallell compression etc, but it’s not the analog summing IT SELF that is doing the magic!

            Cheers
            /m

  26. Mixerman

    Magnus wrote: “Hmm, ok well unless you can scientifically measure something and get it down on paper as hard figures, (which you obviously cannot do with music, feeling, perception of “good sound” etc etc) then the whole “this is just your opinion” argument is pointless.”

    You lost me with that. Look, here’s the bottom line. When you compare a finished mix with a finished mix in which the balances have changed, you are making a determination as to which is BETTER, mix A or mix B, and mix A will always have an enormous leg up, because you chose those particular balances for a reason. Suddenly the depth and the extra low end, and the extra width, they don’t seem like improvements, because the core of your mix has changed. It’s really no different from comparing your mix to the mastered version of it. The difference is that the changes on the master are purposeful.

    The reason I brought Ethan into the conversation is because it is his contention that taking the emotional impact of the music is “magical” thinking, mostly because feelings cannot be scientifically measured. But we mix music, and the decisions you make when you mix music are musical ones. For example, when you bring the guitars up in the chorus, it’s to create a dynamic excitement–to assist with the lift of the chorus. That’s not a sonic decision, that’s a musical one. The level of the vocal in the track is a musical decision. Some tracks call for a somewhat low vocal, like dance tracks, for instance. Some tracks call for an extremely loud vocal. The level you place that vocal in the mix is a musical decision.

    All of these musical decisions are made for the purposes of causing a physical reaction out of the listener. If I want to cause people to move a certain way, then I’m going to make balance decisions between my rhythmic instruments that cause that movement. If I bring up a conga, and it alters the way I move in a bad way, then muting it is a musical decision.

    Even sonic decisions are musical ones. I’m not going to try and “nice” up a gritty hardcore track. I want it to be aggressive and irritating. Conversely, if the irritating track is an Adult Contemporary track, then I’m likely to use my tools to smooth out the sound. Those are sonic decisions, but they’re also musical ones.

    When mixing, YOU CANNOT IGNORE THE MUSICAL DECISIONS that are meant to affect the listener, regardless of whether those can be measured electronically. So, when you strap a summing box onto the 2-bus at the end of a mix, you’ve changed the balances of the mix, which means you’ve changed the way the mix makes you feel (as the arbiter for the ultimate listener). Therefore, you MUST use the summing box within the process of mixing in order to evaluate it’s effectiveness. Furthermore, you MUST have a basis of comparison, which means you must start the process mixing ITB, and then once you find yourself struggling, switch to the analog summing. Furthermore, in order to keep the sound of the summing box out of the equation, you MUST keep the summing box inline for the ITB portion of the mix.

    Mangus wrote: “With this said, I do not agree with many things that Ethan is (as far as I have understood from just quickly browsing) saying.”

    Well that’s good! Unfortunately, you dismiss emotional impact as “magic,” and that is where you two think alike.

    Mangus wrote: “3. My statement did make at least as much sense as yours, suggesting that I think my gear will do the work for me. You are the one claiming that one really needs a summing box to mix, well (or should I say one specific summing box). ”

    Ah, now I understand the rub. I own the Dangerous products, yes. At the time I got them, they were just about the only game in town. I’m not trying to shill the Dangerous units. At this point and time, there are several other boxes I’d consider, including the AMS Neve box. The Great River summing box looks interesting too.

    Mangus continued: “What’s important to me has more to do with workflow, integrating outboard gear in a nice way, touching real faders, not loooking too much at a computer screen etc etc etc. Basically like mixing on a real console. When going for a more ITB/Hybrid setup, this is what is important to me. This is when I get the feeling!
    Of course, i want to get out of the DAs, feeding stuff to outboards, doing parallell compression etc, but it’s not the analog summing IT SELF that is doing the magic!”

    You can’t possibly say that. You didn’t test the box right. Why not just TRY it the way I’ve suggested, and then if I’m wrong, tell me all about it. That’s a very stubborn position to take. Try it! You’ll like it!

    Enjoy,

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • Magnus Lindberg

      Mixerman, I do not dismiss emotional impact as magic. As a matter of fact I think you are 100% right that it’s all about the feeling of the music, and a agree mixing is a piece of art and not some techinical service.

      What I I was dismissing is that many people think that analog summing will do the magic for them.

      How good you are at mixing depends not on what gear you have, but who you are, your taste, your ability to understand music, experience etc etc etc. I know this, and of course you know it too. But THIS exactly is the reason why I think you cannot say that you need an analog summing mixer to perform this piece of art, which is what this article was all about.

      For me, if a summing mixer doesnt colour or in any way significally (with a capital S) enhances the sound of my mixes then I see no reason to use it for that summing alone. If it fits my workflow, makes it easy to incorporate analog gear or have other benefits its another thing though.

      I might be stubborn and firm in my opinions, but I think we both are :)

      Regards
      /M

      Reply
      • Mixerman

        “For me, if a summing mixer doesnt colour or in any way significally (with a capital S) enhances the sound of my mixes then I see no reason to use it for that summing alone.”

        Summing certainly colors the sound. You just can’t evaluate the color on a finished mix. You have to mix WITH the color to determine if it’s beneficial. Neve VRs and SSL G Sereies are both lousy desks in different ways. Of the two, I prefer the V-Series because the color that console imparts doesn’t get in my way. Conversely, I find myself struggling to use the SSL. Someone else could easily have the opposite opinion, but that opinion is formed by working on the desk.

        “If it fits my workflow, makes it easy to incorporate analog gear or have other benefits its another thing though.
        I might be stubborn and firm in my opinions, but I think we both are ”

        The difference being, I’ve tested summing boxes both ways (yours and mine), and you haven’t. That makes you stubborn from a position of ignorance.

        Enjoy,

        Mixerman

        Reply
  27. Andrew Bauserman

    Mixerman,

    Well argued. Your comment provides a clear and concise explanation of EXACTLY the process you advocate for testing a summing box per your book (which I’ll second Graham in recommending).

    As you’ve said, “your hearing and mixing will improve concurrently with your gear.” As I get to the point where $gearbudget exceeds $gearcost I hope to try this experiment myself.


    Andrew

    Reply
  28. jonmgill

    All arguing aside, I still think it’s really cool that Mixerman is in here, giving a professional opinion. Eric, we appreciate you! I think everyone would agree there.

    P.S., Zen & Art of Mixing completely changed the way I mix, you kick ass.

    Reply
  29. Mark Bacino

    Hello Graham, Mixerman & All,

    Sort of a related question although I’m afraid it might make Mixerman throw up in his mouth a little (sorry Mixerman) but I was wondering if anyone has experienced a noticeable summing difference/improvement mixing in the box when sending tracks to Group channels (at least that’s what they’re called in Nuendo, the DAW software I use) or what I believe are called Aux channels (?) in Pro Tools before sending to the 2 buss?

    In other words, basically sending tracks to stereo buses before hitting the 2 buss, i.e. sending all your drums to a group stereo channel, all your vocals to another, then all the other instruments to yet another and so on. I remember reading a piece about this some years back (maybe in Tape Op) wherein someone was claiming that “the math” involved in digital summing preferred looking at say, just 4 or 5 stereo group tracks (or buses) funneling into the 2 buss rather than 24+ individual tracks, ultimately yielding less smearing/better imaging, etc.

    Always was a little skeptical about this but have never done a comparison (i.e. rendering the same mix using each approach). Obviously grouping sets of instruments has its own mix advantages but curious what folks opinions here might be on this practice as it relates to the effect it may/may not have on summing. Any data out there to back this up or refute it one way or the other?

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Reply
  30. Rick Novak

    Hey Eric, long time no babble! (r.a.p. :>) A few comments:
    First, both you and Graham have valid points. His is that novice mixers should be much more concerned with learning the craft than with trying to find a “magic bullet” piece of equipment, analog or digital, to rescue their mixes. Your point is that some expert mixers like yourself hear an improvement from analog summing. Y’all are both right, and are needlessly throwing apples and oranges at each other. Graham logged the original error though by claiming the analog-summing debate was “silly” for everyone, not just for novices.
    Second, I’d love to hear your opinion of the cheaper analog summers, particularly the Folcrum http://rollmusic.com/folcrom.php and the UnitAudio http://www.unitaudio.com/unit.html , which I could afford and could run back into ProTools through my pair of API mic pres.
    Third, unless I’m misunderstanding some semantic issue, I’d tend to agree with Winer’s assertation that music and sound are separate entities. For me as a composer, recording is a constant struggle to get the sound coming out of the speakers to remotely resemble the music playing in my head! :>) Remember, Beethoven created some of his best work when he was deaf, i.e. without sound but certainly not without music.
    Cheers, Rick (rickymix).

    Reply
  31. Mixerman

    Rick Novak wrote: “First, both you and Graham have valid points”

    And how exactly could we both have valid points when one of us is making the point out of complete ignorance.? He’s never tried it! That would be hoping, not knowing. You argue a position based on knowledge, and Graham has acknowledged no knowledge when it comes to analog summing.

    There’s no reason for me to even read the rest of your post since the initial premise is so laughable. People. Stop defending purposeful ignorance guised in the form of encouragement. All that’s being encouraged is further ignorance.

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • Rick Novak

      Eric, I’m surprised that you’re being so pissy. Graham’s very valid point is that novice engineers should focus on learning their craft instead of looking for “magic bullet” gizmos, digital or analog, to improve their work. Don’t you agree?
      He’s wrong IMO in asserting that at the high end of the craft there’s nothing to be gained from analog summing, for precisely the reasons you mentioned.
      But whatever; let’s discuss something beyond everyone’s egos. What do you think of the Folcrum? I’d very much value your opinion on that.

      Reply
  32. Mixerman

    RICK NOVAK WROTE: “Eric, I’m surprised that you’re being so pissy.”

    Dude. Even Graham has stopped defending this position of stunning admitted ignorance.

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • Graham

      I have no need to defend my position as it’s a valid one.

      I appreciate debate on a healthy level and I try to learn from as many people as I can (like I’ve said here, I’ve learned a lot from your book and have recommended it to many people). This post however has gotten out of hand and it’s frustrating because this is the polar opposite of what I intended my website to be, a site that actually helps people and motivates them to get better at their craft, not debate gear or processing techniques. If people want to debate things like summing, converters, and sample rates they can go to Gearslutz or a myriad of other places and waste their time.

      Again, Mixerman, as I’ve said before I respect you and your work speaks for itself. You have no need to defend your methods or analog summing as a practice. I think what you are doing is getting you fantastic results. Thank you again for offering your expertise in this area.

      That being said, I have a lot of work to catch up on and I’m assuming most of us reading this right now do as well. I’d rather see us use our time productively getting more music made rather than attacking each other on a blog. I’m sure you would agree.

      Cheers,
      Graham

      Reply
      • Mixerman

        Here’s the one and only lesson everyone should take from this blog entry: Never write an article on the internet in which you talk about things you know nothing about. Whatever you do, don’t invoke the one guy who can and will shine a light on your total ignorance.

        Good Luck,

        Mixerman

        Reply
        • Sascha

          Wow, after reading a little bit i could say a million things here but 2 years after this discussion it’s probably enough to say the Mixerman sounds like a total jerk to me. No matter what he did and how good he is at his job. What an arrogant jerk.

          Reply
    • Rick Novak

      Dude yourself! :>) I’m actually AGREEING with you and you’re still being a dick. HUH?!?!?

      Reply
    • Joe Knouse

      You are like the biggest trolling asshole in the world and I am going to look up every album you’ve ever mixed and if I have them I am deleting them from my system and writing the artists to tell them what an arrogant asshole you are.

      Reply
  33. Magnus Lindberg

    @Graham: spot on and keep up the good work with the blog.
    @Mixerman “the invoker”: don’t be rude.

    Back to work now, summing or not summing.

    Reply
    • Rick Novak

      I’m wondering if we have a troll here impersonating famous engineers? I just experienced the same thing on Linked In with someone claiming to be Jimmy Johnson who was also inexplicably defensive and belligerent and off-topic. I don’t know, maybe I just bring out the asshole in folks! :>) But anyone who has read Eric’s book could have written these posts attributed to him above.

      Reply
  34. Kris Hanson

    Rick: As a reader of the Womb forum and other places Mixerman has posted, it ‘feels’ like him. Maybe it’s the New York in him that’s coming across as a little brash to some readers here.

    Regardless, it seems the conversation has run its course.

    Reply
    • Rick Novak

      Hi Kris, brashness I don’t mind, I was born in Manhattan. I’ve had lots of discussions with the real Eric back in the rec.audio.pro days, and he stayed on-topic there. Maybe a decade of internet has changed him, but the fact that a supposed “Jimmy Johnson” is exhibiting identical behavior over on Linked In aroused my suspicions. R.A.P. was ruined by trolls.
      As you say, the conversation is dwindling and now way off topic, and I don’t want to further contribute to that. Over & out. R.N.

      Reply
      • Mixerman

        Now you’re saying I’m off topic? Hilarious!

        And I’ll be sure to address this blog post and the absurd arguments on The Mixerman Radio Show later this month.

        Enjoy,

        Mixerman

        Reply
  35. Mixerman

    It’s Sarafin, and it’s your buddy Graham who is making shit up Dittohead. I’m using facts.

    Enjoy,

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • Rick Novak

      Sorry, I flunked spelling… :>) Here’s the thing Eric; I totally agree with your facts and I disagree with Graham, whom I’ve never heard of before. I came to this conversation intending to make the same points you have, but you beat me to it, and probably said it better than I could.
      But you didn’t need to go around insulting people and making personal attacks. Every single time this thread has gone off topic, it’s because YOU started beating your chest. There’s nothing cool about that Eric. And I’m not talking about being correct or polite or “everyone is beautiful” or any of that shit. You’re being a dick just to make yourself feel like a big-shot. Is it working?

      Reply
      • Mixerman

        Rick wrote: “Every single time this thread has gone off topic, it’s because YOU started beating your chest. ”

        The only person that has brought this thread off topic is you.

        Rick wrote: “You’re being a dick just to make yourself feel like a big-shot. Is it working?”

        Oh, is THAT my motivation! Are we back in middle school now?

        Right. You think I’m being a dick. I get it. I think similarly of you. That got us far!

        Now drop it already, because Bianco is certain I’m trying to convince people to use summing when here I thought I was offering fair warning to other bloggers laying out detailed opinions on things they have no personal experience with.

        Enjoy,

        MIxerman

        Reply
        • Joe Knouse

          Why are gear-heads such assholes? I think it’s because they don’t know how to listen with their guts, they can only point to their racks of gear and say they’ve used them all and that’s why they’re better than you. Much like a guy and his sportscar, ie small dick syndrome.

          What I’m saying here is that Mixerman (so stupid that you call yourself this) has a small penis.

          Reply
  36. Mark Bacino

    Am I the only one starting to believe that come the end of time this thread will still somehow be active with Eric trying to convince the roaches why analog summing is the way to go?

    Reply
  37. czar

    yes, please drop it, even my email sighs at the incoming notification of this thread. Who is man enough to NOT get the last word here lol

    Reply
  38. David Dietz

    From the Unit Audio website.

    Terry A., Head Designer and Engineer for Unit Audio has this to say About Analog Summing:

    “Loosely quoting Shakespeare one might say ‘To analog sum or not to analog sum?’ This has been a point of controversy with digital recording for quite some time.

    With modern DAW software, mixing within the computer has resulted in some great sounding recordings, but I have long been intrigued by the concept of analog summing. I was not prepared to pay $800.00 or more to test that theory, so I engineered and built my own. Then to test the theory, I set out to see if there was any difference in the mixed sound. Much to my amazement and pleasure, I did notice a subtle but very pleasing difference in the stereo separation and placement of the instruments compared to my In the Box mixes.”

    IN CONCLUSION
    Is analog summing going to make your recordings sound like a Nashville studio with a billion dollars worth of equipment? Probably not, but you will notice a difference in your mixes using a Unit Audio summing mixer.

    Reply
    • Rick Novak

      Hi David, has anyone done a comparison of the Unit vs the Fulcrom vs the Dangerous summers? As the least expensive of the bunch, it seems it would be to Unit’s benefit to do that, if indeed your box is in the same ballpark. Get one of each box and lend the trio to various engineers to compare, using Mixerman’s methodology above. You could probably put all 3 summers into an 8U rack with a switching device. THAT would be interesting! Good article for someone too.

      Reply
  39. David Dietz

    Rick,
    Thanks for the comment and the interest. The comparison you suggest would certainly be very interesting. It would however, bit a bit of an “apples to oranges” comparison as the Dangerous summers are active and the Folcrum and Unit summers are both passive. Our Mixers weren’t really designed to compete with either of these fine products. Instead, we wanted to offer access to basic physical analog summing circuitry at a price similar to what one might pay for a plugin that emulates analog summing. As far as reviews go, we have some boxes at a major recording publication and we expect to see it published in the very near future. I hope this helps.

    Reply
  40. Jrock

    Graham, love this site. I think you are doing a great thing for the people who may not have a lot of experience in this industry.

    Mixerman, your work is great. I have always meant to read your book, and its on my list now. I have not used anaolg summing, but I stumbled upon this thread because I’m using a Rupert Neve 5088 console to sum a mix on Monday. It is pretty much finished, so I have a feeling that I may not be doing it the best way. I really hope it gives me the depth and 3d image that I am missing. Any tips on what I could do to help the process?

    I would like to say that it doesn’t do any good to get into arguments on here. I know everyone is trying to help, and even though someone always has to be wrong, let’s not make a big deal.

    I agree that I have “heard” that analog summing is overrated. I have Slate VCC now, and it did help a bit. However, I still am not getting the depth and width of the big boys. So, I decided to try summing. I will find out first and foremost if it is worth it. I may even book a full remix session there so I can mix the whole thing there and see the difference.

    Thanks to both of you, but try and play nice.

    Jrock

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      Hey Jrock,

      If you want to hear how analog summing helps you, then you should follow my recommendation on how to test it There is no possible way to perform a results based test. Therefore, you want to do a process based test.

      As to getting more depth out of your mixes, summing will definitely help with that. But it also takes practice. The analog summing won’t make you a better mixer. It might not even make your mixes better in the short run (depending on where you are in the learning process). Analog summing WILL, however, make it easier to mix, which will make it faster to mix, which is always a good thing in my book. By summing analog, you’re removing an impediment.

      Think of it like this. If you put tattered, heavy shoes on a championship marathon runner and you put top of the line custom made running shoes on a slovenly mix engineer (you and me both!), I’m thinking the champ is going to be showered and out for the evening by the time you’re done running the marathon. If we reverse who wears what shoes, the results won’t change, right? Your Kenyan competitor is still gonna whoop you. So, you can’t compare the equipment in the hands (er feet) of a pro to the equipment in the hands of an amateur.

      If you run the race again in the tattered shoes a week later, it’s quite possible you’ll run the race even faster due purely to experience and despite the introduction of lesser equipment. So, you can’t test the shoes based on the results from week to week. You risk a false result that way. You have to trust how the shoes make you feel. Comparing shoes from one race to another doesn’t prove anything when the comparison is based on the results rather than on how you feel in them.

      If you run the race in the tattered shoes, but for 100 yards we give you the custom shoes with which to finish the race, would you be able to evaluate the improvement? Probably not. You’re dead tired. All you want to do is finish the race, and the tattered shoes got you this far, what’s the point in switching now? So, how are you supposed to evaluate them in that state of mind?

      If we meet again a week later, and have you run the first four miles in the tattered shoes, and then give you the custom racing shoes you’re going to instantly recognize a performance difference. That’s because now you have a basis of comparison, and you’re fresh enough to evaluate the difference.

