Digital Vs. Analog Mixer

Discussion in 'Consoles / Control Surfaces' started by Doublehelix, Dec 23, 2002.

  1. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    OK folks...this one is bound to spark some debate...

    I am about to make a change to my studio setup as follows:

    I am using Cubase SX, have a TASCAM US-428 as a control surface, and an old POS analog mixer that I use for monitoring only (nothing that gets recorded goes through the TASCAM or the mixer).

    My plan has been to add 2 pieces of gear:

    1) A better analog mixing desk (I have my eyes on an Allen & Heath board at the moment)

    2) A dedicated control surface with moving faders - more specifically, the Mackie Controller.

    As of late, I have begun to debate the wisdom of this path, and have begun to think about getting one piece of gear that will provide both functions, i.e. a digital board that can act as a control surface for SX as well as a mixing desk for signal routing as well as a possible recording pathway (I already have outboard mic pres).

    Any comments here? My budget is low, like around $2,000 USD, and have no problem buying used from Ebay.

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    What kind of soundcard do you use... I think its ADAT light pipe, right? If I wanted to do the kind of thing your thinking of I would just get a Tascam D24 .. It can act as a 16 at once input, the converters are decent, not the best, but by all accounts decent. It can be a control surface as well and it is easily used to monitor existing tracks as well as any live inputs with no latency which is a big issue using Cubase. Even the Allen Heath is not that great of an analog board in my opinion. I spent quite a while talking to Bill Roberts on the phone the other day and we discussed analog mixers as well as the whole sample rate deal. IMO there just isn't a real good analog console in a small format available. The only exceptions that come to mind are $2000 +. Those would be the TLA 8 channel tube console and the Crest X20 series console http:// The TLA is only 8 X 2 and the Crest is a rack mount desk and all the connectors are on the back of the board. Very difficult to use on top of a desk. You would have to cut a hole in that desk your going to build to mount it. In Bills situation he has taken an older Ramsa desk and upgraded as many of the components in it with SSL amps. I don't think your willing to go to those lengths. Off the shelf the Older Ramsa desks are fairly useable in Bills opinion but they are a bit difficult to find used. Most people who have them are keeping them. If you are willing to settle down and stay at 24/96 for the next few years regardless of what comes down the road (schools' still out in regards to this subject) then by all means the Tascam D24 is a great product. Tascam has always built a great product IMO (with the exception of the HD2424) and all their stuff is built like a tank. I have 30 year old TEAC / Tascam gear that still works perfectly.
    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to!
  3. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Hey Fats...Actually, I am using a Layla/24 that has 8 analog ins, *plus* the ADAT. Currently, I have the PreSonus Digimax 8-channel mic pre lightpiped into the Layla, but still have the 8 analog line level inputs on the Layla available.

    I was thinking that I could take the direct outs on the first 8 channels on the the Allen & Heath, and wire them (analog) into the Layla for a total of 16 possible channels at once. I can't imagine ever recording 16 channels at once, but ya never know!
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    I have used more than that! If you were ever to track a live rhythm section, it would be feaseable to use 8 or 10 inputs for drums, 4 to 6 for guitar and keyboard ins and perhaps a couple for bass... also when you mix on DAW it's nice to have a lot of ins and outs to use for surround stems or aux / effects sends and returns. It's just better to have more than you need. I have found it is a case of either having more than you need or not enough.. it's never just enough for some reason... hee hee hee.. That sounds fine until you decide to get rid of the pre sounus. :D BTW, I still vote for the Tascam ............. Fats
  5. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    I have looked at the TASCAM, and it does look nice, but there isn't any analog i/o, which means that I am a slave the A/D converters in the TASCAM unit...I guess that could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

    I have a magazine from a few months ago that did an extensive review of the TASCAM, I'll dig it out and have a look.

    I'm not sure that I will ever get rid of the Presonus, but I am seriously looking at some other mic pres...those APIs are looking sweeter and sweeter...
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    If you can still get that lunchbox, I'd jump on it! I priced the quad API 3124m+ and it was 3200 stinkin freaking snaglefrassing bucks! And I want 2! Ohh whuts a gurl to do???
    :d: :s:

    The converters in the Tascam are reported to be pretty good.
    Here's a link to a report that was in Pro Audio Review…


    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to! ………. Fats
  7. garysjo

    garysjo Active Member

    Pembroke, MA
    If you are going the dig mixer route, I would strongly suggest the Ramsa DA7, it sounds better than any dig board under 10K. It's not going to give you the FX like the Tascam and Yamaha boards but the mic pres and AD/DA's IMO (and many others) are superior. Check e-bay and, etc., they can often be found for under 2K. It only goes to 24/48K, but I'll take great sound at a lower sample rate over just OK 24/96K any day. Best of luck!
  8. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    I probably should have made my needs a bit clearer in the beginning:

    The need I have for a mixer is not for use as a preamp source, I have that already. What I *really* need is a versatile signal router for monitoring and for feeding multiple mixes to my headphone amp. If I ever decided that I need more than 8 mic pres at once, it would be nice to know that the mic pres on the mixer could be pressed into service if I really had to. (Remember, the Layla has 8 available line level ins that are still available, so even now I have 8 mic pres and 8 line level inputs available)

    The Allen & Heath board that I mentioned has 6 aux sends, four of which can be set as pre-fader. This gives me 4 aux sends to my headphone amp to provide different mixes. Each channel on my Presonus mic pre has an analog out in addition to the ADAT digital outs. The digital outs go straight to the Layla, whereas the analog outs each go to a separate channel on the mixer. This is how I can get the 4 unique headphone mixes.

