I've Traded in Analog Summing for Digital Fire Power!
by, 03-12-2012 at 12:46 AM (1825 Views)
I've been summing my mixes analog for the last 6 months. I've done a ton of mixes during this time and I really enjoy the work flow of my console so why would I trade that?
Digital vs Analog summing. Is it important?
Not to me. On a scale of 1-10 I rate the benefits of analog summing as zero. Unless your console has some serious coloration in the master section there is no purpose IMO. There are also a ton of cheaper ways to get this coloration. A good 2 buss compressor is a great start for one.
With all the Digital vs Analog summing samples I've heard the results are dubious at best. I've done my own experiments and I for one hear zero difference.
Anything that has this much debate and non conclusive evidence is not worth putting your money into.
A New Horizon Emerges
This weekend I decided to set up my console so that each analog channel is accessed via an i/o plug in logic. Basically what I do is use each channel as a plugin with my DAW channel. This has a serious audible impact and adds irrefutable power to my console and my DAW.
What I Can Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before
There are some real workflow advantages this way. When I was routing through my console every channel HAD to go through the console. This meant that I would either give up 2 channels just to sum a bunch of channels that were mixed ITB or grouping things together limiting eq usefulness. Being able to automate F/X sends is awesome. I can't do that on a console. I am still figuring out how to record the individual tracks back into my DAW in the best way. When I do I will be able to instantly recall a mix which will be awesome! Even though I am not doing a ton of recalls lately they are unavoidable.
The biggest advantage is that I can use plugs before AND after my analog toys. This is HUGE. It is so huge that the summing argument is laughable.
Why is being Able to Use Digital Plugs Before and After an Analog Channel Such a Big Deal?
Most of the time I like to compress after eq or before and after. On certain channels like tambourine, shakers and percussion the magic comes from eq and then I need utility compression. Plug in compression fits the bill exactly! Generally, when it comes to gear, I think of channels as primary, secondary and ambiance. Primary channels are Vox, kick, snare, bass, guitars, solos, overheads etc. Secondary channels in my mind are toms(sometimes), keys that are support for guitars, Guitars used to accent primary guitars, Backing vocals(sometimes), Foley. Ambiance channels are F/X, pads and sometimes backing vocals.
Primary channels need tons of character harmonic content and need to be the star of the show. This is where my i/o plugin for vocals leads to an API 550b and an API 525 compressor or Rhythm guitar i/o plug goes to a tonelux eq and the an Audient coompressor. These pieces bring SERIOUS color to the table.
Secondary channels IMO need to be clear and fit into small places. My D&R eq's really make things sparkle and are fantastic at pulling out things that interfere with other elements. Combining this with an aggressive DAW compressor AFTER the eq really squeezes things well, even better then a lot of OTB compression IMO. Only compressing before eq just doesn't contain things the same way.
Ambiance generally only needs eq maybe a little compression. Often these tracks can be handled entirely ITB except for the F/X which in my case are OTB.
Drawbacks. What I Can't Do ITB
The biggest thing I notice from this method is that F/X sends are a pain in the @$$. I am using a Lexicon PCM 70 and PCM 90 as well as an eventide modfactor. This means I have 5 mono sends. 1 input for the PCM 70, 2 for the PCM 90 (left and right) and 2 for the eventide(left and right). When on my console if I wanted to add the same amount of left an right PCM 90 to a source I would grab either the dual knob with one hand and turn them up at the same time or one knob with each hand. For a channel without dual knobs I'd often use 2 hands. Now if I need to add both it takes 2 mouse movements. It doesn't seem like much but I miss this 2 handed movement. Oh well automation more them makes up for it.
This set up is really cool. It is requires a minimal patchbay and really accents the strengths of both ITB and OTB mixing.