is mixing 'in the box' hampering creativity?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by halfcircle, Jan 29, 2007.

  1. halfcircle

    halfcircle Guest

    I have been recording music for many years, starting with basic analog 4 track cassette based machines - progressing on through various other platforms until recently converting to an all-in-one DAW system (Mac G5 Logic Pro).

    I have found it a joy to create music digitally with Logic and am in awe at the power and flexibilty I have at my fingertips. It seems that anybody can now create broadcast quality tracks at home in the comfort of there own home.

    Whilst I find l this new technology so fantastic, I also wish that mixing tracks could be more hands on. Track automation and precise edits is all well and good, but I miss the hand on approach twiddling knobs and riding faders by hand. I see that various manufacturers have released hardware alternatives to 'Mouse Mixing', but nothing seems to have the same 'feel' as a console. The closest I have seen was the Tascam US2400 which sadly has now been discontinued. Many of the third party DAW controllers that I have seen have very little in the way of physical faders and knobs - most having between just 1 and 8 channel controllers.

    I wonder if music is becoming more synthetic due to this lack of real human interaction with the sounds that we create. I certainly don't feel as satisfied and as 'in touch' with my music whilst sitting infront of my Mac screen adjusting pans and volumes levels with a mouse.
  2. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    I wouldn't say that it's more synthetic due to lack of human least not as part of the mixing process. I mean...what's the difference if you move a knob/fader during mixdown or automate it to move during mixdown? You, the human, are still doing it.

    I too miss having a console with every channel right there in front of me. But I've come to love my computer...especially for the automation features.

    That said, I desperately want a control surface. I like having a channel right there ready to modify instead of having to scroll right or left, up or down and click on whatever.
  3. cfaalm

    cfaalm Active Member

    Feb 21, 2005
    Home Page:
    I have a 01v96 as control surface on Cubase, though I still find myself pushing and clicking the mouse. I don't feel hampered by mixing ITB. It's actually quite reassuring that the "console" is everytime just as big as it needs to be.
  4. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Member

    Feb 15, 2006
    I think what you mean is that anybody can now purchase broadcast quality equipment, it doesnt mean they can create broadcast quality work!!!

    Now back to your original question, I too started with tape and consoles, then switched to Protools with an O3D.
    The last 5 or so years I have been using a control surface which gives me the tactile feel of mixing on a console (more or less)
  5. Mises

    Mises Guest

    I was just looking at the TASCAM DAW controllers today for the same reason. The whole mixing via mouse things annoys me greatly, and I like to "touch and feel" the knobs and sliders.

    Sadly, TASCAM seems to be discontinuing their DAW controllers as fast as they introduce them... so either that company really sucks and they just dont know how to run their business properly, else the DAW controller was just apiece of jun (though it did look better than most every other unit out there except the Digidesign ICONS).

    First TASCAM had the 2400 model which was a full 24 channels (thats what I liked, no need to buy these "expanders" nonesense).... then that went bye-bye..... Now TASCAM has the FW1884 controller which is cool (except you have to buy expanders for more channels).

    ... but guess what.... now the FW1884 is going bye bye. I see that its been discontinued by a lot of resellers which means its going defunct.

    What the hell? Why do they make these things only to abandon them within a year or two or whatever. Tascam must be run by incompetants. Either that... or just cuthroat businessmen who have a "screw customer support" and they adopt a "know when to hold and know when to fold" business model, and if the product doesnt get them the profits they had hoped, then they drop the product and abandon all their customers who bought the stuff.

    Anyway, so I guess the "in" thing is the new Mackie controllers. (MCU and now they have a new supposed "MCU Pro version") They do look pretty robust, like they can do a lot more than TASCAM DAW controllers could... but again, its the 8 channel nonesense, and you have to buy expanders. Thats a nice little scam they got going on there to suck extra money out of people. Also, the Mackie MCU seems to be supported by more software which may be where TASCAM went wrong. I heard that the TASCAMS were really 'buggy' and didnt work with a lot of DAW programs, even though they were supposed to work according the manufacturer... and customers were pissed.

    Unfortunately, I really think all these companies are missing the mark and not giving us consumers what we really want in a DAW controller. I think what a lot of people are looking for is something which essentially emulates a real mixing board.

    Too many of these stupid DAW controllers are little more than a single fader with 1 twist knob (rotary encoder) on each channel and 2 or 3 buttons on each channel... and the buttons on the master sections are borderline useless. Why are we paying thousands of dollars for what really amounts to a fader and a rotary encoder?

    These controllers need to have everything there is to replace a real analog board. First thing they need to add is at least 8 - 10 additional rotary encoders on each and every channel for EQ'ing so that you can do full parametric EQ'ing on every channel by chaining it to your favorite EQ plug-in. That would be the first feature I would add if I were designing one of these things to have the "look, feel, and functionality" of an analog board.

    Then, they need buttons to do subgrouping which will control subgroup routing within the DAW software so you dont have to set it up with teh stupid mouse....

    Then, they need to have the ability to interface with your D/A to do elaborate foldbacks and talkbacks and have 2 or 3 seperate control room oututs to select between different pairs of monitos (near, mid and farfields). That way you can ditch your analog board and just use the DAW.

    Am I wrong in wanting these DAW contrllers to actually be useable such that they can fully replace your analog mixing console. I shouldnt have to have both consoles in my studio?

