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SPL MixDream analog DAW summing

Okay, I'm taking the high road. After so much reading this past year on analog summing amps, then finally listening to some samples, its definitely what I need. This unit takes that ITB closet sound (I've been going nuts trying to overcome) and opens your mix up into a warm fat sound. No wonder they call it MixDream.
Reading this shootout ( [=""]Summing Box Shootout[/]="…"]Summing Box Shootout[/] ) it logically makes the biggest improvement when starting any project from scratch. This could be why some don't see the value.
Plug a stereo comp into it and you have a nice package.
I'm getting the MixDream this month and will be dreaming about it until it arrives. I'll keep you posted.

I found these clips over on PSW forum.

check them out.


Anyone else have one? I'd love to hear what you are doing with it or how you've set it al up?


bigtree Fri, 02/19/2010 - 12:59

Exactly, good to mention this. Headroom is what the SPL Mixdream has tons of. They do make the MixDream XP which is a scaled down version ( yes?) that may be spot on. Here is a link to mercenary [URL="(dead link removed) Audio - SPL MixDream XP[/URL] I'm pretty sure you can buy it for less but it gives more explaination.

AG, I'm confused as to using a digital consol for summing though. I have an older Yamaha O3D ( not that it compares) that I only use for a controller at best. I wouldn't dare use it for anything else. Isn't this sort of redundant to ITB and possibly a negative? I see the benefit you're having as a control surface, but don't see the audio benefit using a digital OTB summing system, unless you are using it for outboard gear, yes no?

RemyRAD Fri, 02/19/2010 - 13:29

Yeah that almost indescribable minute difference between analog summing and digital summing. It can make all the difference. I don't believe that digital summing in a digital console will re-create the analog summing. I've discussed this with some programmers. You just can't have all the numbers line up perfectly in digital summing. It's all based on time delay multiplexing. But analog summing is all real-time. And there's the real difference. Here's a little secret that folks might be interested in? In 1978 I built up a custom console. It was a split desk. The multitrack monitor mixer section was quite a passive piece. Since we were all working from +4 DBM Ampex MM 1200 outputs, no input buffer was needed. It was all passive. This would then sum into the 2 track output for monitoring. It was really pretty funny since some of the mixes sounded better than it did coming through the entire console electronics. So at times, we would use the monitor mixer mixes. Less electronics, more like a straight wire. And it was single ended as opposed to balanced inputs. Not too different from the concept that Bernie Grubman accomplished with his custom single ended mastering consoles. Sometimes we would print effects & reverb to the machine if we needed some, track availability permitting. And the tonality of the analog summing can be customized through differences in gain staging in the summing amplifier. The more open loop you go, the more opened up the sound becomes. Differences in output level can be compensated by the output amplifiers post summing amplifiers. Of course all of this affects signal-to-noise ratio, distortion & stability but hey, if you are going for a sound, go for a sound. I've heard some beautiful digitally summed mixes through the years. But since I'm still essentially working with an old console, this ain't nothing new to me. It does sort of make up for that cold reality, crispy clarity of cold heartless digital sound.

My Neve is warm & cuddly.
Mx. Remy Ann David

AudioGaff Sat, 02/20/2010 - 10:55

AG, I'm confused as to using a digital consol for summing though

A digital mixer doesn't give you analog summing, but it does give you a choice to do digital mixes instead of ITB. I am not saying it is absolute as being better. it may or may not be better. Just another option that is an easier and lesss expensive way to interface with external analog or digital gear than the cost of analog summing and extra converters.

bigtree Sat, 02/20/2010 - 16:27

SPL MixDream

Jeemy, post: 299710 wrote: I have a Ramsa DA7 and you've certainly got me interested in the possibility of using it to sum out of the box; even just to see how that sounds.

Hey Jeemy,

I just looked at the DA7 and it looks really nice. I was thinking it was an older analog model. You and AG share the same limitations as Remy and Boswell point out. I think OTB summing has to be analog or nothing.

Jeemy Sun, 02/21/2010 - 16:01

yeah it will sum in digital as i understand it, not analog. it was AG's suggestion rather than yours that got me interested in bringing it to the fray.

i'm in exactly the same position as ouzo, i've always known that. i just find it interesting given the other application it opens up if i was to send 16 channels of lightpipe to it, and use it to mix digitally OTB, as opposed to mixing internally. as it then removes the need for midicontrol faders, which was how i was going to configure it. i'm interested in seeing how that sounds as it would be very very easy to A/B. we only have used it for monitoring and routing up to now.

however it does actually claim to have 8 analog buses. i'm not very clear yet as the manual is 425 pages long and doesn't reveal some of the stuff i want to know, exactly what that means.

