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Analog Summing Valid or Voodoo?

I would like to hear what others have to say about analog summing. I'm currently nearing the end of the mixdown stage for a very prestigious Latin project.

We started the mixing on an SSL console, but discovered that ITB (in-the-box) mixing sounded much better after comparison. I mean, many degrees better.

We then redid the SSL mixes in the box, so now almost the whole project has been mixed this way, one more song to go.

I have friends and colleagues who swear by the process of analog summing, and they strongly suggest I do this, rather than just sending it off to mastering.. The client is open to anything that could possibly make it sound better, and I always approach these sorts of things with an open mind. Never too old to learn!

I have listened to “before and after” summing and truly hear no appreciable difference.
I've heard examples of summing done through a Neve VR, SSL G+, and a Dangerous box by different people, not just one.
Still, no "wow" factor.

I am a skeptic by nature and require hard evidence, and when I hear terms like “warmth”, “width”, “adds life to a mix” etc., bandied about, I usually need to hear something that is undeniable rather than subjective descriptions of what could easily be the power of suggestion. Maybe even to see something on test equipment display that proves the claims of the phase cohesion and width, those being just a few of the many supposed attributes claimed to be the result of summing.

We've all experienced the phenomenon of being deep into a mix on a console, and adjusting an EQ that is not engaged but still hearing subtle changes as if it were turned on.
Or, listening to the same mix twice thinking that they are two versions and when asked which one you like better, believing that there were differences, going so far as to even describe them.
(Anyone remember seeing people draping tissue paper on NS-10 tweeters?)

That's it so far. Thanks in advance for anyone's reply. If you know of any sites that would give me more insight, please post links.

Should we decide to do try summing, I'll then be back with more inquiries regarding methodology, since from what I've read so far there seems to be so many.

regards,

Dave Kowalski

David Kowalski-Engineer
Recording-Mixing-Mastering
[[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.davidkowalski.com"]David Kowalski-Engineer[/]="http://www.davidkowalski.com"]David Kowalski-Engineer[/]
dave@davidkowalski.com

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Profile picture for user vibrations1951
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vibrations1951 Sat, 06/06/2015 - 03:44

audiokid, post: 429592, member: 1 wrote: Yes, you still need to disable your Master section on DAW1, otherwise your session and effects will be added into the stem channels. Example, a Master out is usually channels 1 &2 and includes effects too. You don't want DAW1, master section anymore! DAW2 is replacing the DAW1 Master section. This is why I use a mastering capture system in the first place. You are creating a hybrid mastering solution with superior SR mixdown and monitoring.

@audiokid, @ Donny Thompson
I can use some clarification to stay with this if you don't mind my interrupting. My experience with the DAW is very limited in many respects. So what Chris is saying is that using the DAW Stereo out is different than creating groups/stems to send out DA?

I'm not understanding this because I haven't had projects go out to anything but CD off the DAW1 stereo out in the past.

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DonnyThompson Wed, 12/09/2015 - 06:14

I know that Avid's bread and butter started out in video production; the fact that it was picked up and implemented by many as an audio production platform was one of those things that just happens sometimes... a product is designed for one particular purpose and then ends up being used successfully for another.

From what I understand - and I do agree that by PT standards, it's considered to be a "toy" - was that "PT First" was designed as a baited-hook concept to get those PC users ( and Mac, too, I suppose) who had been thinking about going the Avid route, a way to give it a try for free and at no risk. And as that concept, it's a good idea, though Avid certainly wouldn't be the first to release "light versions" of their platforms to try to get customers interested in investing in the real versions of those programs.

( Then again, something as basic as PT First - while perhaps considered to be a "toy" by today's standards - is still likely far more powerful than the early digital production platforms that cats like Keith Olsen and Hugh Padgham were using in the early days of digital, and which were being used to record and mix hit records, too...)

