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Conversion.....overated?
Old 26th May 2009
  #1
Conversion.....overated?

The other day I took a nice wav file of a Steely Dan song (Peg) and sent it through my M-Audio Profire 610, out outputs 7/8 and into inputs 3/4. Hitting both the D/A and A/D stage. I used a 1khz sine wave generated in PT to align to sample accuracy and flipped back and forth on the two tracks by soloing. The results...

Very very very similar, basically indistinguishable besides a 0.2 dB loss in gain from the "converted file". Sitting there with my eyes closed flipping the solo button on the two tracks I could not hear any perceivable changes.

I know there are threads here where the majority of people (including mastering engineers with great rigs/converters and full range monitors) are picking the behringer converters over the aurora in preference during blind (unlabeled) tests, mbox 2 over benchmark, etc. And some of those (the mbox benchmark test I believe) tests where the results of 30X runs through the A/D D/A. (both of these threads/tests can be found in the "shootout" section of this forum).

So, do converters even really matter that much in this day an age? Technology has improved for sure, are converters (besides the super cheap, low end/no thought designs) even an issue anymore? Are people just trying to justify there expensive purchases? Or, buying the most expensive and the "best" for piece of mind?

The issue of perspective is huge I feel when it comes to your ears. I strongly believe if you "think" something is better it will be better. Be it a cable, a digital eq or a converter. Maybe this is the case.

I am sure I will take some heat but honestly the difference was nothing.....maybe after 25 passes I would have heard something different but things sounded identical after a single run through my D/A A/D.

I am monitoring with Dynaudio Bm6a's in a acoustically treated room and also with Seinheiser HD-650 cans . Not super duper high end but a considerable setup to hear subtleties in music.

Finally if the difference is so minuscule whats the point of spending thousands upon thousands on the ultra high end pricey converters? I encourage everyone with low/mid grade converters to do this test and hear for yourself.


EDIT: The audio clips from my test are now in this thread!:

Original Audio vs Single through Profire Converters
Old 26th May 2009
  #2
Gear Guru
 
Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 

Your test is flawed because you're working with finished material.

IMHO the most important stage is the first capture. Which is why if you're going to use a real tape machine, you need to use it first. Then transfer it to digital. Don't record digital and transfer back to tape.

Try recording several tracks (24+) using your convertors and do the same with high end convertors. That's the test you'll need.

Unless you're in the business of just transferring finished masters.

Also, you're listening with your D/A in the signal in both choices. If your D/A is sub-par it may not reveal very much about your A/D.
Old 26th May 2009
  #3
Right on. I would love it if someone could come to my studio with a nice D/A and we could hook it up spdif with the same source into a passive volume control and A/B it. I guess until than I will really never know the real advantages with converters besides the random posts I read in this forum. EDIT: Also if this happened I could than hear what my Profire D/A is doing on my test session by monitoring through a better/high end converter. I am skeptical though if the differences would than become apparent all of a sudden through the high end D/A. Would love to do the test personally though, am open minded.

I worked in a mastering studio with really nice converters (Prism, Lavry, etc) for awhile but never had a chance to do A/B tests with cheap/affordable converters.

Just thought I would hear at least some sort of audible difference with my test.

Also, I see your point in stacking a converter on 24 tracks and hearing the difference, just not really seeing the need when you are only dealing with a single analog chain pass (hitting the D/A and A/D once). Really does not seem like any audible degradation/difference is going until stacking/multiple passes come into play.
Old 26th May 2009
  #4
If you've mixed albums for a long while, and gone through a long process of improving your gear from prosumer to hi end, you end with a huge appreciation of hi end conversion. My first digital were ADATs back in the early/mid 90's. Around 1999 I picked up my first good converter, a stereo Apogee Rosetta (after 5-6 years of using ADATs and honing the skill set).

Even though I could only use it for overdubbs (since it was 2 ch) and main mix (using analog console), it still made a huge improvement to the clarity, width, etc.

