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Author Topic: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?  (Read 163805 times)

plughead

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #60 on: May 11, 2005, 10:06:35 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Wed, 11 May 2005 09:12

maxim wrote on Wed, 11 May 2005 09:41

arys wrote:

"I don't think we are doubting that working with an analog console is better than totally ITB. "

i think bob k just intimated that it might not necessarily be the case

the question is not whether you can do a better mix on a daw, but whether a better mix can be done on one

not the same thing



I don't like to generalize, but "rock and roll" tends to sound better with an analog mix or lots of analog outboard, and "jazz" and "classical" tends to sound better with an all digital mix.

Oh boy, am I going to get creamed for that generalization... all I am trying to do is describe in complex words what only takes 10 seconds to realize by ear  Smile

snip...

BK


IME I believe, and mentioned the same thing (pg 2): dense rock mixes need to breathe outside the box, and lighter/transparent stuff remains truer in a good digital environment. I would also reiterate that mixing for loudness ITB will result in a one dimensional, ugly sounding product...

thanks for echoing my earlier sentiments Bob!
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N. Jay Burr
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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #61 on: May 12, 2005, 01:36:58 am »

1. I've been wrongly quoted for several posts.

2. I don't even understand why I was quoted in the first reply.  I'm not a native English speaker.  Maybe I missed something there.

3. I went back and found that, maybe the bigger problem in my mix happens during the final stage: limiter.  Before that I got decent depth, width and dynamic.  After that the reverb tails are squeezed and kick attacks are cut.  Yet I guess this is irrelevent to this thread and should be discussed somewhere else.
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Arys Chien
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Paul Frindle

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #62 on: May 12, 2005, 06:06:20 am »

Nathan Eldred wrote on Tue, 10 May 2005 03:10

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 16:28



All other things being equal, Nathan? That is: NO PLUGINS on the digital side, and NO outboard on the analog side?  Try that first.

Start with excellent A/D and D/A converters, do a digital mix. Feed lots of good outboard with aux sends and analog inserts, stay away from (too many) digital compressors, and you'll have a mix that's both transparent and fat, dimensional and beautiful. It can be done.

If you have heard ONE In the Box mix that sounds superb, that is a simple "exoneration" (as if there needs to be) of the all digital mix. I've heard (and done) my share of them. You do have to learn new skills. A noiseless mixer doesn't mask or hide problems. A distortionless mixer doesn't add any sounds of its own.



I have done the tests, with all things being equal.  I've heard other people's attempts (that's what I said above).  I was saying that analog outboard somewhat helps ITB, plugs destroy it.  Analog outboard on a console (operator being equal) is godlike.  It's not a skill set deficiency, it's a tool deficiency.  Maybe it's distortion, maybe it's cross talk, maybe it's because we like the sound of electrons flowing through a wire.  Either way, through an analog console the music is sweeter/wider/deeper/extended/more real/more emotional intuitive to my ears, brain, and spirit.  This is one case where empirical experience has won over scientific dogma on a daily basis, for me.  And it's why I've put my money where my mouth is by hiring a tech to continually maintain a 2" & 1/4" deck, an analog console, and a respectable mix of vintage and new analog outboard.  FWIW I don't keep it completely in the analog realm, the multitrack gets bumped to the computer and spit back out to the console and tape deck.  Running a commercial studio for my client base without a partial involvement of the computer would be impossible.  But this is not for sonic reasons.


Every time this comes up I am left with exactly the same totally frustrated feeling.
The reason people do not get best results from ITB mixes and digital processing in general is that the whole cultural environment of metering, level control, overload and production styles within the digital domain is based on SAMPLE VALUE and not SIGNAL Sad
However many times I re-itterate this very important fact it seems impossible for people to grasp exactly what it means and what the gravity of ignoring it actually is in repect of their audio results. And this is NOT even the user's fault, they cannot be expected to grasp it because they are totally buried in systems that are wholly based on sample value misconceptions and always display values which are NOT signal Sad
For a really fair analysis, this is not primarily a user problem - it is an equipment problem that the user must make himself aware of if he is to avoid it.
People who hear differences are not wrong - the equipment is lying to you - it is ecouraging you to produce illegal results that you are not made aware of.
IMHO & LE this is the sole reason underpinning ALL the arguments about ITB mixing, sample rates, 'resolution' - you name it.


