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Ultimate Summing Box

After a LOT of digging, head scratching and cussin', I think I'm close to picking the ultimate in analog summing boxes.

First off, lemme state that I tend to track a LOT of live music... mostly full bands and some of those are multitrack with capturing the rhythm section. Then going back and layering in everything else. So, on the capture side I'm pretty well set... especially in the I/O department, with 48 channels of I/O.

After looking at gear for the last 16-18 years, I have seen and heard a LOT of claims, designs, set-ups, configurations and specs.

"Everyone" claims that hybrid is the way to go... I agree... to a greater extent... but it still comes down to the fact that no one has yet to find anything that does summing as well as a large format mixing console, that gives me, as well as any guest engineer, the ability to mix analog AND digital.

So, it looks like the search is on for what I call... "The Ultimate Analog Summing Box".

Calls are in to SSL, Neve and API, with a big lean towards an API Legacy to interface with PT HD.


kmetal Mon, 08/26/2013 - 08:24

i haven't used any of the above, but repeat some stuff i've been told. Neve's of the vintage type are very power hungry, and could be potentially unreliable, and expensive to have serviced, by a qualified professional. but sound awesome. I kid told me (kid who i take lightly and don't trust fully audio wise) said the legacy console at 'nescom' audio college's automation system was unreliable. i believe him, but given hundreds of people of such varying levels of experience using it constantly i take it lightly. his opinion was is was a very colored, very rock and roll sounding console (not surprisingly). A dude i work w/ loves absolutely loves ssl for mixing. probably cause he can't let go of his past, but they seem like very capable beasts.

if it were i, spending such money, i would go neve or api, i am not afraid to mix of a colored console, especially since you have transparency in your ITB setup. Just my very humble 2cents.

MadMax Mon, 08/26/2013 - 12:55

Here's the bottom line... you don't build a recording studio without knowing you hafta support it... nor does one buy a LFAC without knowing you hafta support it.

Who ever it was that told you about Neve's being unreliable, were only partially correct... which is true for every piece of gear out there. You MUST maintain your equipment. Failure to do so will ALWAYS result in unreliability.

The other side of that equation is "Good shit ain't cheap, and cheap shit ain't always good."

While I would probably give up a kidney for one of the "golden" 8088's, it's just not likely to be feasible... primarily from a power consumption standpoint.

The console's that are actually "in the running" are the Duality, Legacy Plus, Electric Lady's 9072J, and a couple of other used API's and SSL's.

MadMax Mon, 08/26/2013 - 19:10

The concept I've been harping on for the longest time is not just summing... but complicated busing as well... 8 buses are ok, but having the ability to quickly get 16-20 bus assignments just doesn't happen in the vast majority of the summing solutions.

I'd love to get 24x24x2 or 32x24x2... but bottom line is that doesn't come in anything affordable but the bigger and better consoles.

MadMax Mon, 08/26/2013 - 19:46

I'm already fairly tight with 48 channels of I/O and can very easily up the ante to 96 and not break a sweat on the HD rig.

Buying 12 mix dream units is silly, but to get a 24 bus matrix is what it would take to get to a professional level console that I'm looking for.

Lemme give you a real simple example with a simple drum kit... kick-in, Kik-out, sn, hat, r1, r2, r3, OHL. OHR, RmL, RmR

I bus the whole kit to a stereo bus (NOT the 2-bus) (group bus)

Bus the 2 kicks to stereo bus for parallel compression
Toms go to their own stereo bus for parallel compression
OH's go to their own stereo parallel compression bus
Rm's their own stereo parallel compression bus

Then bring all the buses back to the drum bus to create a drum sub mix that goes to the 2-bus.

We're already at 10 buses and I still need to deal with the rest of the instrumentation... much less any outboard reverb/time base or FX. this is pretty normal for certain genre's I work with... and on average, I'm using around 20 buses... and without analog hardware switching, all of that busing HAS to go ITB... which is exactly what I am trying to get away from.

Gette Mon, 08/26/2013 - 20:21

Hmmm, the dilemma you have. IMHO: I would add a VR to your list... But ya know we all have our preferences. It comes down to the clients you cater to and your maintenance staff. The duality will probably be the easiest to maintain of the bunch you mentioned. The API's are nice but pricey to repair (once out of warranty of course) The J series console offers the most bang for the buck and cost less to maintain over the long haul. So of the consoles you mentioned; I vote the SSL 9072J. If you are not afraid of having an effective maintenance routine, still believe the Neve VR should be considered especially given the current market price on them.

my half cent anyway...

audiokid Tue, 08/27/2013 - 10:02

What would this topic be without my two cents lol,
glad to read you're thinking about this Max. The ultimate summing box starts with the ultimate DAW.

