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So You REALLY Want A Console? Part 2

Brandon Drury —  February 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

This is a continuation from  When The Console Falls Over: So You REALLY Want A Console?

Toft ATB32 console

The previous installment was a rough diary of what I went through to get the console up and running and aspirations for the future.  It was written mostly in Oct of 2010, give or take.  Now I’m writing this in Feb 2012 after using the console for well over one year.

The Patchbay Disaster

As much work as I put into my patchbay design, I had to make some guesses.  I setup the patchbay to default as a mixing/summing device.  We’ve already established that summing is pointless and analog mixing isn’t practical.  I also thought I’d need inserts.  My unique setup does not because I’m always using external preamps I can just go from the preamp to the compressor to the console input.  All the work I did on the inserts patchbay and all the costs were basically a waste.

When I track a live band, I then have to route every preamp to the corresponding channel on the board.  When I’m doing electronic music with my 5 external synths, I have 10 channels that have to be patched in every time.  This isn’t the end of the world, but it does get in the way of workflow on ultra-fast, ultra-creative sessions.

I decided that I needed to change my patchbays so the preamps normalled to the channels with no patching.  The idea is my API 3124 defaults to channels 1-4.  My Manley TNT Cool Channel is always defaults to channel #11.

The only problem is I wired my cables directly to the patchbay.  Moving a channel is kinda like “moving” a transmission out of a car and putting another one in.  You can’t do that by flipping a switch.   I’ve determined that I can’t forsee the future.

So now I’m converting my patchbays over to dB25.  That requires the cutting, stripping, tinning and soldering of 288 wires on the patchbay side, 288 wires connecting to the female dB25 jacks, and 288 wires (from snakes) that flow into the male dB25 jacks.  I takes a LONG time.  I’ve been doing this in my “woman time” while watching movies.  Let’s just say it’s been a lot of movies.  (The entire Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, Norm McDonald: Me Doing Standup, documentaries on Truman, Reagan, FDR bla bla bla bla bla).

To make matters worse, I did all of this on that damn Switchcraft patchbay. The Switchcraft TTP96K1FN Patchbay Ruined My Week . I paid $370 for this and it came with ZERO internal jumpers.  BLA!  I had to connect the bottom row to the top row myself.  For only $130 more and about 40 hours less work I could have purchased the Redco dB25 patchbay.

The good news is after the conversion is complete on all patchbays and snakes, I’ll have a setup that is always 100% flexible.  Changing my patchbay will be as simple swapping out dB25 jacks…no problem at all.

Tech Problems

Goofed Meter Bridge
When I installed my meter bridge cables, the console was upside down and I had to attach 40 something little connectors.  Apparently, I swapped two pair.  I thought I had double checked this, but I’m notorious for needing to triple check.  Anyway, the meter bridge for channels 6/7 are swapped as well as 23/24.  Not a world-ender, but annoying.

No EQ On Channel #6
The EQ doesn’t work on Channel #6.  That sucks because there have been multiple times I’ve wanted to use it.  Most likely, a little jack came unplugged.  It would require unhooking the entire console, calling a friend to help, removing about 50 screws, solving the problem, and putting it all back together.  I’d guess it’s a 2-3 hour job.  Bla!

Master Volume Knob Is Crackling
This just popped up a few weeks ago.  The master volume pot is crackling.  Sometimes one speaker entirely cuts out for a few seconds.  Not good.  I’m not sure how much that’s gonna cost me.

That Creative, Crushed Room Mic

You may remember how excited I was to be able to quickly and easily toss a Distressor on my Royer R121 as a room mic.  I crushed the hell out of it and in the heat of battle I loved it.  When I got to mixing, I had over done it and the track was much lower in the mix than I wanted.  That happens.  The point is that all these new fun options during tracking are fun, but they aren’t perfect.

Forget Full-Blown Analog Mixing

I’d love to report to you that my  mixes are better than ever and it’s all due to analog magic, real faders, and shit like that.  I can’t do that.

I was hoping I could move my workflow to something more like they do in big studios.  “Today we will mix a song or 3 and those mixes will be completely finished”, says the glass-is-full Disney character.  Nope.  Clients are too used to recalls.  I can do a rock mix on Monday, but by Tuesday I’ve got my Jetface electronic gig.  On Wedneday I have another sessions.  It’s not like I’ve got MGMT booked for 6 weeks.  I can’t just stop everything to get this mix finished because I have more on my plate.

So even if analog mixing was doable with my gear, it’s just not that practical.  I get some clients who ask me to make changes to a mix 6 months ago.  I like the income from saying, “Yes sir!” and I can’t say, “No sir, that’ll take 3 hours to recall.”

So for me analog mixing is out even though I’d love to have access to those equalizers in some kind of instantly recallable way.

Disappointed With Summing

I’ve done multiple tests with the ATB32 in analog summing both keeping all levels under control and really pushing the console to make it “bend”.  I hear no audible improvement from analog summing with the ATB32.  I’ve posted blind clips on RecordingReview and the majority has said, “Too subtle to care.”  There could be something I’m doing wrong.   [URL="http://forum.recordingreview.com/f8/audio-skeptics-society-oily-arabia-40137/"]Audio Skeptics Society: Oily Arabia[/URL].

