Mixing software through an analog desk

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optimus prime
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Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by optimus prime » Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:30 pm

I've had this idea for a while, that my Reason productions would sound a lot better if I mixed them on an old school analog desk and recorded to tape. Does that make any sense? There's no doubt that the result would be different compared to the software mix, but would the difference be worth the hassle? Or maybe all I need is a decent mastering job?

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by pflosi » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:19 pm

With Reason, it already would sound better if you mixed it in a proper DAW, logic, protools, etc. :thumbright:

No matter with what tool you mix, most important thing is that you know what you do (i.e. experience) and have a proper listening environment (i.e. good monitoring speakers and accoustic treatment). Tape can be cool if you do it right, but it also depends on style of music and a lot of other things. On the other hand, you can also fsu badly...

And mastering is of course also important... But first a good mix ;)

I'd really try around first in a DAW, got nothing else besides Reason? You can rewire the single instrument tracks as well, don't even need to record them before... If, on the other hand, you happen to have a tape deck lying around, you can of course also try it with that, but I wouldn't buy one expecting it to be instant magic for mixing...

Cheers!

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by meatballfulton » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:45 pm

When you read about pros doing this, they are using expensive analog desks (i.e. not just any analog mixer) and high end tape machines that are properly maintained. Mixing on a Mackie VLZ and recording to an Sony reel to reel isn't at all the same thing, in fact it can easily sound worse.

Your ITB mixes can sound great if you have good ears and a good monitoring environment. Get that together first. More gear is almost never the answer.
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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by optimus prime » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:11 am

I was thinking more along the lines of taking my tracks to a studio for a proper mix, with an engineer and all. I was just wandering if it would be worth the cost and the trouble. The funny thing is I used to be a lot more satisfied with my mixes, I listen to stuff I did like 5 or 6 years ago and it sounds perfect to me. Maybe it's got more to do with inspiration than skill, I don' know. I've changed soundcards in the meantime, could the audio engine make a difference even for in-the-box mixing? Makes no sense to me, but maybe it's possible.

I've heard before that Reason has terrible mixdown, but have yet to see substantial proof, like direct comparisons. Also, I did have an album properly mastered, and the engineer, to my great surprise, spoke very kindly of my mixes. The overall impression did improve after mastering, but not as much as I expected.

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by Stab Frenzy » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:43 am

My answer to this is 'it depends'.

I haven't used Reason since version 2 so have no idea what its mix engine is like these days, but generally when it comes to summing everything I've used these days (PT, Live, Logic) is pretty good. However, I hear a big difference with different EQ plugins, so if you're EQing in Reason and the EQ algo isn't great that could make a big difference to the mixes. Same goes with compression.

I also found a funny difference between mixing in Logic and Pro Tools that resulted in me coming out with different mixes for a funny reason that had nothing to do with the sound of the program but was still caused by the program, which had to do with the metering. In Pro Tools the meters show a bigger range of levels, I don't remember off the top of my head what it is but let's say 80dB. In Logic it's a much smaller amount, say 30dB. When I was mixing in Logic after having learnt in PT I found myself pushing things a lot harder just because I was expecting to see a certain amount of the meter lit up from what I was used to. It took me a little while to realise what I was doing and had to make an active effort to curb it because sometimes I'd have tracks that weren't metering at all even though you could clearly hear them in the mix.

Regarding your soundcard it won't make any difference to the results of an ITB mix in itself, however a different soundcard might allow you to hear your mix differently so you make different mix decisions.

I think the biggest difference if you went into a studio and mixed on an analogue desk with an engineer would come from having another set of ears involved in the mixing process, rather than the desk and the tape.

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by pflosi » Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:06 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:I think the biggest difference if you went into a studio and mixed on an analogue desk with an engineer would come from having another set of ears involved in the mixing process, rather than the desk and the tape.
...and most likely a better listening environment...

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by meatballfulton » Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:23 pm

OK, if you're talking about having a seasoned mixer work on your tracks, sure it's worth paying for a track or two and see what happens. You might also look for a pro mixer who uses Reason to do an ITB mix as well.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by cgren72 » Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:30 pm

I've thought of doing things like this, but I wanted a lo-fi sound so high quality wasn't required.

And add REAPER to the list of daws that maybe you should look into. Its very inexpensive, and well worth it. You can try it out unrestricted for free for 30 days (or longer).

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by colmon » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:55 pm

man, the stuff on your soundcloud sounds like it's been mixed fine to me, pretty much genre correct anyway

putting s**t through a desk is only worth it if it has some kind of character you want to impart onto your tracks, say from driving the pres or adding frequencies with the eq's. even if it's just a shitty old mackie or whatever it might work for that specific track, so why not try it out?

as for getting a pro mix engineer to work on your tracks, i honestly don't think this happens as much as people on message boards make out it does. it's easier to believe that so-and-so's records sound amazing because he got them mixed by a pro than it is to confront issues with our own ability (not saying you're guilty of this at all, nor questioning your ability!). at the end of the day, mixing electronic music isn't brain science, just get everything sounding good at arrangement level and then mixing should be little more than levels adjustment and basic eq/compression duties

there's amazing music being created all over the world right now on nothing but a macbook and a pair of sony mdr-7506s...

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by madtheory » Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:43 pm

FWIW Optimus I too think your mixes always sound great. I do believe that the money would be better spent on improving your room and speakers, because you're obviously a capable mixer yourself. The prime benefit of that is you're no longer guessing what it sounds like, it becomes obvious, and your mixes translate to other systems.

Currently the new RCF Mytho 8 speakers look like a superb compact solution. The seem to compare well to the likes of Klein & Hummel/ Neumann.

These days I think, with total recall genuinely available if you run everything in software, mastering is kinda over rated. If there's something "wrong" with the mix, then recall and fix it. The main benefit of mastering is just to give a flow to the whole collection (so your listeners are not continuously adjusting the level), get the opinion of a second pair of (expert) ears, and maybe avail of some boxes you can't afford.

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by optimus prime » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:30 pm

Thanks everyone for your input. I guess it all comes down to just wanting to try something different. It's not hard to feel like you're standing in place, even though that place may be just fine.

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by madtheory » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:49 am

True! :)

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Re: Mixing software through an analog desk

Post by guillermotin » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:53 pm

My tips:

Try a demo of Harrison Mixbus, a DAW that sounds pretty good to my ears.

Second, try some of UADs plugins in your master mix, but for those unfortunately you'd have to buy the card.

The thing is that any of these two options may be way cheaper than setting up an intermediate analog mixer along with a fully functional tape machine...

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