DUMP Pro Tools while its still worth something and you will be more than 3/4 the way there. No disrespect but pro tools is a leaky mess of crap that makes you deliberately think you need way more everything bad. Yes I know everyone has it but that's not because it was a sonically (or) long term economically) good move for most of us. I did it too.

More ( I think informed engineers) are going hybrid and using one un restricted DAW (two is better) that works without all the stupid third party plugins and PCIe cards that cause code, compatibility and latency issues. What an absolute facade. UPGRADING software for me BTW is down to almost never. What for... :)

The buzz on how positive hybrid is with a native DAW (what anyone's interpretation actually means here as I have my theory too) is being published as we speak. Samplitude/Sequoia is my DAW of choice. I cannot imagine needing anything better than what I have so this is my testimonial based on 35 years as a professional musician /engineer and X Pro Tools user who isn't putting sound quality on a budget in search for what I think is the "the ultimate DAW" or recording system in this digital age.
My personal experience on all this, its not just the summing box that is making me happy, but the whole concept in an order.
[=""]Samplitude[/]="…"]Samplitude[/], and a high headroom summing system with a digital patchbay that moves useful analog gear around seems very affordable compared to a full blown HD rig that keeps sucking you dry in more ways than just money.

To touch a bit on Johns mention of DAC, I just bought an Orions 32 and the 10M. I prefer the [[url=http://="http://www.rme-audi…"]RME[/]="http://www.rme-audi…"]RME[/] [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.rme-audi…"]ADI-8 QS[/]="http://www.rme-audi…"]ADI-8 QS[/]' for wider hybrid functionality ( big topic) BUT! the Orion 32 sound quality is all we need and its works great so far. $3000, what a deal for 32 channels at 192,. I can't believe it. If you need more, you double up on the summing amp and DAC; simple. But, why so much extra routing and noise if you are using a DAW that works and is setup properly for hybrid IMHO. My understanding is, its impossible to know how a hybrid system works for each of us though until we are actually using a system that is set-up "proficiently".
There is also a lot of really stupid discussion from many "pro's" on this subject that I've tested and moved past with little setback, thank goodness. However, I feel for Pro Tools users but if its U;timate you are looking for, it an't happening with Pro Tools.
I am so confident on what I hear, it will be hard to convince me of something different for years to come now.

Summing amps that add so called colour are also not so bright on my list. However, each to his own. I know there are many reasons we need to distort, "glue" and/or mask the sound of bad recordings or mixes that are crammed, cold sounding so this is also adding confusion. The over worked, over processes, over hyped DAW, thinking its totally replaced the analog days has reached its day and is also part of the spin. We're (the informed) are finally starting to understand digital strengths and weaknesses and how both DAW and analog together (in a proficiently configured hybrid system) works extremely well over one from the other.
The big question is what is best for each of us and where we start. Why are we wanting better? What is it that your system is lacking or needing?
Its pretty simple to me because I know or hear where the magic lives but this could also be based on the direct configuration of my system and tastes. However, many are also trying hybrid and lost in the quagmire of misinformation and broken or badly configured systems.

On the console front... I can see someone buying a console for tracking but for mixing and mastering, I wouldn't waste a dime on a console after owning Samplitude/Sequoia. Its just a big step backwards to me, however thats most definitely based off of having a system that works for me. I'm not attached to anything that doesn't work seamlessly with a DAW so I actually embrace it. I want 250 tracks available and the ability to automate faders ITB. Plus, the clinical stuff a DAW does is mind boggling.

Where I would start is get a pro hybrid DAW like Samplitude ( a mac version is coming) and use it for the math and tracking. Get a clean summing system that connects modular gear. Its all a matter of rethinking everything we've done in the past and understanding why you need analog and key products that are placed in an order. The DAW is the brains behind it all and a few main pieces of analog gear in the middle of two DAWs is how I see it. Its about variation and creating space that is different between stems.

Regardless of my very bias opinions I think whatever you choose or continue to use for a DAW , hybrid will make you happier! I'm just not convinced you actually need the conglomeration that you think you need.

Good luck and I know you are heading in the right direction.

MadMax Thu, 08/29/2013 - 08:20

The way that many studios utilize ProTools/Logic/etc, is that the DAW is used primarily as a tape machine and editor. Fewer plug-ins are used due to the fact that comps and EQ's are already in the console.

The biggest concern I have about a console is the same issue with summing devices, comps, gates, pre's, etc.... what is the maintenance cost. You have to calculate the total cost of ownership... not just the purchase price, or how much the resale value is.