      Just like in the running shoes analogy, you need to make your summing comparisons at a time when you’re in the best frame of mind to compare. That time is when you’re far enough along in the mix to notice subtle changes, but not so far in the mix that you’re disinterested in anything other than finishing the mix that you’ve been slaving over for hours. At that point in a mix, a major change is nothing short of confusing. You’re in a haze at the end of the mix due to the amount of time you’ve been working on it. And printing the mixes doesn’t help, because you SHOULD prefer the mix in which the balances that you spent hours slaving over remain in tact.

      Here is my recommendation from the book Zen and the Art of Mixing:

      “Testing Your Summing Box

      If you’re going to try a summing box out for yourself, and I highly recommend that you do, there’s a specific procedure that I recommend. If you mix a song to completion, and then you put it through a Dangerous summing box, you’re going to have a difficult time with the evaluation. The summing box will change your mix. Even though the mix will be far better in some ways, it will also be different. It’s difficult to get past the inherent balance changes that will occur from such a radical change in your summing. Therefore, you don’t want to test a summing box on a finished mix, as it’s really not a comparison that you can accurately evaluate. There is really only one way that I can figure to fairly and accurately judge what a summing box can do for you.

      Start by installing a summing box into your system. Run the analog outputs from your converters to the inputs of your sum- ming box. By running all of your audio through the first two inputs of the summing box, you remove the sonic nature of the summing box itself as a variable when making your comparison. Mix a song in your DAW by digitally summing through outputs 1 and 2. Make your way through discovery, and frame a decent static mix. Go beyond the point where the mix is singing and you feel good about it, just to the point where you’re beginning to struggle with the mix.

      Now switch your channel outputs so that you’re using all the channels of the summing box instead of just the first two. This switchover takes a few minutes, since you have to select new out- puts for every channel. If you have a good summing box (and the only one I can vouch for is the Dangerous 2-Bus), you should notice a greater depth of field, considerably more clarity in the bottom end, a seemingly broader frequency range, and more overall punch. The difference should be night and day, and you should immediately find yourself struggling less with the mix.
      Don’t be put off by the changes in your mix. If there were no changes, it would be a useless and superfluous box. The whole reason for making the switch at the struggle point of your mix is that it’s not going to cost you time. In fact, the mix should improve so much where impact is concerned that you’ll likely find it con- siderably easier to mix.

      Now, this isn’t a scientific way of determining a difference. It’s a practical one. You can’t devise a scientific test to prove this for your- self or anyone else. For starters, you can’t perform the switch in real time. The reason you can get away with performing a listening test in this manner is because it’s meant to reveal how much easier it is for you to mix on an operational and process level. It’s not meant as a subjective listening test, although you’ll likely think your mix sounds better. Regardless, if you’re finding it suddenly easier to mix, there’s a reason for it. It’s easier to mix when summing analog.

      That said, I guarantee I’m going to get hammered on the Inter- net for this one (I might as well have sent out invitations). I mean, not only isn’t the comparison blind, it’s not immediate! So why would I recommend this? Because blind comparisons are over- rated when it comes to mixing. Look, if you notice a big difference, you’re not imagining it. There’s a point in a mix when you know something has changed, and you know how that change has affected you. Making comparisons on a mix while you’re in a mix shouldn’t be performed blind. If the difference affects you, you’ll know it. If it doesn’t, then it’s not a big enough difference to matter. We do comparisons a thousand times a day as mixers, and they’re rarely, if ever, preformed blind. Do you need to per- form a blind test to determine whether the vocal sounds better with an 1176 or an LA-2A? Do you need a blind comparison between EQ settings? Of course not. You’re evaluating the sound within the context of a mix. These comparisons mean everything to your mix, and there’s neither a reason nor the time to perform them blind.

      If you want to set up the comparison blind, then set up two mixes, one using multiple outputs, the other using two outputs, and have someone help you switch between the mixes. But once you hear how much extension you get on the bottom end, you’re not going to bother. Once you realize how much more depth your mix has, that summing box isn’t ever going to get unplugged. You’re in the middle of a mix; you’ll know instantly whether there’s a big difference or no difference at all. I’m sure I’ll be chal- lenged to pick blind by some Internet wannabe screaming about expectation bias. If you’re one of the Internet wannabes, then by all means, test it blind. If you’re on your way to being a bona-fide mixer, listen to the obvious difference and move forward on your mix.”
      
      Enjoy,

      Mixerman

      Reply
      • JROCK

        *UPDATE*

        I wanted to give a personal update and testimonial based on some things I’ve tried since this last post. Since Mixerman took the time to write me such a good response, I felt I owed it to myself to try his was since mine was not working.

        First, I purchased and read Mixerman’s book. It had a lot of great information in there, and I’m sure I will read it again. Great book.

        Next, I tried the summing thing. I had been looking to get a monitor control system with talkback, and I ended up getting the Dangerous Dbox because it came with analog summing, be it only 8 channels. I can officially say that I tried it the way he described it in Zen and in his posts. I got kinda stuck in the mix, blah blah blah. When I sent my stems out to the Dbox, things changed.

        The Dbox allowed my width and depth of the mix to really change. I noticed I had a much wider mix without any of those crappy width adjusting plugins. The depth really increased as well, I seemed to have a bigger space with which to work.

        The next step I took was getting an analog 2 buss compressor. Eric talks about the G384 in his book to do some of the heavy lifting. Well, I picked up a Chameleon Labs 7720 SSL style comp for $500. I know it is not an SSL, but it definitely stepped up the game. The UAD SSL comp plugin I was previously using really sounded ok to my ears. When I set up the Chameleon to patch it in with very close settings and reduction, wow. The stereo field seemed much more clear. I could hear the placements much more accurately. The Hi Hat is what jumped out first. With the plug it seemed to me really all over the place, center, a bit to the left, hard to explain. When I bypassed the plug and put in the hardware, the hats were right where I wanted them to be. They sat perfectly now with the overheads, and I could hear everything in its place.

        I have been working quite a bit on an SSL 4056 E/G+ the past few months. The G comp is amazing. I love it. While the CL isn’t an SSL, for $500, it sure does beat any plugin I’ve used. Plus the HPF really lets you compress without killing your low end.

        So, my take on the situation is two-fold. If I wouldn’t have been as far along as where I am, I don’t know if the summing would have made quite the difference it did for me, but I never tried it before, so I can’t make that claim. I can say that as my mixes continue to get better, I am much happier with the end result when using analog summing and an analog 2 buss comp. I have been kicking around the idea of getting 16 channels total of summing and seeing how much difference that makes, but I would have to add to my I/O, and I don’t have $3k for another Aurora 16.

        Bottom line, in my personal opinion, summing did make a difference for me. I have pretty accurate monitoring. I have been getting much better performances, and I have really been focusing on getting better sounds from the beginning. I think it was time for me to take the plunge and see if it would work for my situation. I can without a doubt say that it did. But, I have also been doing this for about 4 years now, and I have really been pushing hard the last year or two. I really don’t think I would have been as happy with the results in years 1-3. But for me now, it is ABSOLUTELY benefitting my mixes.

        As always, YMMV. And my advice is worth exactly what you paid for it. But I did want to say thank you to Mixerman for taking the time to respond and help me out. And thanks to Graham for a great site! I truly appreciate what you guys are doing.

        Cheers!

        JROCK

        Reply
  41. Cameron Norman

    I know that Kevin Ward uses MixBus, which is a DAW that (claims) to have enhanced summing algorithms so that it sounds better. There have been some tests, and it was proven that there is definitely a difference between DAW’s summing capabilities. I think that summing is an aspect to your studio which you may want to evaluate.

    Reply
  42. Alex

    If you just sum the tracks without the use of EQs then there is no difference between analog or digital domain if all is done right. whatever which DAW you use and whatever which analog mixer from 21 century You use. But You cant find still in digital domain such EQs which sound like analog ones. And these analog EQs are on analog mixers. SO, here comes the difference between the analog and digital mix difference — the EQs! I mean real analog, not just plugins emulations.
    At first — I did one mix in analog mixer first, recorded result as 2-track.
    Then I recorded every track in DAW and made mix in DAW entirely with its own internal EQs. But I did not get the same sound becouse the EQs are not the same in digital domain as in analog domain! Cubase, ProTools, MadTracker — the same similar sounding EQs have they all. If I had done all these tracks with no extensive use of EQs, then there would be no difference.

    When just doing everything in computer and taking every output of multitrack to analog summing box, then it gives no difference compared to digital mix, if the summing box has no colorization. Well, you can also have analog EQs and do all __summing__ in digital — no difference, it still sounds as analog-summed signal to average listeners ears.

    But Analog summing __plugins__ — thats insane!! The same insanity as there are people who buy the summing analog boxes without knowing that it has only 5 USD worth electronics details which make it happen, all other things you pay for is only casing and power supply!

    You can also take into consideration blind test on average listener. I made such test a year ago and made conclusion that nowadays listeners dont distinguish if its mixed on analog mixer with zeroed eqs or in digital domain. Neither they saw difference if it was recorded directly or it was recorded over __calibrated__ cassette tape (!) (CrO2). On one side — cool! Becouse it means that vintage equipment limitations are not concern! However its extra economic loss if I use it and buy tapes for it instead of recording digital. And I really am not into this debate with concern if I like sound of Maxell UD more than Ampex 499.
    The only thing which made me to see pros of the analog mixing is only the use of analog EQs on channels and majority of signal sources are hardware synthesizers here.

    But those expensive analog summing boxes… I really recommend to get into electronics before You buy those ones which cost more than 100 USD! You will be surprised how simple are those and effective way for cheating consumers!

    Reply
  43. Sonny

    Thanks Graham, this page was short concise and to the point. Your points are well thought out, un-conflated and well connected to your examples. This is my first visit to your blog, nice job. Many, many artist are very successful using just a laptop. It depends on your creative process or this case mine.

    From an artist’s point of view, Summing is unnecessary and a subjective choice at best, to put it kindly. It stems from a very old argument from more than a few forums. Ye ol’ Analog v.s. Digital topic.

    For the new-ish artist among us, It’s ok to buy analog mixing equipment. Just as long as you know your paying for a specific kind of distortion and sometimes less mixing options. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    For the would be or current audio professionals out there…DO NOT google your name and post sections of you book on someone else’s blog, that’s well, unprofessional.

    If your considering someones mixing advice which is largely based on their own opinions in the subjective field of music, check out their mixes. Is it your style, color or feel. When it comes to opinions make sure yours are honed and measured. There is definitely no “one size fits all”.

    Reply
  44. Russ

    I’m a noob when it comes to recording, I tried an Alesis mic tube duo on the master bus. Its affordable and the difference in sound is quite noticeable, the digital edge seems to be smoothed off and warmth added. Might need EQ after this on a outboard insert because it changes the sound so much.

    Reply
    • Cameron

      If you are going to put ANYTHING on the master buss, be it a compressor or tube mic pre, you should put it through that first and mix through that. That means making mix decisions while listening to the mix through the mic pre/compressor/limiter/etc. Mix your song in a top down fashion, regarding the routing. Apply copression to the whole drums bus before just the snare (if it needs compression).

      Reply
  45. Russ

    Cameron, I totally agree, mix through it. I will in future.
    I should have wiped the board and mixed it again with all fx in place.

    Reply
  46. Hersh

    Yeah I agree Graham – the key is to understand what makes analog gear ‘analog sounding’ and learn to re-create those non-linearities in the digital domain. One thing I LOVE about Pro Tools is that you can use plugins in dual-mono mode… unlink them and make the settings just slightly different and you’re one step closer to that analog sound. Also understanding headroom and having an ear to eq out harsh frequencies blah blah blah haha. Love all your stuff Graham!

    Reply
  47. David Dietz

    For anyone that might be interested, Unit Audio just posted some audio samples of a in the box mix and a mix run through their most basic analog summing mixer. These boxes are designed specifically for those home and project studios who currently run just in the box in a DAW. Be sure to pay attention to the instructions to get an accurate comparison. http://www.unitaudio.com/sound-samples.html

    Reply
    • Scott Brio

      Hi David,

      Thank you for the comparison. I definitely noticed a difference in the stereo image on the WAV files posted. Upon first listen (to the ITB mix first) I heard nothing out of the ordinary, as I’m all ITB currently. I then listened to the Summing WAV and heard a nice, but subtle increase in sonic character. The biggest difference hit me when I then listened to the ITB mix for the second time, after having heard the Summing mix! The drums and guitar stood out the most to me. I specifically felt like I was able to reach out and grab the guitar (panned left), and the drums seemed to have more ‘presence’ than the ITB mix.

      Which brings me to my biggest issue with ITB mixing. It seems to me I’m constantly battling a 2D world being ITB. I hate panning. I currently don’t aggressively pan, and subsequently do not pan all that much, due to it sounding like the aural equivalent to “being on the left side of a painting”, where as summmed (and definitely analog) mixes sound more like “being on the left side of the room”.

      I’m hoping to score a Dangerous 2 Buss in the near future. I would definitely enjoy a Unit Audio, however having limited space and $$, I need the included active circuitry that the Dangerous box provides.

      Thank you again for providing this A/B. I have been struggling to find a decent comparison on the web, as it seems most of the links are dead in 2013 :)

      Reply
  48. Ewout

    Hi Graham, excellent post, and I think you are right that a good or bad mix is not made by analogue or digital summing. I do feel however that analogue summing makes mixing easier, and I also like how the summed tracks sound. It can be done very coste effective, btw! I happened to have a Revox A77 (which are pretty cheap machines), and I just route the signal through the circuit, buss by buss (or track by track), and change the input level on the machine dependent on the type of material (kick and bass pushed hard etc.). Yes, it costs time to re-record the tracks, but the result is great!

    Reply
  49. Michael Gene Binder

    I have a Dangrous 2 bus sounds great and it does make mixing easier. I recomend having a really high end a/d converter when printing the track back into the daw otherwise the mix takes a hit.
    No one has really talked about DAWs on this thread and it’s probably why there are so many opinions. Depending on your bits you have for summing this will effect your mixes Protools has been at 24bit until 10 was released Sonar was the first to hit 64bit. Now all the DAWs are at 32bit. I think it’s possible to get great mixes with a daw that has 32bit floating point because of the headroom.

    Reply
    • Scott Brio

      I’m considering a Dangerous 2 Bus and use Ableton Live. What would be a good a/d converter to pair with the 2 Bus? I’m currently considering a MOTU 2408 Core MkIII, or something similar…

      Reply
  50. Sean

    Actually, Dave Pensado does sum through his SSL he has in his room, but he does all the mixing ITB.

    Reply
  51. Eric

    When I first read this article I had already purchased a 2BUS Lt. I had it set-up in a PT HD rig with two 96i/o, but I hadn’t read Mixerman’s book yet. I was trying to sum a mix I had done ITB. I noticed a little bit of a difference by just routing all my tracks to the 16 outs I had available to use, but not the HUGE difference my sale rep had proclaimed to secure my purchase. I thought maybe it was my monitoring (Presonus Monitor Station), so I bought a D-Box and I even noticed more of a difference at that point. My imaging was better and my center was more focused in the middle. I thought ok I can hear better but how do I get this to translate on tape (DAW)? That’s when I saw Fab’s video on setting up your Dangerous 2BUS for analog summing and realized how to get this sound to tape, but I was trying to do it with a mix I had completed in the box without the results I heard others talk about. Sometime later I read this article and saw Mixerman’s comments and saw the title of his book. I loved reading the debate and I thought to myself that if Mixerman is so bent on analog summing I still must not be doing it right. I bought his book a read it and realized I needed to start a mix from scratch to hear the effects of analog summing and I also noted which I was already aware of was I needed better convertors (that was already in the works since the D-Box has 8 Channels of summing as well). I purchased the Aurora 8 and Aurora 16 which I read alot about on Gearslutz. Mind you I work a normal job and I been doing music in some form or fashion since the 3rd grade, so I just never took the time to follow Mixerman’s advice. One day a friend of mine from Atlanta who just got back into making music (hobbist) via his DAW, asked me to listen to a few of his tracks. He sent them to my email and as always I like a few and others I didn’t. I said to myself for fun I should try mixing one. I told him send it to me through a file sharing site and he agreed. I followed Mixerman’s instructions as stated in his book to see if my investment would pay off or would I be eBay’ing this stuff. Put the faders up for proper balancing and very little panning just to my main outputs. I then assigned the instruments to my 24 outs for Summing, re-adjusted my fader AND I WAS BLOWN AWAY. The difference was like night and day. Granted he choose great sounds that worked well together, but the rough analog summing mix I made with levels and panning was much better then his rough mix and my ITB rough mix. Everything I read and heard about analog summing was now clear as a bright sunny day. For me analog summing is a game changer and I could never go back to summing in the box. The depth and clarity I get now is no doubt in my mind a combination of great convertors and the addition of analog summing. I mean when I first pulled up the faders I had to check to see if his mix was as clear. Don’t get my wrong it was clear, just not as clean, wide and didn’t have the depth mind has. The way I use reverbs has changed as well as my eq’ing (or lack thereof) and panning. I mean now I feel I can make a mix with just hard left, hard right and center as my only panning options. There’s some many good things I can say about analog summing and the way it has changed my mixing style. I can honestly say I finally feel like I can get that Big Studio sound in my home studio. I’ve heard the arguments on both sides, I’ve bought Graham’s video lessons, Ken Lewis lessons, Groove3 member and was also a subscriber to Fab’s puremix site. All of that has helped me along the way, buy analog summing gave me something the forementioned lessons could’ve never gave me. Mixing is easier (which I thought Mixerman was just rumbling about) and faster, hell it’s even fun when I’m working with a track I really don’t like in the first place. This is just my experience and yes I heard and know there’s a difference cause I lived it.

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      Sean Wrote: “Actually, Dave Pensado does sum through his SSL he has in his room, but he does all the mixing ITB.”

      That’s called hybrid mixing. Yes, all the moves are made in the computer, but the summing is analog, and that’s different than mixing ITB.

      Eric wrote: “I noticed a little bit of a difference by just routing all my tracks to the 16 outs I had available to use, but not the HUGE difference my sale rep had proclaimed to secure my purchase.”

      Eric wrote: “I then assigned the instruments to my 24 outs for Summing, re-adjusted my fader AND I WAS BLOWN AWAY. The difference was like night and day.”

      And yet another person has actually tried the process driven test I recommend in order to discover the enormous difference between summing ITB and summing analog. It IS indeed a night and day difference, but you have to perform the right test to hear that difference readily.

      Enjoy,

      Mixerman

      Reply
  52. Edvard Munch

    RND 5059 Satellite Baby if youre working at home. Sounds as warm as any AMS Neve 80s console (as well as the 5088) and as crisp as a SSL console. I also like the Mixdream from SPL, but you cant push/saturate a channel like the 5059. You can push the whole mix but it tends to squash. The Dangerous 2 Bus with the +6 buttons are ok, but not the cheaper version.

    Reply
  53. Robert Moehle

    I’ll tell you how to take of this whole question! I just recorded my first CD. It was exciting to do and I worked very hard on it and tried practically everything I’d ever heard on how to make it exciting (which to me equates to “it will sell). And I discovered something. IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE HOW MUCH EXTRA STUFF YOU DO if the music isn’t top notch! I have a total output of less than 40 copies in public, and I won’t bore you with the sold to given away distribution ratio. I had to face it – I’m a lousy singer and not too great songwriter. I realized that before I spent a pile of money on extra gear. In the long run, I don’t think the tech stuff matters that much to the final buyer.

    Reply
  54. JROCK

    Funny, we always overlook how important the SONG and the PLAYING is. Everything else is moot if the song isn’t awesome and the performances aren’t awesome. Touche’.