The thing is, I know many Mac guys who started out with Avid - actually, most of them started out back when it was still Digi ( myself included) who have since moved on to other platforms. The complaints I've personally heard from these colleagues of mine tend to vary widely, from the sound of the audio engine not being as good as other programs, to poor customer support, ( which also almost always seems to involve support reps being pissy and crabby with customers) to various bugs and other glitches ( that you referred to regarding computers that weren't powerful enough to run the program efficiently) to complaints about being "forced" to use the platform because it's so widely accepted that you have to know it (that one never made any sense to me... no one is "forced" to use anything. Everyone has the freedom to choose whatever platform they want to use and what best suits their own preference and workflow).

I know that I moved away from it years ago, for two big reasons; the first was that, (at that time), the midi integration sucked, and the second was, (again, at that time), because Macs were a lot more money, and service centers for Mac computers were almost non-existent in my area. Those service centers ( even retail dealers) weren't anywhere near as prevalent as they are now. These days they're in nearly every mall and shopping center. Find a Starbucks, and an Apple Store probably isn't all that far away.... LOL.

I made the move over to PC and PC-Based programs not because I had anything "against" Mac, but because PC's gave me more bang for the buck; it allowed me to start using early versions of Sonar, which had a much better midi/audio integration. As the years passed, and I got good enough on the PC and PC-Based audio production progs, I just ended up staying with them. For me it was about being able to be productive, and I found that for me, I was more productive on a PC with Sonar than I was on a PC with PT, or on a Mac and PT as well, for that matter.

I don't consider myself to be a PT "Expert"... not by any means. I know there are guys who eat and sleep that program, and who, as you mentioned, probably know more about it than some of the support staff who actually work at Avid ( some of them are right here on RO, like yourself) ... But I never got that far with it. I learned what I needed to know, and yeah, I know my way around it well enough these days to record, edit and mix on newer versions of the platform, and have done so at other studios, but when I do, I prefer to have one of those PT/Mac Fan-boys working near me, so that if something odd does occur, I can turn it over to them and things get fixed pretty quickly.

It's a far better program now than it was back when I ditched it. I just didn't have the money - or the patience - to stick with it throughout its eventual life-cycle of improvements. I've got nothing against it personally.
Actually, I've got nothing against any DAW platform, pal... I think people should use whatever they are the most comfortable with, and that which allows them the greatest amount of flexibility, quality and creative support.
Obviously for many, that's Avid. For others, it may be Logic, or Sonar, or Cubase, or Samplitude... along with Ableton, Reason, FL and S1... and I'm sure I've left out a few.

If I was asked by someone who was just starting out what audio production program they should get, I'd tell them that there are many very good platforms out there, that you can absolutely make pro recordings on all of them (dependent on the other peripheral gear, of course) but that what's most important is to get a program that will support your main artistic intention, and then, get to know that platform as well as you possibly can, because that's where your productivity in digital audio production ultimately lives.
It's not as much about the program itself, as it is about knowing whatever you use as intuitively as you possibly can ... Know everything about it - all the features, the intricacies, the strengths and the weaknesses, as deeply as you can...
Know it inside, outside, sideways, over-under and upside down. ;)

IMHO of course.

-d.

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vibrations1951 Fri, 06/26/2015 - 15:02

DonnyThompson, post: 430198, member: 46114 wrote: It's gotten to the point where I've told my girlfriend to not even tidy up in my studio until this project is finished - LOL - because I have everything exactly the way that I need it to be right now.
Plus, there's the superstitious side of me, being so close to finishing, that I don't want her to possibly change any of the "vibe" that's in my room right now. And that means "don't take my coffee cup to the kitchen! I will take it myself."

It also means that the 3 cables on the floor behind me - two 1/4" and one XLR - absolutely must remain in their precise location. It doesn't matter that they aren't even connected to anything.
Do not touch the cables. Do not look at the cables. In fact, don't even think of the cables. They are a very small - but obviously critical - piece of a very large cosmic jigsaw puzzle.

There is a purpose for them that perhaps only the universe knows... And Ours Is Not To Reason Why!

I cannot, nae, I will not have anyone or anything interrupting the vibe, the force..... The Ju-Ju. ;)

Oh man... I think I need some sleep. :confused:

d.

