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Author Topic: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?  (Read 145178 times)

J.J. Blair

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #30 on: May 07, 2005, 12:29:09 pm »

Bob, I thought there was some issue with digital headroom and/or ability to sum the full signals w/o degredation in real time when summing in the box?  I'm  a digital idiot, so I'm just asking.  I don't know how any of it works.  I just know which things sound better to me.
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gwailoh

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #31 on: May 07, 2005, 01:54:48 pm »

If I understand this correctly, PT added a 48-bit mix bus with PT HD. I don't think this existed pre-HD. In theory, 48-bits should allow summing headroom which is larger than anyone's practical ability to stress. I'm curious whether the negative experiences several folks have reported here are with that bus, or with earlier, pre-48-bit busses, or with other DAWs with shallower mix busses. Could anyone clarify?  (e.g., "Yeah it was PT HD 48-bit I was talking about when I noted that analog summing was so much better.")  Also it would be great to know how people were approaching their digital summing: out the digital outputs to a MasterLink or other device?  Back in to two new tracks on the DAW?  Internal bounce?  With SRC or not?  Etc.

Granted there's no substitute for listening. But many thanks to all for helping to sort this out. It's very helpful to be able to learn from your experiences.

Keyplayer

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #32 on: May 07, 2005, 02:31:48 pm »

gwailoh wrote on Sat, 07 May 2005 13:54

Also it would be great to know how people were approaching their digital summing: out the digital outputs to a MasterLink or other device?  Back in to two new tracks on the DAW?  Internal bounce?  With SRC or not?  Etc.



Keyplayer: I send my Nuendo tracks out into my DA7 then back into a stereo track in Nuendo.
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bobkatz

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #33 on: May 07, 2005, 07:42:20 pm »

J.J. Blair wrote on Sat, 07 May 2005 12:29

Bob, I thought there was some issue with digital headroom and/or ability to sum the full signals w/o degredation in real time when summing in the box?  I'm  a digital idiot, so I'm just asking.  I don't know how any of it works.  I just know which things sound better to me.


Nope. Any way you measure it, digital summing is as close to perfect as you can get. The reasons you may prefer the analog mixer include distortion, noise, crosstalk, selective high frequency versus low frequency crosstalk, high frequency rolloff at 20 kHz, you name it.

All the "reputable" DAWs have tons of summing headroom (more than your analog board, to be exact!), zero crosstalk (which may be the reason why some people dislike it), zero leakage between channels, flat frequency response (which may be another reason why people dislike it), and it's not subject to the nonlinearities of converters. Add that up and.... well, that's what you get.

BK
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J.J. Blair

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #34 on: May 07, 2005, 08:31:41 pm »

Actually, as ludicrous as it sounds, I've never run out of headroom on my console, due to the custom buss section I had made by Steve Firlotte.  My master fader in PT has run out of headroom, but I don't think it was the summing.  Once I backed the master fader down, the distortion stopped.  

I thought the inadequacies of digital summing were what made the Dangerous 2 Buss, etc. so appealing?

How is it that the crosstalk is a pleasant quality?  I'm confused.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Tomas Danko

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #35 on: May 08, 2005, 06:19:02 am »

bobkatz wrote on Sat, 07 May 2005 14:57

Tomas Danko wrote on Sat, 23 April 2005 16:13



For whatever harm my DAC's are doing to the audio, my console is more than making up for it in mojo.

Sincerely,

Tomas Danko





I think the key word here is "mojo". Digital summing is technically nearly perfect. Analog summing is technically far from perfect. It MUST BE, by DEFINITION, the imperfections of the analog summing and the additional analog circuits that the signal goes through that are so attractive to many of us. I can live with that  Smile

And let us remember that an API sounds different from a Dangerous Two Buss from a Soundcraft Ghost from an SSL 4000 (E or G?). So to generalize too much about the sound of "analog summing" is also a dangerous concept.

BK


You know, I agree completely. I've been doing ITB mixing for years, and also been working with digital consoles for a long time. I do feel that with todays current digital technology, the summing etc is nearly perfect and an improvement over the analog grunge. Sometimes, this is also the preferred sound.

I would probably never buy a hybrid studio again, with an analog console, lots of outboard etc but using a DAW with multiple DAC's. It'd be ITB with good converters and a few outboard babies for getting the mojo.

However, it comes down to what I currently own and my empirical experiences regarding how to achieve the better mix. It took me years to come up with all-digital mixes that I liked (and this is coming from a guy who started out composing on computers well before the teens!), and when I suddenly stepped back into my analog studio down town it felt like I got so much nice sound 'for free'.

So maybe it's just that I am a lazy bugger. Very Happy

Sincerely,

Tomas Danko
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bobkatz

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #36 on: May 08, 2005, 02:42:00 pm »

J.J. Blair wrote on Sat, 07 May 2005 20:31

Actually, as ludicrous as it sounds, I've never run out of headroom on my console, due to the custom buss section I had made by Steve Firlotte.  My master fader in PT has run out of headroom, but I don't think it was the summing.  Once I backed the master fader down, the distortion stopped.  