    In addition, the A&H has direct outs on each channel, so if I did decide to use the mic pres, I could at least bypass all the rest of the circuitry (EQ, etc.), and go directly into my Layla.

    This A&H board would suffice quite nicely for all my routing needs, but the mic pres are probably not as good as those found on more expensive desks, but are certainly better than the Mackies from what I have heard!

    Currently, nothing that goes through the board I have now gets recorded to tape, and that will probably remain the same for 95% of the work I will will be just a monitoring and signal routing mixer.

    It would be nice to find a digital board that would provide all my routing needs, *plus* act as a control surface for Cubase SX/Nuendo, rather than buying separate pieces.

    That is the question I guess I am trying to ask..."Does such a beast exist that can do all I asking it to do, or am I just better off buying the A&H and then a Mackie Control for the control surface?
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    I Think the D24 would do all of that fine... I just looked at that blurb and you would need to get the analog i/o card. That could provide 8 extra analog outputs.
  10. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Personally...I would go for an analog mixing desk. Better warmth overall and if you go digital you will want an external converter to clock it since most digital desks really don't give you the true sound you are recording.
    Control Surfaces...James..I would personally hold off on the Macki Control at this point. More and more people are not going that route as they are waiting for what's to come out at Namm this patient and I'll let you guys know what is being shown at Namm this year in Anaheim
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    What kind of analog console do you recomend?
    My problem is nothing in analog, I can afford, is any good.
    What is good, if I can afford it, requires tons of maintenance, which I also can't afford.
    For me, doing it digital is a must. .......... Fats
  12. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Fats, same here - the least expensive desk in analog (used) that I could even think about would be a Ghost - if you get one used, and don't re-cap it ($$$ for good ones) you still have mismatched channel strips, and can't really even BALLPARK a stereo pair by sight. Phase anomalies caused by capacitance variations, etc, make it very easy to completely CANCEL freqs in the 15-20 K range.

    I own a DM-24, still saving for a proper digital interface to my DAW, as well as a newer DAW, and the latest upgrade to SAmplitude - still, I'm looking forward to being able to control the DAW almost entirely from the mixer - And, as you mentioned, the converters/pre's are reported to be quite good (same ones as in their MX-2424, which have been pretty well-recieved in Nashville so far)

    For you and James, there are already downloadable templates at the Tascam site for Nuendo/SX and (I think) CuBase, and the newer firmware for the DM-24 lets you route almost anything to anything. The V2.03 firmware lets you have (Possible Senior Moment here, but pretty sure) up to 60 inputs total at mixdown, depending on which cards you have in the two slots, etc -

    From what I've seen, to kick this board's butt you need to spend $10k on a Yamaha O2R96 or $20k on a DM-2000. Even with the meter bridge (extra$ on the Yamahas too) mine only came to $3100, including 3 TDIF cables.

    The only downside I've seen that hasn't been addressed (can't be) in newer firmware, is that the 8 subs can NOT be assigned to the stereo outs. They have some workarounds, which look like you could get used to OK, so it's not a deal breaker for me, just an annoyance.

    Also, the input attenuators in the stock board are staged wrong for lower level recording (acoustic stuff) and Tascam, after many threads, has a deal where you can send the board to them and they will replace the pre's with the ones from their SX-1, for a cost of $200 per mixer - identical except for the pots, as I understand it - makes the response more even at the max sensitivity, not so twitchy. There are NO PLANS to change the pre's in the DM-24 unless you do this...

    Due in part to the pile of boxes/gear that is STILL sitting in the center of my OLD room, and in part to the cash flow "diode" problem (only flows one way, dammit)I've yet to run audio thru mine, but HAVE heard them in a fairly quiet room at the local GC - from first listen, very quiet and clean.

    To get the same functions for ProStools, you'd spend $8500 for a Mix24 - and SX, Nuendo and Samplitude's summing algorithm would STILL kick your ass...

    and, if the new Santana CD is any indication, I don't EVER want my music to get within a mile of ProStools (unless what I heard was just the worlds WORST mastering engineer at work) All but one of the tracks mentioned a ProStooler in the credits. Had to check my stereo with a couple other CD's, because I thought something had BROKEN, it sounded like 5% distortion on EVERYTHING, thin pillows over the speakers, etc - Then I put on one of Diana Krall's live-to-2-track CD's and stopped looking for bad connections... Really liked most of the songs, but Carlos needs to get someone with ears that still work to do final QA... Steve
  13. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Hey guys...I appreciate all the advice. I went back to a review of the TASCAM DM-24 in Sound on Sound from a few months ago, and it really does sound like a great mixer. It is however really limited in its analog outputs as I mentioned earlier. I do not plan to use it as a recording board per se, but I really need the flexibility to route signals in all different directions. I am not sure if this unit provides the flexibility that I need in that area. It does provide some cool features that I wouldn't get with an analog board however, and it is obviously a trade-off, as it is with all purchase decisions.

