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Can your DAW do this? (For frustrated Mixers)
Old 14th January 2003
  #1
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Can your DAW do this? (For frustrated Mixers)

I've been reading the various threads about DAW mixing and the frustrations involved. It's strange, but I've never for a moment experienced frustration with my DAW in trying to mix. Mixing is a pleasure, and I really do feel it's a piece of gear that makes it easy to make a mix sound good, much like a great analog desk. Makes me look better than I am, not worse.

I realize that I use a DAW that I suspect few here have ever used personally, namely Paris. That's exactly why my perspective may be somewhat unique. I've finally come up with a simple illustration of what I think is problematic about PT mixing and an idea that may help some people get happier with it.

Here's an easy way to show what I mean. On a high end analog desk, suppose we were to bring up a stereo mix coming in from an ATR102 1/2" at nominal +4, on 2 console faders and have both channel and master faders at unity gain. The meters on the 2 track and the 2 bus should match and playback should sound fine.

Now, mult out of the 2 track to 2 more faders set identically. You should get 6dB more gain. Everything should still sound fairly fine. The console should have some headroom. Drop the Master Fader 6dB and things should sound nearly identical to just hearing 2 channels and the 2 bus meters should look like they did at the beginning.

Now, let's mult twice more to double that setup, for a total of 4 stereo mixes playing on a total of 8 faders and an additional 6 dB of gain. Drop the Master Fader 6 more dB to -12. Now, depending on the console and program material, we're probably starting to choke up, or even crap out. We could trim the channel faders down and the Master fader back up until it sounded cleaner and more open. To taste really. Some "inside-the-console" bus compression is often part of the reason a mixer likes a given desk.

So use one of your own mixes or else rip a good clean CD and try this same exact scenario with your DAW. A mix that peaks near zero but isn't trashy. I know some will immediately argue "It's apples vs oranges" and "Analog vs digital gain structure" etc. Indulge me, just for a moment, since I think most people tend to approach mixing similarly on either platform. I'm trying to demonstrate a point about mixing, headroom and gain structure.

What happens when you try this same experiment on your DAW? It blows up, doesn't it? You never get past adding 1 additional copy on PT. There is little "give" there. Some ugly clipping occurs.

Guess what happens when you try this on Paris? It's the same as an analog desk. Doubling up and dropping the Master 6dB sounds perfect and yields "normal' meter levels. Doubling again to 4 mixes and dropping the Master to -12dB starts to load up, depending on the program. If it's really hot average level, it starts to crap out, gradually in a very non digital way. Sounds like the analog bus on a really good console starting to let go. On more open program material, it just starts to compress a bit, in a cool way. The thing has a wholly unique summing scheme and internal DSP scheme. They lucked out, IMO.

This is why I mix on Paris and will continue to do so, supported or not. I don't have to think "digital". I just mix and whack the thing around, get all the clip lights red and spank it till I like the way it sounds, analog style. Visceral, not all cerebral-i-fied. But that's not the point here, really. Here is my point (finally).

Get your DAW mixing gain structure to a place that gives you some summing bus headroom. Don't be flirting with Zero at the Master fader if Zero is the top end of your summing bus. Open things up at least 10dB and make up the gain after the summing bus has done it's job. In the case of PT, there is no mercy in the summing bus when approached in an "analog" way, so just give Zero a wide berth. View the 2 bus as the fulcrum of a seesaw with all the channel faders on one side and the lonely Master fader on the other side. Keep the channel fader side low. Make up the gain with a plugin on the 2 bus, which will be after summing has occured.

So much for the folks who claim digital summing all sounds the same, BTW. Give me 5 minutes in my room with you and you will have no doubt there are large differences in the way DAW summing sounds. I get the most out of Paris by slapping it around, analog style, which I love. But you'll get the most out of PT by going very easy on the summing bus, IMO. Big time.

I realize all of this could be a bit controversial. That's not my intent. The intent is to shed some light on the frustration some DAW users experience in getting the results they want. I hope it helps someone.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 14th January 2003
  #2
Old 14th January 2003
  #3
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subspace's Avatar
I can mult a mix 8 times, reduce the master fader correspondingly, and it sounds the same as listening to just the stereo feed. As a matter of fact, I can add 20dB to each mult, reduce the master, and it still sounds the same. The mix bus was somewhere around 30dB over 0dBFS, but it sounded fine with the master fader pulled back the same amount.
I understand this is an issue with fixed point DSP card driven systems, though floating point systems are much more tolerant of poor gainstaging. I wonder who will be the first to offer selectable non-linear summing algorithms? Maybe make the interface a red, kidney-shaped window with all your favorite american and "british" summing busses selectable...
Old 14th January 2003
  #4
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cram's Avatar
 

As you know Brian, I am a PARISite too. Over the past year or so since it was discontinued I keep reading DAW threads about latency this, and summing bus that, instantiation this, and fader math that, "New and Improved!" this, and "Now in Real Time!" that...