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compasspnt

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #63 on: May 12, 2005, 09:03:22 am »

My firm belief is that if users of Protools, and the other DAW systems, would do the following, then MANY of the "digital" or "in the box" audio problems would vanish:

•STOP RUNNING YOUR SIGNAL SO HOT!  Do not use the built in peak meters as you would use a VU meter.  If you will keep your input levels lower, your sound will improve.  You are not really gaining anything by trying to squeeze out that last little bit.

•If you can, find a way to also meter every input with a good old fashioned analogue VU meter...whether  it's with an  analogue console, a tape machine, a dedicated "meter box," whatever.  Let these meter indications rule, while of course cross referencing the peak DAW meters as well.  And use MUSIC as your general guide for I/O levels.  Setting up with a 1k tone from inside Protools for your reference level to an analogue console following will not give accurate results on all types of program material.
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Extreme Mixing

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #64 on: May 12, 2005, 09:43:16 am »

compasspnt wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 06:03

My firm belief is that if users of Protools, and the other DAW systems, would do the following, then MANY of the "digital" or "in the box" audio problems would vanish:

?STOP RUNNING YOUR SIGNAL SO HOT!  Do not use the built in peak meters as you would use a VU meter.  If you will keep your input levels lower, your sound will improve.  You are not really gaining anything by trying to squeeze out that last little bit.

?If you can, find a way to also meter every input with a good old fashioned analogue VU meter...whether  it's with an  analogue console, a tape machine, a dedicated "meter box," whatever.  Let these meter indications rule, while of course cross referencing the peak DAW meters as well.  And use MUSIC as your general guide for I/O levels.  Setting up with a 1k tone from inside Protools for your reference level to an analogue console following will not give accurate results on all types of program material.


I absolutely agree with this, and with Paul Frindle's statements.

Steve

Paul Frindle

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #65 on: May 12, 2005, 10:38:46 am »

compasspnt wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 14:03


•If you can, find a way to also meter every input with a good old fashioned analogue VU meter...whether  it's with an  analogue console, a tape machine, a dedicated "meter box," whatever.  Let these meter indications rule, while of course cross referencing the peak DAW meters as well.  And use MUSIC as your general guide for I/O levels.  Setting up with a 1k tone from inside Protools for your reference level to an analogue console following will not give accurate results on all types of program material.


You are right in principle in everything you say Smile But a VU meter won't help you because it's too slow and will allow peaks to go unnoticed that could cause problems in the digital domain. They were fine when one used them with experience in the analogue domain, where healthy a degree of overload margin was implicit.
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blairl

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #66 on: May 12, 2005, 11:52:42 am »

Paul Frindle wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 04:06

Every time this comes up I am left with exactly the same totally frustrated feeling.
The reason people do not get best results from ITB mixes and digital processing in general is that the whole cultural environment of metering, level control, overload and production styles within the digital domain is based on SAMPLE VALUE and not SIGNAL Sad
However many times I re-itterate this very important fact it seems impossible for people to grasp exactly what it means and what the gravity of ignoring it actually is in repect of their audio results. And this is NOT even the user's fault, they cannot be expected to grasp it because they are totally buried in systems that are wholly based on sample value misconceptions and always display values which are NOT signal Sad
For a really fair analysis, this is not primarily a user problem - it is an equipment problem that the user must make himself aware of if he is to avoid it.
People who hear differences are not wrong - the equipment is lying to you - it is ecouraging you to produce illegal results that you are not made aware of.
IMHO & LE this is the sole reason underpinning ALL the arguments about ITB mixing, sample rates, 'resolution' - you name it.





Hi Paul,

Can you expound on this a little bit.  How do you suggest ITB mixers set levels both when recording and mixing?  What can the equipment makers change to make sure their equipment isn't "lying" to us?
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David Schober

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #67 on: May 12, 2005, 12:34:28 pm »

It's been my experience that it's just not DAWs that have this level issue.  Anytime I've gone to digital, RADAR, Sony, or a DAW, the issue of level is a problem.  Signals with lots of transients like a snare drum usually work fine with digital meters.  

However, things with more sustain like a vocal do not.  Most preamps and certainly the Neve 1073 I use a lot don't have the headroom to fill up the digital meter.  When I first started working in digital I found that I'd get distortion from the mic pre way before I could get the digital meter fill up.  Even with things such as a string section, I found that turning up the mic pre too far would make things sound a bit ugly.  Even though the mic pre hadn't overloaded, it just didn't sound good.