Fast forward to the last 6-7 years and at any given time a combo of Apogee 16x, Lavry Blue and black, and Mytek 192's. I get to use the better gear on all inputs and outputs. The technology is a big step up from 10 years ago. It's like the ADATs were McDonalds and the new stuff is a fine cut of tenderloin marinated and cooked perfectly.

It goes in and comes out a lot less painfully.
Old 26th May 2009
  #5
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aleatoric View Post
Sitting there with my eyes closed flipping the solo button on the two tracks I could not hear any perceivable changes.
I can believe that.

Quote:
I strongly believe if you "think" something is better it will be better. Be it a cable, a digital eq or a converter. Maybe this is the case.
It's often the case, especially since it's so difficult to do a proper comparison. I disagree with the opinion that a transparent converter suddenly becomes not transparent when you run multiple tracks through it. If anything it would be the other way around. A complex mix usually taxes a signal path more than one microphone, though a microphone on a ride cymbal at full level is pretty taxing.

The only way to do fair comparison of multiple tracks is to record an entire project onto two systems using splitters after each mic and DI pre. But nobody ever does that. At least not that I know of. But again, logically it makes no sense that a transparent converter or preamp or whatever will suddenly become colored when used on separate tracks that are later combined. There was a big thread here a while ago where I disproved (to my satisfaction anyway) the whole notion of "stacking" errors accumulating:

Stacking Theory

Quote:
maybe after 25 passes I would have heard something different but things sounded identical after a single run through my D/A A/D.
Yes, this is a good way to audibly assess converters that are clean on one pass. If it takes ten passes before you hear a change, that's more than transparent enough. However, a typical DAW setup never uses more than one pass anyway. Each source is A/D converted only once when recording, then when mixing the sum of all tracks gets one D/A pass.

I wonder how many passes you could do through a high-end analog tape recorder before the signal audibly changes? heh

--Ethan
Old 27th May 2009
  #6
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mbradzick's Avatar
If you love smeared highs and shallow lows then yes, forget about quality conversion. Make sure you have a nice clock too...very important.
Old 27th May 2009
  #7
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lame pseudonym's Avatar
 

Okay, here's a call to those of you who have experience with more-transparent hardware:

I get it that if I buy Amazing equipment it will sound amazing but that's never going to happen here. But as time goes along I want to knock off bottlenecks one by one. Like when I went from 7.5 ips upward.

I'm using an M-Audio Delta 44. Today they're $149 at Newegg.

Suppose I threw caution to the wind and splurged to double the price: $300. Would that buy me an improvement? Like what, specifically?

Thanks

LP
Old 27th May 2009
  #8
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

I would not expect any large improvements in that price range.

Converters are like preamps; compare a single track vs another single track and sometimes very little difference can be discerned. Use them on 20, 30, 40 or 50 tracks or more and you will hear the difference adding up more.

The good news is, having a converter and a preamp at ANY price means you are capable of recording music these days. You've got to shell out a bit of cash to get to that next level, but it's not NECESSARY luckily.

War
Old 27th May 2009
  #9
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Nolet's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aleatoric View Post
The other day I took a nice wav file of a Steely Dan song (Peg) and sent it through my M-Audio Profire 610, out outputs 7/8 and into inputs 3/4. Hitting both the D/A and A/D stage. I used a 1khz sine wave generated in PT to align to sample accuracy and flipped back and forth on the two tracks by soloing. The results...
So...you also monitored thru the M-audio? Couldn't that totally obscure any of the artifacts and gradual destruction of the audio due to AD/DA conversion? If the DA is crap, how can you hear good AD?
Old 27th May 2009
  #10
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I Love this thread because I love to gripe about true A/B comparisons.

I am a fan of high end converters, however, if you have not done an actual BLIND A/B test with say the Mytek and the M-Audio converters utilizing the same source split to both inputs and level matched then:

YOU CAN NOT SPEAK TO THIS WITH ANY AUTHORITY!!!!