Example; I found a nice short fitted AMS Neve that would be a great compliment to the other consoles in the region. It's priced right and would probably be a really good fit... especially since it has 48 bus architecture... but what is the cost to get at least a bucket worth of channels as emergency spares? What's AMS gonna quote me for support and repairs? It doesn't matter what the cost of the console is, if it's gonna cost me as much as the console for a year's worth of support... it's just foolish to look at that particular solution.

The same situation actually applies for any large format console actually... but I know this going in.

audiokid Thu, 08/29/2013 - 21:44

I recently bought 4 reissues of Vintage comps from a company we all know and respect here in the USA and three of the 4 units had warranty issues that took 3 months to get fixed. I paid $12,000 for these comps. 3 VU meters and one pot died in less than 20 hours on them. You'd think they would work flawlessly for at least a few years. Don't get me wrong, the sound of these is worth it but damn, what happened in the last few years with quality.

Its just a guess but I'm thinking its not easy sourcing parts or keeping an eye on quality control these days since the DAW and so many companies that made stuff for us are going under or off shore.. Analog gear is to drool over but its also scaring the crap out of me when it takes months to get new things fixed that shouldn't break.

I hope its not going to get worse. I'd be pretty careful investing in something that controls a big part of your studio, thats for sure. I feel more safe with well designed modular stuff that is moving with the hybrid summing crowd.

We need to get our countries making things again but I have my doubts.

I know I'm a broken record on the PT thing but I have heard tracks on that DAW that leak plugs like crosstalk, which is random. Reverb and other effects that still appear partially on a left or right side of tracks. Engineers argue saying they tried something but deactivated a plug, yet when you do null tests to isolate this, you find these things like a ghost. Which, directly effect bass and punch to say the least.

The DAW is plagued with this. These effects end up in the stems or tracks that are summed OTB too. So, this is why I go on and on about PT being crap in regards to hybrid. I don't think these code errors are unique to PT, I've heard this in Sonar and even with Sequoia but PT its one of the worst because its one of the biggest third party plug-in supporters. I think its the third party stuff that is killing us all. Native plugs work great on there own but not so good in a mix of global add-ons, including UAD stuff. Even if you only use a few, its a few too many if, you are trying to get that big fat and clear sound of real music. Thats how I'm hearing it. To add, why are we investing in UAD stuff that is killing Avid? WTF is that all about duh!

In addition to the 4 comps, API and the SSL comps I just bought are a joke compared to the Cranesong STC-8 here. Yet, so much hype on API and SSL. I had to buy them so I could really put it through the motions, hear the "sound" everyone raves about.
At first I thought wow, these are cool, but, doing comparisons with some clean acoustic music and re routing my system with the Neos, which is so friken awesome, these two comps are going up for sale and the journey for gear that keeps the bandwidth open continues.

SSL has a sound of its own, that's for sure but its not for me. The sound is plastic and boring and its really noticeable when you have a summing system that is close to a straight wire. Is this an indication of the "sound" of most SSL stuff?

The API 2500 is more appealing in a noisy kind of way, but they have nothing on Crane Song. For the price however, both those over rated comps are really cool , marginally better than a plug-in but for a few more grand, one higher end mastering quality product eats two wannabees up like nothing. I had to listen a bit longer to hear what I should and shouldn't be doing and that becomes apparent when you have a clean chain and DAW.
If I had Pro Tools, I bet I wouldn't hear the digital crud. I'm pretty certain I would end up thinking those two comps live up to the hype.
So, more wasted money and looking in the wrong places continues from bad coded software that is reacting weird with other software.

If all we are using the DAW for is recording, why even buy PT anymore? Yes, its mostly because other studios are using it too and that makes us generically compatible. Reaper sounds like the ticket to me. But I want plugs to. I want a DAW that is good enough for mastering. Hybrid is the new recording/mixing and mastering system.
To have the ultimate summing system, I demand clean and good coded clinical plugs that compliment high end analog gear. I want to hear what the analog is doing.
My question is then, is Pro Tools actually designed and marketed as the "ultimate" editor for OTB summing or is it more designed to keep you thinking it is, while keeping you buying all the software?
Until hybrid systems get off the monkey bars and get into a DAW system that is ultimately designed to record like we really need, and do the clinical work without messing up the bus's, you may never be hearing the phasing and bleeding plaguing in a mix.

There is a lot of hype and a lot of things people are doing to fix or improved their totally goofy digital system. I wonder everyday what music would sound like had PT never happened.
I think DAW's sound better with electronic music over real music. I think this is why more people are now looking to analog again. For me, a summing system should be super clean for a reason, so I can hear WTF is going on. I think the best system is what works for you. I don't think my system will get me a record contract anymore than the worst system in the world. Its about the music and the performance. Its a labour of love for me and I must admit, I going the extra mile because I simply want to be on the front lines.
Its fun seeing analog swing back like this.



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