    JROCK

    Reply
    • John

      By the time the song makes it to mix the song quality is irrelevant & so is the performance. That’s a different conversation & has nothing to do with Summing.

      Reply
  55. Will Peng

    It absolutely does not matter how good your equipment or technical skills are, if the music sucks in the first place.
    But that should basic common knowledge/sense.

    I thoroughly enjoy Mixerman’s steel conviction in his posts and book. (-Amazing Must-Read for any engineer)
    I know nothing about analog summing other than what I’ve read in “Zen and the Art of Mixing” and the posts here and on gearslutz.
    I am convinced (sold on the idea) and have ordered a Rupert Neve Designs 5059 Satellite Summing Box.
    I have hopes that it will help my mixes+imaging out….and will post updates as well (-after I try summing out for the first time)

    Thanks everyone, for sharing your opinions, knowledge, and personality quirks. This is what makes the Internet fun and useful.

    Reply
  56. Namin

    There is something called Unitaudio http://www.unitaudio.com/ and they have a few models of analog summing which starts at $149. I am planning to buy one of those and try. I think it should be quite interesting for that price. All of them are passive units.

    Reply
  57. Eric

    Remember, analog summing is still only part of the picture. Your converters and skill are also part of the total equation (not to say anyone skills here aren’t up to par). With that being said analog summing did make a difference in my mixes cause I tried an all ITB rough mix again with my new converters, but the depth and width wasn’t the same so back to analog summing I went.

    Remember you have to set up your DAW for analog summing and start a mix from scratch to hear the difference (I made the same mistake myself as I stated in my previous post). Fab Dupont has a video on setting up your 2BUS/DAW for analog summing (he’s using a 2BUS and Pro Tools HD, but this applies to all DAWs and Summing Mixers) that helped me along greatly

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gW18nrUJOI

    Check this out, I have a friend who I just mixed 2 songs for and for some reason he has taken Graham’s side on this debate of analog summing. Mind you he’s a talented musician and a decent mixing engineer at best. He continues to say “My skills are better and it has nothing to do with analog summing”. If I ask him the question then how has my mixes gotten better over night, he has no answer….yep, just as I thought…analog summing.

    Reply
  58. Brian

    A few points after stumbling on this thread long after its sell by date:

    1. Mixerman never answered questions put to him on things like VCC etc, or at least as far as I can remember in this thread. Which leads to a point, he’s only ever mixed ITB with his methodology/tools, and he’s only ever mixed through a summing box etc with his methodology/tools. None of us can mix every way possible ITB and none of us can mix every way possible OTB because the possibilities are infinit. There is no objective way to judge it, there is no wrong or right in so far as there is no direct universal comparisan.
    2. Mixerman’s proposed methodology for a more fair test for his use of otb summing is also not a fair test in the way that he rightly points out simply running a finished mix through a summing box isn’t a fair test. Briliant and all as you surely are Mixerman, your test still requires a person to do two separate mixes, and even you can not reproduce the exact same mix, exact same feelings and take the exact same choices for the exact same reasons the second time round. Both mixes again wil be different, but who knows for what reason each time. A real world fact is for example that moving your head even a relatively tiny amount between the speakers in the most well treated acoustic space will change the frequency response of what your brain is getting fed by larger percentages than say the measureable frequency changeso r distortions etc that any given summing box might produce.
    3. Mixerman, a clear point in this original blog post was for aspiring engineers, they see guys doing work ITB which gets huge respect, sells in millions and is applauded by professionals and the public alike, so why can’t aspiring engineers aspire to do mixes like those. Is Mixerman saying Pensado et al are not doing their mixes as well as they could, should their clients demand at least a partial refund, are they’re celebrated mixes only 90% there. Instead of attacking the poster for being ‘ignorent’ it would be better to clarify your own position a little more.
    4. If Mixerman is still reading even this very late to the debate post and goes on posting without actually addressing other perspectives and clarifying his position I begin to wonder whether this whole time, with all his books and contributions online, has the main driving force simply been a love of hearing his own voice or mocking and discrediting the position of others. I’m sure your right about plenty of things but your damaging your credibility when you land on a blog such as this claiming others are ignoring your points when you don’t even address theirs fully, see my third point above.

    Reply
    • mixerman

      1. Mixerman never answered questions put to him on things like VCC etc, or at least as far as I can remember in this thread.

      I’ve stated in a number of places that Slate’s VCC goes a long way towards solving digital summing issues, including here I believe.

      Which leads to a point, he’s only ever mixed ITB with his methodology/tools, and he’s only ever mixed through a summing box etc with his methodology/tools.

      Dude, I’ve used so many combinations of converters, consoles, DAWs, and plugins, that it would boggle the mind. My basis of comparison is vast, which is what happens when you’re a freelance mixer and producer like I am.

      “2. Mixerman’s proposed methodology for a more fair test for his use of otb summing is also not a fair test in the way that he rightly points out simply running a finished mix through a summing box isn’t a fair test. Briliant and all as you surely are Mixerman, your test still requires a person to do two separate mixes, and even you can not reproduce the exact same mix, exact same feelings and take the exact same choices for the exact same reasons the second time round.”

      This is why it must be a process based test, and not a results based one. You’re only making my argument for me here.

      “Both mixes again wil be different, but who knows for what reason each time. A real world fact is for example that moving your head even a relatively tiny amount between the speakers in the most well treated acoustic space will change the frequency response of what your brain is getting fed by larger percentages than say the measureable frequency changeso r distortions etc that any given summing box might produce.”

      Ah. It’s Ethan Winer! Welcome Ethan!

      “3. Mixerman, a clear point in this original blog post was for aspiring engineers, they see guys doing work ITB which gets huge respect, sells in millions and is applauded by professionals and the public alike, so why can’t aspiring engineers aspire to do mixes like those. Is Mixerman saying Pensado et al are not doing their mixes as well as they could, should their clients demand at least a partial refund, are they’re celebrated mixes only 90% there. Instead of attacking the poster for being ‘ignorent’ it would be better to clarify your own position a little more.”

      Graham, who wrote the article in the first place, has admitted in this thread to never using a summing box. Yet he tells us all that it’s a silly debate, despite having no experience with it whatsoever. That’s the very definition of ignorance.

      “4. If Mixerman is still reading even this very late to the debate post and goes on posting without actually addressing other perspectives and clarifying his position I begin to wonder whether this whole time, with all his books and contributions online, has the main driving force simply been a love of hearing his own voice or mocking and discrediting the position of others. I’m sure your right about plenty of things but your damaging your credibility when you land on a blog such as this claiming others are ignoring your points when you don’t even address theirs fully, see my third point above.”

      Clarify my position? Really? My position is simple. Analog summing with adequate converters will make mixing easier. If you’d like to test that principle, then it must be tested in the process of mixing a track in which there’s a stake, and in the manner I’ve suggested in my book, and in many posts online. Otherwise, you’re making a subjective decision as to which mix is better, rather than a subjective decision as to which way makes it easier to mix. When it’s easier to mix, you will be more successful at mixing.

      Enjoy,

      Mixerman

      Reply
  59. Anthony

    No Mix in a Dangerous Audio Summing Mixer will compare to an SSL Console mix unless your using analog outboard eq/compression. SSL Console will win every time period. Mixerman doesn’t have the credentials of a Chris Lord Alge or Tony Masserati. Yes they both mix differently but it comes down to outboard gear/ hardware. Andy Wallace, Bob Clearmountain, Young Guru.. C’MON, Do you think Adelle is recording in a DAW direct through a Digi 002, lol
    TAPE TAPE TAPE 2″, ATR, great converters into your rig with Great Pre-Amps, Good Room, Good Technique

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      “No Mix in a Dangerous Audio Summing Mixer will compare to an SSL Console mix unless your using analog outboard eq/compression.”

      You’ve never used an SSL, have you?

      “Mixerman doesn’t have the credentials of a Chris Lord Alge or Tony Masserati. Yes they both mix differently but it comes down to outboard gear/ hardware. Andy Wallace, Bob Clearmountain, Young Guru.. C’MON, Do you think Adelle is recording in a DAW direct through a Digi 002, lol
      TAPE TAPE TAPE 2″, ATR, great converters into your rig with Great Pre-Amps, Good Room, Good Technique”

      Hilarious. For years, Internet poseurs argued that I was dinosaur because I wouldn’t stop working on tape, and because of my complaints over the quality of digital platforms in general. And now, after years of figuring out how to make a computer as effective as a fully analog system, I’m don’t have the credentials to talk about the differences, because I made the switch.

      I spent my first 20 years in this business mixing on consoles. You would have a difficult time naming an LFC (that’s large frame console) I haven’t mixed a record on. Yet, you argue, that mixers, who do not have the same basis of comparison, mixers who have decided they will finish out their careers on a console, somehow have more knowledge about the differences, than someone who has mixed many records both ways. Because they have bigger discographies?

      So, how does my discography compare to yours? Because according to your logic, my opinions would trump yours given a heftier discography. Right?

      Silly boy.

      Mixerman

      Reply
  60. Eric

    Your way off base. Nobody’s talking about a Digi002 or some other cheap decent sounding converter. Were talking about some of the best equipment you can buy. If you had read Mixerman’s book you would have realized he uses a number of outboard gear and he’s not the only mixer using analog summing that’s mixing commercial records we hear everyday. Also some people are summing through a analog console back into their DAW and using plugins with outboard gear. As a matter of fact this was a favorite way of intergrating digital in an analog console for years before the analog summing box which in a sense is the same concept, summing analog back into your DAW to avoid summing internally.

    The reason you use analog summing is for the width, mid focus and depth that you get from analog. A Dangerous 2Bus (or LT) provides a clean pure signal path so of course it doesn’t sound like a SSL, Neve, API etc. If you want an SSL sound buy an SSL or some of their other outgear which is what Mixerman and others have done and you made that point in your post.

    I can only assume your not as deep in the game as some others on this tread cause to put down Mixerman cause he not Chris Lord Alge or Tony Masserati is down right foolish. Nobody is either one of them or some of the other big name engineers we read or hear about. I guess your bigger than Mixerman, Fab, Pensado, Swedian, Kevin Lewis or even Graham? I can only dream about doing the work these guys or any number of other Industry Engineers have done or the people they worked with. If any person is providing good information that’ll help me along in being a better mixer…I’m all ears. I don’t discount one person cause he’s not one of the so called giants in the game, I’m here to learn as I assume you are too.

    I tried analog summing and it has worked cause I followed Mixerman’s and Fab’s instructions and didn’t try to sum a mix I did ITB and just route all the tracks to an output, I start my mixes from scratch using analog summing. It has made a difference in my mixes the short time I’ve been doing it and I’m telling you I’m NOT GOING BACK TO ITB cause analog summing does work. I hope one day you get a chance to try it the correct way and maybe you’ll report back to us (or maybe you have a large format console and don’t have the need to). We are all here to learn and that’s the bottom line.

    Reply
  61. Anthony Pero

    Gosh, this comment section was like a train wreck… I couldn’t take my eyes off of it! After 20 years the internet is STILL less civilized than the Wild West. Graham, I admire you a lot for the restraint you displayed as someone basically barged into your HOUSE and attacked you on a personal level. I admire that Spirit in you.

    Reply
  62. Brian

    Can’t believe this thing is still alive. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on the points I raised earlier Mixer man. You can refrane from trying to mock/belittle me etc though if you don’t mind, I’m not quite smart enough to win an online mud slinging match with you, so it would be a waste of time if nothing else.

    Also would like to point out to the commenter that cyted CLA and others as more of an authority than Mixer man (or at least that’s how it sounded), CLA was still working off an antiquated 16 bit digital sony multi track machine last I heard…so again to me the important point is that there are a lot of guys doing rather briliant/rather successful work in all sorts of ways. And I wouldn’t discredit Mixer man’s opinion so quickly just because CLA etc have some bigger selling releases with their credit on it, because to me it seems like some of those guys haven’t quite explored various technologies as much as Mixer man has done.

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      @Brian wrote: “Can’t believe this thing is still alive. ”

      And yet here you are.

      “Would be interested to hear your thoughts on the points I raised earlier Mixer man.”

      You’ll have to repost them. I’m in the middle of three albums right now.

      “You can refrane from trying to mock/belittle me etc though if you don’t mind, I’m not quite smart enough to win an online mud slinging match with you, so it would be a waste of time if nothing else.”

      Show me where I’ve slung mud in this thread. I’d be very interested to see it, because as far as I can tell, I’ve made nothing but good arguments, and have refrained from ad hominem attacks.

      “Also would like to point out to the commenter that cyted CLA and others as more of an authority than Mixer man (or at least that’s how it sounded), CLA was still working off an antiquated 16 bit digital sony multi track machine last I heard…so again to me the important point is that there are a lot of guys doing rather briliant/rather successful work in all sorts of ways. And I wouldn’t discredit Mixer man’s opinion so quickly just because CLA etc have some bigger selling releases with their credit on it, because to me it seems like some of those guys haven’t quite explored various technologies as much as Mixer man has done.”

      And that’s the whole point, right? Without exploring and making comparisons, there is no opinion worth voicing. That’s hardly slinging mud. That’s just a good point.

      Anyone who loves what CLA does (and he mixes into a console, so that means he’s summing analog), should mimic him if they are so inclined and have such lack of vision. But anyone who wants to base their view of credibility purely on record sales, would have to acknowledge that I probably have the most sales of anyone in this thread, and therefore my opinion would have the most weight here.

      An amusing argument if there ever was one.

      Of course, I produce and mix records. And when you produce records for a living, you have to be far more selective than as a mixer. CLA only mixes albums. So we kinda got significantly different gigs. I can only produce eight albums in a year if I wanted to kill myself. He’s set up purely for mixing, tends to stick to one genre, and with the help of an assistant, can come in and mix an album in under four hours. So he can mix that many albums in 3 months (and still have a life), and an ME can master that many albums in 8 days. So, that would be comparing apples to oranges in more than one way.

      The bottom line is, I make records that you can easily look up and listen to. So, it’s not difficult to determine whether you like the way I hear.

      Enjoy,

      Mixerman

      Reply
      • John

        Actually CLA is still using 16 bit conversion. So whoever said that doesn’t read after CLA.

        Reply
  63. Steve Sleep

    I started when I was a kid, plugging stuff into whatever I could find to get it onto a tape. Later I got a 4 Cassette Recorder, and I’ve had a series of Reel to reels, Handheld tape recorders, a nice aiwa portable reel to reel, a radio shack TRS-80 cassette recorder. I think in analog, I still track all my rough stuff on an Tascam Digital 8 track portastudio and my 4 track cassette record ( A Yamaha MT-50, and I use my Sony Tapecorder Reel to reel.) so I prefer Analog when it’s being used as an interface, no latency, but I love the fact that you can do so much with the collated material once it’s in the box, So I can see both sides of the argument. Preferably , in my dream world I would have a Studer or Revox, and a Ampex and track and pre-master everything through that. I still like getting out the razor blade, and the slicing tape, But Digital is nice and convienient, powerful flexiable etc. The only thing I don’t like is the Analog aemulation plug in for DAWS, it’s kind of like the inverse of this. Sure they sound Passable, but to me it’s still not the same. But it’s probably purely a psychological thing..

    Reply
  64. joe

    Here’s what i’m seeing in your argument. Analog summing matters if you play instruments, it doesn’t matter if you don’t play instruments.

    Reply
  65. Justin

    Guys, a good way to look at it is like mixing thru bad speakers vs mixing thru great speakers in a treated room…mixing thru summing, you can hear better and make better decisions and therefore your mix comes out better. Also like moving up from bad converters to excellent ones…once you do, you can hear in a much more detailed way and your mixes will come out better. And also sound better because of added depth and separation. Easy!

    Reply
  66. Nicholas Rubini

    Graham,
    I loved the post and I don’t think it was ignorant of you. You proved a point to me and to many others, thanks for that.. That being said, I will probably buy Mixerman’s book, even though I did not like he’s attitude for a second.

    Reply
    • Joe Knouse

      It is because they feel threatened by the new music landscape. Soon he will be completely unnecessary, and will still have a bloated mortgage to pay. THAT’S what he’s concerned about. Don’t be fooled.

      Reply
      • mixerman

        I feel threatened by the new music landscape? Have there been new musical notes added or something? Are we on a fifteen note scale now?

        Has there been a change in what good arranging is? Has there been a change in how one inspires artists to deliver great performances? Has there been a change in how music affects people emotionally?

        Enjoy,

        Mixerman

        Reply
          • mixerman

            I’m responding directly to your suggestion that I’m somehow being left behind in the “new music landscape.” Not sure how that works, when I’m as cutting edge as you can get where my mixing rig is concerned, and am constantly experimenting where music and production are concerned. Some things, like effective arranging, don’t change..

            In regards to your non-sequitor, “an analog summing box is going to inspire an artist to give a great performance?” not necessarily when it’s being used in the final phase of the process, although it could certainly affect your artist’s reaction to your mixes. In regards specifically to performance, I’ve personally watched bands lose their woody when listening back to an ITB playback of a take. There is nothing more debilitating than losing the confidence of your artists. The performances will suffer.

            The goal is to keep everyone up and excited about their project, and when there are decisions that you can make that would undermine this, then yes, it makes a difference to the performances. ALL of my decisions when it comes to gear, have everything to do with inspiring the band/artist, which will make everything sound better, more than any piece of gear could do directly. Sub-par converters, poor monitoring, poor playback through lack of analog summing, lousy mic pres, poor mic selection, poor placement, all of these things can affect your performers state of mind if they aren’t being inspired by what’s coming back through the monitors, and it’s not good enough to know that you can improve it greatly later. My artist (and I) must know throughout the process where they’re at, and if there are things going on that obfuscate this, then I risk losing them. “Trust me,” and “It’ll be great in the mix” just won’t cut it, and you will never hear those uttered from my mouth when I’m making a record. They cost too much.

            Enjoy,

            Mixerman

          • Joe Knouse

            Wow. Mixerman. Totally bitchin’ mixing rig, man.

            I’m calling bullshit, here. I record on just about the shittest equipment a person can record on, and I never ‘loose my woody’ because of that. My songs that I write, the reasons I write them, the things I discover about myself during the process of making them, and the things I learn while playing them…that keeps me doing it, and keeps me excited about it. It has nothing to do with a $6k analog summer.

            And soon, technology is going to take it to a place where it doesn’t matter. I know you think that’s bullshit, but you know what? Kodak used to say the same thing.

          • mixerman

            Joe Knouse Wrote: “I’m calling bullshit, here. I record on just about the shittest equipment a person can record on, and I never ‘loose my woody’ because of that. My songs that I write, the reasons I write them, the things I discover about myself during the process of making them, and the things I learn while playing them…that keeps me doing it, and keeps me excited about it. It has nothing to do with a $6k analog summer.”

            It sure doesn’t. A) because you don’t have one. B) because you’re not a professional mixer or producer. You’re making music for yourself. C) You’re not paying someone to produce your music, and if you were writing me or anyone else a large check to make your album, you should expect us to work on a professional quality rig.

            It’s been four years since I wrote Zen and the Art of Mixing, and it was time for a revision on the one chapter that requires it–Gear. Despite being a paltry 10% of the information, the Gear chapter seems to get the most attention on the internet, which is certainly no surprise. Is this because I focused too much on Gear? No. I only addressed what I felt were the most important considerations for anyone who is on their way to becoming a professional mixer. But because it’s the most discussed portion of the book, it can skew the appearance such that I get accused of being a gear snob, or worse yet, an audiophile, that is to say, one that views the sound as more important than the music, the performances, and the production. Nothing could be further from the truth, and anyone who has read me for the past decade, understands just how big an emphasis I put on those elements. Which would explain why 90% of my book is on how to get the most out of the music. Not how to get the most out of your gear.

