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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => Reason In Audio => Topic started by: Keyplayer on April 23, 2005, 04:04:44 pm

Title: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Keyplayer on April 23, 2005, 04:04:44 pm
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With all the debate over the supeior ease of automation in the DAW vrs that of most mixing consoles, I was wondering if anybody was actually using their DAW like a tape deck/editor and mixing from their consoles to a mixdown deck or even back to a stereo or 6 stem tracks on their DAW?

I'm pretty sure those of you with access to Neve's, API's, SSL's etc are doing just that. But for those running in the "Mid-Line" (I.E. DM2K, R-100, Soundcraft Ghost etc.) are you doing this or letting the DAW do all the work and having your desk just act as a router?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Tomas Danko on April 23, 2005, 04:13:26 pm
Keyplayer wrote on Sat, 23 April 2005 21:04

With all the debate over the supeior ease of automation in the DAW vrs that of most mixing consoles, I was wondering if anybody was actually using their DAW like a tape deck/editor and mixing from their consoles to a mixdown deck or even back to a stereo or 6 stem tracks on their DAW?

I'm pretty sure those of you with access to Neve's, API's, SSL's etc are doing just that. But for those running in the "Mid-Line" (I.E. DM2K, R-100, Soundcraft Ghost etc.) are you doing this or letting the DAW do all the work and having your desk just act as a router?


I went back to analog mixing with outboard after having done the ITB-thing (first software only, later with a digital console + software) and some hybrid methods in between. Not only is it way more fun, again, but it sounds better most of the time. As far as I'm concerned, I'm getting a lot of the mix "for free" just by staying in the analog domain. With all-digital, I had to put it in from the get-go otherwise I didn't end up with that much weirdness to "gel" the mix in the end.

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

Ps. My console is an Allen & Heath Saber 32/16/16 LBGPG with MIDI-mute.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: J.J. Blair on April 23, 2005, 05:55:43 pm
Keyplayer, as has been discussed ad nauseum on every forum here, one of the main issues seems to be summing outside the box.  So for those who don't have a great sounding console, many people are turning to the Dangerous 2 buss and the Fulcrum, etc.  

Now, there is actually debate over whether or not that sounds better.  I think it does.  There does not seem to be any debate about whether or not plug-in EQs and compressors sound as good as the real thing, though.  Well, I should say the only people who tend to debate that either designed the software or have never really used the modeled hardware in question.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: djui5 on April 23, 2005, 08:13:59 pm
I was trying to do only ITB mixing, but got sic of it and am mixing on the desk again despite not having desk automation and various other features.

We don't have enough plug-in's and processing power (HD3) for me to get the mixes I want ITB...not yet anyway. So for now...I'll still be using the board (soundtraks Jade).
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bushwick on April 23, 2005, 11:51:03 pm
I have a Allen & Heath that is for all purposes just the shell of it original self, having been completey redesigned with a new master section, summing amps, grounding...

ITB does not hold a candle to outboard mixes from my standpoint and I even use some outboard gear inserted in the some AD-8000 channels I reserve for that purpose and don't feel like I am suffereing in great loss in almost any case with that extra DA-AD cconversion. I putting a BA6A on a snare sometimes is just what you need and there is nothing that I can do ITB to do that. I automate my volumes and some plugs in PT and do some manual automation on my console for Aux riding and sub-mix fader rides and I am cool with that and get some killer results. We just got our first shiny record so things can't be that bad!!!

I will say that a board that doesn't sound good isn't going to help matters. Some mid level boards that you are describing might not sound good and owing the the mostly 5532 based designs in that category you can have mixed results. You have to learn what each of these boards are really doing to your audio when you are pumping a hot mix through them. Some boards in the mid-level do not regulate power to each channel and when you are slamming signal to all the channels, there is some debate as to distortion arising as a result of the power suck from the main supply rails. As far as I'm concerned, there is no debate there. Also, none of them clip nicely, or have the robustness in sound that the discrete counterparts can have - I learned this first hand with the overhaul of my board which was completed in steps - so I have been able to hear the change in the sound of the board in stages. But again, even without clipping individual channels you may feel like your mix is caving the board in. In these cases, it is better to leave yourself some headroom, not push the board to hard and I think you can wind up with a clean potent sound.

As an aside, Thomas, the master section on your Saber can be made much better and the noise floor can be dropped quite a bit. Of all the mods that were done, the master section made the most improvement (so did raising the SN ratio 30db in a worst case scenario!!!). Look at the schematics - poor grounding layout and they even ground the audio to the chassis on every single card in the board.....big no no. PM me if you are interested.

-josh
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nathan Eldred on April 24, 2005, 12:07:51 pm
I'm mixing outside of the box on a real console.  I can't get anywhere near the same results ITB (or on a digital console, same thing to my ears) as out.  Not to mention I'm using 2" 16 track now, but I have no hesitation in tracking basics to the 2" and dumping into Samplitude via Lavrys.  I'm still @ 48k and it sounds incredible.  I'm not losing that much, and it's still light years ahead of the digital with absoultely no extra effort.  So between tape and analog console, the sonics are very over the top in a good way.  But the computer is there for ease of comping, editing, duplicating, time aligning, adding a funky effect on one word or note when the client requests it, yada yada.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: kbshearer on April 24, 2005, 02:04:45 pm
I've got to echo everyone else's repsonse. I track to 2" when the project allows and then bounce to a hard drive. I can't stand the sound of mixing in the box. I run everything back into an 80b,while using the automation in the DAW. Until something drastic changes, I am much happier with the sound of analog summing.

Kirt Shearer
Paradise Studios
www.paradisestudios.net
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: wwittman on April 24, 2005, 02:13:35 pm
approx 90% out of the box these days, on a real desk.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RMoore on April 25, 2005, 03:29:42 am
More and more working on the DAW I find but always mixing on a desk (Old Trident with 'issues') and (mostly, like 99%) running stems to analog multitrack and mixing from the tape machine.
Also using outboard FX, limiters etc.
Will have automation, submixing, edits obviously &  some occasional plugs etc happening on the stems going to analog.
When I 1st got the DAW I did do some ITB action but discovered the results I was getting, while 'ok' weren't all that great sonically compared to the OTB vibe.
I'll never forget the ITB mixes went out on a commercial release & I saw later on a (genre-specific) music forum some, I assumed, college student writing about the release eg: 'kinda cool project but what happened to the SOUND? Something changed, it seems all digital'...or to that effect..
Anyway, I was pretty amazed that basically an 'end consumer' could  hear the diff between a&b...and they were right too!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: studentcouncil on April 28, 2005, 09:55:04 pm
I'm mixing on my Studer 901 for clients who appreciate the difference, and for myself.  For clients who just want it quick, I work ITB.  After going thru my mid-90's 02R phase, the increase in midrange resolution (not to mention fader/panpot resolution), etc., that the Studer provides was immediately and dramatically apparent.  You can also hit the buses with as much as you like and it never sounds saturated.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: ryst on April 29, 2005, 08:32:19 am
I have a question.  If I can't afford large format mixing console at this time but want to start mixing OTB, would a small format console from A&H, Soundcraft, or Mackie be worth buying? Would I hear a difference (assuming I know what I am doing) between ITB and OTB with a console in the $1000 range?  Right now I use DP with plug ins...  Any advice would be great.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Lee Flier on April 29, 2005, 09:28:52 am
Hi Nathan Smile,

I think you will get answers all over the map.  Some people will say you can't possibly get a better sound with a cheap desk, others will say you will.  Only one thing is for sure: they will sound "different" and only you can decide if it's "better."  I happen to have heard a few cheap desks that I think sound better than ITB, all other things being equal.  But I think it's one of those things that you have to try to really know.  Just buy a console from a place that gives you a 30 day money back guarantee, and return it if you don't think it's worth it... maybe try a different one.  This question is kinda like "which monitors are best" - it's VERY subjective.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: ted nightshade on April 29, 2005, 09:41:53 am
I'm attracted to the Fulcrom idea. I haven't tried that box, but before it came out we were replacing the make-up amp of a custom mixer with a Manley mic pre.

It's a good investment to score at least one really good mic pre, and then you can use that with the Fulcrom to have a really high quality mixer- even a tube mixer, if you use a tube mic pre! Cool idea, thinks me.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Dave Peck on April 29, 2005, 02:38:23 pm
ryst wrote on Fri, 29 April 2005 13:32

I have a question.  If I can't afford large format mixing console at this time but want to start mixing OTB, would a small format console from A&H, Soundcraft, or Mackie be worth buying? Would I hear a difference (assuming I know what I am doing) between ITB and OTB with a console in the $1000 range?  Right now I use DP with plug ins...  Any advice would be great.


I dunno about $1000... you'll probably have trouble finding any desks with good audio performance in that range... I've been on the hunt for a 24ch analog desk with a simple feature set and really good specs for quite a while now. See this related thread: http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/t/4298/8104/?SQ=0 a13da6e1063a3a1f82151bea285dae3

So far, the Neotek Elan II and the Trident Dream look like the closest to what I need (about $15,000), and the Speck Lilo may be a better choice for some folks who only need 16 channels (about half the cost). Something like a D&R Vision would work if you don't need to switch between tracking & mixdown (it doesn't have A/B line input switching).

But if you're not using the micpres or the EQ, you may be able to get good out-of-the-DAW results on a more affordable console.

For me, a lot of the benefit in recording to a DAW and mixing analog is in the ergonomics and the immediacy, which allows me to work a bit more creatively and, I dunno, musically(?) than trying to do the same mix in the box. I tend to use the DAW for editing the tracks and fixing things like the levels on those few pesky bass notes that jump way out in the mix, and then I can use the faders on the console strictly for creative decisions and on-the-fly level tweaks.

So the performance of the desk needs to be good, sure, but I'm not mixing analog strictly because I think 'analog sounds better'. For me, it allows me to do a better job, and THAT sounds better.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Level on April 29, 2005, 02:42:47 pm
Quote:

DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?


Daily.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: mumbles on April 29, 2005, 03:40:12 pm
Hi there,

    We are in the middle of CONSTRUCTING our own desk because we hate mixing on a DAW so much.  I mixed in the CPU, using Digital Performer, for years.  I mixed on a shitty little Mackie once and it was all over.  Sure, it sounded like a Mackie (grainy, cartoonish), but I could see (hear) the potential.  
    We plan on using an HD recorder for tracking and mixing down to 2 on our Frankenstien board within a month or so, and I know that I'll never look back.  

Automation is nice, but you have to choose your battles.

Seamus
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: wireline on April 29, 2005, 03:54:15 pm
Right now, totally ITB with Samplitude...was using a digital mixer that was OK, but I never got what I WANTED from it...eventually used the mixer only as a cue send system...and eventually, I want to go the stems route...

But I am curious of the operative definition of 'using a board':  are we talking about submixing in DAW then stemming, or are we talking about the huge format boards?  I would think it makes a difference...
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Dave Peck on April 29, 2005, 06:25:08 pm
wireline wrote on Fri, 29 April 2005 20:54



But I am curious of the operative definition of 'using a board':  are we talking about submixing in DAW then stemming, or are we talking about the huge format boards?  I would think it makes a difference...


Here, it means tracking through a good two channel A/D converter into the DAW, then bringing 24 channels of D/A out during mixdown. If I have more than 24 simultaneous tracks to mix, the more critical tracks come out one track per D/A channel, and a few of the less critical tracks may get submixed in the DAW and come out on a single channel or stereo pair. The final stereo analog mix goes back through a good converter to a Masterlink at 24/96 or 24/88.2 (bypassing the Masterlink converters).
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Touchwood Studios on April 30, 2005, 08:32:52 pm
I must in the the minority ITB for the last 5 years although I do so outboard analog eqs & comps. I need to remain compedative in my market with several projects on the go at once and up to 3 different sessions per day I need to switch back & forth lots.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: gwailoh on May 01, 2005, 03:52:59 pm
Some questions for those objecting to the sound of ITB mixes.  I hope these questions don't seem stupid!  I'm researching product choices for my new studio and the issue of ITB mixing or not is one I've wrestled with.

When you talk about ITB mixing, are you "bouncing" mixes to disk, which I understand is the preferred method in PT?  Or are you summing to a stereo bus and sending digital or analog output to an external 2-track device?

What sample rates and bit depths have you experimented with?  Do you find them all equally mediocre?  What about 192/24?

What's your clock source?

What are your stereo image sources?  Are you generally recording stereo tracks, or mono tracks which you pan-in-the-mix and treat with stereo effects?

How are you monitor mixing?  Do you do that ITB, or do you use your external console?

Some of the posters in this thread mention that they mix to an external console because they like the sound of analog better.  Have any of you experimented with the "FATSO" from Empirical Labs inserted across the stereo bus at mixdown? The box seems to have a positive buzz, I'm curious whether any of you have opinions.

DigiDesign has a "white paper" on ITB mixing: http://www.digidesign.com/digizine/archive/digizine_april04/ techtalk/.
What do y'all think of this?

Thanks!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 01, 2005, 07:19:16 pm
gwailoh wrote on Sun, 01 May 2005 15:52

...Have any of you experimented with the "FATSO" from Empirical Labs inserted across the stereo bus at mixdown? ...


In that case you would still be summing inside the computer, then just inserting an external analogue simulation device across the stereo buss.

That's not  at all the same as coming out track-for-track (or even with some submixes in stereo) into an analogue console, and summing there.  In fact, with the console scenario, you could still use your "FATSO" if you wanted to.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: gwailoh on May 01, 2005, 11:53:54 pm
compasspnt wrote on Sun, 01 May 2005 16:19

In that case you would still be summing inside the computer, then just inserting an external analogue simulation device across the stereo buss.

That's not  at all the same as coming out track-for-track (or even with some submixes in stereo) into an analogue console, and summing there.  In fact, with the console scenario, you could still use your "FATSO" if you wanted to.


Thank you for your reply.  This wasn't what I was thinking though when I asked the question.  I'm really just asking if people have used the box in the configuration I suggested and whether it addresses any of the sonic objections to ITB mixing which have been expressed.  Thanks though!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: plughead on May 02, 2005, 01:09:39 am
FWIW,

Been mixing ITB for many years, with a few exceptions mixing out to a console. I agree to an extent - mixing out to a console can often be an asset, but I think one of the points rarely acknowleged is what STYLE of music we are mixing. I believe for hard music (rock/metal/emo/etc) it IS better to mix OTB, as loud, distorted sounds (electric gtrs, etc.) tend to get ugly in digital: analog rules in heavy music, and it's strengths are slamming inputs, and summing. OTOH, mixing jazz or classical is often better ITB - less noise, colouration, and true to the performance. These are vast generalizations, and obviously subject to vary, but I think the biggest thing killing mixing ITB is smashing the hell out of the tracks: tracking inputs far too hot, running all tracks @ 0 dB, combining 32 - 100+ tracks of it - what do you think is going to suffer? Digital is not analog, and vice versa. They cannot be treated the same way, nor should they. Digital has it's limits, and we all realize what those limits sound like.

If we could ever get back to mixing music with dynamics, and not be bent on red-lining everything from input to output, we'd be enlightening ourselves to what's really ruining our mixes, and music in general...

My opinion only - YMMV greatly,
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Timeline on May 02, 2005, 09:18:42 am
OTB API 8200 x 24
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Jules on May 05, 2005, 01:35:52 am
out of DAW via 16 Prism converter channels feeding a Fulcrom summing device... level boosted via API mic pre's

Mixing ITB pisses me off but it is on buget for me...

Anyway I ALWAYS hated mixing... it pissed me off on analog too...

So no change there whatsoever....

I want an SSL AWS 900 !!!!

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: tom eaton on May 05, 2005, 06:59:20 am
Mixing out of the box here...one of the things Ilike best about my Otari Elite is that I can bypass all the faders and eqs with three button pushes, turning the thing into a 48 input summing mixer (using RADAR and two MOTU1296s as d/a), or I can use the moving faders to do real desk mix.  Recalling pan pots becomes the only real job, which takes about 30 seconds using the Eagle automation's "image" (total) recall.  I've always felt that the ITB mixes sound choked compared to summing with the board...pretty much the same experience as everyone else.

-tom
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Keyplayer on May 05, 2005, 11:52:39 am
Is there something way more complicated about doing automated mixes on a desk? It seems like once everybody started using DAWs, they're doing their automation inside and just past the stems through the desk for "analog sweetening." Why is that?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: LawrenceF on May 05, 2005, 12:49:32 pm
Keyplayer wrote on Thu, 05 May 2005 11:52

Is there something way more complicated about doing automated mixes on a desk? It seems like once everybody started using DAWs, they're doing their automation inside and just past the stems through the desk for "analog sweetening." Why is that?


It depends on the desk.  I use a d8b whose automation system is great but the automation in SX is just so much easier and sample accurate where the desk automation is driven by MTC.  Even if I had an analog console with automation it would have to be pretty good system to make me use it instead of the daw's automation.

It all depends on what desk you use and what you prefer.

Lawrence
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 07, 2005, 09:57:33 am
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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: J.J. Blair on May 07, 2005, 12:26:22 pm
Jules wrote on Wed, 04 May 2005 22:35


I want an SSL AWS 900 !!!!




Jules ... why?  Christ, the 4000 series has more character than the 9000.  If you just want to sum your channels, get the Inward Connections box or the Manley.  The 9000 series EQs are only outdone by the Neve Capricorn in terms of most boring EQ ever in a high end console.  The AWS900 looks like it makes a perfect boat anchor.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: J.J. Blair 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: gwailoh 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Keyplayer 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: J.J. Blair 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Tomas Danko 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Deep White 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: gwailoh 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.)
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Tomas Danko 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: sharp11 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: gwailoh 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Deep White 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim on May 09, 2005, 01:38:45 am
every process, whether electrical or mathematical, will "degrade" the sound along the way

and there is no "good and evil", despite the fundamentalists' assurances

it either fits or it doesn't

i don't know much about science, but could the crosstalk be creating a psychoacoustic illusion of separation by introducing a faint phantom image in the other channel, thus  sounding more "realistical" for objects panned hard right and left

bob k wrote:

"Not ALL analog consoles sound better than the digital mix."

and no two digital mixes sound the same

" And "better" is truly in the ear of the behearer. "

hear, hear..and hearer

btw, my only experience of this 'mix-shrinking' phenomenon happened when i heard realtime btd in ptle, acw just monitoring the mix

i couldn't understand why it happened, but it scared me off protools

in dp, you don't get to hear the bouncedown in action, and it takes a little longer to computate (i always trust offline computing more than realtime), and the mix sounds the same (albeit, after a few minutes)so i took it as a sign to stick with dp

but i wonder if one could do a double-blind/null test comparing the monitor mix and a bounced mix, using a fairly neutral capture medium?

would it work to just take the outs and plug them into two channels (that sounds like it would introduce an extra a/d stage, which can't be "good")?

what if that were done itb, within the application?

would it still undergo the same operational calculations as the btd file, only this time, in real time?

hell, my head hurts



Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 09, 2005, 08:18:00 am
Deep White wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 01:22



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.



Actually, the key to how to avoid "bad" digital summing mixes is to LEARN what it is that the analog stuff did automatically and apply that to your digital mix. Learn about the Haas effect. Learn how delays, crossed delays, early reflections, and phase manipulation, even the addition of noise and distortion, can be used to create a digital mix that is as dimensional (or MORE) than any analog mix you used to make.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Tim Gilles on May 09, 2005, 08:30:03 am
bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 08:18

Actually, the key to how to avoid "bad" digital summing mixes is to LEARN what it is that the analog stuff did automatically and apply that to your digital mix. Learn about the Haas effect. Learn how delays, crossed delays, early reflections, and phase manipulation, even the addition of noise and distortion, can be used to create a digital mix that is as dimensional (or MORE) than any analog mix you used to make.

BK


Once upon a time there was an Emperor who held a wonderful parade every Saturday....



Tim "Rumblefish" Gilles
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RKrizman on May 09, 2005, 12:46:55 pm
gwailoh wrote on Sun, 08 May 2005 22:18

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.



Summing and plugins are two different issues.  Plugins have their own effect on a mix independent of whatever kind of summing is being used.

Furthermore, people don't agree that analog summing is consistently better than digital.  In fact, in one controlled test, 9 out of 10 engineers in Teanneck New Jersey prefered digital summing to the same session summed through a Trident series 24.  OTOH, many of them preferred the same session summed through an SSL J series.  Many summing boxes have been tested publicly, and opinions fall on both sides, with a lot of "who cares" thrown in as well. end analog summing to digital

It has also been shown that when all other variables are eliminated that different DAW platforms with different engines (32 floating versus 48 linear) can  produce bit identical results when summing the same session.  No two analog consoles will do this, nor will 2 passes through the same analog console do this.  Common sense would tell you which system has errors and which doesn't, which of course is different from saying which sounds better.

-R
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nathan Eldred on May 09, 2005, 03:51:29 pm
Tim Gilles wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 08:30

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 08:18

Actually, the key to how to avoid "bad" digital summing mixes is to LEARN what it is that the analog stuff did automatically and apply that to your digital mix. Learn about the Haas effect. Learn how delays, crossed delays, early reflections, and phase manipulation, even the addition of noise and distortion, can be used to create a digital mix that is as dimensional (or MORE) than any analog mix you used to make.

BK


Once upon a time there was an Emperor who held a wonderful parade every Saturday....




Everytime I come across the comparison, there isn't a comparison.  When I hear different engineer's work.  What they used to do, and what they do now.  Analog wins every time.  ITB, can sound 'okay', but it requires good outboard gear and incredible conversion (again just to get to a B+...and that's just the guys with the best skills).  The same guy doing the same thing on a high end analog console, it becomes an A+.  Give yourself a letter grade advantage without doing anything extra.  Just my $.00002 & HO.  Maybe this is obvious to a lot of people....but is average sound acceptable, because convenience and cost take precedence?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 09, 2005, 04:28:06 pm
Nathan Eldred wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 15:51



Everytime I come across the comparison, there isn't a comparison.  When I hear different engineer's work.  What they used to do, and what they do now.  Analog wins every time.  ITB, can sound 'okay', but it requires good outboard gear and incredible conversion (again just to get to a B+...and that's just the guys with the best skills).  The same guy doing the same thing on a high end analog console, it becomes an A+.  Give yourself a letter grade advantage without doing anything extra.  Just my $.00002 & HO.  Maybe this is obvious to a lot of people....but is average sound acceptable, because convenience and cost take precedence?


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.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nathan Eldred on May 09, 2005, 10:10:56 pm
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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Cerumen on May 09, 2005, 11:59:24 pm
"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."

me too!
index.php/fa/1085/0/
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Deep White on May 10, 2005, 01:00:50 am
I don't think we are doubting that working with an analog console is better than totally ITB.  The reason why I myself am in this thread is because I can't afford one.  Not even the "mini-me" console SSL AWS900.

And thus users like I are talking about what we can do in the underworld to improve our sound to B+. Razz

I don't see any conflict in what we're talking about.  Very Happy
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Juan Covas on May 10, 2005, 04:22:30 pm
Yes I still using as much analogue as posible.Still a warmer and fatter sound.I've been using both for the past 15yr and is the perfect combination.Trident pre rules.....
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim on May 11, 2005, 09:41:17 am
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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 11, 2005, 12:12:26 pm
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


The key here is to define "better". For some kinds of music, the slight loss of transparency in any D/A/D setup (external analog mixer) is more than offset by the coloration you like. Sounds nice, the additional fattening or HF rolloff or the thousands of other kinds of colorations are very appealing (in the VERY GOOD sense). However, if you are going for a mix that is TRANSPARENT you will be less tempted to do an analog console mix. I honestly feel that a digital mix with aux sends going to lots of good outboard analog gear can give you the best of both worlds (and controllable to any degree, as well).

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

With the right tools and decent original miking techniques and decent original recording rooms, you can get as much depth and dimension and separation in a digital mix as ANYONE out there trying to do it analog. There are, of course, many ways to skin a cat, and the words "all other things being equal" automatically cannot apply when comparing a digital mix to an "equivalent" analog mix. Because you MUST add or apply different things in the digital mix to get some of the distortions that happen "automatically" in the analog mix. Been there, done that. I've really done a number of studies of this. Remember, every day I get in a new mix from a new client. I ask them, "how did you mix this?" After hearing hundreds and hundreds of such examples, each one auditioned on this high resolution mastering reproduction system, I can reasonably reach some conclusions. More easily done with listening examples than words.

The skills of the mix engineer TOTALLY enter in here. That's why I say, "all things are never equal." A good mix engineer who is skilled in both how to take advantage of the analog mix console AND a digital mix console is still a rare animal.

Anyway, speaking of skill sets. I received two songs (for a 3-song demo) from one engineer and a third song from another engineer working in the SAME ROOM with most of the same equipment and the same monitors (HD1-S). The second engineer wonders how the first engineer was able to get so much more depth than he. (Both were mixing on SSLs). The answer: Skill. Also, the first engineer had available to him two TC System 6000s and the second engineer only had a TC 5000 and a few other "lesser" reverbs available to him. But after mastering I was able to marry the first two songs with the third quite nicely and please all parties concerned. So, in other words, I was able to increase the "dimensionality" of the third song to fall more in line with the other two.

I'm willing to dare say that the same sound or a "reasonable equivalent" could have been gotten by a properly-skilled engineer working with an all-digital mix from the same sources, provided that all the same analog outboard gear was available, and MAYBE a couple of SSL modules or equivalent if you wanted to gild the lily and get a certain "sheen or warmth" that did not seem to happen in the digital mix.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nathan Eldred on May 11, 2005, 12:15:18 pm
bobkatz wrote on Wed, 11 May 2005 09:41



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
BK




Booooo....

Just kidding Bob, to each his own. Smile

XXXOOOOXXX
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: djui5 on May 11, 2005, 03:55:15 pm
Juan Covas wrote on Tue, 10 May 2005 14:22

Yes I still using as much analogue as posible.Still a warmer and fatter sound.I've been using both for the past 15yr and is the perfect combination.Trident pre rules.....



Juan!
Welcome to the forum. It's good to have you here. I sent you a pm.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: ted nightshade on May 11, 2005, 04:39:17 pm
Of course it's not really necessary to mix either way, if the sound can really all happen in the same space all at once and for real.

I think we expect a lot of mixing. What an incredible trick to take all those separate tracks and make one big sound out of them. Of course there's serious degradation, analog or digital. But we are so invested in this approach that we see the shortcoming in the summing, not in the whole approach. What a miracle we expect this summing to do. No wonder we're always looking for a better way.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: plughead 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!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Deep White 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle 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.


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl 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?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: David Schober 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: djui5 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt 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!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl 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.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Curve Dominant 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?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim 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
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 13, 2005, 07:33:35 pm
Quote:



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?



Yes they are right - the mix summing has sufficient range to add a great many channels at full level without saturating. But I am not talking about a summing issue as such. I am talking about what may occur in the signal domain if you add lots of hot contributions together where either clipping or significant processing may occur within individual tracks - and you try to modulate at full output from the mix using sample value metering supplied with the DAW. And of course comparing this with a chain that reconstructs every channel before you mix them - i.e. OTB etc..

Quote:


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?



No - and that's the important point, it IS possible to have a full scale sample value signal that is legal.

For instance in my experiment, had the noise generator (set at -6dBr) been followed by a brickwall filter (like a DAC) it would have given a legal SIGNAL output at full level.

Similarly if an ADC (if properly designed with a good filter) is driven to it's max output modulation, this is also a legal signal that a good DAC (with a good filter) will decode correctly. (However this does rather expose those guy's who propose that the ADCs and DACs should have minimal filters etc..)

SO if you use the system as a straight recorder (with well designed ADCs and DACs) it shouldn't be possible to produce an error of this kind and the sample value metering - although not perfect - will give an acceptable indication of peak programme level.

Quote:


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?  


This is an interesting question - and complex to answer in one go because there are 3 situations working together.

Firstly - providing that all the contributions in your mix were entirely legal at every stage, raising the gain to peak levels at the mix output should not result in an error in itself. But in practice it's risky since any contribution that gets processed after the ADC recording that introduces phase shifts, non-linearities or accentuates distortions that existed in the recording at upper mids or HF could result in a reconstruction error at higher contribution gains. In other words raising the levels of a 'troubled signal' may push it into the reconstruction error zone, where previously it was admissible.

Imagine for instance a loudish instrument with rich HF percussive harmonic content that for one reason or another only just reached peak values at the output of your ADC in record. You then EQ it a bit (perhaps rolling off the HF a bit) changing the relative phases of the freqs in the spectrum, noticing that the peak sample value level has dropped a dB or so, you increase the gain to max once more. The drop in peak sample value resulting from a slight re-arrangement of the phase of the freqs - may still have resulted in an almost flat out signal when reconstructed - before you added the gain - now it could overload even though no red light is on.

Secondly we need to consider HOW the limiter acts on the signal. For instance it is possible (even likely) for the fast peak limitting which is popular today to produce it's own illegal signal by modulating the sample values quickly. Imagine for instance a pure sinewave that has had it's peaks reshaped by the fast action of the limiter - this is harmonic distortion which could result in an illegal signal during reconstruction if freq are high enough, despite never producing full level sample values. There are ways of preventing this but many applications do not include them.

A third and more interesting thing to think about is how the limiter sidechain will respond to the levels of the signal. If we go back to my experiment with the noise genny and the filter; we can see that filtering the noise samples produces nearly twice the peak sample value for the same apparent signal level. Now if you follow this with a limiter or compressor that has a sidechain that measures sample values (i.e. acting like your meters) how will it respond in either case if set with a threshold of -6dBr? Well with the filter out it won't compress or limit at all since no values get bigger than -6dBr. However with the filter in it will compress and reduce the reconstructed output to -6dBr again. I.e. it will compress by 6dBr - and the audible result of this will be to drop the signal level by 6dB. The presence of the filter severely reduces the total loudness you can obtain from the limited signal (and this is another story for another day). Try it - it's a real eye opener Smile

Quote:


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?



There are several possible ways one might arrange things to avoid this problem within the design of the whole system (particularly if the production culture was more sensible). But we should appreciate by now that making a mixing app of great quality is not simply a question of providing something that 'adds samples together correctly'. And of course this fact blatantly exposes the fallacy of those who try to compare the quality of mixer apps by setting them up identically and taking the results of one away from the other and measuring the differences!! Sad
As with all pro-audio design at least 50% of the design effort is about how you present the information to the user and the nuances of control you give him over it. And of course the cost of the system is important wrt the quality the user expects to obtain and the resilience of the system under duress and not forgetting how it performs within the popular production culture of the times. This subject is too big to discuss here in great detail, but it can be seen that there are largely hidden performance issues regarding digital systems driven to full metered levels that exist at multiple levels, from the quality of the ADCS and DACs (filtering in this case), headroom within the application at the interfaces, plug-in process quality, metering style etc etc.. It is likely that some combinations of system may sound different from others when faced with high sample levels. It is definitely likely that the users' CD players will vary in the artefacts they produce - and this is perhaps the most worrying aspect of it all. In tests I have done most popular CDs produce reconstruction errors at around 2dB or so somewhere in the duration of the production - and paradoxically these are not necessarily the loudest or harshest styles of music. Many of the worst I have are actually (intentionally) clean crisp sounding jazz style CDs. The most often offending programme includes percussion - cymbals, bells, tamborines etc and highly Eq'd (and intentionally clipped) female vocals. Remember that intentionally clipping sounds to produce bite, attack and 'definition' is commonplace in certain quarters of artistic production. How much more clean and crisp would they have actually sounded if mixed and mastered just 3dB less hot Sad

The simplest practical advice right now (with the kit you are currently compelled to use - and if your paymasters will let you) is to think of sample value levels in the green section of the meter as always legitimate (i.e. repeatable at destination). Those in the yellow area (-6dBr and -3dBr) are most probably ok, but caution should be taken as they're definitely big enough and may just cause reconstruction errors if clipped or intentionally distorted in the digital domain or digitally recorded from an artificial source. Levels between  -3dBr and 0dBr are dangerous and those that actually reach the red light are almost certainly broken signals and are very likely to degrade in various ways at the destination DAC - in both your's and the end user's!! And above all - don't assume that any meter anywhere within the system indicates a legitimate signal by dint of it not hitting a red light Smile

And to get back to the original subject and my original reason for posting - be aware that by mixing OTB in analogue and encoding to digits via an ADC afterwards - you are removing the possibility of making reconstruction overs in your master. This is very significant within an industry environment where everyone is currently aiming for absolute max loudness and modulation.





Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: gwailoh on May 13, 2005, 09:01:39 pm
Paul, many thanks for helping us understand this issue better.

Now, supposing one were to follow your recommendations re staying -6dBr down, and so on, mixing ITB.  The mix is great, everyone's happy with it.  But, you want it to be competitive, that is, loud, in the clubs and on the radio.  What to do?  Can level be safely added during mastering, or do the same issues apply there when processing the stereo mix one provides to the mastering engineer?

(Would it be better to provide digital stems to master with?)

Again, many thanks.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 13, 2005, 10:17:03 pm
gwailoh wrote on Fri, 13 May 2005 20:01

...Can level be safely added during mastering, or do the same issues apply there when processing the stereo mix one provides to the mastering engineer?
The same issues apply however the mastering engineer has the benefit of operating within the final context that the level will be set at combined with a variety of different peak-limiting tools and, hopefully, superior monitoring so that any damage can be minimized. If the audio is clean and punchy to begin with, a lot can easily be done. If it has been clipped too many times, it becomes fragile and breaks easily.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 14, 2005, 06:19:46 am
gwailoh wrote on Sat, 14 May 2005 02:01

Paul, many thanks for helping us (me anwyay) to understand this issue better.

Now, supposing one were to follow your recommendations re staying -6dBr down, and so on, mixing ITB.  The mix is great, everyone's happy with it.  But, you want it to be competitive, that is, loud, in the clubs and on the radio.  What to do?  Can level be safely added during mastering, or do the same issues apply there when processing the stereo mix one provides to the mastering engineer?

(Would it be better to provide digital stems to master with?)

Again, many thanks.


Ahh yes - you have picked up on the comments I made in brackets Smile Now this is the rub, it doesn't matter where the gain increase, clipping, limiting occurs, the same thing applies. If the mastering engineer does stuff that causes this all you have is something that doesn't sound like your original and may behave differently from system to system in the user's environment. This is however also true if you mixed OTB, the only saving grace being that it may be less likely to happening twice Sad

Hopefully a good mastering engineer should be savvy enough to avoid doing this, however as we all know the pressure to get the loudest possible results is a significant influence on him as much as anyone else.

There is no doubt that illegal signal can be made to sound louder than legal signal and annoying broken sounds can attract attention in the short term.

The challenge for design of a digital programme limiter is to somehow address both these mutually exclusive situations simultaneously - because if it reduces the overall percieved volume (or initial surprise factor) in comparison with one that produces illegal signal - no one will use it, no one will buy it. There is no point making something wholly 'correct' if it is of no use to anybody! My job is to struggle with such things - certainly makes life interesting Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 14, 2005, 12:37:35 pm
Paul, a couple questions:

1. does the digi white noise generator produce an illegal signal? I can't get pink noise recordings, even that I eq., to do anything comparable using hi-pass or low-pass filters. OK, I just bounced the digi white noise to disk and see the same thing in both Pre Tools LE and Samplitude.

2. I notice huge variations between different software filters. Why is this, what is the mechanism?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Eric Bridenbaker on May 14, 2005, 02:19:08 pm
Thanks, Paul for clarifying this issue.

Recently I've found that running the mixes at lower overall levels has yielded far better results, a certin clarity and punchy transparency that is quite audible, compared to a "hotter" mixing approach.

Even though an analog VU meter is too slow to catch these overs, I find it to be a helpful tool, to have some form of metering OTB.

I have a question about ITB meters though: Is it not possible to get better metering of these anomalies ITB?