I honestly don't know what they are talking about. fuuck

It looks to me like the way it's going, I won't have to change my DAW for YEARS to come.

You can have my PARIS system when you can pry my cold dead fingers from around my C16.
Old 14th January 2003
  #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by subspace
I can mult a mix 8 times, reduce the master fader correspondingly, and it sounds the same as listening to just the stereo feed.
What system are you on? I know some of the Native DAWs are using a 32 bit bus and are somewhat overload proof. But there is really no progressive change in the tone, just overhead built into the bus (which is a good thing in itself). That's yet another sonic variation relative to both PT and Paris.

Like I said, these things do not sum the same. The trick is to learn the specifics of your rig in much the same way as you would learn the subtleties and interactions of a guitar setup, in order to get the most out of it. Frankly, no different than learning how to get the most sonically out of a specific analog console. Some you spank, some you don't.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 14th January 2003
  #6
Gear Head
 

Quote:
I realize that I use a DAW that I suspect few here have ever used personally, namely Paris.
If you have never used PT's for more than a few days you will have a unique perspective. PT's has the worst mix buss of any DAW I have used. There is no doubt in my mind about that. Why Pro tools has gone on to be industry standard is down to pure luck more than anything else. It certainly isnt beacuse its the best product. And that imo is a great shame

From the few that I have talked to, the Paris sytem is up there with the Fairlight in terms of musical and warmish sounding mixes.

I havent used it myself, but it wouldnt surprise me for a second if the mix buss was better in Paris over Pt's.
Old 14th January 2003
  #7
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subspace's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
What system are you on? I know some of the Native DAWs are using a 32 bit bus and are somewhat overload proof. But there is really no progressive change in the tone, just overhead built into the bus (which is a good thing in itself). That's yet another sonic variation relative to both PT and Paris.

Like I said, these things do not sum the same. The trick is to learn the specifics of your rig in much the same way as you would learn the subtleties and interactions of a guitar setup, in order to get the most out of it. Frankly, no different than learning how to get the most sonically out of a specific analog console. Some you spank, some you don't.


Regards,
Brian T
I'm using DP. The overload lights on the channels come on to let you know that if you sent the signal out of the program at that point, like to a 24 bit interface or recording it to disk, it would be clipped. Otherwise, you're free to run everything in the red until it leaves the program, which can be convenient for slamming the inputs of things that aren't linear in their response, like Fairchild plugs or what have you.
Being able to saturate the mix busses is a cool way to deal with the headroom issue within a fixed point DSP card system. Gives you the same options of running the channels hot or conservative, depending on the sound you're after, as an analog board would. So how big is the sweet spot on the Paris mixer?
Old 14th January 2003
  #8
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cram's Avatar
 

Quote:
So how big is the sweet spot on the Paris mixer?
Hmmmm, that's a good question! I've never actually figured that out. I have reds all over when I'm mixing, but I don't really know how many dB it is from first red to ugly. I'll have to check on my next session. I seem to remember completely maxing it out and getting saturation distortion, but it wasn't ugly digital clip.

I'll check.
Old 14th January 2003
  #9
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alphajerk's Avatar
 

thats funny because i use DP [and dont have many problems with the mix buss either] and i tend to see red a bit on it too when im mixing. i "slam" a lot of the channels... hmmm.
Old 14th January 2003
  #10
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Re: Can your DAW do this? (For frustrated Mixers)

Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT

So use one of your own mixes or else rip a good clean CD and try this same exact scenario with your DAW. A mix that peaks near zero but isn't trashy. I know some will immediately argue "It's apples vs oranges" and "Analog vs digital gain structure" etc. Indulge me, just for a moment, since I think most people tend to approach mixing similarly on either platform. I'm trying to demonstrate a point about mixing, headroom and gain structure.

What happens when you try this same experiment on your DAW? It blows up, doesn't it? You never get past adding 1 additional copy on PT. There is little "give" there. Some ugly clipping occurs.

Brian, did you actually try this with PT? I just did, and our experiences differ. I used a Norah Jones track and copied it to 16 audio tracks of PT. I listened to one track with the master at zero. I listened to 2 tracks with the master down 6 db. I opened up 4 tracks with the master down 12 db. Etc. I got as far as listening to 16 tracks, down 24 db (that's correct, isn't it?) and still have yet to hear any clipping. The mix sounds different--maybe stuffier or not as open--but no clipping and the metering looks totally consistent.

