Analog Summing?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by JiveJust, Dec 26, 2017.


  1. JiveJust

    JiveJust Member

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    Do you use analog summing to improve or modify your digital recording during mixdown?

    Of so, are you using a console or a rack?

    Would this rack work for analog summing?
     
  2. eigentone

    eigentone Supporting Member

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    There is absolutely nothing wrong with (digital) summing found in most DAWs. Some DAWs even have 64 bit floating point summing. 32 bit floating point summing has less error than a simple DAC->ADC roundtrip via your DAW.

    The reason to sum outside of the box is to introduce "character". For a lot of people, analog summing mixers are (mostly) Snake Oil.

    That said…

    1) No. As far as studio gear vying for my money, analog summing mixers are way, way, way down there. As in, not even on my radar.
    2) N/A
    3) Does it have the inputs you need, the character you desire, and does it meet your required specification?
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
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  3. JiveJust

    JiveJust Member

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    3) I guess it does because it’s two channel which is what you’d use on the master bus correct?

    As fas as the character I think it would it would be a lot of fun to try it. I get to use Neve and API preamps in my Audio Engineering class and rather than commit to those sounds on the front end I’d rather try it on the final mix. Hopefully I can rent one near me. Perhaps I could use some plugins on the master bus to add some of those characters to the final mix.
     
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  4. eigentone

    eigentone Supporting Member

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    Well, the Silver Bullet is not a summing mixer. It is marketed as a "Stereo Tone Amp". It lends some analog character to Mono and Stereo sources. It offers several different characters.

    So the Silver Bullet could be used on a track-by-track or bus-by-bus basis.

    Now here is a popular summing mixer:
    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/2BusLT

    See, that's a 16-in, 2-out summing device.

    The two boxes have very different functions, although the results are somewhat similar -- they add some hardware noise/distortion (which many people find desirable if used tastefully).


    Sure, try it out. You may love it.

    Definitely get more opinions. I am of the mindset that subtle character is of lower importance than excellent sources -- instruments, mics, pres, and the room are going to have a greater impact on the sound. It's better to capture correctly than fix it in the mix. $2000 can buy you a few nice mics and pres. Slate Digital has a new microphone+preamp modeling system. That would get you more "character" for your money.

    But maybe the Silver Bullet is perfect for you. Maybe you want to do more mixing and less tracking than I did. Running the stereo mix through this device will not have the same effect as inserting it on the way in (for each track). You get different levels and types of distortion/error from the hardware/circuits based on settings and input.

    Right, $2000 will buy you a lot of nice plugins as well.

    I can't tell you what's best for your needs. Play with one if you are so inclined. It could be what you are looking for. If $2000 fell in my lap for recording gear, I'd improve my drum mics and/or add some nice pres.

    I watched the demo vid above. It's cool, just not something I prioritize.
     
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  5. JiveJust

    JiveJust Member

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    Thanks for the reply! It really helped clear things up for me. I have heard of the Dangerous box before but never looked into it. Now that you’ve explained the 16 in/2out I understand what’s going on better.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
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  6. tucsonsound

    tucsonsound Member

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    Yes, I mix down digital recordings using analog consoles.

    The Louder Than Liftoff unit can be used as a mic pre during tracking or as a processor during mixing but it won't sum anything.
     
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  7. JiveJust

    JiveJust Member

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    Yes I understand about the Silver Bullet now that eigentone explained it for me.

    What are the benefits of analog summing on an analog console? I only know totally “in the box” types like myself or “old school tape/analog until last step digital” types.
     
  8. tucsonsound

    tucsonsound Member

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    It sounds different. There are great debates about it, but it comes down to you can add two signals together mathematically using digital or you can route them both to the same wire via a resistor and re-amplify them together with a gain block using analog.
    I like the sound of an analog console and use parallel sends to multiple busses to color a mix. If I just want straight transparency, I'll use a bus in the DAW.
     
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  9. JiveJust

    JiveJust Member

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    Thanks for the excellent explanation!
     
  10. OctalSocket

    OctalSocket Member

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    I don’t think that the particular box you’re referring to is going to do anything much better than a similar plugin.

    Mixing through an analog console is a whole different thing, particularly if you’re using outboard gear.

    The problem I’ve always had with “summing units” is that sometimes you like the color, sometimes you don’t. If they are transparent, what’s the point?

    Lastly, I’ve always loved the workflow of having every project recall instantly, and repeatably. Keeping everything in the box makes that easy.
     
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  11. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    The Benefits of Analog summing are dependent on what Console you port your audio out.
    I've had the AMS Neve 8816 summing mixer on loan here - and while I absolutely love
    the 'sound' as I port channels through - I've noticed that some tracks are best never
    leaving the digital domain. IME Drums, Bass, and Guitar benefit - but keyboards, vocals
    and other elements do not.

    The aforementioned Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT Analog Summing Mixer - I've never used
    myself - but my engineers use them on nearly every mix. Dave best described the effect
    as 'knitting together the elements of a mix'.