            Given that so many things have changed since I wrote that chapter, I have delivered a revised edition of Zen And the Art of Mixing to my publisher Hal Leonard, which will come out this Spring. In particular, I’ve addressed the confusion around the hobbyist crowd, who tends to take great umbrage at my suggestion that digital summing is “broken.” I would like to take a moment and share an excerpt from the revised Gear chapter.

            *******************

            From Zen and the Art of Mixing V2:

            I’ve been quite clear about this: There is no point to investing in professional audio gear for a room that isn’t accurate enough to make critical sonic evaluations. Not only is it a waste of money, it’s a waste of time too.

            As a professional mixer, your time is an important consideration. If analog summing is going to save you 60 minutes on each mix, it won’t be long before the units will have paid for themselves. From a business perspective, it’s in your interest to increase the pace at which you can mix. Fortunately, this is true artistically as well. With business and artistic considerations in full alignment, choosing gear that significantly and quantifiably speeds up your process is no longer a luxury, but rather a wholly critical investment.

            As a hobbyist, your time is your own.

            Really, as a hobbyist, your only consideration is how the music pleases you and your friends. I bring this up because there seems to be some confusion as to the nature of my recommendations, in particular, whom I’m addressing.
            .
            Since writing this book, I’ve found myself defending my gear positions on sites that cater to hobbyists. The underlying complaint from this community is that mixers in my position are “audiophiles” who believe sound and the gear for manipulating that sound, is more important than the music itself. I can assure you, there are very few, if any, successful mixers and producers who think that way. Quite the opposite really.

            Clearly, there is a bare minimum gear requirement in order to mix a record. You must have a computer with a DAW (or some kind of multitrack playback system), a soundcard, and amplified monitors. For a pure hobbyist that absolute bare minimum is a perfectly acceptable way to work. There’s nothing at stake. For the professional, his reputation is at stake on each and every mix.

            If my name is going on a product, you can bet your ass I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that my gear isn’t getting in the way of the production I’m mixing. If I’m just mucking around with tracks in Garage Band (can you believe that’s entertainment for me?), then I don’t use anything other than the bare minimum 2-channel signal chain. Such is the difference between having a stake in the product, and having none—even for me.

            Suppose you’re a hobbyist, and through the course of your endeavors you happen to write a song so magical, you’re certain it can and will be a hit. At what point are you going to decide that the “bare-minimum” might not be enough? If not immediately, at some point you will likely conclude a particular production is deserving of some special consideration. And why is that? Because suddenly, there’s a stake. Or at the very least the perception of one.

            If you’re learning to mix for your own personal enjoyment, then you really have nothing at stake. As a pure hobbyist, and barring a fluke, it doesn’t matter whether you make a musically amazing record or a musically awful one. The practical results are the same—your own personal self-satisfaction. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t make my advice on this subject any less accurate. It just means it doesn’t apply to you at this time. That could change. Actually, it will change, just as my recommendations in this chapter have.

            Unfortunately, there is a whole gaggle of hobbyists on the Internet, who insist the entry price into this game is overblown by professional mixers such as myself. The argument is that the music will transcend all, even a prosumer level mixing rig. And while there is surely truth to that concept in the abstract, practically speaking, it’s not a reasonable position to take if you’re in the business of mixing records.

            It seems to me, both my “poseur” and “genius” detractors I told you about, cater to a hobbyist crowd, where the predominant perception is that the tens of thousands of dollars I suggest are ultimately necessary to put together a professional quality rig and room (over time), will offer too subtle an improvement to be worthwhile. Such opinions are often based in ignorance presented under the guise of knowledgable encouragement.

            So, yes, and again, if your only goal is to derive personal entertainment from the creation of music, then the bare minimum as you ordain is all that you need. If your goal, however, is to transition from hobbyist, to semi-pro, to professional, then you will likely want to invest in gear that allows you to properly compete in the professional arena.

            So, if you’re a pure hobbyist, with no designs on entering this business, you can use a prosumer Soundblaster card as your converters, you can use any DAW you like, you can stick with the stock plugins, you can even work in your bedroom with no acoustic treatment whatsoever. I have no problem with this.

            Of course, at some point, you very well may start to charge for your mixing services. The moment you do, you’re in business, and there will be an expectation from your clients beyond your own personal entertainment. Your clients will expect a quality worthy of their hard-earned money, regardless of how little you charge for your services, and despite how delusional your client might be (the less you charge, the more likely your client will be a major pain in the ass), with the submission of your first recording invoice, you will have a position in this business, and your decisions are no longer purely artistic in nature. Now your decisions have business implications. Once that happens, the “bare minimum” rig will no longer seem adequate, and you will naturally start to prioritize expenditures that will improve your workflow, as well as your work in general.

            As a business, some of your purchases will be made purely for market perception. In the late nineties and early zero’s, as music-makers began to make the gradual switch permanently to DAWs, many studios purchased Pro Tools rigs purely for the perception benefits. I can assure you, any longstanding room that had a good 2” analog machine, didn’t feel the need to purchase a DAW in the 2000s for artistic purposes. This was a business decision, one done purely to attract clients and keep them there for absurd lengths of time as they dicked around with their DAW.

            As you read this revised chapter, it’s important that you keep in mind your current position as you contemplate gear requirements. Don’t get frustrated reading this chapter because you’re not profitable enough to make these investments now. In the introduction of this book, I wrote: “The good news is that your hearing and mixing will improve concurrently with your gear. Even the most modest mixing setup should be good enough for now, and certainly won’t preclude you from this book.”

            Even if you’re not in a position to improve your rig in the foreseeable future, there is plenty of valuable information in this book beyond my recommendations on gear. There’s no doubt, developing your skills is first and foremost, then and only then, can you put together a plan for amending your system.

            As I said, things change, and in the three years since I wrote this book, some of my recommendations have ben updated accordingly. The good news? I can now help you dramatically improve your mixing rig for relatively small coin, regardless of your position in this business. First thing is first. Let’s define “gear.””

            ***********

            Joe Knouse Wrote: :And soon, technology is going to take it to a place where it doesn’t matter. I know you think that’s bullshit, but you know what? Kodak used to say the same thing.”

            You’re confusing Kodak as a manufacturer of cameras, with a photographer, who uses cameras to create art. I don’t make gear. I make music.

            Every rig is personal in nature, and your decisions regarding that gear will be made based on what makes your life easier. My only purpose in writing a gear chapter about mixing, is to point out, there are a great many considerations when going into professional mixing. That doesn’t mean you can’t do great work as a hobbyist, and the shortcomings of your gear can actually enhance the quality of your work in certain situations, as it can have the effect of creatively taking you places you might not naturally go with your music and recording. But to argue that a hobbyist rig is good enough for a professional is ludicrous. Yes, I can make a great record for you on your rig. But I wouldn’t, because I would be spending way to much time actually dealing with the gear, which will take away time and focus on on the music. My goal as a professional producer, mixer, and even recordist, is to keep the technology completely invisible to the music-making process. That’s the only way to make it so the gear is irrelevant to the process.

            So, we all agree, it’s about the music. My suggestions are completely in line with that.

            Enjoy,

            Mixerman

          • Andrew Bauserman

            Mixerman,
            Thanks for sharing the excerpt from the revised edition. ‘Zen’ is one of the classic texts about mixing.

  67. Noah Copeland

    Graham Cochrane – fighting snobbery since 2009. Love this site. Thank you for keeping it about making great music.

    Reply
  68. DBBUBBA

    If there is one person that I have disagreed with the most internet forums it has to be Mixerman, but guys… take it from an old, gnarled mixer, who’s been around so long that even his ex-intern’s ex-interns are now famous mixers…
    MIXERMAN IS 100% CORRECT.

    Here is an analogy regarding ITB mixing that should bring home a point:
    There are and were quite a few ways that analog summing was done.
    The basic analog summing amplifier designs were and are a variation on a common concept, design and theory.
    Each design used by each manufacturer is slightly different and they all perform and sound different.
    So, you could say that a Neve sums differently than a Sphere and a MCI sums differently than a SSL and a Quad Eight, Soundcraft, Neotek, etc… on and on…
    Well, they do all have slightly different summing designs, but the basic circuit is a derivative of previous analog designs and one somewhat lead to the next.
    Now, along comes digital audio and suddenly we had DAWs show up with mixers included.
    The engineers that designed the original digital mixers started from scratch.
    They went on the basic idea that “mixing” or summing is a mathematical function that is the equivalent to simply adding together and summing the data stream that make up each track or channel of the digital mixer.
    So, previous to digital mixing you had a lineage of analogs designs and you could trace the designs and theories back to the original mixers.
    Once digital mixing came along you had a whole new set of engineers and designers who “invented” a method to sum the sate streams.
    The digital engineers did not follow the lineage of analog summing.
    So, it is not surprising that it behaves (sounds) differently.

    Another point to consider is that there are just not that many “flavors” of digital mixers.
    Yamaha has their way of doing things, DigiDesign/Avid has theirs, MOTU theirs, Sonar, and on…
    There is fixed point, 32 point floating, 24 bit and each is different and some are clearly better, but each company’s mixer sounds slightly different.
    Still, the number of viable digital mix platforms is fairly limited in scope compared to the sheer number of analog console designs.
    It is like with digital everyone is mixing through only a few design topologies.

    BTW… quit the silly comparison of people’s discography in relation to the validity of their opinion.
    Trust me… there are people that most people on the internet have never ever heard of who have great ears, brilliant ideas, do brilliant work and have years and years of accumulated knowledge.
    Most answers are not validated by the work of CLA, Bob Clearmountain, Mixerman, Chuck Ainley, etc…
    There is a one hell of a lot more audio than SSL and Neve.

    Reply
  69. ido

    I like Graham and learned from him, Very Good site!
    anyway, assuming U know what u doing and manage to get good sounding mixes, here is my way of thinking :
    1. I would do anything i can to make my mixes (even if allredy sound good) – better.
    2. since i cant afford an SSL or Neve Console (home studio remind u..) And all sort of Expansive outboard (compressors, eq’s, effects and so on), so Im working ITB I would buy the best plugin i can and get to know each the best i can. (for the last 8 years Im working with uad. i know the plugins realy well and getting good results. theres a lot of others native Vst’s that i picked after trying that gives very good results as well)
    3. but..if analog summing will help me get more depth/width/headroom and its affordable – Im want to try it. I see a lot of good opinion from experienced people about analog Summing.
    so, in this case – I do not agree with the headline “Why You Shouldn’t Care”.

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      ido wrote: “3. but..if analog summing will help me get more depth/width/headroom and its affordable – Im want to try it. I see a lot of good opinion from experienced people about analog Summing.
      so, in this case – I do not agree with the headline “Why You Shouldn’t Care”.”

      And this is exactly what I suggest in the book. Try it for yourself.

      And your point is well taken. Why should you care? Because little positive comes into your life from willful ignorance, particularly if your goal is to become a professional. If you’re just a hobbyist, it doesn’t matter. If you’re trying to make a business out of your work, then you should be willing to seek out anything that gives you an edge. But until one tries analog summing for oneself, evaluating the cost/benefit ratio is impossible.

      Enjoy,

      Mixerman

      Reply
  70. JROCK

    I would be curious to get Mixerman (or anyone else’s) opinion of something like Slate’s VCC plugin, or others that simulate analog summing. I own the VCC and use it in combination with my Dbox’s 8 channels of summing. To my ears, the VCC certainly helps with the depth and width. The ability to change the flavors is wonderful too. When I can’t mix on the 4056E/G+ at the studio I work at, VCC, Dbox, and Serpent buss comp is giving me pretty decent results at home.

    JROCK

    Reply
  71. Mixerman

    Slate’s VCC is a great alternative to analog summing. I like his Trigger FX compressor. I can actually use that on the 2-bus. Neither of these existed when I wrote the book.

    Personally, I prefer the summing. if you just want to get immediate improvement for short coin, I find that the Slate VCC will provide that.

    Enjoy,

    Mixerman

    Reply
    • JROCK

      Thanks Eric. All the Slate stuff is phenominal when you look at it from a value standpoint. For those of us who can’t get a desk in our home setups, VCC definitely help immensely.

      Cheers,

      JROCK

      Reply
  72. Second Order Sound

    At the end of the day its all ones and zeros, the analog vs. digital debate is really pointless. Anything you may have gained to justify an expensive piece of outboard gear is lost essentially in the fact that its all digital info in the end, not to say that that piece of gear didn’t do a great job, but the principle of the argument. If you like something and it sounds good and moves people, then its good, period, regardless of the tools used. Now if you record analog, mix and master analog and press/print to analog and subsequently listen to that recorded material on tape or (LP)without the waveforms ever being converted then I would whole heartedly argue the sonics and virtues of analog as whole, those waveforms have never been severed and reassembled. If money were no object I would have a warehouse of analog gear because the romance of it is irresistible. But one cannot argue the brilliance of a DAW and plugin recall, being able to render a song and throw it on 10 different play back units and then go back to the DAW and adjust is a godsend. I cant help but say that a less than perfect recording of amazing music beats the pants of a technically perfect master of lifeless garbage. Talk less, play and listen more!!

    Reply
  73. 4D Arcade

    No opinions on the Waves NLS then guys? 32 modelled channels from SSL, Neve and EMI desks, including modelling of 8 routes + their colours and also master bus for all 3. I would really value an opinion of this product from any of you guys, thanks.

    Ps: Graham, this article and many others have been absolutely fantastic, thank you for your videos and articles, you are making a bigger impact in the mixing world than many others who beleive young engineers dont have a chance without expensive analogue sipumming modules, patchbays and such. I am a little embarrassed at reading the aggression some people have towards you here, it’s pathetic and you come across as way too nice a guy to even address them, so kudos to you.

    Reply
  74. track

    well, analog mixing, it so obvious you can implement it with resistors for few cents!
    I ‘m surprised with the arguments i coud find in this debate. Every piece of gear can make a difference; i mean every circuit, the merely analog buffer you could find, but there are critical place in the chain. a lot of da converter are poor depending on the load (maybe opamp instability). A really good buffer/amp can make the difference. so i tend to move the debate to the quality of all intrinsic gear and combination. minimal path and why not tube design just at the output of ad chip…. but you find it only on few hifi..

    Reply
  75. track

    well, analog mixing, it so obvious you can implement it with resistors for few cents!
    I ‘m surprised with the arguments i coud find in this debate. Every piece of gear can make a difference; i mean every circuit, the merely analog buffer you could find, but there are critical place in the chain. a lot of da converter are poor depending on the load (maybe opamp instability). A really good buffer/amp can make the difference. so i tend to move the debate to the quality of all intrinsic gear and combination. minimal path and why not tube design just at the output of ad chip.. but you find it only on few hifi..

    Reply
  76. MixerDude!

    There’s two different topics being touched at here:
    1. is analogue summing better
    and
    2. how to make better mixes.

    if ur looking to improve your mixes.. of course there’s no substitute to more practice and experience.
    getting a summing mixer wont turn your bad mixes into sonic bliss.

    BUT, the difference analog summing will give to your sound… is remarkable (at least to a moderately experienced ears.)

    This article is confusing both and providing somewhat half-assed information. Its correct about some things, but not the whole of it. As for the pro mixers like Dave Pensado and etc mixing in the box… they’re getting their mixes sent to top mastering houses, who in turn run it through their top analogue gear to give it the defining sonic qualities.

    Reply
  77. Gabe

    I love how Mixerman is being a total jerk and Graham continues to recommend his book. Got mad respect for you, Graham.

    “I only want Pros to be kinder.
    Guess that’s asking too much, sorry.”

    Ouch. :)

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      Huh. I’m being a jerk. That’s quite interesting. How am I being a jerk by pointing out the fallacy in one’s arguments? Do tell.

      Mixerman

      Reply
      • Gabe

        The following are all quotes from various comments you’ve posted on this thread:

        “An amusing argument if there ever was one.”

        “It’s Sarafin, and it’s your buddy Graham who is making sh*t up Dittohead. I’m using facts.”

        “There’s no reason for me to even read the rest of your post since the initial premise is so laughable.”

        “And I’ll be sure to address this blog post and the absurd arguments on The Mixerman Radio Show later this month.”

        “So, how does my discography compare to yours? Because according to your logic, my opinions would trump yours given a heftier discography. Right?
        Silly boy.”

        “Dude. Even Graham has stopped defending this position of stunning admitted ignorance.”

        That said, my comment was somewhat out of line, and I apologize. But seriously, you can argue, but don’t be rude.

        Reply
  78. JROCK

    Ok, so I have been monitoring this thread for like a year now. I have some thoughts that I think are definitely appropriate for this topic.

    Graham, you have a great site my friend. It’s great to see someone providing good info for aspiring engineers/mixers.

    Mixerman, though a bit gruff at times, I totally see your point. I’ve just finished Zen for the third time, and I understand more and more each time I have read it over the past 2 or 3 years.

    A lot of this arguement wouldn’t have made much of a difference to me earlier in my career. I had to learn a lot of things before these things would really make a huge difference.

    I have been recording and mixing for about 5 years now. I do not consider myself an advanced pro, but I have been told I have released some pro-caliber material. I have mixed at home totally ITB, I have mixed through summing mixers, and I have mixed through SSL and Neve consoles. I have never used 1/2″ 2 track, but I do use the UAD and Slate plugins to simulate this.

    First of all, and MOST IMPORTANT of all: ROOMS. If your room is not accurate, you WILL NOT hear what you need to hear. Your low end from 150-200hz down will never be tight and accurate. You need to mix in an accurate room with good treatment and good space so you can actually hear the 40hz in your mix. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL!!! I can try and guess what my room is doing to the source audio, but it’s just that; a guess.

    Second of all: Monitoring. If you don’t have speakers that show you what you have on the tracks, then nothing else matters. I have used Mackies, NS10s, Mixcubes, Dynaudios, ATCs, Genelecs, Opals, Focals, blah blah blah. If you don’t have a monitor system that is accurate in the room in which you work, nothing else matters.

    If you are in a great, accurate room with an accurate monitoring system, now we can talk about mixing. I can mix in the B room in the box. It’s a decent room with not a lot of sound problems. Decent monitors. Same for my home, except I have great monitors. I can get good, solid results for clients. I have to fight a little harder, and I definitely have to work harder, but I can absolutely get good results.

    Saturday, I mixed at track at my house through Slate’s VCC, my Dangerous Summing Mixer, and an analog 2 buss chain including a Serpent Audio SSL style Buss comp, and Lindell Audio Pultec clones. I got the song pretty bumping. It sounded pretty good.

    Sunday, I took the same tracks and mixed them in the A Room of the studio I work at on the SSL. I took my monitors from home which are Focals. I know they are accurate. So, monitoring was constant.

    Within 2 hours of setting up the mix, I was already 3/4 of the way to a kickin’ mix. It took me 5 or 6 hours to get to the same spot at home. Once I finished up the mix, I A/Bd the two…Absolutely no comparison. None.

    I was astonished at the differences in the two mixes. Yes, there would absolutely be a price difference for me to mix your track on the SSL vs at my house. Is it worth the cost??? If you a trying to make a marketable album: ABSOLUTELY. You can have quality or low cost. Pick one.

    I have personally decided that I am not going to mix at home any more. It was easier on me, faster, much more pleasing, and the sonic results far surpassed my home results.

    So, to be fair, it was a combination of the room and the gear. I can’t hear low-end accurately in an 8×8 bedroom where most of us work. By the time I spent money on a build or excessive treatment, I could be $10s of thousands of dollars deep then.