Just because someone has used cheap converters and then spent $2K or more on a nice stereo converter and says that it sounds better means absolutely nothing. Do not listen to these people.

If I record a vocal through both converters and post the results on this forum and tell everyone which clip is the Mytek and which clip is the M-Audio which clip do you think will get the most votes for sounding better? Of course the Mytek will, but not because it may sound better.

Please, I urge everyone to judge what sounds good for themselves.

If you just spent $2K on a converter of course you think it improves your work. More power to you. Without a blind listening test it is not possible to judge converters or any gear against another piece of gear with objectivity. Of course it is difficult to set up these types of tests but I would certainly try before dropping large cash on a converter or a Neve Pre or any high end gear.

Please don't get me wrong, I love high end gear! I adore the converters in our RADAR systems. I just feel that all of us in the pro audio community tend to think something is better just because of it's price tag.

Happy converting!
Old 27th May 2009
  #11
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

The first time I used a plug-in to boost the top end, the difference converters can make came crashing home!
Old 27th May 2009
  #12
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I'm converting back to my Tascam 4 track.....
Old 27th May 2009
  #13
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Bob,

You have access to amazing converters. I know that you are busy but could you post a couple of clips for Blind A/B comparison?

I'm not exactly sure how to go about it in the best way, perhaps you could take a source that you find appropriate for this test and run it through two very high end converters and one very not so high end converter and then post them here as A B and C only. No labels, no idea what converters were used.

Then gearslutzers could vote for a week and you could post the results.

Wow, I guess I am asking a lot but it would be fun and very revealing.

I would love to see how it all unfolds, wouldn't you?

Thanks, Chad
Old 27th May 2009
  #14
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Newcleardaze's Avatar
 

Regarding the comparison between cheaper converters:

I'd started with the Lexicon Omega when they first came then upgraded to a Firepod (FP10). The difference was very apparent... but that was more likely the preamps of each. Then I upgraded to the RME FF800, and at first I didn't notice much difference. When I had to downgrade (damned economy!!) I got the Presonus Firestudio and had my first chance to really listen to it and the RME next to one another (w/vintage Quad Eight Preamps). The difference was not huge. Basically the sound of the Presonus was a touch thinner. Worth the price difference? --- I'm still trying to decide.

I'd really love to eventually get the RME and an Apogee in my own room to hear the difference between all three on my terms.
Old 27th May 2009
  #15
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Nolet's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by c.evans View Post
Bob,

You have access to amazing converters. I know that you are busy but could you post a couple of clips for Blind A/B comparison?
That's probably useless. One person will listen to the clips using their Presonus and the other a Mytek. One will use Behringer speakers and the other some zillion dollar speakers. Such online comparisons with clips can never overcome the differences in DA conversion and monitor quality of the person actually listening.
Old 27th May 2009
  #16
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jeremy.c.'s Avatar
I would say converters would be the last piece to pick up (mic -> preamp -> outboard -> converters), but in my experience they have made a huge difference.
I began tracking my own music years ago, I was using my RME multiface at the time. I have recently gone back to redo some tracks and the bass was darn near impossible to mix and there were audible clicks in the drum edits I did. I never caught those clicks on the RME, but I am sure hearing them thru the Aurora and Mytek converters! I retracked the bass parts too using the same bass and the same preamps and it's making my life a lot easier.
I think lower end conversion is clear in the sense that you're getting a great signal to noise ratio, but there is a clairty they lack once you start piling everything together. It's not a pleasant mush like tape can make, it's a fuzzy mush that lacks definition.
And to speak to the red herring that engineers believe something is better because it costs more... it's true that in human psychology we have perceived value, but in this instance we're talking also talking about materials and engineering cost. The smaller companies that can't mass produce are the ones taking time and painstaking efforts to deliver something superb, not something just good enough to fool the 90% of poeple buying pro-audio equipment who don't have the developed ears. I can guarantee you that 4 years ago the differnt nuances of converters would have been lost on me, if you're asking and listening then you're probably waking up your ears too. I think it's difficult for the "old dogs" in the game to remember that not everyone takes good converters as a given and it takes some time to hear why they're better.
Old 27th May 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c.evans View Post
Bob,

You have access to amazing converters. I know that you are busy but could you post a couple of clips for Blind A/B comparison?

