Why I think analog summing is bunk.

Discussion in 'Analog Summing' started by Paul999, Mar 30, 2011.

  1. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very analog guy. I do almost all of my processing OTB. I do think that a console adds a lot to the sound and if the summing circuit has something special about it it would color the sound like any other analog unit.

    This is how i came to my conclusion. My D&R console is very clean. I set up a mix from my DAW to my console. I did all my processing outboard and recorded each individual track back into my DAW. I set all my newly recorded tracks to go out to my monitors. When I would play the mix through the console and A/B it against the same tracks recorded in my DAW I could hear no difference. Even straining I couldn't tell which what which. My console definitely adds an increased stereo image and better depth to mixes. Put when that signal is recorded into my DAW all the goodness is to.

    What have your experiences been?
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    To do a fair test, you would need to record tracks without your board at all and go straight into the box via your interface.

    By doing all your fx etc OTB you are already providing the analog footprint missing in a completely ITB mix. The last little bit is the summing via electrical pathways vice digital pathways and then utilizing very high caliber two track conversion. So in your case, I'm not surprised you find little difference!
  3. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    I have problem with concept too. I look at it like this, a typical summing mixer has 8 or so inputs. It takes these signals and put them through at most one or two gain/sum stage. Each stage adds something.

    A console with many channels and does the same thing but it has many more channels, and subsequently many more noise sources. The noise (good or bad) in a 8 channel summing mixer should never equal that of a 48+ channel mixer. If it does, that summing mixer is a pretty bad design. A good 8 channel summing mixer should be clean, and it should be fairly easy to that with such a small number of inputs. However they are marketed as "the Glue" or the noise to stick you mix together. That tells me they markerting is lieing or the mixers are nothing more than harmonic noise sources.

    If you want noise you can add it in the box. (UAD studer plug, Heat by Dave Hill, etc....)
  4. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I get what you are saying. When I do my F/X I don't actually use aux's. I write new tracks for each effect 100%wet and add it to the dry signal.

    How would you do an experiment that separates the positive effects of the hardware from the summing issue but still uses hardware?
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Link, you're more tech oriented than I am, but the argument that I hear has not to do with noise floor per se but the difference between electrical summing and digital mathematical summing-with the idea being that electrical summing provides a more homogenous final product. I suppose it gets rid of aliasing etc in a more organic fashion. Anyone that wants to add "noise" should look at plugs instead.
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    The last few years the DAW has gotten a lot better from the day I first got into this. I'm actually finding that I am not hearing the problems I did before with my new Sequoia rig. Even normalizing is better so I am actually changing a lot of my old opinions. Is it Sequoia 11 that sounds better? Well, one thing I'm not doing anymore is recording hot. I also do not move my faders all over the place. I try really hard to leave them where it was at print. Moving them is a bad thing to me, still. I also do not use plugins like I used to and I also have better mics and preamps. I simply have better gear so it all makes a difference.
    That being said, I am buying a new converter and interface very soon that will be worthy of everything else I have in my studio.
    I will put the analog summing hype to test with my SPL MixDream and Dangerous Master once I get it all wired. Its no big deal to me whether one or the other is superior. I'm searching for the best sound I can get right now. The goal this year it to see if My hybrid rig is the way to go or not.

    Its posted more than once. Check out how Fab is doing it:

  7. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Hi Jack actually my understanding of aliasing is that occurs in the ADC process not in the digital summing. In fact you creating more of a possibility of aliasing when covert to analog to do the analog sum and then convert back. When I say noise I mean more then just noise floor, which I was not really clear about. I actually mean distortion in this particular case. As for sound quality, if it sounds good it is good. I just have a personal gripe with "noisy" gear being sold at high prices.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'm a mild skeptic on analog summing. We are talking about the differences between two high quality signal chains. Since there are different components and different signal paths there has to be some differences in the sound. But since the basic process is summing and is damned close to linear in both systems the differences are probably small - and there is no way (that I can think of) to know if the difference is the summing itself or other parts of the signal chain. I'd be impressed if someone could do blindfold tests and distinguish analog summed CDs from digital summed CDs. (I know Chris says, "that sounds like ProTools" every once in a while, but that's like saying "that football player looks like he is on steroids" or "that politician looks corrupt.")
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Good points Bob

    Its to do with cramming hot tracks into the DAW's master tracks. I've been battling this since day one and I know everyone has been there. Its always the same in my studio. Everything sounds great until the 2-bus. Then, I have to start compromising and trying to figure out how to get it all to fit. It takes the fun out of every mix I do. When I used tape, I never had the same problem. It was more obvious and seem to either fit or not and didn't come out sounding like a flat wall.

