Harrison Consoles Mixbus by Tommy Zai
BASED ON VERSION 5.3.0
Note: I am working on an article and maybe even a video about the confusion, difficulty, and torment in choosing the right digital audio workstation for your needs. One focus will be on the DAWs that I consider under-appreciated underdogs . . . dark horses. Harrison Mixbus is one of them! In my opinion, more musicians, producers, etc. should be using this fine piece of software, and hopefully what I wrote below inspires more investigation.
Harrison Mixbus v5 is a consumer level digital audio workstation for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering that takes a unique approach in comparison to the other choices on the market. Not too long ago, many users recorded in another DAW and used Mixbus for mixing. That’s changed, or at least should change! Mixbus is now a full-featured DAW that is capable of helping users of all genres complete a project; however, it’s clearly geared toward recording and mixing audio. The intention is transparent. It’s called, “Mixbus,” and it’s created by Harrison, a world leader in professional large format consoles. If the name isn’t enough, take a look at the interface. It’s modded after Harrison’s very own hardware. Yet, all DAWs have their own look and vibe. They all have a story and a reason for existing. But what really sets Mixbus apart is the sound. There have been countless comparisons between the major workstations, and the consensus is THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME . . . except one . . . Mixbus! Harrison utilizes an “analog paradigm that embodies form, function, and sound.” This DAW looks, feels, operates, and sounds like the analog mixer. The results are wonderful. I have a home studio with budget monitors, and I can hear the difference. I can only imagine a comparison on a high-end system.
Disclaimer: Anyone in any genre can use anything and make great music. You wouldn’t believe how I recorded my favorite tracks. However, there’s no denying that certain workstations favor certain genres.
Who Should Use This?
Those using mostly live instruments and vocals, who want a “real” studio look, feel, workflow and sound — this is as close as you’re gonna get in the virtual world. Those who lean on “found” loops, e.g., Hip Hop, Trip Hop, etc. It has powerful tools for deep audio editing. Note: Mixbus’ midi handling has come a long way. It’s certainly capable and has all the essential tools.
Who Should Look Elsewhere?
Those who work exclusively in MIDI and require deep editing. Those who like to work in clips instead of linearly. DJs.
Tommy Zai’s Top Ten Reasons To Use This DAW (not in any particular order)
1. The sound is big, fat, punchy, and warm.
2. No iLok or other annoying protection — uses license files.
3. Attractive, customizable interface with a smooth, user-friendly workflow.
4. Channel strips have built-in high-pass filter and three different EQ bands (low, mid, and high) and “Drive” controls for analog emulation to beef things up.
5. Simulated analog mixing features a sweet in-line compressor with three modes.
6. Master has tone controls, compressor/limiter, and tape saturation for global FX during mix-down.
7. VCA faders are easy to slide and very responsive. The levels don’t jump all over the place. — they’re silky and smooth.
8. VU meters are accurate, responsive, and easy to read.
9. Harrison knows what’s needed to record, mix, and master a great track.
10. Bargain price!!!
Other Reasons This DAW Is Cool
• The whole thing looks bigger than I remember, but maybe it’s my eyes.
• Easy to add and tag plugins.
• Resizable transport controls, editing tools, playback modes, counters, etc. are neatly lined-up on top.
• Time-line view.
• Tempo mapping.
• Named buses (convenient and time-saving).
• Bus sends with on/off buttons.
• Real mixer with one knob per function design.
• Channels can be independently resized via toggling between narrow and wide.
• Spill buttons on the mix bus channel.
• Spectral analysis tool is a nice surprise feature.
• CPU will not overload and get sluggish when you decide to adjust channel strip processing as this is “pre-allocated” into host resources.
• I read somewhere that the ‘optimize polarity’ feature is great, but I never used it . . . need to check it out.
• Sharing and Exporting.
• Well-written manual found online that is downloadable as a PDF.
• Mac, PC, and Linux. Switching computers won’t matter. ;-)
• Even though this beast has unlimited this and that, users should conserve resources as it’s more CPU hungry than some other DAWs. From what I understand, this is due to the analog stuff going on under the hood. This is no big deal for me as I grew up using a Tascam Porta Studio One with only four tracks. I’m no stranger to being a miser. However, if you like to work big and/or messy, you better have a powerful processor that can handle your clutter. ;-)
• Great built-in FX and the add-ons are top-notch (Essentials bundle provides delay and reverb; Character bundle offers plug-ins for drums, bass and vocal processing); yet, you won’t be wowed by dozens of on-board virtual instruments. You’ll have to use your 3rd party synths, but if you’re like me you probably would anyway!
• Favors larger screens.
Hey, what about Mixbus 32C?
Mixbus 32C has enhanced features, is an exact emulation of specific board, and cost more. As far as basic features and functions, these two versions are quite similar. There are slight differences that may or may not help users decide between the two. For example:
• Mixbus has three-band EQ; Mixbus 32C is designed after a different Harrison console that has four-band with the switchable top band between shelving and peaking. It also consists of both high-pass and low-pass filters.
• Mixbus has eight stereo mix buses; Mixbus 32C has 12.
• 32C offers more audio routing options.
• The sound! Mixbus is modeled after the general sound of Harrison consoles; 32C is modeled after that specific unit.
In 1966, The Beatles stopped touring and began using the studio as a musical instrument. This was ground-breaking at the time. With the Fab Four in mind, Mixbus is extremely musical. It’s also user-friendly and easy to navigate. I dig the look, feel, and sound. It’s both nostalgic and cutting-edge modern. In short, it’s a fun platform to use. Completing a sweet sounding song seems more reachable than with many other workstations. Will it, “forever change the way [I] think about mixing in the box?” Not sure yet, but it just might!! For now, I’m having fun with Mixbus, and I highly recommend that you check it out. They offer a free demo version. Way to go, Harrison!!
Note: Several years ago I used Mixbus v3 and reviewed it. I’m now revisiting this fine updated DAW and intentionally didn’t read my old review. I wanted to keep my perspective to be fresh without influencing myself. ;-)