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Console Vs. Summing Mixers
Old 10th June 2006
  #1
Console Vs. Summing Mixers

Hey Everyone,

I run a 2 inch tracking and mixing studio in a converted warehouse here in Sydney Australia. I thought I might post this question here; I'm looking at upgrading my main mixing desk, and have a few options I would love some feedback on.

As mentioned I have a 2 " (an Ampex mm1200 24 track), but these days I find 90% of the projects I work on only use the tape for rhythm beds and overdub and mix off DAW, so most of my mixing duties are in this realm. I have a 16 in / out system, I choose to use Samplitude. While I am sometimes content to mix totally "within the box"; for big mixes I like to shoot out stems, and have some hands on faders and EQ to ride levels and tones. I really can’t say if there is a sonic benefit between the analogue mix bus or a Samplitude digital mix, just having hands on control allows for more fluent mixing and dynamic results quicker (bit less stress on the overworked CPU too).

There seems to be a whole new market for "summing devices", the latest I have seen is the new Neve 8816 16:2 summing mixer. In a nutshell, this is supposed to give you a mix summing signal path that will sound like you mixed on an 88R console. Now a device like this I can comprehend having to sum voltages, as it has a color and character that some find desirable. (Quick side note: some opinions in the review I read say it is a bit "rounded" and "warm" but the specs say it is 3db down at 50Khz!?! Confusing, any comments?) But if you had my current options; Mackie 1604Vlz and a Soundcraft Sprit Studio 24 Channel 8 Buss, would you opt for the "flavor" of these desks or would the 32point floating resolution of Samplitude be superior? Because I must admit I can’t hear much difference with these medium level desks and this makes one apprehensive to spend a couple grand on a "summing mixer" with no eq and usually rotary knobs instead of faders. I mean, the reason I spit stems out into the Spirit or Mackie is to move faders and just give stems global eq tweaks...

A wish list for what I need would be a 8 to 16 channel small footprint analogue desk, with full parametric EQ, don’t need preamps, don’t really need busses but wouldn’t hurt, maybe a few aux sends, insert points on at least 8 channels. What would be a logical next step up sonically from my Mackie and Soundcraft Spirit? Any thoughts on a small desk like this vs. a summing mixer? Or just keep mixing in the box and upgrade my computer to the hilt? Got to admit the complete recall of everything when mixing in the box is a huge draw card to stay there, but the promise of sounding like you mixed on a Neve 88R for around $5K AUS has got me investigating.

Thanks for any advice!
Adam B
SNJ RECORDING STUDIO
Old 10th June 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
 
subspace's Avatar
I can't give you an answer to what will work best for you, but I'll make a suggestion of something to try. The Phoenix Audio Nicerizer would give you some flexibilty to try a couple different approaches. It's 16 inputs with pan controls and a stereo out.
First, do a ITB mix in Samplitude.
Then do a ITB mix with Samplitude's stereo output feeding the first two inputs of the Nicerizer, hard-panned, while monitoring it's stereo output. See if it's tone affects your mixing decisions and allows you to push some levels differently without bringing any summing into the argument.
Now try a mix where you split 16 elements out to the Nicerizer, a blend of mono elements panned individually and stereo submixes hard-panned. See what the analog panning/ summing brings to the party.
Now this is where I leave the purist summing approach behind. Plug your 16 outputs into your 24x8 Spirit board and do a mix while monitoring the Spirit's stereo output. Compare what the Spirit does to the tone to what the tactile control and EQs bring to the mix.
Now plug the Spirit's channel direct outs into the Nicerizer's inputs and do a mix while listening to the Phoenix's stereo output. This will let you use the Spirit's faders and EQs while still doing the panning and summing in the Nicerizer.
Lastly, be creative. Feed the Nicerizer directly with some stems while also feeding individual elements to the Spirit for hands-on control and mult fun.
I think adding more mixing options is a good thing. I don't think you need to lose the benefits of what you currently do to add them. 2¢
Old 11th June 2006
  #3
Thanks for the reply subspace, your suggestion of hybrid setups using what I already have as well as getting a good summing box is where I was heading.

I just sometime wonder to myself that when I start to consider analogue desk mix versus ITB Samplitude mixes, am I kidding myself? Because the cats who talk about the differences in here are often comparing 96K HD ProTools mixes to SSL K series mixes! If I have a Soundcraft or a Mackie are they anywhere near this ballpark? Or will ITB be superior untill I own a **** off desk?

After some more investigations, the Neve 8816 is getting some pretty harsh reviews, others say this is the answer to getting Neve analogue sounds on a digital mix. If build quality wasn't an issue, does it sound like an 88R desk? I am looking into the "Nicerizer" but that name is a bit uninspired... Saying I just bought a Neve has way more appeal!

