Professional Mixing In A Modest Room

Q

From what I gather, your main requirement is a professional mix facility capable of functioning in a modest room, really scaled back to the minimum, but without compromise.

As we discussed, there are three ways forwards;

A

1. A conventional analogue console for mixing. There is a massive move back to analogue consoles for mixing these days, for a number of reasons;

  1. The human being is a visual rather than an aural animal. This means that if you’re mixing a track with a screen in front of you, what you see will always override what you hear. Indeed, many engineers who ‘mix in the box’ will turn off their Protools screen for the final mix, so they’re trusting their ears rather than their eyes.
  2. You can use a desk in real time, rather than constantly stopping to edit with a mouse, assign, save and move on. The example I always use is eq’ing drums; Once you’ve eq’d the kick drum, the snare needs tweaking. However, once you’ve tweaked the snare, the kick almost always needs a bit of tweaking as well, and so on. In other words, sounds work in conjunction with each other, so if you change one sound, you often need to change the others slightly. If you’re stuck with a mouse, this means a tiring process of constant editing back and forth, whereas with an analogue desk you can easily experiment and tweak in real time.
  3. Sound quality. No matter what the resolution of your converters, you will have far more information recorded onto your hard disc than can be squeezed out of a simple stereo pair. The computer will therefore effectively make ‘production’ decisions, as to what it will discard from the mix, and invariably this means low frequency data (which occupies more space). ‘In the box’ mixes, therefore, often lack definition, stereo imagery and bottom end, whereas to break out into (say) eight or more ‘stems’ (sub mixes) allows far more info to return to the analogue domain, and even in simply summed (i.e. merged) into a stereo mix, the sound and definition will be noticeable better.

We always have a selection of professional quality, fully serviced, desks and consoles at pretty much every price point from a couple of grand up to…well, the sky is the limit. I’d be happy to suggest examples that I regard as good
value within whatever budget you have.

2. A DAW, Procontrol type front end.

  • These are really giant mice, but make working with Protools or a similar hard disc system far easier. There are a variety on the market these days, ranging from Digi’s own C24 to the cheap-as-chips new Euphonix controllers and expanders. A word of warning, though – like so much computer based stuff, these are often flimsily made and pretty much beyond repair if they go wrong. Although they’re designed to make life easier, they don’t affect the sound or offer any sonic advantages.

3. A combination of 1 and 2 above,

  • Increasingly, companies are designing units that seek to fulfil both advantages, the latest of which is the SSL Matrix – a line level (40 input) analogue mixer/router designed to work with SSL (or other) outboard mic pres, eq and dynamics, but also designed to function as a DAW controller in certain modes. This is a well thought out piece of equipment at a quarter of the price of the established SSL AWS900+, but is far more basic. However, once a reasonable amount of outboard units are added (the settings of which can be stored in the Matrix’s onboard computer, together with fader levels etc) the cost can go up steeply. A cheaper (and in many ways better) result can be achieved by purchasing something like the Euphonix DAW controllers and using in conjunction with a quality used analogue console. This would combine comprehensive eq, good mic pres and metering etc with the convenience of DAW control to offer a far better result at a much lower cost than the SSL AWS900+ and even the SSL Matrix.

This is a brief overview of the options available. I’d be happy to make some concrete suggestions of various package systems in different price ranges, including any additional outboard required, monitors and mics (if appropriate).

 

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