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Folcrom analog summing test
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Shaman
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4th February 2004
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Folcrom analog summing test

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4th February 2004
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Cool,

Outside of the minute end result differences - would you say that it was a lot easier getting your sounds to play nice through the Folcrom?

Still trying to decide if I need to go digital to analog for summing or if i'd be better off with an external digital summing device.

Cheers!
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Can you do one more test and avoid BTD somehow...?

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Quote:
Originally posted by Shaman
The mix was done before the test using internal summing.
All we changed was the output assignement, so I canĀ“t talk about the mixing process, only about the result of identical mixes

Can you do a process one next?
Really interested.
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shaman i think you read my mind because dan we're in the same boat...i going crazy thinking about adding a mixer(be it digital or analog) to my set up to get good seperation.

any thoughts on the yamaha DM2000
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I've recorded mixes from the Folcrom outs back into 2 tracks in PT, without doing a BTD, and with.

I'm not bringing out the old "BTD sucks" argument again, but compared to the non-BTD, the BTD version sounded slightly less defined and had less depth, although it was still good. This was most noticeable on drum overheads when the cymbals and drums overall seemed to have less "space" around them, and the pan placements were a little less defined. It wasn't the Folcrom's fault, because the non-BTD version was just the opposite.

The main benefit is that you don't have to do any dithering. IMHO, this is where BTD loses vs. recording to 2 tracks; dithering is the enemy. Just record the tracks back in at 16/44.1. You're already going thru the Folcrom... let that be your "dithering." This also lets you keep the mix at the highest resolution you want, at least until it sees 16/44.1 (and no dithering).

And ITB plus BTD isn't worth the trouble anymore.

Sorry, no wave files or mp3's to show right now.

The best part about the Folcrom is using your ourboard preamps for their "color" and headroom. It's a keeper.

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Unfortunately you forgot the most important thing in your test. You need to run the BTD mix through those preamps also, with the same gain staging.

It's entirely possible that your perceived benefits were due to the preamps and had nothing to do with external summing.

-R
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Bounce to Disk

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because your using a slam/avalon for "makeup gain". remove that from the picture and match levels with the btd. That's the fair comparison.

Or am I completely missing something?
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As interesting as the details are, I think the one thing many are missing from this exercise is: you should try it yourself and see if it floats your boat.

Thanks for doing the experiment.
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Do a 'search' for info on the Dangerous 2 buss.

Er....a question

Can you still place outboard in between your DAW interface and the Folcrom?
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Jules - I don't see why not - if its all +4 line level type gear.
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Quote:
Originally posted by Shaman
Originally posted by RKrizman
Unfortunately you forgot the most important thing in your test. You need to run the BTD mix through those preamps also, with the same gain staging.
-R
[B]Why should I ??

PT HD -->16 DA Outputs from 2x192 I/O via Digisnake cable direct to the Folcrom -->Manley Slam for `make up Gain` --> 2 Analog Inputs 192 I/O routed back to PT HD --> Bounce to disk
....-->back through the Slam...for what...?...Mastering...Building a perpetuum mobile for sound engineers...?


]
You're missing my point. I mean you should try that as part of your comparison experiment.

Question: Does the improved sound come from the fact that you're summing all these tracks in the analog domain, or is it because you're using that particular preamp to amplify the summed signal?

What if you take your summed-in-the-box mix and run it through the same preamp, gain staging it the same way as you did with your other tracks. If it sounds better, then perhaps you can dispense with all the trouble of splitting out your tracks to the Folcrum.

Wouldn't it be nice to know what is actually responsible for the more desireable sonics so you don't go to a lot of needless trouble?

To reiterate. Maybe summing in the Folcrom is a sonic improvement in and of itself. However, maybe it's just a rain dance and what's really getting you there is the preamp you've added at the end. As long as people are testing, and posting files, and showing some interest in this, it would be nice to isolate some variables to find out where the benefit is really coming from.