For me, when working on vocals, strings, and sustained sources I set the mic pre as high as I can as long as it still sounds good.  The digital meters are useful to make sure I don't get too soft, but long ago I stopped trying to make all the lights come on.  I'm sure there are other mic pres that have more gain and can put more into the D/A, but it's clear to me that while I understand why one would  want to do this, I've not found a correlation between good sound and hot levels to digital.
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David Schober

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #68 on: May 12, 2005, 02:39:55 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 07:03

My firm belief is that if users of Protools, and the other DAW systems, would do the following, then MANY of the "digital" or "in the box" audio problems would vanish:

•STOP RUNNING YOUR SIGNAL SO HOT!  Do not use the built in peak meters as you would use a VU meter.  If you will keep your input levels lower, your sound will improve.  You are not really gaining anything by trying to squeeze out that last little bit.





This is very true. I've found that when recording/mixing ITB, that if you keep your signal lower (in Pro-Tools it would be a little above where the green meets yellow) that the sound quality is vastly improved. Especially when mixing ITB, if you keep the master fader at 0 and the signal on the master fader down, the whole mix will oepn up and is less aggressive. It seems when you hit the buss hard it starts to get "digital aggressive", like a console would if you pushed it hard, but not anywhere near as pleasing.
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compasspnt

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #69 on: May 12, 2005, 03:21:46 pm »

Paul Frindle wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 10:38

compasspnt wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 14:03


•If you can, find a way to also meter every input with a good old fashioned analogue VU meter...whether  it's with an  analogue console, a tape machine, a dedicated "meter box," whatever.  Let these meter indications rule, while of course cross referencing the peak DAW meters as well.  And use MUSIC as your general guide for I/O levels.  Setting up with a 1k tone from inside Protools for your reference level to an analogue console following will not give accurate results on all types of program material.


You are right in principle in everything you say. But a VU meter won't help you because it's too slow and will allow peaks to go unnoticed that could cause problems in the digital domain. They were fine when one used them with experience in the analogue domain, where healthy a degree of overload margin was implicit.



Exactly Paul...that's why I included:

"...while of course cross referencing the peak DAW meters as well."

Thanks!
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Paul Frindle

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #70 on: May 12, 2005, 07:54:42 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 20:21
You are right in principle in everything you say. But a VU meter won't help you because it's too slow and will allow peaks to go unnoticed that could cause problems in the digital domain. They were fine when one used them with experience in the analogue domain, where healthy a degree of overload margin was implicit.[/quote




Exactly Paul...that's why I included:

"...while of course cross referencing the peak DAW meters as well."

Thanks!


Actually (at the risk of putting the cat amongst the pigeons) I can suggest a simple experiment people can do themselves to illustrate this in action in the most graphic way, which should dispel any lingering doubt that it's important.

The aim is to show that what looks like a legal 'signal' way below any red light in your system can still represent something that cannot pass even remotely correctly out of your digital mixer at full level. And also to illustrate how this may affect your sound quality in practice when mixing ITB. It's a kind of worst case scenario - but it illustrates the problem.

You need a W/S like ProTools, a signal generator plug-in that has a good filter section that actually goes flat to 20KHz and rolls off at 24dB/oct or so.

- In Pro tools get a mono channel up,

- stick the PT generator plug-in at the beginning of the channel and set it for sine at say 1-2KHz.

- Follow this with a good filter plug-in set for the max slope at 20KHz. (For example the Oxford EQ plug-in has 36dB/oct at 20KHz and illustrates this well - any other good HF filter should work as well).

- As an initial test set the channel fader at 0dB and note that the PT meters shows the sinewave signal at -6dBr and that putting the filter plug-in in and out using bypass has no effect.

- OK now switch the signal genny to white noise and note that the level on PT is still -6dBr.

- Now un-bypass the filter plug-in and watch the signal level rise dramatically!! In the case of the Oxford 36dB/oct filter the meter level will rise a full 5dBr to nearly flat out.

Ok so what's happening - how is this possible? Well the digital genny plug-in produces sinewaves correctly - but when in noise setting it is just a random number generator driving the output. So although when set to -6dB peak value no sample ever gets to be greater than 50% modulation - a reconstruction of the undecoded SAMPLE VALUES produces nearly full level SIGNAL. Reconstruction means filtering and so the filter plug-in is acting like a partial reconstruction filter (much like a DAC) - which in turn is now feeding a more legitimate SIGNAL which the sample value only meter can read more correctly.

Ok now if this SAMPLE train is passing out of your DAC it too is being reconstructed correctly - so this -6dBr noise from the genny would a produce nearly full modulation SIGNAL if you fed this to the DAC directly - even though no sample gets to be bigger than 50% and no reading say's it's bigger than -6dBr.

