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Is Analog Summing The Holy Grail?

Brandon Drury —  April 9, 2011 — 1 Comment

Here’s a new Member’s Only gadget.  (Not a member, join today.  It’s free.  As most of you know, I have a Toft ATB32 console.  One of the selling points that everyone makes is that “amazing” thing called analog summing.  As usual, when everyone says something, I’m inclined to go the opposite direction or at least want to test them for excessive fecal matter concentrations.

Here’s a quick test in the box summing with Cubase 5 vs summing using the Toft ATB32 with Apogee DA-16x converters.

Analog Summing: Test #001

Brandon

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weege77 – 04-19-2011, 09:18 AM
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What is analog summing?

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paul999 – 04-19-2011, 09:28 AM
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I’ve done my own tests and my conclusion is that summing is not important. The circuits you go through are. The way I did my test was to mix OTB and record all the channels direct out into my DAW. I then summed ITB sending them to the stereo out. When I A/B’d that against my D&R master output I could here zero differences. In fact my wife was flipping the button. I couldn’t even hear a difference to start to try to make a decision. I thought she was not operating the gear properly but she was.

I can’t wait to hear your test.

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Radioguy – 04-19-2011, 10:27 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by weege77 View Post
What is analog summing?
I have done extensive reading and research on several forums. Up until a few months ago I was unfamiliar with the term Analog Summing. Then I read increasing numbers of people who had gone this route, and swear by it. As I understand, you can use your present console or mixing board as a method of doing so, and many users of this method pointed me to a firm called Dangerous music (www. dangerousmusic.com). They make several “boxes” that perform analog summing, to fit the needs of various customers.

I wound up purchasing the unit I felt would give me the greatest bang for the buck, the Dangerous Music D-Box. This unit not only performs analog summinhg, with 8 channels of the Dangeous Music Analog Summing technology, but several more features that I could use daily. Included also are a complete programmable monitor control section with two pairs of speaker outputs (XLR balanced) for selecting one of two pairs of self powered monitors. The monitor section also includes talkback, two front panel headphone outputs and an auxillary analog input, besides the two digital inputs. This alone saved me $300 to $500 in not having to buy a Presonus or Mackie monitor control device.

As mentioned earlier, it also has two digital inputs from either your DAW or say a CD deck for instant comparision from a test CD already mixed using conventional methods. This box also has it’s own very high quality D/A converters on board, that easily equal the sound I hear from my Apogee Rosetta 200.

Yes, I am in awe of this piece of gear, seldom do I get this excited about most purchases I have made in the past. Most of the time it seems I get “buyer’s remorse” because my new toy, did not live up to my expectations. I cannot comment about others experience with analog summing, because the only method I have used is the one using the D-Box. The retailer I purchased this from, offers a generous return policy if I was not satisfied. I did not take them up on that offer, this one is a keeper!

Yes I have heard a difference in my mixing results, plus a modest increase in overall level without added distortion, using this method only. I cannot comment on other’s experince with different appraoches. This on works for me (and no I did not get a special deal on it or any thank you’s for my comment). I just tell it as I see (or hear it).
I was pleased when I called the D-Box people, I actually got to speak to the owner and chief designer himself, he knew his business. He gave straight talk answers on my long list of questions I hit him with. Radioguy

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tb-av – 04-19-2011, 10:38 AM
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What is analog summing?
It means all your tracks are ( digital to analog converted ) run into an analog console or some other analog device that can accept each track. Then summed(mixed) to Stereo.

ITB = In The Box simply means mixing your tracks down to Stereo in your favorite program such as Reaper or Protools. The Master Track in your DAW is your ITB digital summing. Everything stays digital.

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Ny Guy – 04-19-2011, 10:53 AM
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I have been looking at the D-box and really like the features it offers. With a D-box aren’t you just monitoring a summed mix? If you do not output your 2 track mix from the D-box to a seperate 2 track recorder, isn’t your mix still “In the box”?