ROFL!!!! I hear ya loud and clear!! May "The Ju-Ju" be with you!
namaste

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vibrations1951 Fri, 05/15/2015 - 02:10

audiokid, post: 429022, member: 1 wrote: curious: Why do you need the Big Ben when you are using an excellent internal PCIe interface?

Good question. It's kind of a a left-over. At one point I had my HD24 patched in as well and this was recommended by someone. I am still learning and rarely to never do work for others right now. I'm just continually learning and practicing my chops, trying to figure out a base system for when I get my studio build finalized in 3 years or so and go commercial.

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audiokid Sat, 06/06/2015 - 09:15

DonnyThompson, post: 429615, member: 46114 wrote: I'm going to take the most recent active mix I've been working on, and I'm going to mix it using a 2 DAW setup. Like I said, I have nothing to go in-between the two systems. It will be a direct capture, from D1 to D2. At this point, I'm forced to use SoundForge on D2, because that's what so happens to be installed on D2. I don't know if this will turn out to be a variable or not - ? - you would know better than I.

I'm not familiar with that DAW

DonnyThompson, post: 429615, member: 46114 wrote: So... my project settings on D1 are 44.1/32 bit float I should open a new project with Sound Forge at the same rate and with a bit res of 24, correct? (I'm not even sure that the version of SF that I have even gives me a choice for 32 bit/float)...
But there's no real benefit in me capturing at a higher sample rate, especially since this will eventually have to be down-sampled to 16 bit anyway, to meet Redbook standards... because it's ultimately going to CD. Is this also correct?

correct but part of why I do this is because I track at a higher SR ( DAW1 = 96 > DAW2 =44.1) . Uncoupling between the two should still create a change in the sound. How it will sound is unknown. You certainly will be able to identify how your FR sounds from this. Example, the better the conversion between both DAW's at the same SR should sound almost identical. What you should hear is a subtle change from the analog components. This could be a good change for you or worse.
Other advantages to this workflow are to do with monitoring and mixing into your capture. For me, the capture is a DAW that has excellent spacial tools and a reverb. These tools replaced thousands of dollars in analog mixing and mastering gear. I definitely hear improvement this way and also can mix faster and study the art of mixing or mastering much better. There are so many benefits, its hard to put one as better, but I thinks starting with a good set of converters with a way to monitor is key.
You don't want to degrade your audio paths stereo image and create a monitoring path that lies to you. You need to experiment.

DonnyThompson, post: 429615, member: 46114 wrote: And because this project is also going out to mastering facility, I should not dither on either DAW, correct? ( Dithering should always be the last step before press, or at least that's what my research on the subject has shown)....

correct

DonnyThompson, post: 429615, member: 46114 wrote: PS.. I'm also not using any fancy conversion system. The output for D2 will be the Presonus VSL, and the i/o for D2 will be a Focusrite... do you foresee any issues with this?

I'm not familiar with these products but you will definately be able to compare. Remember, if it sounds really different between one DAW to the second, something is adding a lot of character to the pass.
A two DAW system is also a way to learn what gear is lying to you. ;)
In my case, $ invested in the best analog mixing and mastering gear is a complete waste of money with a DAW like Samplitude. Hearing is believing. This is the greatest way to hear what products do. Its an ear opener to say the least..

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vibrations1951 Fri, 05/15/2015 - 02:14

audiokid, post: 429021, member: 1 wrote: Whether I use 32 DA or 2 DA I do the same for two reason:

  1. Sounds better to me
  2. Easier to finish a mix
    class="xf-ul">
    . The simple is:

    DAW 1 @ 96k DA > analog matrix (could be as simple as just the converter analog out ) > AD 2 channel 44.1 uncoupled USB converter > DAW 2 with mastering software.

    done.

OK thanks. Very helpful to this old easily confused mind of mine! It's as I thought.

