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Is mixing/mastering ITB or OTB determined by your stage of life?
Old 26th August 2019
  #1
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Woodwindy's Avatar
Is mixing/mastering ITB or OTB determined by your stage of life?

I have an honest question that I don’t know the answer to, so please respond in the spirit intended.

Could the biggest factor for mixing or mastering ITB be more about the stage of life that you’re in, and less about sounding 100% as good as hybrid or console?

ITB advantages for young engineers/musicians:
1. Mobility.
They haven't landed in a location where they want to make a long-term investment of their time and money.
2. Priorities.
They don’t have the extra $50k to go more analog because they have a MILLION other important life investments to worry about.
3. Bad trade off.
Trading other “life priorities” for an extra 5-10-15-20 percent of sonic improvement is simply not worth it in a world of compressed audio formats, earbuds and tiny portable speakers.
4. Risk.
For many engineers, mixing OTB has a poor return on investment.

ITB advantages for middle age and older engineers/musicians:
1. Their reputation/client base is what it is. They don’t have anything to prove.
2. In a world dominated by mp3’s, AAC, earbuds, tiny speakers and listening while multitasking, they can get a mix or master close enough. The extra 5-10 percent of sonic quality doesn’t matter that much.
3. They get paid the same, ITB or OTB.
4. They’ve made a huge investment in gear over the years, to the detriment of college and retirement accounts. It’s time to liquidate and get those accounts caught up.
5. When you get older, you become highly sensitized to where you spend your time, and ITB is simply faster because recalling the last mix/master is instantaneous.

So what say you? Is mixing or mastering ITB or OTB largely determined by one’s stage of life? I’m eager to hear your good natured opinions. Thanks!

Last edited by Woodwindy; 26th August 2019 at 04:32 PM..
Old 26th August 2019
  #2
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good question.

some people will say they can do ITB what they used to be able to do OTB. I can't.

I just don't trust it ITB. When I had to move studios I bought a UAD card and tried to mix a song ITB that I had done OTB. The results spoke for themselves. The OTB just sounded and felt better. I wasn't doing A/B comparison as I went along. I just did A/B at the end.

I get better sounds faster OTB. But if i was a pro mix engineer with clients who were not attending and didn't appreciate the mix as a performance that couldn't repeat itself I would figure out how to mix ITB.
Old 26th August 2019
  #3
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Will be watching this thread with great interest

Cheers
Old 26th August 2019
  #4
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nutshell. YES

But only to a point. Once you get into the extream high end, analog is more involed with the front end and sometimes mixing.
Old 26th August 2019
  #5
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snoskit's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodwindy View Post
So what say you? Is mixing or mastering ITB or OTB largely determined by one’s stage of life? I’m eager to hear your good natured opinions. Thanks!
Age of life or just age ?

eg will otb die out with aging users or will younger folks move to it ?

Music genre makes a difference too, imho
Old 26th August 2019
  #6
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Typhus's Avatar
As a "younger folk" in this industry I'm moving towards the hybrid set up for mixing. Mainly focusing on building a very nice two bus chain. When I started using my RND 5059 summing mixer for my mixes it made a huge difference right out the shoot. I just got a very nice SSl clone from Nekotronics and with the transfomer mod engaged it sounds very nice with the 5059's silk cranked. Really adds some nice harmoics that I just can't get from plugins or even tracking through lots of outboard gear. Now trying to save up for a nice EQ like the Curve Bender. Might even add Avedis Audio Transdrive for more Transformer girth. Plugins will keep getting better, but a good two bus chain will always be something worth using for mix down.
Old 26th August 2019
  #7
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Silvertone's Avatar
No. Not for me anyway.

The song dictates what needs to be done. Some projects are done entirely ITB, other are done using mainly analog gear but most for me are a hybrid of the two.

Serve the song, not the ego.