IIRs Mon, 02/22/2010 - 02:03

Boswell, post: 300230 wrote: One of the major requirements for an external summing unit is large headroom

You mean something like 32/64 bit floating point?

RemyRAD, post: 300246 wrote: You just can't have all the numbers line up perfectly in digital summing.

If the numbers don't "line up perfectly" its a software bug. Try summing the same set of stems in a bunch of different DAWs: I'm prepared to bet that they all null perfectly, ie: every DAW will produce the same identical and perfect results.

Boswell Mon, 02/22/2010 - 02:30

We've got two different arguments going on here. The original one (paraphrased) was: what sort of conditions would make it worthwhile to take multiple tracks (or stems) out of the box, convert them to analog, perform analog summing and reconvert to digital? The second argument that got conflated with the first was whether different all-digital summations, done ITB or OTB, are audibly different.

So IIRs' comment about floating-point in response to my post about needing good headroom in an analog summing unit is addressing the second argument in a reply to the first.

In terms of digital summation, there are two other points that cause confusion. The first is that it is not expected that all digital summations will arrive at exactly the same numbers, as the rounding algorithms could well be intentionally different between implementations. What matters is how the result sounds, and it is quite likely that some implementations sound better than others. The second point is that in a properly designed digital system, time delays in the sequential addition arithmetic play no part, as all the additions required for the next sample are performed within one sample time. I am referring here to PCM digital systems; things get more complicated in DSD processing.

IIRs Mon, 02/22/2010 - 02:39

Boswell, post: 300416 wrote:
it is not expected that all digital summations will arrive at exactly the same numbers, as the rounding algorithms could well be intentionally different between implementations.

There may be differences between ITB summing using floating point maths and digital summing in a digital mixer or PT HD hardware using integer maths, but these differences are down at about -140dBFS and I simply don't believe they are significant. Especially if (like Remy) you turn up your nose at 24 bit audio and still use just 16 bits...

IIRs Mon, 02/22/2010 - 07:24

Boswell, post: 300416 wrote: We've got two different arguments going on here.

Lets ignore the OTB digital summing for now as its just confusing the issue.

The way I see it there are two different arguments in favour of analog summing:

1. Summing ITB is flawed somehow, and analog summing is more accurate.

2. Analogue summing adds subjectively desirable colour to an otherwise too perfect digital sound.

As far as I am concerned #1 is BS of the first order, and is a myth perpetuated by people with no understanding of digital audio, or (worse) with a vested interest in selling analog summing devices. Summing = adding together a string of numbers, no more, no less. Anyone who claims any different is either selliing snake oil, or has been conned into buying it.

#2 seems more plausable to me. But I still fail to see why analog 'summing' would be any different from summing digitally and then running the stereo mix through a suitably colourful 2-channel unit. Which (for probably the same money as an 8 channel summing box) might actually provide other useful features like compression or EQ. There are genuine mathematical (ie: non-voodoo) reasons why analog compression or EQ might be technically superior to its digital equivalents (read up on aliasing and Nyquist theory).

bigtree Mon, 02/22/2010 - 09:51

Good thread.

I, by no means have the same tech understanding as you guys and most likely never will. I just don't have the space in my head for an equally creative and technical world so I rely on you guys when it comes down to the tech stuff. When in doubt though, I always trust my ears at the end of the day. We all agree its all about our perception and how we arrive there and I think this always takes us to a stalemate.

IIRs, are you "technically" saying, OTB analog summing is all just snake oil, trickery? It sounds like you are suggesting manufacturers and companies selling these products see this as an opportunity to take advantage of the less technical savy recordist that have no clue. Man, I find this hard to believe. But, based on my ears, I've made the commitment and I'm still excited. The older I get, the more I wish I never sold most of my analog gear, especially keyboards. Digital audio is really clean but its missing warmth.

IIRs Mon, 02/22/2010 - 11:24

audiokid, post: 300459 wrote:
IIRs, are you "technically" saying, OTB analog summing is all just snake oil, trickery?

If its being sold as a cure for imperfections in the digital summing bus, then yes I'm afraid that is my opinion.

audiokid, post: 300459 wrote: It sounds like you are suggesting manufacturers and companies selling these products see this as an opportunity to take advantage of the less technical savy recordist that have no clue.

Well, sort of. I don't want to imply that anyone here is clueless. And I would certainly never accuse Remy of not being "technically savy"! I always enjoy Remys post's, and find them extremely interesting and informative. But that is precisely why I can't resist stepping in when I think she has it wrong.

I think that there are myths perpetuated about digital audio, many of which used to be true when mix buses had too little resolution, and internal processing used simple naive algorithms, but which no longer hold true in 2010. I don't think digital is cold or harsh anymore. But now we need to deliberately add some of the analog artifacts that we were previously stuck with, like it or not.