There is a plugin by Elemental Audio calle Inspector, for example which is supposed to show clipping instances.

http://www.elementalaudio.com/products/inspector/index.html

Is something like this of any use in getting a visual on this stuff ITB?

Cheers,
Eric
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 14, 2005, 06:16:15 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 14 May 2005 17:37

Paul, a couple questions:

1. does the digi white noise generator produce an illegal signal? I can't get pink noise recordings, even that I eq., to do anything comparable using hi-pass or low-pass filters. OK, I just bounced the digi white noise to disk and see the same thing in both Pre Tools LE and Samplitude.

2. I notice huge variations between different software filters. Why is this, what is the mechanism?


Well it is not illegal provided it is at -6dBr. In fact it is no more illegal than the very expensive Audio Precision test set, as on the white noise setting this actually delivers -6dBr peak, even though it reports it at 0dBr in the generator panel!!

Pink noise will not produce the same results for two reasons; it is filtered - it must be to get the 3dB/oct roll-off needed to make it pink. And the roll-off ensures that the mostly offending HMF and HF freqs are at significantly reduced levels - thereby avoiding the error in reconstruction. I would be very surprised if my experiment showed anything with pink noise.

To be honest I haven't tried it with many different filters myself - since we actually don't have any. But I have tried it briefly with the newest free digi EQ - the only other one I have that includes a filter - and it only produced between 2 - 3dBr boost. But on closer inspection it can be seen that this filter in fact does not hold up a flat response right up to the turnover point. It is significantly down from 10KHz upwards when adjusted to the 20KHz setting Sad
This of course will significantly reduce the effect because it lowers the offending freq range considerably.. It will also invalidate the listening test since it is adversely affecting freqs below 20KHz - i.e. you can directly hear differences in the response when it is in anyway. It's true that all filters are not the same despite what one would expect from limited published specs.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 14, 2005, 07:34:37 pm
Eric Bridenbaker wrote on Sat, 14 May 2005 19:19

Thanks, Paul for clarifying this issue.

Recently I've found that running the mixes at lower overall levels has yielded far better results, a certin clarity and punchy transparency that is quite audible, compared to a "hotter" mixing approach.

Even though an analog VU meter is too slow to catch these overs, I find it to be a helpful tool, to have some form of metering OTB.

I have a question about ITB meters though: Is it not possible to get better metering of these anomalies ITB?

There is a plugin by Elemental Audio calle Inspector, for example which is supposed to show clipping instances.

http://www.elementalaudio.com/products/inspector/index.html

Is something like this of any use in getting a visual on this stuff ITB?

Cheers,
Eric


Yes it is quite easy to make a meter plug-in that reconstructs the signal and shows you the value (I have made such processing as integral parts of other applications) - and you could put it where you like in the mix - i.e. the main outputs for a start. It is fairly costly in terms of processing load though, so you certainly wouldn't want to pepper such a thing all over the tracks in your PT mix!!

Such a meter would considerably help you to avoid these problems - IF you could afford the processing load and were prepared to reduce modulation levels to satisfy it's readings (in reference to the points made by others about the 'target volume level culture')? I have certainly pondered on how readily the industry might accept a meter that sometimes read higher than another on the same programme, that caused people to produce mixes that - although more accurate - sounded less loud? As a designer in the present climate however, I am understandably more interested in somehow providing people with the best of both worlds Smile

All that aside though, it is much cheaper to simply modulate at lower levels. After all, in the days of analogue ssytems, VU meters and PPMs, even with 10dB of headroom on the average tape machine, no one would attempt to record a cymbal crash or tamborine at 0VU would they - if they were after an accurate rendition of it's character! In those days we were used to inaccuracy and system limitation, we dealt with it using experience and even subverted it's side effects for our own artistic purposes. As I have said in many previous threads (everyone yawn!) - IMHO the whole human perception of math being something of a religious higher cause - greater than reality itself, is the main reason we are reluctant to accept that digital systems could legitimately posses limitation and imperfection. Or was it that we have been brought up to believe it by decades of (religiously crusaded) marketing spin? Whatever - we still discuss to death the possibility that digits cannot add up - when in fact thats the easiest of functions that it can perform to an arbitarily higher accuracy than we could ever need. When the very issues with which we actually cause it to falter (because lately we WILL stress it so) are hidden by dint of metering that suffers from the very same issues.

Please note that my experiment using a conventional IIR filter isn't good enough to form the basis of an accurate measurement method, because it has a large amount of natural phase shift across it's freq range (being a music programme filter). Also, it will still misbehave (wobble about) around integer divisions of the sample rate cos its output signal is at base rate - i.e. it's output still requires reconstruction! It was only an illustration.
BTW to witness the wobbling peak sample meters at divisions of sampling rate, set a sinewave to 11.02KHz on a system running 44.1KHz sampling (or 12.01K at 48KHz) and watch the meters vary cyclically as the sample values wander in and out of phase with the sampling rate - (you may need to fiddle very finely with the osc freq to see it at it's worst depending on meter fall rates etc). This is a graphic illustration of aliassing caused by displaying unreconstructed sample values. This is also a taste of what your DAC would do - if it suffered from insufficient filtering.

But to finally answer your question - I had not heard of the device in the link you just posted, but a quick look at the site doesn't reveal a presence of the all-important reconstruction processing? So it may not fit the bill? However there may be others that might.


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: zetterstroem on May 15, 2005, 04:25:27 am
Eric Bridenbaker wrote on Sat, 14 May 2005 19:19

Thanks, Paul for clarifying this issue.

Recently I've found that running the mixes at lower overall levels has yielded far better results, a certin clarity and punchy transparency that is quite audible, compared to a "hotter" mixing approach.

Even though an analog VU meter is too slow to catch these overs, I find it to be a helpful tool, to have some form of metering OTB.

I have a question about ITB meters though: Is it not possible to get better metering of these anomalies ITB?

There is a plugin by Elemental Audio calle Inspector, for example which is supposed to show clipping instances.

http://www.elementalaudio.com/products/inspector/index.html

Is something like this of any use in getting a visual on this stuff ITB?

Cheers,
Eric


i don't think it will work..... it needs to emulate the reconstructio process in the d/a

as this : http://www.tcelectronic.com/Default.asp?Id=3322

it's called gibb's effect...

we talked about it here:

http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/t/4140/6691/?SQ=1 8552ac44754d36523d0c0da1d75d3b5

i glad someone is debating it again.... i think we all really need to rethink our approach to digital sound.....
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 15, 2005, 06:50:47 pm
zetterstroem wrote on Sun, 15 May 2005 09:25

Eric Bridenbaker wrote on Sat, 14 May 2005 19:19

Thanks, Paul for clarifying this issue.

Recently I've found that running the mixes at lower overall levels has yielded far better results, a certin clarity and punchy transparency that is quite audible, compared to a "hotter" mixing approach.

Even though an analog VU meter is too slow to catch these overs, I find it to be a helpful tool, to have some form of metering OTB.

I have a question about ITB meters though: Is it not possible to get better metering of these anomalies ITB?

There is a plugin by Elemental Audio calle Inspector, for example which is supposed to show clipping instances.

http://www.elementalaudio.com/products/inspector/index.html

Is something like this of any use in getting a visual on this stuff ITB?

Cheers,
Eric


i don't think it will work..... it needs to emulate the reconstructio process in the d/a

as this : http://www.tcelectronic.com/Default.asp?Id=3322

it's called gibb's effect...

we talked about it here:

     http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/t/4140/6691/?SQ=1 8552ac44754d36523d0c0da1d75d3b5

i glad someone is debating it again.... i think we all really need to rethink our approach to digital sound.....


Yes I agree entirely. But we should also remember that this is not new, it's more a question of 're-learning' the correct approach. The possibility for these peaks has always been there and in the 'old days' DACs with analogue filters might have coped with it - but only by accident as a result of the analogue nature of the filter. However in a world where 'more is always better' and spec competition gets ever-harder, sacrificing 3dB or more SNR in an oversampled DAC with a gain reducing digital filter is perhaps something manu's won't risk? Also it has to be said that the unstoppable march towards ever more loudness has made the whole thing much more important anyway - it is exposing other short cuts in the kit i.e. meters, DACs, dynamic limiters etc.

Another aspect worth noting is that DAC manus can attempt to justify a lack of such headroom (dogmatically) on the 'defensible' basis that such peaks cannot be generated by a fully legal PCM audio signal - i.e. any signal coming from an ADC. So the existence of such 'errors' is always the result of some extra processing the user is doing - ergo it's someone else's fault, (even if all they did was EQ the signal a tad) - no need to sacrifice a few dB from their own published specs.
This kind of attitude is increasingly evident in many aspects of the kit manus. For instance the clock jitter sensitivity issue - apparently that's not their fault either - if jitter affects the converter's quality it's not the fault of their product, it's your clock. They save a few bucks in the converter - you shell out hundreds of bucks on expensive clock gennys and lose the battle in the cabling anyway. And of course the blasted 'A' weighted noise figures they publish that preferentially (and IMO misleadingly) improve the SNR numbers on anything that has wideband noise (particularly HF prone DSM converters) and bear little resemblance to what you will actually hear. Stick your mix through an 'A' weighting filter and see if you think that's representative Sad

There are many other examples, but these kinds of liberties are the direct result of ever more fierce commercial competition IMO. Wholsesale free market competiton alone does not always ensure we obtain the best results. In the last DAC's I designed I sacrificed up to 8dB of potential SNR spec in order to linearise the harmonic distortions people might just hear - and the figures were quoted unweighted of course. But then, these were designed for what was then still a 'professional market' that had professional outlooks and priorites.

But the practical point right now is that your programme is destined eventually to play out on 'who knows what' converter in the cheapest possible consumer design produced under massive commercial pressure - so it's essential to remain on the side of caution Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 15, 2005, 07:03:56 pm
Very nicely stated, Paul.  Thank you for the awesome detail.

Now everyone turn it all down a bit...
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Dan Pinder on May 15, 2005, 07:50:59 pm
As I struggle to grasp what's going on in Paul's explanations, I wonder if this is in any way related to the phenomenon that the Trillium Lane Labs TL|MasterMeter seeks to illuminate? Or is this purely something that happens independent of the DAC, as is implied by the unexpected metering results you get in the experiment?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Curve Dominant on May 16, 2005, 01:44:16 am
compasspnt wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 00:03

Very nicely stated, Paul.  Thank you for the awesome detail.

Now everyone turn it all down a bit...


That means (among other things): Reductive EQing.

Yo?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: zetterstroem on May 16, 2005, 02:03:53 am
Dan Pinder wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 00:50

As I struggle to grasp what's going on in Paul's explanations, I wonder if this is in any way related to the phenomenon that the Trillium Lane Labs TL|MasterMeter seeks to illuminate? Or is this purely something that happens independent of the DAC, as is implied by the unexpected metering results you get in the experiment?


the TLL mastermeter indeed seems to "illuminate" this problem..... nice to know that one doesn't have to have a system 6000 to "see" these peaks....

but if anyone in here thinks we can get those a&r guys to turn it down even half a bit  Confused they're pretty naive..... in a world where people think that mp3s and cd are the same i think we're fighting a losing battle!! i won't stop fighting though  Twisted Evil

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: zed on May 16, 2005, 07:38:46 am
Paul,

I have been running some tests in my protools system that have been nothing but inconclusive.

Basically what i've done is to grab a session with 20 tracks, mix them as loud as possible without peaking individual or master tracks, bounce, and repeat the above but with trim plugins at -6dB inserted in every track. (they all have some plugins that are time constant)

When comparing both stereo mixdowns the difference between them is zero, they basically cancel each other when phased inversely.

I'm sure that i'm not understanding the difference between mixing at high levels or low levels since they are giving me similar results!

please comment what i'm doing wrong!

Best Regards
Zed
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: amwintx on May 16, 2005, 08:09:08 am
At the risk of posting a reply to the original topic  Razz .... I am surprised no one has mentioned the original reason I went to the time and expense of getting an analog mix setup working. It is fun to mix on a real board! I like to turn off the computer screen and  simply listen to the speakers and pull up the faders/set eq/patch in outboard etc. I think it also leads me down different path creatively sometimes. Now back to regularly scheduled the ITB/OTB debate......
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 16, 2005, 09:36:10 am
Both working on an analogue console AND working inside a DAW is fun...Music is Fun...if it's not, you're in the wrong business!

It just comes down to what sounds best, and how much of your music you have to "see"...
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on May 16, 2005, 09:37:52 am
zed wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 05:38

Paul,

I have been running some tests in my protools system that have been nothing but inconclusive.

Basically what i've done is to grab a session with 20 tracks, mix them as loud as possible without peaking individual or master tracks, bounce, and repeat the above but with trim plugins at -6dB inserted in every track. (they all have some plugins that are time constant)

When comparing both stereo mixdowns the difference between them is zero, they basically cancel each other when phased inversely.

I'm sure that i'm not understanding the difference between mixing at high levels or low levels since they are giving me similar results!

please comment what i'm doing wrong!

Best Regards
Zed


I think most problems with intersample peaks manifest themselves at the DAC of a system.  If you are internally digitally bouncing and internally trying to phase cancel two digital mixes, then the DAC hasn't yet entered the equation.  If you are experiencing no distortion before your mix hits the DAC then it may be that your original recording without the -6db trim on each channel and subsequent processing level management weren't hot enough to invoke any digital distortion between plug-in processes.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 16, 2005, 11:25:23 am
zed wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 12:38

Paul,

I have been running some tests in my protools system that have been nothing but inconclusive.

Basically what i've done is to grab a session with 20 tracks, mix them as loud as possible without peaking individual or master tracks, bounce, and repeat the above but with trim plugins at -6dB inserted in every track. (they all have some plugins that are time constant)

When comparing both stereo mixdowns the difference between them is zero, they basically cancel each other when phased inversely.

I'm sure that i'm not understanding the difference between mixing at high levels or low levels since they are giving me similar results!

please comment what i'm doing wrong!

Best Regards
Zed


Well, I would guess that your mix and processing isn't producing the peaks even at higher levels - it's a clean mix?  Offending processing normally includes HF EQ boosting, compression/limiting or distortion addition - coupled with instruments producing fierce HF i.e. vocals, small percussion, brass etc.

In this case the peaks may not be seen within the mix itself but may be created in the final product if you bump up the gain and limit hard on the output buss for A&R acceptance?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 16, 2005, 11:38:04 am
My experience has been that the distortion builds up gradually enough as you work that it's hard to spot before it's gone way over the top. We don't normally listen carefully for distortion after every single change we make to a mix. In fact I'd worry about anybody who did!

The only sensible solution is dropping levels inside the mixer.

Perhaps one reasonable generalization is that with analog consoles, it's often safer to error on the side of being too hot while with digital, it's better to error on the side of the levels being too low.

(And that's not to suggest that all analog gear ought to be run hot, a lot of gear sounds way ballsier with nothing peaking above +10.)
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: zed on May 16, 2005, 12:59:02 pm
Well, the mix i've been using is a fairly standard pop song with no vocals, only drums, bass guitar and electric guitars, the plugins used are EQ and delay, no compression (does compression behaves differently when changing -6dB on signal input even with the same value applied to threshold?*). I repeated the test, this time i didn't even care if the mix sounded good at all, i tried to get the summing of tracks as hot as possible (on the mixdown with no trim plugin on every track the master fader even peaked once!).

Still, when checking the -6dB mixdown with the hot one the only difference between them was that evil peak on the hot mixdown, other than that, they were mathematically identical!

It's truth that i'm not using compression and the added HF on some of the tracks is rather moderate, but shouldn't this be enough to start getting some differences when comparing these mixdowns?

The recordings were all made with apogee converters not going any further than -5dB on input!

Paul, with this tests i'm not trying to prove you wrong, believe me on this, i'm only trying to understand your statement trough practice, for all our best interest it is very important for us to understand our tools as best as we can!

*- i did try this same experience using compression, in this case the difference was very noticeable, although it seemed more like a compression problem...

Best Regards
Zed
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on May 16, 2005, 03:06:38 pm
zed wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 10:59

The recordings were all made with apogee converters not going any further than -5dB on input!


That looks like good level practice and may be the reason you aren't able to hear differences.  I think one of the reason's people start to experience the problem is when they record so hot to begin with, regularly peaking at or near 0 dbfs.  If you take a signal peaking at or near 0 dbfs and then try do some plug-in processing, this is where you might begin to see some problems as you try to manipulate the already pegged audiio.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 16, 2005, 04:09:01 pm
zed wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 17:59

Well, the mix i've been using is a fairly standard pop song with no vocals, only drums, bass guitar and electric guitars, the plugins used are EQ and delay, no compression (does compression behaves differently when changing -6dB on signal input even with the same value applied to threshold?*). I repeated the test, this time i didn't even care if the mix sounded good at all, i tried to get the summing of tracks as hot as possible (on the mixdown with no trim plugin on every track the master fader even peaked once!).

Still, when checking the -6dB mixdown with the hot one the only difference between them was that evil peak on the hot mixdown, other than that, they were mathematically identical!

It's truth that i'm not using compression and the added HF on some of the tracks is rather moderate, but shouldn't this be enough to start getting some differences when comparing these mixdowns?

The recordings were all made with apogee converters not going any further than -5dB on input!

Paul, with this tests i'm not trying to prove you wrong, believe me on this, i'm only trying to understand your statement trough practice, for all our best interest it is very important for us to understand our tools as best as we can!

*- i did try this same experience using compression, in this case the difference was very noticeable, although it seemed more like a compression problem...

Best Regards
Zed


I understand that your are not trying to dispute anything out of hand and to be honest I am as interested in it as you are. Always willing to learn Smile

I am only quoting from what I have experienced, learned and measured over the years in kit I have designed and the (rather limited) mixing I have done. But still if you are not clipping anything or adding distortion (either intentionally or within plugs) you may still not produce a peak error of the kind I am talking about.
For example, I have a few discs that I take to work for tests cos they are variously clean, punchy or just manically loud and all of them exhibit the problem. One I have of Shania Twain (a particularly quiet track) is possibly the worst of them all exhibiting bursts of up to 3dB reconstruction overs, even though the peak value meters never reach max. Now this disc will (and in fact does) definitely sound different if you try to further process the track, depending on whether it has been re-recorded via an ADC or ripped directly into the system. The reason is that re-recording it via an ADC turns those overs into signal (albeit possibly flattened), whilst ripping the track preserves the original sample values. For instance, if I limit this track under these conditions the limiter behaves quite differently because it's side chain is driven primarily by sample value. It's a good example of programme that is changed by a converter and in fact would still be changed even if the converter were 'perfect'.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 16, 2005, 04:44:34 pm
What's the title? I'm also curious about what happens when it gets lossy coded.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 16, 2005, 05:11:22 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 21:44

What's the title? I'm also curious about what happens when it gets lossy coded.


Its called 'From This Moment On' from the 'Come On Over' album. I haven't ever tested what happens after lossy coding, but my guess it would have similar results unless the decoder clipped internally?

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 16, 2005, 05:16:39 pm
amwintx wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 13:09

At the risk of posting a reply to the original topic  Razz .... I am surprised no one has mentioned the original reason I went to the time and expense of getting an analog mix setup working. It is fun to mix on a real board! I like to turn off the computer screen and  simply listen to the speakers and pull up the faders/set eq/patch in outboard etc. I think it also leads me down different path creatively sometimes. Now back to regularly scheduled the ITB/OTB debate......


Very good points Smile There is no doubt that the presence and facility of a good physical mixer allows you to descend more readily into the creative process, as you can interact with it more directly. We should never forget that the product is about creative art more than it is about 'correct' technology Smile

BTW - sorry if my post on possible reasons for sonic differences experienced OTB has diverted this thread somewhat. You are right that all this has indeed been discussed before on previous threads Sad
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 16, 2005, 07:27:03 pm
Eric Vincent wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 01:44

compasspnt wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 00:03

Very nicely stated, Paul.  Thank you for the awesome detail.

Now everyone turn it all down a bit...


That means (among other things): Reductive EQing.

Yo?


Well, I'm sorry to say that sometimes an EQ reduction can produce overlevels! It sounds counterintuitive, but those intersample peaks are caused by filtering, regardless of whether it's a dip or a boost. Gerzon wrote a paper on this problem.  

So don't count on your "subtractive EQ" to keep the level down if the input level is hot. As Paul pointed out, there are some expensive oversampled peak meters that can measure if you are getting into trouble, but it's a lot safer just to peak to, say, -3 dBFS (max, lower being better) on the final mix and be done with it.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: PaulyD on May 16, 2005, 08:53:02 pm
Eric Bridenbaker wrote on Sat, 14 May 2005 11:19

Thanks, Paul for clarifying this issue.

Recently I've found that running the mixes at lower overall levels has yielded far better results, a certin clarity and punchy transparency that is quite audible, compared to a "hotter" mixing approach.

Even though an analog VU meter is too slow to catch these overs, I find it to be a helpful tool, to have some form of metering OTB.

I have a question about ITB meters though: Is it not possible to get better metering of these anomalies ITB?

There is a plugin by Elemental Audio calle Inspector, for example which is supposed to show clipping instances.

http://www.elementalaudio.com/products/inspector/index.html

Is something like this of any use in getting a visual on this stuff ITB?

Cheers,
Eric


Eric, check out this old thread... The link is to my first-ever post to this board. Smile

I have found that the pre-fader metering in Logic Pro does the exact same thing as Inspector. I think most DAWs offer pre-fader metering. It's good stuff. Since I started using pre-fader metering, I have been shocked to find that some plug-ins with absolutely no gain adjustment available will cause clipping all by themselves, no matter the level of the incoming signal. No kidding.

I have to say though, this thread is blowing my mind. I haven't been following it and just started reading it. Just this week I was mixing a project and noticed that pulling the faders down in my DAW really improved the sound. It's kind of funny because in my case it was a revelation born of frustration! I really felt like my eq was good. I'd soloed all my bus reverbs to make sure their darkness/brightness was appropriate for their track. So, I was concentrating on levels to get the mix sounding right. I  would pull a fader down and notice something else now sounded out of balance. So I would pull another fader down and repeat the process. After enough rounds of this, I thought "OMG...Why is this happening?!" Then I thought "Oh well, I'm already frustrated with my confidence in the toilet. And it does sound better. Keep going..." Lo and behold, I finally got a mix I was happy with. And yes, I was surprised to see how low many of the faders were at the end. But I mix through a Folcrom and if the summing is a little soft, it's nothing a little tweak of the makeup gain device can't handle. After reading this board awhile now, I am wary of the ills of overly high digital levels, but I think that's what Paul Frindle was referring to when he said "And to get back to the original subject and my original reason for posting - be aware that by mixing OTB in analogue and encoding to digits via an ADC afterwards - you are removing the possibility of making reconstruction overs in your master. This is very significant within an industry environment where everyone is currently aiming for absolute max loudness and modulation."

I love this forum.

EDIT: And thank you, Paul Frindle. It is truly reassuring to have someone of your technical background affirm that mixing with softer levels is a good thing. Smile

Paul
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on May 16, 2005, 09:52:25 pm
bobkatz wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 17:27

As Paul pointed out, there are some expensive oversampled peak meters that can measure if you are getting into trouble...


Here's an oversampled peak meter for Pro Tools designed to detect exatctly what we have been talking about.  It's not too expensive either.

TL MasterMeter - MSRP US$199
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 16, 2005, 10:51:43 pm
The trouble is that you can't pop a meter in at every point where there could be an overload which is literally every plug-in slot in a TDM system and even some floating point plug-ins. You also don't want to tie up scads of DSP for metering. Understanding the problem and then watching the levels is by far the best solution.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 17, 2005, 04:04:03 am
bobkatz wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 00:27

Eric Vincent wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 01:44

compasspnt wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 00:03

Very nicely stated, Paul.  Thank you for the awesome detail.

Now everyone turn it all down a bit...


That means (among other things): Reductive EQing.

Yo?


Well, I'm sorry to say that sometimes an EQ reduction can produce overlevels! It sounds counterintuitive, but those intersample peaks are caused by filtering, regardless of whether it's a dip or a boost. Gerzon wrote a paper on this problem.  

So don't count on your "subtractive EQ" to keep the level down if the input level is hot. As Paul pointed out, there are some expensive oversampled peak meters that can measure if you are getting into trouble, but it's a lot safer just to peak to, say, -3 dBFS (max, lower being better) on the final mix and be done with it.

BK


Yes indeed this is so - anything that 're-arranges' the phase and response can get you HIGHER peaks - in fact up 6dB higher for LF roll-off of an already totally clipped signal - the need for headroom isn't just intersample peaks, it's your whole freedom of artistic expression within your mix that's at risk.

For instance - if the mastering engineer decides to roll-off some excess LF from your programme he could well end up having to REDUCE it's level (and all-important loudness) to accomodate the extra peak values!!

In the experiment I described you can try this too by taking out the HF filtering and putting in LF filtering instead - and watch the levels rise Sad
Another interesting one is to get a squarewave from the genny at say 200Hz -6dB and then insert a filter set to cut off below 100Hz - the peak level will rise 6dB (or more if the filter is a high order). Ok this is an extreme example (not very musical) but if this was your programme at full level then it would have to be represented at 6dB (or more) lower than the original in order to avoid actual clipping!! Food for thought for those that like to clip the kick drum a teensy bit for that little bit extra attack and presence. And of course the same thing would apply at higher freqs (such as vocals) if you let it saturate a bit for effect then EQ it a bit to roll-of some of the 'raspy edges'.

This is not new stuff - and the same things happen in analogue processing as well - it's just that analogue systems have signal operating levels 10's of dB below signal clipping - and analogue tape recording methods were more tolerant cos they could accomodate significant overload at LF (as much as 10dB) and saturated softly at HF (i.e. produced that fuzzy splashy 'air' in the presence of HF overload - rather than hard and ear-grating clips).
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Curve Dominant on May 17, 2005, 11:46:35 am
Paul Frindle wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 09:04

bobkatz wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 00:27

Eric Vincent wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 01:44

compasspnt wrote on Mon, 16 May 2005 00:03

Very nicely stated, Paul.  Thank you for the awesome detail.

Now everyone turn it all down a bit...


That means (among other things): Reductive EQing.

Yo?


Well, I'm sorry to say that sometimes an EQ reduction can produce overlevels! It sounds counterintuitive, but those intersample peaks are caused by filtering, regardless of whether it's a dip or a boost. Gerzon wrote a paper on this problem.  

So don't count on your "subtractive EQ" to keep the level down if the input level is hot. As Paul pointed out, there are some expensive oversampled peak meters that can measure if you are getting into trouble, but it's a lot safer just to peak to, say, -3 dBFS (max, lower being better) on the final mix and be done with it.

BK


Yes indeed this is so - anything that 're-arranges' the phase and response can get you HIGHER peaks - in fact up 6dB higher for LF roll-off of an already totally clipped signal - the need for headroom isn't just intersample peaks, it's your whole freedom of artistic expression within your mix that's at risk.

For instance - if the mastering engineer decides to roll-off some excess LF from your programme he could well end up having to REDUCE it's level (and all-important loudness) to accomodate the extra peak values!!

In the experiment I described you can try this too by taking out the HF filtering and putting in LF filtering instead - and watch the levels rise Sad
Another interesting one is to get a squarewave from the genny at say 200Hz -6dB and then insert a filter set to cut off below 100Hz - the peak level will rise 6dB (or more if the filter is a high order). Ok this is an extreme example (not very musical) but if this was your programme at full level then it would have to be represented at 6dB (or more) lower than the original in order to avoid actual clipping!! Food for thought for those that like to clip the kick drum a teensy bit for that little bit extra attack and presence. And of course the same thing would apply at higher freqs (such as vocals) if you let it saturate a bit for effect then EQ it a bit to roll-of some of the 'raspy edges'.

This is not new stuff - and the same things happen in analogue processing as well - it's just that analogue systems have signal operating levels 10's of dB below signal clipping - and analogue tape recording methods were more tolerant cos they could accomodate significant overload at LF (as much as 10dB) and saturated softly at HF (i.e. produced that fuzzy splashy 'air' in the presence of HF overload - rather than hard and ear-grating clips).


OK. But let's for a moment assume that my levels are not clipping, that I've kept my inupts and levels at a conservative position.

In that scenario, doesn't one get less risk of clipping by EQing subtractively, rather than additively?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on May 17, 2005, 12:30:32 pm
I think you have to look at it this way, Eric.  Any signal processing that you do in a mix requires some digital headroom to get the math done correctly.  So leave a little room.  You wouldn't want to use subtractive eqing because you HAVE TO in order to keep from clipping.  Print at lower levels so you can do what you want in the mix.  And give it to mastering the same way, so their options are open, as well.  Make loud copies for the producer, the artist, and yourself, for reference listening, because we all know that you can't send clients out the door with music that's 12db lower than everything else they compare it to.

Steve
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: David Schober on May 17, 2005, 01:20:53 pm
Extreme Mixing wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 11:30

 Make loud copies for the producer, the artist, and yourself, for reference listening, because we all know that you can't send clients out the door with music that's 12db lower than everything else they compare it to.

Steve


I'm with you there Steve.  However my only fear about making a hot rough is that sometimes people can fall in love with a rough like that.

When turning a rough mix for a sales conference or A&R meeting I'd be a fool to turn in a soft, but good sounding mix, knowing that other mixes will be smashed and louder than mine.

However, my worry is that someone, the artist, record exec,  or whoever, has tin ears, used to hearing smashed crap may prefer the rough over the master.  Despite the fact that after a proper mastering the mix would sound better, it's hard to make people belive that will be true.


Any thoughts, comments?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: zed on May 17, 2005, 03:54:00 pm
Paul,

I know you have extensive experience in this matter, when do you think that digital dynamics (plugins) will start to compete with their analog counterparts?

Best Regards
Zed
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 17, 2005, 07:11:40 pm
zed wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 20:54

Paul,

I know you have extensive experience in this matter, when do you think that digital dynamics (plugins) will start to compete with their analog counterparts?

Best Regards
Zed


O.K this is a difficult one to answer - not technically speaking - but since I now design S/W apps that have largely replaced (and completely surpassed) my previous analogue designs, there could be accusations of conflicts of interest Sad But honesty is more important than anything else in this cynical world. And honesty and a deep desire to support the art I love is the only reason I stick my neck out and comment on anything in public -  and probably the only reason I have spent decades in dark rooms, struggling with my somewhat limited brain, against technologies of various flavours of the day, trying to get sounds that reside in my head. So this is my honest personal opinion today - even though it may surpise people.

I have been making dynamics apps since 1968 in one form or another. I have employed everything and anything to achieve my goals, from vari-mu valves, opto-couplers, FETs and VCAs, latter examples of which are probably still around in daily use in certain well-respected high end analogue consoles in studios somewhere near you. And as far as I am concerned from a purely technical (and IMHO artistic) point of view the results we get from todays S/W compressors far and away outstrips anything I could have dreamed of in my previous analogue designs. And this is in spite of all the stuff regarding sampling, math precision etc, which for the most part can be tackled with some clever thought and brute processing - once you have sussed what indeed you actually need to tackle. This sentiment also applies equally to other apps I have helped to make in S/W including EQs and the like. At least one app I could only actually make work in the digital domain, despite having repeatedly tried in analogue since 1974 or so. There is simply no comparison IMVHO Smile

Ok having said all that, I fully appreciate (more than most people!) that many of the much-loved 'foibles' surrounding older analogue compressor designs (mainly resulting from the various limitations of technologies used at the time) have become a rich part of people's artistic arsenals - and rightly so as we naturally learn to artistically employ the character of stuff we are given - this is a natural process of enrichment, thank goodness. At this moment some of those 'foibles' are very costly to emulate in the digital domain sufficiently well to pass muster (and don't believe those who say that convolution can do it either).
So when I say 'outstripping performance' it is in full appreciation of what indeed I was always aiming for in all MY analogue designs in the past, but was thwarted to some degree by the component 'characterisations'. Quite simply digits have finally allowed me to make what I always wanted to make and could never achieve in the past.  
Also (sticking my neck out further) my personal feeling is that mostly ALL compressor designers from the year dot had similar kinds of aspirations to my own - despite what they may have actually ended up with at the time and despite how highly revered their efforts may have become in the fullness of time. If those guys were here right now using the technology we have at our command these days, I am certain they would be smiling big - and who knows what THEY would produce Smile

It is so apt and frankly wierd that you pose me this question today!? Only this evening I left behind a guy at work who was gallantly trying to measure an old piece of kit he had got hold of that was made using my designs from 16 years ago. Despite being of high acclaim in it's day and passed for 'high end professional kit', compared to the stuff we work on together now it is quite pathetic, all I could feel (apart from reminisence for the old days) was deep embarrassment. I sure wasn't going to stick around and watch his reaction - he wasn't around me designing this stuff within the limitations of those days, so he'll probably be horrified and won't forgive me Sad

If those designs were considered top end excellence 16 years ago - could it be that these days we don't seem to appreciate what indeed we have actually got right now? And when I whizzle at work that my latest efforts are 'not perfect - blah blah misery', looking at the performance of that old kit makes those comments seem like pure indulgence!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: zed on May 17, 2005, 08:26:54 pm
Paul,

Thanks, you gave me the exact answer I wanted to hear! Now, back to recording... Wink

Best Regards
Zed
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Curve Dominant on May 17, 2005, 08:56:22 pm
Extreme Mixing wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 17:30

I think you have to look at it this way, Eric.  Any signal processing that you do in a mix requires some digital headroom to get the math done correctly.  So leave a little room.


Got it, I will...uh, I mean...I do.

Quote:

You wouldn't want to use subtractive eqing because you HAVE TO in order to keep from clipping. Print at lower levels so you can do what you want in the mix.
 

Excellent point.

Quote:

And give it to mastering the same way, so their options are open, as well.


Very much with you on that one as well.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on May 19, 2005, 12:09:24 am
David Schober wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 10:20

Extreme Mixing wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 11:30

 Make loud copies for the producer, the artist, and yourself, for reference listening, because we all know that you can't send clients out the door with music that's 12db lower than everything else they compare it to.

Steve


I'm with you there Steve.  However my only fear about making a hot rough is that sometimes people can fall in love with a rough like that.

When turning a rough mix for a sales conference or A&R meeting I'd be a fool to turn in a soft, but good sounding mix, knowing that other mixes will be smashed and louder than mine.

However, my worry is that someone, the artist, record exec,  or whoever, has tin ears, used to hearing smashed crap may prefer the rough over the master.  Despite the fact that after a proper mastering the mix would sound better, it's hard to make people belive that will be true.


Any thoughts, comments?


People do get used to what they have been listening to for a while.  When i print mixes, I don' t usually turn them up til it hurts.  I just don't have the stomach for it.  My mixes usually sound like I wanted them to, so there isn't that much heavy lifting for the mastering guy.  He just needs to balance the levels and make the mixes sound like they belong together.  I always make two mixes, one with the limiter and one without.  The one without is for mastering.  I'm willing to let the guy with half a million dollars worth of gear for processing stereo mixes do his job.  If the guy knows what he is doing, it's pretty hard to beat his mastering job with a $500 plug.  Most of the time, I like what they do.

Sometimes producers will "L2" their own projects.  I hate that.  It's funny how you can always tell, even months later, that someone has tampered with your mix.  

Steve
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 19, 2005, 07:19:32 pm
Eric Vincent wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 11:46



OK. But let's for a moment assume that my levels are not clipping, that I've kept my inupts and levels at a conservative position.

In that scenario, doesn't one get less risk of clipping by EQing subtractively, rather than additively?



All other things being equal, I would tend to agree. But Paul (who is more expert on this than I) might intervene and say that if a high pass filter is considered "subtractive" then beware of the intersample artifacts of the high pass. Let's see if Paul catches this post.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Curve Dominant on May 19, 2005, 08:20:32 pm
bobkatz wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 00:19

Eric Vincent wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 11:46

OK. But let's for a moment assume that my levels are not clipping, that I've kept my inupts and levels at a conservative position.