When I combine the fact that I can’t hear any tonal benefit (either width or harmonic content) from the console, I’ve determined it’s not worth the trouble.  I’m doing full-blown ITB mixing and not looking back.  I’ll use my hardware gear as external effects that are easily recalled and don’t require any special routing.  There are way too many major label productions recorded in the box for me to deal with all the slow workflow from using the console.

Stock Preamps

I still haven’t used the stock preamps.  I guess I could try them sometime.  I have too many good outboard pres to even bother so I can’t comment on those.  I get asked all the time if they are any good and to a person looking to move from maybe a stock audio interface preamp, I guess there’s quite a bit of value in an across-the-board upgrade with a console.  If there’s enough demand I’ll blow a day putting together some shootouts.

Toft EQ

The EQ on the Toft really is special. I also have a Emperical Labs Lil Freq and the console EQ is just as good, just less flexible.  You can’t do any surgery with the Toft, but you can bring a track to life in a hurry.  Having EQ on every track I record was worth the cost.

The common phrase I hear when I play with the console EQ from clients is “Whatever you just did, it is AWESOME.”  The best part is the EQ has personality.  I don’t know how to describe that.  It’s the “color” thing, which I define as the kind of doohickey that can solve problems without twisting a knob.  In fact, it’s common for me to turn on the EQ and not even twist any knobs.

Toft EQ vs Plugins

How does it compare to EQ plugins?  I think it’s comparable to a Lexus IS  vs a Honda Civic SE.  The Civic will have no trouble getting you there, but the Lexus is gonna do it with more style, more heads will turn, and maybe some gold-digging tramp will come home with you if you’ve got the car that everyone expects to cost $60k.

My experience with hardware has shown that there is often an extra something that feels finished with hardware that rarely occurs with plugins.  You can solve the same problems, more or less, but the plugins need another coat of varnish.  This is fairly subtle and sometimes just adding one extra plugin like a Decapitator or UAD Studer A800 can get you sounds that are more exciting than the hardware.  Sometimes the hardware is identical in terms of it’s effectiveness.  Sometimes it isn’t.  My hardware LA-3A will solve 7k sibilance issues in the most transparent way I’ve ever heard.  The UAD LA-3A will not.  It leaves all the ess in there.

Track Summing

The ability to combine stuff while tracking has proved to be invaluable.  I use it all the time.  Just yesterday I had a delay on a synth piano part.  It was the kind of delay that was perfect and I didn’t want to have to match it with plugins so I just ran the synth track and effects return to the same bus and recorded that.  Cool!  I don’t use this feature every session, but it comes in handy enough to be badass.

With that said, track summing can be done on a Mackie 1604.  I’ve chosen (stupidly) to believe that cheap gear is “poison”.  I think this is a huge mistake.  This brings up a bigger issue in that I’m not entirely positive my Toft is any better than a Mackie.  I’ve never A/B’d the two.  It’s possible I’d use the Mackie and feel like I’m looking at naked pics of grandma.  Not sure.  Then again, not all grandmas are created equal.

Any Magic In Consoles?

I read an article/forum post from the site that combines recording equipment and venerial disease by a guy who mixes major label country artists.  He was talking about converters and was comparing the Avid HD I/O with Lynx Aurora 16 and Apogee Symphony converters.  It was all super high end stuff.  This guy used a ton of external effects sends (hardware) in his ITB mixes.  I know what converters do.  It’s the smallest difference in the world in recording in most instances.

This guy said that the Avid HD I/O ($5,000) with a $1,200 clock was 10% better than whatever his control group was.  (Keep in mind that I feel the difference between the Behringer ADA8000 and my Apogee AD-16x and DA-16x is about 1%.  This guy is in a whole other league and the tiniest change in sound is gonna mean a lot to him so we need to account for his numbers    For fun, he did a mix on a Neve VR in Ocean Way in Nashville, too, just to see how a real console would improve things.  He said it improved his mix 5%.  Now, converting that to the Brando Scale means that the difference between ITB and a full blown mega console is exactly 0.5% improvement.  That’s NOT very much….not for $100k or $300k or whatever a Neve VR costs.

I felt a whole lot better when I saw that 5% number.  He felt the console was only half the improvement of fancy converters.  Rarely do we get such good info.  He’s talking about a Neve, so it’s safe to say that my Toft isn’t even going to be that high.

Recall Issues

Once I spent 20 minutes just to recall hardware compression on a summed mix.  There are always things that can go wrong, but it seems that the console, 4 patchbays, lots of TT patchbay cables, and me add to all the problems.  This way of working is just slower than opening up a Cubase session.  It’s the nature of the beast.  Line-in gain gets bumped.  Faders are impossible to see identically every time.  Etc.

