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Why in the world....

Discussion in 'Recording' started by ckevperry, Nov 29, 2001.

  1. ckevperry

    ckevperry Active Member

    ..don't we see more summing bus hardware? With all the people who bash PT's summing bus, I would figure more companies would have stepped up and made a simple 8/16/24 channel summing bus mixer. Nothing but pan, gain and a fader.

    Now I just don't count the Manley mixer. Come on...too expensive for what it is. Notsure I want the "Manley sound" on everything either.

    I have seen that speck has a new LiLo (line in line out) mixer that looks interesting. Their EQ is very nice, and their other mixer is supposed to be super clean.

    With the new PT lurking (sporting a better mix bus, 96k, and a big daddy price tag from the rumors) a good reasonably priced summing bus could really extend the life of our present systems.
     
  2. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Umm...Apogee? AD8000...PSX100...Trak2!!!
    Gee...am I endorsing my employeer? Nah!!!
    Opus :D
     
  3. ckevperry

    ckevperry Active Member

    Huh? Those are converters...I mean summing mixers.
     
  4. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Member

    Hi Ckevperry,

    Oh ouch! I knew it was only a matter of time before the summing bus issue was brought up here.

    A lot of inexperienced people buy ProTools expecting that it will produce professional mixes for them. Those with ears good enough to tell the difference realize they are not producing top quality mixes so something must be wrong with PT. We've had threads from people in this exact situation even here on RO. So when you get a thread on the DUC that involves many of the very experienced PT users questioning the mix bus, this is the perfect excuse that many of the inexperienced users are looking for. Word spread rapidly, even beyond the DUC, that there were problems with the mix bus. After many weeks of discussion and testing, Digi and many of the more expirienced PT users found that infact there were no problems with the summing bus. Unfortunately for Digi many of the less technically minded PT users were unable to understand the issues involved, so the mix bus bashing continued. I'm not going to name names but even some of the well known people within the PT community misunderstood the information in that thread and mixed incorrectly for several years!

    The Sony EQ plugin launch has been interesting as quite a number of PT users feel that it has gone a long way towards solving many of the sound quality issues that they previously attributed to the bogus mix bus problem. Ironically there has recently been another mammoth thread on the DUC regarding recording levels and the mix bus. Again it got a bit technical and I'm sure that only a small minority fully understand all the points that were made.

    In short there is absolutely nothing wrong with the summing bus in PT. I'm sure it can be improved but there again what aspect of any recording gear is so perfect that it can't be improved? So to answer your question: "Why in the world don't we see more summing bus hardware", there simply isn't the need.

    I've said it before and no doubt I'll have to again: Although of course there are issues with PT it is often very difficult to tell the real issues apart from the issues created by people that don't really know what they are doing. For this reason a healthy scepticism is essential when reading about problems raised on the DUC.

    Greg
     
  5. ckevperry

    ckevperry Active Member

    Believe it or not, I agree that there is nothing wrong with it. I should have mentioned that in th original post. I believe there is only one way to sum in the digital world... simple addition! The "better" mix bus coming will probably just be 48 bit (or 56) datapaths between chips.

    No such thing as a fancy "summing algorithm." Lest it is trying to impart some analog fuzz...

    Which was why I was asking....as a flavor. I believe too that the warm fuzzies eveyone gets when mixing out of PT is due to the nice distortions that line amps and summing amps introduce. It is that flavor that I desire many times in lieu of digital summing in general, not just PT. No plug duplicates this for me yet. Just as another option.

    I believe overuse of plugs puts a big veil on things...(and sorry...I don't like Apogee either.)
    Lately I have been doing a lot more EQ'ing and compressing (Great River, Trident Pre's->Distressors, RNC, Fatso-> Lucid's) on the front end so I don't need plugs as much. Its totally taken my sound to another level. Fat City.

    Yes there was a time, when just because PT could, I would have these amazingly complex mix setups...tons of busings, sends, sub groups, plugs everywhere. Once I realized the simpler the better, my sound really started to take off.