Quote Originally Posted by Radioguy View Post
I have done extensive reading and research on several forums. Up until a few months ago I was unfamiliar with the term Analog Summing. Then I read increasing numbers of people who had gone this route, and swear by it. As I understand, you can use your present console or mixing board as a method of doing so, and many users of this method pointed me to a firm called Dangerous music (www. dangerousmusic.com). They make several “boxes” that perform analog summing, to fit the needs of various customers.

I wound up purchasing the unit I felt would give me the greatest bang for the buck, the Dangerous Music D-Box. This unit not only performs analog summinhg, with 8 channels of the Dangeous Music Analog Summing technology, but several more features that I could use daily. Included also are a complete programmable monitor control section with two pairs of speaker outputs (XLR balanced) for selecting one of two pairs of self powered monitors. The monitor section also includes talkback, two front panel headphone outputs and an auxillary analog input, besides the two digital inputs. This alone saved me $300 to $500 in not having to buy a Presonus or Mackie monitor control device.

As mentioned earlier, it also has two digital inputs from either your DAW or say a CD deck for instant comparision from a test CD already mixed using conventional methods. This box also has it’s own very high quality D/A converters on board, that easily equal the sound I hear from my Apogee Rosetta 200.

Yes, I am in awe of this piece of gear, seldom do I get this excited about most purchases I have made in the past. Most of the time it seems I get “buyer’s remorse” because my new toy, did not live up to my expectations. I cannot comment about others experience with analog summing, because the only method I have used is the one using the D-Box. The retailer I purchased this from, offers a generous return policy if I was not satisfied. I did not take them up on that offer, this one is a keeper!

Yes I have heard a difference in my mixing results, plus a modest increase in overall level without added distortion, using this method only. I cannot comment on other’s experince with different appraoches. This on works for me (and no I did not get a special deal on it or any thank you’s for my comment). I just tell it as I see (or hear it).
I was pleased when I called the D-Box people, I actually got to speak to the owner and chief designer himself, he knew his business. He gave straight talk answers on my long list of questions I hit him with. Radioguy

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hillipo – 04-19-2011, 12:11 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by paul999 View Post
I’ve done my own tests and my conclusion is that summing is not important. The circuits you go through are. The way I did my test was to mix OTB and record all the channels direct out into my DAW. I then summed ITB sending them to the stereo out. When I A/B’d that against my D&R master output I could here zero differences. In fact my wife was flipping the button. I couldn’t even hear a difference to start to try to make a decision. I thought she was not operating the gear properly but she was.

I can’t wait to hear your test.
I agree,i did it too just to discover
that is only a matter of how you use the gear.ITB or OTB,it depends on your ears and skill.

Radioguy’s Avatar
Radioguy – 04-19-2011, 12:14 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by Ny Guy View Post
I have been looking at the D-box and really like the features it offers. With a D-box aren’t you just monitoring a summed mix? If you do not output your 2 track mix from the D-box to a seperate 2 track recorder, isn’t your mix still “In the box”?
Good question, you do have several options. You could take the two analog XLR sum ouputs on the back of the D-Box, and record them on a separate two track analog or digital recorder. However, what the maker suggests, and what I would do, is simply connect those XLR sum outputs into a pair of line level analog input jacks on your DAW.

They specifically suggest connecting the XLR sum outputs on the D-Box into inputs 5-6 or 7-8 (XLR or 1/4″ balanced TRS inputs). That way you have a copy of your mix you created saved in your DAW that you are already familiar with and using. Then if you like, you could burn a CD using your best mix that never left your DAW, and the newly created one that you just saved from your D-Box. Compare the two CD’s in an A/B comparision, and see if you hear a difference. I did.

THe [url=http://www.dangerousmusic.com] website has some helpful full page color files that you can print out. These show specifics on sample suggested hookups in various configurations, and with different DAW’s. I found these to be very useful indeed. Hope this helps. Radioguy

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sparqee – 04-19-2011, 02:08 PM
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In my humble opinion, analog summing is important if:

A. You decide that it’s important to you.
B. You have the kind of high end listening environment necessary to appreciate the subtleties of the “sound” your summing gear imparts.
C. You need a reason to claim that your investment in expensive hardware makes you and your mixes better than all the cheapskate ITB mixers.