Update:  I’ve solved this problem by not summing on the console and therefore not having gain structure issues.  I haven’t touched my 2bus compressor (Chameleon Labs 7802) in close to 6 months.  I use it as an external effect in Cubase.  Now when I open a mix up, I do nothing.  The recall is 100% as long as my hardware hasn’t been touched.

Clients

It probably seems like I’m a pretty negative person.  I must sit around hoping Boy Scouts won’t sell any popcorn.  Here’s one area where having a console is unrivaled.

Clients like you better than John Travolta.  I’ve not tested this, but if you held up a framed picture of John Travolta next to me in the control room in front of my racks and my console, the clients will pick me every time.  I’m sure of it.

In home recording land there is this undercurrent that says, “We aren’t REALLY doing this.”  The people making “real” recordings are on some other island in some far away land.  When you’ve got a big console, some of that “realness” leaks into home recording land like gravity leaking into another dimension.  The clients absolutely LOVE the fact that you’ve discovered such a leak.  It makes them have more fun….kinda like bringing a machine gun to the shooting match.  A standard pistol will do the job, but a machine gun will make ‘em go, “YEAH!”.  (I’ve got “Surviving And Thriving In This BS Recording Studio Business”  jam packed with this sort of thing.)

The downside is clients arne’t good at assessing the size of the leak from big boy land.  They see the big console and just assume that their product is gonna sound like something Mutt Lange did last year.  That is a problem.  It takes some charm to wake them from this big boy dream and remind them that their recording only cost $4,000 or whatever.  When they snap out of it, they are happy.

Conclusion

  • The equalizers are great.
  • The ability to combine stuff is a big workflow benefit.
  • The console is NOT a magic sound quality machine. Not even close. It doesn’t add anything that I consider to be substantial. I was under the impression that the Toft ATB32 had quite a bit of character. I’m just not hearing it. Maybe I need re-read the manual. Maybe I don’t have it turned on or something. Since I’m not hearing obvious tonal benefit with the Toft, like I do when switching from API to Wunder preamps or things of that sort, the sexiness wears off.
  • In tracking full bands it’s a great help. I love that.
  • I love the zero latency vocal monitoring and I love having control over the levels real time in a way that I could never quite do with the RME mixer software thing.
  • The one unmistakable benefit of the Toft is it’s a client happy-isizer.
  • If impressing the clients isn’t a priority, $10k is a lot to spend for a bunch of equalizers and some faders. Most of this stuff could be pulled off with a cheapo mixer. I’m sure of it and no one would notice the difference. I only track 16 channels at once these days.
  • I’ve listened to clips of various summing boxes – the kind that are designed to distort nicely – and MAYBE they will do what you want. I haven’t found any benefit to distorting individual channels although I have gotten this from the “drive” knob on my tube compressor on the stereo bus.
  • Ultimately, I’m hanging on to the Toft for the foreseeable future. It’s a lot more like a dump truck than a Ferrari, unfortunately. It’s VERY utilitarian and not nearly as sexy from an aural perspective as it is from a visual sense.

Why The Console Hype?

Pro engineers aren’t scientists.  The pro engineers generally make us feel that an analog console (even an “inexpensive” Toft) has got some kind of mojo in it.  Mixerman, for example, is not shy about implying that you are deaf, dumb, and retarded if you don’t buy into the analog summing bit.

It’s nice to hear a bold opinion.  The only problem is I’m not sure how aggressive he’s been at isolating the summing variable in rigid scientific situations or figuring out which summing gadget has the mojo.  His bold opinion is probably formed by using specific gear in specific situations and going with it.  When us little guys say, “Well what happens if you take that compressor and that transformer-equipped thing out of the chain?” he’s probably not gonna understand why he’d want to do that.  He has no real motivation to see if he could get buy on less.

So this is a major reason why I think consoles are hyped these days in sonic terms.  The pro guys who’ve done it this way since the 80s or so have a method down and don’t see any need to change.

Saved Comments


garageband – 02-21-2012, 12:30 AM
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Machine guns require a lot of maintenance and generally careful operation.

EnSkorSang’s Avatar
EnSkorSang – 02-21-2012, 07:07 AM
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Sounds like some of the problems are more to do with that particular console than consoles in general?

But one thing I dont understand – why so much patchbay hassle? Doesnt the toft have a patchbay? And why do you need a patchbay that sums?
Not sure I really understand this whole patchbay business…

Nanowire’s Avatar
Nanowire – 02-21-2012, 01:45 PM
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I used to have a 32-8-2-32 Soundtracks Topaz. Nice, but in the end not suitable for what I intended to do. For zero latency with FX monitoring I rely on my 01v96. Not sure if it has any sexiness for clients, but it will look like a console to them, however small. Patching is done within the 01v96 or in the RME RayDAT. Mixing ITB. On my level mixing with an analog console would not improve a thing. In the end I think a lot more has to do with the stuff you use pre A/D like performance, preamps, microphones, state and shape of instrument, recoding room, vibe etc.

BTW I sold all my outboard gear. I have none whatsoever.