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bishopdante Thu, 02/02/2012 - 08:27

Mixing out of the box I have heard chalk & cheese sound quality, out of the box sounding a lot better. The tests I did with an Audient desk and ProTools HD (purple & silver) were enough for me, in the box mixing is harsh, flat, and is particularly noticeable where bassline meets kick drum, and with reverb. I found that the level was also much stronger sounding, the perceptual volume for the meter level was noticeably louder and clearer mixing out of the box. In the box I tried 32-bit float, and ProTools's 192 bit fixed. Both sounded inferior, losing detail. This was all caused by deciding to save some channels, and route some stems of the drumkit and bassline through a stereo pair, suddenly the mix went flat and mushy, and also started clipping, so I started investigating. It was ITB vs OTB at the root of it. In the box actually improved some things, it helped glue guitars together, for example.

I did not like working with SSL G series, I found the sound somewhat harsh, empty and thin, EQs tremendously brittle, Dynamics sounded worse than DBX stage boxes, there's nothing to recommend them in my books, especially with how big, heavy and pricey they are. They were loved for being fully recallable, not sounding good. Bad in a transistory way.

If it sounds good in the box, mix in the box. It won't hiss, that's for sure.

Also, remember that the level output going into a desk must be properly adjusted, 0dB on the computer will be +20dB or so on the desk. Best idea is to kill some gain digitally before hitting the desk. That might be why it sounds bad, loss of headroom.

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vibrations1951 Sat, 06/06/2015 - 18:50

audiokid, post: 429565, member: 1 wrote: NOTE: The 2-Bus on DAW1 is always disabled. DAW2 replaces it. DAW2 is like a super 2-bus

I need help getting this. I think I'm missing some core mixing knowledge. I'm caught up in terminology about what is meant by 2-bus in this case.
If I were to take my mixer out of the path between box 1 and 2, in theory I shouldn't use the stereo out from box 1 for capture in box 2?
I'm not talking about changing the DAW1 stereo out in any way other than to basically make a 2 channel mix I think????
If so, I will always need a way to take larger channel counts from box 1 and reduce them somehow to 2 channels for the Pure 2??
Would I be better off with a converter with more input channels on box 2??

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vibrations1951 Wed, 05/27/2015 - 15:43

4 coreTE="audiokid, post: 429293, member: 1"]cool.

Whatever you are doing now, adding the second DAW in this equation won't change the channels needed on how you are summing now. You are simply extending your options on how you capture the 2-bus(s). I'm sure you get this now but just to reiterate : If you get a monitor controller with a min of 3 analog summing inputs, you will be able to study your mixes at three points now rather than two ( DAW1 and Console) . (make sense?).

The 2nd converters DA allows you to connect its DA to the monitor controller too! Your Aurora doesn't effect that. Realistically , you don't even need to monitor DAW1 once you are mixing OTB heading to DAW2. So, during tracking the Aurora is 16 ADDA as it would be now, nice tight low latency. Once you are mixing, you stem 16 DA from DAW1 into your console, 2-bus the analog sum into DAW2 conversion AD. DA DAW2 into the monitor controller that is monitoring all your sums.
Confusing until you start doing it.. but so simple and so awesome!

And I think I am confusing matters more than needed at this point. I just gotta get down to it and work it! I settled on a CPU today with these specs: AMD 4 core, 64 bit, 500GB HDD, 2.90GHZ, 12 gig RAM (will accommodate up to 32gig), Windows 7.
If I did my research correctly this should handle most any Samplitude package I put together for the DAW2. I'm also going to upgrade my cpu in Box 1. It now has 6 gig RAM and I'll likely add another 16 gig unless my wifey catches up with me first! She says finishing the kitchen is in hard competition and .....well...she has a point! I'll have to impress her with my ebay sales....
Namaste

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DonnyThompson Fri, 05/15/2015 - 02:55

Isn't the Big Ben a clock? (I'm asking because I'm not sure...I seem to remember a clocking device named something similar to that back in the 90's )

You don't really need one if you are using a 2 DAW system for mixdown... That's one of the things that Chris ( @audiokid) discovered when he was tweaking his workflow method...

