Big mixers - what's the advantage?

fuzzikitten

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As I see more and more photos of folks' setups I've noticed quite a number of you have a big outboard mixing desk.

Now, I'm just a youngin' learning as much as I can about this whole music engineering thing, and most of my learning has happened on a computer. I've never played in a band, and never even seen a recording studio (I think they're a myth - surely the insides are just a bunch of computers), and so I'm not sure what the use/value is in a mixing desk.

I've heard talk that certain desks will add a pleasant color to the sound, but other than that... What's the point?

Am I missing out by doing all my mixing in Cubase's mixer? I only have a couple hardware synths, and no outboard effects.

Just wondering if I'm missing out on something.

peace,

-Alex
 
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Andrea

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Nah, it's all about to show off 'mine is bigger then yours' thing :sad: :Grin:
 

trancetheory

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You dont need a huge mixing desk unless you have lots of inputs and outputs, if you dont, then dont worry about it, there is no point!

Having said that, eventually you will probably need a mixing desk, not definitly, but as you build up more and more equipment, it makes it allot easier to deal with all in one board all neat and tidy and easy to manipulate

Nah, it's all about to show off 'mine is bigger then yours' thing
am sure that has a bit to do with it aswell :lol:
 

Faction

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It all depends on how many sources you want to listen to at any one time. If everything you do happens inside the PC then you don't need a mixer; just a volume control. If, however, you have any hardware at all, you either need a soundcard with enough I/O for everything you have, or a mixer. The mixer is by far more preferable in this case as you don't need to turn on the PC to hear anything!
 

Fromem_Ory

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i bought my mixer with the intention of connecting most of the channels to my computer... i got the terratec ews88mt which has 8 outs and ins, and is useful, but with cubase i rarely use more than the single stereo output... but i have mics, my guitar, my synth and my laptop connected to other channels...
and the routing options on my desk are wikkid... all the headphone controls, busses, too much to mention... couldnt live without it now
 

nab

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hi there

new to the forum; this looks like a good section.

The main reason why people use outboard desks is basically for their "sound". Mackies, for example, are the favoured desks for many producers. Eat static still cart a huge 32 track mackie around with them live; i've read that posford, banco and ott mix on large analogues (and you can't fault their sound now can you!). it's also a bit more intuitive mixing on a proper mixer. moreover it allows easy access to hardware compressors, fx units. old valve compressors etc give a real warmth to any sound. (oh yeah and they look really cool too....)

music made entirely in the digital realm can lack warmth although i am extremely impressed by the quality of present plug ins. whether it's actually worth all the hassle of routing stuff out into the analogue realm will always be subjective and it will depend also on the style of music you make and what source material you are using. if you are using samples etc that were recorded through analogue desks then you already have that sound imprinted into the sample (spectrasonics' stylus drum software for example contains samples traditionally recorded and then pressed onto vinyl and re-recorded!)

having mixed on budget analogue desks for ages, at the mo' i'm mixing in logic and digital mixer (through ADAT) and it's better but i have found a kind of closed sound. i was thinking about getting a card with a decent number of analogue outputs to go into my little mackie1202 VLZ (that i use live) to combine the digital and analogue worlds although i'm unsure whether the it's worth it to route through a budget mixer like that. maybe only worth it for one of the big mackies maybe....? not sure how quantum the leap in quality is. any thoughts anyone?

neil
 

Elektrovert

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Personally I thinks that outboard desks ahave MUCH more dynamic range than computers.
I'm always running out of headroom if I keep the mix internal, it just doesn't sound right to me.
The mix always seems cluttered.
Software still doesn't cut it in this regard IMO, I've yet to see a software mixer that does a proper job.
they're great for tweaking bits and pieces, but if you compare a mix though a software mixer to stereo output, to a mix via multiple outputs to a hardware desk (analogue or digital) you'll be shocked at the difference.
I reckon if you have hardware you should get a desk.
Actually even if you have multiple outputs you should get a desk.
If you don't, then get a card with multiple outputs and then get a desk! :runaway:
 

trancetheory

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The mix always seems cluttered.
Software still doesn't cut it in this regard IMO
There shouldnt be anything an outboard desk can do that a computer cants do, but having said that, a pc is entirly digital, so I guess there is 'tecnicaly' alwayz going to be a diffrence, I suspect its perception more than anything however if you can notice it

but everyonez saying the same thing anyway, if you have multiple in/outs, get a desk
 

Elektrovert

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Yeah, technically there shouldn't be a difference, but my ears tell me there is!!
And look at it this way, if there really is no difference then why are Cards like RME hammerfall and Audiowerks etc, being produced with multiple outputs.
surely if internal mixing was as efficent these cards wouldn't sell, or would be based more around multiple inputs.

Just a thought!
 

JPsychodelicacy

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The only limitation involved with an internal mix is the dynamic range of the sound card - it's been proven that humans subconsciously perceive 'louder' as 'better', and this is where a lot of hardware junkies get their perception that "software doesn't cut it", when the simple fact is that they are hearing their hardware going a bit louder than the sound card, then when they record it in, they perceive the fact that it's got quieter as a limitation of digital recording, rather than simply that it's coming through the sound card, which needs to get the whole track within its dynamic range rather than just one instrument and will therefore seem 'quieter'.

The desks that 'colour' sound tend to be the old ones with valve pre-amps rather than modern ones - your average Mackie is bought for its featureset and durability rather than the sound it produces, which is pretty much the same going out as coming in.

It's also easier to get 'hands-on' control on an external desk than having to faff around with the mouse - extremely useful for live situations... but you can do the same on the internal mixer with an external MIDI control box.