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js1978 – 02-21-2012, 01:49 PM
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I’ve recently gone the console route after years of working ITB, and I love it for mixing. I can’t argue that the sound is inherently any better, but for workflow reasons or whatever other reason, it is *much* easier for me to mix OTB than in. I get better results than I did before, and faster. It surprised the hell out of me, but I won’t knock it.

But, yeah, recall is pretty much impossible. For what I do, I’m happy to talk to the guys in the band, send them a mix, and tell them, “You’ve got until noon tomorrow to get me your mix notes before I blow up this mix and start the next one.” That’s obviously not practical for everybody.

For most people I wouldn’t even recommend the console route–it’s a pain in the ass, it’s expensive, and OH MY GOD THE CABLES. SO MANY CABLES. But it would be really hard for me to go back at this point. It just works so much better for me.

brandondrury’s Avatar
brandondrury – 02-21-2012, 02:47 PM
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Doesnt the toft have a patchbay?
No, it does not come with a patchbay, unfortunately.

why so much patchbay hassle?
You can see more on patchbays here: A Comprehensive Guide To Patchbays

A patchbay point is nothing more than an option. If you want the options to use outboard gear at specific times, you need patchbays for it. Which times? Tracking on the way in, Mixing through external FX bus in Cubase, Mixing through the console, etc.

The normalled patchbay setup is your default option. On my setup I guessed wrong on how I was going to use the console.

The options stack up tremendously, unfortunately, but I didn’t want to be stuck where I NEEDED X toy on bass and not have that option.

Now that I’m converting all patchbays over to dB25 there shouldn’t be much of a mess anymore.

I could outline my whole setup to give the patchbay hassles more context if necessary. The good news is I should be finished with this mess for a LONG time here in about 3 weeks.

Sounds like some of the problems are more to do with that particular console than consoles in general?
Can’t say. I don’t have THAT many problems. Then again, I have enough headaches that I feel I need to inform everyone of my actual experiences so they can weigh that in their gear selection decisions.

In the end I think a lot more has to do with the stuff you use pre A/D like performance, preamps, microphones, state and shape of instrument, recoding room, vibe etc.
At this stage, I rate the my console a double squint mode rating. You’ve got to squint if you aren’t use to it to really care about the difference between an API and a 1073 in most situations. You’ve got to double squint with the console.

But, yeah, recall is pretty much impossible. For what I do, I’m happy to talk to the guys in the band, send them a mix, and tell them, “You’ve got until noon tomorrow to get me your mix notes before I blow up this mix and start the next one.” That’s obviously not practical for everybody.

For most people I wouldn’t even recommend the console route–it’s a pain in the ass, it’s expensive, and OH MY GOD THE CABLES. SO MANY CABLES. But it would be really hard for me to go back at this point. It just works so much better for me.
Yeah, I’m with you. There’s something about the hardware that works and it works better. It just comes at a cost. Maybe some day I won’t have that problem.

Brandon

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bholst – 02-21-2012, 02:47 PM
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I’m so thankful that these lessons have been taught at your expense and not mine. My wife thanks you too

Seriously though, this is great stuff and I really am glad to know about the upsides/downsides are to some of this gear.

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drm711 – 02-21-2012, 03:08 PM
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so Brandon are you saying that itb mixing /recording is more practical , and what about the end result , I’m reading it as the console mix’s arn’t superior to the itb mix’s ? thanks Dave

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dudermn – 02-21-2012, 04:16 PM
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Get yourself an apprentice. It’s really nice having minions do work for you. You can find some **** hearted kid who thinks just touching your console will help him (or her) become a better person. So you teach him (or her) what to do in a studio, give him (or her) 5 bucks a month and you got yourself a more human version of C3PO. Besides, all the big league studios have interns.
Now imagine the more perfect situation. You get a Swedish blondy reaching over the console, eventually she’ll be dressed in a traditional Swedish folk outfit and always carrying a beer. All of a sudden your gonna want to make more minute changes to those faders, but will be too lazy to reach for um
The way you summed everything out makes me wish to never touch a console (or mixer) again.
I also like how you didn’t mention that old technique of doing volume and pan and eq automation by hand and recording the changes to a separate track…. I would get a cheer-leading squad in and do that ‘channel ride’ thing live

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IMF OnSite Recording – 02-21-2012, 04:25 PM
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Great article, Brandon! I understand the hype which is why I blind tested with my Behringer 2bus mixer. It would be humorous to A\B it against your Toft but I think the cat’s out of the bag for now and it’s probably out plowing some other city cat. Truth is, if our investments are made on a “cost-benefit analysis” point of view, you can kiss most of those dust collecting, maintenance required, metal things goodbye. If I want my tracks summed through a vintage console, I’ll call up Analog Summing and have them cram a couple dozen tracks through a VR 48 for me after I mix it… even if it costs a couple hundred dollars per production.. If I start doing it every month of ever year … I am still saving $92,943 8 years from now. For people who are chasing the expensive large console dream and still have yet to have a setup that remotely even gives you an accurate representation of what’s coming out of those speakers of your DAW output…just have someone else who has the big fancy stuff do it if you want it… that way you stay focused on mixing\recording and not worrying about how magical you can get something to sound going in.