If your filter is a good one you should be able to switch it in and out and hear no difference in the sound of the signal from your DAC - despite the PT meter reading wildly different. The filter has neither added nor taken anything significant out of the intended audio signal - but you have nearly doubled the sample values within the PT channel!

Ok, now wind the genny level up to say -2 or -3dB (still less than only 75% full level) and do the same thing. What happens? Well it now clips when the filter is in (samples bigger than flat out) - now the sound definitely changes when you switch the filter in and out - because it is mathematically limited and in error when the filter is in - cos it cannot pass through TDM slot at the output of the filter!!

That is what would be happening in your DAC, it would saturate if you sent this at only 3dB setting on the genny - reading -3dBr within the mixer itself, straight to the output!!

Ok now what does this mean for a mix? Well with all those mixed signals, cymbal crashes, HF EQ and limiting etc.. how close do you imagine the output signal can get to being a bit like white noise in places within a real production - even if none of the contributing channels hit the red light? Is this not the exact register of what we term as 'air' and 'resolution'? And people are aiming at max possible mix output levels on meters that do not show SIGNAL.

So why does an OTB mixer apparently sound better than an ITB mixer when you are modulating your digits close to 0dBr (sample value) all over the place? Well all those DACs (flawed as they may be) are acting to legitimately reconstruct your programme - before - you mix them all together and produce too many illegal signals that cannot pass out of your digital mixer! Paradoxically, the loss of sound quality due to all those converters is not as bad as the illegal signals created within the digital mixer by the 'too hot' signals you are trying in vain to pass out of the system.

It is not a summing issue at all (the one thing digits CAN do is add up almost perfectly). It's an illegal output problem caused by the fact that there are no meters that display actual SIGNAL in your whole mixing environment - you simply never see it happening.

So - go back and get your fav test mix back up on your W/S, re-mix the whole thing making sure that at every place in all chains (including between all plug-ins) never gets bigger than -6dBr. Make sure your final output after any limiting etc also never peaks beyond -6dBr. Now do the comparison between this ITB mix and a similar OTB mix. You might have a big surprise Smile
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blairl

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #71 on: May 13, 2005, 12:19:04 am »

Paul Frindle wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 17:54

So - go back and get your fav test mix back up on your W/S, re-mix the whole thing making sure that at every place in all chains (including between all plug-ins) never gets bigger than -6dBr. Make sure your final output after any limiting etc also never peaks beyond -6dBr. Now do the comparison between this ITB mix and a similar OTB mix. You might have a big surprise Smile


I am extremely intrigued by your comments.  I am trying to reconcile your recommendation with a statement made by digidesign engineering.  They claim that it is impossible to clip the internal mix bus.  With the maximum number of tracks possible in Pro Tools, all with coherent signals at +6 db on each fader, it is impossible to clip the internal mix bus.  Yes it is possible to clip the output, but not the internal mix bus.  To avoid clipping the output, they say you can simply lower the gain on the master fader however much needed to avoid the problem.  Your statement and digidesign engineering's statement may be completely unrelated, so forgive me if I am linking them together inappropriately.  Can you comment?

How could a DAW application be designed to eliminate the problem you point out?  Would some kind of an internal reconstruction filter after every track and process be required?  Is the problem apparent only in DAW's or does it show up in any digital mixer?

Your experiment recommends never peaking above -6dbr, even after any final limiting.  Are you saying it's impossible to ever bring a final mix up to 0dbr without adversely affecting the sound quality?  If I put a limiter on a master fader in Pro Tools, the digital summing has already occurred at 48 bits then been dithered to 24 bits before it even hits the limiter plug-in.  If I were to sum my mix, never peaking above -6dbr at any stage before hitting the limiter plug-in, then bringing the final level up to 0dbr using the gain on the limiter, would this negate your experiment?  Of course I will have to try your experiment for myself to hear what you are talking about, but I'm not at my rig at the moment.  I just thought you might be able to add some insight be responding to my thoughts.  Thanks.
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Curve Dominant

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #72 on: May 13, 2005, 12:54:34 am »

blairl wrote on Fri, 13 May 2005 05:19

Paul Frindle wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 17:54

So - go back and get your fav test mix back up on your W/S, re-mix the whole thing making sure that at every place in all chains (including between all plug-ins) never gets bigger than -6dBr. Make sure your final output after any limiting etc also never peaks beyond -6dBr. Now do the comparison between this ITB mix and a similar OTB mix. You might have a big surprise Smile


I am extremely intrigued by your comments.  I am trying to reconcile your recommendation with a statement made by digidesign engineering.  They claim that it is impossible to clip the internal mix bus.  With the maximum number of tracks possible in Pro Tools, all with coherent signals at +6 db on each fader, it is impossible to clip the internal mix bus.  Yes it is possible to clip the output, but not the internal mix bus.  To avoid clipping the output, they say you can simply lower the gain on the master fader however much needed to avoid the problem.  Your statement and digidesign engineering's statement may be completely unrelated, so forgive me if I am linking them together inappropriately.