In that scenario, doesn't one get less risk of clipping by EQing subtractively, rather than additively?



All other things being equal, I would tend to agree. But Paul (who is more expert on this than I) might intervene and say that if a high pass filter is considered "subtractive" then beware of the intersample artifacts of the high pass. Let's see if Paul catches this post.


Notwithstanding Paul's views on the subject, I have my own observations of the effects of ITB high-pass filtering: Beware. I have switched settings on EQ plugins from a high-pass to a low shelf cut many times, because the high-pass setting introduced "something" undesirable, whereas the low-shelf cut alternative did not. Antectdotal, yes, but antectdotes sometimes serve a purpose.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 20, 2005, 05:57:21 am
Eric Vincent wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 01:20

bobkatz wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 00:19

Eric Vincent wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 11:46

OK. But let's for a moment assume that my levels are not clipping, that I've kept my inupts and levels at a conservative position.

In that scenario, doesn't one get less risk of clipping by EQing subtractively, rather than additively?



All other things being equal, I would tend to agree. But Paul (who is more expert on this than I) might intervene and say that if a high pass filter is considered "subtractive" then beware of the intersample artifacts of the high pass. Let's see if Paul catches this post.


Notwithstanding Paul's views on the subject, I have my own observations of the effects of ITB high-pass filtering: Beware. I have switched settings on EQ plugins from a high-pass to a low shelf cut many times, because the high-pass setting introduced "something" undesirable, whereas the low-shelf cut alternative did not. Antectdotal, yes, but antectdotes sometimes serve a purpose.


The answer to this depends entirely on the actual signal content. Eq can cause 2 types of 'clipping error' - boosting Freq ranges increases level and changes phase so level clips are obviously more likely. Cutting EQ reduces gain (which intuitively seems safer) however it also changes the phase - so overs are still possible from cutting something.

This situation is worsened by processing already clipped signals (even at LF) as the max sample value is totally reliant on the phase of the harmonics. You can test this by getting an oscillator plugin set to say 200Hz squarewave at -6dBr then filtering below 100Hz - the sample values will almost double depending on the steepness of the filter.


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: innesireinar on May 20, 2005, 08:43:35 am
[quote title=bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 21:28
stay away from (too many) digital compressors

BK[/quote]

Bob, can you clarify this?
By using compressor plugins instead of true analog compressors instatiation is there a big difference in a mix done ITB?
Is there same differences by using analog eq in insert instead of eq plugins?
For example how is better using an original API 550b in a PT insert slot instead of an URS API replication?
Thanx
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 20, 2005, 06:45:58 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 10:57

Eric Vincent wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 01:20

bobkatz wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 00:19

Eric Vincent wrote on Tue, 17 May 2005 11:46

OK. But let's for a moment assume that my levels are not clipping, that I've kept my inupts and levels at a conservative position.

In that scenario, doesn't one get less risk of clipping by EQing subtractively, rather than additively?



All other things being equal, I would tend to agree. But Paul (who is more expert on this than I) might intervene and say that if a high pass filter is considered "subtractive" then beware of the intersample artifacts of the high pass. Let's see if Paul catches this post.


Notwithstanding Paul's views on the subject, I have my own observations of the effects of ITB high-pass filtering: Beware. I have switched settings on EQ plugins from a high-pass to a low shelf cut many times, because the high-pass setting introduced "something" undesirable, whereas the low-shelf cut alternative did not. Antectdotal, yes, but antectdotes sometimes serve a purpose.


The answer to this depends entirely on the actual signal content. Eq can cause 2 types of 'clipping error' - boosting Freq ranges increases level and changes phase so level clips are obviously more likely. Cutting EQ reduces gain (which intuitively seems safer) however it also changes the phase - so overs are still possible from cutting something.

This situation is worsened by processing already clipped signals (even at LF) as the max sample value is totally reliant on the phase of the harmonics. You can test this by getting an oscillator plugin set to say 200Hz squarewave at -6dBr then filtering below 100Hz - the sample values will almost double depending on the steepness of the filter.





Sorry I didn't answer the last part of the question about why an LF shelf in cut sounds different to a High pass. I too have done this switch when mixing. I have a rather odd explanation for it.

I'm not sure what you have experienced but if we leave the clipping issue aside, the most obvious thing is that the shelf EQ will aim towards a specific max attenuation perhaps -20dB whereas a HP filter basically aims at total cut (at DC at least). This means that some of the cut freqs remain with the shelf which allows the effect to soften somewhat - the whole thing is more gentle. Which leads me to the next bit.

IMHO the most important thing is that for any order of HP filter above 12dB or so the rate of change of freq (and phase) around the turnover point will be higher than the LF shelf. This is significant IMHO since fast rates of change (high orders) produce the effect of a distinct ringing (or boosting) near the turnover point (this is why you can apparently increase the bass sound of a bass guitar by rolling off the LF just below the lowest freqs in the instrument). This is some of the reason why valve gear with transformers (that almost always roll off at LF extremes) actually end up sounding more 'bassy' and full.

This is most interesting as it isn't down to Gibb's effect of the filter itself (i.e. signal ringing) - it's actually a psychoacoustic effect. It seems that if our ears encounter an unnatural removal of a freq range it retaliates by making us hear an apparent rise in the freqs in the immediate range just before the loss is encountered. To counter this effect in the old days when I mixed stuff, when I wanted to dramatically remove either HF or LF in something that was prominent in the mix, I would place another EQ section just below (or above) the turnover freq of the HF filter (or LF filter) and put a small fairly high Q (around 3-4 dip) of around a dB or so in the response. This sounds flat whereas the filter alone certainly doesn't! I have done many trials on this over the years and it always holds true. I have no formal idea why this should be the case (only personal theories) - but it's one of the many anomalies of our hearing process (I have a mental catalogue of them!).
You can try this by sticking pink noise into an EQ that has a filter section included (or use 2 plug-ins) and experimenting with this arrangement by ear - it's very odd to hear.

Getting the right sound is a question of what we actually hear, rather than blind adherance to any expectation based on plots on a graph Smile


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 20, 2005, 07:38:09 pm
Very interesting, Paul.  It appears obvious that this odd effect holds true universally, both analogue and digital.

Would it then not make sense for a HP or LP filter design to include "automatic" reduction of the nearby "offending" freq range, and that said reduction would be somewhat "hidden" to the operator, in that the labelled choice would not "mention" it? Or have you already done such a thing?

Terry
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 20, 2005, 08:33:17 pm
innesireinar wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 08:43

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 21:28
stay away from (too many) digital compressors

BK[/quote



Bob, can you clarify this?
By using compressor plugins instead of true analog compressors instatiation is there a big difference in a mix done ITB?




I work with one or two excellent mixing engineers who are doing just that, mixing in the box but routing to outboard compressors and reverbs and other gear. Sounds great to me... the key is they know what to do and how to get the most dimensionality and depth with their mixing technique.  

The problem is that to do a compressor plugin right requires tremendous CPU power, more than the manufacturers of plugins believe you are willing to tolerate with today's CPU's. In due time all digital compressors will be 2 to 4 times oversampled internally. One way around this is to track and work at 96 kHz, the sound of non-linear plugs like compressors will be much better, purer, more analog-like. I'll leave it up to you whether you think at that point they are the sonic equal of their analog counterparts.

In that case, if you're working at 96 kHz, and not trying to push those comps beyond their mortal means, that is, using them subtly, 1-2 dB GR, to slightly "fatten" or pump" up a sound, or subtly control an overdynamic instrument, I believe that a number of the plugs, for example, like the Waves Ren Comp, could do a reasonable job on background things and who knows, maybe even lead vocals! It's only when you're trying to "punch" and "pump" and the rest---that's where the rubber meets the road and I still believe that good outboard gear adds that sheen, perhaps because of the unique distortion of certain analog compressors, which has not yet been emulated in digital-land. Or it might be something to do with the time constants. I certainly love my Weiss digital compressor and I can even make it work
aggressively. I was able to add some "attitude" to a rock mix just today. Working at 96K and with the Weiss, I personally was very happy with the sound I got today punching up a rock project. So digital comps have come a long way.

You'd have to show me a compressor plugin that at 96 kHz is as versatile and good-sounding as the Weiss...it may exist, as I say, I do not have any comps outside of the excellent Waves stuff.

I'm not that current with the sound quality of the best digital compressor plugins, but of the ones I have access to, I still believe there are still some sonic tricks which cannot yet match (to my ears) the sound of some analog compressors. And I do love my Cranesong Trakkers, which I still think have a few tricks (including that "analog sound", the additional fattening which those rich harmonics can do) that I think even my Weiss cannot do.




Is there same differences by using analog eq in insert instead of eq plugins?
For example how is better using an original API 550b in a PT insert slot instead of an URS API replication?
Thanx
[/quote]

There are some superb digital equalizer plugins. I have tested the GML in the TC Electronic system 6000 and if the TDM equivalent sounds as good I'd use it any day of the week. I'm very fond of the Algorithmix when I'm going for transparency. But if you are looking for particular color or edge there's nothing digital that sounds like a genuine API 550 or many other well-known analog pieces.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 21, 2005, 12:52:37 pm
I think we're dancing around the main point which is that it's much easier to clip audio "in the box" than most people realize and that clipping has much worse consequences than most people realize.

I go back to my own (and many others') experience in the mid '60s with the difference between working in a tube studio vs. working in an early solid state studio. We set up our rooms exactly as we had with the old boards and suddenly everything sounded terrible. We were told "you must be overloading your mike preamps" so we built mike pads. Unfortunately the pads changed what the mikes sounded like and the noise level went up. When we objected, manufacturers told us, "you must just like "tube distortion" better than solid state which is "much cleaner."

It turned out that they were lying with their statistics. Our old tube gear clipped around +45 while the new solid state gear clipped at +18. This "warm euphoric tube distortion" was actually all about having 20+ more dB of additional headroom in every active stage of the old tube consoles!

The myth of "warming" persists.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 21, 2005, 06:23:09 pm
compasspnt wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 00:38

Very interesting, Paul.  It appears obvious that this odd effect holds true universally, both analogue and digital.

Would it then not make sense for a HP or LP filter design to include "automatic" reduction of the nearby "offending" freq range, and that said reduction would be somewhat "hidden" to the operator, in that the labelled choice would not "mention" it? Or have you already done such a thing?

Terry


No, I have considered that notion but rejected it on the grounds that people most often DO want technically correct filters - at least these are understood universally. The other thing to bear in mind is that filters in our business are most often used artistically (like I suggested in bass instruments) the modification would severely affect this facet of the filters value. I have left them 'flat'.
However I have over the years occasionally taken liberties based on 'what sounded best' in deference to 'what looks correct' when plotted. One example is the LF shelving on the G series EQ. There are of course other more recent examples Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 21, 2005, 06:55:30 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 17:52

I think we're dancing around the main point which is that it's much easier to clip audio "in the box" than most people realize and that clipping has much worse consequences than most people realize.

I go back to my own (and many others') experience in the mid '60s with the difference between working in a tube studio vs. working in an early solid state studio. We set up our rooms exactly as we had with the old boards and suddenly everything sounded terrible. We were told "you must be overloading your mike preamps" so we built mike pads. Unfortunately the pads changed what the mikes sounded like and the noise level went up. When we objected, manufacturers told us, "you must just like "tube distortion" better than solid state which is "much cleaner."

It turned out that they were lying with their statistics. Our old tube gear clipped around +45 while the new solid state gear clipped at +18. This "warm euphoric tube distortion" was actually all about having 20+ more dB of additional headroom in every active stage of the old tube consoles!

The myth of "warming" persists.


Absolutely correct Smile

The 'problem' was that the tube sound was created by tube distortion, the onset and amount of which was heavily dependent on how hard you pushed it - the character being heavily influenced by often subtle design parameters. Solid state analogue did not do this - it kept on going relatively cleanly with no fore-warning impression of 'rounding or softening' until it just gave up and sounded bloody awful. This removed a whole artistic dimension from the engineers of the time - and of course they found themselves feeling uncomfortable.

The art of making good tube gear was controlling this distortion to get the best effect at the intended levels - giving the nicest sounding distortion along the way. For instance the fashion in the 60's of trying to 'linearise' tube amps with -ve feedback was counter productive since improving distortion removed the character, warmth and loudness of the amps. These days certain manus who still make tube stuff actually understand this importance and include feedback controls on their kit - so you can control the nature and quantity of the distortion! Making such kit is a real art that should not be under estimated.

The first solid state power amp I designed and built around 1970 to replace my previous tube designs required more than twice the total power of the old tube amp in order to produce as much perceived 'grunt' and sadly at that point the speakers were begining to fry. It was a real education - but that amp is still connected and in use today on my home system.

And as for messing around with feedback, bias and loading parameters to optimise distortion character - I spent most of my youth doing just this in order to get exactly the sound I needed from my guitar amp - which was also home grown. That too is even more of an art than designing a reproduction amp because it has to respond in synergy with the musician in musically inspiring ways - an extra dimension without which it's simply a hopeless flop Sad
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 21, 2005, 08:09:40 pm
[quote title=bobkatz wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 01:33]
innesireinar wrote on Fri, 20 May 2005 08:43

bobkatz wrote on Mon, 09 May 2005 21:28
stay away from (too many) digital compressors

BK[/quote



Bob, can you clarify this?
By using compressor plugins instead of true analog compressors instatiation is there a big difference in a mix done ITB?





The problem is that to do a compressor plugin right requires tremendous CPU power, more than the manufacturers of plugins believe you are willing to tolerate with today's CPU's. In due time all digital compressors will be 2 to 4 times oversampled internally. One way around this is to track and work at 96 kHz, the sound of non-linear plugs like compressors will be much better, purer, more analog-like. I'll leave it up to you whether you think at that point they are the sonic equal of their analog counterparts.


BK


Actually it's not really a question of processing power, it is perfectly possible to make a good compressor within the bounds of the processing people have these days. And it's not even a function of sampling rates really either - despite what people believe. Such good compressors actually exist IMO.

The biggest challenge facing comp/limiter design at the moment is actually conflicting user expectation and the current 'level madness' paradigm along with a complete misunderstanding of sampling and the somewhat hidden limits of their existing systems. If you will - one is trying to satisfying technically conflicting expectations which CANNOT be removed by any possible means - cos the spin has etched itself on everyone's minds too deeply - and in any case they have no choice in the current production fashion, if they want to stay in business.

As you may imagine people working to the red light that comes on within one part in 2^16 of max sample value with an operating level that is only one in 2^16 less than this is somewhat limiting when it comes to doing 'anything creative' with the design. In fact it makes it extremely difficult to treat their programme as signal at all - cos they themselves are not being allowed to. To add to this, ANY loss of displayed sample value level that people may encounter due to 'corrective processing' is highly unwelcome to the user who is always aiming for max values on a meter that reads only sample value and whose livelihood rests on 0.5dB loudness relative to other people's mixes. IMHO there are awful paradoxes in the way people are being directed to perceive audio which is preventing them from ever realising the quality of the plugs they already have.

To give just one simple example - I have actually been asked by users why a certain plug-in limiter set to -0.1dB doesn't always put out their 'red light'. As you would appreciate 'putting out the red light' this way requires that your limiter operates on sample values too, rather than the real signal it should process (re, matters raised in this thread). Even asking people to reduce their threshold to -0.5dB causes them anguish because of the much-feared career threatening potential of level loss.

What the above dichotomy risks doing is forcing comp/limiter plugs to adopt the same misunderstood principles that are already killing their sound within their existing digital environments. Put simply if you are not very careful and very clever, the above example REQUIRES that your limiter works in the exactly same way as their sample value workstation meters that do not measure signal. Not a good basis to start designing a compressor you would agree?

Ok, but here's the real rub - analogue outboard gear is let off the hook totally. It is outside the system of the wrong but highly critical digital metering - and gets put through a reconstructing ADC before you get to monitor it digitally anyway. Because it's analogue everyone naturally forgives it's inaccuracies and unpredictability. Because it's analogue any foibles it produces are referred to as 'character' - i.e. the horse isn't crazy, it's just spirited. Because it's analogue it always works on actual legitimate real signal. And of course it has all the headroom it has already carved out for itself, in total disregard for the machinations of the challenged digital user paradigm it gets connected to.

As people might imagine - increasing sample rates can never redress these problems - that's an open ended quest of diminishing returns which has potentially open ended costs for the user - that is doing nothing more than 'pasting over' far more simple issues that essentially cost nothing to fix - other than a bit of honesty and a change of attitudes within the industry.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: innesireinar on May 22, 2005, 03:41:51 am
bobkatz wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 01:33[/quote



Is there same differences by using analog eq in insert instead of eq plugins?
For example how is better using an original API 550b in a PT insert slot instead of an URS API replication?
Thanx



There are some superb digital equalizer plugins. I have tested the GML in the TC Electronic system 6000 and if the TDM equivalent sounds as good I'd use it any day of the week. I'm very fond of the Algorithmix when I'm going for transparency. But if you are looking for particular color or edge there's nothing digital that sounds like a genuine API 550 or many other well-known analog pieces.

BK[/quote]

Bob,
nowadays we are stating that lots of hi-level productions, ended in big studios, are mixed with PT running through many DA to large format consoles. And most of processing are done in PT while the console is used only for panning, level and summing.
Having said that, I've stated from your words that the goal could be the exact opposite: mixing ITB by using as many good analog outboard (inserted) as we can for processing. Expecially for dynamics. And assuming that digital processings ITB or OTB are pratically the same since a good algorithm works as fine on an outbord DSP as on an accel card (reverbs), the best solution could be having a good DAW, many good AD-DA and tons of good analog gears for eq and dynamic. Better than the scenario I've described at the beginning of this replay.
I'm right?
This thread has become very interesting.

ranieri senni


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 22, 2005, 08:56:47 am
innesireinar wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 03:41



Bob,

Having said that, I've stated from your words that the goal could be the exact opposite: mixing ITB by using as many good analog outboard (inserted) as we can for processing. Expecially for dynamics. And assuming that digital processings ITB or OTB are pratically the same since a good algorithm works as fine on an outbord DSP as on an accel card (reverbs), the best solution could be having a good DAW, many good AD-DA and tons of good analog gears for eq and dynamic. Better than the scenario I've described at the beginning of this replay.
I'm right?
This thread has become very interesting.

ranieri senni






That's my personal position. I've received numerous mixes. Some excellent mixes done both in the box (totally digitally but with lots of good hardware outboard through D/A/D patches) and some plugins used conservatively. Some excellent mixes done in analog consoles. My preference, about 7 times out of 10, has been for the former, that is, the digital mixes with considerable analog outboard. I find that I don't personally like the veil that comes from sending EVERY TRACK D/A/D through the analog console. But THREE TIMES OUT OF TEN I prefer the all-analog mix because the coloration is just what the doctor ordered.

It is impossible to be more "scientific" than this, as this is experience-based. All things are NOT equal. I've received mixes from so many different mix engineers that all I can do is "average my responses".

But the bottom line is that I personally suggest you try mixing in the box or with a good digital mixing console (for the ergonomics, of course, there's nothing more frustrating than mixing with a mouse), and with lots of good analog outboard. And excellent converters with good clocking. Absolutely essential to making any of these ingredients work. Work at 48 or 96 kHz sample rate, that helps too!

Another key here is: WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. Each engineer's methods and how aggressively he or she runs their controls can affect your results. I know some engineers who ONLY use the equalizers and compressors in a Yamaha O1V and get good results. But the vast majority of these engineers are running these digital tools conservatively and with largely acoustic music recorded in good rooms with stereo miking techniques. If you were trying to get a "rock and roll attitude" with one of those O1Vs you'd fall flat on your face. So, in the end, you have to find the method that suits your madness!

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 22, 2005, 10:19:40 am
Paul Frindle wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 17:55

... This removed a whole artistic dimension from the engineers of the time - and of course they found themselves feeling uncomfortable...

I'm with you on power or guitar amps but not consoles. Personally, I never knew anybody who had enough time to even think about any "artistic dimension." Our job at the time was to get twenty minutes of flawless music committed to recording tape within three hours. The problem with solid state gear was that the usable dynamic range was way way less. Yes it compressed when you pushed it but in fact we generally weren't pushing it. While test tones across every input compressed, dynamic impulses hitting one stage didn't because tube console had one gigantic power supply for the whole shooting match.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: innesireinar on May 22, 2005, 11:43:31 am
Thank you Bob.
It's easy to understand that working at 96 it's better, but why at 48? Is there a particolar reason why 48 is better than 44.1?
These two values are pretty close and if 48 is better I suspect there are other reasons, apart from the small SR difference between 44.1 and 48, why the highest of these two is better.
If so, can you clarify this?
I think that when you say "outboard" you mean analog eq and dyn.
As I've mentioned in a previous post I think that regarding all digital outbord the story is different. Is the case of reverbs.
I would like to know your point of view how are good rev plugins compared to hi-end outboard rev. Can rev plugs like Altiverb, Rewibe, TL space and also hi level no-convolution rev compete to, let's say, a System 6000?
Thanx
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 22, 2005, 11:51:14 am
innesireinar wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 11:43

Thank you Bob.
It's easy to understand that working at 96 it's better, but why at 48? Is there a particolar reason why 48 is better than 44.1?





With A REAL GREAT A/D the difference between 44 and 48 is extremely small, perhaps inaudible. This is because of the quality of the low pass filtering and other aspects of the design. An exceptional low-pass filter would have thousandths of a dB of ripple in the passband or less, be calculated at very high precision and dithered cleanly to 24 bits. You only get that in a "roll your own A/D" and the number of manufacturers actually rolling their own filters may be counted on a couple of fingers of one hand!

With a medium class A/D, it helps to get the frequency of the low pass filter up there even a few kHz more, just enough so there is less interference with the audible band due to phase shift, possible preecho, and so on. So, I tend to recommend the higher sampling rates "just to be safe." In most cases, coming from the mid-class converters that most of my clients can afford, I find that work I get in at 48 K and above sounds more "open" and a bit "clearer" than work I get at 44.1K. This is a GENERAL statement, not a rule, just an average. How can you compare things which are not equal anyway  Smile

But hell, some of it might be my D/A! A recent improvement in an experimental filter that is being used in a DAC that I can't talk about yet has ALMOST levelled the playing field in that 96K sounds very very close to 44.1 on this DAC. While previous models of this DAC the difference was much larger. We have so much to learn. And 44.1 kHz can sound much better than most of us have had the opportunity to hear; I feel privileged to have heard the first model of a new DAC whose dimensionality and clarity at 44.1K is significantly better.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 22, 2005, 11:55:18 am
innesireinar wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 11:43



I would like to know your point of view how are good rev plugins compared to hi-end outboard rev. Can rev plugs like Altiverb, Rewibe, TL space and also hi level no-convolution rev compete to, let's say, a System 6000?
Thanx



The convolution reverbs are coming MUCH closer to the quality of the System 6000 than any previous reverb plugin of "standard technology". But the low level resolution and versatility, dimensionality and lastly, the ability of the 6000 to do accurate early reflections still make it the connoisseur's reverb. It used to be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer why a plugin sounded like cheese and the 6000 sounds like the real thing. Now it takes a bit more sophisticated listener to know the difference.

Anyway, now I wouldn't kick a convolution reverb out of bed and with care it can produce superb results. In fact, for convenience, I use the IR1 a lot and I do praise it. The last 50 ms of decay though, leave something to be desired, as do the early reflections. We're talking B+ as opposed to A+ grades here.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 22, 2005, 03:08:31 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 15:19

Paul Frindle wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 17:55

... This removed a whole artistic dimension from the engineers of the time - and of course they found themselves feeling uncomfortable...

I'm with you on power or guitar amps but not consoles. Personally, I never knew anybody who had enough time to even think about any "artistic dimension." Our job at the time was to get twenty minutes of flawless music committed to recording tape within three hours.


LOL! Yes good point I can identify totally with that from my days doing remote recordings. And of course I never had the experience of working on a tube mixer. The first one I ever used had transformer summing and radial switched attenuator faders - but what few amps there were inside were actually solid state. The actual measured performance of this desk was of course terrible Sad

Quote:


The problem with solid state gear was that the usable dynamic range was way way less. Yes it compressed when you pushed it but in fact we generally weren't pushing it. While test tones across every input compressed, dynamic impulses hitting one stage didn't because tube console had one gigantic power supply for the whole shooting match.


I'm not quite with you there? Are you saying that the main cause of distortion in tube designs is PSU collapse under sustained signal conditions - or am I misunderstanding you?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 22, 2005, 03:26:38 pm
What I'm trying to say is that tube consoles had an astounding dynamic range for something like a kick drum. You could just pull the fader back on that channel without padding the preamp input. I haven't found outboard tube preamps or small tube mixers to have this "effortless" quality and they indeed do compress. I can only assume the limitation is the power supply. The "vintage" tube sound people hear on old recordings was not very compressed at all. I didn't completely appreciate this until I used Deane Jensen's prototype servo mike pre around 1985 which also had a whopping dynamic range.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 22, 2005, 06:36:35 pm
bobkatz wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 16:51

innesireinar wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 11:43

Thank you Bob.
It's easy to understand that working at 96 it's better, but why at 48? Is there a particolar reason why 48 is better than 44.1?





With A REAL GREAT A/D the difference between 44 and 48 is extremely small, perhaps inaudible. This is because of the quality of the low pass filtering and other aspects of the design. An exceptional low-pass filter would have thousandths of a dB of ripple in the passband or less, be calculated at very high precision and dithered cleanly to 24 bits. You only get that in a "roll your own A/D" and the number of manufacturers actually rolling their own filters may be counted on a couple of fingers of one hand!

<snip>

BK


I would agree with all you have said here Smile It's the transition bandwidth that counts - the difference between the highest wanted freq and half the sample rate.
In reality the nyquist freq of 44.1K sampling (22.05KHz) is too close to the wanted 20KHz band for comfort and it requires a pretty hairy filter to roll-off sufficiently to almost nothing within just 2KHz, without causing any abberations in the wanted band. It can obviously be done, but may not be provided in some designs. 48KHz is much better because the requirement for the filter is much more reasonable.

For the 'roll your own' designs we made with a separate processor for the filter - with our best efforts the performance at 44.1K was indistinguishable from the input signal in all the A,B tests I could do. However I use this system daily still and I fancy that there have been odd moments over the last 10 years when I just may have heard a suspicion of difference that was not there at 48KHz, for which the designs were optimised.

IMO a sample rate of around 60KHz or so would provide the optimal answer as a trade off between converter convenience and processing loss costs to the user - providing we could agree on flatness to 20KHz (and not higher).

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 22, 2005, 06:47:27 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 20:26

What I'm trying to say is that tube consoles had an astounding dynamic range for something like a kick drum. You could just pull the fader back on that channel without padding the preamp input.


Ah - this is operational headroom  Smile

The ability to attenuate after a process without the stages before the fader clipping. Yes tube designs could be very good at this. The reason is that headroom must be provided at the cost of SNR as to get it you must run the internals at lower levels for the same output at unity fader settings. Because tubes can produce far higher voltage signals in the first place, there is less need to compromise SNR to achieve the headroom. And also, since tube distortion is progressive and somewhat gentle and forgiving in nature you can take even greater liberties, since avoiding it is not nearly so crucial as in solid state designs.

24bit digital audio has 144dB or so total dynamic range - so you can easily provide more than 30dB of this kind of headroom before the digital signal noise becomes significant in respect of the DAC SNR.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 22, 2005, 07:17:50 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 18:47



24bit digital audio has 144dB or so total dynamic range - so you can easily provide more than 30dB of this kind of headroom before the digital signal noise becomes significant in respect of the DAC SNR.



Paul,

Would you then say we could record (in a good quality DAW with good converters) at, say, 12 dB below "red light?"  Would there be any other trade off penalty (something like "using all the bits" which some people talk about)?

If this level is ok, then most people are digitally recording about 12 dB "too hot" most of the time (assuming a proper, non-sample based meter).  This lower level would certainly negate many of the digital/plugin overload problem!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 22, 2005, 10:33:15 pm
compasspnt wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 18:17

...If this level is ok, then most people are digitally recording about 12 dB "too hot" most of the time (assuming a proper, non-sample based meter).  This lower level would certainly negate many of the digital/plugin overload problem!
BINGO!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Andy Simpson on May 23, 2005, 03:18:53 am
Not to mention the advantages of being able to run all the faders between  -10 and +10, where all the (log) fader resolution and control lies, digital or analogue.

I think alot of digital mixes suffer simply because when each channel is coming in at -6 or above, and on a 24 track mix, the faders need to be set very low. Obviously, the levels can't be set with compelete intuitiveness when the fader is at the bottom ranges of its travel, where each small movement means a large volume change, and the 'perfect' level is impossible to locate, especially with a mouse! Wink

Headroom headroom headroom headroom, resolution, headroom.

Andy

PS. I also attribute modern music's lack of impact to the fact that on consumer systems (and even pro) it is impossible to get any fine control over playback levels, and therefore impossible to get the perfect level for listening. Too loud or too soft.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on May 23, 2005, 04:51:42 am
compasspnt wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 19:17

Paul Frindle wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 18:47



24bit digital audio has 144dB or so total dynamic range - so you can easily provide more than 30dB of this kind of headroom before the digital signal noise becomes significant in respect of the DAC SNR.



Paul,

Would you then say we could record (in a good quality DAW with good converters) at, say, 12 dB below "red light?"  Would there be any other trade off penalty (something like "using all the bits" which some people talk about)?

If this level is ok, then most people are digitally recording about 12 dB "too hot" most of the time (assuming a proper, non-sample based meter).  This lower level would certainly negate many of the digital/plugin overload problem!


If you work to an RMS level of -20 dBFS throughout the board you'll automatically not have this problem. I can't think of a single pathological signal I've encountered that would break this rule.

Remember that signal to noise ratio is perceived by us largely in RMS terms, not in peak terms, so it is facetious to be normalizing everything to the same peak level, and the signal to noise ratio of a 24 bit digital system will not perceptibly be deteriorated if you work your entire mix system to an RMS of -20 dBFS. Leave the loudness maximizing to the mastering experts. Of course this does not mean that you shouldn't use compressors to get your "sound", but what it does mean is not to get uptight about having to peak everything to full scale peak when the perceived RMS has already crept up above -20 dBFS due to all the compression you may have applied.

My system of using a calibrated monitor attenuator is designed to replace the old systems we used in the days of analog of having VU meters. Since the VU meter has disappeared, we have to find another way to help keep us out of trouble. Stoppig everyone from normalizing the peaks is the first piece of education we have to work on. And the best tool to replace the old system can and should be OUR EARS. If our ears tell us it's too loud and if we back off, your levels will automatically fall back into the safe zone.

All you have to do is understand the words "RP 200", which has to do with calibrated monitor attenuation. I firmly believe that the more people who start to learn how to use a calibrated monitor attenuator will keep themselves out of trouble. But if you can't wrap yourselves around the calibrated monitor control concept, at the very least keep a set of VU or RMS meters around which are calibrated to -20 dBFS with sinewave.

Hey, I could write a book about this  Smile

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 23, 2005, 06:14:31 am
compasspnt wrote on Mon, 23 May 2005 00:17

Paul Frindle wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 18:47



24bit digital audio has 144dB or so total dynamic range - so you can easily provide more than 30dB of this kind of headroom before the digital signal noise becomes significant in respect of the DAC SNR.



Paul,

Would you then say we could record (in a good quality DAW with good converters) at, say, 12 dB below "red light?"  Would there be any other trade off penalty (something like "using all the bits" which some people talk about)?

If this level is ok, then most people are digitally recording about 12 dB "too hot" most of the time (assuming a proper, non-sample based meter).  This lower level would certainly negate many of the digital/plugin overload problem!


Yes in essence this is the point. But it isn't a good idea to lose too much gain in the input stages of the recording ADC since you will lose SNR. It is perfectly permissable to record in the first instance at relative high levels (peaking around -3dBFS) because an illegal signal should not come out of an AD converter (as we have said here).

The place where you need to make the gain loss to get headroom and avoid unreported overs is in the DIGITAL domain - right at the start of your mixing channel. In this way you preserve the converter's SNR during recording and optimise SNR and headroom for the whole system - making maximum use of the 144dB SNR the digital domain offers. The only provisor is that you will need to run good quality plugs that are not noisy and function correctly at lower reference levels.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: ted nightshade on May 23, 2005, 08:29:52 am
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 12:26

What I'm trying to say is that tube consoles had an astounding dynamic range for something like a kick drum. You could just pull the fader back on that channel without padding the preamp input. I haven't found outboard tube preamps or small tube mixers to have this "effortless" quality and they indeed do compress. I can only assume the limitation is the power supply. The "vintage" tube sound people hear on old recordings was not very compressed at all. I didn't completely appreciate this until I used Deane Jensen's prototype servo mike pre around 1985 which also had a whopping dynamic range.


Yes, could be the power supply. My beautiful little xformerless tube mixer (thanks David Manley) has definite headroom limits, lower than you might expect. I spend a fair amount of time dialing in the choice level just short of audible distortion, working with the headroom limitations in an artistic way. But I'd happily trade for beacoup headroom forever.

But, now that I think of it, preventing distortion is easy on any input signal I can provide, just by rolling back the gain on the rotary fader. So is that any different than life on the old tube consoles?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 23, 2005, 09:12:51 am
I'm speaking very specifically of US tube consoles from the 1950s. European gear (such as the Telefunken preamps) was run at significantly lower levels and peak meters were used rather than VU metering. Most contemporary tube gear does not have the kind of drive capability I'm speaking of.

Another reason tube gear can sound more punchy is that some of it presents a lot less challenging load to the previous stage.

All of this discussion is really about gain structure and operating headroom. Once you let go of concepts such as "digital zero" or "plus four" and start experimenting to find the sweet spot where there need be no worry about noise or distortion, sound quality generally becomes "punchier," "ballsier," "warmer," "bigger" and all the rest. Certainly there is plenty of gear that has no sweet spot but this hasn't a lot to do with tubes or price.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on May 23, 2005, 01:23:31 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 18:09

As people might imagine - increasing sample rates can never redress these problems - that's an open ended quest of diminishing returns which has potentially open ended costs for the user - that is doing nothing more than 'pasting over' far more simple issues that essentially cost nothing to fix - other than a bit of honesty and a change of attitudes within the industry.



Hi Paul,

Would it be possible for DAW manufacturers to implement oversampled meters by default in their systems?  I can imagine it will take processing power away from other functions in the DAW, but I have no idea how much.  Would oversampled meters take too much processing power?  If everyone had oversampled meters to begin with which accurately represent signal rather than samples, we might avoid many of the exisiting problems.  I realize that a quick workaround is to just back off on levels, but I don't think the majority of users are being educated, or are even willing to do such a thing.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 23, 2005, 05:37:18 pm
blairl wrote on Mon, 23 May 2005 18:23

Paul Frindle wrote on Sat, 21 May 2005 18:09

As people might imagine - increasing sample rates can never redress these problems - that's an open ended quest of diminishing returns which has potentially open ended costs for the user - that is doing nothing more than 'pasting over' far more simple issues that essentially cost nothing to fix - other than a bit of honesty and a change of attitudes within the industry.



Hi Paul,

Would it be possible for DAW manufacturers to implement oversampled meters by default in their systems?  I can imagine it will take processing power away from other functions in the DAW, but I have no idea how much.  Would oversampled meters take too much processing power?  If everyone had oversampled meters to begin with which accurately represent signal rather than samples, we might avoid many of the exisiting problems.  I realize that a quick workaround is to just back off on levels, but I don't think the majority of users are being educated, or are even willing to do such a thing.