99% of the time if you keep your source signal as pure as possible… the sky is the limit to what you can do to it afterwards. That’s the part that most people forget about and that’s why music productions are done in several stages. You can try to be all those stages if you want, but at least do them in the correct order and get your priorities in line. I’ve thrown in my towel to ITB for a year now.. cant keep up and afford all this bulky crap.. this stuff wont make you sound better if you already cant record\mix for garbage, and if you are already great at it, you will sound great with a downsized ITB speedy setup as well.

I am glad you brought light to this subject.

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feegs – 02-21-2012, 05:11 PM
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Nice Article Brandon,

I’m actually going a different route with a UAD Appollo Quad on order (a bit of a wait) so it will be interesting to see how UAD plugs change my work flow being able to use them in the input source in real time on my tracking stage.

Cheers,

Danny Danzi’s Avatar
Danny Danzi – 02-21-2012, 06:05 PM
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feegs: I’ve been looking into that myself. Please let us know how it works for you once you get it all hooked up. Give us a review or something if you’d be so kind?

Brandon: I love how you told it like it was in this dude. At the end of the day, most of the stuff we buy into IS hype. Take away anything that’s supposedly making a huge difference in this field, and rest assured anyone that knows what they are doing will get good results. I’ve said it a million times man…give me a decent pc, Sonar, a stock Realtek soundcard and any mixing console and I’ll give you something special every time.

I only use the console for the inputs. Most of the time I’m barely using any eq if at all. I try my best to get the mic position correct and record the sound as it is. I’d not press record if the sound wasn’t right.

As for the stock pre’s you mentioned….don’t use them. Why? Because you’ll make yourself sick when you hear just how close they come to your pricey stuff. When you try them, just use the pre’s to get to the proper recording levels…no eq sweetening within the pre. You’ll be quite astonished as to how close they will be IF you can’t tell a difference at all. Most pricey pre’s have eq’s in them…that’s what makes the difference. Hell, there is a flavor you get just by passing through some of the pricey stuff, but at the end of the day, the object is to get the right recording level and the right sound from the mic capture.

I’ll tell ya….I don’t miss OTB or hybridding one bit. I just don’t think it makes THAT much of a difference to where it’s worth all the extra aggravation. Seriously man….try something for me sometime.

Record a tune that’s 1 minute long. Try a mix completely ITB then do one OTB or hrybrid. If you feel the ITB mix doesn’t quite sound as good as the OTB mix, try and compensate within the mix to make it as close as you can. When you accomplish this, ask yourself how close you came, if it was acceptable and if it’s worth it to go through the pain you go through the way you do it now. Sure I notice a little a difference from ITB to OTB. But it’s not better or worse, it’s “different” and a “different” that is way less hassle that still gives me great results.

I look at things like this brother. The engineering field to me is like driving a sophisticated car while not knowing exactly what that car is doing on the inside. I can either drive or I can’t. You got good enough ears and tools to do a good job no matter what you use, right? Who says what’s better…..the dudes that are making millions as engineers because they stepped in shit and got a lucky break with a band that would have been successful even if you or I did the session? We do what we do. If we fall short in areas, we look into what those areas are and how we can get better in those areas.

The biggest thing to keep in mind at all times is how something is tracked. The player, the gear and the mic capture. When you have all that done the right way, you can mix it through a Fostex 4 track cassette deck and never fail. Other times, a load of crap presentation can be molded into something grand. Ever hear the Bohemian Rhapsody multi-tracks? That sure taught me how much Queen really isn’t all that when you listen to that stuff individually. I’ve heard guys on here get better production than that in their bedrooms. However, someone had the knowledge and approach to where they mixed that stuff and made it work. It’s nothing special just like The Beatles Abbey Road album is truly nothing special instrumentally speaking. With all that stuff, the producer made them shine as well as how things were mixed. The captures are nothing special in my opinion as much as I love both of those bands and the songs they created. But would you be happy with those sounds in your studio? I wouldn’t either for most of that stuff. Anyway….hype is just that…it’s what you can do at the end of the day that counts regardless of what you have or don’t have. That’s just how *I* feel though.

-Danny

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Ken J – 02-21-2012, 07:17 PM
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Hey Brandon! Hold off on the soldering for a few days. I got a feeling that you’re hand is not going to be steady enough to solder during the after shocks. That 4.0 last night hit 50 miles south of you give or take. Everything OK down there?

