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Harrison Mixbus

Harrison Consoles Mixbus

4.65 4.65 out of 5, based on 6 Reviews

The result was pretty surprising. On the PT session, I was using my plethora of plug ins.. Waves, iZotope Ozone, SSL etc., so to be honest, I thought that comparing the Mixbus mix to the PT mix with all the plugins might be a bit unfair. Boy was I wrong.

3rd December 2019

Harrison Consoles Mixbus by Tommy Zai

Harrison Mixbus


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. ;-)

Attached Thumbnails
Harrison Mixbus-screen-shot-2019-11-26-5.59.59-pm.jpg   Harrison Mixbus-screen-shot-2019-11-26-6.00.15-pm.jpg  
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23rd January 2012

Harrison Consoles Mixbus by MixCoach

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Harrison Mixbus

A year or so ago, I was approached by a friend, Nathan Adam, who was really excited about a new product from a local company, Harrison Consoles. Nathan and I have been doing Pro Tools tutorials together for the last 5 years or so. We saw an opportunity to do the same for this fledgling product.

Nathan told me about Mixbus and shortly after, we started digging into this version 1 workstation and putting it through the paces. It started out kind of rough, but since then Mixbus has matured nicely. We’ve made a couple of videos; you can purchase the latest one, “Pop Country Mixing”, at the Harrison store. I also have some free videos at my site MixCoach

For the last 8 years or so, I have been a pretty "Avid" (no pun intended) Pro Tools user… One might say a Power user… but the more I use it, the more I can see how Mixbus has nailed a few items that make mixes easier to “gel”.

Just the other day, I took a song that I was working on in Pro Tools and imported the raw files directly into Mixbus… you know, just to see how it would measure up.

The result was pretty surprising. On the PT session, I was using my plethora of plug ins.. Waves, iZotope Ozone, SSL etc., so to be honest, I thought that comparing the Mixbus mix to the PT mix with all the plugins might be a bit unfair. Boy was I wrong.

It took less time to mix in Mixbus because all of the plugins are already in place and ready to go. A world class EQ, Three types of Compressors, busses with tape emulation, EQ, Compression… all ready to tweak.

I think the only plugin I used was a reverb… (which I understand, Harrison is working on that too)

• What I noticed was the Mixbus mix was more open. I don't know if it's because of the cleaner signal path, the EQ or the way the output buss is structured with a -1db output to allow for less expensive consumer convertors
• It was warmer .. this was probably because of running every track through the 8 mix busses that Harrison provided.
• It happened faster. I think that having everything in place puts me back in the mindset of being a performer. I made decisions more quickly and I think it served the mix well.
If you get a chance, go and check out the free trial at Harrison Mixbus. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Kevin Ward

  • 1
10th March 2014

Harrison Consoles Mixbus by Arthur Stone

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Harrison Mixbus

What is it? Harrison Mixbus is a software mixing desk incorporating the Ardour DAW. Harrison Audio Consoles, based in Nashville, have manufactured highly-regarded film, broadcast and audio hardware since 1972. ABBA used Harrison; AC/DC, Zappa, Queen - Thriller was recorded on Harrison as was Sade's Smooth Operator. Although Harrison now manufacture a range of affordable small-format mixers they have also released the Mixbus software which has the 'Harrison sound' and many of the features and workflow of the 32 & MR-series hardware consoles.

In use: On opening Mixbus the first screen is the Ardour DAW which has been tweaked for Harrison. It follows the familiar DAW format with tracks displayed and the usual features expected: transport controls, file menus, mouse-clickable editing...and a lot more!
Harrison Mixbus-mbseq.jpg
The mixer screen has it's own window and the system works well on my 2 screen set-up. The mixer has the usual features one needs: faders, EQ, dynamics - all need for extra plug-ins. The architecture is based around individual channels which can either be routed to the master bus or to any of 8 busses each of which has a tape saturation built in (as does the master bus).
Harrison Mixbus-mbmixer.jpg
My main DAW is Propellerhead Reason which I love using but I find the summing to be a bit harsh and clinical; I was interested to sum using Mixbus so currently I'm importing files as stems from Reason: there is a direct route using Jack software but, for now, I'm importing stems. Lot's of users are requesting Rewire. Once the stems are imported to Mixbus each is assigned a channel and then it's straightforward to route to a bus or master bus.

The mixer is easy to use with great sonic results: each channel has a 3-band EQ with a frequency and +/-gain dial. Small cuts or boosts create a wide bandwidth Q which becomes narrower as more cut/boost is applied. It sounds very musical and is quite intuitive after a couple of sessions.

Compression is applied by adjusting a slider alongside the main fader: two dials situated above control 'compressor speed' and make-up gain, and a button selects ratio as leveller/compressor/limiter. Once familiarised, this is a great workflow which allowed me to focus on the sound.

The busses also have EQ/compression in addition to a one dial tape saturator; the master bus has specialised 3-band EQ (smaller dB increments), dynamics and master limiter and final tape saturator. Metering is via digital bar graphs, tape saturation meters (analogue-style) and a useful K-meter on the master bus.

I tried two Harrison plug-in's with Mixbus: a reverb (as good as Softube TSAR if not better) and a great delay.