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rocksure – 04-19-2011, 04:08 PM
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A couple of years ago I built a summing box based round a pair of old Ward Beck summming amps. It was the first time I had built any DIY gear. I wondered if it would even go. The first time I fired it up I was blown away by the sound. Since then I have summed all my mixes through it. I love the sound. My mixes are more spacious and 3D, and with the addition of outboard compression it gives me the sound I am looking for. It’s well worth the effort to go outboard in my opinion. How much is due to the actual summing process and how much to the colors imparted by the circuitry I don’t know, but the bottom line is..I get the sound I WANT doinhg it this way.

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tugito – 04-19-2011, 04:10 PM
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ANalog summing is as needed as capitalism.
Which means that it has a meaning only for the rich ones and it doesn’t really make a difference in our lifes.

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Windmill Sound – 04-20-2011, 02:32 PM
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All the mix bus in a digital environment does is add numbers – and that is something that computers can do. It is impossible that another method adds numbers in a better way.

Of course if you like putting an effect on each of the tracks/subs (whether that be going through an op amp, a fet, a valve, or a transformer or a combination of them) that enhances them, and then adding them back together then that is another matter.

It may be that you prefer your mix after going through a mystery box, and I’m quite prepared to a take your word that it really does, but rest assured that the result has nothing to do with analogue summing.

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acoustic – 04-20-2011, 10:57 PM
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the bottom line is..I get the sound I WANT doinhg it this way. ——–this is the sum of analogue summing If your mad about mixing$$$$$——–acoustic

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busyboxst7 – 04-21-2011, 11:19 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by paul999 View Post
The way I did my test was to mix OTB and record all the channels direct out into my DAW. I then summed ITB sending them to the stereo out. When I A/B’d that against my D&R master output I could here zero differences. In fact my wife was flipping the button. I couldn’t even hear a difference to start to try to make a decision. I thought she was not operating the gear properly but she was.

I can’t wait to hear your test.
Paul, is “D&R” the master output of your board? Does the material have much dynamics or anything panned significantly (i.e. a guitar left, without anything matching on the other side, for example)… my A/Bs sound incredibly different than each other.

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busyboxst7 – 04-21-2011, 11:27 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by Windmill Sound View Post
All the mix bus in a digital environment does is add numbers – and that is something that computers can do. It is impossible that another method adds numbers in a better way.

Of course if you like putting an effect on each of the tracks/subs (whether that be going through an op amp, a fet, a valve, or a transformer or a combination of them) that enhances them, and then adding them back together then that is another matter.

It may be that you prefer your mix after going through a mystery box, and I’m quite prepared to a take your word that it really does, but rest assured that the result has nothing to do with analogue summing.
Windmill, I think (could be wrong) that there is also division involved (which isn’t perfect). And what I like about OTB is the absence of the ITB junk, not the addition of some kind of colored mojo (the ITB is more colored in many cases and in a bad way). I use a folcrom and running an OTB mix through any preamp (not some mystery mojo box but even a regular presonus pre) increases channel separation and transient response (and thus imaging), not to mention the low end gets a lot wider. Every A/B I’ve done has proven to me (and even untrained ears) that ProTools summing at least gives a blurry midrange smear… I will admit, if you mix fairly commercial with very little dynamics, blunted transients, and a real NS10 type midrange, the effects of analog summing will not excite someone as much. It’s much more obvious in hi-fi type situations. (i.e. loudness war stuff won’t show it as much from tracks I’ve heard).