I'm not exactly sure how to go about it in the best way, perhaps you could take a source that you find appropriate for this test and run it through two very high end converters and one very not so high end converter and then post them here as A B and C only. No labels, no idea what converters were used.

Then gearslutzers could vote for a week and you could post the results.

Wow, I guess I am asking a lot but it would be fun and very revealing.

I would love to see how it all unfolds, wouldn't you?

Thanks, Chad
If you work with converters for a living and have experience with low, mid and high end conversion, then I think that qualifies you just fine. An A/B blind is interesting and ridiculous because it usually involves 1 track of something (like the OP). Suggesting that people trust someone with a history of blind testing over someone with real experience with all levels of gear is.... weird.

Seems like you don't trust Bob's opinion.
Old 27th May 2009
  #18
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No, conversion is not overrated

Your conversion is extremely important.

Look, if the performance isn't there, no microphone in the world will make it sound good. So let's dispense with the argument that the mic is the most important thing.

The most important physical tool in recording is everything. It all is very important. Mic, preamp, conversion and how they play with each other.

Your A/B test doesn't make sense to your argument "Peg" sounds great on anything, but also "Peg" was recorded with super high end conversion (tape decks are a form of conversion after all)
Old 27th May 2009
  #19
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My biggest difference was in the proof of my decision making. My mixes began to translate when I got some good A/D to track in with. However, it was only so good because I unfortunately was still using the D/A from my M-audio unit, so the decisions I was making to the mix were listening back to veiled playback. When I got a good clock, my Aurora16, Mogami Cabling, Adam A7's and my KRK Ergo...now I have no issues getting the translation to speak exactly how I hear it in the room. It's getting better with every mix I do, every new and better preamp, mic, flavor I add. I honestly could not be at the level I am now with M-Audio factory converters and clocking. I think the two things you need are good acoustic treatment, or basic acoustic treatment and then something like Ergo that can hear and grab the minute details of what broad acoustic treatment doesn't ever catch without spending tons of money....the other is good clocking, you'd be surprised how good mediocre converters sound on the Blacklion Audio Microclock..or the Big Ben for that matter. It doesn't hurt to have good pro converters to all that, but to at least start off not killing your wallet, get those and see if your matterial translates better at the very least.
Old 27th May 2009
  #20
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Well, I guess I've hit a nerve. If the converters are so great why wouldn't you do a blind comparison.

It should be immediately apparent, should it not? Why all the fuss.

I think most of you audio gurus are afraid that you are going to listen to the different conversions and pick the cheaper converter.

I don't understand why it seems so ridiculous to judge a piece of AUDIO equipment based solely on how it SOUNDS to the listener no matter what rig they are listening through.

Of course I trust the opinion of Bob Olhsson but should that stop me from making decisions on my own?

I'd say that it is a sad state of affairs to go out and spend thousands of dollars on any piece of gear just because someone else says that you should.

I also find it pathetic that so many are opposed to blind listening tests. What is the big issue? I thought it would be fun to see who picked what as the converter of choice.

Someone please tell me what would be the harm of a blind test. I would love to hear a reasonable explanation and not some mumbo-jumbo about the gear you're listening through. Isn't that the gear you listen through every day that you are very familiar with? Seems like the most logical place to do a "real world" comparison.

Thanks for the spirited debate!

Chad
Old 27th May 2009
  #21
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Here's a test. Everyone go to Songbird Sound on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Videos and listen to the first two songs on my player. The first was done on a 002 with no outside conversion, clock or pres. The second was done on a LavryBlue with Lavry pres.