The question that I myself am genuinely curious about is: given that digital summing is 'perfect', is there any specific advantage to adding your analog flavour via a summing bus, compared to (eg:) a nice comp on the digital 2-bus? My gut feeling is: no there isn't. If you're going to spend the cash, get a good stereo comp or EQ that you can also use while tracking. But I haven't been able to try a test. I'm not even sure a proper test is possible... but if you lined up levels VERY carefully you could sum X number of channels via a summing box / desk, then sum the same stems ITB and run that mix through two channels of the same device. I was planning to try it out with a 16 channel Midas XL3 expander module that a friend offered to lend me, but unfortunately his PSU proved to be noisy as hell, and siting it outside the control room would have been too much hassle for a 6-month loaner.

Disclaimer: while I did get to record onto 2 inch tape a few times in my capacity as a guitar player back in the 90s, I have never engineered any recordings in a proper analog studio. My own modest studio has been open for only a year, is 100% ITB, and is a long way from earning me a living at the moment. But I have mixed rather a lot of live sound over the years, and the last 2 or 3 years have seen digital live consoles start to become more common than analog, at least at the higher end. There are some common models that are generally agreed to sound bad (naming no names) but I have been fortunate to be using mostly Soundcraft Vi6 desks recently: these have Studer pre-amps, bags of internal headroom, internal EQ and dynamics that sound really good, built-in lexicon FX, and 5 touch-screens to control them all. They are a joy to work with, and sound great. :biggrin:

jammster Mon, 02/22/2010 - 12:57

Hello everyone,

I've been enjoying reading this thread as well. Perhaps none of you really know me well, I also have a small home studio that I have used for my own creative reasons throughout the years.

My background reflects as a recording artist since the late eighties. When I started my creative venture I was a teenager in my parents basement. At that time all I had was an Ensoniq EPS sampler, ESQ-m module that I had worked a couple years to buy, SM58 and a cassette tape deck. I had little money and lots of support from my parents who were artists as well. They did not fund my venture, but were supportive. I had done some work with recording my own music but really lacked the budget to get a pro sounding studio at home. At times I would save a few hundred and record in a small midi studio in Minneapolis called Film in the Cities. They actually offered a few classes in recording there, which I did take. I never really had the passion or the wit to become a professional recording engineer, I have always been into recording for my own enjoyment as a recording artist.

Anyway, I just can't help but want to give my opinion on this subject as well. I had in 2007 decided to update my ancient digital recording system to a more robust DAW. First I had to decide which platform and software to buy, which was a bit of a headache. I had been very absorbed trying to learn and develop an understanding of the software and interface that I had decided to buy. This tends to be a somewhat difficult task, depending on how much time you devote to using and learning it. For me catching up to the modern software has proven to be a bit painstaking.

To make a long story short, after using my DAW for a few years I can certainly notice a difference between mixing ITB and sending the outputs to the Analog realm and dealing with it accordingly. I especially notice when listening to a CD of mixes done ITB compared to ones done on my mixer, to me its shocking. Of course many will comment on the importance of having a decent signal chain, AD conversion and Monitors for listening critically and mixing. Certainly, for me at least, owning a decent professional analog mixer (Soundcraft, Allen+Heath,ect...) has always been a major goal of mine as well, one that has always been put off since I have rarely had the money to really afford one. I had to settle with less for now. My opinion is this, in many ways the analog mixer is really the most critical link to your sound, that is if that is what you prefer and what you enjoy hearing. I must say that overall the analog gear has always had more of an appeal to my ears even though digital has made so many amazing advances in recent years. Perhaps they will master ITB digital mixing better someday soon so you cannot tell the difference, but for now my vote is strongly in favor of the analog realm!

IIRs Tue, 02/23/2010 - 03:42

That's analog mixing however. We are talking specifically about summing.

I absolutely agree that analog and digital mixing are different, and require different approaches. I am sure that, while Remy can undoubtedly produce good mixes ITB, she can produce even better mixes using her warm cuddly Neve... but it is my opinion that the mix bus of her Neve is less of a factor than the analog EQ and dynamics she would be using, and that both of these would be much less significant than her abilities as an engineer, and her familiarity with said equipment.

If you dropped me into her studio (or any other studio full of analog gear I was unfamiliar with) I suspect the results would be reversed and (at least at first) would be inferior to my ITB mixes using the collection of plugs I have built up over years.