Also in a true are form, nothing should be just “good enough”... you’ll never stand out in the crowd being just good enough.
Old 26th August 2019
  #8
Gear Addict
Silvertone is 100% correct , but the devices people listen to music on nowadays isn’t helping! Than God for the ones that still care .
I’m an old guy 65
YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!
Old 26th August 2019
  #9
Agreed. As I got older and wiser and made better financial decisions the increase in revenue and mixing full time has made me hybrid. And maybe it's just me but i don't see how a hybrid setup with indented gear is slower in any aspect tbh. A live bounce is a live bounce and it just works for me sound wise. As I've improved with time it seems my taste has as well and that has brought me to a place where hardware lives aka my all hardware mixbus and the enjoyment of knowing that my clients will love the added color a record I mix brings to their artistic vision. That "sound" that I chased as a youngster I find I can get really easily after spending 25k lol and that's because my focus on how to get that sound effectively and efficiently every time has grown with me. The room treatment, monitor selection, sub positioning, monitor controller, desk ergonomics, automation etc.
Old 26th August 2019
  #10
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Woodwindy's Avatar
I guess a good question would be “Why do a few older mixing engineers abandon analog and go completely ITB? Could it be that, when record budgets dropped, they wanted to limit the amount of time, energy, and resources they invested into a mix? This would account for a few experienced engineers mixing almost exclusively at home or while traveling, and for doing some mixes completely with laptops and headphones.

If a hardware company no longer had an AR budget, wouldn’t it be beneficial to make up that lost income by endorsing software? And if someone was endorsing a type of plug-in, wouldn’t it be important to be using it?
I am not advocating or criticizing here, but simply wondering what the reasoning is.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

Last edited by Woodwindy; 26th August 2019 at 05:30 PM..
Old 26th August 2019
  #11
.Broadly I would expect the older generations to be more likely to use analogue gear yes...but I expect there is a lot of inbetween hybrid setups also...for me if you are serious about mixing/production why would you be ideological and stick only to one type of tool? There are tremendous benefits to both...
Old 26th August 2019
  #12
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Woodwindy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
.Broadly I would expect the older generations to be more likely to use analogue gear yes...but I expect there is a lot of inbetween hybrid setups also...for me if you are serious about mixing/production why would you be ideological and stick only to one type of tool? There are tremendous benefits to both...
At the end of your post, you said that there are tremendous benefits to both. I agree. I’m speaking of experienced engineers who now only mix ITB. That’s quite a life change, and I’m wondering why their approaches have significantly changed. Cheaper? Easier? More convenient? Faster? Sounds better? Endorsement advantages? Clients can’t hear the difference between mixes done ITB or OTB?

Last edited by Woodwindy; 26th August 2019 at 08:20 PM..
Old 26th August 2019
  #13
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodwindy View Post
Could the biggest factor for mixing or mastering ITB be more about the stage of life that you’re in, and less about sounding 100% as good as hybrid or console?
built into your supposed "question" is the assumption that ITB does not sound "100% as good" as a console. And that we all concede this as a "fact". This is your taste. If someone disagrees with you on your fundamental underlying assumption, how can he possibly answer your question?

"Have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or no?"

There are a number of top top top professional mix engineers who are 100% ITB. Many of them have even stated in so many words that they prefer the sonics. Yet this website is full of people second-guessing their choice and saying "oh they only do it for the recall".

Quote:
Cheaper? Easier? More convenient? Faster? Sounds better? Endorsement advantages? Clients can’t hear the difference anyway?
One of these things is not like the others. Given the track record around here, kudos to you for even including it as a "possibility". As if a guy working at that level couldn't afford to pay an assistant to set up his recalls? As if you have to be 100% ITB before any plug in company will pay you for an endorsement?

Quote:
ITB advantages for young engineers/musicians: ...

ITB advantages for middle age and older engineers/musicians: ...
You have made a list of advantages for both younger and older engineers.