-R
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I believe RKrizman wants to see:

PT HD --> Internal summing --> Master output (2-bus) ->
Manley Slam for `make up Gain` --> 2 Analog Inputs 192 I/O routed back to PT HD --> Bounce to disk


Readjust Master output so it is an appropriate level for Manley Slam input.

Compare that to the other three mixes. I would like to see that too.
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The Folcrom came about when I called Dan Kennedy and asked him to make me a custom summing box with his Neve style make up gain. He basically told me he didn't have the time. Then he asked me why I couldn't just make a passive box and then output it to his Great River NV which I already owned. I told him I too didn't have the time. But what a brilliant idea. And then Dan referred me to a fella named Justin Ulysses Morse.

When I first found Justin he weighed only 100 pounds, spoke not a word of English, wore spotted clothing, and he could only turn his head to the right so that in a fight he could easily be beaten if approached from the left.* But man he could build some ****ing gear. I'm talking solid gear. So I had him build me the first Folcrom. It was a two rack unit thingie with 16 XLRs and some nice switches and it did wonders for my mixing and convinced me that out of the box was the way to go.

To answer R Krizman, simply outputting a mix from PT with a cut f -40db and then using a preamp to make up the 40db DOES NOT SOUND THE SAME as outputting the channels seperately to a nice D/A and then to the Folcrom and then to the preamp. The ladder is wider and deeper and richer sounding. And the reason is simple. You can push the channels up a shitload more because you don't overload the internal buss due to the much increased headroom. And so, you are capturing more bits as well. So I would recommend that everyone try out the Folcrom because you'll keep it. Its simply a better alternative then mixing in the box. www.rollmusic.com
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*added for dramatic effect and may not be completely true
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bang
[B]T
To answer R Krizman, simply outputting a mix from PT with a cut f -40db and then using a preamp to make up the 40db DOES NOT SOUND THE SAME as outputting the channels seperately to a nice D/A and then to the Folcrom and then to the preamp. The ladder is wider and deeper and richer sounding. And the reason is simple. You can push the channels up a shitload more because you don't overload the internal buss due to the much increased headroom. And so, you are capturing more bits as well.
Did you actually try this and hear the results? I don't remember that being mentioned.

I'm not sure I understand your explanation. You mean when you mix through the Folcrom you move your faders higher in your DAW? Then you didn't do a fair comparison, right, if you were running your faders hotter into the Folcrom.

I don't get what you mean by overloading the DAW mixbus. Zero is your limit, and that's it. And if you're recording at 24 bits, you already have so much headroom that it's really not an issure to run your faders lower. Even at -48 db you still have a 16 bit signal.

Let me ask you this. When you just ran your attenuated DAW mix straight into the preamp for increased gain, bypassing the Folcrom, was it any improvement at all? Surely there must have been some difference, just running it through the iron.

I'm willing to believe, really.

-R
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The whole principle is that it's not just about iron or color or slowing down the highs, or whatever. If I throw a GML or a Buzz MA 2.2 for the makeup gain and am using Lavry conversion I'll make an educated guess it's going to sound quite incredible. I've said it so many times, fidelity before color. And voltage before math...sorry.
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BTW Bang, I was actually confusing you with Shaman. It was Shaman who did the original test in this thread and neglected to test the "DAW into preamp without Folcrom" option, thereby leaving it up in the air as to what was responsible for the difference. Since he did all that, I was kind of hoping he'd go one step further and try my suggestion, and compare it with the rest.

How about it Shaman, it could be very informative.

thanks,
-R
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What's the point of decreasing the wordlength of your two track output, then going through a preamp with mismatched impedance, and only being able to match the levels by decreasing the wordlength of the PT output? Get a tape machine, stay at nominal +4, and for gods sake use a Lavry DAC if you're going to do this.
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6th February 2004
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Quote:
You mean when you mix through the Folcrom you move your faders higher in your DAW? Then you didn't do a fair comparison, right, if you were running your faders hotter into the Folcrom.
why does this make it an unfair comparison? if you can do this with the said method/equipment and it sounds better.......... then that is a capability of the method/equipment which must be noted.