Ok this actually covers quite a lot of stuff and I'll try to be as succinct as possible (particularly as I am b****y ill again). The argument is circular so bear with me if you can.

You don't have to oversample the meters (as in clocks running faster) to arrive at a more accurate signal displaying meter. It can be done just as well at base band.

Oversampling the whole system and data (i.e. running at 192KHz all over) will only make such meters less costly IF you limit the bandwidth to 20KHz still. Since this is something that runs contrary to popular culture - it's pretty unlikely unless people change their approaches (This may be a bit counter-intuitive for some people).

So in the end making such meters at any sample rate is expensive if you do it properly. As a very rough guide each meter will cost you almost as much as a decent dynamics Plug-in.

Ok - but a further point worth considering is that IF people used such meters they would end up producing mixes of lower level anyway - cos the earlier indication of the overs would dictate it! This is an interesting one vis a vis the current trends - how would people react to this I wonder? Perhaps they would just demand their old meters back - until ALL the competition adopted the more accurate meters as well and the playing field was level once again in the loudness stakes?

So in the final analysis you are much much better off running at lower levels in the first place and saving all that processing for your artistic apps - rather than being forced to lower them anyway by very costly meters. There are much less expensive ways of winning back the level at the end of your mix - and still produce really loud results that remain legal Smile

Lowering the levels so that they create legal signals is actually no more a workaround than avoiding tape saturation in analogue systems - it is a technical necessity if you want the best results Smile

As an addtional point since this thread is about OTB mixing, my very original point was that mixing OTB and re-converting at the end is actually showing you real meter values for your final mix and 'legitimising' the signal for you. This IMHO is a tangible reason why people have noticed that it can actually sound better.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: shroom on May 23, 2005, 06:35:12 pm
Paul,

I just started running through all your tests and I am seriously blown away.  At first the way I understood what was going on from your explanations had to do with phase variations, but I started doing your tests with the filters on the Waves phase linear eq and the results are still the same EXCEPT in your square wave example.  Can you elaborate and explain a little more how this actual level bump takes place in your original examples?  This is the best thread I've read in years.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on May 23, 2005, 09:22:57 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Mon, 23 May 2005 06:14

compasspnt wrote on Mon, 23 May 2005 00:17

Paul Frindle wrote on Sun, 22 May 2005 18:47



24bit digital audio has 144dB or so total dynamic range - so you can easily provide more than 30dB of this kind of headroom before the digital signal noise becomes significant in respect of the DAC SNR.



Paul,

Would you then say we could record (in a good quality DAW with good converters) at, say, 12 dB below "red light?"  Would there be any other trade off penalty (something like "using all the bits" which some people talk about)?

If this level is ok, then most people are digitally recording about 12 dB "too hot" most of the time (assuming a proper, non-sample based meter).  This lower level would certainly negate many of the digital/plugin overload problem!


Yes in essence this is the point. But it isn't a good idea to lose too much gain in the input stages of the recording ADC since you will lose SNR. It is perfectly permissable to record in the first instance at relative high levels (peaking around -3dBFS) because an illegal signal should not come out of an AD converter (as we have said here).

The place where you need to make the gain loss to get headroom and avoid unreported overs is in the DIGITAL domain - right at the start of your mixing channel. In this way you preserve the converter's SNR during recording and optimise SNR and headroom for the whole system - making maximum use of the 144dB SNR the digital domain offers. The only provisor is that you will need to run good quality plugs that are not noisy and function correctly at lower reference levels.




You don't have to squeeze every bit out of 24 bit, you have plenty of footroom. You'll never get -144db until you are fully into the digital realm and that will only be on digital black or dead air in between track sections where no noise floor of the tracking gear is present, because the best ADC's are now only getting -120dB. Not all music genres allow peaks set at -3dB, especially orchestra, because it doesn't matter if the conductor plays the loudest passage at soundcheck, the performance when the audience is there almost always comes out louder when the performers are in the heat and excitement of the live concert. It's by far better to make up gain in the digital realm, than having even one over at the ADC. If there isn't a repeatable passage to copy and paste from, it can render a whole performance unusable. Let's say you set peak at -12dB instead of -3dB and unexpected transients give you an actual peak level of -5dB. That would be +4dB into digital distortion if we set -3dB peak. Ok, you raise level by +5dB to make up the gain once in the digital realm. Your ADC is now giving -115dB instead of -120dB. No one is going to hear the difference between the same type ADC inputting at -120dB and inputting at -115dB, because the noise floor of the amplifier going to monitors is going to be around -105dB or often lower, well above the converters self noise when set to -12dB peak.

Record the same piece at -3dB via some good ADC's and mirror simultaneously to other tracks at -12dB, going 24 bit. Raise gain on the -12dB example by +9dB to match the -3dB peak tracks, once you are playing back in the digital realm and run a seemless A/B, between the two examples, I guarantee you that you will not hear a difference if you are using good quality mics and ADC's.

Two weeks ago I mixed 7 songs that a rock band self-recorded at one of their shows and were trying to salvage. The mic pre pads were all on and most of the gains were set from a studio session using large condensers. At the live show they were using all dynamics with much lower sensitivity, except for the overheads. They didn't have time to set the input gains going to the 24 bit recorder as they were 20 minutes past showtime when they started, due to not getting their monitors working. The 3 vocalists tracks were the only ones that were recorded with any gain. Snare peaked at -48dB, kick at -51dB, toms and over heads were between -45 and -52dB and the guitars were around -38dB, peak not RMS. Bass wasn't recorded for some reason. I raised gain on all tracks to -3dB expecting to find that I was going to have to do a lot of noise profiling if I were going to get anything out of these tracks, BUT, the only tracks that were unacceptably noisy were the guitar tracks which had the highest level of the other instruments excluding the vocal tracks. Only tracks that I felt that I needed to denoise were the guitar tracks, which I did. I pulled the bass guitar out of the bassist vocal mic on the tunes that he didn't sing on and pulled it out of the floor drum track on the  two songs that he sang on by copying those two tracks to new tracks and eq'ing just for the bass and filtering out all other freq's. The band said that it was not only acceptable, but said that they probably couldn't have done better if all of the input levels were set properly. If someone would have told me this 3 weeks ago, I would have thought they were nuts, but having to work with extremely low input digital levels such as this myself, I can only say that there is even more footroom at 24 bit than I thought.

BTW, vocal mics were Beta 58's, drum mics were Audix, overheads were Octava's and the guitar went stereo direct to mixer, than to recorder, so no real high end stuff here, but it worked out to my surprise.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on May 23, 2005, 11:18:24 pm
Ronny wrote on Mon, 23 May 2005 20:22

... Snare peaked at -48dB, kick at -51dB, toms and over heads were between -45 and -52dB and the guitars were around -38dB, peak not RMS...
...I can only say that there is even more footroom at 24 bit than I thought.

The very same kind of an experience was my wake-up call. An incredible songwriter I know bought a digi 001 system without knowing anything about how it works. He showed up a few weeks later with mixes he could only figure out how to get up to -15. His "studio" consisted of the 001, a U-87, a 414, a 421 and a 57. After turning the volume up, the sound of his ITB mixed files had more balls than everything I'd heard come off an SSL or Neve in a couple years.

Had he "known what he was doing," it'd of probably sounded much much worse!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 24, 2005, 06:07:52 am
This will be going slightly off topic, but...so what...

Ronny's post above started reminding me of a noise reduction scheme developed at 3M to rival Dolby in the early 70's.  It was pioneered by Tom Mullen there.  I corresponded with him at length regarding this back then.

His idea was to mix onto a 4 track 1/2" machine, of which two of the tracks were recorded at elevated, "hot" levels.  The other two tracks were recorded at ten dB lower levels.  When quieter programme material was occurring, the "hot" level tracks were chosen by sensors (of course reduced in playback level to match).  But when louder passages occurred, the lower level tracks were seamlessly chosen.  Switching was done with quiet relays.  The theory was that tape noise, even though 10 dB louder, was masked by the louder programme levels on the "down 10" tracks, while better s/n ration was being utilised when using the "hot" tracks on quieter material.

It actually worked well, and sounded quite good.  But Ray Dolby already had his foot in the door, and it seemed simpler to most people to just buy one outboard box, and not a whole new tape machine format.

I wonder if any of those machines are still around anywhere...

Terry
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: David Schober on May 24, 2005, 10:29:32 am
Paul,

I want to add my thanks for your contribution to this thread.  This is a real eye opener for me.

A couple of questions:  In regard to your experiment of white noise and filters, I also tried a HP filter at around 30hz and found similar results.  A net increase in level when employed.

The question is, where in the audio spectrum is this happening?  Globally i.e. all frequencies or does it tend to hover at certain ones?

Here's why I ask:
This thread got me to thinking about my own mixes and that lately I've been getting a consistent result of more bottom on my mixes than I expected.  The reason it caught my attention is that I had placed a GML on the master with a slight bump up top and a filter at around 30 Hz.  

So...I tried your experiment with the GML.  I set the white noise at -3 dB.  The first thing that happened is that when I called up the GML was that the level jumped up to -1.4.  When I engaged the HP @ 30hz it moved up another .5 dB to -1.1!  If I hit the bypass button or disabled the plug it went back to -3.  If I left the eq in, (not in bypass) but bypassed the individual eq sections it still didn't make a change, remaining at -1.6.

Any idea why this happens?  Is there something about the GML plug that adds gain, although I haven't noticed it when mixing?   I know the GML isn't your baby and you're no doubt reticent to make negative comments about the GML plug.  If GM is around he could answer this, but I suspect he's still got his head in studio construction.

Any thoughts?
Thanks again for your time.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Luke Fellingham on May 24, 2005, 01:23:21 pm
Paul,
Thankyou for your input into this thread, I have found it very educational. It has raised a couple of quistions for me.
I guess this might be a bit basic but will sample rate conversion show up illegal digital signals in the same way as high and low pass filters? I have recently completed a project which I had to convert from 48k to 44.1k. Before conversion it peaked at -0.3db, afterwards there were (occasional) peaks at 0db. If I were to redo this, is it just a case of backing off the limiter/lowering the level until the peak value of the sample rate converted version is the same as that of the original?
Having read this thread I'm am getting the meassage about leaving a safe amount of headroom especially before conversion back to analogue. However, working as I do in a native DAW with a floating point mixer and mainly floating point plugins, will going above 0db in the signal path matter providing the level is back down again by the time it hits the output? To be specific, I have the Sony Oxford eq plugin for Powercore which uses fixed point maths, when the clip light comes on I can generally hear it and lower the levels accordingly. With the native plugins I cannot hear the sound deteriorate however high the level goes provided it comes back down before output. Have I grasped this correctly or will this way of looking at things potentially make my sound suffer?


Luke Fellingham
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 24, 2005, 02:00:56 pm
David Schober wrote on Tue, 24 May 2005 15:29

Paul,

I want to add my thanks for your contribution to this thread.  This is a real eye opener for me.

A couple of questions:  In regard to your experiment of white noise and filters, I also tried a HP filter at around 30hz and found similar results.  A net increase in level when employed.

The question is, where in the audio spectrum is this happening?  Globally i.e. all frequencies or does it tend to hover at certain ones?

Here's why I ask:
This thread got me to thinking about my own mixes and that lately I've been getting a consistent result of more bottom on my mixes than I expected.  The reason it caught my attention is that I had placed a GML on the master with a slight bump up top and a filter at around 30 Hz.  

So...I tried your experiment with the GML.  I set the white noise at -3 dB.  The first thing that happened is that when I called up the GML was that the level jumped up to -1.4.  When I engaged the HP @ 30hz it moved up another .5 dB to -1.1!  If I hit the bypass button or disabled the plug it went back to -3.  If I left the eq in, (not in bypass) but bypassed the individual eq sections it still didn't make a change, remaining at -1.6.

Any idea why this happens?  Is there something about the GML plug that adds gain, although I haven't noticed it when mixing?   I know the GML isn't your baby and you're no doubt reticent to make negative comments about the GML plug.  If GM is around he could answer this, but I suspect he's still got his head in studio construction.

Any thoughts?
Thanks again for your time.


The freqs it happens at when you EQ will depend in the programme - but basically when you roll-off the bottom end you are partially differentiating the signal, this can make the values much bigger. For instance if you differentiate a square wave the values can get twice as big. Also you are changing the phase of the freq wrt each other so the shape of the waveform is changed. So it's possible for the peak values to get bigger (or even less) depending on the constituents of the signal. With unfiltered noise increasing the turnover freq may make the increase even larger despite you removing more of the range etc..

As for the GML, I am not familiar with it so I can only guess. Some EQs are oversampled internally, this means that they must have a decimation filter at the output. This filter will partially reconstruct the signal and cause illegal signals to get bigger as per the DAC situation. The reconstruction isn't complete as the output rate is the same as the overall data rate - but it will still be visible. SO if the filter is bypassed you get out the values that went in (no change). But if you put the EQ in and bypass the sections individually the decimating filter is actually running - hence the difference. This might indeed cause what you are seeing.

If you are using an EQ that is not internally oversampled it shouldn't happen - unless the response isn't flat when it says it is.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 24, 2005, 02:16:29 pm
Luke Fellingham wrote on Tue, 24 May 2005 18:23

Paul,
Thankyou for your input into this thread, I have found it very educational. It has raised a couple of quistions for me.
I guess this might be a bit basic but will sample rate conversion show up illegal digital signals in the same way as high and low pass filters? I have recently completed a project which I had to convert from 48k to 44.1k. Before conversion it peaked at -0.3db, afterwards there were (occasional) peaks at 0db. If I were to redo this, is it just a case of backing off the limiter/lowering the level until the peak value of the sample rate converted version is the same as that of the original?
Having read this thread I'm am getting the meassage about leaving a safe amount of headroom especially before conversion back to analogue. However, working as I do in a native DAW with a floating point mixer and mainly floating point plugins, will going above 0db in the signal path matter providing the level is back down again by the time it hits the output? To be specific, I have the Sony Oxford eq plugin for Powercore which uses fixed point maths, when the clip light comes on I can generally hear it and lower the levels accordingly. With the native plugins I cannot hear the sound deteriorate however high the level goes provided it comes back down before output. Have I grasped this correctly or will this way of looking at things potentially make my sound suffer?


Luke Fellingham


Sample rate converters upsample to a very high notional rate then downsample again to the output rate. This process is synonymous (philosophically) with getting a DAC running at one rate and feeding it to an ADC running at a different rate. The downsample part is a decimation filter - so it is likely that this would partially reconstruct the illegal signal much like a DAC. You will need to reduce the input levels to the SRC to avoid the overs - because they are now hard clips. BTW this may also happen even if the sample rates are the same - if an SRC is still in the signal path somwhere.


With a complete floating point math system values above notional maximum are not clipped so it is admissible to overdrive signals - they can still be recovered by reducing level down line. This is also true of the Oxford EQ RTAS or LE - no clipping will occur within the plug-in.
However if you use a fixed point math processing expansion system the signals WILL get clipped as they go into and out of the expansion processor - even though the host mixer application is floating point. SO in this case you must avoid the clipping - as it cannot be recovered down line.

You are correct about that Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: David Schober on May 24, 2005, 02:16:53 pm
Thanks for the response Paul.

One other oddity, when running white noise and no eq (or bypassed) the colored bar    level indicator is nice and stable...just as one would expect with any steady tone.

But, engage the GML and watch the level dance.  I don't know why nor can I imagine why the insertion of a high quality eq plug would cause level instability.  I tried several other eqs, Oxford, Filterbank, Waves Ren and normal, plus Focusrite.  All of them would do this dance when the filters were engaged, but only the GML would do it just sitting there, supposedly idle.

Again, I know this isn't your beast, but maybe you or someone else has an idea or GM might pass by.  The question I'd have is this.  If I see the peak meters dancing like this with white noise, am I to conclude that this dancing motion is going on all the time on the channels I'm mixing?

Cheers
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 24, 2005, 02:29:22 pm
But David, isn't one of our goals to make people dance?

sorry, couldn't help it..now back to the debate...
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 24, 2005, 06:58:59 pm
David Schober wrote on Tue, 24 May 2005 19:16

Thanks for the response Paul.

One other oddity, when running white noise and no eq (or bypassed) the colored bar    level indicator is nice and stable...just as one would expect with any steady tone.

But, engage the GML and watch the level dance.  I don't know why nor can I imagine why the insertion of a high quality eq plug would cause level instability.  I tried several other eqs, Oxford, Filterbank, Waves Ren and normal, plus Focusrite.  All of them would do this dance when the filters were engaged, but only the GML would do it just sitting there, supposedly idle.

Again, I know this isn't your beast, but maybe you or someone else has an idea or GM might pass by.  The question I'd have is this.  If I see the peak meters dancing like this with white noise, am I to conclude that this dancing motion is going on all the time on the channels I'm mixing?

Cheers


Ok - to understand this dancing meter issue you have to think about how the noise was generated and all the stuff we have been talking about with reconstruction overs and phase changes - and the way the metering actually works etc..

Firstly the metering isn't synchronous with sample rate and certainly can't update nearly as fast. The way it works is that samples in the signal processor are value accumulated, i.e. each new sample value is compared with the previous one stored in memory and if the new one's bigger it replaces it etc... The meter then goes and looks in this memory location when it's ready (or can) and displays this on the GUI bar. In this way it can show peak values however slowly it gets round to looking (and of course this rate varies with host processor load too).

If you imagine that the noise genny is actually a random number generator that spits out a value every sample that is somewhere between +1(almost) and -1. Its like a 'wall' of numbers that always reaches max within some time frame. If the times the meter gets to read the memory location are far apart enough it always finds a near max value in that location (or whatever level you set the genny to). Therefore it reads the peak values all the time and never varies its reading.

Ok now if we filter the noise we produce all sorts of new stuff in the form of reconstructed values that in the longer term have greater variance than the original samples. For instance when 20KHz filtering the noise at -6dBr the whole range of levels above this at the output of the filter are generated by the action of the filter responding to reconstruction peaks. These occur with greater variety over longer periods than the original random numbers - because they are now history dependant.

In other words - your partial reconstruction has turned what were just random numbers from a simple random number genny into a SIGNAL with much more like the randomness of levels over time that should result from a real noise SIGNAL generator. The dancing around meter is actually a far more accurate representation of the NOISE SIGNAL.

Also if we roll-off the LF, the resulting extra output peaks due to phase shift and differentiation over time, result from the longer term sequence and history of the random numbers, rather than the discrete number values themselves. This also leads the meter to actually see a variance in values over time and therefore the meter 'dances' around.

Ok back to the oversampling EQ. As I said before, if it has an oversampled architecture it must have a reconstruction filter on board which is permanent all the time the EQ is active. Therefore as soon as the EQ is IN it will reconstruct levels due to its output filter - whether the overall response is flat or not. This isn't any form of level or gain instability - nor is it an error Smile

If you've followed that - there is another important aspect worth considering, regarding what you said about levels within your mixer.

If you were to put a limiter after an EQ in the signal chain the sample values developed by an oversampled EQ going into the limiter will be different (perhaps higher) than those that would result if you used a non-oversampled EQ.
So for instance in the case of this noise signal at -6dBr, if you set your EQ up for something pretty mild (like a little 1dB dip at 1KHz) then fed it to a limiter (or compressor set to 10:1) with a threshold set to -6dBr, a non-oversampled EQ would produce very little if any compression at all (since few sample values got greater than -6dBr). However if you swapped the EQ for an oversampled version the compressor would see peaks that were up to 4-6dB higher and reduce the level to -6dBr again - by compressing it up to 6dB!!

Ok if you are still with me there's even a further issue here. The two examples above both produce final peak sample values at -6dBr from the limiter, but they will sound completely different!! The signal that has come from the limiter after the oversampled EQ will sound considerably quieter than when a non-oversampled EQ is used - because the peak to average value ratio has changed.

Try it - you'll be amazed Smile

There's a great deal more to making a good artistic mixing system than simply adding up numbers and/or running ever-higher sample rates or data widths. Are people beginning to see why the 'summing buss' and 'resolution' arguments are totally simplistic yet?
And why I consider that the universal application of the 'more is always better principle' is little more than a misguided religion, bourne from a surface deep but highly effective modern commercial mantra, designed to be so compelling to our lowest form of self interest - that it has poisoned our collective intellects like a virus and pervaded all aspects of society.

And maybe that's why the sound of our music is failing to make us 'dance' anymore Sad
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: David Schober on May 25, 2005, 08:16:44 am
Paul thanks so much!  What a great response!

This is the kind of stuff is what can make a forum so worthwhile.  Thanks for taking the time out of your day to help us out.  I've been at this a long time and this subject is somthing I'd never heard before.  I would see it's effects, but didn't know what was going on.  For instance, when I'd engage the Oxford eq with filters and engage a HP filter, the overload light would sometimes appear.  I had no idea why then, but now I understand what's going on.  

So from what you said, is it reasonable to generalize that an eq which makes the meters dance would be an oversampling EQ?  Thereby concluding the GML EQ is an oversampling EQ and the others, including the Oxford are not?  

While I normally apply dynamic processing pre EQ, you made the point very well that if it were the other way around, I'd better check what's going on with the dynamics as it's possible an extra 2-4 dB is being added.  

The explanation of the way meters work was great.  It also explains when the system is working, but bogged down trying to do a few things at once, I see the meters acting slow and jerky.  

I'm sure you're a very busy guy.  Thanks so much for so much of your time to give such complete responses.  I'd love to see the a book put together from the great info  we get here.  A book with Bob's views and philosophy and Nika and Paul's technical comments would be an awesome read and reference.  Actually, Paul  you can get pretty philosophical yourself!  As always, it's great to hear what you have to say.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: ted nightshade on May 25, 2005, 09:03:27 am
Wow.

All I can say.

Thanks Paul!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on May 25, 2005, 03:31:40 pm
David Schober wrote on Wed, 25 May 2005 13:16

Paul thanks so much!  What a great response!

This is the kind of stuff is what can make a forum so worthwhile.  Thanks for taking the time out of your day to help us out.  I've been at this a long time and this subject is somthing I'd never heard before.  I would see it's effects, but didn't know what was going on.  For instance, when I'd engage the Oxford eq with filters and engage a HP filter, the overload light would sometimes appear.  I had no idea why then, but now I understand what's going on.  

So from what you said, is it reasonable to generalize that an eq which makes the meters dance would be an oversampling EQ?  Thereby concluding the GML EQ is an oversampling EQ and the others, including the Oxford are not?  




Yes this is a reasonable assumption in this case. The symptom of the oversampled one is that it behaves this way with this kind of noise signal, even if set to a flat response. But it should be remembered that it is absolutely NOT an error.

Whilst I did make the Oxford GML emulations for the R3 and the Oxford plug-in, I wasn't involved with George's MDW plug-in, which I understand is a completely new design from ground up. So I really hope I am not speaking out of turn here Smile

The Oxford plug-in isn't oversampled, the decramped HF response is achieved by coefficient generation techniques. With the EQ active but set to flat the output samples will be pretty much the same values as the input - apart from some low level variance due to the addition of dither etc..

Most interestingly, what you have here is a real possibility of EQs sounding different under the specific condition of there being significant reconstruction overs in your programme (particularly clipped programme) - and being followed by compression. And this would be the case even if their measured responses were identical!

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RKrizman on May 31, 2005, 05:35:17 pm
Incredible reading.  Thanks, Paul, for your generosity.  As a workaday PT guy I have some questions.  In light of all this, what's the best specific methodology to follow.?  It seems that if a (typically prefader) eq plug is creating illegal overs then pulling down a fader after the eq is too late, right?  Does the material really need to be recorded in at a lower level to begin with?  Or do you need to insert a trim before the eq's?  

Thanks,
Rick
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on June 01, 2005, 06:56:13 pm
RKrizman wrote on Tue, 31 May 2005 22:35

Incredible reading.  Thanks, Paul, for your generosity.  As a workaday PT guy I have some questions.  In light of all this, what's the best specific methodology to follow.?  It seems that if a (typically prefader) eq plug is creating illegal overs then pulling down a fader after the eq is too late, right?  Does the material really need to be recorded in at a lower level to begin with?  Or do you need to insert a trim before the eq's?  

Thanks,
Rick


Thanks for the encouraging words - I am just really glad that I may have managed to help people a bit Smile

The overload thing - if the illegal overs have not caused numerical saturation (i.e. no red lights on normal meters) then moving the fader down WILL recover it correctly - providing you wind the gain down before hitting another plug like an EQ.

To explain this, my example of the 12KHz sine wave could be increased up to 3dBs and brought back down again without damage - even thought this would have caused errors had it been reconstructed. On the other hand if I raise the level a dB or so and feed an EQ, then the output of the EQ may well actually limit (because of partial reconstruction). Then the errors cannot be recovered (unless the whole thing is running float - i.e. RTAS or LE etc).

So for instance if you had a mix that HAD loads of reconstruction overs in it - but it didn't actually clip the red lights on your PT meters, a mastering engineer could recover the damage at the CD mastering stages. But of course you wouldn't have heard the true sound of this yourself since your DACs were probably overloading during mix auditioning etc..

Similarly you can deliberately clip programme as much as you like to produce artistic effects (we all do it) and provided you output it at lower levels it will not produce reconstruction limiting - it will only produce aliassing products etc.

BTW this is why the OXF-R3 has it's monitor level processing in the digital domain - despite the unbelievable protests we had from people claiming this must 'lose resolution' and apparently therefore could never work - until of course they heard it!! But to make this work we had to have extremely good converters that had exemplary low level performance Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bill Cuomo on June 02, 2005, 08:05:04 am
Oh boy am I confused!! Reading this post has really made me re-think! I have been recording/tracking on a RADAR/Trident 80B and mixing to 1/2" with great results. I was happy. But, people want total recall!! So, recently I picked up a dual G5 and transferred a project to DP 4.52 via a Hammerfall HDSP 9652. I mixed totally in the Mac and came D/A out through an 828 (only D/A available at the time) to 8 faders on the console, everything down to 8 tracks. Not really pretty, but the client loved it. Have not been able to get Radar II converters to clock correctly (have TDIF card and UFC 24, but no TDIF menu settings available in Digital I/O mode on RADAR) so I think I'll need to approach this another way. Radar converters are great but my RADAR II is an older model and won't accept a network card so I'm told. Now considering just 2 channels of great A/D and D/A converters (Apogee 200??) and summing inside the "box" as opposed to more good but maybe not great D/A converters, like RME Fireface or Metric Halo's Mobile I/O going back to the console. What to do, what to do. I'd like the option to still go to tape but until I settle this converter/summing matter I'm in a quandary. Many people here in Nashville tell me "once in digital" stay there, other than the 2 track of course!! Any suggestions? Thanks in advance, Bill.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RKrizman on June 02, 2005, 12:18:30 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Wed, 01 June 2005 18:56

The overload thing - if the illegal overs have not caused numerical saturation (i.e. no red lights on normal meters) then moving the fader down WILL recover it correctly - providing you wind the gain down before hitting another plug like an EQ.



So then in Protools, for instance, where the plugins are prefader normally, it would be wise to put a trim as your first plug and wind it down before hitting the eq's if the recorded signal is particularly hot.  Right?

I guess I'm trying to translate the theory into specific methodology.  "In light of Paul Frindle's analysis, here's what you should do to make sure your mixes ITB have depth and beauty...."

As an aside, I've done several tests comparing ITB summing with various analog summing options and have always been surprised to find how little difference there is, versus other people's claims of huge differences (people whose ears I respect).  I habitually take advantage of the 24 bit depth of PT and just happen to record things at a very low level into PT as a rule, so it was interesting to read your explanation for all this.

-R
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on June 02, 2005, 06:50:18 pm
[quote title=RKrizman wrote on Thu, 02 June 2005 17:18]
Paul Frindle wrote on Wed, 01 June 2005 18:56

The overload thing - if the illegal overs have not caused numerical saturation (i.e. no red lights on normal meters) then moving the fader down WILL recover it correctly - providing you wind the gain down before hitting another plug like an EQ.



Quote:


So then in Protools, for instance, where the plugins are prefader normally, it would be wise to put a trim as your first plug and wind it down before hitting the eq's if the recorded signal is particularly hot.  Right?



Absolutely - for all tracks and plugs, not just EQ. Doing this will give you far greater artistic facility as well since you won't waste nearly so much time watching for overs. You can crank it and just listen, like the luxury we used to have in analogue Smile

Quote:


I guess I'm trying to translate the theory into specific methodology.  "In light of Paul Frindle's analysis, here's what you should do to make sure your mixes ITB have depth and beauty...."



No one would suggest that this is 100% the whole issue that ensures depth and beauty, but it will certainly go a long way in making things better, both technically and artistically.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Sam Lord on June 04, 2005, 04:22:56 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Wed, 01 June 2005 18:56



...Thanks for the encouraging words - I am just really glad that I may have managed to help people a bit Smile


Echoing Ted and others, I thank you, Paul, and other friends here for making this an outstanding discussion.  It has helped me, a recording newcomer, more than I can describe.  Regards, Sam Very Happy  
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: plughead on June 05, 2005, 08:59:18 am
Ditto to Paul F - thanks so much for all your insight - a pleasure to read, and wonderful for you to bring out all these great gems - helps everyone along the way to better sound!

regards,
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: smpte24 on June 10, 2005, 01:19:04 pm
Thank you so much Mr. Frindle.   I have been reading and reading and I have to step out now in my first post ever and say something to express my gratitude to you Sir.  You have certainly been a blessing to me by being so unselfish with your knowledge.  Thank you so much.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Jack Schitt on August 09, 2005, 06:01:35 pm
Allow me to restate what I think I have read here. Input levels while recording should be in the -15 to -10 range ballpark on peaks. Ideally, similar levels per track (plus or minus as needed of course) on playback with any needed make up gain on the output bus peaking in the -7 to -5 range to leave room for the mastering process. I'm thinking even those levels may be a little hot if I am comprehending things correctly

I guess I am still a little confused on where the problem actually is occurring, at the A/D conversion coming in or in the summing process in the DAW?

Denny W.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 10, 2005, 02:39:28 am
TheArchitect wrote on Tue, 09 August 2005 18:01

Allow me to restate what I think I have read here. Input levels while recording should be in the -15 to -10 range ballpark on peaks. Ideally, similar levels per track (plus or minus as needed of course) on playback with any needed make up gain on the output bus peaking in the -7 to -5 range to leave room for the mastering process. I'm thinking even those levels may be a little hot if I am comprehending things correctly

I guess I am still a little confused on where the problem actually is occurring, at the A/D conversion coming in or in the summing process in the DAW?




Not too hot for me. As long as the peak gain isn't above -0dBFs it doesn't matter how high the peak level is, because I'm going to attenuate the input of any processor that will boost gain at output, OTOH when you record peaks at -15dB, mix at -7dB and your material gets mastered, the  noise floor of your mics, mic pres and mixing console, is going to be raised by at least -15dB when the ME sets final perceived gain. This may be inaudible on some tracks and not so inaudible on others, for example if you raise the inherent noise of a U87 which is -82dB (cardioid pattern) by 15dB on a vocal track, your final floor will be -67dB, while that's not bad and around the floor of good annie tape, if you record a single coil pickup guitar with a high noise floor amp, typical guitar amp buzz or a guitar DI box or fx processor that is outputting -40 to -30dB of noise due to the cheapo DAC's and the gain gets raised in mastering by +15dB to make up gain, it's going to be quite audible and introduce more noise in your final songs than if you would track close to peak, but without going over. I only track live concert orchestra at -12dB, but for studio work where it's not a get it in one take or else scenario, there isn't any reason to record peak at -15dB, that's too much headroom for some instruments and will raise the noise in your tracks. You don't have to squeeze every bit on the 24 bit A/D conversion that many people used to advise with 16 bit, but the lower your peak gain is at the ADC, the higher the noise floor of the mics and instruments will be raised on the final master.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Mark du Plessis on August 10, 2005, 11:14:17 am
Sorry all if I say something that's already been said, but I joined this one late.

I used to think Digital was a swear word (unless used to describe the area BK inhabits, which is cool, of course!). I have had a fair number of decent analogue consoles in my short studio-owning career. A Calrec broadcast console, an Amek Rembrandt and an MTA 980 with Uptown. All into PT or Nuendo thru Apogee. All nice and warm, etc... Then thru a bad accident at the studio I was kinda "forced" by the insurance to get a digital (aaaggghhh) console. A nasty Neve Capricorn.

By George (the king, not the engineer/producer) was I surprised. What a difference good digital makes. My mixes have a depth and clarity I had not achieved before. They had a back-to-front-ness which ,even with the Amek (which I loved), I struggled to achieve. I can (and I swear this to be true)even hear dirt on PT plugs. Add to that the ability to recall a complete mix, and you're smiling. I agree with BK in this - digital done well rocks!! I have done all sorts of mixes on it, Rock, metal, Hip-Hop and RnB, dirty, filthy, 60's sounding squished stuff and it has just made my choices easier. The EQ may not be as sweet as the Amek or crunch as much as the MTA, but, hey I can just load another plug into PT, knowing that the Cap won't be doing any major colouring.

Cool!

Mark
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Jim Williams on August 10, 2005, 11:27:41 am

Absolutely - for all tracks and plugs, not just EQ. Doing this will give you far greater artistic facility as well since you won't waste nearly so much time watching for overs. You can crank it and just listen, like the luxury we used to have in analogue Smile

A luxury I refuse to part with. Analog console, real hardware outboard, real, no plug in digital and acoustic plate reverbs.

Everything else is like a plastic blow up woman doll.

They wrote a song about it years ago;

"There Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing, Baby".

Still waiting for the follow up hit;

"There's Nothing Like the Pro Tools Plug In Simulation Thing, Baby".

One Reporter's Opinion.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 10, 2005, 12:51:09 pm
Mark du Plessis wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 11:14

Sorry all if I say something that's already been said, but I joined this one late.

I used to think Digital was a swear word (unless used to describe the area BK inhabits, which is cool, of course!). I have had a fair number of decent analogue consoles in my short studio-owning career. A Calrec broadcast console, an Amek Rembrandt and an MTA 980 with Uptown. All into PT or Nuendo thru Apogee. All nice and warm, etc... Then thru a bad accident at the studio I was kinda "forced" by the insurance to get a digital (aaaggghhh) console. A nasty Neve Capricorn.

By George (the king, not the engineer/producer) was I surprised. What a difference good digital makes. My mixes have a depth and clarity I had not achieved before. They had a back-to-front-ness which ,even with the Amek (which I loved), I struggled to achieve. I can (and I swear this to be true)even hear dirt on PT plugs. Add to that the ability to recall a complete mix, and you're smiling. I agree with BK in this - digital done well rocks!! I have done all sorts of mixes on it, Rock, metal, Hip-Hop and RnB, dirty, filthy, 60's sounding squished stuff and it has just made my choices easier. The EQ may not be as sweet as the Amek or crunch as much as the MTA, but, hey I can just load another plug into PT, knowing that the Cap won't be doing any major colouring.

Cool!

Mark



I couldn't agree more. I bought my first digi console in the mid 90's and noticed a sonic improvement. Plus the eq's, dyn's, gates and fx aren't plug-ins they are built in processors. No latency and every processor can be run simultaneously without overtaxing the CPU, like a PC or Mac based system. The dedicated to audio only, 32 float mix bus keeps noise floor very low on the processors and eliminates the need for running outboard processors on many projects. Signal stays in the digital realm from the time it's recorded on HD-R's, until the time the cd plays on those sessions. Digi consoles are in a different ballpark than mixing ITB, they don't crash and they don't balk with mucho processing going on. The deal with digital is that you can't mix it like you do annie, it takes a different approach and I have no problem getting warmth and all of the  adjectives that people say analog is and digital isn't. I still have my big annie board, but other than using it for headphone mixes or when a client on occasion requests using it, it mainly collects dust these days.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on August 10, 2005, 04:33:50 pm
Ronny wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 10:51

Plus the eq's, dyn's, gates and fx aren't plug-ins they are built in processors. No latency...


