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New Toft Console Setup vs New ITB Setup Help me decide

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by ChrisH, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Hi everyone,

    First off, I'm a novice recording engineer, and I strive to one day become a "Pro". I've been engineering for 12 years now, making the best
    out of my budget gear and I believe Its time for me to start working with a professional grade setup to further assist creating the sounds I have
    in my head. I've saved up allot of money over the last two years to upgrade all my non professional pieces of gear all at once, about $17,000 to be exact. Up until about 2 months ago I've had my heart set on a completely "ITB" rig, where the chain would just go mic > preamp > a/d converter > cubase > and processed with nothing but quality plug-ins.

    This "ITB" setup, setup 1 would consist of the fallowing.
    1. 8 Daking Mic Pre's
    2. 8 Vintech Mic Pre's
    3. Apogee Symphony system

    Now, a couple months ago I discovered Toft consoles. I've wanted to be able to Eq channels with quality real analog eq's, mix with real faders, and so on, for a long time. In fact its been 11 years since I've touched a real mixer, as when I first started a had a 24 track tascam tape mixer.
    Something has been missing ever since, I think its the enjoyment of the hands on experience.

    Enough rambling..

    Basically it comes down to the realization that for nearly the exact same price I would spend on just the 12 quality outboard preamps, I could get a Toft ATB-32A console. Yikes, what to do??

    Now it all comes down to sound quality of course, I want to know if I'd be making any sacrifices sound wise, or gaining any sound wise if I were to go the console route. I fear that the preamps in the toft are not on the
    same quality level as such preamps as Daking, Vintech, Api, Neve, ect ect..
    Now if i went the console route, I'd have to save up for compressors, limiters, reverb units, gates, and such, but I'm more than okay with that
    if the end result is better?

    Please give me all the the input you have, as I need to decide which route I'm taking and take the leap soon.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    How fun is all I can say. I am so sick of looking at a screen for everything and using a mouse. My arm is starting to have a chronic ache, and I know its all from a mouse. I'm hybrid now and love it but would do a console too, if it was the right one. But hybrid summing amps don't hold you to one sonic footprint. Your outboard gear is where the magic all happens. It appears you aren't the only one heading this way though, so right on I say! It makes me smile.

    I think it comes down to if you like the sound of the Toft and then staying within the limits, keeping headroom always at its sweetspot and using the tricks to capture great sounding music at the end of the day.

    We all agree that if you are mixing OTB, save your work on a second recorder to avoid SRC. Thats the best advise I can offer . I don't own a Toft but have read they are liked and have a good routing system. But they break up if you push them.

    Here's a thread we have going right now ( http://recording.org/hybrid-recording-forums/53286-moving-towards-hybrid-setup-summing-mixer.html ) , check it out, it might give you a bit more to think about. In the mean time, looking forward to reading other comments here!
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    With the right DAW software the 8 Daking Mic Pre's , 8 Vintech Mic Pre's and an Apogee Symphony system is going to be pretty hard to beat. You can add an SPL / Neos http://recording.org/content/704-spl-neos.html summing mixer and you have pretty nice rig that will go the distance. SSL has some cool summing networks like the X Desk and X-Panda.

    Be My Girl(Original) by Mr. Sunlight(Robert Biehn) - YouTube

    Do you really need 16 to 24 channels of EQ all at the same time and if you do then do you really want them all to be of the same type?

    Even if you do buy a console unless it's a Neve or an API you're going to most likely want those some different pres and decent conversion anyway.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Screw all that other nonsense. Get yourself an API lunchbox, the big one. Then you can have à la carte, everything. Neve, API, Trident, Jensen, Harrison, Millennia, should I keep going? But if all that you have is a rack full of Neve and API, I could live with that.

    That's actually who I live with. LOL.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I think he wants to put his hands on faders and less mouse.?? I can't blame him either. But sound wise, I think all our suggestions will give you the most sonic flavours and probably the best S/N while retaining or taking advantage of all the benefits of DAW editing , automation " etc" ... that comes along with ITB.
  6. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Thank you all for your great input, I think ill just take a little bit of everyones advice and get high quality outboard preamps, conversion, and then later on get a summing mixer.
    Too bad Api lunch box's are so expensive, I really like the idea of having a box of 10 different pre's or a good mix.
    I actually don't understand why it's not more cost effective than is, considering you could get a Vintech 473 for $2900 but just 4 modules would be $2800.00 plus you would have to get a Lunchbox, and then another $800 on top of that. To me it makes all the sense in the world to just get companies 4 preamp units, specially cause if it's a preamp you like using, why not have at least 4 of them??
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Its a beautiful thing, building a system with all this colour and headroom that is!
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Radial makes the Lunchbox. Look around. affordable 500 modules do pop up once in a while.
  9. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    I could live with that too..

    audiokid, you get what I'm saying. I definitely what to get my hands on the faders and less mouse in the near future.
    One of my main concerns is Analog Eq, Compression, Gating vs the Plug-In counterparts, to me it makes all the sense in the world that a high end Analog Eq would sound better than a plug in that's just changing numbers.