I agree that a test of the Tools BTD through the slam must be done. If all the goodness comes from the SLAM then you don't need the Folcrum. If however, it is a combination of the two (Folcrum+Slam) then running the Stereo bounce throught the SLAM will sound inferior to the Folcrum-SLAM mix.

I dont agree that all settings MUST be the same (although they can be). The point is to see which method sounds best period. Make the mix sound as good as possible for each different method. Level matching should be done for listening purposes so as not to confuse different loudness with different sound.
Jax
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jules
Can you still place outboard in between your DAW interface and the Folcrom?
Yes, as long as the Folcrom inputs are connected to a patchbay. I've done it it's fun.
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Quote:
Originally posted by RKrizman
Did you actually try this and hear the results? I don't remember that being mentioned.

I'm not sure I understand your explanation. You mean when you mix through the Folcrom you move your faders higher in your DAW? Then you didn't do a fair comparison, right, if you were running your faders hotter into the Folcrom.

I don't get what you mean by overloading the DAW mixbus. Zero is your limit, and that's it. And if you're recording at 24 bits, you already have so much headroom that it's really not an issure to run your faders lower. Even at -48 db you still have a 16 bit signal.

Let me ask you this. When you just ran your attenuated DAW mix straight into the preamp for increased gain, bypassing the Folcrom, was it any improvement at all? Surely there must have been some difference, just running it through the iron.

I'm willing to believe, really.

-R
I've done every kind of test imagineable with DAWS and summing aside from determining whether or not summing sounds better while getting head from a two dollar *****. I can say that in 80% of the cases, external summing whether it be the Folcrom through my Trident S20 or even my Allen and Heath monitoring board, sounds better.

When you are externally mixing, you CAN push your faders higher because you gain more headroom. This isn't a fair comparison says Rick. Maybe not, but if your intentions are to make a better sounding mix and you can push the channels, who the frauk cares?

Attenuating a summed DAW mix by 40 db loses a TON OF BIT DEPTH. Putting the two track mix through a 40db gain stage whether it be Neve or GML is just amplifying a grainy low definition song with some great neve or george flavor. Doesn't get you squat. By putting the tracks into the Folcrom at FULL BIT DEPTH and letting good resistors do the attenuating, you DON"T LOSE DETAIL at all, and you get a great sound when you amp it up 40db with your preamp of choice.

Ok, Rick is a smart guy and he will fire back with: "why don't you sum the mix in the DAW and then output and attenuate the two track mix in the analog domain and THEN give it the preamp gain. Did it. But as said before, given that the DAW mix can't acheive the headroom as individually spread out tracks, you still don't get quite the width and depth. But depending on the preamp, it can still add some cool flavor and if you don't get a summing box, I'd recommend getting a good two channel PAD and trying this.

Steve
www.blacklinerock.com
www.bangrecording.com
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Quote:
Originally posted by peterr
I dont agree that all settings MUST be the same (although they can be). The point is to see which method sounds best period. Make the mix sound as good as possible for each different method. Level matching should be done for listening purposes so as not to confuse different loudness with different sound.
Agreed 100%, because if the Folcrom-to-preamp summed mix sounds better with faders raised in the DAW vs the ITB mix with the faders where they need to be to make it sound right.... you wouldn't be using the Folcrom the same way as you would for an ITB mix anyway. The two mixes can't be the same to get the best results for each method.. that's an attempt at using scientific method where it doesn't really apply... a mix is a subjective thing.

One thing I've noticed is that especially with bass guitar tracks, I have to pump the shit out of their level compared to the level set with the ITB mix. I can't explain this yet, but I know keeping the bass track at the same level as the ITB mix would be pointless if I want it sound good...... so, there again, the comparison couldn't be valid.