    Thanx for the reply Greg, mind if I ask a tech question? Knowing that Digi uses 5 bits of headroom on the mix bus, how is it on output that the signal won't be a possible 5 bits down to start with? If I have two pretty hot recorded tracks mixed together, the max they could ever theoretically hit would be 4 bits down from max on output right?

    I ask this wanting to know if there is something to be done to "scale up" the mix to those top bits when possible. (Up the master fader maybe?) Am I right thinking that we are "looking" at 48 bits of precision through a 24 bit "window" and we might need to pan down sometimes?
     
  6. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Member

    Hi Kevin,

    << Once I realized the simpler the better, my sound really started to take off. >>

    I suppose it depends on the style of music you are mixing. Like you, I generally prefer the sound quality when using as few plugs as possible.

    Regarding your question - I'm not sure I understand what you are asking. But here goes anyway! :)

    Although it is useful to understand what is going on behind the scenes, it's important not to get too carried away. If you've got PT set to Pre-fader metering, the bottom line is that if you're just below the clip level on your master fader then you are using just about all of the available bits of resolution.

    << Am I right thinking that we are "looking" at 48 bits of precision through a 24 bit "window" >>

    Nearly! But the window isn't quite where you might expect. Just before your mix hits your main master fader it is stored in a 56bit accumulator. The bottom 6 bits are truncated and the top 2 bits are clipped to leave a 48bit result. The least significant 24bits are then truncated to leave you with a 24bit output. This sounds like a lot of truncation but remember that the MSB in the 48bit result is the same as the MSB in the 24bit window, so the 24bits being truncated are way below the noise floor of your system. In other words, provided you are not clipping your mix bus on the way in you should not have to lower your master fader below unity.

    I'm not sure if I've answered your question. If not, re-word it and I'll try again.

    Greg
     
  7. Irene

    Irene Guest

    Originally posted by Greg Malcangi:

    A lot of inexperienced people buy ProTools expecting that it will produce professional mixes for them. Those with ears good enough to tell the difference realize they are not producing top quality mixes so something must be wrong with PT.

    Greg


    Greg
    This part of your original response has stuck in my mind. Can you explain what you mean
    here in more depth? If the summing bus isn't 'the problem' and there is a 'problem' what is the 'problem' then?

    thanx

    Renie
     
  8. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Member

    Hi Renie,

    << Can you explain what you mean here in more depth? >>

    Sure: The situation has changed a great deal since I first built my studio nearly 10 years ago. At that time if you wanted your studio to work properly you had to have a reasonable understanding of the theory behind it. Not so nowadays, where you can get a little DAW studio up and running without any understanding of recording theory whatsoever and for very little cost.

    The main problem for newbies with almost total ignorance, is one of expectation. They want to start making their own music and they've read in music magazines or on the sleeves of CDs that tracks were created using PT. So off they trot to buy a Digi system, expecting PT to produce the same professional quality of mixes as they have heard on commercially produced albums. If they've got good enough ears, they can immediately tell that their mixes are way off professional quality. You then end up with a pile of threads like "Why do my mixes sound crap?", "What happened to the pro quality I thought I was buying into?" or "What's wrong with my PT". Of course the answer is that PT can't produce professional quality mixes, all it does is to provide the basic tools. If you want top quality mixes you need to add top quality gear to your digi setup and have a top quality engineer and producer. This is something that any of us who have been in the recording industry for a while take for granted but it must be a bitter pill to swallow for many newbies.

    The other extreme is the high end PT user: The user with a quality monitoring environment, expensive converters, proper clocking, classy outboard gear, a good mic collection and the knowledge, experience and skill to use it all to it's best advantage. At this end of the scale tiny weaknesses in the system become noticable. Things start getting complicated when this high end user questions certain aspects of PT on the DUC. For example, PT generates 48bit precision math but doesn't maintain 48bit throughout the signal path. It's possible that this is causing a slight decrease in perceivable audio quality. But were are talking about something here that is at or below the noise floor of a top class studio and is therefore virtually irrelvant to even a highly specified project studio, let alone the average home studio user. Nevertheless, for the inexperienced user this is a perfect opportunity to blame the tools rather than their own ignorance.