Tell me which sounds better.
Old 27th May 2009
  #22
Here is a test where people are preferring the Mbox 2 over the Lynx and Benchmark (over 40 runs through):

Converter test

In this one 15 people picked the Behringer converters over the Aurora and only 4 guessed which one was the Aurora (results are on page 3).

Lynx Aurora 16 vs Behringer ADA8000

In my test no audible difference could be heard after a single pass through the D/A, A/D. When you start to look at this you really begin to wonder....is it worth the extra couple of grand if most people can't hear the difference or only people with superior converters and incredible full range speakers/monitors?

I think a good test for someone to do would be to post two identical files, labeled (A is Prism, B is Mbox 2, one high end, one low to prosumer) and watch what happens. I think you will get a lot of people chiming in about the more detailed in transients and better high end in A and the sloppy, blurred loss of focus in B. Mind over matter.
Old 27th May 2009
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by c.evans View Post
I love high end gear! I adore the converters in our RADAR systems. I just feel that all of us in the pro audio community tend to think something is better just because of it's price tag.
As do I! RADAR is one of the best sounding recorders I've ever used. Are you sure these people are in the "pro" community, or just here on gearslutz?

I would assume that the "Pro's" definitely know better than to pigeon hole this or any product because of its price tag. Cost=Quality, Is certainly true to a point.

Cost equates a lot of things, but none of them have anything to do with aural preference. I think the sound of RADAR is about the sum of its design, and the fact that it uses discrete power supplies for every part of the unit.
Old 27th May 2009
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c.evans View Post
Well, I guess I've hit a nerve. If the converters are so great why wouldn't you do a blind comparison.

It should be immediately apparent, should it not? Why all the fuss.

I think most of you audio gurus are afraid that you are going to listen to the different conversions and pick the cheaper converter.

I don't understand why it seems so ridiculous to judge a piece of AUDIO equipment based solely on how it SOUNDS to the listener no matter what rig they are listening through.

Of course I trust the opinion of Bob Olhsson but should that stop me from making decisions on my own?

I'd say that it is a sad state of affairs to go out and spend thousands of dollars on any piece of gear just because someone else says that you should.

I also find it pathetic that so many are opposed to blind listening tests. What is the big issue? I thought it would be fun to see who picked what as the converter of choice.

Someone please tell me what would be the harm of a blind test. I would love to hear a reasonable explanation and not some mumbo-jumbo about the gear you're listening through. Isn't that the gear you listen through every day that you are very familiar with? Seems like the most logical place to do a "real world" comparison.

Thanks for the spirited debate!

Chad
There is no harm in a blind test...but I'm sure you can't put together one that would accurately reflect what you are trying to prove, as many have stated. Ignoring that fact doesn't make anyone feel like participating. You are also ignoring other good arguments, which makes it feel like you are spoiling for a fight. I don't consider this a spirited debate actually because you are not backing your argument up with any other than accusatory drivel nor are you addressing really good points against considering a blind test to be a good measure of converter quality.

Your idea of the test would only establish which file people prefer to listen to.
Old 27th May 2009
  #25
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The analog components inside both the Mbox and the Behringer are nowhere near the level of those japanese parts and huge power supply built into my Aurora16. These cheap chinese parts don't even come close to converting information as punchy, open and accurate as that of the Aurora or Rosetta stuff...not by a long shot. Use a real preamp, real D/A and good monitors, in a well treated room and test the difference between how hazy the mix gets when you stack the conversion of the Behringer and Mbox when you add past 12 tracks, or around that area, to hear the difference between real converters and these other cheaper units.

