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Poll: Do you mix with a mouse or control surface

Discussion in 'Consoles / Control Surfaces' started by BobRogers, May 3, 2009.


For those of you with less than (about) $50K in equipment, do you mix "in the box" or do y

  1. In the box

  2. Control Surface

    0 vote(s)
  1. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I made a guess in another thread that most people with "low cost" studios mixed with a mouse and automation rather than using some sort of control surface. Thought I would run a poll and see the reaction. Picked $50,000 for the "low cost" cutoff. Figured that would cover a lot of us.

    Me, I'm 100% with a mouse.

    [Update] It seems that my original post propagated a common mistake of confusing the term mixing "in the box" with using a mouse and automation to do mixing. The consensus of the experts seems to be that the term "in the box" and "out of the box" should be used to refer where the summation occurs, not the device used to control the summation. I've made changes to my post where possible to correct this error.
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    I'm at, umm... about £1500 for the gear (including 4 speakers that are irrelevant, and a total of £0 for the DAW.

    In the box, of course. Clickety clack, get a job monkey, don't look back.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Oh, I'm never going to be strictly mixing in the box. I'm still not keen on the mathematical summations of mixing in the box. I try to achieve a certain kind of sound. If recorded with the equipment I prefer? Mixing in the box is tolerable. It's not recorded with equipment I like, it may get mixed in a more conventional manner even if processing has been effected in the computer first. Why would anybody want to do anything a single way all of the time? If we all thought in this manner, symphony orchestras would be comprised of strictly electric violins, electric violas & electric double bases. Let's not forget the electronic MIDI wind controllers instead of a woodwind section, Perhaps some old ARP 2600 synthesizers to replace the brass instruments? How about a Roland TR 808 for the percussion? So Bob? How can you be so black-and-white? It just doesn't add up. After all, can't algebraic equations be worked out in more than one way? So should recording & mixing. It's inconsistent to be consistent.

    Inconsistently seeking the truth is sound
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. BDM

    BDM Active Member

    i'm slightly above the cut off, but that is instruments included... sooo:
    what is 'mixing in the box'? does that mean that the faders are virtual?
    i have no 'mixing board' but i have knobs to turn, buttons to push, meters that move, mice to click, keys to punch. my 'effects' are mostly plug-ins... but is running a vocal through a outboard guitar pedal that different from running it through guitar rig (aside from the infinitely more sophisticated options in the program)? the question of a dichotomous difference between in and out of the box seems moot to me (especially with the exponential advances in quality of modeling, plug ins etc etc). as long as it works, what difference if i raise the level by 1 DB with a fader or a mouse? what difference if i alter a sound through a mathematical algorithm or a tube, as long as it achieves the goal?
    i guess the question is a Betty or Veronica, Gibson or Fender kinda thing...
    if i look at a beautiful house, i don't think 'hmmm... did they frame that with a nail gun or by hand?
    if the hammer hammers...
    so, ummm early morning diversion aside, i think i mix in the box.....
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Well if I had a big ol' Neve console I'd be a lot more flexible. I'd love to be able to mix at a console. But I haven't been impressed with the low price options for doing so, and I haven't made the financial commitment to the type of rig that I'd like to use for this. I think a lot of entry-level people have looked at the products available and made the same decision. That's why I put the price tag on the poll.

    I started it in reaction to another thread where someone just getting started assumed that the had to have a control surface. It's a natural assumption if you are coming from live sound. I certainly made it when I started looking into getting "serious" recording rig. I agree that it is best to be flexible, but those of us at the weekend warrior level are making lots of compromises. Settling for working in the box is one of the common ones.
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    This is what I mean by "mixing in the box." Having to use virtual faders, automation, and other tricks during mixing. I'm not referring to outboard processing or processing or level control during tracking.
  7. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    In the box, mixer for monitoring and live sound only these days.


    But if Remy's Neve counsole and equip is under 50k I can be swayed. Hell, I can be swayed by a lot less, but that's a different thread entirely.
  8. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    i mix in the box, too. though i'd love to have a nice analog summing mixer. but that's way over my price range. i would also need a new audio interface with more outputs...

    i think i'll stay in the box. it works for me.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I'm above the cutoff, but I'll weigh in.

    When I see "control surface" I always assume "mixing in the box" since the control surface is a device that sends MIDI signals to the computer to automate faders.

    I'd like to see another option or two - external summing amp, outboard console, other...

    For some work, I mix/sum in the box. For higher end work, I've been mixing out of the box. I've been using a Dangerous D-Box and absolutely love it. The sound difference is not subtle and considering the cost and features of the D-Box, I fell like it's a no-brainer.

    I also use it to feed external master bus effects prior to mix down.

    It's a great monitor controller too!

  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    For those that are intrigued by the concept of a "analog summing mixer" it might be interesting to note this:

    If you're audio interface provides for multiple + 4 line level outputs, your summing mixer can be mostly passive. Inputs are passively coupled to resistive level controls which feeds a 10,000 ohm summing resistor into the ground potential, inverting input to the summing amplifier before the in inverting input to the output amplifier. So we are talking just 4 operational amplifiers. The 10,000 ohm resistor summing breakouts provide enough isolation between inputs to prevent any interaction. This is very similar to the passive 16/24 track monitor mixer I built for our custom audio console back in 1978. The summing/monitoring mixer was stupidly simple but provided for a much cleaner stereo mix while bypassing all of the console inputs & equalization. Flat mixes were compared to the passive monitor mixer and to the active complete mixer with the results always being the same. Straight wires provided for more truer playback than numerous amplification stages. So the old adage that the best sounding amplifier is a straight wire is actually true when it can be applied successfully. So numerous mixes did in fact come off of our monitor mixer when no equalization and/or other effects were necessary. Something we always laughed about because it's true.