Subspace, I will try the different mixdowns and see what works, often do, but can't help but think the differences I hear between mixes has nothing to do with the summing, much more to do with what I did different on the mixes... such a tough call. Guess I should try to finds a dealer who will let me trial a good summing box and spend a few days mixing the same track through all the different setups and nail what my best working method and sonic path is. I remember a time when this proposition would seem fun, but now it seems a bit daunting, just want to mix with confidence!!!

Thanks for responding.
Adam B - SNJ STUDIO
Old 11th June 2006
  #4
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SNJ Studio


After some more investigations, the Neve 8816 is getting some pretty harsh reviews, others say this is the answer to getting Neve analogue sounds on a digital mix. If build quality wasn't an issue, does it sound like an 88R desk? I am looking into the "Nicerizer" but that name is a bit uninspired... Saying I just bought a Neve has way more appeal!


The Neve,build wise is a piece of ****..and sonically it's pretty blah..
As far a basic summing device goes,the Nicerizer[yes I bought serial # 03] actually sounds great and will get you more smiles on mixes than saying "You just bought a Neve"..
If your looking into a high quality more comprehensive /expandable setup ..also look into the Tonelux stuffthumbsup
Old 11th June 2006
  #5
There really isn't an 8 or 16 frame analog mixer out there that ticks all of your boxes, if total recall is imperitive.

I think that summing needs to viewed as just a part of the mixing process. I am trying to piece together a mixer that completely suits MY needs, and the only way I can do this is to buy sepearte units to perform seperate duties.

If you buy an 8 channel line/mic/DI pre with clear stepped inputs (e.g. Gama 8), + an 8 channel rack of eqs with total recall ability (e.g. ssl x-rack), + a summing amp (e.g. Nicerizer), then you will have created a very high quality analog mixer that can be recalled very easily. Then in the future maybe buy some moving faders or maybe another bank of eqs or dynamics; maybe a sub-mixer and then a monitor controller.
Old 11th June 2006
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by TEMAS

If you buy an 8 channel line/mic/DI pre with clear stepped inputs (e.g. Gama 8), + an 8 channel rack of eqs with total recall ability (e.g. ssl x-rack), + a summing amp (e.g. Nicerizer), then you will have created a very high quality analog mixer that can be recalled very easily. Then in the future maybe buy some moving faders or maybe another bank of eqs or dynamics.
For all that out lay he might as well look into buying a used SSL.


Adding moving faders to your mini mixer alone will be pricey.


One of the benefits of working on a console is that its designed as a system.


All the seperate parts work together to equal one sound.


Its also one of the reasons people can't hear differences between ITB and OTB summing sections.


If you pull the summing amps of an SSL console its only one section and your mix will sound different if you run it through it instead of running and mixing it through the different stages in the console.
Old 11th June 2006
  #7
Thanks for the replies.

Have been loking further into the Nicerizer and it seems to be getting good comments wherever I look., it is high on my list now.

Getting a modular setup where I can build it up is an attractive option, but then you do end up spending a lot of money to get everything a good 2nd hand desk would do, a used SSL would be awesome but here in Australia they are rare and expensive and from what I've heard somewhat difficult to keep in spec. The Tonelux stuff looks very cool. I know it should be all about the sound but having a name like SSL on my studio would be a plus.

Have started doing A/B mixes of Samplitude ITB and my analogue desk stem mixes... the analogue mixes panning seems to go further, good for drums but makes my guitar panning seem too enhanced... guitars bit too harsh on analogue mixes (easy EQ cut fixes)...vocals sit in the track better on analogue mixes but resulting stereo mixdown wavefiles on analogue have crazy transients that the digital mixes do not... Digital mixes need less mastering compression to acheive desired RMS levels...

The differences are pretty damn small... I don't think my average client would care. No recall on the analogue mixes mean more work. Mixing only with a mouse means more work. It is proving to be a very hard to justify any gear purchases on such small gains! Tough call, thanks for your input it is helping.

Adam B
Old 11th June 2006
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor
For all that out lay he might as well look into buying a used SSL.
There's a used AWS900 on Ebay at the moment for $65,000. Whilst I agree that for that price you would struggle to put together a mixer out of seperates that has the capabilities of the AWS900, I also think that the 3 items I suggested could be bought new for $15,000 and would provide a good platform to start building on.
Old 11th June 2006
  #9
By the way Thrill - I believe you use the AWS900, which is the exact same eq as in the x-rack. Do you find the eqs diverse enough to cope with a wide range source instruments? Or do you often find yourself reaching for outboard eqs for certain tasks?
Old 11th June 2006
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by TEMAS
By the way Thrill - I believe you use the AWS900, which is the exact same eq as in the x-rack. Do you find the eqs diverse enough to cope with a wide range source instruments? Or do you often find yourself reaching for outboard eqs for certain tasks?

Temas,

I've only used the AWS 900 once(with the prices dropping may pick one up in the future).


And i did think at the time the EQ could be useful.


But believe it or not when i mix on an SSL these days i rarely use the EQ or compression in it anymore(except for the mixbuss comp).


Can't explain it.


Its just how i hear things these days.
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