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vibrations1951 Fri, 05/15/2015 - 03:03

audiokid, post: 429021, member: 1 wrote: Whether I use 32 DA or 2 DA I do the same for two reason:

  1. Sounds better to me
  2. Easier to finish a mix
    class="xf-ul">
    . The simple is:

    DAW 1 @ 96k DA > analog matrix (could be as simple as just the converter analog out ) > AD 2 channel 44.1 uncoupled USB converter > DAW 2 with mastering software.

    done.

Thanks Chris.
So for me to try this with what I have, at the least I would need to buy or find someone willing to loan a 2 channel USB converter, a second DAW with mastering capability.
From what you say, unless I were to use a quality (ie expensive) 2 channel converter and second DAW, the benefits of this may not be as apparent?

My options are very limited because I really do live in the Boonies, well over 100 miles from any formal studio in either the US or Canada. I guess I will need to see if I can convince the only other guy I know with gear around here to try this with a combination of our gear . He has a "studio" set up in the basement of a local "music store" that sells some instruments and equipment as well as horse tack, nick knacks and what I call Bunnies on a Fence (crafts)LOL!

It all continues to be experimental for me. Analog summing just seems right to me and the decoupling seems to make sense as well. I also want the options of hybrid mixing if desired. Pushing faders, even if it's a control surface, is just so much more ergonomic for me as my old hands cramp easily with a mouse even though I love what ITB mixing can do. If I ever get the opportunity and time away from my day and often night psychotherapy gig, I'll try this and post my results.

Thanks again for clearing this up for me. I'll continue to lurk and hope to hear other's results as the many details and options in this rapidly changing field unfold. I won't need to commit to a work flow for a while and it's good to hear what others are doing and the actual results from those I trust here.
namaste

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DonnyThompson Sun, 06/07/2015 - 01:47

vibrations1951, post: 429626, member: 34341 wrote: I'm caught up in terminology about what is meant by 2-bus in this case.

"2- bus" is studio lingo for your master bus, or your main stereo bus. It's a term used for both real consoles and DAWs.

A "2 mix" refers to your final stereo mix, be it MP3, .Wav, 2 Track Tape, etc.

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vibrations1951 Wed, 05/27/2015 - 16:20

audiokid, post: 429319, member: 1 wrote: I use AMD for my capture DAW and its extremely stable. Good luck.

Good to hear! I'll post again when everything arrives and I get this all together, up and running. Oh boy!
Namaste

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vibrations1951 Fri, 05/15/2015 - 03:15

DonnyThompson, post: 429036, member: 46114 wrote: Isn't the Big Ben a clock? (I'm asking because I'm not sure...I seem to remember a clocking device named something similar to that back in the 90's )

You don't really need one if you are using a 2 DAW system for mixdown... That's one of the things that Chris ( @audiokid) discovered when he was tweaking his workflow method...

Yup a clock. Guess I don't really need it right now!

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audiokid Wed, 05/27/2015 - 16:31

vibrations1951, post: 429317, member: 34341 wrote: And I think I am confusing matters more than needed at this point. I just gotta get down to it and work it!

No worries. Its a new step , not something you can discuss with anyone on any forum either. I personally don't know many people who do it to this extent. I have a ME friend in Bulgaria who is now summing like this and he is hiding his system so no-one see's what he is doing. ;) There was a time I didn't want to talk about this too but I'm retiring soon and its just fun discussing it all now.
Its a great system but you still need ears. And ears are what separate the boys from the men in this business anyway. This is a process that helps you hear it all better.

vibrations1951, post: 429320, member: 34341 wrote: Good to hear! I'll post again when everything arrives and I get this all together, up and running. Oh boy!

Indeed. I'm confident you are never going to turn back. I look forward to sharing notes and being my official 2 DAW buddy.

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Boswell Fri, 05/15/2015 - 04:11

vibrations1951, post: 428994, member: 34341 wrote: First Chris, would you mind describing your basic signal path from record to final DAW2?