I thought the inadequacies of digital summing were what made the Dangerous 2 Buss, etc. so appealing?





Not at all.  That's the advertising hype! There is one and only one reason for the existence of these analog "summing" boxes, and that is coloration. Frankly, I don't think the Dangerous 2 Buss is colored enough to interest me. The objective losses are not exceeded by the subjective improvements. I hear great losses in separation and not that much color from the opamps and such.

Quote:



How is it that the crosstalk is a pleasant quality?  I'm confused.



This is only a theory, that the interchannel high frequency crosstalk is pleasant on the ear. I believe that the apparent increase in "separation" however, is due to the harmonic distortion.

If you really wish to evaluate what's going on in analog summing versus digital summing, start by:

a) calibrating both systems to the identical gain as measured on a meter with 0.1 dB resolution

b) make sure there are no polarity reversals. I received some test files from a client trying to compare analog versus digital summing and the analog version was reversed in polarity from the digital

c) Take a nicely recorded stereo recording in your DAW.  Feed this out to a D/A converter and then back into an A/D converter and back into your digital system. Put the the two files side by side synchronized. Play them and switch between them. Which one sounds better? Which one sounds more like the "original instrument(s)"? Do you hear more separation one way than the other?  Remember... every analog mix depends on the sound quality and integrity of that D/A/D routing. I've never heard one that didn't take the sound downhill a tiny bit.

And so on... now add the other variables and prove to yourself whether the "cure" is better than the "disease".  Lynn Fuston's "DAW-SUM" CD is another helpful data point for everyone trying so suss this all out. Not ALL analog consoles sound better than the digital mix. And "better" is truly in the ear of the behearer.

BK
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Deep White

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #37 on: May 08, 2005, 04:10:07 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 02:42

There is one and only one reason for the existence of these analog "summing" boxes, and that is coloration.

If that's true, I'd be a bit disappointed.

In the "Digital v.s. Analog Summing" thread I've mentioned a test I did this afternoon.  My conclusion so far:

Totally mixing ITB is the worst.  (In my case.)

Sending the mix to Manley Vari-MU (to and back through Apogee Trak2) improves the sound a lot.

Sending the mix to Manley 16x2 then to Vari-MU improves the sound a little bit more.  (Due to the coloration of 16x2 maybe.)

Yet spliting the mix to 4 submixes, sending them seperately to 16x2 and summing them up there doesn't make any difference from summing them ITB and then sending the two-track out to 16x2.

I'll do more tests on this D v.s. A Summing issue later.  For now it seems that what the mix benefit from the 16x2 is only coloration, not better summing.
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gwailoh

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #38 on: May 08, 2005, 04:54:51 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Sat, 07 May 2005 16:42



Any way you measure it, digital summing is as close to perfect as you can get. The reasons you may prefer the analog mixer include distortion, noise, crosstalk, selective high frequency versus low frequency crosstalk, high frequency rolloff at 20 kHz, you name it.

All the "reputable" DAWs have tons of summing headroom (more than your analog board, to be exact!), zero crosstalk (which may be the reason why some people dislike it), zero leakage between channels, flat frequency response (which may be another reason why people dislike it), and it's not subject to the nonlinearities of converters. Add that up and.... well, that's what you get.

BK


One detail though of the subjective experiences which some proponents of analog summing report is narrowing or diminution of the digitally summed stereo image compared to analog summing.  If people's ears are not deceiving them, it seems more likely that the explanation for this particular difference would lie in defects in the DAW summing software rather than in distortion, leakage or other artifacts introduced by analog.  You'd think these kinds of analog imperfections would work against stereo, not for it.  To my excuse for a brain the more likely explanation would be that software imperfections in the DAW mix bus are introducting phase degradation; perhaps the most likely culprit being eq plugins with software artifacts that impact the mix bus in unanticipated ways.

(It would be helpful if analog proponents could add detail re the DAW versions and mixing setups they were using when they noticed stereo shrinking and other digital inferiorities compared with analog summing.  Giving their ears the benefit of the doubt, I wonder whether the problems they report are generally true of all DAWs at all software revisions or if there are particular hardware/software combinations which are troublesome.)

Tomas Danko

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #39 on: May 08, 2005, 05:03:41 pm »

I would say the issue is not with the headroom in DAWs, because they've got huge capabilities in this department just like Mr. Katz said.

However, people tend to stay awfully close to the zero all the time no matter what. In just about every instance.

Now, you don't really do that to the same extent within the analog domain generally speaking (although unity gain is a concept I live by most of the time).

I think the problem is often with the user.

Sincerely,

Tomas Danko
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bobkatz

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #40 on: May 08, 2005, 07:49:12 pm »

Deep White wrote on Sun, 08 May 2005 16:10

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 02:42

There is one and only one reason for the existence of these analog "summing" boxes, and that is coloration.

If that's true, I'd be a bit disappointed.