If both groups have a list of reasons to find it advantageous, how can it "depend" on their stage of life?
Old 26th August 2019
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodwindy View Post
At the end of your post, you said that there are tremendous benefits to both. I agree. I’m speaking of experienced engineers who now only mix ITB. That’s quite a life change, and I’m wondering why their approaches have significantly changed. Cheaper? Easier? More convenient? Faster? Sounds better? Endorsement advantages? Clients can’t hear the difference anyway?
I can't really answer that question as I am a transition generation having grown up listening to music mixed with analogue gear, but started myself just as digital took over...however, I love the sound of analogue gear myself.

As a guess...I think mixing digital is mostly more convenient. Im not sure the cost comes into it significantly at that stage...

A scenario I have noticed is that significant analogue experience often allows engineers to get the best out of digital tools via the hands on experience, and understanding of the sound. I have found that myself with one of my obsessions -analogue synths. I spent years trying them, and it turned out that experience enabled me to make presets which some people tell me are amazingly analogue-like. Personally I still like to use analogue synths, but with a deep understanding of their characteristics, I can get the best emulations to sound very close and sometimes in a track it can sound better (majority of people picked/preferred Diva to my OB8 in a blind test). I think that is the journey some mix engineers go on.

My own opinion is even if a fraction of the top engineers can get fantastic results using only plugins, that doesn't neccessarily mean the average engineer joe should only use plugins. The journey was a key part of their results, and in my opinion, using 'some' analogue gear in the mix/composition simply makes the overall process easier and more enjoyable, and for me that's why I am involved in this industry and not an insurer or in marketing lol.
Old 26th August 2019
  #15
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Woodwindy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
built into your supposed "question" is the assumption that ITB does not sound "100% as good" as a console. And that we all concede this as a "fact". This is your taste. If someone disagrees with you on your fundamental underlying assumption, how can he possibly answer your question?

"Have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or no?"

There are a number of top top top professional mix engineers who are 100% ITB. Many of them have even stated in so many words that they prefer the sonics. Yet this website is full of people second-guessing their choice and saying "oh they only do it for the recall".


One of these things is not like the others. Given the track record around here, kudos to you for even including it as a "possibility". As if a guy working at that level couldn't afford to pay an assistant to set up his recalls? As if you have to be 100% ITB before any plug in company will pay you for an endorsement?


You have made a list of advantages for both younger and older engineers.

If both groups have a list of reasons to find it advantageous, how can it "depend" on their stage of life?
I don’t know if you are younger or older, but I’m sure you’ve decided to mix mostly ITB or OTB. The question I posed was simply do you feel that one’s stage of life is influential in choosing to mix in the box.
I think it’s a reasonable question.
Old 26th August 2019
  #16
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodwindy View Post
I don’t know if you are younger or older, but I’m sure you’ve decided to mix mostly ITB or OTB. The question I posed was simply do you feel that one’s stage of life is influential in choosing to mix in the box.
I think it’s a reasonable question.

It's a question I cannot even begin to answer. I don't know how one can possibly separate the "stage of life" with the "state of the art" which is evolving rapidly. When I was "younger", there was no ITB, it did not exist. I could not have chosen it if I wanted to. Then later, fully computer (not tape) based digital solutions were very expensive, and yet still limited sound wise

Nowadays ITB is (IMO)
1) available
2) affordable
3) sonically 'mature'

no matter how young or old I am, those three factors are going to be far more influential than my age in deciding how to mix. Until they are all fulfilled, it's not really even an option for professional work. Those conditions have only existed for a really short period of time. They did not become available to "old" people quicker than to "young" people, they became available in a certain range of dates. To everybody.

It's like "color TV". The availability of affordable color TV sets and significant amounts of color shows to watch on them "took off" in the mid sixties. If you were 20 years old, or if you were 80 years old, everybody "got into" it around the same time. Little kids and their grandparents watched "Gilligan's Island" together.
Old 26th August 2019
  #17
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Woodwindy's Avatar
Thank you for your concise reply.
Old 26th August 2019
  #18
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Why can't people just mix/master In The Box/Out The Box/In The Woods ....without having to look for some sort of confirmation their choice is "a good one"

What's next "is your mixing choice determined by your blood group."