IIRs Tue, 02/23/2010 - 04:06

jammster, post: 300476 wrote: Perhaps they will master ITB digital mixing better someday soon so you cannot tell the difference

Can you really tell the difference? If you are listening to a commercial radio station, can you tell which songs were mixed with an SSL, and which were produced entirely in Logic or Pro-Tools?

jammster Tue, 02/23/2010 - 07:52

IIRs, with all due respect I really love the simplicity of digital mixing and the ease of which your mixes eliminate any chance for noise to enter. If I could have a digital mix that could sound the same as an analog one I would most certainly favor it, no question about it. The fact of the matter is that I tend to notice a change in overall depth of the mix. Ya know, this kind of thing is really hard to put into words, and I am sure everyone would see it differently. Its very difficult to describe, this is one reason there is so much debate and controversy over this topic. I can only tell the difference in my own mix comparisons, that is Logic Pro's internal digital mix as opposed to mixing out the firestudio individual outputs on the analog console in my little home studio. Certainly I cannot tell what's being used in radio broadcasts, nor do I really care, its far beyond the scope of my experience. But what I do know is what I like when I hear it. I like analog even if it means more noise and more work to get a final mixdown, it makes the overall depth and punch so much more dynamic to my ears, even if its way more subtle than most listeners can tell.

bigtree Tue, 02/23/2010 - 18:55

I think the detailed difference I/we hear is not capable with digital right now. I think ITB is much better than its been this last decade, but its not there yet, if ever 100%.

I love this:

There are many aspects why hi-end analog systems still have advantages over digital summing. The problem with many channels is that -- to put it easy -- calculating errors are getting more and more annoying. Our hearing is extremely sensitive to identify spatial aspects; we can easily detect differences in directions far below one degree (!). Spatial hearing in all its aspects may be one of the most precise "sense qualities" we have.

It could be, we hear (good or bad) these subtle changes more than others and it is why we are not satisfied they way someone else may be with 100% ITB. The more I use digital, the more I see it as an editing marvel and as a very close friend to analog recording. I'm really excited how to get the best out of of both worlds, now.
I'm refreshed and have hope for my DAW studio more now.
I don't believe total 100% ITB will replace high end analog summing in the next few years, if ever. As digital gets better, so will analog tools such as MixDream along with my over the top expectations. I'm more convinced than ever that SPL MixDream is one of those products that fits in with the needs of the people who hear those spacial differences. Its so obvious now.

I have a feeling high end analog is not even close to being over. Its just beginning. The best of both worlds involve both analog and digital. I don't think that will never change for high end audio.

"Is it organic chicken or is it industrial? One is firm and the other is spongy. If you eat it long enough, you get used to it." :cool:

IIRs Wed, 02/24/2010 - 00:19

The problem with many channels is that -- to put it easy -- calculating errors are getting more and more annoying

What calculating errors? And why would many channels make a difference? Would your calculator start to produce randomly erroneous results once your shopping list passed a certain length? You can't just assert that there are errors without providing evidence for that assertion. Every test I have ever conducted myself, or that I am aware of others conducting, indicates that digital summing is absolutely 100% perfect. Indeed, I think it would make more sense to go out of the box for compression and EQ, then back in for digital summing!

audiokid, post: 300578 wrote:
It could be, we hear (good or bad) these subtle changes more than others and it is why we are not satisfied they way someone else may be with 100% ITB. :

Or it could be entirely placebo. Can you reliably tell between analog and digitally summed mixes in blind testing?

bigtree Wed, 02/24/2010 - 01:12

I think the more ITB channels, the more we detect unnatural calculations. You may be missing this sense of direction, precision with your hand, eye and ear coordination .
Maybe its the same as a gut feeling and it becomes a thing I try and find in a mix.
Maybe its only something I hear and no one else. In the end, a burden. Maybe its what makes golden ears mastering engineers.
Even though the math works, I don't believe music is just one type of measurement.
I think there are colours that are missed and others that are over defined with digital audio. Maybe its the sound of unreal or too perfect a picture in an acoustic setting that I am picking up on.
I'll know soon enough.

What I do believe. it has nothing to do with making great music, only great sound.

IIRs Wed, 02/24/2010 - 01:20

The problem with many channels is that -- to put it easy -- calculating errors are getting more and more annoying

Here's a test you can try: pull some audio into your DAW (doesn't matter what it is) then duplicate it onto another track, and flip the phase. You should get a 100% perfect null between them, correct? Now paste in another two copies, and again flip the phase on one of them. Still a perfect null, right? Keep going, and tell me how many tracks you need to be running before these "calculating errors" start to creep in and you no longer get a perfect null.

I got bored and stopped with 102 stereo tracks still perfectly nulling another 102 phase reversed copies...

actually the 204 summed tracks (each peaking individually at about -6dBFS) read approx -133dBFS on the master rather than -infinity as when they are all muted. Thats good enough for me...