    In short, the main problem that exists with PT is the level of ignorance of many of it's users. I don't mean this as an insult, we are all ignorant to a greater or lesser degree. I've spent a shed load of money and a ridiculus amount of time learning to create quality mixes. I still find it bloody difficult and I'm never satisfied. But as far as I'm concerned, this is the challenge that makes the job so interesting. So although I'm always looking for that next step up in quality, I'm also aware that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with PT, or at least nothing of any significance compared to my own ability (or lack thereof).

    I'm not saying that PT is perfect, far from it. I'm just saying that for the vast majority, the weaknesses of the internal workings of PT are completely irrelevant.

    Greg
     
  9. DSL

    DSL Guest

    Amen
     
  10. Irene

    Irene Guest

    Greg
    Thanks for that explanation. I'd appreciate some more discussion here if you'd be willing..
    I see your point that some beginners are naive in their expectations of Pro Tools. OK. Regarding the 'high end user' who is dissatified when 'tiny weaknesses in the system become noticable"- you say that these issues are really irrelevant at the end of the day for most of us.
    If this is true why is there such a volume of suspicion on the DUC? It feels like on the one side 'academic' people are debating the theory and maths issues over and over and alongside this 'use your ears' people are saying 'phew thank god for the sony plug's" and "phew isn't mixing in pro tools hard compared to analog". What really lies beneath this general malaise in your view? IS it ignorance and denial??? :confused:

    Is it that people are comparing Pro Tools to analog and digital rigs that cost much more than Pro Tools?
    Do you think that in the right hands with the right gear that Pro Tools compares to these other high end mixers?

    thanks for your feedback!!

    Renie
     
  11. stedel

    stedel Guest

     
  12. fourk

    fourk Guest

    To pick up on some of the points Greg makes above I thought I'd share this recent experience:
    Having come to the end of an intensive bout of recording/mixing, I had the time to listen and take stock of various projects I have produced this year. These involved three working methods:
    1 Recorded on 2", mixed on Euphonix. No PT.
    2 Drums recorded on 2", dumped to Pro Tools for editing, all further recording in PT, mixed either Euphonix or Neve VR. This tends to be the method of choice.
    3 Everything recorded in PT, mixed in PT - this was for a stunning artist with a limited budget who I just had to work with.

    Now I've followed all the debate re sound of PT, digital vs analog summing etc. with great interest. The vehement nature of a great deal of the opinion out there made me very wary of method 3 above in particular. However when I had my listening session, with the distance from most of the sessions that allows some real objectivity, I observed the following:
    The stuff recorded purely on tape may have sounded fractionally 'sweeter' but that would be a totally subjective judgement.
    The stuff recorded and mixed entirely in PT sounded amazing! At the time I was filled with dread and paranoia, largely due to what I was reading. Maybe this made me work that much harder, but whatever the reason, this stuff sounded at least as big, wide, warm and detailed as any of the other recordings.I think Greg has confirmed the conclusions I've arrived at myself re the expectations people have when they buy PT. Some of it reminds me of when computers first started to be used for sequencing in the late 80's - the typical layman's comment would be ' So you don't need to be a musician - the computer will write the songs for you'! Yeah right.The same mentality would lead you to conclude that purchasing a box of paints and an easel would automatically qualify you to paint the Sistine Chapel.

    Unfortunately I now have the dilemma of pondering which way to work in future - it may be that the Sony EQ is enough to tip me into perma-PT land ( I don't really like most plug-in eq so far ).It's a nice problem to have.

    To conclude I'd just like to say to Greg - keep shining your light on all those dark places - good work!
     