Some plug-ins don't sound very good.  Some plug-ins sound amazing.  A digital console running a DSP process is nothing more than software interfacing with hardware to create the desired process, (sounds a lot like a plug-in).  There is latency involved in all DSP processes, however, dedicated DSP processors such as those included in stand alone digital consoles and Pro Tools TDM systems can have lower latency than native powered DAWs. There seems to be a theory out there that DSP processes in a dedicated console are inherently better sounding than all plug-ins.  This isn't entirely true.  If you have excellent code interfacing with the right DSP you can get excellent results.  As an example, the folks at Sony Oxford have brought the same processes included in the stand alone Oxford digital console to a plug-in format.  If you ask them they will tell you that the plug-ins are the same processes as the original processes found on the Oxford console.  They are not watered down versions with lesser fidelity.  They are the same.  George Massenburg makes an EQ plug-in that he has said he likes better than his analog original.  There are many more great plug-ins out there.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on August 10, 2005, 05:13:31 pm
Ronny wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 00:39

Not too hot for me. As long as the peak gain isn't above -0dBFs it doesn't matter how high the peak level is, because I'm going to attenuate the input of any processor that will boost gain at output, OTOH when you record peaks at -15dB, mix at -7dB and your material gets mastered, the  noise floor of your mics, mic pres and mixing console, is going to be raised by at least -15dB when the ME sets final perceived gain. This may be inaudible on some tracks and not so inaudible on others, for example if you raise the inherent noise of a U87 which is -82dB (cardioid pattern) by 15dB on a vocal track, your final floor will be -67dB, while that's not bad and around the floor of good annie tape, if you record a single coil pickup guitar with a high noise floor amp, typical guitar amp buzz or a guitar DI box or fx processor that is outputting -40 to -30dB of noise due to the cheapo DAC's and the gain gets raised in mastering by +15dB to make up gain, it's going to be quite audible and introduce more noise in your final songs than if you would track close to peak, but without going over. I only track live concert orchestra at -12dB, but for studio work where it's not a get it in one take or else scenario, there isn't any reason to record peak at -15dB, that's too much headroom for some instruments and will raise the noise in your tracks. You don't have to squeeze every bit on the 24 bit A/D conversion that many people used to advise with 16 bit, but the lower your peak gain is at the ADC, the higher the noise floor of the mics and instruments will be raised on the final master.


OK, but whether you increase the gain before the AD process or after, the noise floor of the mics and instruments will still be the same.  The example of the inherent noise of a U87 being -82 db is correct, but this rating was given at a specific reference level.  When you plug your U87 into the mic pre the -82 db noise floor is no longer a solid unchangeable number.  It will vary in direct proportion to the adjustments of the mic pre that go above and below the original reference level given by Neumann.  If you are hitting your AD converters hotter, that just means you have increased the analog gain of your system on the way into the converter which in turn has increased the analog noise floor of your mics and instruments.  If someone else hits their AD converter at a lower level then that means the analog gain of their system is lower than yours and when the mastering engineer brings up the level in the end, the mic and instrument noise floor will be brought up as well, but no louder than they would have originally been if they would have turned up the gain on the way into the converter.  The constant self noise of the mic pre/console and the analog components of the AD converter are another story, but hopefully the specs on these would make printing at slightly lower levels negligible.  (about -118 to -120 db on most good converters.)
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 10, 2005, 05:21:16 pm
blairl wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 16:33

Ronny wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 10:51

Plus the eq's, dyn's, gates and fx aren't plug-ins they are built in processors. No latency...


Some plug-ins don't sound very good.  Some plug-ins sound amazing.  A digital console running a DSP process is nothing more than software interfacing with hardware to create the desired process, (sounds a lot like a plug-in).  There is latency involved in all DSP processes, however, dedicated DSP processors such as those included in stand alone digital consoles and Pro Tools TDM systems can have lower latency than native powered DAWs. There seems to be a theory out there that DSP processes in a dedicated console are inherently better sounding than all plug-ins.  This isn't entirely true.  If you have excellent code interfacing with the right DSP you can get excellent results.  As an example, the folks at Sony Oxford have brought the same processes included in the stand alone Oxford digital console to a plug-in format.  If you ask them they will tell you that the plug-ins are the same processes as the original processes found on the Oxford console.  They are not watered down versions with lesser fidelity.  They are the same.  George Massenburg makes an EQ plug-in that he has said he likes better than his analog original.  There are many more great plug-ins out there.




I'm not knocking plug-ins, but they are 3rd party items, they don't always work well with all DAW programs, whereas the digi console is designed from the ground up, processors included to incorporate with the design. Also, there is always some latency, even with an analog processor, but when I speak of latency with digi console processors, I'm speaking so low as to be inaudible, quite the contrary with many plug-ins on a DAW platform. You also have Waves processors on slot cards, so you have some of the DAW plug-in options as well. You have cheapo digital consoles that don't have as good sounding processors as some high end plug-ins, so it's not one is better sounding than the other, both platforms have varying degrees of sonic integrity, typically but not always, associated with price. The major benefit is no overpowering the CPU and having hardware faders like an annie console instead of mixing with a mouse. World of difference. Couple a dedicated to audio only digi console, with a dedicated to audio only HD-R and you have the most reliable digital recording system available, much more reliable than recording on a PC or Mac system that isn't audio dedicated and has instances of other programs always running in the background.  
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Jack Schitt on August 10, 2005, 05:26:06 pm
Ronny wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 17:21

blairl wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 16:33

Ronny wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 10:51

Plus the eq's, dyn's, gates and fx aren't plug-ins they are built in processors. No latency...


Some plug-ins don't sound very good.  Some plug-ins sound amazing.  A digital console running a DSP process is nothing more than software interfacing with hardware to create the desired process, (sounds a lot like a plug-in).  There is latency involved in all DSP processes, however, dedicated DSP processors such as those included in stand alone digital consoles and Pro Tools TDM systems can have lower latency than native powered DAWs. There seems to be a theory out there that DSP processes in a dedicated console are inherently better sounding than all plug-ins.  This isn't entirely true.  If you have excellent code interfacing with the right DSP you can get excellent results.  As an example, the folks at Sony Oxford have brought the same processes included in the stand alone Oxford digital console to a plug-in format.  If you ask them they will tell you that the plug-ins are the same processes as the original processes found on the Oxford console.  They are not watered down versions with lesser fidelity.  They are the same.  George Massenburg makes an EQ plug-in that he has said he likes better than his analog original.  There are many more great plug-ins out there.




I'm not knocking plug-ins, but they are 3rd party items, they don't always work well with all DAW programs, whereas the digi console is designed from the ground up, processors included to incorporate with the design. Also, there is always some latency, even with an analog processor, but when I speak of latency with digi console processors, I'm speaking so low as to be inaudible, quite the contrary with many plug-ins on a DAW platform. You also have Waves processors on slot cards, so you have some of the DAW plug-in options as well. You have cheapo digital consoles that don't have as good sounding processors as some high end plug-ins, so it's not one is better sounding than the other, both platforms have varying degrees of sonic integrity, typically but not always, associated with price. The major benefit is no overpowering the CPU and having hardware faders like an annie console instead of mixing with a mouse. World of difference. Couple a dedicated to audio only digi console, with a dedicated to audio only HD-R and you have the most reliable digital recording system available, much more reliable than recording on a PC or Mac system that isn't audio dedicated and has instances of other programs always running in the background.  




As for latency and processing power those are concerns but they are generally not without workarounds. Most major DAW's fully compensate for plugin latency. They also have freeze and other options for dealing with processing power limitation. Not as elagant as we might hope for but they are viable solutions to those kinds of issues.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on August 10, 2005, 05:33:33 pm
Ronny wrote on Tue, 09 August 2005 23:39

TheArchitect wrote on Tue, 09 August 2005 18:01

Allow me to restate what I think I have read here. Input levels while recording should be in the -15 to -10 range ballpark on peaks. Ideally, similar levels per track (plus or minus as needed of course) on playback with any needed make up gain on the output bus peaking in the -7 to -5 range to leave room for the mastering process. I'm thinking even those levels may be a little hot if I am comprehending things correctly

I guess I am still a little confused on where the problem actually is occurring, at the A/D conversion coming in or in the summing process in the DAW?




Not too hot for me. As long as the peak gain isn't above -0dBFs it doesn't matter how high the peak level is, because I'm going to attenuate the input of any processor that will boost gain at output, OTOH when you record peaks at -15dB, mix at -7dB and your material gets mastered, the  noise floor of your mics, mic pres and mixing console, is going to be raised by at least -15dB when the ME sets final perceived gain. This may be inaudible on some tracks and not so inaudible on others, for example if you raise the inherent noise of a U87 which is -82dB (cardioid pattern) by 15dB on a vocal track, your final floor will be -67dB, while that's not bad and around the floor of good annie tape, if you record a single coil pickup guitar with a high noise floor amp, typical guitar amp buzz or a guitar DI box or fx processor that is outputting -40 to -30dB of noise due to the cheapo DAC's and the gain gets raised in mastering by +15dB to make up gain, it's going to be quite audible and introduce more noise in your final songs than if you would track close to peak, but without going over. I only track live concert orchestra at -12dB, but for studio work where it's not a get it in one take or else scenario, there isn't any reason to record peak at -15dB, that's too much headroom for some instruments and will raise the noise in your tracks. You don't have to squeeze every bit on the 24 bit A/D conversion that many people used to advise with 16 bit, but the lower your peak gain is at the ADC, the higher the noise floor of the mics and instruments will be raised on the final master.



Ronny,  

I think you have a lot of bad information concerning how the noise floor works in your post.  What possible difference does it make if you increase the gain of an 87 or a single coil guitar before the converters of after?  The noise floor would stay at the same level in relation to the balance in the mix either way.  As long as you have enough bit depth to capture the full signal down to the noise floor, nothing will improve from printing hot.

Steve




Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Jack Schitt on August 10, 2005, 06:09:07 pm

What I was trying to get at and still am unclear on regarding levels was the artifacts some have discussed being introduced when running levels hot. What are these and is it the results of hitting the converters with a hot signal or is it the result of running the faders up in a mix situation resulting in peaks near 0db? Perhaps the same conept on the output bus?

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 10, 2005, 10:09:28 pm
Extreme Mixing wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 17:33

Ronny wrote on Tue, 09 August 2005 23:39

TheArchitect wrote on Tue, 09 August 2005 18:01

Allow me to restate what I think I have read here. Input levels while recording should be in the -15 to -10 range ballpark on peaks. Ideally, similar levels per track (plus or minus as needed of course) on playback with any needed make up gain on the output bus peaking in the -7 to -5 range to leave room for the mastering process. I'm thinking even those levels may be a little hot if I am comprehending things correctly

I guess I am still a little confused on where the problem actually is occurring, at the A/D conversion coming in or in the summing process in the DAW?




Not too hot for me. As long as the peak gain isn't above -0dBFs it doesn't matter how high the peak level is, because I'm going to attenuate the input of any processor that will boost gain at output, OTOH when you record peaks at -15dB, mix at -7dB and your material gets mastered, the  noise floor of your mics, mic pres and mixing console, is going to be raised by at least -15dB when the ME sets final perceived gain. This may be inaudible on some tracks and not so inaudible on others, for example if you raise the inherent noise of a U87 which is -82dB (cardioid pattern) by 15dB on a vocal track, your final floor will be -67dB, while that's not bad and around the floor of good annie tape, if you record a single coil pickup guitar with a high noise floor amp, typical guitar amp buzz or a guitar DI box or fx processor that is outputting -40 to -30dB of noise due to the cheapo DAC's and the gain gets raised in mastering by +15dB to make up gain, it's going to be quite audible and introduce more noise in your final songs than if you would track close to peak, but without going over. I only track live concert orchestra at -12dB, but for studio work where it's not a get it in one take or else scenario, there isn't any reason to record peak at -15dB, that's too much headroom for some instruments and will raise the noise in your tracks. You don't have to squeeze every bit on the 24 bit A/D conversion that many people used to advise with 16 bit, but the lower your peak gain is at the ADC, the higher the noise floor of the mics and instruments will be raised on the final master.



Ronny,  

I think you have a lot of bad information concerning how the noise floor works in your post.  What possible difference does it make if you increase the gain of an 87 or a single coil guitar before the converters of after?  The noise floor would stay at the same level in relation to the balance in the mix either way.  As long as you have enough bit depth to capture the full signal down to the noise floor, nothing will improve from printing hot.

Steve








Don't confuse me with some of the digi propeller heads that say you must max the bits at the ADC otherwise you degrade the signal in the digital domain, that's not true peaking at -15dB, my concern of tracking too low at the ADC is entirely analog related. You'll always have enough bit depth to capture down to the noise floor as it's at the LSB. Lets talk noise, record just the hum from a guitar amp, no audio but the noise is there just same when the audio is playing, record it at -15dB peak at the converter, when you turn that track up on mix down or in mastering to just under -0dBFS, you are turning up the noise by +15dB. Now let's record the guitar with it at -15dB peak at the ADC, raise gain by +7dB as was mentioned earlier on mix down, the guitar noise is raised by +7dB, we are now at -8dB peak, the mastering engineer will than raise the -8dB up to -.3dB, but not only that he's going to limit for perceived market levels, the noise floor of the guitar is now going to be raised even more as the RMS level of the material will also be raised, sometimes +8dB more than the original +15dB gain increase on the level of the original guitar hum. Ok, that's on the digital side after the AD conversion and yes as you say, we are raising the keeper material up the same amount of dB's, BUT only until we get to the mastering where setting perceived level keeps the guitar transients low and raises the guitar hum up with the low level notes. There are two sides to this story, the analog and the digital. The analog mic pre or guitar amp in this case, as all analog devices do, operate at an optimal range, so now we we set the recommended input and output on it, noise floor is lowest on that device as we don't have to crank it because the ADC is peaking low and we send that optimal signal to the converter with peaks at -1dB, we don't have to turn up gain, because it's already there, the noise floor doesn't go up. We aren't dealing with noise of the converter which is way lower than the guitar amp or especially digi guitar processors as I mentioned, the noise is in the analog domain, so when you capture at a low digital level, you are going to have to raise gain or you won't have enough level to compete with standard market levels, without bringing the hum up. The key is to optimize every gain structure, but especially on the analog side and anytime you have to raise gain on keeper material rather than lower it, you are raising the noise floor along with it. I don't call a signal too hot in the digital domain when it's below -0dBFs, we are mainly concerned without going over at the ADC.  
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on August 11, 2005, 11:43:25 am
Ronny wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 20:09

The analog mic pre or guitar amp in this case, as all analog devices do, operate at an optimal range, so now we we set the recommended input and output on it, noise floor is lowest on that device as we don't have to crank it because the ADC is peaking low and we send that optimal signal to the converter with peaks at -1dB, we don't have to turn up gain, because it's already there, the noise floor doesn't go up.


(See message #82389 in this thread.)

OK but how do you get the guitar to peak at -1dbfs?  Self noise measurements of analog equipment have been taken at standard nominal levels.  If in setting your record levels you deviate from these standard measurement settings then the noise floor of analog components like guitar amps and microphones will change as well.  If you have set the amp at it's optimal level and you have set the mic pre at it's optimal level (+4dbu=1.23 Vrms) and you have the AD converter calibrated to match the optimal level of the mic pre, (between -20 and -18 dbfs = 0VU), and the guitar player is playing at an average dynamic level, you will naturally be peaking at around -16 to -14dbfs.  To peak higher than this you have to turn up the volume somewhere.  You would have to raise the gain either at the amp or at the preamp which would change the level at which the self noise measurements were taken and would raise the noise floor of the amp.  Raising the gain above optimal levels pre ADC or post ADC would raise the Vrms level and noise level equally.  There is no difference.  If you were talking about low recording levels being too close to absolute noise floor levels of things such as 16 bit dither or quantization noise then I would understand.  Raising the gain of a 16 bit source with low recording levels would be a concern.  Not because of the noise level of mics or instruments, but because of the absolute noise floor of a 16 bit source.  With 24 bit recording, this is no longer a concern.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on August 11, 2005, 04:05:59 pm
Ronny,

Sounds like you are agreeing with me to a point.  One can easily capture a normal 100 db analog signal within the 144 db range of 24 bit converters.  If you leave 15 db of headroom on top, you still have 29 db on the bottom that are not really being used.  So once you have captured the whole signal down to it's noise floor, trying to turn it up more is a waste of time, because all of the sound is already there.

Under all circumstances, one should record with as low a noise floor as possible, but once you've done that, I don't see what difference it would make whether you record at -7 or -12.  The guitar PART is going to determine where it sits in the mix, and it's noise floor will just be a fact of life.  The noise floor does indeed rise when mastering engineers raise the level 15 db by CUTTING OFF THE TOP ALL OF THOSE TRANSIENTS to get the rms level up.  Recording it hotter would not change the singal to noise ratio of the tracks at all, because that data has been frozen from the moment the recording was made.  I don't think recording hotter would have any impact on the rise in the noise floor after mastering, certainly not the 5 db you are talking about.  It just doesn't work that way.

Steve
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on August 11, 2005, 04:17:02 pm
The main reason to leave headroom while recording tracks is to give yourself some room for creative use of effects during mixing.  If you eq a track that is just below clipping, you go over.  Same with compression.  Who wants to set the compression threshold somewhere between -.5 and -.8 because you recorded so hot?  And who wants to waste time and DSP on trims to get the level down?  Why not just record it that way and be happy?

I'm pretty sure this is what Paul Frindle is talking about above.  I don't think the bits at the top of the scale are any more accurate or musical than the ones that are 8 ro 10 db down.  Leave yourself a little room to express yourself later on.

Steve
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 11, 2005, 04:58:33 pm
blairl wrote on Thu, 11 August 2005 11:43

Ronny wrote on Wed, 10 August 2005 20:09

The analog mic pre or guitar amp in this case, as all analog devices do, operate at an optimal range, so now we we set the recommended input and output on it, noise floor is lowest on that device as we don't have to crank it because the ADC is peaking low and we send that optimal signal to the converter with peaks at -1dB, we don't have to turn up gain, because it's already there, the noise floor doesn't go up.


(See message #82389 in this thread.)

OK but how do you get the guitar to peak at -1dbfs?  Self noise measurements of analog equipment have been taken at standard nominal levels.  If in setting your record levels you deviate from these standard measurement settings then the noise floor of analog components like guitar amps and microphones will change as well.  If you have set the amp at it's optimal level and you have set the mic pre at it's optimal level (+4dbu=1.23 Vrms) and you have the AD converter calibrated to match the optimal level of the mic pre, (between -20 and -18 dbfs = 0VU), and the guitar player is playing at an average dynamic level, you will naturally be peaking at around -16 to -14dbfs.  To peak higher than this you have to turn up the volume somewhere.  You would have to raise the gain either at the amp or at the preamp which would change the level at which the self noise measurements were taken and would raise the noise floor of the amp.  Raising the gain above optimal levels pre ADC or post ADC would raise the Vrms level and noise level equally.  There is no difference.  If you were talking about low recording levels being too close to absolute noise floor levels of things such as 16 bit dither or quantization noise then I would understand.  Raising the gain of a 16 bit source with low recording levels would be a concern.  Not because of the noise level of mics or instruments, but because of the absolute noise floor of a 16 bit source.  With 24 bit recording, this is no longer a concern.



Yes, I agree with you that it's less of a concern with 24 bit, but don't leave out the position of the mic and distance from source. That's what typically determines whether inherent mic noise is going to be a factor. The farther away from source, the louder the track has to be pulled up and therefore raising the mic noise and ambient noise along with it. I think you guys are missing my point. Let me explain a problem that I see often. Engineer tracks to the ADC's low -15dB peak meaning the RMS is going to be typically around -30dB to -35dB, mixes low -7dB peak, meaning RMS is going to be -22 to -27dB. They aren't aware of how loud the guitar hum is at these levels, however when the peaks are lowered and the RMS is raised during mastering to -10db or heavier pancake status sometimes only -6dB on some material these days (RMS is going from -30dB to -6dB, an increase of +24dB), the signal to noise ratio becomes a large factor and to get the audio acceptable, marketable, more processing is required to remove the amp noise. Yes, I agree with you that if your analog side is optimized for lowest noise ratio and you come in at -14dBFs, if you record at that level, when you raise gain the keeper content and the noise will rise respectively and there will be no difference "at this time". However, you may be surprised at how many people don't optimize the analog side, are tuned out to noise on guitar amps and processors because they are used to hearing it all of the time, cut the amps wide open and the ADC's way down. The noise does become more profound with the mastering processess and Steve, that's exactly the way it works. I mentioned that it's more important to get the lowest noise floor going in, if it means running the ADC's at -15dBFs that's fine, but it's not always necessary. If you record a guitar using a DM2000 for front end, optimize the amp and it's -16dBFs, you can turn the mic pre's up to peak at -1dB with no degradation, because they are designed to output the signal at -0dBFs. You are than hearing the loudest that the noise floor will be until it goes to mastering. There are different congfigurations and nothing is written in stone, but please understand what I'm relating here, this isn't bad information, it's what I have to deal with on a daily basis.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on August 11, 2005, 07:04:20 pm
Ronny wrote on Thu, 11 August 2005 14:58

I think you guys are missing my point.


I think that perhaps we are not understanding each other.

Quote:

...you may be surprised at how many people don't optimize the analog side...


Absolutely, this is a problem.

Quote:

If you record a guitar using a DM2000 for front end, optimize the amp and it's -16dBFs, you can turn the mic pre's up to peak at -1dB with no degradation, because they are designed to output the signal at -0dBFs.


I think this statement is where we are not understanding each other.  They way I see it is that when the signal to noise ratio of analog equipment is measured, it is done according to a standard where all analog equipment used to measure the noise is set to +4dbu.  If you turn the mic pre up beyond +4dbu at this point to make the ADC peak at -1db you have thrown out the standard and when you bring the mic pre up you are bringing up the noise floor of the guitar amp with it.  Whether you bring the guitar amp level up before the ADC with the mic pre or you bring it up after the ADC digitally, it is the same.  The noise floor of the guitar amp that was properly optimized for noise is not the problem when it comes to bringing the level up in mastering.  It is the noise floor of the 16 bit or 24 bit recording that could be an issue.  Again to clarify.  Boosting the level beyond +4db with a mic preamp to make it peak at -1dbfs at the ADC will bring up the noise of the guitar amp exactly the same amount as if you were to leave the mic pre at +4db, having the ADC peak at around -14dbfs and then boosting the level digitally after the ADC to peak at -1dbfs, either in mixing or mastering.  

Try an experiment to verify this.  Set up a guitar amp and optimize the levels.  Set your mic pre so that the the ADC is peaking around -14 dbfs with someone playing guitar.  Record the ambient noise with nobody playing.  Now boost the level digitally +13 db and look at the noise floor on your meters.  Make a note.  Now go back and set your mic pre to peak at -1dbfs while somebody is playing guitar.  Record the ambient noise with nobody playing.  Look at the noise floor on your digital meters.  If the guitar player was playing the at the same dynamic level when you set the different levels then the noise floor of the guitar amp will be the same in both cases.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on August 11, 2005, 07:45:07 pm
Thank you, Blair,

That's the same point I was trying to make.  The signal to noise ratio would not change, and the result is the same whether you do it inside the computer or at the preamp.  It's the same!!!

Further, I would think that peak limiting at mastering would have little effect on the rms ratio of signal to noise on the master, since both would go up by THE SAME AMOUNT.  There aren't too many transients in the noise floor.  But hey, I'm more offended by the notion of categorically whacking 15db of REAL MUSIC off the top of my record.  If someone thinks that's a wonderful difference, then I don't find it surprising that they forget to adjust the volume before comparing noise at the beginning of the track...

Steve
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 12, 2005, 02:41:29 am
blairl wrote on Thu, 11 August 2005 19:04

Ronny wrote on Thu, 11 August 2005 14:58

I think you guys are missing my point.


I think that perhaps we are not understanding each other.

Quote:

...you may be surprised at how many people don't optimize the analog side...


Absolutely, this is a problem.

Quote:

If you record a guitar using a DM2000 for front end, optimize the amp and it's -16dBFs, you can turn the mic pre's up to peak at -1dB with no degradation, because they are designed to output the signal at -0dBFs.


I think this statement is where we are not understanding each other.  They way I see it is that when the signal to noise ratio of analog equipment is measured, it is done according to a standard where all analog equipment used to measure the noise is set to +4dbu.  If you turn the mic pre up beyond +4dbu at this point to make the ADC peak at -1db you have thrown out the standard and when you bring the mic pre up you are bringing up the noise floor of the guitar amp with it.  Whether you bring the guitar amp level up before the ADC with the mic pre or you bring it up after the ADC digitally, it is the same.  The noise floor of the guitar amp that was properly optimized for noise is not the problem when it comes to bringing the level up in mastering.  It is the noise floor of the 16 bit or 24 bit recording that could be an issue.  Again to clarify.  Boosting the level beyond +4db with a mic preamp to make it peak at -1dbfs at the ADC will bring up the noise of the guitar amp exactly the same amount as if you were to leave the mic pre at +4db, having the ADC peak at around -14dbfs and then boosting the level digitally after the ADC to peak at -1dbfs, either in mixing or mastering.  

Try an experiment to verify this.  Set up a guitar amp and optimize the levels.  Set your mic pre so that the the ADC is peaking around -14 dbfs with someone playing guitar.  Record the ambient noise with nobody playing.  Now boost the level digitally +13 db and look at the noise floor on your meters.  Make a note.  Now go back and set your mic pre to peak at -1dbfs while somebody is playing guitar.  Record the ambient noise with nobody playing.  Look at the noise floor on your digital meters.  If the guitar player was playing the at the same dynamic level when you set the different levels then the noise floor of the guitar amp will be the same in both cases.


I'm not arguing that point Blair, I'm telling you that the mastering process is going to raise the noise floor and if you want to record most effectively, be aware that the level you hear guitar buzz at on the mix down is going to go up in the mastering, it's that simple. I don't have to run your tests, I deal with this every day and you are correct, but you are still missing my point and that is you should be aware of how much the noise is going to be accenuated during the mastering process. As I said before and will repeat for the third time, the noise ratio will be the same regardless until it goes to mastering and the transient peaks are lowered and the RMS is raised bringing the guitar hum up with it and the loud guitar notes down. BTW, not all guitar amps sound best at +4dB output, there are some euphonic benefits for going above +4dB and this is only  sensitivity, 'not the end of your headroom' which in the analog world and on my big annie board goes up to +30dBu. On the DM2000, +4dBu is actually closer to -20dBFs. It's often impossible to output recommended gain on all devices, rather than totally compromising one devices recommendations, it's often better to fudge a little on all of the devices.

For an audible example of what I'm talking about, go to my website, on the vertical column of sound clips, second one down that says: "Shows noise reduction on a typical guitar intro. Noise is coming from a guitar fx processor" The noise is coming from a Digitech RP100 guitar processor and noise floor on this song premastered was -30dB. If you hear the before clip and the noise doesn't bother you or you can't hear any improvement, than disregard what I've been saying, but don't tag me with spreading misinformation on these newsgroups, I dedicate too much of my time trying to help people get the cleanest sounding mixes and this is valuable information if you understand where I'm coming from and apply it to your mixing styles in the future.  
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on August 12, 2005, 10:54:15 am
I completely agree and fully understand that the noise floor will rise during the mastering process and that it can be a real problem if the signal to noise ratio of analog equipment isn't optimized.  If I turn on my Roland JC-120 amp with the volume all the way down, there will be noise coming from the speakers.  If I turn the volume up just a little bit to hear the guitar, I have not optimized my noise floor and the noise is very apparent.  I have to turn it up loud enough so that my entire dynamic range of playing will be above the self noise of the amplifier.  Some people don't do this correctly and it becomes a problem.  Also, if a guitar doesn't have the volume turned up loud enough and the amp has to be turned up to compensate, this can be a problem.  If I have a classical (opera) singer that has to be backed off of a mic by quite a distance in order to give it the correct ambient sound for the music I will need to be very careful that the self noise of the mic or the noise floor of the room isn't going to be a problem.  There are many more situations that an engineer has to be aware of when optimizing the signal to noise ratio.  All I am saying is that whether you peak at -14 dbfs and bring up the volume digitally after the fact, or whether you peak at -1 dbfs and don't bring the volume up digitally after the fact in all of these situations, the signal to noise ratio of the source will be no different as long as the noise floor of the source did not fall below the noise floor of the converter which is about -120 dbfs on good converters.  This is the key point which is a scientific fact.  For good measure we should not let the noise floor of the source come to within 20 db of the noise floor of the converter, but on a 24 bit system this will not even come close to being a problem if you are peaking at -20 to -14 dbfs.  If your mic pre sounds better running hotter than +4 db that's great.  I have no problem with that.  Sometimes the extra harmonic distortion might be great for the sound.  In the end I think we do agree that if the noise floor isn't optimized correctly it can become a problem later in mixing or mastering.  It sounds like you are very aware of this and that you make sure it isn't a problem for your clients.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on August 12, 2005, 10:57:59 am
Ronny,

I agree that sounds should always be recorded with as little noise as possible.  What I don't agree with is your statement that recording the guitar hotter in your example above, would have made any difference in the signal to noise ratio.  Both the guitar and the noise would be louder.  The point is that you have to do something to push the noise floor lower in relation to the guitar.  Simply cranking the output of the mic pre won't do that.  You have to change the pedal, examine the ground issues, eliminate RF--do something, but just printing hotter will not advance the cause at all.

Steve



Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 12, 2005, 11:37:53 am
Extreme Mixing wrote on Fri, 12 August 2005 10:57

Ronny,

I agree that sounds should always be recorded with as little noise as possible.  What I don't agree with is your statement that recording the guitar hotter in your example above, would have made any difference in the signal to noise ratio.  Both the guitar and the noise would be louder.  The point is that you have to do something to push the noise floor lower in relation to the guitar.  Simply cranking the output of the mic pre won't do that.  You have to change the pedal, examine the ground issues, eliminate RF--do something, but just printing hotter will not advance the cause at all.

Steve







You and Blair are both correct, however the fellow that started the thread said that he was peaking at -15dB and sending mixes to the ME at -7dB and was asking if these levels were correct, as I mentioned nothing is written in stone, but we all agree that opimizing every gain stage or at least as close as you can get will give the best results and my advice still stands that he doesn't need to give himself that much headroom. He needs to hear how loud the guitar noise is in that example and be aware that it's going to increase per ratio of guitar note gain on the final master. Absolutely the best solution is to take care of noise at the source. Speaking of single coil guitar hum, you can often  eliminate that by either getting out of the EMI field from the amp, which extends about 4 feet out the front and back of the amp in an elliptical pattern that looks much like the magnetic flux lines when you put filings on a bar magnet in science class. If the room is too small to do this, the guitarist can turn the neck of the guitar 90 degrees perpendicular to the amp face and reduce the hum by mucho decibels, because the guitar strings are basically antennae that pick up the field, run the neck parallel along the flux lines and you'll hear an immediate improvement in signal to noise ratio. It all starts in the tracking doesn't it.  
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on August 12, 2005, 07:51:33 pm
Ronny wrote on Fri, 12 August 2005 16:37

Extreme Mixing wrote on Fri, 12 August 2005 10:57

Ronny,

I agree that sounds should always be recorded with as little noise as possible.  What I don't agree with is your statement that recording the guitar hotter in your example above, would have made any difference in the signal to noise ratio.  Both the guitar and the noise would be louder.  The point is that you have to do something to push the noise floor lower in relation to the guitar.  Simply cranking the output of the mic pre won't do that.  You have to change the pedal, examine the ground issues, eliminate RF--do something, but just printing hotter will not advance the cause at all.

Steve







You and Blair are both correct, however the fellow that started the thread said that he was peaking at -15dB and sending mixes to the ME at -7dB and was asking if these levels were correct, as I mentioned nothing is written in stone, but we all agree that opimizing every gain stage or at least as close as you can get will give the best results and my advice still stands that he doesn't need to give himself that much headroom. He needs to hear how loud the guitar noise is in that example and be aware that it's going to increase per ratio of guitar note gain on the final master. Absolutely the best solution is to take care of noise at the source. Speaking of single coil guitar hum, you can often  eliminate that by either getting out of the EMI field from the amp, which extends about 4 feet out the front and back of the amp in an elliptical pattern that looks much like the magnetic flux lines when you put filings on a bar magnet in science class. If the room is too small to do this, the guitarist can turn the neck of the guitar 90 degrees perpendicular to the amp face and reduce the hum by mucho decibels, because the guitar strings are basically antennae that pick up the field, run the neck parallel along the flux lines and you'll hear an immediate improvement in signal to noise ratio. It all starts in the tracking doesn't it.  



I have been though this discussion before (not least of all when doing the input stages of the R3) it's a headache to work through because of different perceptions of what constitutes levels within the analogue and digital domains - of course they are the same and IMLE the best way to illustrate this is in terms of dynamic ranges.

In this case we need to think of dynamic range as the difference between the noise and the max signal modulation.

For the Guitar amp this is the noise and hum versus the sound pressure produced when the guy plays. If we assume this to be 80dB for argument:

We then have the Mic which is almost certainly miles better than the amp - producing a signal level that easily stretches comfortably between the hum and noise of the amp and the level of the guitar playing - so probably very little loss of dynamic range here - we still have 79dB or so.

We then hit the converter - the converter has a dynamic range of say 110dBr in the digital domain - so in order to avoid introducing excessive converter noise we must modulate it to at least -30dBr or so. So in this case there's plenty to play with and you can get it badly wrong without any damage (even modulating at -20dB or less) cos the source has such a restricted dynamic range. But if we actually modulate the converter optimally so that the guy playing hard gets nearly full level out of the converter, the dynamic range of the track is still around 79dBr - in the digital domain within the mixer.

Now almost whatever you do within reason with gains in the mixer this will remain unchanged, since increasing it will make it clip immediately - and you can reduce it by as much as 60dB (and bump it back up again) without hitting the 24bit noise floor of the system.

So (apart from deliberately using EQ to boost the line hum freqs) the only thing you can practically do to DECREASE the dynamic range of that signal (i.e. make the amp hum and noise proportionally louder wrt to the guy playing) is to compress or limit it - i.e. dynamically make the soft bits louder and/or the loud bits softer. A compressor/limiter reduces dynamic range by definition - and that's why the hum may get louder in the mastering stages, as the guy struggles to achieve 'commercially acceptable' levels of 'fashionably continuous' modulation.

So if the mastering guy put on (for an unreasonable illustration) say 20dBs of total compression - if the guitar was a solo instrument peaking flat out and there was no other music or significant noise in the track, when the guy stops playing the amp noise will wander up from -79dB to -59dBr, i.e. change from being just acceptable to annoyingly loud. BTW, obviously this would also occur if you put this much compression on the track within the mixer.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 12, 2005, 09:41:46 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Fri, 12 August 2005 19:51

Ronny wrote on Fri, 12 August 2005 16:37

Extreme Mixing wrote on Fri, 12 August 2005 10:57

Ronny,

I agree that sounds should always be recorded with as little noise as possible.  What I don't agree with is your statement that recording the guitar hotter in your example above, would have made any difference in the signal to noise ratio.  Both the guitar and the noise would be louder.  The point is that you have to do something to push the noise floor lower in relation to the guitar.  Simply cranking the output of the mic pre won't do that.  You have to change the pedal, examine the ground issues, eliminate RF--do something, but just printing hotter will not advance the cause at all.