    When I get my new converters, I'm going to do this comparison one step at a time for us all to evaluate.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    This sounds like gain-staging problems at tracking.

    Its really really really hard to adhere to a level especially when you're not compressing or limiting on the way in like I do.

    But adhereing to these levels gives you the headroom at the 2-bus that you're looking for.

    Then theres the psycho-acoustics of the brain. The minute detail you once heard in each track become muted of covered in a mix and become a source of worry and wonder at why you cant get that little part to stick in a way thats pleasing.

    Sometimes you simply have to go another way in your thinking and understand that this 'new' set of balances and tones is a completely different thing than the accumulation of tracks and has to be approached as a thing all its own.

    I think this where you find the definitive mix of a song and it becomes that song as singular and individual as it can possibly be.

    Summing stems or mixing out through analog back to digital is only a tool to accomplish the goal of making a song stand as itself rather than simply being an amalgamation of recorded sounds.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Its not gain staging, I have that part well figured long ago and do not have a problem with zeroing in and able to hear the mic and pre connect. Its not actual clipping red lights. You can't see the clipping. If you are seeing the red, you are already finished before you got started. Welcome to the ME nightmare.
    This isn't something you are seeing. Its not visible even at the 2-bus.

    Setting aside that zzz I speak of, I can already do great sounding music no problemo:) Bluntly, its the 2-bus in the DAW's where its compounded (and you are about to find out as you move further away from analog).
    Having to move faders, boosting an eq etc, compounded by my thirst for some of the analog space is what I'm pursuing here. I'm reaching beyond what the average user is able to accomplish with just a DAW and plug-ins.
    I hear an ugly unnatural sound with so many songs these days. Its everywhere , getting worse and I fear we are all becoming deaf to it, I suppose.

    To give you an example of what I am over sensitive to:
    You know the sound of low compressed files, that underlying zzzzz that becomes more prominent the more you compress an MP3? Well, I hear that like a dog hears a dog whistle. Its the sound of digital mixes, Pro Tools yes... Including the 100 grand Synclavier 11 famous for the intro to our beloved Michael Jacksons "Beat It".
    Enjoy this for some insight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_15ZQL82P4M
    I've been doing this for 30 years already and some of you are just figuring it out how cool it all is and plug-ins. But it sounds like zzzzzzzz to me.

    Maybe I'm born with some sort of sensitivity to it, don't know. All I know is I first started noticing this with the early 8 bit samplers around 1981.
    You can tune into it by transforming sample to lower octaves (sound design around it and and take it back up to speed). As long as you stay close to the original sample, its passable. But, detune a sample and it starts producing that sound we all do not enjoy.
    I hear this in the majority of music these days. I hear it in cheaper converters and I hear it on CD's. I'm not getting used to it. Its becoming more and more audible to me and I'm hoping I will be able to work it out somewhat. I'm studying it and hope I will be able to sound design my mixes by using high end, hybrid methods.

    I chose the MixDream for this because it allows me to be able to do this better than all the rest of the summing boxes. The headroom is killer and it has inserts for tools. I will be able to surgically isolate those freq, suck them out and give my sound analog space.
    My final tool is a surgical eq like the SPL PQ Kurzinfo: Sound Performance Lab
    So you see, its not a cheap fix where I'm going. Its been my dream to be able to dig in deeper than just gain staging.

    So to help fight this, I'm moving into sound designing my mixes via hybrid gear. The best of both worlds, copper and bits. I don't believe this is for everyone. I think you have to be able to hear this sound before you can make good use of hybrid engineering.

