Aye up Macc/Tech geeks - Out to desk or 'all in the box'?

23 Replies, 8590 Views

hello all, just after some good advice regarding the best way to record or mix, when working solely in software.....

been at this shit for years, and over time have gone from having a room full of hardware to a room half-full of mainly redundant hardware, and am now questioning certain aspects of what i'm doing. back in the good/bad old days, i was making jungle on an atari running cubase, akai sampler, few synths and drum machines etc, all routed to my analogue desk and then straight into my dat machine, much like everyone else.

much akin to the classic film 'the fly', i have, over time, superseded these methods and have achieved much more flexibilty, mobility and power - i now write (again, much like everyone else these days) with nothing more than a macbook pro, m-audio fw410 card and an external sample drive.

my question is this....

are there any advantages to keeping everything digital when writing, and bouncing etc, completely within the computer? it feels a bit wrong to me, and that things just sound a bit more 'squashed' than they used to, regardless of how amazing my software is (sonalksis comps compared to behringer composer, for example). have i become the fly myself, shamefully convincing myself - ''i'm getting - better''? haha

i was speaking to mike vapour online recently and he does it the old fashioned way, routing his card to the desk, then straight from there onto dat or cdr - love the sound of his stuff as much as maccs, although they're obviously quite different yet still retain that tough sound i love Wink

basically just wondering if there's much merit in outputting physically in this way and then recording back onto dat, or am i merely a prisoner of my old school mentality? my older tracks may be quiter, but they're more dynamic in some respects and things have a very noticable hardness to them, although akai d/a's have a lot to answer for there, as does the ridiculous stability and timing of the st on sequencing duties Smile

even considered firing up the old s3000 and resampling my drum tracks through them, to get some bite back, or is my arse beginning to talk for me here??

many thanks for all advice and sorry to waffle, love and regards, hovver

ps shocking i know, but couldn't really give a f*ck about numbers and correctness, i like things punchy but ruff, so looking for ear as opposed to binary gratification!

ok, enough bollocks Wink cheers
bloody hell... hello :d Wave

and Welcome Wave

i'll ponder this and get back to you boss. just wanted to say hello, and nice to have an old head here!
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Don Cherry Wrote:Every human is blessed in her or his life with one love (passion), no matter how long it may last. This Absolute love will last in one's heart and soul forever.
HOw's it goin.
Haven't been around these parts in a while.
But my honest opinion with this stuff is go with what you feel.
Quote:it feels a bit wrong to me, and that things just sound a bit more 'squashed' than they used to, regardless of how amazing my software is

I feel exactly the same. no matter how good the software is, there just never seems to be enough head room for me.
so I tend to stick to hardware for mixing and the like.
even if I've recorded everything to audio in Logic, I still mix externally straight to a CD/HD recorder.
It just sounds sooooooo much better to my ears than bouncing internally.
Sometimes I think I've got a screw loose somewhere, as all the science says that there is no difference at all.
But in the end I decided if I prefer to master through a desk rather than inside the box then I should do that.
Go with your gut.
Think of all the classic tunes that were made before all these digital doo-hickeys became available, are they any less cool for not being kept in the digital domain??

not at all.

that answers that question for me anyway. Smile
Quote:even considered firing up the old s3000 and resampling my drum tracks through them, to get some bite back, or is my arse beginning to talk for me here??
Again, I think you're right here.
when I sequence stuff it always sounds better if I sample it.
even If I just sample the whole loop and re-sequence it exactly as it was, but through the sampler.
the hardware just seems to add something.
macc Wrote:bloody hell... hello :d Wave

hahaha sorry i do go 'round the houses' a bit sometimes Wink hello anyway and thanks for replying, hope you'll come back to me on this one sir ps find your stuff really inspiring and have got to the point where i can spot a 'macc tracc' within the first few bars - you have a distinctive sound, but fortunately not in the same way as natasha bedingfield. shudder......


elektrovert Wrote:sometimes i think i've got a screw loose somewhere, as all the science says that there is no difference at all.
but in the end i decided if i prefer to master through a desk rather than inside the box then i should do that.
go with your gut.
think of all the classic tunes that were made before all these digital doo-hickeys became available, are they any less cool for not being kept in the digital domain??

not at all.


brilliant. nice to know it's not just me that's cracking up! haha seriously, thanks a lot for taking time to reply, very sound advice and taking it on board - think i might try the akai thing too actually, just out of interest, and also to get my filthy mitts on that worn out data wheel again - it's been tooo long Twisted
outboard gear is a hell of a lot better for crazy experimentations.
should be a nice split between outboard and in the box, cos making a tune by just clicking a mouse seems a bit stale, nice to fiddle with other things, plus as you say, it does make things sound fatter and warmer.
cube Wrote:cos making a tune by just clicking a mouse seems a bit stale,

Yes
i resample breaks through my desk and borrow valve eq's etc from mates when having a major sample session, it is unbeatable in some situations, BUT with 24bit inside a daw, you have a major scope for making things dynamic but you have to remember not to have all the levels to loud, its all relative.

i bounced some stuff though my desk a while back and it had an edge
(i can only explain "EDGE" by saying more punchy / warm but i ran out of headroom very quickly maybe a limitation of my desk Soundcraft 16-8-2) the major nice thing about outboard is clipping gains for compression, real eq can sound nicer than whacking a plugin on an daw channel and it can make it more lofi (by this i mean less "clean") with out as much effort.

all i can say from my experiance of making tunes for half of my life is using old and new together makes all the differnce, main parts ie bass and drums can leave the computer into outboard then be recorded back in live or offline and you get the best of both worlds, i don't think i could completly go old school again as there are to many plus's from working itb like audio & complete recall , accurate automation, it goes on

i hope what i have put makes sense , its somthing i can demonstrate maybe when i get a chance, infact maybe we could all do some a / b tests and post up results.

one thing i learnt after about 2 years of working in digital was its a different way of working and old analog habbits can cause daw mixes to sound wrong, there is a lot more room to breathe, its funny it took so long to figure out but i think macc said back in 2004 made me see the light Lol
this is ace! really the kind of advice i've been after, thank you all very much :d

@ dsp, what you wrote makes sense perfectly mate.....although i do have a couple of questions spawned from your points!

i love the idea of resampling stuff through nice valve gear etc, but unfortunately don't have access to such nice gear, so i'm using the desk very basically for now - it's not even that good a desk or anything, it's a studiomaster (terrible name or what) p7, which like your soundcraft, is 24-8-2. at the minute i'm using it just to actually output my 4 stereo pairs from the card, then adjusting levels on the mixer via buses. but then this makes no sense as i'm not even recording anything yet! it's just a 5 foot wide fader haha

i always have a fear of commitment (i am male after all), so find it hard to go 'right, that's done' and get on with recording through the desk like this - hence why these days i don't even finish much and always feel 'safer' being able to recall or change every single parameter, to the point where i don't even bounce audio files that much, which is a big hinderance. eq isn't my strongest point either, and although i can make a decent sounding track eventually by trusting my ears, i never feel too comfortable with bottom end for example - i can get it roughly right i think, but it's like i'm winging it as they say Wink

and so, the frigging questions!!

dsp, when you say you ran out of headroom quickly on your desk, how do you mean? Oops i'm unsure of that whole area, like would it be better to get the levels right in logic, then record out of the desk with all fader levels set the same and onto dat? and when you mention the scope of 24bit inside the daw - does this mean you can get more volume out of things if it all remains digital? and if these are the advantages, are they lost if it ends up going through my desk and onto dat?

i've also read different opinions regarding levels in a daws mixer, what are you good folks opinions on this? do you keep instrument levels max'd and lower the output/bus levels, or vice versa?

prob my best bet is to just do it both ways and compare, like you said - after all it's only a matter of pressing 'bounce' to keep a digital copy anyway!

one more question on this monster and i'll let you all have your lives back haha

i've only just gone mac/logic so am setting up my default template to coincide with outputting to the desk, like this -

i have set up buses for my instruments into different groups, eg, some for breaks, some for drum hits, one for bass, and more for synths and fx - then from these buses, i'm then sending my kicks (if used) out of ch1 (mono), sub out of ch2 (mono), breaks on ch3-4, synths on 5-6 and fx/audio on 7-8.

do you think this is an ok setup, or would you dedicate more outs to drums/breaks and less for synths fx etc? i also have channels 9-10 available, but via spdif or optical, could i use these as extra outs at the same time as the analogue ones and if so, how?

ok. i'm gone. all apologies for this beast and congratulations if you're still reading, you've outlived some great people.....Wink

hovver the donkeys hind leg remover
hovver Wrote:i love the idea of resampling stuff through nice valve gear etc, but unfortunately don't have access to such nice gear, so i'm using the desk very basically for now - it's not even that good a desk or anything,
just going to the outside world not even using great stuff will change things some times for the better sometimes not, there is the issue of noise / hum etc on old or cheaper stuff but either way just take a loop in your sampler out put it into the desk and back into the computer and see & hear, the difference side by side in a wav editor. its not all about the best gear (for what i want it for ) having a chain of shitty gear, old hifis , guitar pedals whatever you can run sound through can give you ideas and ways of working just to give samples some character
hovver Wrote:dsp, when you say you ran out of headroom quickly on your desk, how do you mean? Oops i'm unsure of that whole area, like would it be better to get the levels right in logic, then record out of the desk with all fader levels set the same and onto dat? and when you mention the scope of 24bit inside the daw - does this mean you can get more volume out of things if it all remains digital? and if these are the advantages, are they lost if it ends up going through my desk and onto dat? ,
well with the headroom to not get technical as there’s a ton of stuff on this if you search the forum, you have a lower noise floor and a higher range before clipping kicks in, so you can have the overall level of everything lower in volume so that any odd peaks don’t send you over your 0db limit, where as at 16 bit you push your mix louder because of the noise floor and reduced dynamic range and clipping becomes more of an issue, summing on a desk is slightly different because in the analog world its a bit more forgiving if you do go over you maximum.

you won't lose at the end by going to 16bit (if in a daw you must dither and intersample peak check) your just reducing the final volume but keeping more dynamics intact, and the mix should be clearer
hovver Wrote:i've also read different opinions regarding levels in a daws mixer, what are you good folks opinions on this? do you keep instrument levels max'd and lower the output/bus levels, or vice versa?

always keep the output fader at 0 and adjust everything else down if it goes over 0db !!! best thing i learnt from maccy boy was the -6 db thing on each channel please note this does not mean make everything -6db its just a very rough guide that is easy to take the wrong way , when its all summed leeping this in mind should keep under 0db but again don't take that as a rule its a rough guide level and does not apply to every channel or sound, but give your mix some room and you will see why you don't always need to go outboard to get a defined mix


hovver Wrote:prob my best bet is to just do it both ways and compare, like you said - after all it's only a matter of pressing 'bounce' to keep a digital copy anyway!

Yes

as for the logic stuff i will leave that to the logic heads Teef

disclaimer i have explained this as best i can ,if any figures are wrong im sure i will get corrected Teef also these are my opinions i don't claim to be an expert by any means i just understand what i do and it works for me
:d :d :d

brilliant mate! thanks very very much to everyone for all the help, much appreciated.

was just about to go away then, but have thought of another thread to start haha

kindest regards, hovver Wink
good thread here.

sorry wading in too late. dsp has covered a lot of it.

regarding volume: the 'analogue has more headroom' argument is at the same time valid and also like comparing apples and oranges. yes, you can drive channels on your desk all day, run em all right into the red if your desk is good enough that it sounds nice.... but when you mix it down to cd you still have to come under 0dbfs, and that's the end of it.

i can understand people feeling more comfortable when mixing with this 'extra' headroom, but that's another matter, one of aesthetics or something. you will still have to (in effect) turn all those channels down when you go to digital. i know you keep the character, but that's not what i am talking about here (see below) Wink in terms of headroom, 99% of the time we are ending up in a digital format (unless everyone here releases tapes, or sends tapes to the mastering house? ). we are, and will always be, 0dbfs' bitches.

from what i have seen, the majority of people who share elektrovert's point of view are used to running channels in the red a lot, ie analogue mixing on a decent desk. turning up is better than turning down, at least to a certain point, right? well it is the opposite - again, to a point - in digital. this is a - if not the - fundamental difference between mixing itb and otb so far as just setting faders goes.

bottom line? everything sounds shit once you go above or below a certain level. how you structure your mix to reach the 'sweet spot' is where the differences between analogue and digital mixing arise. one way you turn all your channels up and end up effectively having to turn the master down, the other you turn them all down and end up having to turn the master up. big fookin deal Smile



regarding character, well, i lean towards the 'process things so they have the character you're after, then mix them' approach. that is, distort/filter/wah wah/flange/whatever i so it gets the message/vibe/[insert esoteric term here] across, then mix it so that message presents itself as best possible.

with reference to the above stuff in mixing, knowing the character of your desk can arguably allow you to do this more easily/smoothly - eqing on the desk, setting gain etc in one place rather than countless plugin windows. but i don't find it that big a deal any more in software - keyboard shortcuts, custom presets, and especially knowing which plug you need in a given situation mean you can be more flexible without taking that long over it. trying out 10 different eqs on one thing Thumbd

anyway, often it is the case that an old sampler/eq/etc has 'that' sound you want. but chances are it isn't so convenient to make a tune with (recall etc). so use the character, bounce it down and commit to it, then use the ultra-handy computer stuff we have now to mix it etc. one great thing about hw is exactly that it forces you to commit! endless tweaking Thumbd i'm pretty much past that now in software, thank god.


when all's said and done, leo (dsp) said it best:

Quote:using old and new together makes all the difference

Xyxthumbs

the right one at the right time, and using the best of both, is the way forward Xyxthumbs
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Don Cherry Wrote:Every human is blessed in her or his life with one love (passion), no matter how long it may last. This Absolute love will last in one's heart and soul forever.
i have been busy doing some stuff i will post in a new thread, a track

bounced straight in cubase 24bit 44.1khz

then out of my emu 8 outs in to my analog desk , then recorded back in to pc 24 bit 44khz , i will post results tonight, they are very different i will let you all jugde for yourselves, the download will be 120mb
Blind test or stfu!!
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Don Cherry Wrote:Every human is blessed in her or his life with one love (passion), no matter how long it may last. This Absolute love will last in one's heart and soul forever.
its night and day Hahaha but yeh i will call them wayout 1 & wayout 2
i fucking love this place, and thanks once again for all your time - nice to know you're still learning something, and that you've wasted years of your life worrying, yet still don't have a clue haha

@dsp, lookin forward to comparing the results on that one mate!

@Macc ''knowing which plug you need in a given situation mean you can be more flexible without taking that long over it. trying out 10 different eqs on one thing Thumbd ''

totally agree with that, although i think half of my own personal battle in that respect is to do with confidence as opposed to having any clue as to what i should do - pretty much have a good idea of what does what and when/where i need to apply it, but it's that fear of committing that always f*cks me over! it's like as soon as you commit, there's no excuses for being crap anymore, you can't simply say 'well yeah, of course i'm gonna change that bit' haha Wink

and i don't think even i would be so picky as to try out 10 eq's for one sound, but then that's only cos i'm not the brightest when it comes to eq! if it was just deciding on 'sounds' however, it'd be a different matter.......all hail the indecisive

basically, i need to shut the fuck up and get on with it.

seriously thanks again for the input, sc just became my homepage

much love as always, and even more respect, hovver
hovver Wrote:sc just became my homepage

Xyxthumbs

Smile
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Don Cherry Wrote:Every human is blessed in her or his life with one love (passion), no matter how long it may last. This Absolute love will last in one's heart and soul forever.
macc Wrote:from what i have seen, the majority of people who share elektrovert's point of view are used to running channels in the red a lot, ie analogue mixing on a decent desk. turning up is better than turning down, at least to a certain point, right? well it is the opposite - again, to a point - in digital. this is a - if not the - fundamental difference between mixing itb and otb so far as just setting faders goes.

from my own point of view, mixing on an o2r, the signal is digital the whole path, right the way to burning the cd, i don't run the signal into the red at all.

but a mix done with battery and absynth say, bounced internally in logic (5) doesn't sound a bright or something as it does if i run it to cd through the o2r, in the digital domain the whole time.

this comparison test should be good all the same. Cool
macc Wrote:the right one at the right time, and using the best of both, is the way forward Xyxthumbs

Xyxthumbs
elektrovert Wrote:from my own point of view, mixing on an o2r, the signal is digital the whole path, right the way to burning the cd, i don't run the signal into the red at all.

i thought you were on about headroom Baffled

Quote:but a mix done with battery and absynth say, bounced internally in logic (5) doesn't sound a bright or something as it does if i run it to cd through the o2r, in the digital domain the whole time.

probably the 20 bit converters Teef


nice to see you about btw Wave
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Don Cherry Wrote:Every human is blessed in her or his life with one love (passion), no matter how long it may last. This Absolute love will last in one's heart and soul forever.
my quick example posted here http://www.subvertcentral.com/forum/view...hp?t=42037
macc Wrote:i thought you were on about headroom Baffled

i think i was. Lol

hense the "think i'm going mad" bit.
actually, to refine it further, i don't like bouncing internally.
whatever about mixing internally.
i'll make an example too.

macc Wrote:nice to see you about btw Wave

nice to be back about the place Wave
Even staying digital and summing on a good soundcard would likely sound better than in the DAW, would it not?
lephrenic Wrote:even staying digital and summing on a good soundcard would likely sound better than in the daw, would it not?

now theres an interesting idea, Chin i could record the outs from the sound card straight back in, just so some ad/da happens and see how that affe cts the sound
ive been round the houses with this, originally all analog, other than the midi sequencer, at one time all digital, at various points with different desks and custom summing solutions both passive and active.

ive absolutely made my mind up that the summing thing is pretty much a red herring if you do things right in the box.

however, what has made the biggest difference to an all itb mix is processing various channels with outboard gear. luckily i have a fine selection to choose from, and c4s external plugins with auto delay compensation makes it a breeze. of course this is implying many additional ad and da conversions, and i happen to have very good converters, but im sure that even with average converters this is the way to go.

the other thing that experience has shown me is that the elusive space, depth and width in an itb mix is far more easily achieved when running levels way below 0dbfs.
my stereo buss rarely peaks above -6dbfs.

and whilst most modern daws have an internal resolution of 32 bits, some plugins simply sound better when not hit so hard, so being aware of levels between plugins is also important.

the other aspect to being conservative with levels like this is that you simply need not concern yourself with checking meters all the time and worrying about things like inter sample peaks.
instead you can just concentrate on mixing...a revelation! Wink

finally, if you like the 'sound' of analog mixes, then you need to understand what it is about analog processing that is providing the characteristics to the sound that you find pleasing.
you need to understand the effects that the processing is having on the audio, and then you need to understand how to approximate the same characteristics through digital processing.

likewise you have to understand what things you were doing in the analog domain that simply wont work, or worse are very wrong to do in the digital domain.

Xyxthumbs

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