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elmagoo – 02-21-2012, 07:46 PM
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Thanks for the insights into your experiences, pretty much confirming what I’ve been figuring out this whole time on my own talking with other engineers / producers and such. I have a good buddy of mine that’s a pro mix engineer (he’s done a stuff for Warren G, Fox, a few other fairly known artists, as well as taught at a university for a while) and he’s done both as well. The studio (which was where my voice coach was before he moved out of state) at which he did a lot of work had lots of outboard gear, and eventually got a full blown SSL. Now he’s mixing projects on his laptop ITB. When I asked him about using the outboard, he said it was good, but he’d always end up printing the sound because of the recall issues. He was starting to enjoy doing the SSL thing because the workflow was fast, but again, recall is a bitch. I know there’s newer consoles that have memory for this, but honestly at that point what are you really gaining for that extra cash? My buddy is so fast in Pro Tools, it’s incredible. And he’s getting the sound the clients are wanting just fine using the good quality plugs. He’s working on a 15″ screen with an 8 fader Mackie HUI interface for automation passes, and he’s very happy.

Also as someone mentioned above, the UAD Apollo looks to be an incredible piece of kit for this very purpose. The ability to use UAD plugs while tracking with sub 2ms latency sounds amazing. Want some neve color? Plug into one of their pristine mic pre’s and toss a 1073 on it. Use an LA-2A for some gentle vocal tracking compression. Put the Studer A-800 across your entire session so you’re tracking “to tape” on the way in, which will make mixing faster as you don’t have to deal with that later on.

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DanTheMan – 02-21-2012, 09:12 PM
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Thanks Brandon!

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elmagoo – 02-21-2012, 09:21 PM
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Ohhh, one question, why didn’t you want go with something pre-configured like the Samson S-Patch Plus patch bay? They’re very high quality, and have switches to let you configure each pair on the fly for normaled / half-normaled / pass-through right on the front (so no dismantling the thing). Instead of direct soldering the cables you would just have to put 1/4″ ends on there, but it’s a lot easier order custom length cables with 1/4″ connectors than having to do it all yourself p. The Samson is about $120 per unit which also saves some dough:

Samson S-Patch Plus | Sweetwater.com

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feegs – 02-22-2012, 12:53 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by Danny Danzi View Post
feegs: I’ve been looking into that myself. Please let us know how it works for you once you get it all hooked up. Give us a review or something if you’d be so kind?

Brandon: I love how you told it like it was in this dude. At the end of the day, most of the stuff we buy into IS hype. Take away anything that’s supposedly making a huge difference in this field, and rest assured anyone that knows what they are doing will get good results. I’ve said it a million times man…give me a decent pc, Sonar, a stock Realtek soundcard and any mixing console and I’ll give you something special every time.

I only use the console for the inputs. Most of the time I’m barely using any eq if at all. I try my best to get the mic position correct and record the sound as it is. I’d not press record if the sound wasn’t right.

As for the stock pre’s you mentioned….don’t use them. Why? Because you’ll make yourself sick when you hear just how close they come to your pricey stuff. When you try them, just use the pre’s to get to the proper recording levels…no eq sweetening within the pre. You’ll be quite astonished as to how close they will be IF you can’t tell a difference at all. Most pricey pre’s have eq’s in them…that’s what makes the difference. Hell, there is a flavor you get just by passing through some of the pricey stuff, but at the end of the day, the object is to get the right recording level and the right sound from the mic capture.

I’ll tell ya….I don’t miss OTB or hybridding one bit. I just don’t think it makes THAT much of a difference to where it’s worth all the extra aggravation. Seriously man….try something for me sometime.

Record a tune that’s 1 minute long. Try a mix completely ITB then do one OTB or hrybrid. If you feel the ITB mix doesn’t quite sound as good as the OTB mix, try and compensate within the mix to make it as close as you can. When you accomplish this, ask yourself how close you came, if it was acceptable and if it’s worth it to go through the pain you go through the way you do it now. Sure I notice a little a difference from ITB to OTB. But it’s not better or worse, it’s “different” and a “different” that is way less hassle that still gives me great results.

I look at things like this brother. The engineering field to me is like driving a sophisticated car while not knowing exactly what that car is doing on the inside. I can either drive or I can’t. You got good enough ears and tools to do a good job no matter what you use, right? Who says what’s better…..the dudes that are making millions as engineers because they stepped in shit and got a lucky break with a band that would have been successful even if you or I did the session? We do what we do. If we fall short in areas, we look into what those areas are and how we can get better in those areas.

The biggest thing to keep in mind at all times is how something is tracked. The player, the gear and the mic capture. When you have all that done the right way, you can mix it through a Fostex 4 track cassette deck and never fail. Other times, a load of crap presentation can be molded into something grand. Ever hear the Bohemian Rhapsody multi-tracks? That sure taught me how much Queen really isn’t all that when you listen to that stuff individually. I’ve heard guys on here get better production than that in their bedrooms. However, someone had the knowledge and approach to where they mixed that stuff and made it work. It’s nothing special just like The Beatles Abbey Road album is truly nothing special instrumentally speaking. With all that stuff, the producer made them shine as well as how things were mixed. The captures are nothing special in my opinion as much as I love both of those bands and the songs they created. But would you be happy with those sounds in your studio? I wouldn’t either for most of that stuff. Anyway….hype is just that…it’s what you can do at the end of the day that counts regardless of what you have or don’t have. That’s just how *I* feel though.