Am I misunderstanding something here?

-R
Old 15th January 2003
  #11
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Rick,

Hmmm. That sounds different from my experience. I'll pop over to a buddy who has a Mix rig and a spankin' new PTHD rig and try the identical setup I used on Paris with the same program material. I'll get back to you here.

Maybe if we could all agree on the same ripped CD track, it might be interesting to print 60 seconds at the 0, -6 and -12 configs from these different DAWs and post somewhere on GS for a listen. I have Paris, Logic and SX. Somebody else could do Mix, HD and DP.

Might be enlightening in general. Clear up and/or confirm some wive's tales. FWIW, I do think maxing out the 2 bus, even if to an extreme, is a valid means of magnifying differences in the various summing schemes. I know for a fact they do not all respond the same, though the newest Native stuff is generally similar one to another in this setting.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 16th January 2003
  #12
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
FWIW, I do think maxing out the 2 bus, even if to an extreme, is a valid means of magnifying differences in the various summing schemes. I know for a fact they do not all respond the same, though the newest Native stuff is generally similar one to another in this setting.

Yes, it was interesting to hear the nature of the sonic deterioration which, though not extreme, was noticeable and seemed to have a slightly unpleasant quality that I've also found in particularly dense mixes. (The dreaded Protools "sound"?) In other words, I think it's a great way to listen to the "sound" of the summing bus.

However, I wonder how far we can go to even use analog concepts like "summing bus" to explain what goes on in a DAW. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that, in Protools, when you move the master fader it in fact changes the individual levels of all the channels rather than attenuating a summed signal that is sent to it.

Let me know if you try it again. My system is HD. Maybe there was a problem with Mix.

-R
Old 16th January 2003
  #13
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Well, from the test I just did, I can tell you that HD sure seems to be improved over Mix as far as summing, based on my memory. Unfortunately, Bobby already had his Mix rig boxed up for trade in so I couldn't compare on the spot.

My experiences have all been with Mix rigs and this was my first time to sit down with an HD setup for a hard listen. I duplicated your test with 8 stereo channels of a mix, all channel faders at zero, Master fader at -18.

HD handled it well I thought. A little edgy, but nowhere near what I remembered with Mix. So I stand corrected on the current state of PT summing as far as HD. That's cool.

If I may make an observation here. I would suggest that all the griping about the issues with PT and mixing in the past served a valuable purpose. I believe Digi was likely compelled to address this partly as a result of the forceful compaints. Sounds like they did some good. Congrats to both Digi and the gripers.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 16th January 2003
  #14
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groundcontrol's Avatar
 

FWIW, I haven't done any scientific testing but since switching to HD this summer I've found my mixes to come together a lot more easily and the general sound to be more open.
That and the doubling of DSP power at 44/48 helped the $$ pill go down smoother...
Old 16th January 2003
  #15
Tireless Digi campaigners!!! Thats what some of us are!

I sum 'outside the box'

Good to know HD is better for those that sum 'inside the box'

Ext summing is probably the way to go for folks sticking with Mix + that cant afford to go up to H - like me..!!!

Old 16th January 2003
  #16
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Quote:
HD handled it well I thought. A little edgy, but nowhere near what I remembered with Mix. So I stand corrected on the current state of PT summing as far as HD. That's cool.
Excellent, maybe people will quit bitching and start making music.
Old 16th January 2003
  #17
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subspace's Avatar
I mix outside the box as well. Even though DP has no problems with headroom, you still can't change the basic sound of the program. It sounds ok for some things, flat or sterile for others.
When I want my guitars to mesh better, I like being able to open up the line gains and assign them all to a stock Trident subgroup. For drums, I prefer to keep the gains moderate ('cept maybe snare) and use a subgroup that's been upgraded with some high speed chips for more transparency and definition. I keep two different master modules on hand and use them according to what I'm working on as well.
With DP, I'm stuck with the sound of the program regardless of how it's hit, and yes, all the program's sound a bit different to me, not just the summing sections. So I can dig why the non-linear response of Paris is inviting, regardless of headroom issues.
Old 16th January 2003
  #18
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT

HD handled it well I thought. A little edgy, but nowhere near what I remembered with Mix. So I stand corrected on the current state of PT summing as far as HD. That's cool.
Thanks for checking it out for yourself. Some people here erroneously think I'm somehow in Digi's pocket because I'm vocal about my own tests of HD which seem to show no great problems. Nice to know my own HD setup isn't the only one working properly yuktyy yuktyy yuktyy yuktyy yuktyy yuktyy

-R
Old 16th January 2003
  #19
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
Well, from the test I just did, I can tell you that HD sure seems to be improved over Mix as far as summing, based on my memory. Unfortunately, Bobby already had his Mix rig boxed up for trade in so I couldn't compare on the spot.