Steve










You and Blair are both correct, however the fellow that started the thread said that he was peaking at -15dB and sending mixes to the ME at -7dB and was asking if these levels were correct, as I mentioned nothing is written in stone, but we all agree that opimizing every gain stage or at least as close as you can get will give the best results and my advice still stands that he doesn't need to give himself that much headroom. He needs to hear how loud the guitar noise is in that example and be aware that it's going to increase per ratio of guitar note gain on the final master. Absolutely the best solution is to take care of noise at the source. Speaking of single coil guitar hum, you can often  eliminate that by either getting out of the EMI field from the amp, which extends about 4 feet out the front and back of the amp in an elliptical pattern that looks much like the magnetic flux lines when you put filings on a bar magnet in science class. If the room is too small to do this, the guitarist can turn the neck of the guitar 90 degrees perpendicular to the amp face and reduce the hum by mucho decibels, because the guitar strings are basically antennae that pick up the field, run the neck parallel along the flux lines and you'll hear an immediate improvement in signal to noise ratio. It all starts in the tracking doesn't it.  



I have been though this discussion before (not least of all when doing the input stages of the R3) it's a headache to work through because of different perceptions of what constitutes levels within the analogue and digital domains - of course they are the same and IMLE the best way to illustrate this is in terms of dynamic ranges.

In this case we need to think of dynamic range as the difference between the noise and the max signal modulation.

For the Guitar amp this is the noise and hum versus the sound pressure produced when the guy plays. If we assume this to be 80dB for argument:

We then have the Mic which is almost certainly miles better than the amp - producing a signal level that easily stretches comfortably between the hum and noise of the amp and the level of the guitar playing - so probably very little loss of dynamic range here - we still have 79dB or so.

We then hit the converter - the converter has a dynamic range of say 110dBr in the digital domain - so in order to avoid introducing excessive converter noise we must modulate it to at least -30dBr or so. So in this case there's plenty to play with and you can get it badly wrong without any damage (even modulating at -20dB or less) cos the source has such a restricted dynamic range. But if we actually modulate the converter optimally so that the guy playing hard gets nearly full level out of the converter, the dynamic range of the track is still around 79dBr - in the digital domain within the mixer.

Now almost whatever you do within reason with gains in the mixer this will remain unchanged, since increasing it will make it clip immediately - and you can reduce it by as much as 60dB (and bump it back up again) without hitting the 24bit noise floor of the system.

So (apart from deliberately using EQ to boost the line hum freqs) the only thing you can practically do to DECREASE the dynamic range of that signal (i.e. make the amp hum and noise proportionally louder wrt to the guy playing) is to compress or limit it - i.e. dynamically make the soft bits louder and/or the loud bits softer. A compressor/limiter reduces dynamic range by definition - and that's why the hum may get louder in the mastering stages, as the guy struggles to achieve 'commercially acceptable' levels of 'fashionably continuous' modulation.

So if the mastering guy put on (for an unreasonable illustration) say 20dBs of total compression - if the guitar was a solo instrument peaking flat out and there was no other music or significant noise in the track, when the guy stops playing the amp noise will wander up from -79dB to -59dBr, i.e. change from being just acceptable to annoyingly loud. BTW, obviously this would also occur if you put this much compression on the track within the mixer.



Exactly. -79dB from a guitar amp is very, very good, though, you are talking as low or lower noise floor than good 2 inch tape. Even at -59dB, not a big problem and no need to denoise, BUT, many guitar tracks come in much louder, -30dB isn't rare, that's measured noise without the guitar playing but with volume knobs all the way up. Even direct guitar recorded through POD's and other type guitar fx processors with no amp or mic in the equation can exhibit -30dB noise floor, before mastering processes are performed. The problem with those devices are the DAC's, let's face it, you ain't gonna get a decent converter on a 100 to 300 dollar guitar pedalboard or processor. Distortion/overdrive/dirty type patches are prime candidates for outputting high noise, especially when the guitarist isn't using the noise reduction correctly, that's available at the end of most dirty patch chains, couple that with a single coil pu guitar with the performer playing in the EMI field and you may able to see my concern. The guitar processors with the digi outs have a night and day difference with regard to noise when you bypass the DAC's.

WRT, the noise in between riffs, rhythm patterns or progressions, not a problem there as a proper set gate will eliminate the noise when the guitar isn't playing. Gates only come on when the signal falls to the threshold though and aren't effective at all when the guitar is playing notes, so although you can totally eliminate the hum when the guitar is resting, the noise is totally back when the signal rises above the threshold setting. The noisy guitar intro that I mentioned earlier came from a US band that was seeking a record deal with a Swedish label, the label complained about the noise said it wasn't acceptable, their manager hired me to denoise the tracks and remix the songs, they were accepted after that. I couldn't possibly tell you what the level of noise is deemed acceptable as all people are different, but I get a lot of material in that has noisier guitars than the one on those tracks and it takes longer to master tunes with high noise floor. It's also mighty hard to match the tone on a guitar that was tracked optimally when you have to pull out noise freq's, so the best results come from the engineers that know how to get the lowest noise on all of their tracks, it's one factor that separates the men from the boys, IMHO.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Extreme Mixing on August 13, 2005, 01:47:20 am
So if I follow you correctly in your example, Paul, it is the compressor pulling the noise floor up by 20 db,  Printing the guitar part hotter, or closer to full scale would not change the outcome on the noise at all, because the guitar is going to sit where it needs to in the mix, and it will be hit by the compressor with the same result either way.  That was really my only point of disagreement with Ronny.  Thanks for putting the science in a way that makes it easy to follow the facts.

Steve
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on August 13, 2005, 03:11:42 am
Extreme Mixing wrote on Sat, 13 August 2005 01:47

So if I follow you correctly in your example, Paul, it is the compressor pulling the noise floor up by 20 db,  Printing the guitar part hotter, or closer to full scale would not change the outcome on the noise at all, because the guitar is going to sit where it needs to in the mix, and it will be hit by the compressor with the same result either way.  That was really my only point of disagreement with Ronny.  Thanks for putting the science in a way that makes it easy to follow the facts.

Steve



Steve, here is the first post that I wrote on this thread:


You don't have to squeeze every bit out of 24 bit, you have plenty of footroom. You'll never get -144db until you are fully into the digital realm and that will only be on digital black or dead air in between track sections where no noise floor of the tracking gear is present, because the best ADC's are now only getting -120dB. Not all music genres allow peaks set at -3dB, especially orchestra, because it doesn't matter if the conductor plays the loudest passage at soundcheck, the performance when the audience is there almost always comes out louder when the performers are in the heat and excitement of the live concert. It's by far better to make up gain in the digital realm, than having even one over at the ADC. If there isn't a repeatable passage to copy and paste from, it can render a whole performance unusable. Let's say you set peak at -12dB instead of -3dB and unexpected transients give you an actual peak level of -5dB. That would be +4dB into digital distortion if we set -3dB peak. Ok, you raise level by +5dB to make up the gain once in the digital realm. Your ADC is now giving -115dB instead of -120dB. No one is going to hear the difference between the same type ADC inputting at -120dB and inputting at -115dB, because the noise floor of the amplifier going to monitors is going to be around -105dB or often lower, well above the converters self noise when set to -12dB peak.

Record the same piece at -3dB via some good ADC's and mirror simultaneously to other tracks at -12dB, going 24 bit. Raise gain on the -12dB example by +9dB to match the -3dB peak tracks, once you are playing back in the digital realm and run a seemless A/B, between the two examples, I guarantee you that you will not hear a difference if you are using good quality mics and ADC's.

Than I think what confused you was this: In relation to the question about what gain to send to mastering.

I said this:
Not too hot for me. As long as the peak gain isn't above -0dBFs it doesn't matter how high the peak level is, because I'm going to attenuate the input of any processor that will boost gain at output, OTOH when you record peaks at -15dB, mix at -7dB and your material gets mastered, the noise floor of your mics, mic pres and mixing console, is going to be raised by at least -15dB when the ME sets final perceived gain. This may be inaudible on some tracks and not so inaudible on others, for example if you raise the inherent noise of a U87 which is -82dB (cardioid pattern) by 15dB on a vocal track, your final floor will be -67dB, while that's not bad and around the floor of good annie tape, if you record a single coil pickup guitar with a high noise floor amp, typical guitar amp buzz or a guitar DI box or fx processor that is outputting -40 to -30dB of noise due to the cheapo DAC's and the gain gets raised in mastering by +15dB to make up gain, it's going to be quite audible and introduce more noise in your final songs than if you would track close to peak, but without going over. I only track live concert orchestra at -12dB, but for studio work where it's not a get it in one take or else scenario, there isn't any reason to record peak at -15dB, that's too much headroom for some instruments and will raise the noise in your tracks. You don't have to squeeze every bit on the 24 bit A/D conversion that many people used to advise with 16 bit, but the lower your peak gain is at the ADC, the higher the noise floor of the mics and instruments will be raised on the final master.


When you make up gain, the noise floor is going to go up and be "more audible". No where did I say that the noise floor is going to be raised at a higher ratio if you track lower, nor did I say that you will get less noise floor by tracking hotter. You seem to already understand that when it goes to mastering and perceived leveling is performed that the noise does go up in relation to the keeper notes due to the decreasing gain on peak transients and the increasing gain on low levels. What I'm saying above is, if you track and mix low, you won't "hear" the guitar hum or noise floor on the other tracks as loud as it's going to be when the ME performs his processing. I see what threw you off, but this is what I'm saying. Dynamic range will be less on the final master, the guitar hum will be louder relative to the loud guitar notes, it makes little difference if you peak at -15dB on tracking and mixing at -7dB, except for the fact that your noise floor is going to be "audibly" lower and the hum will not be as noticeable as it's going to be on the final master. You can take care of the noise on the tracking, or you can pay the ME extra for denoising, but to get a commercially viable product, it has to have a noise floor relative to typical commercial songs. I have 5,000 members on my newsgroups that I've been teaching mixing to over the internet for the past 10 years. Most are home recordists, a few commercial engineers that give me a hand and a fair share of intermediate level recordists. I get a lot of mastering work from these folks, one of the biggest differences that I hear between the home recordist mixes and the commercial ones, is noise on the tracks. Do not think that you have to give every ME +7dB of headroom, mix your songs with enough gain to hear how much the noise floor is going to be on the final product or at least be aware that noise floor goes up in mastering when RMS levels are raised and peak transients are lowered. Nip the noise on the tracking.

Let's try this again:

Quote:

Ronny,

I think you have a lot of bad information concerning how the noise floor works in your post. What possible difference does it make if you increase the gain of an 87 or a single coil guitar before the converters of after? The noise floor would stay at the same level in relation to the balance in the mix either way. As long as you have enough bit depth to capture the full signal down to the noise floor, nothing will improve from printing hot.

Steve



That's correct except for the bad information part, but you aren't fully understanding what I'm saying as the ratio between the noise and the keeper notes narrows during mastering processing, not saying that it narrows when you track hotter at the ADC and mix low, only that the noise isn't heard as loud, but will be more profound after mastering. Hopefully I've cleared it up for you with this post.


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on August 13, 2005, 10:44:51 am
Extreme Mixing wrote on Sat, 13 August 2005 06:47

So if I follow you correctly in your example, Paul, it is the compressor pulling the noise floor up by 20 db,  Printing the guitar part hotter, or closer to full scale would not change the outcome on the noise at all, because the guitar is going to sit where it needs to in the mix, and it will be hit by the compressor with the same result either way.  That was really my only point of disagreement with Ronny.  Thanks for putting the science in a way that makes it easy to follow the facts.

Steve


Yes in essence that's it. The Dynamic range the guitar occupies is unchanged by the level you print it at - but it's prominance in the overall mix is changed by other stuff going on - and any change in the dynamics of the programme caused by compression etc..

BTW I don't think anyone is disagreeing actually, I think Ronny is talking from a practical point of view about what actually occurs rather than what ought to be the case if things were optimal. And of course if  guitar is recorded with so much noise and hum on it that you can hear it whilst the guy is playing (effectively vanishingly small dynamic range) - then you can't even hit it successfully with a noise gate Sad Perhaps all you can hope to do is drown out the noise by pushing other stuff in the mix and making the guitar part less prominant overall.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: gwailoh on August 21, 2005, 04:17:37 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Sat, 14 May 2005 16:34



Yes it is quite easy to make a meter plug-in that reconstructs the signal and shows you the value (I have made such processing as integral parts of other applications) - and you could put it where you like in the mix - i.e. the main outputs for a start. It is fairly costly in terms of processing load though, so you certainly wouldn't want to pepper such a thing all over the tracks in your PT mix!!




PT ships with a Digi/Bomb Factory plug called "BF Essential Meter Bridge", which displays RMS or Peak as VU.  I have no idea what it's doing under the hood but its Peak setting does seem to display  quite different values than the PT channel strip's standard LED meter.  Is this plug a reasonable tool for helping to keep channel levels within the safe zone?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: geosound on September 13, 2005, 03:46:48 am
hi nathan

i did a test with a mackie 1604 and mixing itb

it contain 6 tracks and no eq or plugs al faders at odB

conclusion the sound that came out the mackie was more punchier
and every instrument has more detail and better heard individually

so summing on a cheap desk will get better results

also what i discovered on a bigger desk soundtracs jade (easier to mix less time consuming goes also for a cheap crappy desk like the mackie.

i wouldn't know for soundcraft but in my opinion the low cost range of soundcraft is useful for everything except for audio

georges sterkenburg
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on September 13, 2005, 09:15:50 am
Don't forget that higher digital levels will put a greater strain on all of the analog stages. In the case of Pro Tools, I've found that leaving a 6 dB "pad" by peaking to -6 can improve the sound quite a bit. Another reason for moderate digital levels is the fact that gear that sounded good with analog tape rarely had to deal with levels higher than +18. Lots of digital gear puts out a significantly higher signal level than this.

If you have an unlimited budget for gear and modifications, all of this stuff certainly can be dealt with but garden variety gear frequently sounds much better when operated with lower levels.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nathan Eldred on September 13, 2005, 11:20:08 am
geosound wrote on Tue, 13 September 2005 03:46

hi nathan

i did a test with a mackie 1604 and mixing itb

it contain 6 tracks and no eq or plugs al faders at odB

conclusion the sound that came out the mackie was more punchier
and every instrument has more detail and better heard individually

so summing on a cheap desk will get better results

also what i discovered on a bigger desk soundtracs jade (easier to mix less time consuming goes also for a cheap crappy desk like the mackie.

i wouldn't know for soundcraft but in my opinion the low cost range of soundcraft is useful for everything except for audio

georges sterkenburg



I'm not surprised really one bit.  I'm sure ultimately really great mixers might be able to get better than a Mackie results ITB, but they are stemming to high quality outboard,etc so it's not the same as plugins by any stretch of the imagination.  I've heard A/B comparisons between ITB and on a high level console from the same guy (he has talent).  While his ITB mixes were better than 80% of everybody out there, his console mixes were 90% better than everybody out there.  Just my opinion.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RKrizman on September 13, 2005, 01:11:17 pm
Ronny wrote on Sat, 13 August 2005 03:11

]OTOH when you record peaks at -15dB, mix at -7dB and your material gets mastered, the noise floor of your mics, mic pres and mixing console, is going to be raised by at least -15dB when the ME sets final perceived gain.



Yes, but it will also be the case even if you record at -7 db to begin with.  Whatever level you record at, when you mix you'll put that guitar at a certain level.  Perhaps you'll record at minus 15 and boost to, say, minus 10.  Or perhaps you'll record at -7 and then attenuate to -10 when mixing.  In either case you get the same guitar track, with the same signal to noise relationship between the buzz of the amp and the guitar signal.  In either case, when you go to mastering and the levels are raised the result will be the same.  So there's nt signal to noise benefit to be had by recording hotter, (unless you're talking about the noise from the input converters themselves, which you're not)  Either way you're capturing the same picture.

The exception, of course, is if you record too hot and distort your analog components somewhere along the line, or don't give yourself enough headroom to do further manipulations.

-R
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on September 13, 2005, 02:30:17 pm
RKrizman wrote on Tue, 13 September 2005 13:11

Ronny wrote on Sat, 13 August 2005 03:11

]OTOH when you record peaks at -15dB, mix at -7dB and your material gets mastered, the noise floor of your mics, mic pres and mixing console, is going to be raised by at least -15dB when the ME sets final perceived gain.



Yes, but it will also be the case even if you record at -7 db to begin with.  Whatever level you record at, when you mix you'll put that guitar at a certain level.  Perhaps you'll record at minus 15 and boost to, say, minus 10.  Or perhaps you'll record at -7 and then attenuate to -10 when mixing.  In either case you get the same guitar track, with the same signal to noise relationship between the buzz of the amp and the guitar signal.  In either case, when you go to mastering and the levels are raised the result will be the same.  So there's nt signal to noise benefit to be had by recording hotter, (unless you're talking about the noise from the input converters themselves, which you're not)  Either way you're capturing the same picture.

The exception, of course, is if you record too hot and distort your analog components somewhere along the line, or don't give yourself enough headroom to do further manipulations.

-R


"when the ME sets final perceived gain." Limiting raises noise floor relative to peak gain. Anytime that you decrease crest factor you raise noise floor. I would assume that everyone knows that if you record at -10dB and turn the "volume" up, that the noise floor goes up 10dB, no arguement there. The ME is typically going to "alter dynamics and decrease crest factor" and this is where several of you guys are missing it.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: JamSync on September 13, 2005, 05:13:19 pm
Nathan Eldred wrote on Tue, 13 September 2005 16:20



I'm not surprised really one bit.  I'm sure ultimately really great mixers might be able to get better than a Mackie results ITB, but they are stemming to high quality outboard,etc so it's not the same as plugins by any stretch of the imagination.  I've heard A/B comparisons between ITB and on a high level console from the same guy (he has talent).  While his ITB mixes were better than 80% of everybody out there, his console mixes were 90% better than everybody out there.  Just my opinion.



I often see the dichotomy between "ITB" and not "ITB" as an imaginary distinction. I haven't used a board in years, preferring to go directly from high quality converters to DAW and back to high quality converters. A lot of my outboard is digital (TC 6000, etc.) and things that aren't are, again, patched via high quality converters. Why anyone would want to simply route stuff out to a mixing board to color it is beyond me. Most of the sounds of favored boards are available as channel strips.

I love the flexibility of being able to create the mixing space and routings I need on the fly without being shackled to a Rhode Island size hunk of iron. Recapping an analog board every so often is no joy, either. If my boot drive with PT or Nuendo goes down, I just grab a backup FW drive and reboot. New drive, new mixing environment, same data.

I spent over a decade in analog studios with high-end analog boards and I'd *never* go back. My suspicion is that people who sound better on mixing boards have simply not grasped the technology well enough to do it justice. It's one thing to "run ProTools" and quite another to know it well enough to look out for the "gotchas" that are inherent in software-based audio technology.

Having a degree in software engineering helps, but having the flexibility to be open to constantly changing interfaces and new connections with emerging technologies is the key to working with newer technology. A lot of audio engineers cannot and will not make the grade as we move more and more to the union of video and audio and streaming.

Depending on tactile surfaces will be far less important than handling the control of the abstraction of once-tactile-now-virtual surfaces.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: raal on September 18, 2005, 04:38:52 pm
have been reading this thread and i'd like to thank paul frindle, bob katz, bob olhsson and all that have taken the time to post your very generous explanations.

some questions:

was working on something yesterday and after checking everything with the TL mastermeter and all looking good, i inserted an L3 and limited to the max i could without going over. set the limit on the L3 at -.5 dB and took it from there. it was obviously not as hot as it would have been had i limited prior to inserting those meters... but it was pretty hot.

question 1: if one is careful that no intersample peaks are produced and 'believes' the TL meters, would this be safe (the PT meters on the master were not green at this point)?

question 2: say one is hybrid mixing and ends up with an analog compressor in the stereo bus. to print the final mix one goes back into PT, Tascam DVRA 1000 or wherever -- if the mix is printed hot (with no overs), will this be safe on playback? was thinking of doing this tomorrow and inserting the meter on the final recorded stereo file to check.

the white paper on the trillium website says:
             http://www.tllabs.com/index.php?option=com_docman&task=c at_view&gid=20&Itemid=62

'It is worth noting that Sony's new SACD format includes measures that prevent the music from ever clipping in the way described.'

would someone know exactly what 'measures' are implemented by Sony to prevent the music 'from ever clipping in the way described'?

if this is true, here's why people are generally saying SACD sounds better - because one pretty much can't blow it by producing intersample peaks, so the thing isn't lunched by the time it gets to mastering - do i understand correctly?

again, thank you for your time.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on September 18, 2005, 06:27:37 pm
Why limit a mix at all?

Unless you have the song before and the song after up at the same time, there's no way to know what final level it needs to be at or how much peak limiting to use. Even when you do have them available, album sequences can often change.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: raal on September 18, 2005, 06:45:36 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 18 September 2005 17:27

Why limit a mix at all?

Unless you have the song before and the song after up at the same time, there's no way to know what final level it needs to be at or how much peak limiting to use. Even when you do have them available, album sequences can often change.

thank you bob. what i'm working on now is sound for a documentary, so no 'song before' or after scenario.

when mixing music it's pretty clear to me that limiting before the mastering process is a no no, but my questions are aimed at trying to clarify this whole deal in my head. specifically, how hot can we record a signal (while tracking or mixing to stereo) before paying any kind of a penalty?

i hope my question makes sense, and thanks again for answering.






Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on September 18, 2005, 07:22:00 pm
In a documentary you still don't know how loud or dynamic the music needs to be until the final mix happens against picture.

My point is why guess? Unless you luck out and guess exactly right to a tenth of a dB., the end results will almost always be more distorted.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RKrizman on September 18, 2005, 08:20:11 pm
Ronny wrote on Tue, 13 September 2005 14:30


"when the ME sets final perceived gain." Limiting raises noise floor relative to peak gain. Anytime that you decrease crest factor you raise noise floor. I would assume that everyone knows that if you record at -10dB and turn the "volume" up, that the noise floor goes up 10dB, no arguement there. The ME is typically going to "alter dynamics and decrease crest factor" and this is where several of you guys are missing it.



That's right, but the results will be the same whether you recorded soft or loud.

-R
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on September 18, 2005, 10:43:38 pm
RKrizman wrote on Sun, 18 September 2005 20:20

Ronny wrote on Tue, 13 September 2005 14:30


"when the ME sets final perceived gain." Limiting raises noise floor relative to peak gain. Anytime that you decrease crest factor you raise noise floor. I would assume that everyone knows that if you record at -10dB and turn the "volume" up, that the noise floor goes up 10dB, no arguement there. The ME is typically going to "alter dynamics and decrease crest factor" and this is where several of you guys are missing it.



That's right, but the results will be the same whether you recorded soft or loud.

-R



Let me put it this way. If you track with peaks at -15db and mix at -7dB, you aren't going to hear the noise as loud as the ME will, when he raises perceived level. You aren't going to hear noise at all in some cases, that will be heard post mastering. The best that you can do is optimize the analog side of the ADC, if that means -15dB peak, so be it, that's the only reason that you need to track peak at that low of a level. That's seldom the case, though. The point that I'm making is if the tracking and mix engineer is recording and mixing too low, he's not getting an accurate picture of where the final noise floor is going. If he peaks higher and mixes higher, he will hear more of the noise floor and will realize that he should have taken care of the noise "before" the tracking, not at the mastering stage. If I had a dime for every client that said, "wow, I didn't know that the guitar effects or 60 cycle hum sounded that noisy" until it went to mastering and had perceived gain processing, I'd be a dimondaire.    
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on September 19, 2005, 12:39:27 am
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 18 September 2005 16:27

Why limit a mix at all?

Unless you have the song before and the song after up at the same time, there's no way to know what final level it needs to be at or how much peak limiting to use. Even when you do have them available, album sequences can often change.


This is something that many people do not consider and in my opinion is one of the most important aspects of a good mastering job.  You can't make blanket limiting and level decisions.  It's all relative.  Thanks for bringing it up.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RKrizman on September 19, 2005, 03:45:26 pm
Ronny wrote on Sun, 18 September 2005 22:43

[The point that I'm making is if the tracking and mix engineer is recording and mixing too low, he's not getting an accurate picture of where the final noise floor is going. If he peaks higher and mixes higher, he will hear more of the noise floor and will realize that he should have taken care of the noise "before" the tracking, not at the mastering stage. If I had a dime for every client that said, "wow, I didn't know that the guitar effects or 60 cycle hum sounded that noisy" until it went to mastering and had perceived gain processing, I'd be a dimondaire.    



Hey, I decide my playback level with my monitor volume control.  I don't need to track something louder to hear it louder.

-R
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: blairl on September 19, 2005, 04:22:34 pm
RKrizman wrote on Mon, 19 September 2005 13:45

Hey, I decide my playback level with my monitor volume control.  I don't need to track something louder to hear it louder.

-R


Correct.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Jack Schitt on September 20, 2005, 11:17:38 am
RKrizman wrote on Mon, 19 September 2005 15:45

Ronny wrote on Sun, 18 September 2005 22:43

[The point that I'm making is if the tracking and mix engineer is recording and mixing too low, he's not getting an accurate picture of where the final noise floor is going. If he peaks higher and mixes higher, he will hear more of the noise floor and will realize that he should have taken care of the noise "before" the tracking, not at the mastering stage. If I had a dime for every client that said, "wow, I didn't know that the guitar effects or 60 cycle hum sounded that noisy" until it went to mastering and had perceived gain processing, I'd be a dimondaire.    



Hey, I decide my playback level with my monitor volume control.  I don't need to track something louder to hear it louder.

-R

How loud the monitors are is not what I believe he was driving at. What I believe he is saying is that the relative level of the noise floor to source material will be greater if recording the signal at -5db vs -15db
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: RKrizman on September 20, 2005, 11:47:31 am
Denny W. wrote on Tue, 20 September 2005 11:17

How loud the monitors are is not what I believe he was driving at. What I believe he is saying is that the relative level of the noise floor to source material will be greater if recording the signal at -5db vs -15db


If he's referring to the noise from the source, then he is incorrect.

-R
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ronny on September 20, 2005, 02:42:13 pm
RKrizman wrote on Tue, 20 September 2005 11:47

Denny W. wrote on Tue, 20 September 2005 11:17

How loud the monitors are is not what I believe he was driving at. What I believe he is saying is that the relative level of the noise floor to source material will be greater if recording the signal at -5db vs -15db


If he's referring to the noise from the source, then he is incorrect.

-R


Yes, I'm referring to the noise floor of the source. I've already mentioned that it's not necessary to squeeze every bit out of a 24 bit ADC, like people used to say you had to do at 12 and 16 bit. The key is optimizing the analog side for the best floor before the ADC as the noise floor of just about all 24 bit ADC's is lower than the floor of mic pre's and much lower than the inherent noise of a quality microphone. Also, I must repeat that it's mainly an issue when perceived leveling is performed on the mastering grind. That's when tracking practices become most evident, because RMS is raised and crest factor is lowered at the final stage. One more thing, the gain that you monitor at will effect the perception of lows and highs differently from the mids (Fletcher-Munson). There can be a difference of plus or minus 5dB on the low and high frequencies and it's advisable to monitor at the same level when the material allows it. The recording newsgroups that I own and or moderate have 5,000 members and they often post tunes for reviews, opinions vary greatly as to boost the bass or attenuate the cymbals and the different opinions are relative to the not only the listening environment that each person has, but at what volume each person listens at. To get a more accurate picture of the mix, the reviewers would need to audition the samples at the same relative gain as the person that mixed it.  
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: raal on September 20, 2005, 05:21:23 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 18 September 2005 18:22

In a documentary you still don't know how loud or dynamic the music needs to be until the final mix happens against picture.

thank you for your reply sir. that's actually the situation i'm in now. this is the final mix and i'm doing it against picture, but my question is more theoretical, as i mostly do music.

basically would like to know if TL meters are 100% believable. in other words, when i print a final mix coming from an analog source, can i print it hot as possible (making sure it doesn't clip), or should i be more conservative (say -2 to 6 db), regardless of what the meters say?

Quote:

My point is why guess? Unless you luck out and guess exactly right to a tenth of a dB., the end results will almost always be more distorted.

not really looking for that last .1 dB, would leave that to the ME. i'm more looking for a ballpark  high to shoot for (in dBs, not tenths of a dB), leaving the necessary room for the ME to do a proper job. the real question i guess is if oversampling meters in fact eliminate the 'guess' factor?

FWIW, since installing the TL meters (between each plug) i work at lower levels, and whether imagined or real, it seems things sound alot better, less processing is needed and it takes a shorter amount of time to get there.

thank you again mr. olhsson, frindle, katz and all others for your very generous and educational posts.


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: lukejs on September 25, 2005, 08:53:44 pm
I've seen that many of you have decided to mix outside the box....   I have an Apogee AD16-x and am considering purchasing the DA16-x in order to mix on my Allen and Heath GS3000 recording console....    Should I go for it ??  Any of you heard anything about the quality of the Allen and Heath GS3000 console and would the expenditure on the DA converter be worth it ?  I heard that only the best Analogue will beat digital... will this console suffice ?  I appreciate any advice !!  thanks,  Luke
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: bobkatz on September 25, 2005, 10:19:03 pm
lukejs wrote on Sun, 25 September 2005 20:53

I've seen that many of you have decided to mix outside the box....   I have an Apogee AD16-x and am considering purchasing the DA16-x in order to mix on my Allen and Heath GS3000 recording console....    Should I go for it ??  Any of you heard anything about the quality of the Allen and Heath GS3000 console and would the expenditure on the DA converter be worth it ?  I heard that only the best Analogue will beat digital... will this console suffice ?  I appreciate any advice !!  thanks,  Luke



I have a client who uses the Apogee AD16 and DA16 with his Soundcraft Ghost and gets excellent results. I can't imagine the Allen and Heath being worse than the Ghost... Neither one has much of a pedigree sonically. The key to my client's good mixes is his use of good outboard gear with the console along with good ears, of course, and relatively little use of the onboard EQ in the Ghost.

BK
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: timrob on September 26, 2005, 11:46:05 pm
bobkatz wrote on Sun, 25 September 2005 21:19

lukejs wrote on Sun, 25 September 2005 20:53

I've seen that many of you have decided to mix outside the box....   I have an Apogee AD16-x and am considering purchasing the DA16-x in order to mix on my Allen and Heath GS3000 recording console....    Should I go for it ??  Any of you heard anything about the quality of the Allen and Heath GS3000 console and would the expenditure on the DA converter be worth it ?  I heard that only the best Analogue will beat digital... will this console suffice ?  I appreciate any advice !!  thanks,  Luke



I have a client who uses the Apogee AD16 and DA16 with his Soundcraft Ghost and gets excellent results. I can't imagine the Allen and Heath being worse than the Ghost... Neither one has much of a pedigree sonically. The key to my client's good mixes is his use of good outboard gear with the console along with good ears, of course, and relatively little use of the onboard EQ in the Ghost.

BK



The last five records I've Mixed have been done on a Ghost.
Actually, the last album I did that was released was half Ghost and half API (The one at House of David that came from Record One). We actually mixed all the songs originally on the Ghost and then took our mixes to the API room and tweaked them a bit.
At Mastering we thought that the API mixes would likely be what we used. It wound up being half and half.
The main problem with the Ghost is headroom. It tends to splat on the peaks. Red lights on the Ghost are not pretty at all. So, I tend to use -16 as my reference when I work on those to make sure I can get good signal, but still be in the safety zone and not crap out the board. I worked with some Allen and Heath boards a few years ago and thought they sounded decent. Can't remember the model though.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: button on October 01, 2005, 06:22:04 pm
I think some people who extoll the virtues of analogue never had to suffer the frustrations of the "Bob Katz" generation.  How frustrating was is for us to know that we had done our best work, maybe our very best work ever, and then hear it back at %$!@! significantly reduced fidelity?  It was no good at all.  Analogue processing is a cool method of achieving great sound, but thank goodness the scourge of generation loss and muffled highs/smeared low-end has gone!

Recording digital and using analogue desks and processing to mix is a happy compromise ... a musical moment preserved for the consumer, >thanks< to digital mastering and delivery mediums.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on December 11, 2005, 10:22:35 pm
button wrote on Sat, 01 October 2005 18:22


Recording digital and using analogue desks and processing to mix is a happy compromise ... a musical moment preserved for the consumer, >thanks< to digital mastering and delivery mediums.


Well said.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Pingu on December 17, 2005, 06:44:36 am
Lets say i have a track that was not recorded hot at all say -40 db
and during the mix in order to be able to hear it in the mix i have to push the fader all the way up.
Will this introduce digital harshness.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on December 17, 2005, 07:59:38 am
In my opinion, there is much less chance in that case of digital harshness, than if you had it constantly peaking at '0,' and then had to push the fader down.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Pingu on December 17, 2005, 08:38:09 am
compasspnt wrote on Sat, 17 December 2005 12:59

In my opinion, there is much less chance in that case of digital harshness, than if you had it constantly peaking at '0,' and then had to push the fader down.



Thanks Terry.

BTW  great idea making this a sticky.  Such a good thread.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on December 17, 2005, 11:22:53 am
There's no question that mixing itb requires a very different work-flow. Because it's so much more "left brain," it's best done for brief periods of time with lots of breaks. Being able to recall everything becomes an absolute necessity because getting at your gut reactions is so much harder.

I've been absolutey amazed by how good stuff that peaks to -20 sounds when it's 24 bit files. Don't just take our word for it, try it yourself. Check your digital signal path out with tones including all the plug-ins. Some of your favorites might sound worlds better with some extra headroom. A DAW mixer is still a console with all of the issues of a console.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim on December 18, 2005, 08:11:26 pm
as bob o said

try it

this simple manoeveur has made the biggest difference to the sound of my mixes

btw, you don't have to go as low as 20db when tracking

as long as peaks don't go higher than  -6/3db, that's plenty of headroom

the higher bits do give more focus, imo
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: minister on December 19, 2005, 12:24:03 am
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on December 19, 2005, 08:34:46 pm
Phi Lion wrote on Sat, 17 December 2005 11:44

Lets say i have a track that was not recorded hot at all say -40 db
and during the mix in order to be able to hear it in the mix i have to push the fader all the way up.
Will this introduce digital harshness.



No it shouldn't at all - providing the recording was properly dithered at the correct target word length. In fact it might even sound smoother as it would definitely be avoiding any possible harsh overloading.

But this isn't the whole story in practice.

If the lack of gain on recording was caused in the analogue path prior to the converter, there might be a fair amount of converter noise if you bump it back up - i.e. at -60dBr to -70dBr. But this would be the case however you got it louder in the mix, analogue or digital.

One way that harshness (and other nasties) might appear is if you processed the -40dBr signal at low levels before bumping it back up using 'inadequate plug-ins'. In this case the imperfections of a process that may be using insufficient math accuracy might become an issue. These days most common processes (like good quality digital EQs) are very capable at low levels (even darned nigh perfect - better than any analogue EQ could ever be), but sadly it was not always so Sad

This image I have lifted from the blurb I did about EQs on our web site. It illustrates the problem quite well (if a bit simplistically).

http://www.sonyoxford.co.uk/pub/plugins-sony/images/eq_lev_comp.gif

This is a simple and crude level plot, input against output with some setting that affects the freq response (in this case low freq EQ settings in full boost - the purple one is higher cos it had larger EQ gain ranges). If the EQ were good (i.e. linear) the line should be straight at all levels (i.e. drop of input would cause exactly similar drop in output). If there's a bend, discontinuity or departure from the straight line you have problems - it is effectively non-linear - i.e. distorted. (Noting of course that the bottom level will be flattend out cos of the added dither which is constant).