    I am anxious to hear what Gary has up his sleeve with regard to control surfaces...but in the mean time, I think I am going to hold off for a month or so and look into this a little further.

    There was a similar thread on another forum talking about digital mixers that was pretty interesting, and believe it or not, the Behringer digital mixer got some pretty good comments (this from a forum that regularily bashes Behringer).
  14. garysjo

    garysjo Active Member

    Pembroke, MA
    Still think you should give the Ramsa DA7 a listen. You could dump your Presonus. 2 ADAT cards and an AD/DA card and you'd be rockin. plenty of analog outs for what you are doin and really good sounding pres (16). When I bought mine, the Tascam had just come out. I was very intrigued with the Tascam due to the onboard FX, control ability, etc. Just didn't sound as good as the DA7. For me it was sound first. Do note that the DA7 also has a MIDI layer which emulates the HUI and is also user configurable for other software control. I know there are some users over at that are controlling Cubase SX successfully. I dare say that to beat the sound you'd have to go analog, but at a much higher price point.
  15. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Hey Garysjo...I checked out the Ramsa at your recommendation, and it looks pretty good! The info on the web site (Panasonic) was minimal, and there was only one very small picture, so it was hard to get a good feel for the ergonomics. It sounds like it is similar to the TASCAM in that it doesn't offer a lot of analog outs.

    There is one on Ebay for about $1,500 with 5 days to go in the auction, so I'm sure the price will rise. What can I expect to pick one up for?

    I will try to see if I can find one locally here to demo.

    Thanks for the idea!
  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    I found the link to the Ramsa page here it is

    This one is direct to the DA7

    These are probably the same ones you mentioned but I'll post it for others to see.
    I admit it looks nice, and I really have liked all the Ramsa mixers I have ever worked on. But I don't see it having any more sends than the Tascam.?? Pretty much the same..
    Both of them can have more outs with optional analog cards.
    Older Ramsa analog boards can be modified with SSL op amps/chips according to Bill. :D I wonder if the same thing is possible with the DA7? If it is, this could be a project studio path to "real" audio at a considerable savings.. hmmmm I didn't think it was possible.. but perhaps?

    It's my opinion, I'll play with it if I want to!
  17. garysjo

    garysjo Active Member

    Pembroke, MA
    Sorry DH, I gave you the link to the user's site. Plenty of testimony from user's there, although yes, we are biased. Fat's link is better for a feature list. There is a main stereo out on XLRs, two sets of control room outs, sends 1 & 2 are via SPDF or AES, 3,4,5 & 6 are analog. You can get the Analog card to get 8 additional outs. It is an 8 ch AD/DA card. Can find them for about $100. I didn't look at the one on E-Bay but my guess is it will go anywhere from $1500-2000 depending on what cards are installed and if there is a meter bridge on it. There are still quite a few folks buying these boards. Fat's I haven't heard of any op amp mods for this board. But it is "real audio" for a project studio. Many high level studios used them in post rooms, etc. due to their excellent sound quality. Go to PSW and ask Craig Anderton on his forum what he thinks of the mixer, he has been a user for some time. Best of luck!
  18. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member


    Took a better look at the unit that is up for sale at EBay, and I see that there are only 8 mic you have any links to good pictures that I could look at? I would love to see a better picture of the layout of the deck itself, and any better pictures of the back of the unit and all the connections?


    Here's that link to the Ebay unit...4 more days and it is gone:

  19. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Before anybody gags...the new Behringer mixer is getting some pretty good reviews. I have always been a "Behringer Basher", so I have not even considered it before (DDX 3216). Has anyone used one of these? I'm probably not really considering one, but the damn thing keeps popping up in other forums, and I have yet to hear anything bad about it...
  20. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    The behringer boards have gotten bad raps for no reason IMHO.

    I had an MX802 and they claim it has the same channel components as their big boys. It outclassed a 1202 Mackie hands down. Quieter, more dynamic range, cleaner, freedom from power supply drainage when loaded down.

    One of my producers was using a 1604VLZ and I sent him the little MX804 behringer and said, try this. He replaced his mackie with a 24 channel 8 bus Behringer and has not looked back at all. He is getting a much better sound now and that is all that really matters.

    The way the gain management in the behringers is arranged, it does not clip the crap out of the eq like a mackie does.

    I will admit, the behringers were never meant to be taken on the road. they are not durable enough unless you have a fine case and travel with it by your side.

    Because it is cheap does not mean it is "no good"

    Cudos to the Little behringers. They do perform.

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