    I'm hoping I don't have to live with it. If not, then I'm in it like the rest of the crowd and the money lost is no big deal. We will know more either way after this journey I'm on. The next question will then be, is it worth an extra 50 grand to sound like that.
  12. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Chris....I hear this too. Its almost like theres a bit of ground loop somewhere in the system and I've been known to unhook the entire studio and test every cable searching for it never to really solve it.

    For anyone who has or does work in an office are with a lot of flourescent lighting, especially older flourescents without solid-state ballasts, you are being subjected to a low 58 cycle hum at all times. Its a Bflat in case you're interested. The reason its not 60 cycles like the power grid operates at is because of the ballasting.

    Okay, so I see what you're up to with this.

    Perhaps something along the lines of a Manley Passive at the gateway to the 2-bus will add enough of its own set of harmonics to filter out this thing. Big tubes, big iron, nothing gets out without it becoming what is dictated by the circuit itself.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Some history for all you.

    This video is where I was 30 years ago. I spent a lot of money on digital and learned a lot about sound designing and how to make sound. I followed Quincy Jones and the high end engineers who were using the secrets to creating pop music. I made a good living using it to my advantage but now see how it is effecting the entire world of music to a point that I don't want it anymore. If you listen closely, you may be able to hear the same un natural line in these old samples as you do in the music made today. I hear it.

    This is one of the first DAW's I owned. This is an 8 voice, 8 bit sampler, and thanks to Christopher Stone ( HEAR his new creation http://vimeo.com/14221577 ) for his dedication to the library:

    :confused: And Yes... It is all related to the DAW you are using today. This was 15 years pre Pro Tools.
  14. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Chris, I don't know whether you had considered working this way, but the highest quality mixes I achieve are analog mix-downs of high sample rate (96KHz) digital tracks, the 2-bus mix being captured at the project target rate of 44.1KHz or 48KHz. This is easy to set up sourcing from a bank of HD24XRs, but to get this to work using a DAW, you would have to have a separate 2-track capture computer or else an S/PDIF digital recorder after your 2-track ADC.

    I can really hear the difference even at the 16-bit 2-track (CD quality) level through having let my analog mixes "breathe" by sourcing them with 96KHz converted digital. No more 44.1KHz "tizz" that you mention amplified by the number of tracks.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thanks Boswell, I remember you mentioning this some time back. I have the second DAW fitted with the Dangerous Master and Lavry Blacks.

    When you say "analog mix-downs of high sample rate (96KHz) digital tracks, the 2-bus mix being captured at the project target rate of 44.1KHz or 48KHz."
    Are these your analog tracks are what are you sending them to for analog summing? Can you explain your DAW to Analog rig?
  16. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The setup I was outlining was for tracks recorded at 96KHz on (multiple) HD24XR hard disk recorder(s). No computer or DAW involved during the recording process. For mixdown in those cases, I took the analog outputs of the HD24XRs (12 per unit) into the line inputs of whatever analog mixer was specified for the contract (Midas, A+H etc) and then the 2-track mix was digitized at 44.1KHz for CD on (say) an FF800 and captured on a PC.

    It's not quite the same as your proposed analog summer, as my mix process was using a conventional analog mixer with all the usual outboard effects available. What I wanted to get across was the difference between sourcing at 96KHz and sourcing at 44.1KHz, even for a CD mix. I've heard many engineers say that if the product is a 44.1KHz CD, why record at a higher rate as no-one can hear the difference, and it just makes trouble when doing the sample-rate conversion (SRC). Maybe it is the SRC that makes the difference, but for me, the 96KHz source tracks were golden and mixed well without ear strain. If you have 2-track analog audio that sounds good, however it is derived, digitizing it at 44.1KHz does not automatically impair the sound.

    Of course, what I was comparing was a 96KHz recording mixed in analog to a 44.1KHz 2-track recorder and a 44.1KHz recording mixed digitally to 44.1KHz 2-track. Neither of these two methods uses digital SRC, and what I have not done recently is the comparison with 96KHz recordings mixed digitally at 96KHz and then digital SRC down to 44.1KHz. I don't have a quality SRC that I would trust for that comparison.

    With your setup, you may be able to experiment with 96KHz recordings output from one DAW system, mixed on your Dangerous Master and re-captured at 44.1KHz via the Lavry Blacks hooked up to a separate computer.