-Danny
Hi Danny, sure i will post something asap. The shop have told me about 4 weeks wait until they get them. I cant wait actually as i hope this will help to control my tracking issues, and it supports WIN7 64bit. Im going to whole hog and get the quad so that will be nice as i already have a UAD-2.

Feegs

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kakeux – 02-22-2012, 04:41 AM
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Nice report Brandon!

All that sums up why I wish to move on a complete digital all in-one solution like a Tascam DM4800. First benefit are “instant” recall and complete DAW control (not always handy, but still available).

You will still be able of using external analog gear (that maybe will require the build of a patchbay anyway). And you can still impress clients because the “big console” effect is still there. They will for sure be impressed by instant recall and monitorized fader.

Using a console to mix a session can help and is more handy (at least for me). With digital solutions, you can mix ITB by using OTB gear…

He felt the console was only half the improvement of fancy converters.
Assuming he’s right, maybe the benefit of digital console are more than just faster workflow.

Cheers!

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2dogs – 02-22-2012, 10:45 AM
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I always enjoy coming here where honesty doesn’t get you roasted by flamethrower. Congrats to you all for making this the best forum I’ve been in.

I’m currently testing an SSL X-Desk for summing because I was curious about the SSL sound. After summing several songs through it, I feel that the mixes came out wider sounding (more airy), the bass sounding fuller and smooth and the overall sound is sonically pleasing. My ITB mixes are very clear, precise and pleasing but the SSL sound is definitely different and I like it.

Unfortunately its not a DAW controller so mixing is out. Tracking would be fine for up to 20 tracks and expandability options will send me to the luny bin. But the question for me is, do I like the sound enough to spend the $5500 for the unit, cables and the patchbays.

At this point I’ve decided that I will buy it because it is a tool I would like to have in my studio. Is it a life changing device. No. Will it help me mix. No. Will it pay for itself. I believe it will since it has already generated additional client interest in my studio. Is it for everyone. No. Can a studio do without. Absolutely. Bottom line is that working ITB is just fine. It is possible to create a comparable sound ITB, but having it at your fingertips without working your ass off using plugins is as I said another tool in the shop for me to use.

Next on my list, DAW controllers and UAD-2 Quattro.

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brandondrury – 02-22-2012, 04:02 PM
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Hey Brandon! Hold off on the soldering for a few days. I got a feeling that you’re hand is not going to be steady enough to solder during the after shocks. That 4.0 last night hit 50 miles south of you give or take. Everything OK down there?
Ha! I slept right through that damn thing. It’s actually a miracle I was a asleep at that time.

It was actually more like 25 miles from here, give or take. It was only a 3.9. The New Madrid fault has 3 of the top 10 worst Earthquakes in the Continental US history. There’s just nothing of any value here so no one gives a damn.

Ohhh, one question, why didn’t you want go with something pre-configured like the Samson S-Patch Plus patch bay? They’re very high quality, and have switches to let you configure each pair on the fly for normaled / half-normaled / pass-through right on the front (so no dismantling the thing). Instead of direct soldering the cables you would just have to put 1/4″ ends on there, but it’s a lot easier order custom length cables with 1/4″ connectors than having to do it all yourself p. The Samson is about $120 per unit which also saves some dough:
That’s a 48-point TRS patchbay. I something similar when selecting between control room mics, live room mics, or synths. (Another fiasco I omitted for “brevity”. )

I can’t remember the exact count now, but the big cost in TRS is the jacks. It’s a $1.30 per jack and that is still soldering I’d have to do (not a huge deal as it’s much cheaper than buying already made snakes and I’m fast enough to make this worth my time.) That ends up being close to $500 for just the TRS jacks and that would chew up A LOT of rack space. Not the end of the world, either, I guess.

The best method is dB25 patchbays. It’s a pain in the butt, but I’m losing minimal work time right now and really just making great use of woman time. She doesn’t seem to mind. If I’m soldering, I’m not throwing bugs on her or whatever.

All that sums up why I wish to move on a complete digital all in-one solution like a Tascam DM4800. First benefit are “instant” recall and complete DAW control (not always handy, but still available).
The all-digital method definitely has HUGE workflow perks. However, then the question is (besides faders) what does a person gain over ITB? Tricky stuff.

Brandon: I love how you told it like it was in this dude. At the end of the day, most of the stuff we buy into IS hype. Take away anything that’s supposedly making a huge difference in this field, and rest assured anyone that knows what they are doing will get good results.
Yup. It’s humans who make this gig. They taught everything as magic and it turns out that there aren’t too many boxes that are all that critical.

I always enjoy coming here where honesty doesn’t get you roasted by flamethrower.
Mission accomplished.

I’m currently testing an SSL X-Desk for summing because I was curious about the SSL sound. After summing several songs through it, I feel that the mixes came out wider sounding (more airy), the bass sounding fuller and smooth and the overall sound is sonically pleasing. My ITB mixes are very clear, precise and pleasing but the SSL sound is definitely different and I like it.
Awesome! Good to know.