Issues: Two issues prevent me from using Mixbus as my main DAW: no current support for VST instruments & no Rewire. I understand that Harrison are committed to the ongoing development of the software so hopefully I will be able to undertake all my ITB projects in Mixbus in the future. For now it's no hassle to import stems into fact this helps delineate the tracking/mix process.

Pros: Excellent mix workflow and quality of sound. Like many I'm not entirely happy with DAW summing, can't afford a hardware/converter solution and Slate/UA is out as I'm a Reason user: so Mixbus is a convenient and affordable solution with outstanding sonic results.

Demo: Here are 2 short audio samples from a track I'm currently working on - one processed through Mixbus, the other through Reason:

Streaming quality:

24-bit/48kHz WAV:
Cauldron GS Mixbus.wav
Cauldron GS Reason.wav

Conclusion: I'm currently evaluating Harrison Mixbus for another project but I'm sufficiently impressed that I will purchase it - I like the sound, I like the workflow, I like the results, it's a great audio tool: I really like the way Mixbus smooths harsh transients and places instruments in the stereo soundstage...the low-end is killer. VST instrument & Rewire capability would earn it higher points for ease-of-use and features.

Links: Harrison Consoles: Mixbus
Harrison Audio Consoles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

7th May 2014

Harrison Consoles Mixbus by Tommy Zai

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Harrison Mixbus

Mixbus is a Digital Audio Workstation developed by Harrison, a famous high-end American large format console company. It’s an analog style mixing environments with great-sounding smooth EQs, filters, compression (leveler, compressor, limiter), analog tape saturation (super impressive), dynamics, bus summing, and a knob dedicated to each function. The GUI is clean, and the transports are familiar and comfortable to anyone who has worked in a “real” pro studio. The workflow is simple and powerful with a choice of importing audio from another source/DAW or recording. The design and layout is intuitive, straightforward, simple, and powerful. You won’t have to labor through endless windows, popups, and menus to track, mix, and master. Yet, the most impressive thing about Mixbus, IMO, is the sound. Whatever audio I run through it simply sounds better. I don’t know if it’s because of feel of classic, vintage tweaking or if there is an invisible little wizard inside helping me. To quote another reviewer, “Mixbus improves in areas where others fall short and offers something no other DAW can boast: a million-dollar mixer.” I have found this to be very true.

• Classic console interface/GUI (based on the famous 32 and MR-series)
• Two window approach (editor and mixer)
• Small learning curve, especially for those who grew up pre-digital
• Unlimited tracks
• Unlimited plugins
• Plays nice with other DAWs via Jack
• Low latency
• Amazing algorithms
• Flexible looping and auto-punch
• Versatile audio routing
• Levels can be dragged up and down by swiping across the waveform
• Phase, trim, filters, compression, mix bus sends on every track
• Impressive shuttle wheel speeding, slowing, and scrubbing audio with or without pitch-changing
• Excellent metering (channel meter, compressor gain reduction meter, tape saturation meters, peak limiting meter, K-14 average level meter, and a final peak limiting meter)
• Automation
• Amazing $ value
• Responsive, innovative developers (frequent updates + great communication)

• I have heard that Mixbus will soon release a version with advanced MIDI capabilities. Wow!! At that point, “Fully Featured” will have a new meaning.
• Snapshot saving is something I have never encountered before.
• Sync via Jack can be buggy at times
• Hey, give us that highly acclaimed G-verb. I’m greedy.

Harrison Mixbus delivers the very best of analog-style mixing to eMusicians, producers, film/game scorers, DJs, sound designers, etc. It helps to create great tracks; it does not get in the way and suck the creative juices out of your muse! The workflow is fast and fun. Tracking with Mixbus is a breeze and the virtual real console mixing is a dream. There is something unmistakably special about this software that helps bring recordings to life — nice bottom end, punchy mids, and crisp, clean (not shrill) top end. Mixbus is linear and will probably not be the primary DAW for those who use a Launchpad and link clips a la Live or Bitwig; however, even in such a case, Mixbus provides an excellent secondary DAW for mix-downs and mastering. Even with its limitations, i.e., lack of MIDI, this is a must buy — the mixer section is do die for! Once I used it, I couldn’t imagine not using it. It provides lots of analog without much effort. Don’t let the price tag fool you — this is pro stuff. Tommy Zai gives Mixbus two tracks up. Thank you, Harrison, for developing such an amazing workstation. Fantastic!

26th April 2020

Harrison Consoles Mixbus by StephenPope

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Harrison Mixbus

I've used most of the popular DAWs at one time or another, and gotta say that switching to Mixbus was like a breath of fresh air. It feels like using a console rather than a plug-in host, and the GUI is laid out for quick access to functionality rather than flashy graphics.

I used LogicPro for the last several years, and then evaluated several of the newer entries (Reaper, FLStudio, StudioOne, etc.) and am thrilled that I decided to test Mixbus.

The fact that every channel has a built-in EQ, compressor and saturation means about 80% fewer plug-ins in the first place, and the other built-in plug-ins are stellar (though I still use my Eventide and iZotope outboards regularly in addition to the hardware-assisted plug-ins of my Antelope interface -- see the screen shot attached below).

I use MB with a PreSonus FaderPort (mainly for the transport buttons) and OSC-based toolbars on an iPad. There are a few quirks, but i've done a couple of projects on it so far and ain't giving it up!

Attached Thumbnails
Harrison Mixbus-mb32cv6-scene1b.jpg  
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