    I have to say that 96KHz recording is the exception rather than the norm for me, as it gobbles disk space and the project budget does not usually justify it. For some of the big names, I will go 96KHz anyway even though it's not specified, just for my own satisfaction.
  17. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    On a somewhat related matter....

    Boswell and others, do you store your projects indefinitely? Or do you rotate them out like taxes (7 year or 10 year archive)? I ask because projects made just after I left the Corps 10 years ago took little space because I didn't have resources to have the studio/equipment I desired. Now that I'm nearly there, project storage is becoming something to plan for. Currently I just keep it all on Glyph cartridges but that isn't the most inexpensive way-just the safest most easily accessible way for me.
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thanks Bos for that detail.
    I am confused over.. aren't HD24XR digital, all digital? I'm confused how you are getting analog in your mix? You say the outputs of the HD24XR are analog? If so, no wonder you guys like this but I'm thinking these units are HD recorders.


    I have 25 years of archived songs on 5 1/4 floppys, DAT, Zips, cassette data backup, CD, and old HD's all in closets. Most of it is just a memory in my mind because 3 quarters of it all are on formats I will never get running again.

    I've tried to take the best with me as I advanced in my music career but times goes by and I've accepted the majority to be dust. I've been saving my old Pro Tools TDM but how long will it last too. Its a big problem.

    I'm basically starting over.
    All the digital stuff I have is just plain ugly. The analog stuff I had is on old Ampeg, long gone. Some old cassettes are the only memory there and even those they are at 65 db, stretched, wowy and noisy, but they have more warmth than all the digital stuff I did from 1998 to 2005. Its what got me into this whole hybrid thing. After listening to old recordings in my analog days... hmm, I'm convinced
  19. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The HD24XR has analog input and output. I think what Boswell is saying is that because you are sending each individual channel back out analog from the HD24-no summing yet-into a mixer or in your case a summing mixer, you avoid the zzzzz sound you hear because there is no down conversion and no bit rate conversion. Then the output of the summing mixer is sent to your high end converters to digitize the summed mix at target format. This is more or less what you're shooting for anyway with your Mixdream and Dangerous 2-Bus. Something like the Korg MR-1000 would be perfect for a master recorder in this application and a reason I've been wanting one. You get your space and you get your format conversion without the sizzle.

    Incidentally I'd been thinking that the sizzle I hear was some combination of distortion from the speakers or headphones and my tinnitus but maybe not.
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    My kids are future engineers and they are listening and hearing it on most everthing. This makes me so happy to know that they are aware.
    I hear it before I burn it so its there track by track and is only compounding. I see what Bos is saying and why we need better converters if you are going in and OTB. Its why I'm doing this big step.
    The sound of plugins don't help either. Its so ugly to me but thats only another opinion and why I am choosing to use less than more. I have the whole Wave bundle and its not even loaded anymore. To me its crap and I want no part of it, no matter how many times it improves. Its a last resort.
    Its all like living under Fluorescent lights.

    When I hear people say they don't hear this... its pointless really getting to deep into it. For one, its not cheap as you can add up, and two, most of the population can't hear understand it or even cares.
    To me though... digital is a beautiful thing but it comes at a price.
    Its unnaturual to the organic mind (and eyes). Even though its so clear, is it really.
    For someone that has been bought up under the classical legacy and so much emotion, its pretty obvious there is an ugly in its amazing sterile beauty that it delivers to my ears.

    I'm sure it makes no difference to the business of music (on a daily number) but it does to the soul and to our long term influence and reaction to music. I think its the reason we are not appreciating music the same way as well. Its like living in a house that is so clean. Whats happening to our education system and the support of the arts? Its becoming less meaningful. Why?

    Its effecting our subconscious and taking us further away from what? balance of real vs clear... ? This is only some of many ways to look at it music and how it is influencing us. All this being said, we are all hearing it.

    Pro Tools is to music as Fluorescent is to light. A good quote by Fletcher long ago. I never forgot that and stand by this solid now. So, to help ease this, I am returning back to... analog part way.

    Some people say the next big heath issue will be brain disease caused by the sizzle coming at us in many digital forms.

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