studio design: sum bus vs. digital/analogue mixer

Discussion in 'Consoles / Control Surfaces' started by mätta, Aug 3, 2005.

  1. mätta

    mätta Guest

    Hey guys, I (conservatively) have about $5000-$6500 to work with. I am going to overhaul the way I work in my studio. First of all, character of sound is very important to me. I think some things should sound "warm" or "gritty" or "electronic" etc... depending on the situation so I want some flexibility.

    When I think about a centerpiece of my studio outside of my DAW I feel like I have 3 choices:

    1. Digital mixing: Tascam DM-3200 etc...
    2. Analogue mixing: Speck Xtramix, TL Audio M-3 etc..
    3. Sum box + patchbay.

    I would like some flexibility in external routing. I have a lot of different flavours at my fingertips and I want to use them. I also want to buy very high quality AD/DA. At least two channels of excellent quality and then perhaps 8 more of MOTU quality. Total I'll need around 8-16 inputs.... not that many really. I would also like the be able to do surround mixing.

    This is what I'm thinking about each of the above possibilities.

    1. Digital. The most convenient. Also acts as a controller. Very clean and could be very contained. I can buy a firewire card and get a lot of I/O. Running at 24/96 would probably retain the fidelity of any external equipment I have. Ready for surround mixing. However, there isn't any analog summing. Not a lot of colour.

    2. Analouge mixing. A very good quality analouge mixer with a small foot print is hard to come by. The above two are the best options I seen. Anybody else have other options? What about surround? However, being analog through and through and being able to sum that way is attractive. Must also buy good AD/DA to make it worth while.

    3. Sum bus. First of all, are any ready to go out to sound? They seem rather expensive for the functionality. Get great colour but then I'm still stuck mixing with a mouse. Probably would want to buy a hardware controller for my mixing. Analogue routing would have to be done via a patch bay.


    So I'm stumped here. Any advice? A lot of options and I want something that I can be happy with for a while. I have an itch to get at least 2-4 excellent channels of signal... I don't record full bands/quartets very often but I want to be prepared because I might do a drum set or two.

    Thanks so Much!
  2. mätta

    mätta Guest

    Different approach

    Hmm, perhaps the topic was too broad to capture in a pithy responce... thus no bites. Let me try this with a different approach:

    If you are using a digital mixer, why did you choose it over an analog mixer?

    If you are using something other than a full analog mixing console, why did you choose that instead of a potential higher quality sum bux?

    Perhaps that is a good way to phrase this?

  3. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    Re: Different approach

    total recall
    lots of effects and options
    cost effective

    because they already had the equipment
    already had a successful way of working
    console has much more routing and perhaps a quality EQ section and the added Mic-pres
    ... versus a costly sum only box

    the process of mixing a rock or pop song is more than just summing signals together
  4. vpoulos

    vpoulos Guest

    I saw the Xtramix mentioned, so I’d like to comment on your post. If you’re looking for "character", the Xtramix may not be a good choice. I designed the Xtramix to be a "neutral" platform to blend and mix line signals. IMHO, I think the mixer, if anything in a studio, should provide a “neutral” signal path. If a mixer has coloration or character, how will you ever appreciate the character of your favorite mic’s, mic pre’s, EQ's when the mixer is adding another layer of "color" to their sounds?

    But please don't get me wrong, the "warm" or "gritty" or "electronic" you want if A-OK. Just get that stuff from the original sources, such as the mic’s, samplers, pres, EQ, compressors, etc, and keep the mixer as a clean/neutral "haven" to pass those signals.

    In your category 3 choice.... if your look at summing as an option, we have a new product that takes the analog summing box to a "new & improved" level.

    P.S. I'm engineer, not a sales weasel. I'm perfectly happy to talk someone “out” of buying one of our products if it's the right thing for the customer.

    I am, and forever remain, your humble mixer designer.

    Vince Poulos
    Speck Electronics
  5. mätta

    mätta Guest

    Hey thanks for the reply Vince....

    To more accurately state what answers I'm looking for.....

    an analog console and a digital mixer are both "neutral", it is just that one has a potentially fuller signal than the other (??).

    Right now total recall doesn't matter to me, nor does more fx and options because I'm still DAW based and most of the colouration I want will come from the outboard sources..

    The confusion comes from the fact that I've heard people saying they get better sound out of their Mackie dB8 than the do in the box. This is surprising to me. Either they physically mix better on the Mackie or they are claiming that Mackie has a better algorithm for internal busing/mixing than Protools or Logic.

    I do like the convience of having a controller and a mixer in one box. Plus the price/performance ratio of a digital mixer.

    Though I'm wondering if I'm better off going analog for the sake of my sound. There's only a few compact mixers/sum buses that seem to have any credibility. The problem is my only experience actually mixing comes on SSL and Neve consoles. Those DO sound better. I won't be able to use an Xtramix or a dangerous sum bus any time soon so I'm trying to get some advice before I put some money down to rent or borrow one.

    Thanks guys... that little bit helped a lot!

  6. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Active Member

    Mar 26, 2005
    I mix in the box. It eliminates a pass through the converters and I see no advantage in sending the audio back through a hardware mixer. The automation is better than all but the very highest end boards such as the SSL from what I have seen. SX3 has the ability to route signal out to hardware effects and handle them as VST's.

    Just out of jealous curiosity, how does ones first and only mixing experience come on SSL and Neve boards?
  7. mätta

    mätta Guest

    hmmmm.... I didn't mean to imply that my "first and only" experience was on Neve and SSL. My first was mixing on a 4 track reel to reel from an Atari TT030, then in the box with Cubase VST 3, then for a while on Mackies like the 1604 and from then on all my private/small freelance projects were done in the box via ProTools and Logic.

    However, my private studio is expanding. I have mixed on SSL and Neve at studios I've produced at/interned at but I can't afford those.

    My Mackie was fried a while back so now I want to buy a new mixer. I'd like to upgrade somewhere above a Mackie but I'm not in the $20,000+ range. ....I've never done a mix on any equipment in this range....

    I think this is important because I plan to have at least two-four channels of high quality signal. I have Sebatron/Grace pre's, earthworks/Neumann mics, a few different compressors and outboard delay/'verb. I like the sound of some of these units. I figure if I capture all this with great detail via a new Rosetta I should bounce/sum carefully as well.

    It's funny because I'm not sure if there is anything in my price range that will give me what I want as far as a mixer. The thing is I don't *need* a large format console for anything. If I do I'll rent a studio. However, I like the sound of them. I'm not saying I'll get that in the $5000 price range but I would think I could sacrifice number of channels for higher quality per.

    Seems like this should be in line with the philosophy (buy less stuff of higher quality) but I may be stumping people because I don't want/need a large mixer.

    Thanks for your feedback... It's very helpful. I'm narrowing my options still...

  8. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    I'm on ProTools TDM and now HD from Mix+
    ... and am looking to remove the Auditronic 501 from my control room.

    I am mixing more and more ITB
    driven be the convenience BUT also am learning how to work around some of the dis-satisfactoion of ITB mixing from a few years ago.

    This is an area where you just have to work the problem and then choose for yourself.

    I think I am better served by having more investment in the monitoring system and the Mic and Mic-pre collection.

    I will miss the monitoring and cue send capabilities of the desk. So I will need some work arounds and some hardware solutions.
    These are on the drawing board right now.

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