    Yes, I'm way too anxious about getting this rig ordered. audiokid, how do you like your Warm Audio WA12, thinking about getting one, or two?
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Okay, why I like hybrid and not so big on a console is a big topic but here's the skinny on my opinion.

    An analog console to me is a dated concept, noisy, power thirsty and designed for yesteryear. But this opinion is directed towards the $50,000 and under console. I would love to have an older Neve or API in mint condition.
    A Hybrid summing amp however, like the MixDream I use is designed for the DAW and has all the stuff you do and need. Big headroom and close routing possibilities with simple on/off bypass for inserts are pretty much it. Its the closest thing to a straight line for analog. When its cranked wide open, I can hardly tell its on.
    The hands on faders and knobs is something we long for big time. So, the day a controller becomes available for my DAW of choice, (which happens to be Sequoia right now) that is affordable, I will be on that indeed. I want digital control. I love it. But know the secret to sonic colour and personality ( to name a few reasons) is in copper and energy. You don't need much of it to make a difference either. But I personally think you need to go about hybrid right or don't bother.

    Most of all your needs are in a DAW. And that is the sound of the radio. Do you like it?

    The EQ's, compressors, effects, mastering tools "plug-ins" available in my DAW, (Samplitude/Sequoia 12) sound excellent and do things outboard gear doesn't. I love how surgical it all is too.

    But, I have and want more specific hardware that the digital stuff doesn't do. Yes, gear does make a difference :)
    Hybrid is the ultimate. Best of both worlds. Its brilliant. And I totally believe combining the two worlds makes a better sound, that you can hear and mix faster and it is more fun.
    I got into this business because I like having fun. Mixing ITB was cool 13 years ago and now its just a computer program that allows you to dissect things. To me, all the editing we are hearing is way over done and IMHO, a dated sound we will one day be ashamed of.
    The marvel has long worn off. I don't miss tape. But Analog hardware, well, thats like nuclear power that makes it all glow.

    So, don't give up on the DAW but don't let anyone tell you hardware and OTB mixing is going away. Its the path less traveled. The more I know about it, the less I actually feel like talking about it.

    Re Warm Audio, I'm so slammed lately, I've not had a chance to even plug it in. But I plan on it soon. I'll let you know.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Check this out: I highly recommend this for everyone remotely interested in mixing otb.

    Hybrid Digital/Analog Mixing - PUREMIX

  12. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    So a couple Eq's and Compressors will do the trick?

    Yeah I do, I think that engineering has greatly improved in the last couple decades, theres albums that were recorded before 1970 that I wish so bad had been produced somehow with more modern techniques so the album were more
    sonically enjoyable. Good music is still good music though.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Let me put it this way:

    Summing stems OTB makes sense to me so, I searched for the best summing amp I could find that gave me the most headroom with the options to insert gear and hard bypass each channel with the straightest line possible.

    When mixing ITB I group tracks with similar transients together and send them OTB as stereo tracks to a 16 channel summing amp ( 8 channels in stereo). I avoid the 2-bus in the DAW at this stage of the mix.

    The DA Stem have their own channel outputs = Drums (1/2), Percussion (3/4), Bass(5/6), Keyboards (7/8), Guitars(9/10), Vocals(11/12), Effects (13/14) and so on depending how many DA channels you have available.

    On each of those stems I have specific gear inserted into the MixDream (summing amp) that I find best suited for those channels. Certain gear works better for specific transients or applications like an LA-2A for vocals and Bass, Transient Designer for drums, STC-8 for master bus etc. Again, choose gear that seems to suit those stems. The hybrid world opens you up to energy. So I find gear with vibe is the better investment and leave the plugins for the boring detail and such.

    As I can afford it, I add more pieces like comps, eq's effects. Hardware is not like plug-ins where you can have many instances of one analog EQ. You put those expensive analog gems on the stems or master bus during your summing stage. They could go on the master bus or on individual channels as described above.

    If I was starting out, I would study long and hard and choose the most important products one at a time and go from there.

    How do you know what is the most important? Well, its all based on the music you are doing , how many stems you are working with and possibly even the DAW plug-ins you have . Do they sound great and work for you? There are other reasons too but this is how I do it and the basics to hybrid summing. 90 % of all the plug-ins available to me work for the basic mix. The last 10% is done OTB using high quality products targeted for specific transients and flavour.