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busyboxst7 – 04-21-2011, 11:49 AM
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PS. to all those claiming it’s the color of the circuits that people are liking, this idea simply does not hold up in A/B tests.
reason 1) try a folcrom, it can be plugged to colored preamps OR very clean ones, while the EQ changes a bit, most of the main differences (as compared to ITB) stay the same
reason 2) Try A/B-ing sending 2 channels (a stereo mix) to a console vs. sending all separate channels. There is far greater channel separation in the full analog sum (least to my ears).

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jkuehlin – 04-22-2011, 06:16 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by busyboxst7 View Post
There is far greater channel separation in the full analog sum (least to my ears).
That is exactly why I’m after a summing device. I couldn’t agree more.

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brandondrury – 04-23-2011, 02:53 PM
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if you like putting an effect on each of the tracks/subs (whether that be going through an op amp, a fet, a valve, or a transformer or a combination of them) that enhances them, and then adding them back together then that is another matter.
With my Toft ATB32 this definitely IS the situation in my opinion.

This first test was a “control” in some respects. Let’s see what happens when we simply route through the console without really “doing anything”. The console does do something when you get the red lights all lit up and introducing outboard gear is a totally different story.

A few guys were pissed off at this test as if it had some further agenda than simply trying out summing and showing you guys what I got. The most logical gripe was that when using summing you have to absolutely no WHY you are using it…..much like my views on most mix decisions. You add reverb, for example, because that’s the sound you envision in your head. With that said, no one would blink an eye if I posted a dry clip and a clip with reverb to show one single possibility.

As with most things, the more subtle the issue, the more people adhere to superstition, and the more militant they get about the issue. (Not necessarily referring to anyone else’s view on summing as your mileage will always vary. Simply saying that this test is a valid first test and not meant to be anything more than that. I’ll have to dig deeper in further tests.

It may be that you prefer your mix after going through a mystery box
I’m of the belief that confidence is EVERYTHING when mixing….or almost everything. It’s up there. If running a mix through a do-nothing machine makes you more confident, then your mixes probably WILL be better. In that particular case, the do-nothing machine makes a new name. I’m not ready to claim that analog summing is a do-nothing machine. I’m just stating that if you can afford to buy confidence, you probably should.

Brandon

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RAREstudios – 04-24-2011, 04:22 PM
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Track 002 in Nuendo is -4.6 at 668hz and Track 001 is -5 at 668hz. The characteristics of both eq is extremely similar, and I would think the response for your test is going to be that they’re both from the same source just a difference in anomalies between mix downs. Track 002 appears to be more compressed than track 001.

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RAREstudios – 04-24-2011, 04:28 PM
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I used beyer dynamic DT 770 Pro closed style headphones for my test. I had originally used the home theater 5.1 surround (cheap common) and the headphones with the mp3 format.. Curiosity made me download the wave file and hook up everything. The converter is a Tascam US-800 for both tests. I personally called them very close in my response to the question, and I liked the 001 a little better myself for dynamic purposes. I’d guess track 002 has been adjusted from track 001, but I could be wrong.

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moleunion – 04-25-2011, 12:42 AM
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I think what is interesting about analog summing and this forum in particular is that, after listening to many mixes on “Bash this Recording”, “Mix This,” and “Monsters,” I have come to a very clear conclusion: analog summing is the least of our worries for about 95% of us. There are many, many issues that need to be tackled well before any of us should even care about summing.

I think analog summing has the potential to take an amazing recording/mix to spectacular. I’m talking about going from, say 90% pro sound to 95% or maybe even 97% if you’re lucky. That being said, you gotta tackle that first 90% for analog summing to have any significance… and that’s a whole lot of work.

Do I want to sum in analog one day? Absolutely! But I’m gonna make sure that the first 90% of the work is so solid that analog summing is just a tiny bit of icing on the cake. I figure that if you are at the point where summing is important to you, then you are already making enough money from your projects to easily justify shelling out the couple of thousand dollars to get a bit of icing and attract more clients because you “sum in analog.”

Dahla – 04-25-2011, 05:46 PM
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I agree.