    I suppose a better test would have been to mix in the same room with the same speakers ITB vs SSL, but it just didn’t happen that way this time. The past year I have really started noticing how much better I hear when working with analog. I don’t look at Pro Tools, I close my eyes and use my ears when tweaking analog eqs and comps. I listen, I don’t look. By the end of the mix, I was in the dark with a small flashlight to find the eq/comp knobs so I could mix with my ears, not eyes. A little take from Zen and the Art of Mixing towards the end of the mix.

    So, yes, I suppose I am rambling. But I believe my finding were sufficient for myself. YMMV. I have personally determined that I will pretty much only be mixing analog anymore. If someone doesn’t want to spend the extra money to get the added benefit, then how serious can they be about their product? I understand that times are tight. We can wait until you save up a little more. Instead of recording 10 songs, lets do 5 the right way. You can make adjustments to get better quality. But it’s still that; quality. I no longer want to be associated with projects that aren’t 110% focused on the absolute best quality. If you want cheap, go to the other local studio that works for $250 a day with interns manning your session. Then bring me the results.

    So I guess my conclusion is that analog is better for me, maybe not everyone else. But I definitely believe that mixing analog (analog summing included) made it much easier for me personally. And I have tried every plugin, every product, etc… to make home mixing easier. An SSL just makes things sound better running through its line amps and circuits. Think about it: CLA, TLA, Andy Wallace, Randy Staub, Ben Grosse, etc… all mix through SSLs. That must mean something.

    Hope this helps at least one person. I know it made a huge difference for me.

    Cheers,

    JROCK

    Reply
    • Mixerman

      Personally, I always define “monitoring” by the signal path AND the room, seeing as the room is such an important part of accuracy.

      Mixerman

      Reply
      • JROCK

        Exactly. I know you do, but I don’t think a lot of people do. I know I didn’t realize the importance of a room until I worked in the great ones. HUGE DIFFERENCE. It was like asking for a martini and instead the waiter punches you in the face.

        Cheers,

        JROCK

        Reply
        • Rick Novak

          I totally agree with your argument JROCK, that analog plus great monitoring is significantly “better sounding” and easier to work with, (I’ve done it for decades), but I disagree with some of your conclusions. I would rather have a client do 10 songs and focus on developing great material/arrangements/performances than to work on 5 songs with great/expensive mixes. And much, though not all, of the low end stuff can be dealt with in mastering, which often adds some of the benefits of analog as well, as Eric mentioned.

          The great irony is that the vast majority of people who listen to your mixes will do so on computer speakers or ear buds, and generally couldn’t tell the difference between the mix you love and the lessor one. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all do the best sounding work possible, but for most of the aspiring musician/engineers reading this, I’d rather see them focus on their material/arrangements/performances. The truth is; 90% of having a “great mix” is having a great arrangement with the musical parts at the correct volume/pan.

          Rickymix

          Reply
          • John

            I keep seeing a blur of process on here. I dont understand the point of saying I’d rather have a great song than a perfect mix. That’s like saying I’d rather have water but I can do without oxygen. It’s irrelevant. Writing a song & mixing a track are 2 different parts of the process. Pro guys don’t even think in those terms. Theyre paid to mix songs & their only concern is mixing. Theres no point in discussing song or performance here. This is about mixing & nothing else. To have a final print that sounds real there’s a lot of factors but summing is very important. Real transformers. Real headroom. Without that everything is nothing.

    • jymc

      JROCK – thanks for taking the time above for your explanation. I don’t have much experience with analog summing. Theoretically should there be a difference between running stems through a high end console (and what about a SSL X-Desk) versus a high end summing mixer such as a Shadow Hills Equinox, Neve 8816 or a Chandler? My understanding is that running the digital stem through the analog circuits is what provides the extra “balls” to the instruments making up that stem.

      Reply
      • JROCK

        I think my last comment on here was almost a year ago. I’ve tried to stay away from this since it just won’t die.

        Truth is there is not a right or wrong answer. Do what you like. Do what works for you. Do what makes mixing the most enjoyable for your tastes. Desks, summing mixers, and the rest will all add different distortions, noise, and the like from all the line amps, transistors, valves, blah blah blah. I could care less about technicals. How does it sound?

        Me, I’m a hands-on type guy. I have access to a large facility where I have a big, open control room where sounds can develop all the way down to 30hz. We have an SSL 4056 E/G+ console with black, brown, and pink EQ cards. We have a Studer A80. We have the best NS10s I’ve heard and a pair of Focals that sound killer. It’s just more fun to mix and track with those tools. I hate sitting at a computer and clicking around. I get to get up, move around, and get into the song.

        The sounds are definitely different. I prefer one way, but I wouldn’t say you can’t get a great mix ITB. Today’s tools are great and continue to evolve with the UAD stuff, the Slate stuff, etc… I know, personally, that I need a great sounding room and monitoring first and foremost. Without being able to hear, everything else is a moot point. For me, mixing on the SSL just makes it easier and faster. The low end is almost instantly cleaned up a bit just running everything through the desk. I can throw up the faders, kick in a bit of the G comp, and be well on my way in 30 minutes.

        Now, that being said, I have switched my home/portable rig just for convenience and cost efficiency. I have unloaded my Dbox (very sad), in process of getting rid of my Aurora 16, and my Mac Pro and have gone to a MacBook Pro with an Apollo. I realized that with a lot of analog inserts, the Dbox, and great monitoring, my home room is just not cut out to sound good. So, obviously, everything else was a waste in a way.

        So Mixerman is definitely not wrong. But for me, if you don’t have a great sounding room and monitoring setup, the summing is the least of your worries. I also realize how dependent the mix is with the muscians, instruments, players, room tracked in, etc… But in a perfect world…

        So… yeah, guess this is my annual update to keep the thread alive. Just a rambling over my morning pot of coffee.

        And remember, a good mix is one nobody notices.

        Cheers,

        JROCK

        Reply
  79. Rick Novak

    John, I strongly disagree that mixing is separate from the material, performance and especially the arrangement of a song. A well arranged song practically mixes itself, whereas a poorly arranged song is a headache to mix at best, whatever your summing, monitoring, gear, etc. The reason it’s an appropriate point to bring up in this discussion is because a lot of aspiring musician/mixers reading this may be inclined to try to fix problems in the mix which should have been addressed earlier.

    Reply
    • John

      Mixing & songwriting are not the same thing. I think your breakdown is the fact that you are most likely doing everything yourself. In the industry that isn’t the case. The writer, producer, mixer, & mastering are done by different people. I’ve worked at Capitol Studios & many other studios with the best. When it’s time to mix noone discusses arrangement or writing. There’s one job. Mix the damn song. Arranging & mixing have nothing to do with each other. I’ve done lush arrangements & had them destroyed by tin eared mix guys. You guys need to learn how to separate the job according to process. Take this article. It’s about analog summing. Why are we even discussing arranging?

      Reply
  80. Jrock

    I think the constant here is that a bad song/arrangement will never have a good mix. And if it does, it would e irrelevant anyway. I do absolutely agree with the arrangement argument, I’m talking in general terms that we already have a strong song and arrangement.

    I know there are guys out there getting great results without a console or summing, and I know guys out there getting great results with a console. I wrote this for my results and experience. It was 100x easier for me to get a better, more professionally competitive sound on the SSL. I worked 1/2 as hard to get results that were 5x as good. I wish so much that I could have gotten the same results at home. I also know a portion of it is the room. It would cost at minimum $3-$5k to just help the low end. That’s not gonna happen.

    JRock

    Reply
    • John

      Actually a bad song can hav a good mix! Somewhere you heard that & thought it made sense & so you never actually thought about that statement. Radio is filled with bad songs that have excellent mixes. As long as the song is produced well you can mix it well. Quality of the song has nothing to do with the mix.

      Reply
      • JROCK

        John,

        Yeah, I shouldn’t have been so general with my statement. A bad song can have a good mix, but a bad song is still a bad song with a good mix. Most people (outside of the industry) don’t listen to a bad song and go “Hey, that’s a bad song, but it’s a great mix.” Mixerman makes a great point in his book; a good mix should not be noticeable or however he words it. A great mix makes you focus on the song, not the mix. When he signs along to the song, he is no longer listening to the mix. *Scratches head* I think that’s how he words it. Ahhh, crikey…

        But yes, this section is about summing and not recording/arranging. If you are the mix guy, you only get to mix the track and possibly do some underdubs to the arrangement.

        Anyways, I know we are on the same page…

        Another thought about summing… I wonder how many pro guys say they mix in the box or a certain thing but are just telling people that so those people continue to work ITB. It would absolutely not surprise me to learn that certain mixing icons (no names mentioned) say/endorse certain ITB concepts and products but actually do something totally different. The industry is cut-throat these days. Why would someone really want to give away their trade secrets? Stirring the bee’s nest… Just a thought…

        JROCK

        Reply
        • John

          Ya it depends on the person. There’s some honest people in the industry but there are so many liars it makes me want to vomit. Misdirection seems to be a big part of hyping things these days. Most of these guys who say they’re ITB are so endorsing plugins. Or people that talk about cla using 16 bit converters don’t mention the fact that the production work was done at 192 32 bit. I think a lot gets left out in these stories & it misleads people. Converters are to sonic fidelity what a good preamp is to a warm punchy clear sound. That’s just a law. Some people don’t hear a difference between oo2 convs & HD convs. Same people shouldn’t be in a studio.

          Reply
        • Rick Novak

          I was never “only the mix guy”, so I guess my perspective is different. But I did spend a decade as chief engineer for the songwriting/production team who have had more #1 hits than anyone in the history of music. While mixing, I’ve seen them notice a little ad-lib in the outro and actually re-write the whole song with that ad-lib as the hook, and re-arrange/re-record/re-mix the song from scratch. And I quote: “If it was easy to have hits Rick, EVERY motherf-cker would be having hits!” :>)

          It’s all a creative continuum to me, and IMO mistakes upstream cause headaches at the mix stage much greater than any ITB limitations.

          Reply
          • John

            You can’t make the exception the rule & then speak from something that happened in a unique situation & preach that as the norm. Your example isn’t the norm. And it doesn’t change the fact that mixing & writing aren’t the same thing. Ice cream & cookies compliment each other but they aren’t the same thing. Production & writing are often the same thing. Mixing & writing? Not the same thing. They will never be the same thing.

        • John

          Ya that’s true too. Good friend of mine works with al Schmidt a lot & he says the mix serves the song. I always say that about production. To me recording is a lot like film making only the sounds are the colors, the rhythms are the motions, & lyrics are the script. The producer is the director. That’s my approach to music production. Mixing & mastering is more like the editing & color correction stages.

          Reply
    • John

      I don’t know anyone getting great results in the box summing. If they say they are? They’re either a liar or they’re only working with 8 track sessions. Most of my sessions are over 100 tracks.

      Reply
  81. Jrock

    And I’m not trying to beat a dead horse with these posts. I’m just trying to show that I tried both ways. One way definitely gave me infinitely better results and was much more enjoyable. I strongly recommend anyone to do a mix at home and do a mix at a studio with summing or a console to try for yourself. I guarantee you it will still be cheaper in the long run because I keep trying to buy stuff for home that will help me get closer to the studio sound. Not doing that anymore.

    JRock.

    Reply
  82. David Dietz

    For those of you that do want to try taking a strictly in the box DAW mix out of the box and expose it to an analog path, my buddy Terry at Unit Audio sells very simple but extremely high quality passive analog summing mixers for as little as $149.00 for 8 channels and 16 channels for $299.00. All hand assembled by him in his studio in Nashville.

    Reply
  83. John

    We actually made the ssl 4000 bus comp. Sounds phenomenal. Nothing ITB that compares. I have pics. If anyone’s interested we can build more. Sounds just like the console.

    Reply
      • John

        Well we don’t have time to put one together for awhile. But serpent audio sells something like it for $1099.

        Reply
        • Jrock

          I have a Serpent 4001. It’s great. A lot if characteristics of a G comp. the features alone are worth the price of admission. I use the G a lot, and the Serpent definitely holds its own.

          JRock

          Reply
  84. Rick Novak

    This thread IS a dead horse, JROCK! :>) In summary; the vast majority of us here concur that analog summing/processing sounds better, is easier, and is more fun than purely ITB mixing. Same with pro mixing rooms vs home studios. The real question is whether a summing box is worth the expense for the majority of aspiring engineers reading this thread. There are a few pros here, including myself, but most readers are probably at an earlier stage where “ITB vs analog” is not really what they should be focused on, or spending money on.

    I would be more interested in reading about comparisons/shootouts between the cheaper summing boxes like the Unit Audio or Fulcrum vs the high-end Dangerous/SSL/Neve boxes.

    Reply
    • John

      There’s nothing easier about analog summing. One look at my patch bays prove that. ITB is easier. Its just sonically inferior.

      A shoot out between high end sum boxes & low end ones would be a waste of time. Just like comparing oo2 converters & aurora converters would be. Or comparing a Neumann 67 & a groove tube would be. You could build your own sum box. It’s the technology that Neve & SSL use in their consoles that make their sum boxes what they are. If you can’t afford analog summing then you’re correct your focus should be on other aspects of mixing. For ex. Most people have no clue how to use compressors. Great thing to master.

      Reply
      • Rick Novak

        A few years ago Geoff Tanner and I were considering putting a summing buss in something he was building for me, and according to Geoff and other high-end techs I’ve discussed this with, it shouldn’t be that difficult or expensive to do high quality summing. Especially when using for free the pair of API mic pres already in my lunchbox on the output stage of the box, like the Folcrum or Unit do.

        My impression is that the Dangerous gear is sonically excellent, but way over-priced/over-hyped. I’m considering the Folcrom…

        http://www.rollmusic.com/folcrom.php

        Reply
  85. Namin

    Unit Audio and their summing products seem interesting and a comparison with the bigger names would be what we should be spending time on rather than pull each others legs!

    Reply
  86. Rick Novak

    Mixing and arranging ARE very similar John. Instead of notching out the EQs of a messy Kick & Bass conflict, I would prefer to try a different Kick sound, or move that melodic Bass line up an octave to cello or low guitar and then play a simpler Bass part. Or if the Male BG Vox are stepping on the Lead Vocal, replace them with Female BGs an octave up. Or vice versa. I say fix problems as far upstream as possible. If you don’t have that option, then yes, you have to fight it in the mix.

    Reply
    • John

      What you’re talking about is tinkering not arranging. If a mix guy tinkered around with one of my projects like you’re talking about I’d break his fingers. Replacing sounds is not an arrangement issue. Making room for lead vocal is a mix issue. Dipping eqs is a mix issue. The other stuff you mentioned is just tinkering. Everything you mentioned falls either into production or mixing.

      Reply
      • Rick Novak

        Do mix engineers usually work alone these days? In the ’80s and ’90s when I was active I almost always had the producer and artist in the control room with me during mixing. And often WAY too many band members! LOL :>) But we were all collaborating to make the best record possible, throwing in ideas, fine-tuning or tinkering as you say, with the artist and producer having the final say.
        What you’re describing sounds much more compartmentalized, and not nearly as much fun, IMO. YMMV.

        Reply
        • John

          And you jump to another lily pad. Issue is writing & mixing aren’t the same thing. When I produce I hear end to beginning. Every note & sound & progression is concept driven. I understand guys piddling around just shooting for something cool here & there. It’s not how I work but I get it. However, it still isn’t arranging.

          Reply
        • John

          Out of curiosity. What do you think production is? What about songwriting? Arranging? What is mixing?

          Reply
          • Rick Novak

            I have no interest in arguing, John. The only points I wanted to make are these:

            a.) Most pros have made up their minds by now about analog vs ITB summing, and do good work by whatever their method is. Most aspiring engineers, i.e. most of the folks reading this, have a lot to learn before they will notice much benefit from analog summing. If it were a free or inexpensive option I would heartily recommend it for everyone. Same goes for mixing in a pro studio instead of at home.

            b.) I see writing/arranging/producing/tracking/mixing/mastering as a continuum with overlapping segments. You see each of these parts as more separated, with harder, more defined borders than I do. Let’s agree to disagree.

            c.) It’s been my experience that a well written, well arranged, well performed, well recorded song will practically mix itself. I strongly feel that most of the aspiring musicians/engineers reading this will benefit far more by focusing on these aspects of the process than by trying to “fix it in the mix” with some expensive gizmo, even if it’s a gizmo that I personally like, like an analog summing box, SSL 2-buss compressor, pro-studio monitoring, whatever.

            d.) Argue amongst yourself. I’m done.

  87. JROCK

    I will agree with Rick on the “fix it in the mix” statement. I do this no more. We fix it now, or we don’t do it. We commit to sounds now, not make them later. It makes everything fit together better now, it keeps everyone more excited because it sounds like a record now, and it lightens my workload after tracking come mix-time/editing/etc…

    I think the general consesus regarding the original topic has been pretty consistent: analog summing definitely makes a difference.

    I will play devil’s advocate, and something I said about a year ago on here, that I think Graham’s original story was meant for aspiring engineers that just going through a summing box is not going to solve mix issues. There is so much more to learn for them to get solid, professional mixes. Cleaning up low end mud, making each piece fit with each other, focus elements, depth, etc… There was a time that analog summing, though giving me a bit better frame/width/depth to my mixes, it still wouldn’t have just made me sound great. I had/have so much more to learn.

    So that being said, I think I’ve said my part. I will continue to check this thread as there is some great info on here. If anyone wants to contact me directly to chat or questions, feel free to shoot me an email at jmitchell_music@ymail.com.

    Good luck to everyone, as we are all striving to get the best results we can. And thanks to Graham for being so cordial in this debate and for all the awesome work he does to help others with their art. Cheers to you amigo!

    Regards,

    JROCK

    Reply
    • John

      That’s exactly why I kept pressing him. Well one he kept changing the premise of the conversation but the other was he kept going back to not wanting to fix things in the mix. The way you wind up not having to fix in the mix is by understanding the process. If you’ve produced & tracked well there’s nothing to fix during mix. But really he never said anything about that & just kinda threw that idea out after the fact which is odd because again it goes along with my whole point in knowing the difference between arranging & mixing. Having to fix in a mix is the result of a breakdown in the process. Understanding & mastering the process means each step being done with excellence. So when you get to the mix you’re just mixing & nothing else.

      Reply
  88. Brian

    As someone who’s worked in a pro studio, but had limited resources personally, I can see both sides of the coin. My first recording to get airplay on radio shows and podcasts across Canada, US, and even in the UK was originally supposed to be a “demo” to get a bit of local attention. I recorded on a “budget” interface (Tascam US-1641), with budget mics, into Reaper on an HP laptop using the system drive, and mixed ITB with stock Reaper plugins. Oh, and it was recorded in a dingy storage space basement rehearsal room. However with the same band we started a new project that I initially tracked the same way, but then I got a new interface, the Allen & Heath ZED-R16. This is a full 16 channel analog board with FW I/O. Running my mix down through individual channels and I immediately got a richer sound, as well as more individual track clarity. A third project with another band was my first project fully tracked and mixed on the R16, also this time on a new computer and with ProTools 9. The band played all live in the room together Again, I feel this was a step up in sound quality and clarity from my first session. The room however was one of those spaces that you would consider “horrible” for recording… a square room with all exposed walls. However some creative placement of the band led to a balanced sound in the room and overall came out with a decent product.

    So, all my rambling is kind of in support of both sides. Yes, you can make some awesome projects with budget gear and limited resources. But from my personal experience I’ve found moving up to mixing through my Allen & Heath mixer has drastically improved my mixes. I think there are differences in sound quality of gear at different price points, but agree it’s not a be all end all senario. I’ve made what I feel are some awesome recordings with inexpensive gear in less than ideal locations. I’ve also heard a session an outside engineer did at the commercial studio I used to work at and it sounded incredibly…bad.