Group A
Group B

Or for those with expectation bias Group AB.
Old 26th August 2019
  #19
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Silvertone's Avatar
Very little to do with age... everything to do with wisdom. lol

When I was mastering an album that Tchad Blake mixed, he had just switched to ITB only, this was after coming from years at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios with the best analog equipment anyone could want. When I asked him why he got rid of all his analog mixing gear his reply was he figured this was the way of the future and he better learn to get really good at it. Also budgets were shrinking and he had to be able to adapt.

That said the analog album he did with Mitchell Froom is one of my all time favorite albums for its Sonics alone. To me his mixes have yet to achieve that level again. Just my humble opinion.

I spent time experimenting pulling mixes only on my Electrodyne console and then trying to match or beat them in the box. What took minutes on the Electrodyne took hours to recreate ITB. Yet I could recreate it ITB. Amazing the moves ITB were about 3 times great than the console. In other words if I used an EQ on the Electrodyne and say adjusted something by two decibels, it was 6 decibels at the same frequency and Q to recreate it. I found that very interesting.

Here is the other thing, without have the console to pull the mix, I would have never known what I was missing or needed to recreate ITB. It’d take me about a half hour to an hour to get a mix really happening through the console. ITB it’d take me 2 to 4 hours to match the mix. I found it much more labor intense try to get the same space around the instruments.

There is something about an analog 2 buss summing that is very different to a software programs two buss summing. I find that’s where the change seems to occur. When I’d bust the individual tracks into the console everything just opened up. My mastering console gave me the ability to A/B the difference at the push of a button.

IMHO we give up a lot for convenience.

Just my 2 cents.
Old 27th August 2019
  #20
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Nice analogy there Silvertone.

This kind of sums up all the other OTB v ITB threads we have here on GS.

Cheers
Old 27th August 2019
  #21
Gear Head
 

As someone who lived through the pre computer days I am totally ITB and much prefer it. I will never miss waiting for a tape to rewind or trying to elimate that hiss or eek a few more milliseconds out of my sampler (Akai 3000 which I still have) Yes they were good days but for me were also quite frustrating days too. I'll be honest and say I did some good work back then but I do prefer the ease of today's tools. But that's just me
Old 27th August 2019
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PAnthony View Post
As someone who lived through the pre computer days I am totally ITB and much prefer it. I will never miss waiting for a tape to rewind or trying to elimate that hiss or eek a few more milliseconds out of my sampler (Akai 3000 which I still have) Yes they were good days but for me were also quite frustrating days too. I'll be honest and say I did some good work back then but I do prefer the ease of today's tools. But that's just me
+1

I'm from a tape machine and console back ground.

I'm tracking with outboard processing (for now at least) then mixing ITB save for a hardware compressor over my mix bus (for now at least) I also don't miss my old set up, limited sampler RAM, manual recall, banks of patchbays.

I feel so much more creative with my digital ITB system not to mention 10x quicker too!
Old 27th August 2019
  #23
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i cannot see much of a relationship between age/stage of life and technique - maybe experience and technique:

i was growing up on analog, spent 25 years working on it during which digital started picking up, i then went high sampling (including dsd) and itb for about 10 years but now (well, since 5 years) i'm back working on a desk - a digital desk!

lets me do projects i could not realize with any analog desk, daw or a combination of both so my reason for using it is not based on my age or experience but on functional aspects of the desks - i'm quite glad i'm (mostly) off analog though and can't see much of a point of 'hybrid' systems either: if still using any analog gear, it's on the way in...
Old 27th August 2019
  #24
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Woodwindy's Avatar
This has turned out to be such a great thread so far, and I must say that I’m surprised by the results.
My thanks to all of you, and keep ‘em coming!
Old 27th August 2019
  #25
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gainreduction's Avatar
 

I think it has more to do with experience than age. After doing this for 30+ years full time I am mixing ITB and that's a very thought out decision having done the analog race and thereby knowing it's advantages and limitations vs the ones ITB. The grass is not greener on ANY side of the fence and through experience you find that out. You just find out what works for YOU and your workflow and sonic aesthetic.