You're talking to someone how had the mindset that modern converters are very similar in design, that they are just switches, really, and that really only the analog components inside make the difference before and after the switching. I did whatever I could to not have to spend more money for my business that puts money into my pocket, but found I couldn't do it with a mere Delta1010 with a Mytek clocked to it. I now use an Aurora16, clocked with a Blacklion Audio Microclock. I don't have to work nearly as hard for things to translate or for the client to be happy. Bottom line. Same ears, same monitors.
Old 27th May 2009
  #26
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Also, someone here on GS posted tracks done with 192 I/O conversion and tracks done with an Aurora. He simply posted the tracks and had us blindly guess. He pm'd me back saying I was right in my guesses.
Old 27th May 2009
  #27
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I mentioned this on a different forum...

A lot of the A/B tests you hear on GS will feature an acoustic guitar or some other single close mic'd source where it becomes difficult to discern the differences. Don't base your decisions on that. After upgrading my converters, I found the biggest improvements were on room mics, sources that have decay (snare, cymbals, percussive instruments), and bass guitar. If you really want to create an appropriate A/B test, I highly recommend using drums (with at least 1 room mic) and bass guitar in your test.
Old 27th May 2009
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piranhadrum View Post
I'm converting back to my Tascam 4 track.....
Old 27th May 2009
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slikjmuzik View Post
The analog components inside both the Mbox and the Behringer are nowhere near the level of those japanese parts and huge power supply built into my Aurora16.
That's cool. Look like three posts up to my link I posted. Here it is again:

Lynx Aurora 16 vs Behringer ADA8000

15 people picked the Behringer converters over the Aurora and only 4 guessed which one was the Aurora

Cool if you can hear an improvement and you are convinced your clients can hear an improvement, but during most blind tests people on this very forum are actually picking the Behringer over the Aurora by a big margin.

Trust me, if I spent thousands on converters I would be convinced there was an improvement too. Just in actual tests I am not seeing or hearing the results.
Old 27th May 2009
  #30
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Unless I'm there while the tests are being done to catch something while possibly being flawed or not, there is no way I can believe allegations that any Behringer has the componentry inside to even come close. From my experience, mind you I've installed and calibrated many a studio both low budget and high end, the M-audio's circuitry alone can't compare to the Aurora. I have the Profire 2626 which is easily up there with the RME fireface stuff I might add, is quite hazy and veiled in comparison to the Aurora. I had the Behringer ADA8000 myself and I ended up giving it to my old live sound boss. The converters in it sound frail, brittle and clinical. Now, take one modded by Blacklion Audio and we have another story, but still nothing like the Aurora. I get punch, body, linearity, musicality, which you DO NOT get out of any Mbox, Behringer other low end unit with Chinese components in it. The only way to really tell would be by having the exact same band record the exact same song, double mic'ing everything the same way but have the only thing changed in the path be the converters. In the end, I'D GUARANTEE YOU, the mix tracked and mixed with higher grade converters will not only come out sounding warmer, richer and more musical, but it'll get done quicker and everyone throughout the process, not just the engineer, will say they were more comfortable throughout the duration of the process using the Lynx, Mytek, Rosetta, Lavry, any of your higher end converters. Again, I started off using all this stuff and doing what I could to not have to upgrade because I wanted to save my money and not spend it on gear. However, I COULD NOT, no matter how hard I tried, to get my mixes where they are now...actually, not even close.

So a person can post however many tests they want, but I experienced my level of discomfort disappear in my personal studio upon upgrading the conversion and clocking. And no it's not because I've become a better engineer because the entire time, I had been cranking great mixes out of other studios that had better gear than me, then I'd go home and try to acheive those same results and couldn't. I'd love to see someone acheive top 40's quality material using a Behringer ADA8000, clocked with its own internal clock. 2-dimensional is what they'd get. Actually, I don't think it would be impossible, but they'd have to work on it real hard and deal with it's D/A not really letting them hear whats there. My guess is they'd have to make quite a few CD's to test out. Also, a complete 'air' mix, where everything is mic'd, I'd say almost impossible. Midi/programmed songs would probably be a little easier.
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