    My wires like myself are not entirely straight
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I see what you are saying, but I have certainly seen the term "mixing in the box" to refer to where the mix is controlled rather than where the summing takes place. In particular, I heard it when I was going through the decision of whether to get a control surface to give me the ability to push faders manually. Is this is an incorrect way to use the term? If so, it's a pretty widely made error. Usually, the distinction in summation is analog vs. digital and it's a tacit assumption that analog is out and digital is in.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I suppose it depends on the use of the word "Mix." To some, "Mix" means to adjust the levels (and digital effects, pan, etc.). As such, mixing in the box means using a mouse and an on-screen mixer. To others, "Mix" means not only adjusting levels and effects but actually the combination of the sounds into a stereo (or surround) bus. For that definition, "Mix" involves the actual routing and combining of audio and thus requires some external summing.

    When I hear "Mix in the box" I naturally assume that this means using a digital manipulation of the levels and a digital summation of the audio material. I suppose it could mean a very literal interpretation - if using an *external* control surface, one is no longer "in the box."

    Cheers -
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Mixing ITB can be done with a mouse or a large remote-control interface better known as a "control surface". A control surface just mimics an analog mixer in its operational functionality. It's all done in the box referring to the computer.

    So your question was do you mix with a mouse or do you mix with a remote-control for the mouse? This is euphemistically believed to be a console when it's not. Even if it has some onboard microphone preamps & analog to digital/digital to analog converters. An analog summing mixer can be used within a digital workflow with most work still being performed in the computer. The analog summing mixer just replaces bad mathematics that everybody will tell you has been checked & checked again. But the fact remains that everything in digital cannot occur at the same time. It's all time multiplexing. Similar to 60 hertz fluorescent lighting that appears to be a steady continuous stream. But it ain't & it drives people wild like myself who cannot tolerate that constant 60 hertz strobe lighting. I feel the same way about digital audio as I do fluorescent lighting. It makes me irritable and it's a bad replacement for the real thing. LED lighting could make matters worse or better depending upon current draw & financial sensibilities. LEDs can be strobed, to reduce current consumption. They can be strobed much much faster than our current 60 hertz fluorescence. When you get up to 400 hertz, the strobascopic effect is less affected by our senses and appears to be more of a contiguous stream. This is also a similar concept to 1 bit DSD recording. Which comes closer to the analog like sound than the terribly fragmented slowness of the complicated PCM way of doing things stupidly. Of course that was due to the technologies available at the time which was more than 30 years ago. We also had big engine muscle cars back than as well. Time for a change perhaps? I think so.

    Don't be flashin' nothin' in my eyes or ears
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  14. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Sorry, Bob, but I think your original question is flawed. The opposite of mixing ITB is mixing OTB, that is, the summations are done in hardware external to the computer.

    Using a control surface to control the mix process in the computer is still mixing ITB, it's just that the human interface is different.

    OTB mixing can be either analog (active or passive) or digital. You can operate the mixer directly, or you could manually drive a computer program to control an external analog mixer fitted with automation or a digital mixer. Both cases are OTB mixing.

    Now whether you regard the internal operations of an digital mixer as being any different from what goes on inside a computer DAW is a matter for a different poll...
  15. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    O.K., I stand corrected. I understood the technical distinction that people are making, but misunderstood the correct use of the terms. I've fixed my original post, but don't know how to change the poll question (probably shouldn't do that anyway).

    My intent in creating the poll was to address only the workflow issues, not the technical summing issues. My guess is that a $50K cutoff is not going to catch a lot of people using analog summation.
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Well- that being said....
    I've used a few different control surfaces in the past. The 2 most notable ones were the Tascam 1884 (is that the right model #??) I hated this one. I traded it in 4 times (owned 5 of them!) and they all suffered the same problem. When you were trying to use both fader 3 and 4 at the same time, the system wouldn't recognize the command.

    I also owned a Radikal SAC2.2k. That was a damn fine and damn sexy control surface. However, I found that with the kind of work I do and the object-oriented editing in Sequoia, I just wasn't using it.

    Since 2006, I've been control surface free.

    I suppose if I were doing a lot of rock/pop/country, a good control surface would be in order. In that case, I'd be looking at either the new Euphonix stuff or the new Roland stuff. Either seems to be quite well designed and built.

  17. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    i do not only mix in the box, i also use only mouse and keyboard.

    though the euphonix stuff does look nice... damn, i gotta start playing the lottery!
  18. BDM

    BDM Active Member

    interesting thread!
    i used to adjust levels/apply effects/pan/blah/blah/blah in the computer and output to a Tascam DA 30 DAT. is that mixing out of the box? does that somehow work around the bad mathematics Remy mentions? cause it somehow, even though it was digital to digital, sounded BETTER. fuller? warmer? i don't know... maybe my imagination? or the nice A/D converters in the Tascam?
    anyway, i am so used to mixing without physical faders that if i had the cash, i don't think i'd buy a board- i'd have to somehow relearn my work flow! i'd just buy more pres and mics. and a brace for my Carpul Tunnel Syndromed wrist.
  19. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I mix hybrid whenever I can. Although technically I guess the Icon is ITB/mouse... but it's also considered to be a worksurface. ARRRGH... so... I guess I need to say I do all 3, mouse, worksurface and OTB...

  20. NCdan

    NCdan Guest


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