My initial take is that you are indeed linking them together inappropriately.

Mr. Frindle has attempted to inform you on how to attain the optimal sonic quality from your DAW.

The Digidesign Answerbase which you quote from, on the other hand, attempts to inform you on how their kit will potentially handle abuse of it.

Measuring the performance of the kit by how well it performs under abusive conditions is not really very helpful, nor informing.

It's kind of like asking, "If I crash my car head on into an oncoming truck at 65mph, what are my chances of surviving?"

Mr. Frindle is attempting to inform you how to avoid the head-on collision.

Digidesign is attempting to inform you of your survival chances.

Make sense?

Paul Frindle

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #73 on: May 13, 2005, 06:16:51 am »

Eric Vincent wrote on Fri, 13 May 2005 05:54

blairl wrote on Fri, 13 May 2005 05:19

Paul Frindle wrote on Thu, 12 May 2005 17:54

So - go back and get your fav test mix back up on your W/S, re-mix the whole thing making sure that at every place in all chains (including between all plug-ins) never gets bigger than -6dBr. Make sure your final output after any limiting etc also never peaks beyond -6dBr. Now do the comparison between this ITB mix and a similar OTB mix. You might have a big surprise Smile


I am extremely intrigued by your comments.  I am trying to reconcile your recommendation with a statement made by digidesign engineering.  They claim that it is impossible to clip the internal mix bus.  With the maximum number of tracks possible in Pro Tools, all with coherent signals at +6 db on each fader, it is impossible to clip the internal mix bus.  Yes it is possible to clip the output, but not the internal mix bus.  To avoid clipping the output, they say you can simply lower the gain on the master fader however much needed to avoid the problem.  Your statement and digidesign engineering's statement may be completely unrelated, so forgive me if I am linking them together inappropriately.


My initial take is that you are indeed linking them together inappropriately.

Mr. Frindle has attempted to inform you on how to attain the optimal sonic quality from your DAW.

The Digidesign Answerbase which you quote from, on the other hand, attempts to inform you on how their kit will potentially handle abuse of it.

Measuring the performance of the kit by how well it performs under abusive conditions is not really very helpful, nor informing.

It's kind of like asking, "If I crash my car head on into an oncoming truck at 65mph, what are my chances of surviving?"

Mr. Frindle is attempting to inform you how to avoid the head-on collision.

Digidesign is attempting to inform you of your survival chances.

Make sense?


Yes, I am only trying to point out the pitfalls one can fall into with digital mixing. Just like in analogue, digital also has it's foibles and limitations. A combination of metering methods, misunderstanding about the practicalities of sampling and current trends for loudness at all cost is leading you to conclude (understandably - but quite wrongly) that somehow DAWs cannot sum signals together without loss and plug-in processing is somehow fundamentally flawed.

The same effects and observations are also leading people to conclude (understandably) that higher sampling rates throughout the whole system are somehow philosophically better. And what you percieve within the sound of the errors being created is leading people to conclude that 'resolution' is somehow an issue because that's indeed what the errors sound like - even though that's nothing to do with it. This further encourages people to modulate at the extremes and virtually guarantees that the problems will occur that lead you to make those very conclusions - catch 22!

Digi are entirely correct - you cannot mathematically clip the summing bus this way - like I said it is not a summing issue - it's a question of what can occur WHEN you sum together many signals that may limit (from a reconstructed SIGNAL point of view) from time to time without you being made aware of it - cos no red lights occur.

I know the concept is difficult to grasp from sitting in front of a system and using it - but it really is something worth understanding Smile
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maxim

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Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
« Reply #74 on: May 13, 2005, 08:00:29 am »

there is a definite sound/image degradation as you raise the master fader, but, shirley,  you can set the levels using your ears

maybe engineers have relied on visual aids for too long?

what happens to the individual track levels, if you don't hit the dac's until the master fader

do they still get mathematically limited?

at what level? +6, +12, 0db
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