    In the end the song and the music are what need to translate properly to the audience. Learn proper mic placement, whether it’s one or 16 mics, a Samson or a Neumann, and in a basement or a professional studio. Wherever you are, learn to capture the source properly. If those elements are lacking, the rest doesn’t matter.

    Reply
  89. Brian

    This may be slightly off-topic, but thinking through the whole recording chain and trying to stay 100% ITB (i.e. – not using an analog console), in traditional recording audio passes through a console twice, once during tracking, a second time during mixing. It seems using analog summing (e.g. Dangerous 2 Buss) or staying ITB and using Slate Digital VCC plugins on each track, only emulates a single pass through a console/analog path. Is this correct? If so, what is the impact?

    Reply
    • John

      I read your question three times & I’m still not sure what you’re asking. It’s not about how many times audio goes through a console. It’s just simply the difference between 1s & 0s & transformers & capacitors, etc. ITB is great for flexible recording & editing. When it comes to mixing actual music & printing a track down to a stereo mix ITB becomes a nightmare. It’s so much about having a console per say. You should read about the Neve board & how it’s built & why Rupert Nevr designed it the way he did. Analog summing provides true separation & headroom. Not to mention real transformers which are 90% of the sound. I use pro tools HD. I’m very picky about the plugins I use. I use mostly outboard gear when mixing . I use vintage gear mostly like Neumann eqs, pultecs, gates sta levels, etc. if u compare the same track mixed printed in the box & mixed using outboard gear & printed through the Neve 8816 the difference is absolutely ridiculous. If you’re doing electronic music there’s no point. But if you’re recording real instruments & vocals you need to get out of the box. I’ve worked with Grammy award winning mix guys & on the record they will say nothing against ITB mixing. Off the record I can’t repeat what they say on here.

      Reply
      • JB RUDD

        I think John is an audio snob.I’m not sure why he is so angry.Most of us have home studios and are doing the best we can with what we have.I AM very greatful for the information that Graham provides and I don’t care about how much vintage equipment John has.

        Reply
  90. Micky Noise

    A lot of different opinions. I will tell my take on analog summing. I use a dangerous dbox with an RME fireface 800. For many months i did a lot of tests. If you make proper gain staging ITB comparing to a mix of Dbox almost is identical. In the first listen you feel is the same (matching levels). But looking closer what really analog summing is doing except some depth that gives you is that preserves the transients. I make music with a lot of sounds and the big difference you will feel when you play your music through iphone, ipod, shitboxes. In digital mix snare in busy parts almost disappears and attack is destroyed. In the analog summing version snare and transients are always there even with not the best converters that RME has. So i agree with Mixerman but also with Graham that skills is first and that you can achieve excellent results ITB. Definetely summers are not magic boxes, and will not do alone anything, but will improve your music if you use them how they are intented to. For me is really important to know however busy mix i have that my sounds are always there.

    Reply
  91. Rogue

    I got halfway down the page of reading the comments and just gave the f**k up. A bunch of childish MFers.

    I won’t come to this site any longer yet I will continue to view your youtube videos Graham.

    Rogue

    Reply
  92. michele

    So,what will be if a well regarded trained mixer will mix on a analog mixing desk or summing box ?…
    This article says nothing, another world,time wasting site.

    Reply
  93. james

    This thread has been invaluable. I totally get what Graham and Mixerman are saying. Its all good. Graham, of all people, i would like to see you get one of these Summing boxes and try it out. I’ve never tried one but am interested. Thanks for this great site and resources.

    Reply
  94. Brian

    Forget analog summing — stay in the box and grab a copy of Slate Digital VCC — just went on sale for $150! http://www.slatedigital.com/

    VCC has been on my wishlist for a looong time — just downloaded and installed it. What a difference!

    Reply
  95. Gette

    I have just read through most of the remarks as well as the article. What seems to have eluded most who have posted; is the mere fact that Digital summing and Analog summing are two very deferent animals. One uses a mathematical equation while the other uses moving electrons. Is there going to be a deference? It’s like saying that driving from LA to NYC will take the same amount of time in a car as it would a jet plane! ITB and OTB suffer from very deferent scientific issues, but most importantly, we as humans have grown accustomed to analog distortion and not digital distortion (it is there). Analog summing hides the digital distortion by placing its own distortion over the top of it at a greater level. Likewise, Analog distortion always follows the material (harmonics) mainly due to the fact it uses physics as its basis of summing. Whereas Digital distortion does not always follow the warm and silky harmonics that we all love. Mainly due to the dither signal applied to the audio as part of the digitizing process. Music/audio will always end up in the analog domain as its final destination, regardless of the technology recording/mixing/playback etc. That will remain true for the next millennium and beyond. In order for you to hear it, it has to become analog first.

    Digital vs Analog summing; Will math out perform physical movement? Nope. Music is vibration and movement at its very core and will always perform best when it is physically moving versus being mathematically recreated. But, in the end it comes down to how you use the tools. As an individual, the choices you make reflect who you are as an artist (musician or engineer) we also have formed bad habits in our comfort zones, by nature change is not always a welcomed venture when it is centered on a creative expression (Yup, even as an engineer).

    I for one, prefer tracking in and out of a DAW and mixing on a analog console. Using the DAW only as a multitrack recorder. But that is just me…

    Reply
  96. Andrew Bauserman

    I can’t accept that another post has dared gain more comments than this classic!

    Time to stir things up again — so don’t take any of this personally :)

    “Music/audio will always end up in the analog domain as its final destination”

    True.

    “Will math out perform physical movement? Nope. Music is vibration and movement at its very core and will always perform best when it is physically moving versus being mathematically recreated.”

    I’ll bet against you for 3 reasons:

    1) Always is a long time ;)

    2) The rumors of the demise of Moore’s Law are grossly exaggerated. Want to compare the latest plug-ins to the digital modeling of 2003? Or 1983? Or 1963? That’s not even the lifespan of the late greats Ray Dolby (b.1933) and Bob Moog (b.1934).

    3) Planck (1900) and Einstein (1905) revealed that much of what we consider the analog domain is actually, in gear-spec-speak, a high sample-rate, high bit-depth quantized phenomenon with a high entropy source of dither.*

    Yes, there’s still a bit of math (!) left to work out for specific circuits, components, and states of saturation. Yet, while I’m not ready to bet with Kurzweil on humans transcending biology within my lifetime, with regard to digital modeling of modern and vintage analog gear, I think “The Singularity is Near” :)

    * BTW: The problem of a high entropy source (for dither, crypto, etc.) within a deterministic computing environment has been solved, and is built into the latest computer chip-sets:
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/behind-intels-new-randomnumber-generator

    Let the conversation continue…

    Reply
    • Gette

      Dave – Thank you!

      Andrew – How much do you want to bet? We can get deep into the code and even begin to discuss how and when sample rates start to get insanely fast and how that will end this whole analog vs digital debate, the problem is: it will never end the debate. Reason is simple, 2 Very deferent processes. Its like building a Fiero Kit car to look like a Ferrari and saying it the same as the real thing. That is what modeling is, an attempt to copy something exactly. It can get close some say close enough, but will never sound the way a true analog console sums or Eq’s etc… Digital has its own “tonality” and many like it and for the rest of us, it just is not good enough. In 20 years, I can bet ya this exact same argument will still arise.

      Reply
  97. David Dietz

    So call me a pot stirrer. To the ITB purest’s I pose one simple question. If there is really no difference, then why are so many plugin developers spending thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to create the “Ultimate Emulator”? Compared to the many talented folks weighing in on this topic, my audio skills and experience are pathetic. That being said…my background is very strong in the digital photographic industry. There are many parallels between audio capture and video capture. I have not met a photographer worth their salt that would dare to compare analog image capture to digital image capture. They would all prefer to still be in the analog realm of film grain and a darkroom. Truth be told, they have moved to digital for the practicality of “repeat-ability” and control. The comparison is very much apples to oranges. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice. Not which one is “better”.

    Reply
      • mixerman

        Analog summing doesn’t make performances sound better, and no one has argued such.

        Mixerman

        Reply
        • Joe Knouse

          My point is that the people selling analog replication software target singers/songwriters/musicians with insecurities in an artistic genre rife with insecurities.

          A bunch of rude cats with monikers like “Mixerman” and some claim to professionalism tell them that their hard work will always sound like crap because they don’t have the know-how or the access to “proper” tools to make the necessary magic happen. And you know, to a certain extent, that used to be true.

          However, things have come a long long way in a VERY short amount of time. Twelve years ago, trying to home-record into my trusty Cakewalk 2 on my slow, crappy PC yielded some poor results indeed. Now I have a $200 copy of Logic 10 installed on my peppy iMac, and even though my low-rent MXL 990 condenser mic and NI audio interface still leave a lot to be desired (and yes, I direct line my guitar and use the Logic amps, fuck it, I have a wife and she’s trying to watch Bravo Housewives), things are sounding MUCH better than they should!

          Soon, guys like me won’t need Mixerman at all. Oh, it’s gonna be sweet.

          Anyway, I digress. My original point is when guys like you tell insecure musicians that their digital music sounds like shit, they start throwing money at every bullshit fix possible. That’s why ‘ultimate emulators’ keep being made.

          Reply
          • mixerman

            “Soon, guys like me won’t need Mixerman at all. Oh, it’s gonna be sweet.”

            You don’t think you need me now.

            I get many records sent to me from people who have tried and failed at your precise mission. Like I tell prospective clients, it’s more expensive to do it twice, than it is to do it right the first time.

            You seem convinced that I won’t be able to work soon. You realize that there’s an entire record of people suggesting that since 2000, and to date, I’m still in this business as those who think like you never seem to get their foot in the door, let alone sustain a career.

            Enjoy,

            Mixerman

          • Joe Knouse

            My point is that 10 years ago home recordings were nearly unlistenable. Now they are pretty damn good. What will they be like in another ten years? That’s my point.

          • mixerman

            “My point is that 10 years ago home recordings were nearly unlistenable. Now they are pretty damn good. What will they be like in another ten years? That’s my point.”

            Every record I mix for clients right now is done out of my home. That makes me irrelevant how?

            Mixerman

          • David

            Actually what what you mean is that digital home recordings weren’t very good. I’ve actually heard home recordings on 4 tracks that sounded superb.

  98. AJ

    Seems Graham’s a devoted disciple of digital, and perhaps he has not been enamored by the wonderful sound in which only analog gives us. Slates VCC attempt falls short of this.

    Many pro’s who mix ITB are actually mixing sessions that have been tracked with analog consoles on tape, then transferred to protools.
    “Dave Pensado mixes entirely in the box (ITB)”. Actually, Dave prints his mixes to 1″ 2 track, tracks to analog, and routes many of his tracks through analog processors (API’s, Pultec’s, 1073′s, Equinox… etc.)

    Of course “Analog summing will not make your bad mixes better”. It will make your ‘great mixes’ sound better!
    The reason top engineers prefer to sum to analog and track/print to tape is simple! Your mix is more musical and open, the stereo field is wider, deeper, more spacious, allowing much more precision for critical adjustments during the mix. Reverbs, delays and effects are enhanced and much more evident/audible, making even the cheapest of reverbs sound more elegant.
    Working with tape can suck! So yeah… if digital could yield the same results as analog, engineers would jump ship in a heartbeat and do everything in digital.

    Reply
  99. Jerry

    Great article and comments here! 1st I am going to buy Mixerman’s book and then i will buy a cheap summing mixer. lmao. Cheers.

    Reply
  100. Dinosaur David B.

    I agree in concept to the premises of the article. Not having analog summing shouldn’t prevent you from working or creating great music. The song, the performance you capture, the mix, are all way more important. THAT SAID, I know that with my own tracks, summing them in analog gives them a sheen and a mojo that the same mixed tracks don’t have in digital. Definitely better WITH than without.

    Reply
  101. REALEST

    I have a few words too say. What do these people Have in common. Tony Maserati, Chris Lord Alge, Bob Clearmountain… The next some of the best Mixes we here on the radio and have many awards for mixing outside of the box. Yes can you mix inside the box.. Can you consistently compete with these cream of the crop mixers who are constantly using their out-of-the-box tools every day, highly unlikely. Yes I know Serban Ghenea Mixes inside the box and he’s gotten awards for it. Do you really believe that that music that you hear was totally in the box. No it started with some of the best producers and talent that money has to buy today. It came out of the box in some of the best equipment at Conway recording studios and went back in
    To be sent out to Serban Ghenea. It started huge. It started with great talent and great minds. It started with Crete text me and years and years of producing skills. If we would like to compete on a level with these masterminds do you really believe that staying in the box is going to help you Get closer to having consistent mixes like the first three mentioned. By the way I have A/B’d Serban Ghenea Mixes. Yes his big hits do sound huge but they started that way. Pound 4 pound dollar for dollar the first three mixers listed Consistently have better mixes hands down then Serban Ghenea On and over all sound spectrum.
    Adele, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Daughtry, Katy Perry, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rick Ross, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Eminem…, Rock, Rap All benefit with out-of-the-box compression, Equalization And outside of the box Summing. Yes unfortunately some of us can’t afford 72 channel SSL or Neve consoles. Elaborate outside of the box summing mixers with choice hardware and $20,000 monitoring systems. Yes unfortunately some of us could only afford waves mercury bundles. Yes some of us could only afford cracked versions of mercury waves bundles. But let’s not kid ourselves music benefits from outside of the box something. And of story have a nice life!!!

    Reply
    • John

      You’re right man. There’s no such thing as an ITB product.
      It was tracked using best mics, pres & rooms in the business.
      Even mix guys who mix OTB do automations in Pro Tools & on the
      desk.

      Reply
  102. Julian

    Hiya.
    A LOT of this digital v analogue prejudice is due to ignorance of how the ‘technology’ works. I’m no computer geek by any means, but I kinda understand what’s going on. When you record a sound digitally, other than the natural influence of the equipment – mics & converters, you get an exact representation of what you played. The higher the sample rate, the higher the accuracy. As long as you do NOTHING else to that file, it is consistent for the life of the hard drive. The degradation occurs when you start to manipulate the file. Everything from level changes to plugin use means the CPU has to do calculations. Each file has a ‘wordlength’ – the number of 0s & 1s needed to construct the file. Inevitably, when the CPU does it’s calculations of level change, plugins etc, it will have to round up/down the ‘numbers’. This is where the ‘degradation’ of the sound occurs. With a larger file (higher sample rate/bit depth), longer wordlength, the degradation occurs in unaudible – technically it is still there.
    Now, these prejudices go back to the 80s when CDs first appeared and digital recording was in it’s infancy – significantly lower bit depths and sample rates – shorter wordlengths, more audible sound distortion (ie ‘bending’ not grit).
    I’m inclined to believe that more and more people are relying on ‘fixing it in the mix’ these days, instead of recording the very best performance possible. More ‘fixing’ = more CPU drain = more degradation. In the ‘old days’ if it wasn’t right going in, it didn’t go in.
    By the way, I’ve been running my kit at 96khz the last few months, and have found that the latency is halved and the CPU load is SIGNIFICANTLY down… I believe that this is because a lot of plugins run at higher sample rates and, possibly, the interface is designed to sample at this rate, so the interface and PC are not using up ‘power’ resampling everything all the time. Does it sound any better? Course not. Nobody’s hearing is that good, BUT the computer is a lot happier, and my feeling is that perhaps at the rendering stage all the degradation should be happening ‘out of earshot’ and there is only one resample for the CPU to handle (24/96 > 16/44.1) rather than the dozens, maybe hundreds when tracked and mixed at 44.1. (44>96>44 through every plugin).
    Of course, there’s a phrase we have hear in the UK – “You can’t polish a turd”.
    In summary, summing, whether analogue or digital DOES cause degradation, but as far as digital goes, whether it’s audible is dependant on the bit depths/sample rates you work at and how much you need to polish that turd.

    Reply
    • Julian

      PS… what all the ‘big names’ have in common is they’re working with teams of people with decades of experience – not a teenager in his bedroom… sounds like an insult? It isn’t, the guys and gals they’re working with spent years and years obsessing about their mixes to get where they are.
      In spite of the technology I’m absolutely ecstatic about the fact that there are STILL no shortcuts. There is still no substitute for learning the hard way. If you want it bad enough, you have to make sacrifices and work your ass off… God, I love being middle-aged :)

      Reply
    • Mixermam

      So digital is an exact replication although it gets more accurate at higher sample and bit rates.

      That’s a remarkably contradictory statement.

      Mixerman

      Reply
    • John

      Beautiful is a subject term as well.

      But if we put Kate Upton beside a 5,2 155 ib brunette
      with 32a boobs & a flat butt & we both know who’s
      going to win ‘most beautiful’ out of that gathering.

      Lose the ‘it’s all subjective’ argument. Do it for you;)

      Reply
  103. Paolo

    The fact that famous records have been mixed in digital does not make them better music. Now, if you could have examples of great, well crafted music – not necessarily taken from the top-ten and made to sound like a super-compressed audio sausage – that would be great.

    Reply
  104. David

    I finally replaced my DBX 160 & 161s after selling them 4 years ago. I forgot how incredible
    they sound. If anyone ever starts recording real music again tools like these will be valued again.
    When every song uses the same synth sounds designed to emulate Optimus Prime transforming from
    a semi into a giant robot (am I the only one who’s made this connection?) the point of analog. & digital is pointless.
    Listen to synth pop before 2007 transformers came out & after. It’s actually pretty funny.

    Reply
  105. Joel

    The thread that never ends… And for reason. The debate will always be regardless what side of the isle you claim to be on

    The end result is what all this is about, bottom line, if you are happy with what you are getting
    Then why argue the point that the other approaches outside your own are wrong?

    Music is a creative outlet and like music, creativity is used in every aspect
    of each stage. From tracking, arranging mixing etc.

    There is no wrong way to do anything if you are achieving the “sound” you are happy with.

    I Mix 100% out ofthe box, I use PTHD as purely a recorder/editor. I love the feel and sound of my
    Analog console and am very happy with my end result. Does not mean that those who mix entirely ITB
    Can not get a good product, just not my work flow or my sound.

    The real question is nothing to do with summing, it is “Are you happy with what you got?”
    If so, rock on. If not, open up to the idea’s presented here on both side to help you get what you are looking for.

    Very simple

    Joel

    Reply
  106. Graham

    Hey everyone…

    Thanks so much for all of your comments, whether you are for or against analog summing. Appreciate a healthy debate, even if this post is getting longer by the day :-)

    Unfortunately I recently had to delete a comment that was purely an attack on Mixerman’s character and wasn’t a helpful addition to the back and forth discussion going on here.

    I rarely have to censor any comments, and I don’t want to, but this website is not the place for attacks on people’s character. We can disagree on methods, opinions, philosophies, gear choice, etc. But please people, show some grace and respect to everyone who is part of this community.

    Thank you for understanding!

    -Graham-

    Reply
  107. Rick Novak

    No, that was wrong, Graham. That post hit the nail on the head, and not even in a rude way. Eric/Mixerman’s character is precisely what’s in question here, even for engineers like myself who agree with his conclusions. Nothing new/worthwhile has been added for quite some time. Time to close this thread before it completely turns into horse-hamburger. Anyways, I’m un-suscribing.

    Reply
  108. Brandan

    So, I just googled Pensado and found no information suggesting he mixed for any of those artists mentioned int his article.