Also, I see what Rick is trying have us discern - that the improvements we're hearing are not simply due to running the mix through a preamp, but are due to the summing effect of the Folcrom meeting the preamp - but looking at Nathan's post above, there's no reasonable way to do it gain matched.

So the best way to compare mixes would most likely be the best mix possible ITB vs the best mix possible through the Folcrom and preamp. I'm all for connecting an ITB mix out to a preamp, without the Folcrom in the middle, but I can tell you it's the middleman that makes the most difference in this case, not just the preamp. Nathan's right about fidelity before color.

I agree just as much with juniorhifikit who basically said to try it out yourself. Like almost all other gear talked about, what people say doesn't matter half as much as tyring it out for yourself. Rollmusic offers a 10 day trial period, last time I checked.

Well worth doing your own investigation.
Jax
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bang
By putting the tracks into the Folcrom at FULL BIT DEPTH and letting good resistors do the attenuating, you DON"T LOSE DETAIL at all, and you get a great sound when you amp it up 40db with your preamp of choice.
Don't quite agree with this. I've found that some detail is lost once you get past about 12-14 channels on the Folcrom. However, it still sounds better than ITB most of the time.
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Quote:
Originally posted by dim light
I think analog summing is the future...

Aaah, and the past.
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I had this same design idea around the time Mr. Fulcrom (sic) did- only he did it up and I just mooned about it. Actually I had a custom mixer modded to get a buss level out, and then put it through a Manley 40dB pre for makeup gain- the mixer had other shortcomings earlier in the chain though, so bagged that one.

I thought all you guys with a million flavors of preamp would love this one- swap out the preamp, and you have a whole new "console" flavor!
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bang

When you are externally mixing, you CAN push your faders higher because you gain more headroom. This isn't a fair comparison says Rick. Maybe not, but if your intentions are to make a better sounding mix and you can push the channels, who the frauk cares?
By all means, use your best tools the way you want and make it sound great. But for the purposes of comparison, which this thread is about, I'm trying to isolate some of the variables.

True, it doesn't make sense to lower your bit rate of the ITB mix and then up it with the preamp. That won't tell us anything. So how about this. Instead of sending all the individual tracks to the Folcrom, just sent the ITB 2-mix to 2 channels. Compare that to the individual channels summed in the Folcrum, without changing the fader levels in Protools. Wouldn't that make all other things equal and merely test whether external summing makes a difference. (Now, if you tell me that just sending 2 tracks will change the load or whatever, then I think the box has a problem. )

It's an interesting question about the possibility of upping your faders when you go out to the Folcrom. I don't know, but it seems that when I mix in Protools I usually have a track or two that is bumping up pretty close to zero, with the other tracks down lower according to how they need to sound. If I go out to the Folcrom, I can't bump those tracks up any louder, and can't bump up the other tracks, obviously, without changing my mix.

That said, this question brings in another variable. If you do up your faders, for whatever reason, then you are hitting the analog electronics of your converters harder, which could also account for a change in the sound. It might be desireable to have trims on the Folcrom channels. That way you could hit all of your D/A's near zero and then readjust your mix at the Folcrum. All your automation moves will still be intact and to recall you mix you merely need to note the trim level on each analog channel.

My point with all this is that once you know what's really causing the better sound, then you can go there and make the most of it.

Interesting discussion, and lots of good points have been made.

-R
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bang

Ok, Rick is a smart guy and he will fire back with: "why don't you sum the mix in the DAW and then output and attenuate the two track mix in the analog domain and THEN give it the preamp gain. Did it. But as said before, given that the DAW mix can't acheive the headroom as individually spread out tracks, you still don't get quite the width and depth.
]
I won't fire back with that, because then you have your analog attenuator as a sonic factor. As I mentioned elsewhere, just plug your 2-mix into 2 channels of the Folcrom. Any reason why that wouldn't work?