ITB, for me, has so many advantages that analog is not even remotely an option. Mixing for me (as I am just as much a musician, producer and songwriter as I am a mixing engineer) is a lot about expression and creativity. ITB is pretty much endless in it's routing and automation capabilities and I can finally make mixes that are alive in a way that never happened in analog. I can have any parameter automated to add motion and excitement to a mix. It's fantastic. Add all the other advantages (recall, cost, mobility and yes.... sonics!) and there it is.

If I would not have done the analog years I would certainly be doubting, wondering if the grass is indeed greener on the analog side. Now I know, from experience it is not. For me. I understand and respect that others feel differently. I only know that it works for me.
Old 27th August 2019
  #26
I’m around 40... I’ve learned to work ITB and OTB... I use both... I can say that both have their strengths and weakness... I’ve done both ITB and OTB pro mixes and masters... not feeling old neither young... ...just happy to work fast and good using best if both worlds... its a matter of workflow and what makes you take the best decisions while you keep your ears fresh... for this IMHO hybrid is the way to go....BUT you can achieve same quality ITB or OTB... maybe not as fast as using both again.

I recommend reading this post to put things in perspective... was enlightning for me:

https://www.recordingrevolution.com/...console-mixes/
Old 27th August 2019
  #27
Perhaps age can play somewhat of a factor. Speaking for myself, I learned and worked in rooms that were almost fully equipped with analog equipment. There is a comfort level in regards to this, but for me it’s purely on a sonic level. I don’t feel that I work any faster or slower OTB or ITB, my process is what it is.

Some years back I sold most of my gear and went fully ITB. At the time (that is an important factor) It never quite lived up to my expectations as much as I hoped it would. With that said, the change was good, my thinking became more progressive and open to technological advances.

There’s also something to be said about the economic factor. For the price of my analog rig I could easily have 2 or 3 bang’n ITB systems. How many younger generation engineers either have the money or want to spend 3k-8k on one Equalizer or Compressor. I would wager not to many.

Over the years I’ve adapted to more of a hybrid approach, as plugins improved I went from doing a lot of individual processing OTB to nearly a pure Bus processing analog signal chain. As Silvertone pointed out, he feels the analog bus is where he gets a lot of his analog dividends…I fully agree with this.

So in essence, as Gainreduction pointed out well, I have all the advantages of a killer ITB setup where there’s pretty much no limit on a creative and often sonic level. But for me, I also have access to a certain sonic aesthetic that I’m accustomed to, and don’t have to spend time attempting to recreate it ITB.

It’s like cars….some like driving vintage cars, some like modern ones, and others like having both.

I attached a couple of pictures to show exactly what my setup is like for anyone who might be interested.
Attached Thumbnails
Is mixing/mastering ITB or OTB determined by your stage of life?-img-0350.jpg   Is mixing/mastering ITB or OTB determined by your stage of life?-img-0349.jpg  

Last edited by engmix; 27th August 2019 at 06:21 PM..
Old 27th August 2019
  #28
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Woodwindy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by engmix View Post
Perhaps age can play somewhat of a factor. Speaking for myself, I learned and worked in rooms that were almost fully equipped with analog equipment. There is a comfort level in regards to this, but for me it’s purely on a sonic level. I don’t feel that I work any faster or slower OTB or ITB, my process is what it is.

Some years back I sold most of my gear and went fully ITB. At the time (that is an important factor) It never quite lived up to my expectations as much as I hoped it would. With that said, the change was good, my thinking became more progressive and open to technological advances.

There’s also something to be said about the economic factor. For the price of my analog rig I could easily have 2 or 3 bang’n ITB systems. How many younger generation engineers either have the money or want to spend 3k-8k on one Equalizer or Compressor. I would wager not to many.