And one day hopefully I will go from “that sounds good” to “YEAAAAAH BABY!” and then finally be able to discuss converters and transfomer specs because I mastered everything but the last 2% or whatever.

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lmont – 04-25-2011, 07:36 PM
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Well I hope your proud of the chaos created over there in that thread. I had to stop the emails! For a process that most people voted too close to care about, even those who picked a side..still felt unsure; a lot of talk was definitely created over it. I know I would like to know which is which, glad tomorrows Tuesday

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PeterSimonRussell – 04-26-2011, 01:42 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by weege77 View Post
What is analog summing?
Thanks for asking that, I’d been wondering.

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m24p – 04-27-2011, 10:54 AM
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Uh oh, I liked the analogue version better EVEN THOUGH you mixed it ITB and just tried to replicate that in analogue, which means that ITB had an advantage starting out.

Well, at least the difference wasn’t THAT huge… I suppose I can work on improving the other parts of my mixing skills and dream that I’ll eventually get nicer equipment.

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brandondrury – 05-06-2011, 12:28 PM
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Uh oh, I liked the analogue version better EVEN THOUGH you mixed it ITB and just tried to replicate that in analogue, which means that ITB had an advantage starting out.
I get your point, but after doing it both ways, I’m convinced the difference between summing in the console and ITB is not going to have an appreciable effect on my mix. I’ve done this many times now and it’s not like the analog summing would lead me to different decisions while mixing.

The exception to that is when I light up all the red lights on the console. That does change things, but not by billions.

With much of this recording stuff there is a “why not” factor. Just jump in with a little faith and a big wallet and see where you end up in 3 years. In most cases, you’ll start to either grow into, notice, or rationalize the improvement. In almost all cases, you’d dread the notion of working without X tool, but then if you had to, it wouldn’t be that bad. It’s all a big damn game that shouldn’t be taken TOO seriously. Have fun, waste some money, repeat. If you are broke, have fun, repeat. We’ll all be dead in 50 years anyway.

Brandon

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adorian – 05-09-2011, 12:19 PM
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I don’t know if in my case you’d call it analog summing since I worked on a digital console.

What I had problem was that Pro Tools (ver6 and 7) wouldn’t render project file mixes as to what I was hearing in the studio.

I was on a HD2 system with 192k converters (unfortunately PT as well) hooked up into 2xYamaha 02R consoles.

In other words – I’d work on a mix in PT and would bounce to wav file at which point the mix won’t sound like what I was hearing.

Since the consoles I was on had digital routing (summing) I could send the channels through the board and record as a new stereo track in PT inside the same project. I even sent out just the stereo mix and then recorded it on Pro Tools as a new file and I was hearing a noticeable difference, i.e. the mix sounded like it did before it hit the rendering engine. So my discovery was that the rendering engine was doing weird to the files at which point every mix was actually recorded in real time back into the system and then exported for mastering.

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SonicBlade – 05-25-2011, 11:40 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by rocksure View Post
A couple of years ago I built a summing box based round a pair of old Ward Beck summming amps. It was the first time I had built any DIY gear. I wondered if it would even go. The first time I fired it up I was blown away by the sound. Since then I have summed all my mixes through it. I love the sound. My mixes are more spacious and 3D, and with the addition of outboard compression it gives me the sound I am looking for. It’s well worth the effort to go outboard in my opinion. How much is due to the actual summing process and how much to the colors imparted by the circuitry I don’t know, but the bottom line is..I get the sound I WANT doinhg it this way.
This is exactly the point. He gets – what he wants. You can’t sit back and say “it is 24 bit etc or his phase is wrong or tube/germanium/transformer/wire/blah blah blah” or any such thing. He is the chef. This is his soup. This is what he wants.

Our job is merely to sit back, enjoy, and not slurp.

Now what we all want to know is – will this make our soup taste better? My guess is sh*t soup will continue to taste like sh*t. And great soup will be – a little different.