    Mixing stems OTB, bypassing the DAW 2-bus and using the analog headroom to play with gain and colour is where the magic happens.
    As I develop my hybrid chops, I learn what I need and save my pennies for more stuff for those stems.

    Starting out, an analog EQ like the Hammer and comp like the Nail at the end of the chain right before you go back to the DAW is a great start. I name those because I like them but I have others and want others too. As I develop my skills I have found what I like and what I need. The SPL Transient Designer is a must for drums. The BAX EQ is wonderful for a master EQ. An API 5500 is wonderful for drums and guitars or even the 2-bus depending on the song. An STC-8 is a wonderful mastering compressor perfect at the end of the chain. You don't hear it but it works. Its awesome for acoustic music.
    The Passeq is glorious for M/S processing that I insert in the Dangerous Master section. Its a killer mastering EQ that works awesome with the BAX EQ.
    The Hammer is crazy as a master EQ or great on anything :An LA 2A is stellar on vocal stems both for tracking and mixing. The list goes on.

    Yikes, lots of typing.... :)

    Making sense?

    Rather than buying a console, I do it like this, one piece at a time. smoke :

    Best advice: Save your cash and buy a house. But if you are like me, without the dream, a house will never make me happy.

    Attached Files:

  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Without having one, I would imagine and think that the WARM API style microphone preamp. Probably comes very close to an API microphone preamp. Many of these discrete transistor circuits are all based on similar operational amplifier electronics topology. Transistors still deliver what IC chips can't. It doesn't matter if there is 100 transistors in an IC chip. It's better when you only have five transistors. Because every time audio goes through a semi conducting transistor Junction, it adds its own distortion components. So the less the better. Most audio circuits, strive for a " straight wire ", like sound. Which simply means less sounds better than more. And, for example, balanced inputs and outputs that are transformer less, require extra circuitry. An unbalanced circuit has less circuitry and therefore can actually sound better than a like piece of balanced equipment can. But only in the short-haul of cabling and not the long haul of cabling, where balancing and balanced circuitry is necessary. Anything that's going to go more than 15 feet should be balanced circuitry. Since all operational amplifier circuitry is a low impedance output, one can shove it down. 1000 feet of cable, but only if it is balanced so as to prevent RFI and spurious electromagnetic hum. We're a balanced circuit is certainly required. Otherwise, we utilized transformer inputs and outputs that present their own distortion components, which a lot of us like. Transformers impose a certain mush quality to take the edge off of digital sound. And good Transformers sound good, where bad Transformers, just sound, like bad Transformers. Which can also be good in the land of digital. Because without the transformer, you have a baby without diapers pooping all over your sound. LOL. And you need to wrap baby with the proper transformer. LOL. To keep it warm with all of the wires and solidly in place with the core. And that's how you keep your baby from pooping on your mix.

    I like a little baby poop once in a while.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  15. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    audiokid, thank you, I get what you're saying, $35 for that video is kinda pricy but I'll watch it anyway.
    One thing I don't understand is "Summing" since I've never used outboard gear, are you talking about if you had 8 drum tracks sounding the way you wanted, you would then sum it down to 2 tracks and run it out threw your outboard gear?

    Hahaha, thank you remy, very informative.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    8 drum tracks sent (still ITB) to their own submix (group) which is then sent otb now called a stem to the summing amp. Now you got it! And there I may use an analog EQ, compressor, "transient designer" etc instead of doing it ITB with plug-ins.
  17. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Do you guys still sum all the different groups down to two tracks each for the final stages of mixing, even when mixing all itb?
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    For me. yes, always.
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    explained more:

    when setting up a DAW session I create audio and midi tracks, aux's and bus's . Aux for effects, bus's for groups. I group all the drums, bass, guitars, keys, vocals, percussion, effects etc, together on their own bus's and send them either to the master bus ITB or bypass the master bus (2-bus) all together and go OTB to the analog summing amp.

    Grouping tracks is a good thing. (Grouping tracks together that share similar transients is a good thing)

    Study up on aux's, bus's and grouping tracks. thumb

    Another reason why DAW's rock over consoles are no cross talk, bleeding between channels. Console and analog tape = the more channels we created, the more added noise and crosstalk. What a nightmare. Hence, why a ( just to pull a number) 50 grand console is not comparable to a well designed hybrid DAW system.
    But, as Boswell points out, he gets great results using parts of the console in a hybrid application.
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    To add some more now.

    Why almost all people that try OTB summing with a console quit and stand firm that OTB summing is not worth it. That ITB sounds better.

    They use a console like inserts ( DA, AD, DA, AD). They are sending individual channels I/O , back and forth to a console.
    This is a bad thing. I would never do that.

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