    Reply
    • John

      His client list isn’t the issue. The issue is are the projects he works on ITB products. And the answer is NO. They are not.
      The vocals are tracked using expensive mics & Neve preamps. There are SSL, Neve, API boards used to track instruments.
      And that’s the way it is on every project regardless of who’s mixing. I understand the thinking It’s already been through outboard pres & eqs so there’s no need to repeat it in the mix process. I don’t agree with it but I get it. But it’s not an OTB product. I’d even call it a little shady. Conversations like this do happen in pro studios & I’ve been there for many of them. Common theme is ‘No pro projects are really ITB’ The End lol.

      Reply
  109. Darryl

    I find this thread very interesting in spite of (or is it because of? lol) all the arguing. I won’t pretend to have knowledge of analog summing, though many years ago I did record purely analog, on a 4 track reel to reel through an analog desk. I have been in the digital realm recording now for about 20 years and that’s really what I am familiar with.
    Some of my fondest musical memories are listening to vinyl albums on my dad’s home stereo system when I was a kid. I often think back and sigh, feeling that music has never sounded or felt as good as it did through that old analog process. But guess what, I thought movies were better then, and my girlfriends were better then, and pretty much everything was better then. It’s in part nostalgia and that funny way that time makes things better, or worse. Now just to make things more convoluted, I now have a home Pro Tools set up which I use. 24 bit, all the editing options and more that a person could want, but guess what, I prefer recording on a 16 bit Roland Fantom keyboard. You see, I spent most of my life recording on 16 bit Roland machines (I started with a VS 880, went on to a BOSS 1680, then a Roland 2480 ((2480 had a 24 bit mode)) and now the Fantom G) and I think a big part of me enjoying the musical experience is what I am comfortable with.
    Frankly (and I know a huge part of this is just my lack of experience with Pro Tools) I like the sound better on the sampling keyboard than the results I get in PT. And a lot of my argument is the same thing I hear from the ‘analog is better’ guys: Things sound warmer, richer and fuller to me when I record in the Fantom. Now I don’t mean to say that I am right and anyone else is wrong. This is just my experience. It’s probably subjective, like the experience of art in general. You could always run a spectrum analyzer I suppose and measure which system is producing more low end or low mids, whatever. Do you really think that some scientific measurement is going to convince me that what I’m feeling/hearing is wrong? It’s a point of human nature I believe that we respond most deeply to things emotionally, and my emotion right now is being stirred by the 16 bit machine, even with its much weaker editing capabilities.
    Somewhere in this long discussion, lies a theme that has been part of the musical debate as long as I can remember; is music more about ‘intellectual’ ie, technical realities, or about emotion. Emotion is more important I think.
    Maybe it is just what we have become familiar with. Maybe it’s what influence other people have on us. Whatever it is, the experience of music is always going to be on some level–the deepest level–a personal experience and therefore subjective. Arguing things into the ground about art is eventually non productive. I mean no offense to anyone’s opinions stated here, we all have our right to our thought’s and feelings.

    Here’s an article from 2004 that has something to say on the subject if anyone could possibly want more…

    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jun04/articles/qa0604-5.htm

    Peace.

    Reply
  110. Darryl

    Maybe I should have mentioned that before I went digital, I also had several tape recording machines. A Fostex 4-track, a Fostex 8-track and a Yamaha 4-track too. It’s the completest in me, sorry. =D

    Reply
    • John

      I’ve never understood the whole music is subjective thing.
      I find people play the subjective card so they can hide behind the ambiguous.
      Scales, modes, oscillations, etc., are not subjective. What we do with them can be.
      The reality is & I just had this conversation with a designer & engineer I bought a reel to reel off of-
      In the digital environment there is no head room. There is also no true summing.
      If you’re running mixes in pro tools only then there’s no true headroom whatsoever.
      On a Neve for ex after 0 you have way over 48 DB of HR. Plus you have real transformers
      that you drive to saturate the sound. That’s basically what analog is about. Guys that defend digital do so for economic reasons & that’s it. They cite guys who reportedly mix in the box even after it’s pointed out that the tracks
      were recorded & mastered via pres & a mix desk. There’s not a single thing releases by a major label that’s in the box.
      There’s a reason for that. I admit I’ve spent close to a hundred grand on analog gear & summing. For many that’s not feasible & I understand but it doesn’t change the reality of it all. Once I had no nice mics or gear. But I didn’t pull a Barack Obama like
      delusional stance. I realized I couldn’t match what Capitol Studios could unless I had what they have. Now I actually have some peices their house engineers wish they had lol. But that’s after years of hard work.

      Don’t get lost in the ‘subjective’ Music isn’t as subjective as we’d luke to think. There’s a science to song writing, chord progression & texture, melody, & rhythm. There’s actually been studies that have shown music to be a science. I totally agree.
      It’s mathematical. A classic Mustang Boss car invokes emotion. It’s described as being sexy. Subjective? Perhaps the perception is. However it was science that made the car a reality. It’s more our perceptions that are subjective not the science. And there really is no argument. The argument happening here is based in ignorance & mis-information. It’s like anything else. Somebody read this or heard that & that was the extent of their education lol. My partner & I actually build some of the gear people argue about on here & I can tell you only 1 guy on here is even close to understanding the technology that so many are arguing about. It’s mostly people defending what they can afford & gravitating towards people they read mix ITB. Course they don’t bother to learn it was tracked out of the box & mastered out of the box which makes a huge difference making the product NOT ITB.

      Reply
  111. Darryl

    Don’t be a gear snob because you have been blessed with some nice gear. And no matter how scientific you may imagine music to be, it will always be an individual experience. Whether it is someone listening to something recorded in a multimillion-dollar studio, or a child singing a song they made up. You forget, we all have the most high tech, expensive set of music gear that could possibly exist, ‘our ears’.
    And our perception of what comes into them is what matters most, not how much it cost to produce the sound. I assure you there is plenty of expensively produced crap in the world, just as there are many things produced economically that sound golden. I have respect for engineers who work in or have expensive studios, but music is as much (more really) an experience of the soul as it is about production values. Don’t become arrogant and forget that the process of recording is not even needed to enjoy music. I imagine you might tell someone singing something a capella that what they’re doing is invalid because it isn’t going through x-amount of dollars of processing. As far as music being scientific, well I’ve already said what I had to say about that. Of course there is a science to it, but that science will never be more important than the soul and feeling behind it. You say it was science that made the car a reality, well it was God who made the person who came up with the science a reality.
    As far as Obama goes, why bring politics into a discussion of art? Seriously, have you nothing better to do?

    Reply
  112. Darryl

    I mean come on, lets not forget the benefits of tape hiss, a high noise floor and, well, distortion! Its ironic to me that my father (a working musician for 30 years) was always in pursuit of the sound with the least possible distortion, and yet there are people today who think that the distortion created by over-driving analog gear is a good thing. Not that there is anything wrong with that, whatever sounds good to you is what sounds good. That may be my whole point in a nutshell.

    Reply
    • John

      It’s not about the kinda distortion you get on a guitar amp. It’s not about tape hiss. It’s about harmonic distortion & tape saturation.

      Reply
      • Darryl

        If I come off sounding like a no-it-all, let me take a step back and say, of course that isn’t the case. In fact, the more I learn, the more I know I don’t know. It wouldn’t surprise me John if you know more about mixing than I do, I think I was just responding more to what I perceived as an unnecessary attitude you were having. I haven’t worked in pro studios, nor do I have a degree in audio. I’m just a person who has enjoyed listening to and creating music for almost four decades. That’s my pedigree, for whatever it may be worth (not much on a resume?). I have however written, performed and recorded hundreds of songs. So maybe I do have some knowledge about that side of the equation.
        Am I wrong in thinking that whether we are talking about tube amp distortion or analog console distortion we are still talking about pushing the mechanical parts of a piece of equipment to the point where it starts to introduce noise into the sound? There have been digital distortion emulations around for decades now (not all of them sound good either), and to think that that process can’t be recreated digitally is probably like someone saying that electric guitar will never have the ‘prestige’ of a violin. Both are wonderful instruments and I hope they are both around for a long time.

        Reply
        • John

          I really am not going to get into a I know more than you do thing about mixing.
          That said the most important things I’ve learned about mixing came from sitting
          in mix sessions at Capitol Studios room C, LAFX, The Pass Studios, Paramount, etc with not just
          Grammy award winning mix engineers but historical mix engineers whom I love & respect too much to toss their names
          around but you would know them if I did. But I had been involved in production & songwriting for 20 years before that.
          I’ve been lucky & I’m very greatful. But no harmonic distortion is not the same. Google Rupert Neve harmonic distortion.
          Middle C on a piano creates hundreds of audible & Inaudible harmonic frequencies. It’s kinda like that but again not the same. I have Ivory pianos. Ok, the Yamaha piano they used? Is at LAFX. I’ve played it several times. The samples? On Ivory? Are about 45 percent of the actual sound of that piano. I’ve demoed Pultec plugins. The most expensive ones? Pale
          in comparison to the actual Pultec. Really because you can imitate the sound of a transformer but you can’t emulate it. Why?
          Because it’s actual power. The way it reacts with the tubes in the gain stage leave the plugin in the dust. I’ve used 4 or 5 different Studer k? Studer worked to help create a plugin to emulate tape saturation. Does it sound & react like the real Studer? No. Is it feasible because Studers are expensive & costly to maintain? Sure it is. But Capitol & Abbey Road won’t be selling their Studers & getting the plugins lol. No one wants to discourage kids from making music. Coming from a rather poor home I used to collect tape players & put them together so u could do overdubs. I did that til I was 12 or 13. If all you can afford is plugins? You can be just as creative. But by the time I was 25 I was sitting behind a Neve in Hollywood. And my creativity finally began to match the sonic integrity it deserved. For those who do this on the side as a hobby? You’d be stupid to invest the money I have. But if this is your dream? What you want to
          do? I’m not going to blow sunshine up your ass. Pro Tools is great for editing. It’s a tool. We’ve abuses that technology to serve lesser minds. The best sound is achieved when using digital & analog together.
          I had a drummer in Atlanta send me drums at 16-44. Recorded on cheap mics & pres.
          I have drums tracked in room B at Capitol at 32-192 using 67s & SM71s. The difference in quality?
          Well? I’ll let you hear it. I’ll make some time tomorrow & I’ll post them.
          The difference is painful. I’ll post dry tracks. One kit recorded with cheaper mics & pres in a treated room at 16-44.
          The other kit recorded at Capitol Studios in room B using nice mics & the Neve console with Fairchild compressors
          just barely touching the signal. We can have these conversations all day. Proof is in the sound. My agenda is simply truth.
          I’m not interested in proving anybody wrong so I can wear the label of the guy who’s right. I’m interested in getting the best sounding recording & helping other people do the same. Ill post a link here tomorrow evening.

          Reply
  113. Andrew Bauserman

    I cannot resist fanning the flames on this continuing 22-month-old debate…

    Here. You can quote me on this one:

    “Analog is a high sample-rate, high bit-depth quantization with a high slew-rate and a high-entropy source of randomness and dither.”

    Tubes? The quantization is determined by the number of electrons jumping through the grid to the anode for a given heater- and grid-voltage combination. Randomness, dither, and rounding errors are relative to uncertainty in electron behavior at these given voltages.

    Vinyl? The quantization is determined by the number of molecules in the minimum vs. maximum height/width of a groove, and the number of (linear) molecules touched per second. Randomness, dither, and rounding errors are relative to the precision, mass and maximum acceleration of the carving blade and play-back needle.

    Tape? The quantization is determined by the density of magnetic molecules on the medium, maximum magnetic capacity of those particles, how many particles pass the tape head per second, and the number of electrons flowing into the record head or out of the play head. Randomness, dither, saturation and rounding errors are relative to the precision & slew rate of the record or playback head and the deviation of the magnetism of the magnetic molecules.

    Transformers? Diodes? Whatever? All quantized with the fundamental building-blocks of the universe; with randomness also governed by the law of physics.

    In the end, you can’t carve out half a molecule, or move half an electron.

    But you *can* determine the range within which both the quantization and the randomness operate for a given system, voltage, tape-coating, etc. Modern computers are near, or arguably surpass, those specs. And processing power is likewise at or near what is required to model these behaviors.

    There’s still a bit of math left to work out in reproducing specific analog circuits, components, and states of saturation. True. But having seen/heard how close Fabrice Gabriel (Steven Slate), Universal Audio, and others are getting with digital models of analog gear, to borrow Kurzweil’s phrase, “The Singularity is Near” :)

    Note 1:
    If you can currently tell the difference between a given analog technology and its best digital emulation — I believe you. I’ll take your word for it. But don’t confuse a poor *implementation* with an absolute *limitation* of digital capability — or the ingenuity of programmers like Fabrice.

    Note 2:
    The problem of a high entropy source of randomness (for dither, crypto, etc.) within a deterministic computing environment has been solved, and is built into the latest computer chip-sets:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRNG
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/behind-intels-new-randomnumber-generator

    OK. Now, as Graham said, let’s “get back to what matters: making more and better music” :)

    Reply
  114. John

    Well? Let’s hear your last song then?

    Something tells me that was intended to impress.
    It did not. So? Let’s your better music?

    Reply
  115. John

    If you don’t hear the difference in digital & analog gain stages & overall sound?
    You should quit. Bottom line nothing being put out is an ITB product. So…why isn’t it?
    Because it will get destroyed in radio & other media playback.

    I can’t wait to hear the ‘better’ music this guy has written & recorded;)

    Reply
    • Andrew Bauserman

      John,

      a) I believe you… You may have missed this line: “If you can currently tell the difference between a given analog technology and its best digital emulation — I believe you.” I was pointing out the difference between implementation vs. limitation, and arguing that what you hear is a result of the former, not the latter.

      b) I’m intrigued by the phrase “it will get destroyed in radio & other media playback” because I’ve _honestly_ (not being sarcastic) never heard an A/B of both an ITB vs OTB recording being run through an OmniaAudio.com broadcast processor with 4+ bands of digital compression and 5+ bands of digital limiting for terrestrial radio broadcast. I only know a few people that even have access to such equipment.

      If you or anyone on the list works in radio, this would be a _great_ experiment to hear what radio processing actually does to any produced track in general, and specifically to an ITB track vs OTB track.

      Reply
      • John

        Why don’t we do this? It’s not to try & year you down. Just an honest experiment.
        Let’s book a studio? You can have a rig in one room? With whatever digital software & interface you want.
        Let everything you use? Be digital. I’ll use the other room & I’ll use my rig which is Pro Tools HD, vintage Pultecs,
        Sta-Levels, DBX’s, etc with a Neve 8816 & Otari tape for mix down back into Pro Tools.

        Ok? Let’s take the same song & same vocalist. You can use a USB mic & I’ll use my U67 or C12.
        Well track the song from the ground up, mix it & master it if needed on our respective rigs & post the results online?

        What do you say man?

        Reply
        • Andrew Bauserman

          John – You know, I agree with you on just about everything, from the fact that you’re the more-experienced mixer to the fact that a U67 will blow away an inexpensive USB mic like a Blue Spark or Yeti.

          What would be really cool is if you had the time to take the “drums tracked in room B at Capitol at 32-192 using 67s & SM71s” (or something similar from a past session) and make 2 copies of it. Run one copy through a real Pultec or Sta-Level (dialed-in using your ears on studio monitors), back into ProTools and out to 2 tracks. Run the second copy through the latest plug-in clone of that same piece of gear, dialed-in (again, by your ears on the same studio monitors) to as close to the same settings/results as possible, also out to 2 tracks.

          Then post both 2-tracks to Dropbox as 24-bit 48K wav files (obviously not MP3s). Thus we’d eliminate my inferior skills, inferior equipment, different room and different monitors from the equation — and be able to compare the clone to the actual piece of gear. After listening to the final A/B comparison, we’d probably both agree that there is a difference — possibly even that the actual gear sounds “better” :)

          It’s likely the *only* point on which we’ll disagree is whether the difference is a fundamental law of nature that CANNOT be represented mathematically VS. a difference that COULD be modeled, even if current attempts to do so HAVE NOT YET been completely successful.

          Reply
  116. John

    Hmmm. Suddenly were not so sure….are we?

    If anyone wants to take me up on this I think it’s a great idea. We can run our mouths for the next 18 months about digital & analog mixing or? We can do the ultimate A/B test.

    ( I’m still going to post the drums I discussed last night)

    Reply
  117. Darryl

    I guess you never posted the link to the different drum tracks John? Having had some time to think over this whole, long and interesting debate, I’ve had some time to reflect on what I think about it. One thing I realize now that I probably should have realized from the start is that a lot of the people posting on here are pro mixers or even just people with a lot more knowledge/experience than me. I guess what gets my goat is that music is something so close to my heart that it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of an opinion and not really see the full picture.

    I think both views I see presented here (the majorly argued ones anyway) are valid. Of course a kid or someone just starting out recording or even a hobbyist say, shouldn’t worry him or her self about top of the line, expensive recording gear like SSL or Neve desks, that’s just ludicrous. At the same time, anyone (even people who may not be pursuing mixing or music as a career) who is fascinated in the process of recorded music, can probably benefit from the knowledge and experience of people who have actually used this equipment.

    It is interesting to note though, that people who have grown up around digital gear, and digital recordings, may not have that same reference point that people who grew up in a more analog world do. What sounds good, or normal to a person from the digital age, may sound like crap to someone with more of an analog background and vice versa. I can’t think of a better analogy than classical music and contemporary (lets just call it pop I guess) music. I’ve lived long enough to have heard the argument that ‘modern’ or more electronic music isn’t really music, or just doesn’t have the same ‘quality’ of sound as classical music performed on classical instruments. At some point I think a person must realize that there is no way to win this argument. It is not a matter of bit rates, or headroom or anything else really than something intangible called taste, and as the saying goes, there is no accounting for it.

    To someone who wants to make the argument that music is just science, like math or something, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. I have played, listened to and studied music for nearly 40 years and while I believe that science is a very important part of music, it certainly in my opinion isn’t the whole picture, anymore than science could be said to be the whole picture of life itself or of a person. I’m just not cut from that cloth, or wired in such a way that science is the be all, end all.

    I think the goal for anyone doing music, should be to get the best results with what is available to you. Not everyone is going to have access to the big studios or the most expensive gear and I think that is ok. As I’ve said before, recording (the entire process including gear and professionals) isn’t even necessary to enjoy music. Just humming a tune or playing an acoustic instrument is often all that’s needed to enjoy this wonderful art. Is that rationalizing? I think it’s just rational.

    Peace

    Reply
    • John

      Thanks for the reminder. Ive just been flooded with work.
      Im uploading the tracks to my dropbox and I will provide a link momentarily.

      Recorded at 44 midline interface & pres
      Recorded at Capitol Neve Console

      These are the labels on the tracks.

      The first was done in a studio in Atlanta with only an interface at 44.
      Midrange Mics and stock pres I assume are in the actual interface.

      The Second was recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood in Room B. You can
      go online and look at the room and the control room. It was recorded with obviously topline mics (U67s) (Senn 421s on toms) etc, the Neve 8068 console
      yada yada yada. Point is? The difference between the 2 are ridiculously obvious. I did nothing to these tracks. They are the dry tracks that first came in. I just did a rough balance and compd them down. This is what Im talking about. Proof is in the sound. One of these would be on the side of the guys saying digital is just as good as analog. Now there was some digital
      interfacing in both tracks. One was I think an older Apogee Capitol still uses. And the other a cheap interface. One used the stock pres in the interface and the other was the Neve board. We used Fairchild Compressors
      and I forget what else. But the first track is relying mostly on the digital
      and the second track all the sound is coming from the Neve and the outboard gear.

      Post the link here momentarily

      Reply
  118. John

    Oh one more thing?

    The drums labeled recorded at 44? I uploaded as a 192 WAV file.
    The other track I uploaded as a 48 MP3. Just to give the audio review
    a fair slant.