My experiences have all been with Mix rigs and this was my first time to sit down with an HD setup for a hard listen. I duplicated your test with 8 stereo channels of a mix, all channel faders at zero, Master fader at -18.

HD handled it well I thought. A little edgy, but nowhere near what I remembered with Mix. So I stand corrected on the current state of PT summing as far as HD. That's cool.

If I may make an observation here. I would suggest that all the griping about the issues with PT and mixing in the past served a valuable purpose. I believe Digi was likely compelled to address this partly as a result of the forceful compaints. Sounds like they did some good. Congrats to both Digi and the gripers.


Regards,
Brian T
On the one hand, we have Erik of Bomb Factory saying that he, Nika and GM conclusively decided that the PT Mix mix bus was "correct" to the point that errors were imperceptible.

On the other, we hear from folks like Brian, who reckon that HD's mix bus is a considerable improvement over the Mix one.

I don't know who is right, but there does seem to be a bit of a contradiction here.

(My gut, unproven, BS guess is that Erik is incorrect, and that Brian may or may not be hearing an improvement...without a direct comparison it is awfully hard to know).
Old 17th January 2003
  #20
The HD sound has recieved a big cheer from many, thats clear.
Old 17th January 2003
  #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by jon
On the one hand, we have Erik of Bomb Factory saying that he, Nika and GM conclusively decided that the PT Mix mix bus was "correct" to the point that errors were imperceptible.

On the other, we hear from folks like Brian, who reckon that HD's mix bus is a considerable improvement over the Mix one.

I don't know who is right, but there does seem to be a bit of a contradiction here.

(My gut, unproven, BS guess is that Erik is incorrect, and that Brian may or may not be hearing an improvement...without a direct comparison it is awfully hard to know).
But I doubt that the examinations done by others have pushed the 2 bus this far out of bounds. I'm not saying that pushing things to this extreme is the norm or even recommended, but there is no doubt that as you push beyond linearity, the differences in how the competing systems handle Overs becomes obvious. I have always thought that pushing any aspect of a system to extremes was a bit of a magnifying glass, for the purposes of comparison.

There is no question that I regularly and intentionally push my system beyond perfect linearity, for a subjective effect that I prefer to the completely neutral response available by staying completely within "spec". In fact, it's common knowledge among Paris users that the way Paris sounds when pushed into the red is a big part of the draw. In 4 years, I've never seen a single complaint about the way Paris sounds even when really, really crowding the 2 bus.

OTOH, it's also become common knowledge among many PT users that loading up the 2 bus can be a negative. Hence the birth of the various external summing boxes aimed specifically at PT users.

I find it difficult to believe hundreds of people reached the same independent conclusion for no reason. I've also heard from every single PT user I know who has upgraded to HD that they felt it was easier to get a mix sounding the way they wanted it to with HD. Without exception, I've heard that, at least so far. I was sceptical. Now I am not. And since I'm not even a PT owner, much less a TDM plugin developer or vendor I would think that puts me in a pretty objective spot.

Jon, you're right. A side by side comparison would be better. And I'm not infallible by any means. But I'm comfortable stating that I think the changes in the TDM bus for HD have yielded some benefit to the PT 2 bus.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 17th January 2003
  #22
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
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Brian, I agree with your points.

I haven't heard HD yet but wouldn't be surprised if you and others are hearing a difference.
Old 17th January 2003
  #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by jon
On the one hand, we have Erik of Bomb Factory saying that he, Nika and GM conclusively decided that the PT Mix mix bus was "correct" to the point that errors were imperceptible.

On the other, we hear from folks like Brian, who reckon that HD's mix bus is a considerable improvement over the Mix one.

I don't know who is right, but there does seem to be a bit of a contradiction here.

(My gut, unproven, BS guess is that Erik is incorrect, and that Brian may or may not be hearing an improvement...without a direct comparison it is awfully hard to know).
There's no contradiction. Erik, Nika and GM are probably referring to HD. Whether HD is an improvement over Mix is a good question that hasn't really been tested on these pages. As far as Brian's test goes, he said that on a Mix system it totally crapped out (distorted) after just once doubling the number of tracks. On HD there was no problem. You don't need a side-by-side comparison if the difference was that extreme. My guess is that some other factor accounted for the distortion in his first test, as I'm not so sure the mix bus was significantly redesigned for HD. (But personally, I'm not all that interested in debating the merits of a Mix system--I've happily moved on)

Another factor that might account for people preferring HD is that they are monitoring out of a 192 instead of an 888. You will immediately think your system sounds better and it will be easier to put together a mix.