Basically there's a good EQ and two iffy ones that break up at low levels under some setting conditions. Digital EQs can break up in complex ways, some of which are below;

- loss of the EQ curve at low levels, with the pass signal unaffected,

- reduction (or drastic increase) of Q when the level goes down,

- change in centre freq when level falls below some threshold,

- 'idle tones' at low levels (i.e. noises, squeaks and birdies that were not present on the signal) which modulate with the signal itself'

- or maybe just plain quantisation distortion.

Clearly if you were using the ones in either the blue or green your -40dBr signal would be getting a bit close to the levels where the nasties start to make up a large proportion of your signal. The EQ in blue is failing to boost freqs as the level falls (i.e. stops being an EQ), the one in green stops passing signal completely and puts out only noise below a certain input level!! If you were using this EQ at -40dBr with the setting shown you would be creating something like a 1% error - maybe with a suite of HF harmonics (and other grumblings and farting noises) that would indeed challenge the sound very significantly (to put it mildly). These are errors that an analogue EQ is extremely unlikely to ever make (even impossible).

With the EQ shown in the purple line none of this would be an issue and all would be fine at any input level Smile

Just because it's digital it doesn't make it automatically right or wrong - and sadly, not all digital products are necessarily of high quality simply by dint of 'being digital'.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: cerberus on December 20, 2005, 07:53:18 am
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 17 December 2005 11:22

There's no question that mixing itb requires a very different work-flow. Because it's so much more "left brain," it's best done for brief periods of time with lots of breaks. Being able to recall everything becomes an absolute necessity because getting at your gut reactions is so much harder.

I've been absolutey amazed by how good stuff that peaks to -20 sounds when it's 24 bit files. Don't just take our word for it, try it yourself. Check your digital signal path out with tones including all the plug-ins. Some of your favorites might sound worlds better with some extra headroom. A DAW mixer is still a console with all of the issues of a console.



it seems as if digital has similar limits and rules as analog when it comes to gain staging in the mixer; but it's not true of all daws.


jeff
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on December 20, 2005, 10:07:09 am
Bob

There's no question that mixing itb requires a very different work-flow. Because it's so much more "left brain," it's best done for brief periods of time with lots of breaks. Being able to recall everything becomes an absolute necessity because getting at your gut reactions is so much harder.


Yes definitely agree. The ability to exactly recall everything (in the box) mitigates to a large extent the lack of physical involvement - but sadly not entirely. This is an extremely valid point IMHO Smile The issue is that achieving great results is not just about the quality and capability of the kit. It's primarily about how the users interact with it artistically - as has always been the case. W/S internal mixers have evolved from simple apps (limited by processing restriction) needed to manage HD storage systems, not necessarily with the advantage of all the knowledge aquired by the mixing console fraternity over the decades. Interaction between the kit and the user is a very subtle thing and it's not always obvious to people why they get better results under some circumstances - this leads to speculation of all sorts.
When people report better results from external analogue mixers a large part of it IMO is the artistic facility of having interactive tactile involvement along with the immediacy of analogue control. The smart thing for W/S designers to do now is to address just these issues to take these apps to another level Smile


Quote:


A DAW mixer is still a console with all of the issues of a console.



Exactly so - well said Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: carlos jaramillo on December 20, 2005, 10:17:21 am
Still the same method, if budget allows it i mix it in analog, still is light years away from digital mixers!!!!!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: cerberus on December 20, 2005, 06:07:35 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Tue, 20 December 2005 10:07


Quote:


A DAW mixer is still a console with all of the issues of a console.



Exactly so - well said Smile


You appear to reject floating point mixers out of hand.
There are such DAWs whether you sanction them or not.
So I think the assertion is incorrect in this context.


jeff dinces
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on December 20, 2005, 08:45:16 pm
cerberus wrote on Tue, 20 December 2005 23:07

Paul Frindle wrote on Tue, 20 December 2005 10:07


Quote:


A DAW mixer is still a console with all of the issues of a console.



Exactly so - well said Smile


You appear to reject floating point mixers out of hand.
There are such DAWs whether you sanction them or not.
So I think the assertion is incorrect in this context.


jeff dinces



No I don't reject them at all - not in the least Smile I would not be crazy enough to sanction or reject any application based simply on it's internal math representation - which ought to be irrelevant to the user if the apps were so designed.

FP processing may relieve you from the worst effects due to the unrecoverable clipping of over driven programme (more by accident than design - one of my points earlier in the thread), but in all other respects these applications are still essentially mixers.

It is the functionality and effects on the user's perceptions and work flow to which I refer - and the effect this can have on people's perception of the results they can obtain from a particular mixer. This, leading on to my suggestion of other reasons why people might legitimately perceive that the sound quality they can obtain is actually higher using analogue mixers than when using digital mixers - despite the technical performance disparities that exist.

In my answers to Bob's post I was speaking within the wider context of this thread. Much has already been said about the technical issues in this long thread, but so far little has been discussed regarding the subtle operational issues that are also just as important to perceived sound quality IME&VHO.

For instance - quite apart from all the discussion about overloads and reconstruction errors - IMO, much of the reason people perceive that sound quality increases so dramatically when dropping levels by as much as -20dBr before mixing, is precisely because they are relieved from the distraction and disruption of permanently watching for 'red lights' and continually destroying their balances (and artistic concentrations) by trying to avoid them. The effect of this factor alone on the flow of a mixing session is immense IMLE - and it is only one issue of a great many facing people who have to mix entirely 'in the box'.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: cerberus on December 20, 2005, 10:46:23 pm
Paul Frindle wrote on Tue, 20 December 2005 20:45

For instance - quite apart from all the discussion about overloads and reconstruction errors - IMO, much of the reason people perceive that sound quality increases so dramatically when dropping levels by as much as -20dBr before mixing, is precisely because they are relieved from the distraction and disruption of permanently watching for 'red lights' and continually destroying their balances (and artistic concentrations) by trying to avoid them. The effect of this factor alone on the flow of a mixing session is immense IMLE - and it is only one issue of a great many facing people who have to mix entirely 'in the box'.


I do understand that. It is only partially true that I don't need to "worry" at all about red lights until just before the converter, I still need to be able to read all my meters; the ones on most of my plug-ins don't tell me much after they go red. Also the threshold on none of my dynamics plug-ins can be set to a value over zero, so that would be another barrier which keeps my particular floating point mixer acting like any other mixer in a real world situation. But I think that is more about the way the plug-ins I use are designed, I am not sure that mixer itself sounds any different or is even mathematically more or less internally precise when levels peak at -20dBfs than when they do at  -.02dBfs; so i think gain variances within reason for float that would not be considered "ideal" in fixed shouldn't affect a float process in theory, but in practice they do.

And I don't dispute that Bob is hearing what he says he is. It just sinks in that he chose to change his computer to a PC which is -said to have a poorer workflow for audio production than a Mac-.   Rather than change his DAW, which I understand he feels he is required to purchase and update regularly in order to do his job. But we are talking about the interaction about sound quality and workflow, it is impossible not to look at every part of these systems and ask if there is a weakness we can solve..

I think that eventually the improvements for digital will be very incremental and subtle... just like newer analog, which has evolved and is mature.  These kinds of differences in the math between fixed and float are very subtle, but I'd like to see you designers work out the science, the ergonomics too if you will, otherwise I think digital cannot overcome the prejudice it now deserves. Since I work in digital, I have to defend it to my clients "i hear tape is better, i am going to master with a tape guy.. because i get a real pro job then"..etc... Because analog is sanity. We can't even decide...you can't even say.. one kind of mathematical paradigm is better.. and they are different.. a lay person can grasp that i think.

But why can't we agree on the kind of math we want to use?   I think it's a big reason why ITB mixing and fully digital mastering are not taken seriously in some quarters.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on December 21, 2005, 04:23:45 am
Paul Frindle wrote on Tue, 20 December 2005 10:07


(Digital Workstation)...internal mixers have evolved from simple apps (limited by processing restriction) needed to manage HD storage systems, not necessarily with the advantage of all the knowledge aquired by the mixing console fraternity over the decades. Interaction between the kit and the user is a very subtle thing and it's not always obvious to people why they get better results under some circumstances - this leads to speculation of all sorts.

When people report better results from external analogue mixers a large part of it IMO is the artistic facility of having interactive tactile involvement along with the immediacy of analogue control.


Excellent point, Paul.  There are few, if any, tactile surfaces which give the harmonious feedback to the operator that a "good old" analogue desk does (any of several makes).
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Ron Steele on December 21, 2005, 01:07:25 pm
It's been so long since I grabbed any kind of faders, that I often wonder, if it would make a difference how I would balance a mix just because of the actual physical "touch".

Any more thoughts on that?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: cerberus on December 21, 2005, 03:19:10 pm
Ron Steele wrote on Wed, 21 December 2005 13:07

It's been so long since I grabbed any kind of faders, that I often wonder, if it would make a difference how I would balance a mix just because of the actual physical "touch".

Any more thoughts on that?


my mixes could still lack some spark that the recordings had... but i don't think a daw control surface would make it different. same ears, same decisions.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim on December 21, 2005, 07:24:05 pm
i've never touched a console, yet i've mixed numerous cuts itb

i'd hazard a guess that, for my brain, mixing on a console would seem an unintuitive process which would take a while to get used to

i have no trouble grabbing a fader with my mouse, the brain kicks in automatically (after 10 years, it's not surprising)

i'm dubious that the experience would be much enhanced if my finger was touching a real fader

this is aside from the fact that it would render my studio immobile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: cerberus on December 22, 2005, 06:40:06 am
a wacom tablet looks more likely here. i'd be willing to "learn" how use it, and i think it will work... and that it would stick around long after today's groovy control surfaces are landfill.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: djui5 on December 22, 2005, 04:44:08 pm
compasspnt wrote on Wed, 21 December 2005 02:23

Paul Frindle wrote on Tue, 20 December 2005 10:07


(Digital Workstation)...internal mixers have evolved from simple apps (limited by processing restriction) needed to manage HD storage systems, not necessarily with the advantage of all the knowledge aquired by the mixing console fraternity over the decades. Interaction between the kit and the user is a very subtle thing and it's not always obvious to people why they get better results under some circumstances - this leads to speculation of all sorts.

When people report better results from external analogue mixers a large part of it IMO is the artistic facility of having interactive tactile involvement along with the immediacy of analogue control.


Excellent point, Paul.  There are few, if any, tactile surfaces which give the harmonious feedback to the operator that a "good old" analogue desk does (any of several makes).



That explains a lot.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: howlback on December 22, 2005, 06:12:23 pm
Terry, Bob, and Paul, you would know better than me, but it seems that ITB mixing is much less a "group" activity than analogue mixing used to be (particularly before automation).  I might be wrong, but my impression is that "back in the day" musicians would  participate in the process on occasion, and that assistants would be involved in recording outboard settings, etc.  The first record I made (analogue) certainly was more of a "group" thing than more recent projects ITB.  This group dynamic seems to be a bit missing now-days, the process is bound to be different.      

-k. walker
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: cerberus on December 22, 2005, 08:35:42 pm
howlback wrote on Thu, 22 December 2005 18:12

Terry, Bob, and Paul, you would know better than me, but it seems that ITB mixing is much less a "group" activity than analogue mixing used to be (particularly before automation).  I might be wrong, but my impression is that "back in the day" musicians would  participate in the process on occasion, and that assistants would be involved in recording outboard settings, etc.  The first record I made (analogue) certainly was more of a "group" thing than more recent projects ITB.  This group dynamic seems to be a bit missing now-days, the process is bound to be different.  
This could be one aspect... so maybe we can call this problem:

1. collaboration vs. isolation.

here is another terry has mentioned:

2. the necessity to commit vs. the ability to tweak endlessly.

paul has suggested that many factors could affect :

3. the pace and rhythm of the workflow.

such as dfferences in headroom on different systems
i notice two important factors which support his contention that there are "many" such issues :

a. with tape, there is always a dramatic pause before playback (rewind).

b. with a daw, one can loop a section; the lack of need for rewind can lead much faster to ear fatigue in my experience.

then there is another factor we touched on:

4. making music could be considered a physical activity. for me, mixing in analog is more like football, on a daw, it's more like chess.

the first three aspects are clear to me, but i think we could perhaps overcome them through better daw design and by changing our work habits. however, the fourth...if it is really a factor, means to me that analog mixing will have this advantage over daw mixing until daw latency becomes less than one sample.

=

my problem with analog is that i don't believe electrons are the final step; it's a problem with electricity as a medium. i think other subatomic particles might be better to represent sound waves, photons for example.  

and i think for us to develop any new "analog" paradigms, it will take a lot of help from computers to get there.

jeff dinces

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on December 22, 2005, 08:47:41 pm
Quote:



I do understand that. It is only partially true that I don't need to "worry" at all about red lights until just before the converter, I still need to be able to read all my meters; the ones on most of my plug-ins don't tell me much after they go red. Also the threshold on none of my dynamics plug-ins can be set to a value over zero, so that would be another barrier which keeps my particular floating point mixer acting like any other mixer in a real world situation. But I think that is more about the way the plug-ins I use are designed, I am not sure that mixer itself sounds any different or is even mathematically more or less internally precise when levels peak at -20dBfs than when they do at  -.02dBfs; so i think gain variances within reason for float that would not be considered "ideal" in fixed shouldn't affect a float process in theory, but in practice they do.


Yes this is the rub - whatever your internal float situation may be, there is still an unavoidable reference in the real world for the signal. This becomes obvious if you have any sort of non-linear or level dependent process which must have some absolute reference - and of course the output programme which goes on disc and out of people's systems. It is not possible to have a system where all internal processes need have no idea what the 'real' level actually is. Again, the internal math representation should not affect anything for the users or the signal. The fact that it does is due more to misunderstanding in the fundamental concept of the products than any necessity.

Quote:


And I don't dispute that Bob is hearing what he says he is. It just sinks in that he chose to change his computer to a PC which is -said to have a poorer workflow for audio production than a Mac-.   Rather than change his DAW, which I understand he feels he is required to purchase and update regularly in order to do his job. But we are talking about the interaction about sound quality and workflow, it is impossible not to look at every part of these systems and ask if there is a weakness we can solve..


Absolutely agree. Nothing important should ever be allowed to escape scrutiny.

Quote:


I think that eventually the improvements for digital will be very incremental and subtle... just like newer analog, which has evolved and is mature.  These kinds of differences in the math between fixed and float are very subtle, but I'd like to see you designers work out the science, the ergonomics too if you will, otherwise I think digital cannot overcome the prejudice it now deserves. Since I work in digital, I have to defend it to my clients "i hear tape is better, i am going to master with a tape guy.. because i get a real pro job then"..etc... Because analog is sanity. We can't even decide...you can't even say.. one kind of mathematical paradigm is better.. and they are different.. a lay person can grasp that i think.



I agree that incremental (or even lateral) improvements should always come in any system and work method - we learn all the time (hopefully) and nothing can ever be perfect. But whereas analogue components are liable to continual improvement because they are physical objects bound by the laws of physics, math is no such thing! Math is a completely virtual construct, separate to the real world and has arbitary accuracy (as defined by the designer) in order to carry out calculations within the domain of math itself - which only then get applied to 'reality'. The math is not 'the reality', math is only a tool for the approximation of systems found in 'reality' employing accuracy as is deemed adequate for the purpose - by humans.
Again the differences you perceive due to internal math representation is an artefact of insufficient design and encouraged misuse due to lack of forethought by the people who instated the systems and level regimes we now use. It is this bad technical start and the resulting misunderstandings (and therefore less than optimum working conditions) which are the biggest obstacle to actual improvement in sound quality - not the math itself. And of course this also could be applied to the ergonomics of the apps themselves. It's not that the apps are all bad - it's just that compared with some aspects of the legacy of analogue knowledge they are still in their infancy in some respects. There's still room for improvement in a great many areas, but there is no truth in the idea that there is 'good or bad math', it's a myth. There may be math representations which are optimally efficient for particular tasks - or those which are easier to programme but ultimately less efficient, but it is the responsibility of the designers of the apps to deal with this properly. Just as you wouldn't expect the internal math representation of a processor to manifest itself in issues on your word processor, spread sheet or web browser, - it should not on your DAW either Smile

Quote:



But why can't we agree on the kind of math we want to use?   I think it's a big reason why ITB mixing and fully digital mastering are not taken seriously in some quarters.



Again, it is not for us to 'agree on the kind of math we use', it is imposed on us by the processors we must employ and the systems we must interface our S/W to - it is up the the designer to make it work. The internal math should be of no consequence to you in any sense if the app is properly designed and it's used within sensible specified conditions. If differences emerge due to the processor's internal arrangement, the system is inadequate, improperly specified and/or it's being used beyond it's specified limits.

For instance in the case of reconstruction errors, the system is being used beyond the (often unpublished) theoretical limits of sampled signal systems, because the supplied meters don't display the error and no other measures are put in place to prevent it. Because of this lack of forethought (or facility) in the systems around and the working practices this has encouraged, it is now up to you the users to get around it using the methods we have discussed here. In the product (the processing for which I have designed) which is intended to provide legal final output programme - a suitable meter that does show the errors is supplied, as well as processing that dynamically fixes the error if people remain unhappy with reducing final modulation levels.

In the case of plug-ins limiting internally or behaving audibly differently between fixed point or floating instantiations - this is an error in the applications themselves and should not occur. Certainly it wouldn't for any app I would put my name on to Smile

BTW this also to applies to apps that sound different at different sample rates, where all available system rates should otherwise be theoretically adequate.

Apologies for long post - that is essentially repeating the same message.


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on December 22, 2005, 08:52:20 pm
 
Quote:

This could be one aspect... so maybe we can call this problem:

1. collaboration vs. isolation.

here is another terry has mentioned:

2. the necessity to commit vs. the ability to tweak endlessly.

paul has suggested that many factors could affect :

3. the pace and rhythm of the workflow.

such as dfferences in headroom on different systems
i notice two important factors which support his contention that there are "many" such issues :

a. with tape, there is always a dramatic pause before playback (rewind).

b. with a daw, one can loop a section; the lack of need for rewind can lead much faster to ear fatigue in my experience.

then there is another factor we touched on:

4. making music could be considered a physical activity. for me, mixing in analog is more like football, on a daw, it's more like chess.

the first three aspects are clear to me, but i think we could perhaps overcome them through better daw design and by changing our work habits. however, the fourth...if it is really a factor, means to me that analog mixing will have this advantage over daw mixing until daw latency becomes less than one sample.

jeff dinces




This is a good summary of the points. Signal and control latency are definitely issues, but (luckily) you don't have to drive latency down to single sample (20uS) levels Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on December 22, 2005, 10:08:41 pm
maxim wrote on Thu, 22 December 2005 00:24

i've never touched a console, yet i've mixed numerous cuts itb

i'd hazard a guess that, for my brain, mixing on a console would seem an unintuitive process which would take a while to get used to

i have no trouble grabbing a fader with my mouse, the brain kicks in automatically (after 10 years, it's not surprising)

i'm dubious that the experience would be much enhanced if my finger was touching a real fader

this is aside from the fact that it would render my studio immobile



Sorry to keep posting long missives Sad
These are excellent points - especially the one about cost and mobility! As an old analogue guy (with mixing a bit rusty), I have been pleasantly surprised at the speed I could knock up an acceptable mix purely ITB.
However I'm not so sure I could achieve the results I used to if doing the recording and mixing under commercial pressure?
The thing that strikes me most is that the art and culture have changed to accomodate the extra limitations, but also have naturally modified to make artistic use of the new facilities that are now at our disposal instead. IMO this is great and exciting stuff - we can achieve things that would have been unheard of in the 1970's to 1990's Smile
However I am still aware of another aspect - the lack of true immersive involvement and instinctive control? On consoles the process would become tactile and immersing (if I was having success), almost like playing an instrument, you would 'sink' into it almost beyond concious consideration. When working ITB this isn't possible for me, instead I end up going over and over pieces getting it right that I would have just done intuitively in the past. This is perhaps only possible at all because I have a memory of 'what should be possible' and can aim towards this prior experience? For instance the last mix of any import I did ITB was of a 'disco' style, very similar to scores of them I did commercially back in the 70's.

If you stretch the instument analogy to it's limit and you are a musician you can understand that HOW you play and WHAT you play is dictated by the nuances of the instrument you are playing - even if they are of the same basic type, there are still differences. Now if I were to replace those instruments entirely (say guitar or piano) with a perfect sounding synthesized instrument - even with all the sonic nuances of the real one - but I was forced to play the music using only a mouse and virtual keyboard (or frets), however much (or quickly) I had the facility to modify and build it up in layers of complexity by repeated action, the fact that I couldn't do it in one go whilst interacting with the instrument would drastically modify the performance. I might get a note perfect reproduction of something I have played before - but it would lack natural spontaneous 'feel'. I would not be able to extemporise and experiment with musical measures in an involved way on the instrument - which would make composition very much more difficult and restricted, unless I were extremely proficient and had played the real instrument for many years beforehand.

The overall result of this would be that the music I composed would gravitate towards that which was artistically successful on the new system. Now this may indeed be valid art and great new stuff in its own right - but it would be different from what I would and could do on the real physical object - because the physical and psychological artistic feedback of playing the real instrument would be missing - and I would no longer have inspiration from interacting with it - for instance not being able to play multiple notes together would remove 80% of the possible expression. In effect I could have done what I was doing with the mouse anyway - but I have lost ALL the rest Sad

Now imagine that I was going to do this without ever having played the real instrument at all? In this case i wouldn't even be aware of the potential experience of playing it. So the art I would produce would be radically different from even in the previous case (where I had at least memory of the experience). It would be impossible to even conceive of what I would have done if I had the real instrument - there would be no way of re-creating the experience.

Now I know this is stretching the point regarding mixing which perhaps these days has changed lots (and I was never a good sound engineer anyway), but when I was doing it I definitely had that musical involvement and intuitive interaction on sessions that went really well - with real artistic fluidity and satisfaction, never seeming like a chore. In fact it was the absence of this feeling that characterised those that didn't go well. Whatever I did and however long I spent on them, these 'difficult' sessions would be a drudge of time, effort and inordinate amounts of concentration that would focus ominously on ever more fine and finicky detail, only to squeeze out a passable but ultimately unsatisfying end result, that got finished primarily because I had simply ran out of time or patience - rather than ever having the feeling it was 'just right'.

It's at this level I am expressing concern. It's this level of involvement I would like to consider closely in the DAW environment and ideally how to get it back, because I have the suspicion that (for me at least) mixing ITB would always correspond with the latter of these experiences, unless I limited myself to specific musically artistic genres?

I can't dispell the deeply unsettling feeling that currently ITB mixers are inadequate virtual emulations of a 'real thing' - when they might instead be able to evolve into something 'in their own right' with a splendid new artistic validity and facility of their own - if one were prepared to think out of the frame and not simply try to replace an absent (and possibly obsolete) physical object Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim on December 23, 2005, 12:26:16 am
paul, these are very good points and i can see why my analogue desk trained friends and colleagues lament having to work on a daw

however, i think, your analogy is a little stretched

riding a fader requires a simple 'digital' movement, like rolling a trackball (which is what i use)

it's not the same as getting tone out of a fretboard

mixing itb is no longer a non-realtime experience (as it was when i started with deck on 7200 powermac)

as it is now, in dp on a g3, setting balances and pans is a completely right hemisphere activity (for me)

likewise, patching in eq, compression and delays is a fairly straightforward affair (more so than a desk, i would guess)

the only thing i'm missing out on is being able to ride more than one fader at the same time (although submixing and automation can compensate for this)

but i'm used to concentrating on one fader at a time

how much left hemisphere was involved in syncing multiple desks, patching in reverbs etc, that has now been left behind?

i think, it is a question of what you're used to

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Paul Frindle on December 23, 2005, 11:24:51 am
maxim wrote on Fri, 23 December 2005 05:26

paul, these are very good points and i can see why my analogue desk trained friends and colleagues lament having to work on a daw

however, i think, your analogy is a little stretched

riding a fader requires a simple 'digital' movement, like rolling a trackball (which is what i use)

it's not the same as getting tone out of a fretboard

mixing itb is no longer a non-realtime experience (as it was when i started with deck on 7200 powermac)

as it is now, in dp on a g3, setting balances and pans is a completely right hemisphere activity (for me)

likewise, patching in eq, compression and delays is a fairly straightforward affair (more so than a desk, i would guess)

the only thing i'm missing out on is being able to ride more than one fader at the same time (although submixing and automation can compensate for this)

but i'm used to concentrating on one fader at a time

how much left hemisphere was involved in syncing multiple desks, patching in reverbs etc, that has now been left behind?

i think, it is a question of what you're used to




Yes points well taken - I was indeed stretching the point to its absolute limit to illustrate the emotion and provoke discussion and feedback from people who use it every day in earnest. There are a great many things that can be done now with a DAW which were extremely difficult if not impossible with a console that did not have on the fly configuration and integrated HD editing - let alone one that was connected only to a tape machine Sad.

The thing I would ask is do you get the immersive 'on a roll' feeling when you get into a track using a DAW? Do things just fall into place without you really knowing exactly why - when you are having a good session? Or do you end up proceding in a slow, considered stop/start basis using analysis of very small detail, rather than immersion and instinct applied to the whole?
It's not that I consider the latter impossible, it's just that I wonder if the DAW environment encourages the former.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim on December 23, 2005, 08:48:45 pm
i'm not certain about encouraging, but then, i'm not sure, how encouraging the console is either

i know for certain that it would take me a while before it became intuitive

as i said, after 10 years of daily daw use, i no longer think about it, and the right hemisphere kicks in straight away

the 'ghosts' between speakers materialise easily, and the control is fairly invisible

i do think it's all about the cerebellar feedback, like riding a bike

the only time when the stop/start feeling arises is when i'm comping, but there again, i'm sure it would be even worse with tape

also, i chose dp as my platform of choice, primarily, on the ease of use while mixing

i think it's VERY important to have your system set up well, so the issues like cpu overload don't arise

also, make sure all your submixes, auxilliaries, delays etc are set up before you start, so the right hemisphere is not distracted
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: rankus on December 25, 2005, 09:02:53 pm
maxim wrote on Fri, 23 December 2005 17:48



as i said, after 10 years of daily daw use, i no longer think about it, and the right hemisphere kicks in straight away

the 'ghosts' between speakers materialise easily, and the control is fairly invisible

the only time when the stop/start feeling arises is when i'm comping, but there again, i'm sure it would be even worse with tape




This has been my experience as well.  I took a ten year break between console and the DAW revolution.... But now after ten years on a DAW it seems pretty "natural" to me. There is very little thought between what I want to hear and the actions to get there...
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: NoWo on February 03, 2006, 06:21:04 pm
What he said. Although in my case it has just been five years.
On the other hand it is always a good idea to have a analog console in the CR. Switching and sending signals around is much easier with it. It looks more impressing when people are coming in, you have a place to lay your feet on (sometimes even your head) and what about all your pencils, papers, remote controls, favourite magazines, keyboards and mouse-pads? There is always some place left on a large-sized desk -:)))

Best wishes
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: cerberus on February 13, 2006, 04:28:08 am
NoWo wrote on Fri, 03 February 2006 18:21

what about all your pencils, papers, remote controls, favourite magazines, keyboards and mouse-pads?

i think that's why the turntable is still here.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Pingu on February 13, 2006, 07:42:27 am
maxim wrote on Sat, 24 December 2005 09:48

i'm not certain about encouraging, but then, i'm not sure, how encouraging the console is either

i know for certain that it would take me a while before it became intuitive

as i said, after 10 years of daily daw use, i no longer think about it, and the right hemisphere kicks in straight away

the 'ghosts' between speakers materialise easily, and the control is fairly invisible

i do think it's all about the cerebellar feedback, like riding a bike

the only time when the stop/start feeling arises is when i'm comping, but there again, i'm sure it would be even worse with tape

also, i chose dp as my platform of choice, primarily, on the ease of use while mixing

i think it's VERY important to have your system set up well, so the issues like cpu overload don't arise

also, make sure all your submixes, auxilliaries, delays etc are set up before you start, so the right hemisphere is not distracted




Thats what i call mixing with your mind. Very Happy
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: maxim on February 16, 2006, 03:36:51 am
the penguin wrote:

"Thats what i call mixing with your mind."

right

a few of the concepts have come to me via the mind of mike stavrou (the 'ghosts', right/left workflow etc)

great stuff
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Daniel Asti on May 25, 2006, 03:42:44 pm
Keyplayer wrote on Sat, 23 April 2005 16:04

Terry Manning [Whatever Works] requested this thread be a sticky

Have fun.   F
    ------------------------------------------------------------ ----
    ------------------------------------------------------------ ----
With all the debate over the supeior ease of automation in the DAW vrs that of most mixing consoles, I was wondering if anybody was actually using their DAW like a tape deck/editor and mixing from their consoles to a mixdown deck or even back to a stereo or 6 stem tracks on their DAW?

I'm pretty sure those of you with access to Neve's, API's, SSL's etc are doing just that. But for those running in the "Mid-Line" (I.E. DM2K, R-100, Soundcraft Ghost etc.) are you doing this or letting the DAW do all the work and having your desk just act as a router?


If I'm working at home it's TDM ITB with a Mackie HUI(which has good small environment controls for talkback and such). Perfect if you only have one separate room. Incredibly responsive interface too.

If I'm paying to mix in a professional studio, I almost always have to use their mixer. All the outboard gear (the stuff I'm actually paying for  Razz ) is hooked to it.

They both sound as "good" or "bad" to me personally. One of my best friends does everything through his ssl. He truely believes that his particular board is magical and has a special sound. I think that you need some mojo like that to make good mixes. Making something amazing requires confidence in your equipment and abilities. You also need a lot of hard work. In my opinion the most important tools are your ears and the will to do something amazing.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 30, 2006, 01:32:02 am
Daniel Asti wrote on Thu, 25 May 2006 15:42


He truly believes that his particular board is magical and has a special sound. I think that you need some mojo like that to make good mixes. Making something amazing requires confidence in your equipment and abilities. You also need a lot of hard work. In my opinion the most important tools are your ears and the will to do something amazing.



Good statement Daniel.

So much of doing something well is a positive attitude and confidence in yourself and your tools.

I agree in principle with your friend.  Our ssl is pretty magical on mixes, too.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: tris on June 28, 2006, 10:23:19 pm
not sure what the actual question was but....
....A POINT ON BITRATE.....

multiply bitrate by 6 to determine possible dynamic range....

therefore a 16 bit file has a maximum dynamic range of 16x6=96db, so if you have -20db peak signal your maximum possible dynamic range is 76db...

24 bit file is therefore 24x6=144db....a peak level of -20 still leaves dynamic range of 124db so clearly an advantage.....and mastering engineers will love you for it...


not sure if the same apply's for 32 bit floating point files,
anybody know????????

hope that helps, got it out of bob katz mastering book...pretty cool,lots of handy tips....
by the way only found this forum cos im looking for any negative points about the apogee ad16x
1,...is it cool to use a normal firewire card..
2,...is it realy worth the cash, i already have the rme fireface?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: enginEAR on June 29, 2006, 07:14:42 am
Hello.

I am not quite sure if the desk i use (AMEK Classic w/24 Chn.) is in the 'mid-line', but since i have that one I mix as much as possible through the desk (with my tracks in PT [Mix
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: yngve hoeyland on September 23, 2006, 07:13:26 pm
We have a 9080J in the studio, and run PT/Logic as our DAW platforms using Apogee converters throughout.

I do a bit of everything, that is, mixing on the desk, mixing on the DAW (just monitoring though 2 strips on the desk, and every comination you'd think of in between those...) This is what I've found:

1. Summing
There definately is a difference to the sound of a DAW-summed mix (logic) and a mix summed on the 9J (A/B'd by just leaving strips at 0dB with no EQ/dynamics). How different the two extremes sound, not to mention what sounds best, is ofcourse a subjective matter. Personally I like the analog summing, it seems to define instruments and tracks a little more than summing digitally... moreover, possibly because of the bandwidth limitations on the desk channel strips, the highs seem less obtrusive - a little softer almost, without any dullness (strips specs 5-38000 Hz +- 0.1dB in the manuals BTW so it seems kind of weird).

2. Practical?
This I imagine is different for every studio, project, producer, writer etc. in the world. I prefer to do most of the mixing on the desk, sometimes summing BV's, arco sections, pads, horns and the likes together, sorted by voice, to save time-consuming knob-twiddling on the desk.) After setting up a good static mix, I'll do level rides on the desk. When I'm happy with those, I go back to the DAW to do detail automation, like taking out a pop or squeek from a chair etc, and also do any FX send level automation from the DAW (the SSL analogue desks only automate FX ons/offs not level changes so sometimes it's easier to route an FX send master directly from the DAW, then automate it on the desk faders using post sends on the strip).
A lot of things like sync delays and panning autos is just a pain outside the DAW because they take a lot of time to get right. Easier to do it in the box.

3. Why the desk?
Well, there's the analogue summing issue... which is a load of audiophile nonsense. The summing of a bunch of signals is minute compared to the "bigger" things in a mix, not to mention the actual music you're mixing in the first place which is what most people will listen to anyway).
For me (and again this is probably different for everyone) it all comes down to three things:
a) The hands-on approach. I like doing two or three things at once, say autoing levels on lead vocals and bv's simultaneously.

b) DAWs (even with controllers) don't give you instant access to any parameter on any channel at any time. On a big-ole analogue desk you can see what's happening if you hear something's off, and change it without fiddling your mouse to check out settings on all of your forty-odd plugins.

c) (the BIG one) I hate to see good engineers look at their mix more than they listen. What scientist told you that looking at waveforms and dotted automation lines is going to make your mix a grammy? Ten out of ten for overviews and faultfinding, but minus forty million for focus. It's a proven fact that our eyes override what we're hearing - it's the most dominant sense we have. What is more stupid than letting your eyes tell you what you're hearing? Ever noticed how you sometimes don't even notice when people are talking to you when you're watching TV? Exactly.

Thanks for the patience with reading this guys, sorry it turned out so long in the end. Morale of the day? Stop looking at what you're hearing.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on September 23, 2006, 09:35:30 pm

Hi Yngve.

I think those are excellent points.

That is very much they way I do things, only I probably don't sum as many subgroups, preferring to go out with as many individual tracks as I reasonably can.

There is something good happening with the highs when summing through a big analogue desk.

Best regards.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: ruffrecords on January 05, 2007, 03:48:17 pm
Not an issue for me - I have an AKAI DPS24 - a DAW with built in motorized faders.

Ian
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: djui5 on January 19, 2007, 01:16:26 pm
yngve hoeyland wrote on Sat, 23 September 2006 17:13

Morale of the day? Stop looking at what you're hearing.



This is brilliant, I'm borrowing it for my signature if you don't mind Smile

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: jdvmi00 on May 25, 2007, 03:53:16 pm
Ok, After spending days reading all of this I've attached an image from cubase with some annotation to see if I'm grasping the concepts.  Thank you everyone for your help and for sharing your knowledge.  Please let me know if I've got my head wrapped around this correctly.  Thanks!

index.php/fa/5242/0/
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 25, 2007, 04:24:37 pm
Hi Jim,

Not knowing Cubase, I would say that it appears you are doing things better than many who track and mix ITB.

The only real change I would make to your annotation would be to input the initial tracking levels about 6 dB lower than you now show.  This may mean running your final analogue stage a bit lower, or calibrating your A>D a bit lower, or both.

Once this is accomplished, the rest is virtually automatic, and little will "go wrong," level-wise.

As for adding a limiter at the final stage, if not sending out to Mastering, yes, that is where you would do so.

Bringing up level properly is a bit of an art, however, and in some cases you might be better actually doing so within two separate plug-ins, rather than one alone, depending, of course, upon the quality of the software (or upon how pretty the GUI looks).



Ignore the GUI comment.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: jdvmi00 on May 25, 2007, 07:06:46 pm
compasspnt wrote on Fri, 25 May 2007 15:24

Hi Jim,

Not knowing Cubase, I would say that it appears you are doing things better than many who track and mix ITB.