  13. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Member

    Regarding the 'high end user' who is dissatified when 'tiny weaknesses in the system become noticable"- you say that these issues are really irrelevant at the end of the day for most of us. If this is true why is there such a volume of suspicion on the DUC?

    It's a mixture of reasons. A classic example was the first big post on sound quality about 3 years ago. The basic point of the thread was that the signal path gets truncated in various places to 24bit from the 48bit math stored in the bus. All respect to Digi who created a dithering mixer to deal with the artifacts of truncation, even though they felt the artifacts were way below the noise floor and irrelevant. To distinguish the improvement in the mixer due to it's dithering you need an exceptionally high quality monitoring environment, some very accurate metering and test equipment, a lot of theoretical understanding and a good experienced pair of ears. This is obviously way beyond the means of all but a handful of PT users. Here is where we start to run into problems, many of the more experienced PT users now use the dithering mixer because they feel it sounds better. I'm sure a lot of these users have arrived at this conclusion erroneously because the dithered mixer has increased headroom over the standard mixer. Another reason could be that the dithering mixer is helping to reduce quantization errors caused by factors other than PT truncation, deficient clocking for example. The difference they can hear almost certainly has nothing to do with overcoming the so called "problem" of truncation on the PT bus.

    So here's the situation as I see it: We've got just a few PT users who really understand what is going on. We've got some experienced users who don't feel the dithered mixer makes enough of a difference to justify it's extra DSP usage. We've got some experienced users thinking the dithering mixer is doing more than it actually is, and therefore that complaints against the PT bus were justified. And we've got a whole pile of people who don't really have a clue what's going on but are happy enough to use the excuse that there is a serious problem with the PT bus rather than with their own ability.

    on the one side 'academic' people are debating the theory and maths issues over and over and alongside this 'use your ears' people are saying 'phew thank god for the sony plug's" and "phew isn't mixing in pro tools hard compared to analog".

    Well, I'm very much of the "use your ears" camp. But that only works to a point because no matter how good your ears are, they are dependant on the quality of the monitoring environment. It's the monitoring environment which let's down most PT users. For example, I've spent about US$30,000 on my monitoring; speakers, amps and acoustic treatment. However, I only consider this to be a mid level monitoring environment. A high end environment could cost more than 5 times as much!

    I personally feel that the academic arguments are very useful. Some of it goes over my head, the majority is useful general knowledge but doesn't impact directly on how I track or mix, sometimes a seemingly well informed argument is utter rubbish and occasionally something crops up which has a drammatic effect on how I do certain things.

    IMHO, it's much the same as any two extremes, the truth lies somewhere in between. In other words, although I basically believe the bottom line is to use my ears, I'm perfectly willing to accept that certain mathematical concepts can have an effect on my mixes which are undetectable to my ears/monitoring environment. But that doesn't mean that they are not there or won't become much more apparent under certain circumstances.

    Is it that people are comparing Pro Tools to analog and digital rigs that cost much more than Pro Tools? Do you think that in the right hands with the right gear that Pro Tools compares to these other high end mixers?

    Certainly part of it is the comparison between PT and say Neve's or SSL's. A PT system is never going to be as good at creating the sound of an analog Neve desk, as a good analog Neve desk! PT has it's own sound and provided you are willing to work with this, rather than trying to make it sound like something it isn't, you can get top class results that are different but of a comparative level of quality. IMHO though, the margins of error (sweet spots) are much smaller with PT than with say a high end Neve based analog setup. This makes it more difficult and time consuming to create a great sounding mix, depending of course on the style of music you are trying to create.

    Some people think 96kHz is all marketing hype..yet the general opinion seems to be this is where Digi's heading.Why? If a system lacks nothing, why upgrade?

    96kHz is only marketing hype at the moment because so few end users have the equipment to even handle 96kHz, let alone of high enough quality to hear a difference between that and 44.1Khz or 48kHz. Ultimately though a high end PT setup running at 96kHz should sound considerably better than a high end 48kHz PT setup. Let me know if you want me to go into details as to why.

    Greg
     
  14. ckevperry

    ckevperry Active Member

    Excellent post Greg.

    I never have understood why people get so tore up about truncations happening 144 dB down.

    Wouldn't it be cool if McDSP or Bombfactory ever did a new DAE? Like a neve modeled DAE or SSL.
     
  15. stedel

    stedel Guest

    Originally posted by Greg Malcangi:



    96kHz is only marketing hype at the moment because so few end users have the equipment to even handle 96kHz, let alone of high enough quality to hear a difference between that and 44.1Khz or 48kHz. Ultimately though a high end PT setup running at 96kHz should sound considerably better than a high end 48kHz PT setup. Let me know if you want me to go into details as to why.


    Greg


    No Greg it's fine. I'm not one who subscribes to 96kHz being marketing hype, and I'm aware of the
    claimed benefits. BTW I agree with what you've said above, and you've stated it clearly and with
    nice diplomacy!!!!
    Kind regards
     
  16. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Member

    Hi Kevin,

    I never have understood why people get so tore up about truncations happening 144 dB down.


    The simple answer is that they shouldn't! The complex answer is that under certain circumstances a truncation can cause rounding errors higher up in the more significant bits. As I understand it, and we're at the limit of my understanding here, the statistical probablitity of this happening is very small. Nevertheless the dithering mixer would solve this problem if it exists.

    Whenever I find myself with a mathematical concept which I don't fully understand or appears to be a bit of a grey area I use the fall back position of trying both ways and using my ears. For instance, once I've finished a mix using the standard mixer, I'll often bounce the track down to DAT, close down PT and fire up the session again using the dithered mixer, bounce this mix down to DAT and then A/B the two DAT mixes. It's a bit long winded but I've got a fairly highly specified PT setup and want to be sure I'm getting the best out of it. Although I generally use the standard mixer there have been occasions, for whatever reason, when I've felt the dithered mixer sounded better.

    Wouldn't it be cool if McDSP or Bombfactory ever did a new DAE? Like a neve modeled DAE or SSL.

    This will never happen. The DAE is essentially an interface between software and Digi's hardware. So the only people who could write a DAE is Digidesign. It's conceivable that some third party could create a new mixer plug or standard plugin modelled on Neve or SSL characteristics. But in my experience plugs (or anything) that try to emulate something else are never as good as the thing they are trying to emulate.

    Greg
     
  17. Irene

    Irene Guest

    Thanks for your comments everyone. I admit I'm still confused. To me it seems hard to comprehend that so many people day in day out regardless of the maths seem dissatisfied with Pro Tools and many of these people seem to have already had better results from their analog gear, so they are not the naive crew. I do believe it's possible but it maybe is just a lot more complex to achieve great results in PT.
    Renie
     
  18. DSL

    DSL Guest

    I usually do not get into these type of debates but this one is not a debate. This thread is explaining what Pro Tools is. I love Pro Tools sound mainly because it has none. It captures (good converters is a plus) exactly what your putting into it. People say it lack "warmth" but what PT doesn't do is distort the upper frequencies like an analog desk. One can design a front end consisting of many different Pre's and such to specifically obtain whatever one desires. Not even talking about all the automation and recallability benefits. There are some plugins that I just don't like, don't use them. As far as the summing bus goes and most all of any other "digital debate" I don't bother with cause I know from experience what Pro Tools is. I think that when working with DAW I've noticed that critical listening is the most important factor instead of having a forgiving desk that will put "the desk" sound in a track for you. I like analog sound but I feel I can get more of a variety of sounds and get more work done on my PT rig. And to me that's what it's all about
     
  19. Irene

    Irene Guest

    Cool!! :cool:
     
  20. Irene

    Irene Guest

    Greg
    I am revisiting this thread and hope you will possibly discuss things further.
    I am curious about this quote of yours.

     

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