And once again, even if one person finds the PT bus to be "correct" (which is somewhat measurable), someone else may still prefer the sound of another, less accurate system. Such as Paris being pushed into non-linearity.

-R
Old 17th January 2003
  #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT
But I doubt that the examinations done by others have pushed the 2 bus this far out of bounds. I'm not saying that pushing things to this extreme is the norm or even recommended, but there is no doubt that as you push beyond linearity, the differences in how the competing systems handle Overs becomes obvious. I have always thought that pushing any aspect of a system to extremes was a bit of a magnifying glass, for the purposes of comparison.
I wonder if this analog terminology applies to a DAW? In your PT test. AKAIK, nothing was being push to the point at which there were any "overs". I'm not sure that it even makes sense to say that you're pushing beyond linearity. I don't doubt the experience of hundreds of Paris users, but after all this time I'm still curious about what they did in the code to emulate non-linear analog-type responses. Nothing in my experience would ever lead me to believe that stressing a digital system would naturally lead to euphonically pleasant audio artifacts.

How did they do it, and since it's so wonderful, why aren't they doing it somewhere else? (not challenging, just curious)

-R
Old 17th January 2003
  #25
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by RKrizman
Another factor that might account for people preferring HD is that they are monitoring out of a 192 instead of an 888. You will immediately think your system sounds better and it will be easier to put together a mix.
True for 888/24s, but not necessarily IMO for AD8000SEs and Prisms. I know a couple of places that actually went HD then back to MixPlus...their clients wanted all Apogee or Euphonix outputs, with external clocks, not a mixed bag of Digi HD192 plus Apogees hanging on the legacy ports clocked by Digi.

FWIW...when I first opened up our SSL J room last spring, the engineers didn't really care what converters we had for the other channels after the first 24 Apogee outputs. We were renting 888/24s to get up to high output counts, etc.

Now I don't know if it's the kind of engineers that has changed or their requirements, but since about October, every project coming through, and I'm talking about French, English and American engineers, has been requiring Apogee outputs, and lots of them. Sometimes I had trouble chasing down AD8000 units to rent and proposed Prisms, Genex, 888/24s, Euphonix systems, even rental HD+192 systems. No go. I had to find Apogees.

Now, I'm not a major Apogee proponent. They're good, but I currently prefer Prisms. For the moment though, a MixCube/MixQuad system with 8 AD8000SE converters is what would most satisfy our clients' requirements.
Old 17th January 2003
  #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by jon


FWIW...when I first opened up our SSL J room last spring, the engineers didn't really care what converters we had for the other channels after the first 24 Apogee outputs. We were renting 888/24s to get up to high output counts, etc.

It has always been dismaying to me how many engineers have been willing to use the 888's. I've always said that if you're gonna use those things then don't go blaming the software if you can't get a decent mix.

I have an AD-8000 and a 192 and I think they are both units that you can make good music with. I currently feed my monitors from the 192 directly when I mix in the box, and the greater clarity and detail of its output has made it easier for me to mix. Again, I think it's the converter and not necessarily anything new about the software. I still like the Apogees, but with the 192 I feel like I'm getting a slightly cleaner windshield.

-R
Old 17th January 2003
  #27
Further info on PTHD, is available on the online magazine "Digizine"

About how Matchbox Twenty used HD running at 192k at Bearsville studio to do their most recent record..

Go to the Digi site then click on "Digizine"

Old 17th January 2003
  #28
Quote:
Originally posted by Jules
Further info on PTHD, is available on the online magazine "Digizine"

About how Matchbox Twenty used HD running at 192k at Bearsville studio to do their most recent record..
Doesn't the most advance HD system only run 24 tracks of 192khz? If that's the case, I don't see them being happy with that limited number of tracks.
Old 18th January 2003
  #29
The article is really worth a read....

They wanted to keep to 24 tracks 'like the old days' - naturally they ended up using more.. you can slave PT rigs just like you can 2" tape machines.. (cept no wow, flutter or catchup issues)

Old 18th January 2003
  #30
Gear Addict
 

OKay, this is a really easy test to do...loading up the mix bus. Why not post some files and we'll let everyone hear the difference. Blind of course. I'll do it.

How about:


Original 2 mix
2 copies w/master fader down 6db
4 copies w/ master fader down 12 db
8 copies w/master fader down 16db

right?
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