At this point I’ve decided that I will buy it because it is a tool I would like to have in my studio. Is it a life changing device. No. Will it help me mix. No. Will it pay for itself. I believe it will since it has already generated additional client interest in my studio. Is it for everyone. No. Can a studio do without. Absolutely.
Well worded. Sometimes nice tools are nice. The more ridiculous the tool, the intrigue it gives. There are definitely times when you end up in different directions than you planned. (The room mic example in the article that lead to tracking cymbals separately is a good example).

Brandon

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brandondrury – 02-22-2012, 06:38 PM
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so Brandon are you saying that itb mixing /recording is more practical , and what about the end result , I’m reading it as the console mix’s arn’t superior to the itb mix’s ? thanks Dave
I won’t go that far because I’ve not used all consoles and I’m not everybody. I will say that at this time, the use of a console for mixing a huge pain in the butt, is even worse when dealing with recalls, and ITB is definitely more efficient in most categories for me.

There are sonic considerations that complicate the manner. I highly enjoy my 2bus hardware compressor. Because it’s settings are fixed, I have no recall issues with it. The same goes for my Eventide H3000 and Lexicon PCM90 as they allow me to save presets.

Brandon

Nanowire – 02-23-2012, 12:39 PM
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At this stage, I rate the my console a double squint mode rating. You’ve got to squint if you aren’t use to it to really care about the difference between an API and a 1073 in most situations. You’ve got to double squint with the console.
I’m sorry but I can’t seem to wrap my head around this sentence.

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bobbybovine – 02-23-2012, 12:50 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by dudermn View Post
Now imagine the more perfect situation. You get a Swedish blondy reaching over the console, eventually she’ll be dressed in a traditional Swedish folk outfit and always carrying a beer. All of a sudden your gonna want to make more minute changes to those faders, but will be too lazy to reach for um

I would get a cheer-leading squad in and do that ‘channel ride’ thing live
I like how you think dudermn!!!

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Starliner – 02-23-2012, 04:04 PM
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Brandon,

I’d like to see the details of your patch bay design. I think it might benefit some others as well. What didn’t work so good the first time around, and what you’re doing differently on the re-design. I’ve looked at a lot of online articles about patch bays, and still find it confusing in regards to the best choices.

Starliner

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bassdude – 02-29-2012, 04:30 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by Danny Danzi View Post
Other times, a load of crap presentation can be molded into something grand. Ever hear the Bohemian Rhapsody multi-tracks? That sure taught me how much Queen really isn’t all that when you listen to that stuff individually. I’ve heard guys on here get better production than that in their bedrooms. However, someone had the knowledge and approach to where they mixed that stuff and made it work. It’s nothing special just like The Beatles Abbey Road album is truly nothing special instrumentally speaking. With all that stuff, the producer made them shine as well as how things were mixed. The captures are nothing special in my opinion as much as I love both of those bands and the songs they created. But would you be happy with those sounds in your studio? I wouldn’t either for most of that stuff.
I haven’t listened to the multi tracks you are talking about and maybe i should track them down, but is this a case of what sounds good in the mix usually sounds fairly ordinary solo, and what sounds good solo, not so good in the mix. I know i’ve seen video footage of lennon recording vocals in a studio using headphones and the vocal tone was really bad, although i’d bet it blended nicely in the headphone mix.
I think the ability to create a great tone within the mix rather than solo is at least part of what seperates the good from the truly outstanding.

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the evil – 03-08-2012, 11:57 AM
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I feel like this is the reason the summing boxes were created. I know there is a lot of argument on the subject and im not trying to debate if its the real deal becasue i have no idea…, but using the summing mixer, you are eliminating all the crap that comes with the console, like recalls and such (depending pn the summing moxer controls). If you are in a position where you have all the preamps you want the only thing i feel you are getting is some EQ and some extra monitoring options. If you are buying a console to get the analog circuitry part than the boxes make perfect sense. some of them are pretty expensive but still cheaper than a nice console and you can spend that extra money you saved on the analog EQ you think you needed…

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Stan_Halen – 03-08-2012, 01:12 PM
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The Dangerous 2-Bus LT is $1350. It’s 16×2.

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the evil – 03-09-2012, 01:56 PM
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That is correct so instead of getting the Toft mixer like brandon has you just saved at least $2500, that you can spend on some other analog gear like eq or bus compression. I think that will buy you an api 2500 or a lunchbox and a few modules of 500 series eq. I was just putting that out there, if the whole reason to buy a console is to be more analog.

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paintballnsk – 04-09-2012, 03:45 PM
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Brandon/someone,

Could anyone talk about how a well setup Cubase template with say something like the SSL4000 plugin and a Mackie Control Pro, 8 track extender, and a C4 would compare for a fraction of the price of an analog console?

That whole setup alone would be like.. $3000 brand new.

The motorized faders alone will give your clients a hard on, if that’s your biggest reason for spending all that money for the “wow” factor.

 

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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