Secondly, I would like to try the decoupling and analog summing with what I have for equipment but not sure if this will work as a fair comparison of summing ITB verses decoupling, summing analog and rendering the final mix in a second digital format. I don't have a second DAW right now and thought perhaps my Sony 2 track CD burner might function as a bare minimum for comparison. Perhaps not???
What I do now:
Mix Wiz/pres > Aurora 16 >Lynx AES16e>Nuendo 4 > sum ITB and capture 2-bus from Nuendo "control room" stereo outs (many available)>Lynx AES16e>Aurora analog> onto Sony 2 track CD burner as well as using additional "control room" stereo outs to monitor with Yamaha HS50's . I use a Big Ben for master clock.
Proposed test:
Use the same recorded and treated (edited, eq'd,comp., fx etc.) tracks in DAW> Lynx AES16e>Aurora>Mix Wiz line ins for final mix and summing>Sony 2 track recorder.

I think I would have to monitor both scenarios through the Sony RCA outs to the HS50's for a more accurate AB.

I'm not sure if the Mix Wiz 16 as a summing box and 2-bus, the converters in the Sony 2 track or the HS50's are of adequate quality for a good comparison????
Am I way off base here?

We've had a number of threads over the last couple of years about what I call the "two-box" method, as mentioned in my post earlier in this thread. In addition to the links there, have a look at these:

[="http://recording.org/threads/analog-transfers-between-uncoupled-daws.57856/#post-422479"]Analogue transfers between uncoupled DAWs[/]="http://recording.org/threads/analog-tra…"]Analogue transfers between uncoupled DAWs[/]

[="http://recording.org/threads/thread-spi…"]Thread spin off - mixing with and without "stuff"
[/]
[[url=http://="http://recording.org/threads/converters…"]Convertors or preamps?[/]="http://recording.org/threads/converters…"]Convertors or preamps?[/]

The point about calling it "two box" rather than "two-DAW" is that it does not, in principle, matter what the two uncoupled boxes are. However, the critical component is the A-D converter in the 2-track capture box, along with the quality of its clock and its anti-aliaising filters. The better the ADC is, the better the result, but you would start to hear the difference simply by uncoupling the mix system clock from the capture system clock. This means you do not need to worry overmuch about not having a second capture DAW, as your Sony CD burner will probably work to demonstrate the principle, at least for starters, even though the result is only 16-bit.

In one of those linked threads I described one of my usual ways of mixing, which is from a stack of HD24XR hard-disk recorders (24-bit, 96KHz) through an Allen & Heath Zed-R16 analog mixer into a 2-track capture DAW (24-bit, 44.1KHz), adding associated effect units, dynamic processors and other boxes dependent on what is needed for the style of music. If the ancilliary boxes get too much, or there are effects I can't achieve OTB, I transfer all the HD24 tracks to a DAW such as Samplitude and send out stems from there for external mixing.

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Namin Sat, 02/25/2017 - 09:18

audiokid, post: 447715, member: 1 wrote: Excellent choices.(y)

Pro Audio is an evolution of constant learning and change. It is subject to cause and effect of endless possibilities and scenarios.
I'm always learning and try to be transparent about that. I simply share what I do and always recommend others to make their own decisions best for them. Analog mixing, summing and mastering is very subjective and full of debate.
A lot of analog outboard gear I've used in a hybrid mixing workflow are no longer an asset to me because digital tools are now replacing them . My entire analog summing process evolves.
What was once value, is no longer.

Thank you. Its good to have you with us. I look forward to learning from you as well. I look forward to hearing all about your hybrid discoveries.

Chris! I also did get an SPL Mixdream! Thank you so much for the welcome. I cannot tell you how excited I am to into this new way of working. I have not received my units yet. I promise you as soon as I get working with it, I will be posting before and after results. But I need to know one thing... Would it be advantageous to get one more Mixdream so that I can have 32 channels of summing?

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Namin Sat, 02/25/2017 - 09:34

I also discovered the above video and thought I should share it with you if not already where Simon briefly touches on an "old fashioned method" ! Enjoyed watching it particularly after reading about a certain 2 DAW workflow on RO

x