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garww – 05-25-2011, 11:59 AM
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I had been resisting using the soup thing, myself. It’s very true and stew was my first thought. The key thing I learned from Hi-Fi is that processing left and right on seperates with their own transformer can do wonders for maintaining the sound stage.

It’s a salt to taste thing. I want subtle results. In my own life I use a shit load of garlic in everything : )

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SonicBlade – 05-25-2011, 08:34 PM
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This is a good example of my thinking. You learned one trick. (problalby not just one, of course ) Now you understand that trick and can use it. You like what you get. So, you use it – or not. Viola! Music. Now, should someone go out and purchase a Remco Dual Transformer Sound Stager II? At $2,000 it is your secret weapon. And when someone does the inevitable comparison test, most people can’t hear it, and the remaining 50% split on which track it is on. 25% claim they can hear a RDTSS II everytime and it’s obvious. The real old timers insist it’s just mics. Just move the mics around, they say. Someone else stops masturbating long enough to declare that the RDTSS I (the analog version) is the only one that is worth the money.

Me? I’m trying to find a guitar player that can actually play the same thing – the same way twice. ‘Cause I already know what the secret is.

Which is? Great artists make great tracks – - – sometimes. Luck puts you in the room, at that time. Just about any efforts other than those dedicated to putting you, in the room, at that time, are pretty much wasted. Bruce Swedien? George Martin? They were in some pretty great rooms when lightning struck.

My point is – forget about analog summing. Or go buy one. Whatever. Stop talking about it.

Go find a room. Go try to bring down the lightning from the Gods.

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garww – 05-26-2011, 09:02 AM
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“Now you understand that trick and can use it. You like what you get. So, you use it – or not. Viola! Music. Now, should someone go out and purchase a Remco Dual Transformer Sound Stager II? At $2,000 it is your secret weapon”.

It’s only a trick for those who didn’t grow-up with it. I knew(suspected) that buying a $50 box would do. It’s less about summing than electronics – something an Audio Engineer should know. Suggesting engeneering isn’t just about levels. There are guitar players who obsess over their sound down to the smallest cap and resistor and there is a reason for that.

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sickvision – 06-02-2011, 09:04 PM
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my head hurts reading about summing il stick with my sum of the master track in sonar,i have a hard enough time fixing the level of a mix to peak conpressed eq joy, summing sounds good when it comes with a cofffe maker to read the effect pack

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adamr316 – 06-09-2011, 11:00 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by adorian View Post
I don’t know if in my case you’d call it analog summing since I worked on a digital console.

What I had problem was that Pro Tools (ver6 and 7) wouldn’t render project file mixes as to what I was hearing in the studio.

I was on a HD2 system with 192k converters (unfortunately PT as well) hooked up into 2xYamaha 02R consoles.

In other words – I’d work on a mix in PT and would bounce to wav file at which point the mix won’t sound like what I was hearing.

Since the consoles I was on had digital routing (summing) I could send the channels through the board and record as a new stereo track in PT inside the same project. I even sent out just the stereo mix and then recorded it on Pro Tools as a new file and I was hearing a noticeable difference, i.e. the mix sounded like it did before it hit the rendering engine. So my discovery was that the rendering engine was doing weird to the files at which point every mix was actually recorded in real time back into the system and then exported for mastering.
This is a very interesting observation/experience. Maybe I’ll try a sp/dif playout to another interface vs. software render myself. Then do a null test…

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huckleberry – 06-18-2011, 02:08 PM
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mixerman says you have to sum in analog. ***BUT*** unless you have top quality a/d/a you wont really gain anything. most of us can’t afford anything near the type of gear he has so just live with a little less than perfection instead of going into hock forever. especially if you are not making money at mixing.

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garww – 10-22-2011, 12:04 PM
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I looked into the MM guy, today, and it seems he is only talking about one particular summing box.

 

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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One response to Is Analog Summing The Holy Grail?

  1. If you want to try analog summing for yourself, my buddy Terry at Unit Audio hand builds simple boxes with top quality components. Check out his mixers on his web site.

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