Now this is what I don't get. What is lacking in the headroom of a DAW? Doesn't a 24 bit DAW have way more dynamic range than any conventional analog system?

-R
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7th February 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by RKrizman
True, it doesn't make sense to lower your bit rate of the ITB mix and then up it with the preamp. That won't tell us anything. So how about this. Instead of sending all the individual tracks to the Folcrom, just sent the ITB 2-mix to 2 channels. Compare that to the individual channels summed in the Folcrum, without changing the fader levels in Protools. Wouldn't that make all other things equal and merely test whether external summing makes a difference. (Now, if you tell me that just sending 2 tracks will change the load or whatever, then I think the box has a problem. )
There won't be any impedance or loading problems when you do this. The only problem I see is that the total make-up gain necessary from your preamp will probably be slightly different for a 2-mix going into 2 channels of the Folcrom than for 16 channels going in separately. I'm not positive, but I suspect that the net level coming out of the Folcrom would be different. You'd have to change the gain setting on the preamp, which could change its sonic signature. But I do think the comparison you're interested in is a valid and important one. Here's how I would do it:
1. Determine the signal level coming out of the Folcrom when you have 16 channels of audio feeding it.
2. Determine the signal level coming out of your DACs when you feed nominal level out of them.
3. subtract #1 from #2 and you'll have an attenuation in dB. build a 2-channel U-pad that has an input impedance of 10k-20k, an output impedance of 150 ohms, and an an attenuation equal to what's calculated above.
4. Feed your BTD mix out through 2 DACs (the same type you did your 16-track Folcrom mix with), into the special pad you built, and then into your 2-channel preamp which is set for the same gain setting you had for the Folcrom mix.
5. Do a null test or other such comparison to make sure your two mixes are level matched to within 0.1dB. Adjust the pad or your BTD output faders accordingly until you can get a mix matched precisely to the Folcrom mix.
6. Now listen to the three mixes (BTD, BTD through pad and pre, and Folcrom). Report back to us on your findings. I'm pretty confident I know how it'll turn out, but if you want to be "sure" then this is what you need to do. Once you figure out the attenuation you need in the pad mentioned in #3, I can help you figure out the resistor values. In fact, I'd even be willing to build a couple of inline pads of the appropriate value if somebody is serious about performing this test properly.

Quote:

It's an interesting question about the possibility of upping your faders when you go out to the Folcrom. I don't know, but it seems that when I mix in Protools I usually have a track or two that is bumping up pretty close to zero, with the other tracks down lower according to how they need to sound. If I go out to the Folcrom, I can't bump those tracks up any louder, and can't bump up the other tracks, obviously, without changing my mix.
If you leave some of your tracks up at "zero" don't you need to pull down your master faders to avoid clipping the 2-mix? I don't use a multitrack DAW, so I don't know. I was under the impression that if you have a lot of "loud" tracks then your ITB summed mix will be "loud" too, and require that you attenuate it somewhere. I thought this is what Bang was talking about, because when you mix outside the box, you don't have to worry about that.

Quote:
All your automation moves will still be intact and to recall you mix you merely need to note the trim level on each analog channel.
This is one of the big reasons why I decided to keep the Folcrom passive and without any trims or pots at all. I've found it is impossible to recall a mix based on "making note" (or even taking a photo) of the positions of analog pots. It always sounds different when you try to recreate a mix on an analog board. The Folcrom at least gives you the option of maintaining real, absolute recallability from the DAW. You're still free to give that up in order to patch in analog processing gear between the DAW and the Folcrom, but if you want the recall, it's there waiting for you. The Folcrom only has 4 discrete assign possibilities per channel, so you can't set it up "a little bit" differently.

Quote:

My point with all this is that once you know what's really causing the better sound, then you can go there and make the most of it.

Interesting discussion, and lots of good points have been made.
I couldn't agree more. I'm really glad to see all this terrific discussion going on while I wasn't paying attention.
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