The only real change I would make to your annotation would be to input the initial tracking levels about 6 dB lower than you now show.  This may mean running your final analogue stage a bit lower, or calibrating your A>D a bit lower, or both.

Once this is accomplished, the rest is virtually automatic, and little will "go wrong," level-wise.

As for adding a limiter at the final stage, if not sending out to Mastering, yes, that is where you would do so.

Bringing up level properly is a bit of an art, however, and in some cases you might be better actually doing so within two separate plug-ins, rather than one alone, depending, of course, upon the quality of the software (or upon how pretty the GUI looks).



Ignore the GUI comment.



Thanks!  So basically I should record at -12 to -15 peak instead of -6?  I'm guessing that's because it will give me enough headroom to add in the plugs and stay within the -6 range for the entire track?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 25, 2007, 11:54:09 pm
Yes.

But you should experiment, and find out how the individual levels do when summing one of your "normal" sessions (I know the sessions will vary quite a bit, of course).

I have found that the -12 area gives a good balance of things, but I have no problem with tracking even lower, if need be.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: right on June 12, 2007, 02:36:56 pm
Wow. Just wanted to chime in and say thanks for this incredibly informative thread, especially to Paul.

So many things that I've been frustrated by for years suddenly make so much more sense.

I started recording at lower levels a few years ago just because I realized it made life easier when I didn't have to worry about overs on input, and became convinced that overall sound quality improved even though common wisdom seemed to suggest there should be no difference. A similar thing happened when I began to informally use a sort of loose K-metering system after reading Bob K's excellent book.

Frankly I began to feel like my digital work was starting to have more of the natural clarity of analog when I worked at lower levels. I thought there was something with my monitors or output signal chain or something.

Anyway, thanks again for this eye-opener. This is some of the best information I've seen anywhere.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Mike P on June 12, 2007, 06:08:29 pm
jdvmi00 wrote on Fri, 25 May 2007 16:06


Thanks!  So basically I should record at -12 to -15 peak instead of -6?  I'm guessing that's because it will give me enough headroom to add in the plugs and stay within the -6 range for the entire track?



In Nuendo (or Cubase) preferences, you can set the colors to correspond to the two available indicators.  Since first reading about Terry's excellent advice on levels last year, I set my meters in Nuendo to show the color Green up to around -9db and the color Red from that point up to Zero.  This has really helped from a visual standpoint.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on June 12, 2007, 10:35:07 pm
Excellent idea, Mike!
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: rankus on June 14, 2007, 08:58:27 pm


Yes Mike,  I have had my Nuendo meters set up like this since the ver 3 upgrade.  Really helps keep things in check.... Even my clients will give me heads up when things go into the red.. at which point I have to explain the whole "lower is better" to them... Spreading the word.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: viewmaster on August 03, 2007, 10:51:46 am
I wanted to add a thank-you to all who have participated in this forum too, it's been one of the most helpful and informative resources I've ever read.

I totally agree that by implementing the lower levels in tracking and subsequent mixing within Cubase SX, recordings sound truer to my original intention - easier to mix, as some have said more "analog" - I would even go so far as to say that the imaging is spot on here when levels aren't clipping the Master output in Cubase.

This would compare to a session where levels have been poorly set, and the best way I can describe trying to mix a session like this is:

"It's a fight between me, the clip light, and the computer."

If I did need extra level, I'd also now be approaching it from the POV that I know that the levels prior to the Limiter (in my case the Oxford Limiter) were safe, giving me the confidence and flexibility to do some "faux" mastering to it - prior to sending the un "faux" mastered mix to the ME for the professional result.

Anyway - thanks again, much appreciated.

Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: djchris73 on September 02, 2007, 10:32:21 pm
I use my computer like a multi-track tape machine: it records and plays it back for me.
I mix on my 32.8 Mackie board. That's the way I was taught, so that's the way I do it. The only thing I cheat and have the computer (software actually) do is the automation. Other than that, EQ'ing my tracks, compression, limiting, final mix recording and effects is down in the real world. Less stress on my computer.
Maybe a little antiquated but it works for me.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Jason Lord on September 17, 2007, 07:44:31 pm
All thing being equal, I would still prefer to mix on my API 7800 mixer in conjunction with my DAW.  One converter to each channel on the mixer.

There are just tricks & sounds I still love from my analog gear.  Yes, outboard boxes can be used as hardware inserts in PT TDM, and I do that.  But I still prefer the punch from the API and being able to hit the mix bus and get that sound.

Have I done computer mixes? yes.  Do they also sound good? yes.
Although I always insert my favorite boxes on hardware inserts when I have to mix in PT.

Cheers,
Jason Lord
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: audio2u on October 13, 2007, 08:59:21 am
Wow!
I haven't posted around these parts in... yikes, probably 18 months or so... but I just wanted to echo all of those comments about:

* Thanks Paul F., Bob K., Bob O. et al who have shared so much valuable information in this thread, and

* Most informative thread I've read on an audio forum EVER. This has shed a lot of light on a whole bunch of things for me.

And for what it's worth, my professional audio career has just passed the 20 year mark (celebrated that on July 1, 2007).
When I started as a "carting guy" in my first radio station, the production studio was running on an Otari MX80 1" 8 track, into a Dynamix 3000 analogue desk (not a very brilliant example of the breed, unfortunately. A google search finds a lot of people who speak very highly of this desk).
So, that was where I cut my teeth. 1" tape and good ol' fashioned automation-less analogue mixing down to 1/4".
Then, around '96, I moved to Sydney and started mixing ITB on a variety of different systems that existed then (Session 8, PT, Soundscape, TimeLine StudioFrame, Sadie, AMS Audiofile).
These days I use almost exclusively (and I know some of you are gonna laugh, but you really shouldn't!) Adobe Audition. I'm also a beta tester of same. It's an amazing piece of gear, and IMHO, better than PT. Yeah yeah, go ahead... laugh all you like. I'm used to it. Smile
Seriously though, the reason I tell you all this is to highlight the fact that I was fortunate enough to learn my craft in the days of analogue (sorry, "analog" for the US readers!), and spent almost 10 years mixing that way.
And now I've had 10 years of mixing ITB, so I've seen both sides of the fence.
And Paul, I absolutely concur with your analogy of playing an instrument. Despite the AMAZING flexibility you get with automation onscreen, there just isn't the same tactile response as having both hands spread out across a dozen faders on a desk, or as yngve hoeyland sad...

Quote:


a) The hands-on approach. I like doing two or three things at once, say autoing levels on lead vocals and bv's simultaneously.



... being able to pull 2 or 3 vocals into line in the one pass.
Now, for the guys who mix ITB WITH the benefit of a control surface (unfortunately, that's not me at present), I'd be keen to hear how flexible those devices are at peforming those kinds of moves.
And even if they handle it, can you instinctivley reach for the mid band frequency pot of the bass guitar without having to call it into focus first?
That's what worries me about control surfaces.
Unless you've got megabucks to drop on a large format control surface (where you've got a dedicated channel strip for every input), you've still got to spend time bringing a parameter to the fore before you can tweak it. Technology getting in the way of the art.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti mixing-with-a-mouse... I've learned to do it quite well (IMHO!), but it's just not the same (a la Paul's music analogy).
Just my 2 cents worth.
Thanks again for a great read, guys. Much appreciated.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on October 13, 2007, 10:19:04 am
audio2u wrote on Sat, 13 October 2007 08:59


Wow!

* Most informative thread I've read on an audio forum EVER. This has shed a lot of light on a whole bunch of things for me.




In relation to audio recording, what more can we ask of the Internet than this?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: audio2u on October 14, 2007, 08:15:43 am
Oh, meant to ask a question.
I'm familar with dBm, dBu, dBV and dBFS, but what's dBr?
I saw it mentioned quite a bit in this thread, but it's not a term I've come across before.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: audio2u on October 15, 2007, 02:11:10 am
Never mind. I just found it by doing a forum search... who'd have thunk it?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nick Sevilla on March 21, 2008, 07:25:34 pm
Yes I do still mix sometimes on my mixer.

More umph.

More blending mystery.

More headroom.

More pleasing distortions.

Faster.

Fuzzier...not as clear as the ITB thing.

No weird low end and high end...weirdness.

Cheers
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on March 22, 2008, 12:36:13 pm
noeqplease wrote on Fri, 21 March 2008 19:25

Yes I do still mix sometimes on my mixer.

More umph.

More blending mystery.

More headroom.

More pleasing distortions.

Faster.

Fuzzier...not as clear as the ITB thing.

No weird low end and high end...weirdness.

Cheers



Yes.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: mustgroove on April 08, 2008, 09:52:28 am
Unbelievably eye-opening thread... 1 quick n00btacular question:

The theories featured in this thread aren't just limited to Pro Tools, and apply equally to 32bit floating point DAWs, don't they?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: PaulyD on April 08, 2008, 07:19:01 pm
mustgroove wrote on Tue, 08 April 2008 06:52

The theories featured in this thread aren't just limited to Pro Tools, and apply equally to 32bit floating point DAWs, don't they?


Yes, they do.

A thread related to this one can be found at the top of the Whatever Works forum. The entire thread is a worthwhile read, but if you want an explanation as to why this is, jump right to page 8 of that thread and read astroshack's post.

Paul
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: mustgroove on April 08, 2008, 09:53:54 pm
PaulyD wrote on Wed, 09 April 2008 00:19

Yes, they do.

A thread related to this one can be found at the top of the Whatever Works forum. The entire thread is a worthwhile read, but if you want an explanation as to why this is, jump right to page 8 of that thread and read afroshack's post.

Paul


Thanks very much Paul... I had a suspicion it might have been a little different for floating point systems, as that post mentions, but good to know the rule of thumb is still the same.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Elbowgeek on May 26, 2008, 11:17:57 am
If I can just jump in with the experiences of a recording engineer still very much with training wheels on...

I asked an experienced engineer (he'd worked with some pretty big names) about recording levels, and his answer was simple: hot as possible, and don't be afraid if you get a few "overs" and redlines, but keep those to a minimum.  But make sure you're using crap inputs; on my MOTU 896 workhorse I could push the levels regularly into red territory and get almost analog smoothness to the distortion, never any digital nasties.  

I just hope the Firestudio I replace it with will have the same qualities.

Otherwise, I've learned a megatonne about the deeper aspects from the great, experienced members here - I'll be reading through this thread for a long while yet.

Cheers
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nick Sevilla on May 26, 2008, 11:25:31 am
Elbowgeek wrote on Mon, 26 May 2008 08:17

If I can just jump in with the experiences of a recording engineer still very much with training wheels on...

I asked an experienced engineer (he'd worked with some pretty big names) about recording levels, and his answer was simple: hot as possible, and don't be afraid if you get a few "overs" and redlines, but keep those to a minimum.  But make sure you're using crap inputs; on my MOTU 896 workhorse I could push the levels regularly into red territory and get almost analog smoothness to the distortion, never any digital nasties.  

I just hope the Firestudio I replace it with will have the same qualities.

Otherwise, I've learned a megatonne about the deeper aspects from the great, experienced members here - I'll be reading through this thread for a long while yet.

Cheers



Just to put a wrench in ye olde "recording less hot at 24 bit" thing that's floating around.

I always try to optimize the recording before it hits the converter, and try to hit a good enough leve that will allow the most dynamic range going through the converters.

To me this means reaching around -3 on peaks, and is an occasional peak goes higher, then no worries. This usually ends up meaning I have an RMS level good enough to capture the sound as best as I can. What happens, IMO, is that I end up with a great recording, and then I can use the faders to set up the basic levels, instead of trying to the the very stupid (IMO) thing of trying to aim for all faders near unity level, and recording each instrument at different levels, ie. "mixing" by changing the recording levels. This is a great way to increase bad recordings, and decrease fidelity.

Cheers
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Tomas Danko on May 26, 2008, 11:59:46 am
noeqplease wrote on Mon, 26 May 2008 16:25

Elbowgeek wrote on Mon, 26 May 2008 08:17

If I can just jump in with the experiences of a recording engineer still very much with training wheels on...

I asked an experienced engineer (he'd worked with some pretty big names) about recording levels, and his answer was simple: hot as possible, and don't be afraid if you get a few "overs" and redlines, but keep those to a minimum.  But make sure you're using crap inputs; on my MOTU 896 workhorse I could push the levels regularly into red territory and get almost analog smoothness to the distortion, never any digital nasties.  

I just hope the Firestudio I replace it with will have the same qualities.

Otherwise, I've learned a megatonne about the deeper aspects from the great, experienced members here - I'll be reading through this thread for a long while yet.

Cheers



Just to put a wrench in ye olde "recording less hot at 24 bit" thing that's floating around.

I always try to optimize the recording before it hits the converter, and try to hit a good enough leve that will allow the most dynamic range going through the converters.

To me this means reaching around -3 on peaks, and is an occasional peak goes higher, then no worries. This usually ends up meaning I have an RMS level good enough to capture the sound as best as I can. What happens, IMO, is that I end up with a great recording, and then I can use the faders to set up the basic levels, instead of trying to the the very stupid (IMO) thing of trying to aim for all faders near unity level, and recording each instrument at different levels, ie. "mixing" by changing the recording levels. This is a great way to increase bad recordings, and decrease fidelity.

Cheers


Part of the reasoning for low levels is because a lot of AD-converters do not come equipped with a robust analogue front end which often means it starts cracking up when you approach full scale and start to sound harsh and constipated.

And that with 24 bit dynamics you can lower your levels and still get ALL the practical dynamic reach you really need.

I guess you can probably make a great sounding album if you occasionally peak at around -3 dBfs instead of -12. Whatever works for you, or for me as always. Smile
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 26, 2008, 06:40:11 pm
And it's been said several times already, but don't forget that  George Massenburg often even recorded on ANALOGUE at much reduced levels.

There is a reason for this, in any medium.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: merrymerry on October 31, 2009, 10:39:01 pm
What a great thread this is...  i love the idea that working at lower levels removes the "flow killer" of the red light overs problem. I never realized this was happening to me!!

And then I got really excited and just had to tell you this.

In samplitude and sequoia in the "general" settings there is an option to lower all mixer strips by 6, 12 or 18 db!!

Thats right...  you can record so you are peaking at -3 db to get the fullest possible recording quality....   and then lower the whole lot of your mixer channels by 12 db to give the required headroom.

I wonder if other daws have this "hidden" function?
Worth checking out.

Bobkatz , maybe you could suggest this to your customers that use samplitude or sequoia?

Warm regards, Merry.

Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on November 13, 2009, 08:34:24 am
Hmmm...
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: PaulyD on November 13, 2009, 12:22:14 pm
*sigh*
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on November 13, 2009, 02:02:00 pm
Merry, please re-read the entire thread, and also the similar one at the top of Whatever Works.


The point is to hit the digital domain at the lowered level, not to just automatically reduce banks of faders during ITB mixing.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: merrymerry on November 13, 2009, 06:18:34 pm
it's you who needs to read the entire thread.I already did.
your arrogance is incredible to the extreme that you completely missed my point.
please go and sigh knowingly somewhere else.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on November 13, 2009, 11:32:22 pm
I apologise to you, Mr. Merry, if I misunderstood your post.

Mr. Terry.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: PaulyD on November 14, 2009, 02:25:36 am
Merry,
my sigh wasn't a knowing sigh, it was an uh-oh-here-we-go-again sigh. The subject of recording levels has been debated at great length on these forums over a number of years, and of course I feel compelled to read every word…

Anyway, as a veteran of these forums, I can tell you Terry is a genuine good-guy and I'm sure his suggestion was a friendly one. He's just trying to help us all make the best records we can.

Paul
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Wireline on November 16, 2009, 08:10:35 am
PaulyD wrote on Sat, 14 November 2009 01:25


... Terry is a genuine good-guy and I'm sure his suggestion was a friendly one. He's just trying to help us all make the best records we can.






yes, console mixing is still the preferred method here.  For our workflow, just works better, sounds better, delivers the goods faster.

Sidebar: Even if Terry was sharpshooting (which I don't think was the case) then I'd be paying close attention to it...There's a rumor going around he has been involved in one or two records.


Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nick Sevilla on November 21, 2009, 08:48:25 pm
Ron Steele wrote on Wed, 21 December 2005 10:07

It's been so long since I grabbed any kind of faders, that I often wonder, if it would make a difference how I would balance a mix just because of the actual physical "touch".

Any more thoughts on that?


My fingers are tied to my ears through my brain.

No faders = no mix.

There is something about being able to "touch" the instruments through a fader that I simply cannot do without.

Cheers
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: thedoc on November 26, 2009, 12:12:57 am
Just a quick note on recording levels during recording to a digital medium:

If you record too hot (such as -3dB below clipping) you may be actually clipping intersample peaks that you do not know about.

Pulling down faders later will not cure clipped recordings.  

I know I hear an echo in here somewhere...sigh...
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nick Sevilla on December 02, 2009, 01:11:06 pm
thedoc wrote on Wed, 25 November 2009 21:12

Just a quick note on recording levels during recording to a digital medium:
If you record too hot (such as -3dB below clipping) you may be actually clipping intersample peaks that you do not know about.
Pulling down faders later will not cure clipped recordings.  
I know I hear an echo in here somewhere...sigh...


I too have been more and more recording in the "yellow zone" and hitting peaks at about -6 dbFS. This also seems to help when mixing, as there is still more headroom in the individual instruments for more processing, if it needs it. Sometimes I get recordings done by other engineers, and I find myself actually gaining DOWN some of the individual instruments, because as as soon as I put a plug-in on there, it immediately just clips at any level I set the plugin to. I had this happen to an electric bass recording for a whole album. I guess no one was looking at the clipping red LED lights...

Typically I have a final mix not hit above -3dbFS, to give a little headroom for mastering. Of course it also matters what music I'm mixing.

Cheers
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on December 02, 2009, 01:53:59 pm
Nick Sevilla wrote on Wed, 02 December 2009 13:11

Sometimes I get recordings done by other engineers, and I find myself actually gaining DOWN some of the individual instruments, because as as soon as I put a plug-in on there, it immediately just clips at any level I set the plugin to. I had this happen to an electric bass recording for a whole album. I guess no one was looking at the clipping red LED lights...



Bass especially can act very differently in a software recording programme than in an analogue console, level-wise.

For those with a desk, check the level of a bass guitar on the desk meters, compared to the PT ones...it's almost always recorded too hot, even if the levels look fairly OK on the DAW.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nick Sevilla on December 06, 2009, 06:56:07 pm
compasspnt wrote on Wed, 02 December 2009 10:53


Bass especially can act very differently in a software recording programme than in an analogue console, level-wise.

For those with a desk, check the level of a bass guitar on the desk meters, compared to the PT ones...it's almost always recorded too hot, even if the levels look fairly OK on the DAW.



I hear you. Usually I record the bass with peaks at about -10 to -8 at most, even when compressing. I really can't mix if those initial transients of the bass aren't there. It ends up sounding like total mush.

I have had the occasion to use an SPL Transient Designer on a poorly recorded bass track, and was able to save that mix.

I might look into getting the software version, and comparing it to a rental harware unit, and see which one I like best.

Cheers
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on February 26, 2010, 07:56:20 am
merrymerry wrote on Sat, 31 October 2009 21:39

 In samplitude and sequoia in the "general" settings there is an option to lower all mixer strips by 6, 12 or 18 db!!
Samp user here.... That's very easy to do, basic digital math, each time you shift data to the right, you attenuate by 6dB. But in the end, you loose the LSB's, so the improvement you get in digital resolution when tracking is lost in this downscale operation. I won't rise the subject of whatever headroom issues, because it has been beaten to death, and each one camps on their position.
Quote:

 Thats right...  you can record so you are peaking at -3 db to get the fullest possible recording quality....
"fullest possible recording quality" is an issue that involves more than one parameter. Bit depth is just one of these parameters. Now, if your analog equipment starts to fart out at +12dBu, you may not want to record at -3dBfs (equivalent to +15 to +21dBu in analog.
Quote:


Bobkatz , maybe you could suggest this to your customers that use samplitude or sequoia?

Warm regards, Merry.


I don't think it's anybody's role to advocate an MO that may well be suitable for you and your configuration, and completely inadequate for someone else.
I think you've done the right thing: making members aware of that feature (that I personally don't use).
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Tomas Danko on February 26, 2010, 08:24:16 am
Geoff Emerick de Fake wrote on Fri, 26 February 2010 12:56

merrymerry wrote on Sat, 31 October 2009 21:39

 In samplitude and sequoia in the "general" settings there is an option to lower all mixer strips by 6, 12 or 18 db!!
Samp user here.... That's very easy to do, basic digital math, each time you shift data to the right, you attenuate by 6dB. But in the end, you loose the LSB's, so the improvement you get in digital resolution when tracking is lost in this downscale operation. I won't rise the subject of whatever headroom issues, because it has been beaten to death, and each one camps on their position.



And once more it's down to actual implementation.

Most DAW engines are floating point 32 bit and most people record and store audio data at 24 bit.
Whenever you shift it one bit to increase or decrease the gain by 6.02 dB you are moving the 24 bit set of data within those 32 bits, maintaining full data integrity even at extreme gain reductions.

In theory you might lose LSB's, but in practice you usually do not.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on February 26, 2010, 02:10:27 pm
Tomas Danko wrote on Fri, 26 February 2010 07:24



And once more it's down to actual implementation.

Most DAW engines are floating point 32 bit and most people record and store audio data at 24 bit.
Whenever you shift it one bit to increase or decrease the gain by 6.02 dB you are moving the 24 bit set of data within those 32 bits, maintaining full data integrity even at extreme gain reductions.

In theory you might lose LSB's, but in practice you usually do not.
You're absolutely right; one would have to record at ridiculously low level to actually loose LSB's. And in that case, I don't see the point of reducing level.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Mark D. on May 11, 2010, 07:27:20 pm
This thread has long since tapered off. I'm wondering if anyone would like to reopen it. I have some thoughts for discussion
on the A/D and preamp stage aspects that could be good for discussion here. But I want to see if there are any takers first.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: compasspnt on May 11, 2010, 10:18:48 pm
There is a reason this was made a "Sticky."

I say go for it.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Mark D. on May 12, 2010, 05:49:47 pm
Ideal A/D & preamp input levels can vary. But I've heard some going close to 0db at the A/D, or even preamp. At 0db input the preamp, with no further boost, peaks at -18db at the A/D. Lower preamp gain will reduce S/N of that & the A/D. Many pres have a 90db S/N, converters 110db. So unless it distorts, I can't imagine negatives in being near 0db at the pre. The question is if harm is done above -18db at the A/D. Driving a preamp input to distort...bad idea. But an output level control can bring what it sends to the A/D to, say, under -6db. Closer to the 110db S/N of the A/D. Well below clipping or intersample peaks, but with better S/N, which should be beneficial. I just want to hear thoughts that and experiences with that. (Edited & revised to clarify what I'd said.)
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: jetbase on May 12, 2010, 08:25:00 pm
Shouldn't everything be calibrated to be running at optimum? Forgive me if I get this a bit wrong (being a bit weak on some of the technical points), but 0dBFS is MAXIMUM level, and analogue levels are usually calibrated so that 0VU = +4dBu = -18dBFS. So if you want to run your preamp at an optimum level then you should be reading around -18 on your DAW meters. Practically, in my studio, I aim to peak between -15 to -12 in the DAW. This puts the levels in the right spot on the console meters, as well as ensuring preamps & AD converters have healthy levels on the way in.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on May 13, 2010, 06:49:09 am
The +4dBu "sweet spot" is not justified any more.
Many designers are aware of the fact that more and more operators are operating at higher analog levels.
When everything was +4dBm into 600R, the equipment was optimised for that. It was important to make sure that the output stage would provide enough current to drive the load, but there was really no point in concentrating on operation at +18dBm, knowing that tape would crush it.
Today, the designers don't have to worry that much about driving a 10k load, but they have to make sure that signal integrity is preserved up to +20dBu operation. They have to take care of issues that didn't exist with tape, such as making sure their stuff does not produce overtones or spurious that some converters may not handle well (and that tape would have probably purely and simply ignored).

Optimizing the whole recording chain is not as simple as it used to be. You just made sure everything was calibrated at +4 and here you go. Today you may want to use a 60's preamp  for vocals, a modern mic channel for guitar and a Pod-like thingy for bass. The optimum level would probably be different; optimizing would require recalibrating the A/D converters.

Going back to the OT, I believe there must be enough people who mix on actual mixers, just by the fact that a company like Audient manages to sell about a dozen of their large mixers per month. I don't know the figures for the other companies in that segment (API, Midas, A & H, Neve, SSL), but I think there is a market that needs catering for. OTOH, all these manufacturers are clearly concentrating on mixer/DAW controller that they hope will be their future market.

Personally, I do mix on a mixer, a Tascam DM4800 (although some would actually deny the right to call it a mixer), that I use as a converter-router-mix bus-with EQ and FX. All the level changes I do ITB, so I don't need an automation; the channel faders could be rotary, that wouldn't change a thing for me.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Mark D. on May 14, 2010, 12:27:41 am
Off topic, but after searching I didn't know where to ask. Dan Lavry has a white paper about disadvantages of going to 196 khz vs. stopping at 88.2 or 96 khz. Though his products reportedly now go that high, probably by consumer demand regardless of the very valid points he made. I wonder if he ever posted his thoughts on the over 1 mhz stuff used and strongly advocated for by Tom Jung. I am thinking that would be a heck of a debate. Not to side track. If such a thread exists, please let me know. Thanks.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: jetbase on May 14, 2010, 01:31:39 am
Mark D. wrote on Thu, 13 May 2010 07:49

Ideal A/D & preamp input levels can vary. But I've heard some going close to 0db at the A/D, or even preamp. At 0db input the preamp, with no further boost, peaks at -18db at the A/D. Lower preamp gain will reduce S/N of that & the A/D. Many pres have a 90db S/N, converters 110db. So unless it distorts, I can't imagine negatives in being near 0db at the pre. The question is if harm is done above -18db at the A/D. Driving a preamp input to distort...bad idea. But an output level control can bring what it sends to the A/D to, say, under -6db. Closer to the 110db S/N of the A/D. Well below clipping or intersample peaks, but with better S/N, which should be beneficial. I just want to hear thoughts that and experiences with that. (Edited & revised to clarify what I'd said.)


Mark, I'm sorry but I'm actually a little hazier on what you're asking, or suggesting, in your revised post. Are you simply saying that everything should be calibrated (in which case I would agree). I don't think that I've used a standalone preamp with an output control, unless it has a fine trim adjustment or a built in compressor with make up gain, but my main set of AD converters have adjustable input levels. Providing everything is calibrated correctly (& any faders at '0') then I should only have to worry about what the last meter in the chain says, unless of course I wanted to deliberately push the level on any piece in the chain (other than the AD) or sum more than one preamp/channel. In theory I should be able to simply set my preamp level by looking at the VU meter of the return channel on my console, aiming for '0'. In practice I find the meters on my particular console to be a little low in resolution & I end up looking at the digital meters on either my HDR (which is my DA from Pro Tools, +4dBu = -15dBFS on outputs) or DAW and aiming for around -15.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Mark D. on May 15, 2010, 03:11:59 pm
It can be a complex thing to describe in discussion. To try and simplify it. I'm a minimalist in recording. Pre to A/D to PC. I set my pre level so it never hits red, peaks in yellow. That's optimal. If my output on it is set to zero, I get that -18db in the DAW. I have recorded like that fine. If going hotter, raising the output so peaks hitting the A/D  are -6db instead of -18db (going by what I see in my meters, recording at 24 bit, in my DAW). When I had compared -18db peak recordings vs. -6db peak recordings, I'd heard nothing worse in the -6db recording. If anything, both normalized, I noticed more noise in the -18db. I wonder if others have. If there is no difference, someone will be getting 12 db better S/N ratio performance at their A/D, given that extra level. If the S/N ratio of that A/D, hypothetically, is 110db, that can make a noticeable difference on very quiet dynamic parts, especially after they're compressed. That since compression could make the noise floor more apparent. This is something others might want to test.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: jetbase on May 16, 2010, 08:16:11 pm
I think I understand what you're saying. But if I recorded everything peaking at -6dBFS, even if I had no distortion in the recording, I would most likely get distortion when mixing. When I get sessions in to mix & everything is recorded hot I gain individual tracks down so that the line ins on my console are not being overloaded. I'm not sure if there are negative consequences if mixing ITB with tracks peaking at -6dBFS. But anyway, if the mic preamp sounds better at a higher gain setting then isn't the solution to calibrate the input of the AD converter to suit?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on May 17, 2010, 01:05:03 pm
jetbase wrote on Sun, 16 May 2010 19:16

 But if I recorded everything peaking at -6dBFS, even if I had no distortion in the recording, I would most likely get distortion when mixing.
You would or would not. It all depends on the equipment. As I mentioned earlier, older mixers were optimised for 0 VU operation, newer ones are optimised for much higher operating level. Earlier converters also may not be happy to operate at +18dBu.
Quote:

 When I get sessions in to mix & everything is recorded hot I gain individual tracks down so that the line ins on my console are not being overloaded.
What mixer? What gain structure? By "gain individual tracks down", do you mean reducing the gain in the DAW?
Quote:

 I'm not sure if there are negative consequences if mixing ITB with tracks peaking at -6dBFS.
DAW designers expect users to do so, so they have all sorts of trickery  Razz built-in in order to cope with that.
Quote:

 But anyway, if the mic preamp sounds better at a higher gain setting then isn't the solution to calibrate the input of the AD converter to suit?
In terms of noise performance, definitely yes. In terms of distortion, that may well be possible. In a fixed-topology preamp, distortion increases almost linearly with gain; that would advocate for the lowest possible gain.
In fact it is important to make a distinction between gain and output level, although they are related. Again, in a fixed-topology preamp, increasing gain generally increases distortion (by reduction of gain-margin), and the related increase of output level (for a given input level) increases the distortion created in the output stage (except for crossover distortion).
But it is also very possible that a certain balance of input/output distortion be particularly euphonic. This should be your particular operating level for the preamp, to which you should match the A/D converter's operating level. The presence of transformers in the signal path may also steer to a different conclusion.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: jetbase on May 17, 2010, 09:25:19 pm
Geoff Emerick de Fake wrote on Tue, 18 May 2010 03:05

jetbase wrote on Sun, 16 May 2010 19:16

 But if I recorded everything peaking at -6dBFS, even if I had no distortion in the recording, I would most likely get distortion when mixing.
You would or would not. It all depends on the equipment. As I mentioned earlier, older mixers were optimised for 0 VU operation, newer ones are optimised for much higher operating level. Earlier converters also may not be happy to operate at +18dBu.
Quote:

 When I get sessions in to mix & everything is recorded hot I gain individual tracks down so that the line ins on my console are not being overloaded.
What mixer? What gain structure? By "gain individual tracks down", do you mean reducing the gain in the DAW?
Quote:

 I'm not sure if there are negative consequences if mixing ITB with tracks peaking at -6dBFS.
DAW designers expect users to do so, so they have all sorts of trickery  Razz built-in in order to cope with that.
Quote:

 But anyway, if the mic preamp sounds better at a higher gain setting then isn't the solution to calibrate the input of the AD converter to suit?
In terms of noise performance, definitely yes. In terms of distortion, that may well be possible. In a fixed-topology preamp, distortion increases almost linearly with gain; that would advocate for the lowest possible gain.
In fact it is important to make a distinction between gain and output level, although they are related. Again, in a fixed-topology preamp, increasing gain generally increases distortion (by reduction of gain-margin), and the related increase of output level (for a given input level) increases the distortion created in the output stage (except for crossover distortion).
But it is also very possible that a certain balance of input/output distortion be particularly euphonic. This should be your particular operating level for the preamp, to which you should match the A/D converter's operating level. The presence of transformers in the signal path may also steer to a different conclusion.



Hi Geoff, I was not speaking generally, but specifically about my studio. And yes, the console is about 30 years old and I would definitely get undesirable distortion if I recorded all tracks peaking at -6dBFS. What I was getting at was that you have to consider how each piece of equipment integrates into the studio as a whole. Perhaps I could adjust the tape inputs on the desk so that they could accept higher levels from my DA converters (assuming that the DA converters themselves are fine with these levels), but then my analogue MTR will not be delivering the right level to the console. I also have to consider what levels the MTR & DAW will deliver directly to each other.

P.S. By "gain...down" I mean by using the Pro Tools Audiosuite 'Gain' plugin to reduce the level of tracks. I often see tracks that peak at 0dBFS. I think this is simply too much whether mixing ITB or out.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Mark D. on May 17, 2010, 10:35:16 pm
I don't mix analog. I will if engineering at a different studio, that has a desk. But I do up to 16 tracks recording, straight to the DAW from preamp's out. In this case -6db works. I have PT 8 but only use it with Digi Translator these days, to bounce files out as OMFs to use in Sonar. Each track in Sonar has an in and out control. I'll reduce one or both, unlike PT without a gain-reduction plug-in. I adjust for no clips, or intersample peaks, anywhere. At -6db peak recording, with those reductions, the result is no audible hiss even on the quietest parts. An -18db recording, track levels near zero or boosted, has a little more noise. If -6db had more noticeable distortion, I wouldn't do it. But -6db, with track level cuts as needed, has no extra distortion, and lower noise. Especially adding tracks together. If doing a board mix, you can always lower the input gain if that's a problem with individual tracks at that level going out of the DAW D/A to be mixed. This is the part I would hope to focus on even more. Mentioned above, A/Ds these days are prepared to get levels near 0db, so -6db input isn't a problem for them. I wonder if any thinks in general, despite recent advances dealing with it, they feel an A/D for some reason doesn't perform as well, or distorts more, at -6db per track vs. -18db.

Regarding a mic pre distorting more with more gain. When you get into mic pre land, again, you are looking at even some really high end preamps averaging 80-90db S/N with normal gain settings. If one lowers the gain -10db to -20db, you're getting only 60-80 db S/N. It's always best to operate a pre at its most optimal, of course. The best place between potential distortion and audible hiss at lower levels on quiet parts. But what I'd like to see is discussion, perhaps references and links as well to documentation, that a mic pre is noticeably distorting if the loudest input gain peaks are near 0db (ie. this would be -18db at the DAW if there is no added output volume). I don't notice anything bad, any distortion is minimal and useable. Of course, I would hear distortion at red peaks. But I'm talking infrequent yellow peaks here. 80-90% of the time in the green. Not going anywhere near 0db RMS. I know if a heavily compressed signal is mostly yellow most of the time, you'll hear it. I mean on vocal or acoustic guitar with a wide dynamic range, and lower RMS (-20 db or less) with just some yellow peaks, with a few rare peaks near red. It's how we've done it with analog for years. That seems reasonable, is one perhaps playing it too safe to think that is too 'hot' of a recording then?
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on May 18, 2010, 11:38:15 am
jetbase wrote on Mon, 17 May 2010 20:25

 Perhaps I could adjust the tape inputs on the desk so that they could accept higher levels from my DA converters (assuming that the DA converters themselves are fine with these levels), but then my analogue MTR will not be delivering the right level to the console. I also have to consider what levels the MTR & DAW will deliver directly to each other.

Yes, I've seen several engineers transfering from tape to PT and back through their analog mixer just to get the levels right.
Title: Re: DAW & Desks: Is ANYBODY actually still mixing on their desk?
Post by: Nick Sevilla on May 18, 2010, 10:53:55 pm
I just finished an album mix, and used my 16 outputs from PT HD to my mixer, and Allen & Heath GL2800-32.

When I have a chance, I'll be listening to that album, and the one I mixed a year ago completely ITB.

I still go back and forth with the ITB / OTB thing. Since this album allowed me the time to set it up to do it OTB, I did it. The other album, did not, everything had to be done asap...

Cheers