    Years and years ago I was in Ocean Way doing some demos - and they had a few Fairchild 670s in
    for another project - I had always heard about them from the Beatles and Geoff Emerick - so
    we dropped one across the stereo mix down - I thought it sounded gorgeous - but at the same
    time was skeptical because I associate the unit with incredible mixes.
     
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  12. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    I've yet to try a summing mixer that was 'transparent' on any level. The units that
    do not significantly color the audio - often do compress transients a little bit - is that
    what you mean when they are 'transparent'?
     
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  13. OctalSocket

    OctalSocket Member

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    Good question.

    I guess on some level, you choose how much of any box that you want to hear by how hard you hit it. Within reason.

    I agree with your assessment of the transients being slightly rolled off on most of them.

    The other thing that clouds this discussion, for me, is that I’m mixing the song as I’m recording it, so there really is no point where I think “now is the time I’m going to stop recording, and go for the mix I’m after.” For the most part, it’s already there. Adding a further layer of transient reduction, even slight, probably has been dealt with already, on channels and buses.

    I’m fully willing to entertain that they work for others, but that has been my experience.
     
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  14. feet

    feet Supporting Member

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    i was briefly obsessed with the notion that the shadow hills equinox would be the solution to all my problems. i would sound analog and therefore, amazing. then i thought i could save some money by finding a rnd 5059. then, after some reflection, i realized that:

    -i'm a ****ing garbage engineer
    -i have no money
    -there are so many plug ins and emulations and such that, what the hell? close enough.

    whatever you spend is probably best spent elsewhere. especially if that summing box isn't paying your rent. they aren't super high on the bang for your buck list.
     
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  15. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    Glyn Johns takes this approach - as does Alan Sides formerly of
    Oceans Way.
    When people record a track and come in to listen - both have said they want
    it to sound like the finished product.
     
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  16. JiveJust

    JiveJust Member

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    Thanks for your input!

    I’ve been recording since I was in high school since the late 80s. I went from boom box to four track cassette to ProTools and a Mac portable. Now after 20+ years I’m taking Audio Engineering classes to fill in my knowledge gaps.

    I consume as much knowledge as I can about mixing and my mixes are starting to sound good finally. My professors at school who have no reason to BS me are giving me props.

    I recently became aware of analog summing because they have a DaKing Tident and a Neotek board. All my professors start and finish their songs on a console. I’ve always been in the box for financial reason but I can rent some great pro Audio gear where I live, that’s why I ask these questions.

    I’m starting Audio II in a week and probably would have learned what analog summing was but I want to know right now. Haha!
     
  17. GreatSatan

    GreatSatan Member

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    Yeah, i'm of the "just use outboard for fx" camp rather than for mixing,
    Because (if you do some extensive online research) you'll find that in order to do analog/hybrid mixing you've got to spend a fair bit on equipment in order just to do it 'properly' (i.e. Making an audible difference than if you just did it ITB).
    By all means use outboard fx like dist pedals and reverbs, compressors etc, they add a certain undeniably analog characteristic and flavor, but for more transparent applications like mixing?
    I'm not so sure it's worth the effort, technologically digital has come a long way.
     
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  18. feet

    feet Supporting Member

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    outboard gear also means your converters have to do more, which tends to be a weakness at the shallow end of the pool. but like summing boxes, converters are a great way to spend thousands of dollars for the most incremental of differences. much less return on your investment vs what that money can do in terms of mics, preamps or even plugins. there are certain things i just won't invest in until they are making me money (if ever), and summing boxes and fancy converters are just two of them. not saying they don't matter. i just can't afford them.
     
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  19. ronzie

    ronzie Supporting Member

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    JiveJ, it seems you've gotten a more solid grip on "Summing" outside. Pretty much can be considered unity gain pairs in returns with an ability to monitor outside and alternative sources.. Line returns with a truncated Console Center Section.

    @eigentone has the solid scoop IMO. As do the others. I can't tell you how many times I've seen and still see (1) Stereo ProTools pair output, returned into a console and mixed with 70 other console channels faders pulled and channels cut.

    My home work flow requires a "Summing" solution. I'm way to set in my habits to entertain a change. I would look towards your Summing situation as a crucial building block to be able to have your cake and eat it too. The thing can get steep in $$$. I use the Dangerous D-Box at home. Now, I'd do the following below ...

    This is the concept/vibe I'm talking about.
    http://www.radialeng.com/workhorse.php
    http://www.tonelux.com/vrack_series.html.

    Build from the ground up. Others Companies have the same idea. Check the Googles. The 500 series has truck loads of options. You can form your own Custom Console. Start bare minimum and grow from there. Format will not die anytime soon.
     
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  20. OctalSocket

    OctalSocket Member

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    In this case, are you talking about the summing unit or the outboard & console? During the tracking session, I'm assuming both of those guys are in the traditional studio, with console, tracking full bands. Console and outboard makes sense.

    I don't think I've ever seen anyone use a summing box during the tracking session, but I suppose you could.

    I think everyone wants it to sound like a finished record, as fast as they can.
     
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