    Reply
    • Darryl

      Thanks for posting those John. Ya, the analog track sounds much ‘fuller’ and just overall better. The only comment I have, is that the digital track seems especially low quality. I’ve recorded drums on a Boss 1680 with three mics that sounded better than that example I think. Not to mention that there are samples recorded with great gear, in great studios available to people working in the digital realm. Maybe that isn’t the same argument, not sure, it gets a little muddy in some areas I suppose.

      If I may make one other observation, even though the analog track sounds much better to my ears, it really isn’t quite the ‘knock me out of my seat’ sound I was kind of expecting. Maybe it’s just because it hasn’t been processed, or it could even be my less than stellar gear on my end, but for something that was recorded in a top of the line studio, I think I was expecting a little more (obviously the file format has an effect also as you said).

      Thanks again for taking the time to upload these John. Obviously a big difference in my opinion.

      Reply
      • John

        No problem man. Thanks for reminding me! Ya I wanted to upload completely untouched tracks. Maybe Ill upload the song and man the drums sound incredible.

        Youre right samples are available but youre right thats not the argument here.

        The argument here is What really sounds better? Analog or digital?

        My take shall forever be the digital and analog come together and make explosive sounds. Digital own its own? Ya you can get back if youre doing Katy Perry crap but if youre recording real instrumental sounds then digital
        will never live up to what it could be with analog gear.

        Reply
      • John

        BTW the studio drummer who recorded the not as good sounding track? He does drum tracks for big acts and the producer just slaps samples on it to out a fine point on what you said. I didnt have to slap any samples on the drums from Capitol.

        Reply
  119. Ja

    You should have to know what you are talking about before writing articles on. The net

    Reply
  120. jymc

    this thread started discussing the pros and cons of analog summing. I agree with the earliest posts that analog summing makes no difference as compared to ITB, but ONLY WITH CERTAIN TYPES OF RECORDINGS. Rap and modern R&B (which really doesn’t resemble classic R&B) usually does not use real acoustic instruments. Instead lots of synthesized patches/sounds are intertwined together and who is to say what a particular synthesizer patch is supposed to sound like. This is totally opposite to the instrumentation used in classic R&B, jazz, rock, and I guarantee there are subtle differences (warmth, punch, separation) mixing real instruments using analog summing.

    Reply
  121. vections

    One word… TEXTURE!

    Analog gear is the only way to get real textures in the sound. You have to get out of the box fort that.

    Reply
  122. Brian E. Gacia

    The given is that you must be excellent at your craft and always continuing to grow and strive for expanding your skill set.

    With that, I am confident in saying that you will certainly hear a difference if you take any phenomenal mix completed ITB and simply take that exact same mix and assign it to multiple D/A outputs, utilizing any where from 16 to 32 channels of a unit like the Dangerous 2 bus and lay back through the same converters on the D/A side. I will stand by the assertion of my piers and myself that it will sound more appealing in the most visceral and gut level of ways.

    Conversely, you will also hear a difference if you take the exact same mix completed with analog summing and reassign outputs to stay in your given D.A.W. environment and lay back the same mix ITB. You will certainly feel a tangible difference expressed through a multitude of adjectives.

    The result is certainly subjective and perspective based, although a difference will most assuredly be noticed.

    I completely understand the multiplicity of reasons for utilizing one method verses another at the highest levels of our craft.

    Will one method verses another yield an end result that will move a good mix to a great mix or a good mix to and average mix; certainly not. Nevertheless, you will certainly feel differently about the two.

    In conclusion, a significant factor on whether or not you should consider pursuing the acquisition of an analog summing unit depends greatly on where you are in your development of your skill set, artistry and mastery of your craft.

    Be well – Brian

    Reply
  123. Joe Knouse

    Are you people insane? Did any of you bother to read the article? Graham Cochrane never made the assertion that one method was better than the other. He simply stated that people who want to record and mix their own music—whether for economic reasons or otherwise—shouldn’t wait until they can afford big-ass expensive analogue equipment to make their own music, or to mix the music of others who hire them to do it. The reasons make so much sense: waiting until you can afford and use what the big studios use is completely unrealistic, and simply becomes an excuse to sit on your butt and never work, never get better; plenty of people have had success mixing music in the box, and with enough practice and hard work you can achieve great results.

    But never ever ever EVER did he say that analogue summing sounded worse OR better than ITB summing, he just said to not worry about analogue summing if you don’t have the facility. Work ITB. People do it. You can do it. Don’t wait. Make music. That’s all he said. And he’s right.

    It’s insane how little reading comprehension some of the commenters on this post possess. I would never trust them with my music. I would rather do it myself. ITB.

    Reply
  124. Tate

    While I personally prefer hybrid work flow, people put out incredible mixes ITB. IMHO, Serban Ghenea is one of the best mixers of our time; in my mind he shut the door on mindless analog/vs digital debates. There’s good data on both sides, right? He’s overwhelmingly ITB, via Metric Halo mind you, and some outboard. I do lean towards the idea that it’s harder for the older gens to change with the times. Heck, I don’t blame them since they had the absolute pleasure of physically turning the knobs, however, I have the absolute pleasure of instant recall. :-)

    I guess my point is, I have heard incredible mixes on both ends of the spectrum. It’s all about how you use your tools at hand and how well you can craft a mix. Virtual analog summing, summing mixers and shiny new boutique buss comps are no substitution for experience.

    Reply
  125. John

    Dude those are not true ITB mixes. There isn’t a true ITB mix released by a major label.

    You’re perpetuating a mindless myth long put to bed here.
    These guys doing these ‘incredible’ ITBs? Are not doing ITB mixes. They’re working on sounds
    that begin with analog front gear & they end with analog front gear. The only thing mindless are
    myths & legends.

    Reply
    • Tate

      Hi, John

      I’m assuming you’re speaking to my comment (I apologize and disregard if you’re not).

      I think you’re taking comments out of context here. This article is by-in-large about analog/digital mixing and summing, right? It has nothing to do with the front end of the recording, or the back end of mastering. We’re all talking about the mixing phase– all ITB, on a desk, or both, via DAW of choice and summing, to be specific. The actual recording session paths and mastering paths have zero to do with an ITB mix (in the sense of how you decide the “treat” the mix in your personal work flow of choice and the results thereof). Recordings, analog or digital, only have to do with what you are actually working with as a mixer. **Def. not trying to insult your intelligence here, but your statements about (“Are not doing ITB mixes. They’re working on sounds that begin with analog front gear & they end with analog front gear”) have nothing to do with this debate.

      Does a crappy recording affect the result of a mix, very much so and to those that mix it can be a blessing or a curse because of client expectation. But this applies to everyone on however you decide to mix a record, via ITB, Desk or Hybrid. I can tell you that a master from the best guys at Sterling is not going to help a crappy mix either– again, whether it is mixed ITB, Desk or Hybrid.

      I work with major labels everyday and can tell you there are 100% ITB mixes, esp. on the pop end, on the radio everyday. Whether you like this or not is a different story. :-) But to make a point here, ITB can be done, is done and is done very well.

      I personally do not mix all ITB, as I like a hybrid setup. To my ears, I prefer it. ITB/Plugins have come a long way in the past 10, even 5 years. Time is money, and most guys are doing at least hybrid by way of a summing box and/or some outboard pieces. Would I mix a Jazz record ITB? Probably not, but that’s just me. All I’m saying is that the margin between ITB and desk is getting narrower by way of quality. Which is better? Well, it depends on how you look at it. ITB is better if I can mix faster and get paid more money and the records are selling, or that API is better because I’m getting that analog mojo for that fusion record and couldn’t bring myself to the mouse.

      I hope this is helpful insight to you on what an ITB mix actually is and is not. I’m not here to belittle you or anyone, just offer some insight into what people are doing everyday and doing it well. The bottom line is you can accomplish your goals ITB, desk/hardware, or a hybrid setup with the right skill-sets.

      best,

      tate

      Reply
      • John

        Tate? You cannot separate the recording & the mix.

        Anything used in the tracking & post production & mastering is apart of the mix.

        Sometimes it’s just better to say I stand corrected & move on.

        John

        Reply
        • Tate

          Hey there John,

          We don’t disagree on this… I think you read what I’m saying, but you’re not listening to what I’m saying. This is about what is happening at the mix only, whether using Just plugs, Just analog or a combo thereof and how THOSE affect the outcome of a well recorded or crappy recorded session, before master. Honestly, I’m a little confused where the disconnect is, especially after giving you the benefit of the doubt- “not to insult your intelligence” “not to belittle”, etc. In fact, your comments led me to think you were a new guy and thought I’d help along there. My mistake.

          I made no assumptions about you, yet you quickly did about me (see your comments below). Thank you for another warm reminder of why I stay out of the forums and spend my time doing music, not only for fun, but as my profession.

          best,

          tate

          Reply
          • John

            The disconnect is you seem to think that an ITB mix yields an ITB product & it doesn’t.

            You’re saying ‘So & So’ does these great ITB mixes & how great they sound. But you cannot separate the analog gear & top end condenser mics & pres used from that final product. The fact they only used plugins during the mix isn’t relevant. Because they’re working with sounds that came via analog. And you’re also hearing the master which was done on digital & analog gear. So the ‘They only used plugins to mix’ becomes completely irrelevant. I’m pretty sure that’s the disconnect here.

        • Tate

          Once again, I agree with you on the front end….. mics, pres and all, but it’s beside the mixing treatment topic. You’re trying to meld the two together (which work together yes), but they really aren’t one and the same.

          To work backwards, an ITB mix absolutely yields an ITB product, and a very poor one most would say, in the late 90′s, for example, as plugs were relatively new. Take a D-verb plug for example compared to an actual 250. Um, yea…… so, in light of that, those plugins were very relavant to the quality outcome of a mix when choosing between the two.

          Let’s go with reverb as the example again, present day…. Unless your producer/engineer printed a real 250 for whatever reason, the mixer is gonna have to make a decision on whether he uses his hardware version (if he’s lucky to have one :-) or his plug version. This is very relevant to the mix and the fundamental root of all of the debates on analog vs. digital mix systems. And we’re just talking about verb here…. not to mention any other fx, buss comps, etc. that greatly impact a mix as a whole. Now that plugs are getting that good, this narrows the playing field and debates regarding a hardware 250 version and UA’s 250. So yes, some still prefer the good ol SSL, some mix ITB and, dare I say more or most are going the hybrid route because it’s fast and you get the best of both worlds.

          “They only used plugins to mix becomes completely irrelevant” is shortsighted at best. If you don’t like that answer in 2014, try to apply that logic in 1998, and I only use that as an extreme.

          Warmest regards

          Reply
          • John

            Yes once again lol. I don’t have to meld the 2 together. They are sonically inseparable. That is THE POINT. I don’t really don’t have to run that vocal back through anothe pre in mix down when a Neve, Fairchild or LA2A was used to track the vocal. I can. But I could even more easily just use plugins. For me getting a balanced mix has always been the instinctual no brainer. Getting something that sounds sonically superior had always been the challenge for me. Plugin algorithms are nowhere as advanced as what is being touted. I get the wishful thinking. It is wishful thinking. I’m not an older guy who came up with analog gear. I came up with plugins. Tell ya what. Next time you’re in LA. Call up Paula at Capitol Studios & tell her you want to tour the studio. Ask for Steve Genewick when you get there & ask him to show you the tube pre that Al Schmidt built. Then ask him to play one of the tracks off Paul McCartneys jazz record where it was used. I came up with plugs. I’ve actually had the access to the gear to compare it. I have Pultecs plugs & I have 3 Pultecs from the 50s. The outboard peq1As are ten quadrillion times better than the peq1A plug. Algorithms can create a likeness that’s it. I would never take the hundreds of thousands I’ve invested in outboard gear & put it into plugs. You’re throwing your money away. The last Pultec I bought in 2006 I paid $1800 for. The same one is going for $3000 now. I’ve lost money on all plugins I’ve bought. I actually have more money in my outboard gear than i put in. The last DBX160s I paid $800 for. They’re going for around $2000 now. In the 60s Neumann mics were put on toms & beat to hell. Now they’re going for &20,000. I’m looking at it from every point of value. Plugs are a joke man.

      • John

        Tate lol Bud? I can promise you I do not need a lesson in What is an ITB & what isn’t.

        Your green shows like an American soldier under a blue sky in Korea circa 1970;)

        Scroll back up & listen to the drums I AB’d on 6 weeks ago.

        Reply
    • Tate

      Haha, I guess so. Just stumbled on to this sight, kind if like the YouTube netherworld we end up at somehow. Peace!

      Reply
    • John

      Yes but even the living visit the gravesides of their dearly departed. Guess that means you’re more in love with this thread than anyone;) Don’t it? Hmmm? Haha

      Blessings

      John

      Reply
  126. atheist

    nobody said that analog is about fixing bad mixes you stupid christian. it is about adding analog character to the mix.

    Reply
  127. Dubhausdisco

    Hi everyone, sorry I’m so late to the party.
    There is definitely some confusion here regarding the delivery method of certain ideas…
    I follow Graham on Facebook. Some posts I agree on, some I do not. That’s ok.
    My personal experience (self taught) and quite simply the time I have spent recording and mixing qualifies me to make certain judgements about what works and what doesn’t. I am comfortable responding to certain thoughts and ideas out of experience alone, not from statements I may have read on some website.
    I have also followed Mixerman’s writings since the diaries. If, as a hobbyist, you feel the need to debate Mixerman on a subject like this, you cannot hide under the covers claiming he should be “kind”. Also keep in mind that you are likely entering an arena where you have little chance of success. Just saying. Lol
    “Kind” has nothing to do with anything, it only justifies this “gentle encouragement” mantra that so many forums have nowadays. Wanna see the most unproductive, misinformed circle jerk forum ever? Go to the audiobus forum (iOS musicians are the worst).
    If you’ve never had a “stake” in a mix, then you most certainly will never understand why Mixerman says what he does, and the fact that all of this summing talk most likely has nothing to do with YOU at all. And that’s ok too. Some posters here can’t accept that. They want to chime in even though they have nothing to add.
    The “digital revolution” has supposedly leveled the playing field between pros and hobbyists, but that is a fallacy. I think it hurts deeply when the hobbyist realizes that the DAW they bought is not giving them the pro results they thought they’d be enjoying. Advertising that your “studio” has “protools” has long been pointless.

    Enter the “gentle encouragement” police, whose sole purpose for posting and knocking something a professional mixer says is a knee jerk reaction to the perceived “unkindness” of the previous post. Boo hoo.

    In any discipline you will need to take some lumps and be prepared to shut your mouth and keep your ears open. That is not an insult, that is a fact. I have been mixing (as a hobbyist/semi pro) for years, but I’ve also made my living as a chef. Let me just say that as a chef, you need to be able to consider any idea that your crew comes up with as long as it adheres to your standards. The flip side is that I would immediately shut down (in full view of the entire kitchen) the f****** new guy who claims they could make a better bordelaise than me simply because they don’t like me or the way I work.

    Long story short, if you don’t have the experience level of Graham or Mixerman, that’s ok. Just refrain from dismissing ideas and concepts because you’re uncomfortable with the delivery…. Make sense?

    Reply
      • Dubhausdisco

        Now that wasn’t very friendly!
        I’m not sure how I’ve offended you, and frankly don’t care too much if I did.
        Have you managed to contact all of Mixerman’s past clients and let them know that he’s an asshole?
        You should be finishing up right about now.

        All the best!
        Dave

        Reply
  128. Jon Gilbert

    DAWs have only been around for about 20-30 years. Go listen to analog recordings from the first 20-30 years of analog recording. Compare that to digital. Clearly there is no comparison.

    Now yes it’s true that 100 years of development into analog, yes, it’s better. It’s more refined.

    But digital has pretty much caught up and it will eventually FAR surpass analog in every way, shape, and form. Quantum computers will make analog a joke. Just wait, if you live long enough, you might see it (but you’ll probably be too deaf to hear it, oh well).

    Reply
  129. fantazi iç giyim

    It’s rather a nice beneficial bit of facts. Now i’m happy which you contributed this convenient facts along with us. You need to keep us current in this way. We appreciate you discussing.

    Reply
  130. Curtboogie

    Hopefully this will shed some light on this debate. I discovered the term “analog summing” because there is something that has always bugged be about the sound of ITB digital mixes, and I set out to see how other people were addressing this problem.
    To my ears, the problem with ITB mixes is that the tracks don’t actually “mix” at all! There is nothing unifying each individual track, there is no common denominator between a vocal or guitar recorded on a microphone in a live room, a virtual instrument, an analog synth, and a sample of a vinyl record, because high quality digital recording is too literal. What you put in is what you get out. I tried applying the same digital reverb to each track to glue the tracks together, but the tracks still didn’t seem to “love” each other.
    As an experiment, I have done ITB mixes with all tracks using sounds from a single source, either the same microphone, or the same keyboard, or same virtual instrument, and the mix seemed to agree with itself again, even without analog summing.
    I have also gotten that musical “glue” using low quality tape and lo fi digital recording. Anything that adds its own effect, either negative or positive helps the tracks easier to mix with each other. Look at it like the military; you have guys from all over the country who would never cross paths and possibly hate each other, but through a uniform and a common experience, some of these guys become lifelong friends.
    The reason some of the younger guys may be able to get good mixes ITB is because 95 percent of the time, ALL of their sound sources are virtual instruments, which is in itself a form of summing. Its SOURCE summing. But once they add in the vocal, it rarely mixes with the virtual instruments, kind of like a bad toupee not blending with the real hair. Its obvious.
    Ive yet to do a mix with analog summing using an analog mixer, but in theory, running all your extremely individualistic digital tracks through the same “uniform” should get them marching to the same beat, and do away with that amateurish, sobering sound that so many home studios produce.

    Reply
  131. Mr.Miller

    Mixing OTB you will get better depth, dimension and a different kind of clarity.
    But all this does not mean that you can’t get a great ITB mix, you can. Sepcial if you take care for proper gain-stageing. ITB it will just sound different. In Rock-Music for example most people still love to hear a console and outboard gear. If you do not believe it. Buy at e-bay and old MidiverbII for 30 bucks and compare this to your best ITB verbs. I bet you will have a big surprise.

    Reply
  132. Mr.Holmes

    To discuss analogue summing alone seems a little bit stupid. It wont change a lot. Discussing mixing ITB and mixing OTB is a total different topic. Most engineers who claim that they mix exclusively ITB do not tell you that they get tracks which went into top class gear in tracking. From my OTB experience I bet that some of them use HW reverbs. In the next moment you see them smiling in an UAD video telling you how good the new plug in reverb is.

    If you try that from scratch ITB with just mediocre pres – you will never sound lush wide and open. You even won’t sound like this with an 1073 mic pre. The console and the outboard gear makes a huge difference, special HW reverbs are important. They can set up your mix from the ITB average crowed. I just can encourage everybody to mix one and the same song in both domains. They can sound good both, but most people will prefer the OTB mix.

    Just because it has more icing on the cake. OTB = Depth / Dimension / Roundness (DDR). ITB is all the opposite of it, special if like a lot reverb like in the 80s. It sounds like a cluster with plug in verbs.

    Reply
  133. joe

    Same experience here! Summing makes really good mixes better. Depth and Dimension. I’m sold and no one can convince me otherwise.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1.  Embracing The Pro Tools Generation » The Recording Revolution
  2.  Before I waste the money, analogue summing .. - Home Recording forums
  3.  Passive summing unit - homerecording.be forum
  4.  The Case For Mixing With Your Eyes Closed » The Recording Revolution

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Read previous post:
Faster EQ And Compression In Pro Tools [Video]

When you mix, you tend to gravitate to one main EQ and compressor for the bulk of your work. I...

Close