Why be disappointed? Your tests appear to be fairly scientific in the sense that they eliminate extra variables, and so by process of elimination it seems to indicate that we like the analog summing for what it adds, not for what it "fixes".

Just make sure that the tradeoffs are acceptable. You will lose some "transparency" while adding the color. Start by feeding a single stereo DAC/ADC pair feeding back into Pro tools and switch between "source" (the stereo track in PT) and "return". There's extra things in the chain... how can the sound get  "better" with more things in the chain....unless what it adds to the equation is a pleasant form of distortion!

BK
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bobkatz

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #41 on: May 08, 2005, 07:56:20 pm »

[quote title=gwailoh wrote on Sun, 08 May 2005 16:54]
bobkatz wrote on Sat, 07 May 2005 16:42



One detail though of the subjective experiences which some proponents of analog summing report is narrowing or diminution of the digitally summed stereo image compared to analog summing.  If people's ears are not deceiving them, it seems more likely that the explanation for this particular difference would lie in defects in the DAW summing software rather than in distortion, leakage or other artifacts introduced by analog.  





Why? If I present the hypothesis that added distortion in the analog stages gives more apparent separation how can you refute that with "it seems more likely."?

Try this simple experiment (which I have performed numerous times and also carefully listened to test files which numerous clients have sent me at my request):

Take a stereo source in the DAW, send it through D/A/D path and back into the DAW. Carefullly switch back and forth between. Does the sound get wider or narrower?  Honestly, it usually stays about the same or gets slightly narrower.  NOW, add one of your favorite pairs of analog mixer modules in between the D/A/D part of the analog path. Does the sound get wider or narrower or stay the same? Sometimes it seems to get wider, depending on the analog modules used and how hard they are driven! How can increased apparent image width be caused by anything but DISTORTION since you just ADDED something to the previous chain.

If WIDTH ~~~ CROSSTALK, then objectively crosstalk can only get worse as you add additional pieces of analog gear in a chain. if WIDTH ~~~ DISTORTION, then subjectively width can get wider as you add pieces of gear in a chain.

Remember: Process of elimination of variables, take it slowly, match your levels and then take a deep breath. Why do we like analog summing? (For those who do).... Answer: Additional pleasant coloration or distortion.

BK
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sharp11

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #42 on: May 08, 2005, 08:23:25 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 00:56

How can increased apparent image width be caused by anything but DISTORTION since you just ADDED something to the previous chain.




Thanks for chiming in and lending some "cred" to this thread, I said essentially the same thing early on and was tagged an "elitist".

Ed Dzubak
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gwailoh

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #43 on: May 08, 2005, 10:18:13 pm »

[quote title=bobkatz wrote on Sun, 08 May 2005 16:56]
gwailoh wrote on Sun, 08 May 2005 16:54

How can increased apparent image width be caused by anything but DISTORTION since you just ADDED something to the previous chain.


Thanks Bob.

Please understand that I'm not advocating the analog summing point of view.  I have no point of view, yet, except that if possible I'd like to encourage the analog advocates to be more specific about which DAWs, software versions and mix topologies (bounce to disk, return via input, external master, etc.) they were using when they had their negative experiences.

It seems to me though that if analog summed stereo images were consistently superior, the logic could be the reverse of what you suggest.  E.g, it's not that analog summing is adding something, but that digital summing contains digital errors which analog summing eliminates.  I'm not saying that I believe this to be true, but it does seem to be a logical possibility, and I think it's consistent with the anectodes which someone posted in another similar thread re how removing plugins from the ITB mix improved the results.

Again, it would be helpful if the proponents of analog summing who are passionate in their criticism of their digital summing experiences would go into more detail re the digital setups they were using, and also as you point out whether their experiences comparing digital to analog summing have consistently shown the same results.  If results were consistent, and especially if they tended to be with particular DAWs or software versions, I think I'd personally find their point of view more convincing.

Deep White

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #44 on: May 09, 2005, 01:22:05 am »

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 07:49

Why be disappointed? Your tests appear to be fairly scientific in the sense that they eliminate extra variables, and so by process of elimination it seems to indicate that we like the analog summing for what it adds, not for what it "fixes".

I'm disappointed, because the reasons why I bought the Manley 16x2 mic mixer are, (1) to improve the monitoring quality (I can hear better with my 1030A now) and (2) to do analog summing with it instead of digital summing within Nuendo, hoping to get a wider, deeper and "more expensive" sound, among which I only got the last one.

And I used my budget for the Lavry 2ch AD + 8ch DA to buy the 16x2....

I'm not regretting though.  The 16x2 is a good gear.  Simply going through it improves the sound without audible degretion.  And I can always buy the Lavry later when I got paid from other projects.

One of my friend suggested that I drive the sound harder in 16x2.  I'll try that later.

p.s.: When mixing ITB with Nuendo, I never drive it near 0dB, since I can always drive it with Vari-MU's input gain.  I don't know if this is the key that save me from bad digital summing mixes.
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Arys Chien
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Deep White Studio
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