Over the years I’ve adapted to more of a hybrid approach, meaning, that as plugins improved I went from doing a lot of individual processing OTB to nearly a pure Bus processing analog signal chain. As Silvertone pointed out, he feels the analog bus is where he gets a lot of his analog dividends…I fully agree with this.

So in essence, as Gainreduction pointed out well, I have all the advantages of a killer ITB setup where there’s pretty much no limit on a creative and often sonic level. But for me, I also have access to a certain sonic aesthetic that I’m accustomed to, and don’t have to spend time attempting to recreate it ITB.

It’s like cars….some like driving vintage cars, some like modern ones, and others like having both.

I attached a couple of pictures to show exactly what my setup is like for anyone who might be interested.
Those pics show a great example of the convergence of beauty and efficiency. Unique and well thought out!
Old 27th August 2019
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodwindy View Post
Those pics show a great example of the convergence of beauty and efficiency. Unique and well thought out!
Thanks, Woodwindy. I love working in there, it's across the street from my home. I have a good 10 acres between me and my neighbors, so no one is calling the cops. When I started this build out I tried to think about everything I could. Nothing is ever 100%, in my humble opinion, but I feel like I have most bases covered. Even the small monitor for the crazy amount of hours I spend comping vocals etc. I can kick back in my chair, swing the monitor right up to my face and knock it out. To even the blue light. I found before I installed the lights, that my eyes were becoming a little fatigued from the vacuum of white space behind the monitors. The blue lights totally mitigated the fatigue. I'm still getting used to the tactile nature of the Raven, but really enjoying it the more I use it.
Old 27th August 2019
  #30
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertone View Post
Very little to do with age... everything to do with wisdom. lol

When I was mastering an album that Tchad Blake mixed, he had just switched to ITB only, this was after coming from years at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios with the best analog equipment anyone could want. When I asked him why he got rid of all his analog mixing gear his reply was he figured this was the way of the future and he better learn to get really good at it. Also budgets were shrinking and he had to be able to adapt.

That said the analog album he did with Mitchell Froom is one of my all time favorite albums for its Sonics alone. To me his mixes have yet to achieve that level again. Just my humble opinion.

I spent time experimenting pulling mixes only on my Electrodyne console and then trying to match or beat them in the box. What took minutes on the Electrodyne took hours to recreate ITB. Yet I could recreate it ITB. Amazing the moves ITB were about 3 times great than the console. In other words if I used an EQ on the Electrodyne and say adjusted something by two decibels, it was 6 decibels at the same frequency and Q to recreate it. I found that very interesting.

Here is the other thing, without have the console to pull the mix, I would have never known what I was missing or needed to recreate ITB. It’d take me about a half hour to an hour to get a mix really happening through the console. ITB it’d take me 2 to 4 hours to match the mix. I found it much more labor intense try to get the same space around the instruments.

There is something about an analog 2 buss summing that is very different to a software programs two buss summing. I find that’s where the change seems to occur. When I’d bust the individual tracks into the console everything just opened up. My mastering console gave me the ability to A/B the difference at the push of a button.

IMHO we give up a lot for convenience.

Just my 2 cents.
Same here

Been mixing for over 35 years at The Mix Palace, LI NY.... www.MPSRecording.com. I actually have both in my studio..

ITB cannot compete with a console, in terms of space, depth, the way the music moves, and feels .. I can get to were I need to go in 1/4 the time using my SSL console.. But lets face it ITB beats a console for its recall .. Its just as simple as that.. In my humble opinion , whatever makes the artist, production and music sound the best is what I choose....because in the end the end listener does not care how you got there, what matters is not only how good it sounds initially.. But will they want to listen to your work over and over again for years? This is my biggest issue with ITB.. even some of the great mixers doing ITB, there work is really good if you listen initially from a technical perspective.. But over time I find myself disinterested in revisiting there work cause of the sonics.. I finally put some video's on my website were I talk about the tools and techniques I use to achieve professional quality mixes..
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