    The DAW controller should be full featured enough to take the place of both. Yeah, it would cost more... but at least it wouldnt be a piece of overpriced junk like so many of the DAW controllers on teh market now.
  6. Scoobie

    Scoobie Active Member

    Sep 6, 2006
    I know alot of people that use the mackie control universal. It works great with logic. You can add on as many extender's as you want. Like Mises said, It is costly.

    I use one with two extender's. I too like the feel of a mixing board instead of using just a mouse, JMHO

  7. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Member

    Feb 15, 2006
    The Digidesign ICON series is the closest to a "real" board feel, but its Digidesign only!!
  8. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    Feb 26, 2005
    North Carolina, USA
    Just to throw this out there and play devil's advocate, why have a control surface which is costly and complex? Only because it reminds one of the "good old days"? Most people are recording on a computer, as opposed to a tape machine. It seems to make sense from a logical point of view to dispense with vestigial hardware from a bygone era. That being said, I can see the point of having control over a wide range of parameters for each channel or track, all available insantly and intuitively. This seems more of a personal preference. Working with something that has an aesthetic sense, and also is possibly more efficient for some people versus a different aesthetic and ergonomic model which works better for others. Back to the original post, I think technology is what you make of it. Maybe you do your best work on a console. Great! Use a console if possible. Conversely, if you never had the experience of recording and mixing on a console, there would seem to be nothing at all wrong or synthetic about doing it all in the box. Its all what you're used to? Maybe that's all I was trying to say! ANDY
  9. Mises

    Mises Guest

    What I would disagree with, is the thesis that people could possibly more confortable with operating witha mouse rather than actual buttons on a control surface (or console). Now granted, everybodies got their little quirks about how they like to do things, and what they think is more efficient...... but I think that certain things are just universally accepted among all human beings.

    One of those things.... I humbly posit, is that using a mouse sucks.... no matter how used to computers you may be. Its always faster and more acceurate to twist a knob, than to use a mouse.

    Why? Perhaps its a larger discussion, but I just think its a function of how the human brain has been trained since we were children. Some movements are just ingrained in our brain... I liken using a mouse to trying to write or throw a ball with your non dominant hand. It can be done... but its just not comfortable for 99 percent of the population.

    I was reading something one one of the web sites for the DAW controller companies (I forgot which) which answers the question of "Why Use a DAW Controller?" The manufacturer wittingly came up with an analogy which I think holds water. Would you want to drive your car with a mouse aimed at a screen which merely has a picture of a steering wheel, rather have a real steering wheel. Likewise, anyone who has ever tried to play a flight simulator game with a mouse or with a keyboard would agree (especially if one is a trained pilot) that a keyboard and mouse does not make for flying a an airplane.

    Now, I wouldnt say the analogy holds 100 percent, but it probably holds at least 50 percent. Flying an airplane or driving a vehicle requires a certain physical coordination combined with human reaction time that is not dealt with very well via a mouse.... an actual "steering wheel" or "yoke" (in airplanes) or "joystick" (in jet fighters) simply allows for more precise and steady hand movements... something that cant be done via a mouse.

    Point being, I just think the human brain is trained to function more efficiently turning knobs and sliding faders just because our brains have been trained to do that since we were kids, and we can make astoundingly precise movements with out hand very rapidly (like adjusting a fader to an exact volume level in a fraction of a second)... whereas with a computer mouse... it not only takes longer to do it, but the precision is not as precise, and you have to sit there for a few seconds and really tweak the mouse to get just the right volume.... but you can do it with your hand on a fader seemingly "instantly".

    So is it really purely an issue aesthetics an nostolgia to want to use a DAW controller? I think its not. Admittedly, theres nostalgia attached to it.... but functionality and efficiency is a strong component.

    Its a question of efficiency. Its not just "time is money", but a question of your sanity. Sometimes trying to operate functions of your DAW software with your keyboard and a mouse is just mentally fatiguing. If you could have access to an EQ at the touch of a rotary knob instead of having to go through menu after menu after menu after menu to load up a VST... it saves a lot of time, and cuts down on mental fatigue. Faders on a DAW controller are admittedly a luxury to some extent... I mean, its really not that hard to control the volume with the mouse in your DAW software.... but still its faster with a control surface.

    I dont necessarily claim the enhancement in efficiency is worth the exhorbitant price of these DAW controllers.... but hey, if ya; got the cash, and if it makes ya happier to do it that way.... then do it.... which basically is what you said.
  10. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    Feb 26, 2005
    North Carolina, USA
    Mises, I totally see your point . I'm betting this same reasoning is behind the synth designs of the last 5 or so years turning back toward having an array of knobs and buttons instead of some little LCD screen and 4 buttons used to scroll through the menus in order to find the sound you want. Its also the reason that stand-alone hard disk recorders (the Roland, Korg, and Zoom type of deals) seem to be regarded by most people I know who own one to be a major pain to operate. ANDY
  11. eveaudio

    eveaudio Guest

    I mixed with a mouse for a long time before buying a used Baby HUI on a whim. Now I wouldn't think of going back....

    When you mix, you are working on the INTER-relationtips of your tracks. Adjusting one channel at a time is like the old gag in the movies where one guy is trying to catch all these things falling off of a bookshelf at different places. If you simply had another person there, it would be so much easier.

    The only way to truly feel out musical relationships (for me, at least) it to be able to move 2 or more faders at the same time to see how the balances play out. You can't do that with a mouse...

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