by Stefan Wyeth | 4,2 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 4 Minutes
Mixing Outside the Box

The Analogue Domain: Mixing Outside the Box  ·  Source: Chuttersnap / Unsplash

ADVERTISEMENT

Until we develop DAC chip brain implants, analogue signal path remains an unavoidable aspect of the audio workflow. Mixing outside the box is nonetheless a rather neglected side of audio discourse.

ADVERTISEMENT

We seem happy celebrating the results in the form of some of our favourite records, but analogue mixing has all but disappeared from the music-making culture of today.

Hardware vs Software

While one could forever debate the sonic differences between digital and analogue, there is simply no argument about the comparative initial cost or convenience.

Hardware also has considerable spatial, energy, and maintenance requirements that make certain workflows inaccessible to many users. That being said, there are still viable methods of incorporating hardware into your DAW, regardless of your type of setup.

How to start Mixing Outside the Box

We’ve discussed the basics of hardware previously, so let’s look more closely now at specific areas where hardware signal processing can really have an impact.

Mixing hardware

A 19-inch rack fitted with tracking and mixing gear.

Master Bus Processing

Rather than using your DAW’s software bounce function for export, analogue bus processing is done via real-time playback. Whether you do this with one or two separate converters, the key is that there is an analogue stage in the signal path.

Apart from using high-end conversion for printing your mix, you can add stereo bus processors into the chain that really enliven the sound. This can add a considerable amount of character before your track reaches the mastering stage.

As we’ve just mentioned, the quality of your converters is crucial here, and you can use a combination of compression, EQ, saturation, and even distortion to further expose nuances and add that sparkle of detail to your mix.

SSL Fusion

SSL Fusion

Customer rating:
(101)

Hardware Inserts

Using hardware inserts is a popular and highly effective way of using your outboard gear inside your DAW. Whether you use guitar pedals, 500-series modules, or good old 19-inch rack gear, there is a wide range of processors available offering sonics you simply can’t get from software.

Here, a patchbay can speed up your workflow and provide a great deal of flexibility for your setup in terms of routing. In addition, a multichannel AD/DA converter will make your life easier, as you have enough I/O to have your hardware units permanently patched into your system for easy access in your DAW.

ADVERTISEMENT
Antelope Orion 32+ | Gen 3

Antelope Orion 32+ | Gen 3

Customer rating:
(25)
Flock Audio Patch LT

The Flock Audio Patch LT digital patchbay system

Summing

Analogue summing is a process that allows you to monitor and manage your project’s signal flow. Rather than the endless possibilities of a DAW, summing mixers provide a finite amount of channels.

If you haven’t used a console or summing system before, you might wonder why you’d want to add an additional stage to your signal flow. Surely that is more complicated? Well, yes and no.

You’d be surprised how much faster you mix when you know that each group of instruments has its own dedicated mono or stereo channel. Moreover, the ability to batch-process signals through hardware chains is extremely effective.

Rupert Neve Designs 5057 Orbit

Rupert Neve Designs 5057 Orbit

Customer rating:
(2)

Hybrid mixing

Hybrid mixing is a loosely used term referring to a console system that uses a DAW as a “tape machine” as it were. With this much processing power and routing flexibility, however, comes a certain responsibility.

I’ve seen so many hybrid setups, where 90 percent of the work is done on Pro Tools with nothing more than a mouse. So the console remains running throughout sessions as some sort of elaborate and extremely expensive heater.

Regardless of all the added headaches, nothing beats the experience of managing your mix across multiple faders and carving sounds up with analogue EQ. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Trident Audio Series 68 Console 16

Trident Audio Series 68 Console 16

No customer rating available yet

Where do you primarily use hardware in your audio setup?

More about mixing:

Videos:

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

*Note: This article contains promotional links that help us fund our site. Don’t worry: the price for you always stays the same! We will receive a small commission if you buy something through these links. We appreciate your support!

Image Sources:
  • A 19-inch rack fitted with tracking and mixing gear.: Adi Goldstein / Unsplash
  • Flock Audio Patch LT: Flock Audio
  • SSL's Origin in-line console: SSL
Mixing Outside the Box

How do you like this post?

Rating: Yours: | ø:
ADVERTISEMENT

One response to “The Analogue Domain: Mixing Outside the Box”

    Bourian says:
    0

    While tracking, but also during mixing. Whatever the signal needs if time allows ;0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *