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Will buying an analog mixer help?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by beanstalk40, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. beanstalk40

    beanstalk40 Guest

    Hi All!

    I own a small project studio which I use mainly to record and produce demos and song ideas ... I also get the occasional tv commercial or radio jingle assignment... I have also scored background scores for short films and tv serials...

    My setup is as follows -

    AMD64 3200+ PC, 2GB RAM
    EMU1820M (all analog ins in use)
    Triton LE Synth
    Fender Telecaster Gtr
    Ovation Acoustic-Electric Gtr
    POD XT
    Cubase SX3

    As you can see, I am currently mixing ITB and totally in the digital realm...

    I have been reading up in this and other forums about the great difference in sound when you mix using a good analog mixer... someone even told me to make sure I pass my mixes thru an analog mixer... So, I have been thnking of acquring a Mackie Onyx 1640

    My questions are -

    1. Will there be a perceptible difference in sound quality if i run my inputs thru the mackie... remember I already have high quality AD/DA converters in the 1820M as well as a pair of decent quality mic preamps...

    2. Where would the mixer fit in to the signal chain for it to "colour" the sound with analog warmth?

    3. Is this whole exrcise useless... am i asking stupid questions?

    4. If 3 is true, could you please suggest an alternative arrangement?

    Many thanks for reading thru this... I'd greatly appreciate any help from you highly knowledgeable folks!

    Warm Regards

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    My first question to you is..... Do you play basketball? Just kidding.

    This is all like cooking and everybody has their secret recipes. I'm not so sure your emu sound card is all that great. Yes, possibly you may want to get the newer Mackie and record through that, to your sound card. It will certainly give you a different timbreal quality. Since you're doing most of the recording by yourself you may want to go as far as purchasing a couple of used API or Neve modules. They will certainly color your sound more and perhaps give you what you're looking for. I'm telling you that I personally on an old 1974 vintage Neve console and I always get a huge kick out of putting an SM57 on a guitar cabinet and cranking my equalizers. What suddenly jumps out at you is a familiar sound that you have known and loved for years on numerous hit records! It's true. But I'm only using it for one example. It would certainly change the character of your sound before it goes into your sound card.

    Now one thing that has a calm popular recently is the fact that many engineers have noticed that when they mix inside the computer, it never comes out sounding the way it does when they do it to their analog summing bus. So now you're finding on the market numerous passive, multitrack input summing buses to a stereo output. Now you're not quite in position to be able to do that with your current setup, or maybe you are? I'm not familiar with your EMU unit? Maybe what you needed is some type of multitrack output from your computer to go into an analog mixer and out in stereo to a CD recorder or 2 tracts back into your computer? The nice thing about a computer is you can do all of your DSP from within the computer and send it out that way to your analog summing bus. I don't suppose this has been too enlightening for you? You are obviously frustrated with your current outcome. You may just be dealing with the computers internal latency problems which I think most people objective, rightfully so. There really isn't anything much you can do about that except what I suggested above.

    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. beanstalk40

    beanstalk40 Guest

    Thank you Ms. Remy Ann David... :)

    Your reply is very enlightening and helpful... as it happens the emu has 8 analog outs which can be routed to either a mixer or an analog summing console... Also, the AD/DA converters are very high quality (Or so they say!)

    I checked out some analog summing consoles... way pricey for me at the moment... :cry:

    But all this leads me to another question (possibly more stupid than the previous 4)... if i do pass my mix thru either an analog mixer or an analog summing console, where would I record the final stereo mix to? As in how would the music be stored... My options are (Correct me if I'm wrong)

    1. Back into the computer... wouldn't that defeat the purpose of going analog... or is it so that just summing in the analog realm and then converting to digital would still be a jump up from just plain ITB summing?

    2. Onto a tape recorder...

    3. Any other?

    Forgive the seemingly obvious questions... I gotta tell you I'm not a complete novice... but definitely far from being a guru... :)

    Many thanks

  4. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    My experience with the Emu converters was not very good, sonically speaking. We (my partner and myself) found that the top end sounded "smeared" and that there seemed to be a lack of adequate headroom. We ended up with Motu, which sounded noticeably better to our ears. Anyway, I would think that the Onyx would be a step in the right direction for you. And there is another side to owning a "real" desk.That is the client. Yes, my friend, that designer-dressed/too-damned-young-to-be-the-over-achiever-he/she-has-a-right-to-be ad exec still wants to see a big, illuminated console in that room! That's why I spent a hard-earned $600.00 on an ancient Wheatstone console from the 70s! I still have my Nve in the music room, but my clients SEE that "Wheaties" all lit up like a
    friggin' Christmas tree and they go ga-ga. Then they bring their kids in to track their garage band or American-Idol-wannabe girlfriends. A VO gig. A documentary about manatees that needs a soundtrack. A cable TV ad (featuring the dude's girlfriend and her dog).You get the idea,eh?
  5. beanstalk40

    beanstalk40 Guest

    And more pearls of wisdom... thank you Moonbaby... :) You're words ring true... nothing like a nice shiny console to set the client's eyes alight... lol...

    Though I'd still like to know the answer to the last question... what is the final destination...


  6. axel

    axel Guest

    it's as Ms. RemyRAD said a matter of taste...

    i prefer in the meantime to mix entirely within the DAW with just having a very good high end soundcard / converters to make shure the recorded source is from finest quality... (emu does not count to them!!) the convinience and the sound of Logic (that's what i use whenever i can!) is excactly what i am looking for... our day plugins are great and some even superb and i got rid and sold several pieces of outboard gear over the years due to replacing the with plugs...

    everything is recallable and i do not want to miss full automation anymore...

    but as already said it's a different flavor and a matter of taste... there are still the oldskool analog junkies around, and yupp the sound is different... better?? you tell!!!

    so i personally would spend the money rather on decent soundcard, rather then on a mixingboard...

    also... i like to impress my clients with a good sound / production rather then with a shiny board! if i realise that they are impressed with the "looks" i ask them if they haven't mixed me up with the graphic design studio to make their CD cover look good :D :D :D
  7. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I should clarify something here. I use a mix of old and new. That "Wheaties" is flanked by a pair of Tascam DM24 mixers that give us the bells-and-whistles we need to set up and recall a mix quickly. The Melbourne (Neve) and the Wheatstone are strictly for tracking/monitor mixing. And I mainly use outboard pre's on the Wheatie. Radio production boards like that have never impressed me with their sonic integrity. But those 27 meters....LOL!
  8. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    As far as where everything "goes", you might like to look at the Mackie, website and download a users manual or two(Like your possible Onyx?). The manuals generally have alot of "hookup" diagrams and suggestions for many needs.

    Basically, the routing is:

    Guitar(Maybe DI box?) mixer/soundcard/computer.

    The computer is really, really good at "keeping" things sounding the way they are! Some believe that the computer is too "sterile" sounding to track with? Running your source(Guitar) through an analog input(Maybe a mixer, maybe a nice outboard preamp - or tube preamp, for even more "not sterile), then into the soundcard, then into the computer, can help with these "perceived ills"...

    Yes, if you do just "yourself" or just one track at a time, the "same money" should buy you a "better" single or dual-channel preamp to run things into your card, then a more "complex" mixer.

    Still, while a good(To say nothing of great) mixer can be pretty and handy for lots of things, I vote for a better soundcard, first. Look into the Lynx, line... then, a good, seperate, preamp.

  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Yes beanstalk, in answer to your question feeding your analog summed output back into the computer does not defeat the purpose of having manipulated your tracks with DSP inside the computer. It is simply there to add some alternative flavor. (I prefer adding a lot of hot sauce)

    Many of my professional constituents have complained about mixing from within the computer due to its "latency" (I'm not that kind of girl) oriented problems. I'm a fairly consistent engineer and have found that whether I mix my digital tracks through my Neve or mix them within the computer, I end up with very similar results, so again it's just a matter of personal taste. There is no best way. Since I have already tracked through the Neve, I have already added its color but if I have tracked through something else and want that particular Neve or API flavor, I will feed stuff through those. However, I would not necessarily recommend mixing down to an old analog machine but it can provide you with a much different flavor unfortunately, you're going to have to go back digitally to get it to a CD for any different file formats.

    Tracking on the moon
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. beanstalk40

    beanstalk40 Guest

    Thank you all very much for taking the time to answer my questions! :)

    So, the way I see it...

    1. A good analog mixer will help but a better soundcard is the more preferred option though I still think the 1820m is good... if you haven't already, check this page for a technical comparison with the lynx 2... both cards come out at par... HERE

    Of course, these are so called "semi-pro" cards...I guess the pro cards will be one big step up.

    2. Good preamps will give me MUCH better sound...

    3. A computer is good for storing sound given the analog treatment.

    Will have to give this serious thought... the 1820m is only a year old... difficult to justify buying a new soundcard so soon... :roll: And good preamps are also expensive... and I don't know how I'm going to live with myself dreaming about these upgrades when I don't have the money... :cry:

    Once again, lady and gentlemen... thank you for everything!

  11. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Well..? I'm not sure what to say???

    The Lynx "on a par" with the Emu's?

    I really don't know?

    The linked review says the Emu, has the same converters? I dont know? It goes on to say that the converters aren't the only thing that matters(I suspect it's like "super-fast processors" in a cheap PC - it's the "sizzle-that-sells"?). If a Hummer, shares the same headlight switch with the Humvee(The Hummer is alot faster and it's prettier!), are the two "on a par"..? I really don't know???

    No question(Well, some questions?) that Sound Blaster(With Creative behind it) might be able to put-up a card that would be pretty darned good and sell it for much less than Lynx? I don't know?

    All I can say by lookng at the pictures of the Emu's, is that one gets alot for one's money! The LynxTwo, after all, is "just" a card, with an XLR "harness" and a software mixer. the Emu has breakout boxes, preamps, effects, midi, other stuff, all for a list of $499 or less to much less...... The Lynx two, in least expensive configuration, is around $999..? The Lynx L-22(Slightly "stripped" L2), is around $599..?

    I can tell you that after using a Lynx and working with Lynx tech support(Their TS IS Lynx! You talk to the ACTUAL people who design the card and run the company!) I won't even look any farther at the Emu's(Or lots of other sound cards), before just sending in my money for a LynxTwo. Along with that, I won't even bother to investigate the quality of the Emu preamps, effects, etc. Though the, single channel, preamp I'm considering is over $3000(To replace my $500 dollar pre) and, if I went with the Emu, I'd certainly save some money! 1/4", 1/8" and RCA connectors are cheaper! I don't know?

    I often feel stupid - like I'm missing something(Like now),

  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    The use of the same AD chip means virtually nothing. It's the analog input devices and the circuits leading up to that which will make a significant difference.

    Perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be:
    You can put a Porche boxster engine in a VW bug, but the Porche will still win the race. The transmission, drag coefficient and suspension make the biggest differences here.

    Think shielding (afterall, it is inside a computer next to a devices which put off major oscillations at specified frequencies), think capacitors, think physical connections, and so on.

    I've used both (though truthfully, only a little use on the EMU card) and while the EMU is a great value for the money, it is no Lynx. Sorry.

  13. beanstalk40

    beanstalk40 Guest


    Its obvious from my questions that I'm no expert at this... my technical knowledge is also near close to zero... :)

    However, from the written review it comes across that there's not much diiference between the 2... and the reviewers also claim that they sound not much different... and they've given technical data alongside...

    So, you'd understand why I'd be reluctant to exchange an 1820m (which I really like) for a lynx (which i can't in any case afford just yet)... :)

    Warm Regards

  14. axel

    axel Guest

    comparing an e-mu card with a lynx... :-?

    and saying they are the same or even similar :-? :-? :-?

    that is a joke! and shows (proofs) just ones again how meaningless technical data is when it comes to sound...

    that you are happy with the e-mu is fair enough, but i believe only as long as you hear a real good soundcard like a lynx or RME and the tracking through it.

    as i understand you are a beginner, here is one general advise i like to give you... for your own benefit and future satisfaction... obviously it's a little depending on your location, but if you have the possibilty ALWAYS try to audition any equipment you buy YOURSELF and don't be influenced by some numbers you read on some piece of paper, let YOUR EARS BE THE JUDGE and NOTHING else! in the world of audio / sound equipment those numbers just far to often say next to nothing!!!
    and peole in magazines who do comparison by numbers just simply don't know the F*&k what they are talking about !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. beanstalk40

    beanstalk40 Guest

    Cool... thanks for the tip Axel... will keep that in mind...

  16. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member


    I'm no expert on your set-up by ANY stretch of the imagination... Just another .02 worth of bandwidth.

    You're looking for something that has 8-ins and a good 2-bus out to either feed a 2Track or to send back into the box.

    I've always found the Mackie stuff lacking warmth. The things just sound brittle to me. The eq's just aren't musical... surgical yes, but not musical. Granted, you really aren't going to use the eq for much, but pushing the audio through the channel. Still I'd pose that it's the eq in the channel strip that is as much of the "magic" as the summing amps.

    I would look into anything from a vintage Neve Kelso to an Allen & Heath Mixwizard (although that might be a stretch) IMHO, anything but a Mackie should serve your purposes. I like the A&H stuff for the price point/value ratio, but even a Spirit could give you what you seek... warmth and the cohesiveness that analog summing gives you. You can probaly snag a decent used board for not that much money.

    No matter what you decide to do, you really should follow Axel's point, audition the gear before you buy.

    I'll go away now.

  17. Lumin

    Lumin Active Member

    just curious, how much does the neve kelso go for?
  18. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    The Neve Kelso's were produced in the 1970s and no longer in production. Keep watching eBay as they do pop up from time to time

    I love my Neve stuff
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  19. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    You can also find Kelso on "That 70s Show".. :wink:
  20. I can tell you from direct experience that that EMU card doesn't hold a candle to the LynxTWO. I just replaced one for the other, and it is night and day. No noise, beautiful recordings.
    And, for monitoring, I can now hear things I didn't even know were there with the EMU. That makes a big difference when mixing ;)
    You know, being able to actually hear definition...

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