I do have a mixer, but it tends to get used for recording live instruments and occasionally splitting the outs from my Gina if I want to do some quick and dirty grouping work - for dance music I do pretty much everything internally - it's far less hassle.

Elektrovert - those cards have multiple ins and outs for doing work with live bands, as well as the fact that some of the old-school engineers, like Ott, prefer that way of working because it's what they're used to - *not* because of any inherent superiority in terms of sound.

J.
 

Elektrovert

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When I'm comparing the two they are both running through the mixer and amp on the same settings.
the only difference is whether or not I have all the instruments coming out of the pc on a stereo pair or through individual outputs.

methinks I'll probably have to sit down and compare them properly.
maybe by hooking my pc straight to the amp or something.

I'll get back to you on that.
:speaker:
 

trancetheory

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Yeah, technically there shouldn't be a difference, but my ears tell me there is!!
And look at it this way, if there really is no difference then why are Cards like RME hammerfall and Audiowerks etc, being produced with multiple outputs.
surely if internal mixing was as efficent these cards wouldn't sell, or would be based more around multiple inputs.

Just a thought!
hmm well, I may have slightly mis-written what I wanted to say, I had assumed that if you where going to have multiple inputs into your track, you would have multiple inputs going into your PC. Isnt that standard? (not of course if you only use Reason and software synths of course) You dont need to spend huge amounts on an outboard, you can spend a fraction on a decent soundcard with all the inputs you need and do all the mixing internally, and I would expect this to be the same quality as on the outboard, but of course it depends on the software, and on the PC. PC's generate allot of noise, which will affect the quality, but adding an outboard to your setup isnt going to affect this as you still have the PC.

I personally prefer to have a desk in front of me, and leave the computer power to other stuff like synth processing, but thats becuase of my background in sound engineering, its what I learnt, but its not nessacry, unless you have allot of inputs, for somthing like a large live band....and as i cant afford to buy myself a decnt desk, well, i dont see the point of wasting my money really....if you do have money to spend, then go 4 it :Smile3:
 

nab

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Elektrovert said:
Personally I thinks that outboard desks ahave MUCH more dynamic range than computers.
I'm always running out of headroom if I keep the mix internal, it just doesn't sound right to me.
The mix always seems cluttered.

(by the way, how do you do that quote thing? not sure if i did it right)

I agree with that. Mixing internally is a bit of a swine. you have to constantly reduce the individual track levels to stop the masters peaking (or reduce the master level). and if you reduce the individual levels so far that you can keep the master level from peaking the mix starts to sound pretty weak.

perhaps using limiters on every channel is the answer? don't know, i'm quite new to music on computers. i've only just got rid of my atari. i've been using logic for about 8 months now and the levels thing seems to be the main draw back. apart from that all i can say is :wow:
 

Faction

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If you have to turn the master fader down to avoid clipping, don't worry... just turn the volume on the speakers up! It's not rocket science. You won't be losing ANY qualilty by doing so.
 

JPsychodelicacy

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nab said:
I agree with that. Mixing internally is a bit of a swine. you have to constantly reduce the individual track levels to stop the masters peaking (or reduce the master level). and if you reduce the individual levels so far that you can keep the master level from peaking the mix starts to sound pretty weak.
My way round that is to provide a nice loud source signal and aim to get a good level, yet actually roll back the faders -4-5dB (obviously a bit less with the kick and bass if you're doing trance). This *should* provide you with a nice amount of headroom if you need it, and all you need to do is turn up the volume on your sound card/amp to get the master volume louder if you need it.

I also use the (free) Elemental Audio Inspector plugin to get an idea of the levels across the frequency spectrum. This is also handy if you want to get an extra layer of synths in, but need to make/find a gap in the spectrum that you can use. You can also use it to keep an eye on clipping events at the master out stage.

http://www.elementalaudio.com/products/inspector/

J.
 

ChrisCabbage

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I used to use a bigger desk, but since my external kit has now been reduced to some bare essentials, everything is now going into my 8 channel RME Hammerfall - directly. That's Moog Voyager, Korg Z1, Triton Extreme and Nord Lead 3. If I want to use other sound sources (e.g. Guitar) - I'll just temporarily swap with one of the above sources.
 

Elektrovert

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Colin OOOD said:
If you have to turn the master fader down to avoid clipping, don't worry... just turn the volume on the speakers up! It's not rocket science. You won't be losing ANY qualilty by doing so.
but by doing that aren't you just raising the noise floor, which will still result in the loss of dynamic range?
and even then that wil only apply to listening to your mix during the production stage.
Won't you loos the tails ends of reverbs and delays and the like by working this way?

maybe I'm just too fussy, :ph34r:
 

Fromem_Ory

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the way i see it a good mixer's 'sound' is the same sound going out as the sound going in... with the best monitors being the flattest and most realistic. i personally dont want any kit that adds anything to the sound, especially if its not actually gonna have that sound when finished, i.e. i wouldnt want warm sounding monitors (a strange example i know) cause its not gonna change the way that the bounced version of my choon sounds...
any warmth and stuff that i add to my sound will be with plug-ins.
 

JPsychodelicacy

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Elektrovert said:
but by doing that aren't you just raising the noise floor, which will still result in the loss of dynamic range?
Only if your amp isn't all that. My Yammies are pretty much silent when I'm not playing stuff through them, even turned most of the way up.

Thinking about what you're saying about multiple outputs, it's true that you can get it slightly louder at the output stage of the mixer, because you're spreading the instruments across the outputs rather than pushing them all through a single stereo pair. This gives you more headroom at the mixer stage to play with, but doesn't actually *improve* audio fidelity.

At the end of the day I guess we just work with what we're used to. :Smile3:

J.
 
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