Little did I know when I started this series of articles it would strike up quite so much discussion. Thanks to everyone who took part and then added their comments. They have made very interesting reading. So here is the final part of the series, the results, with a final added bonus twist.
The Audio Examples
Here are all 6 audio examples in one place labeled so you know just what is what.
The table below shows the results for each of the 5 tests. You can see which process was example A or B and what percentage of the vote it got. Remember, this was not which it better or which was the In-the-box or Analogue Summed mix, the question was “Which do you think sounds better”?
|2||A||Audient 2 Channel||42|
|3||A||Neve 8816 with Width||48|
|B||Audient 16 Channel no FX||54|
|B||Audient 16 Channel with FX||59|
It makes for very interesting reading. Be honest now, did you have a little guess at which was which and if you did how many did you get right?
I’m not going to try to over analyse the results but give or take a point or 3, here and there, it is very close to call. Looking at the comments, there were polar opposite views about which sounded better. Let us know in the comments before what conclusions you draw from the results?
The Final Summing Test
I’m going to keep the make and model of the final piece of hardware a secret, just for now, so let’s call it Mixer X. You are going to have to wait just a little longer to find out the identity of the final summing hardware unit.
The Audio Interface
In this final test the studio where hardware Mixer X lives does not have or use the Antelope 32HD as I do, they use Avid HD I/O units. This is one very minor difference between this test and its the main reason as to why we have a new ITB sum control track. Just in case there are any differences between my ITB and the other studio’s ITB mix.
One of the mixes below is a basic “In-the-box” (ITB) bounce to disk. No external hardware has been used. There are no plug-ins or processors on the master bus, in an attempt to keep this as much of a fair test as possible. It’s also worth noting that the files have been loudness matched without any kind of processing or limiting so you may need to turn your output up a little to get a good level. Remember, dynamic range is king.
The other track is a 16 channel sum through Mixer X. Again no EQ or Dynamics processing has been applied so any variation in tone is coming from the hardware itself and could be what makes the difference between mixing in the box and mixing / summing through analogue hardware. But you be the judge of that.
Take The Challenge
Below you will find audio examples A and B. One is a standard “In-the-box” two channel stereo ‘Bounce To Disk’, the other is a real time summed mix run through 16 channels of Mixer X.
I have already said that these articles have started more than one or two discussions, and one of them was between myself and Grammy nominated Mixer, Engineer and friend of the blog, Steve Genewick. Steve and I talked about some of the pros and cons of summing in the box, as he uses the ITB approach at his home mix facility and summing across a console, which he can do when working at Capitol.
“What sounds better is so subjective. We have done test like this at Capitol where another engineer does the switching, so truly a double blind test and there is nothing to call between the two versions of a mix. Most of the time you are just guessing.
We get many people who bring their tracks to Capitol just to run them through our consoles and they think it’s going to make world of difference. They get very frustrated when it really doesn’t. That is until they start to grab faders and finesse their mix. Once you start to reach out for an EQ or start pushing faders it’s not an argument about summing any more, it’s all about the difference between an in-the-box workflow and mixing on a console.
We are lucky at Capitol, we have arguably one of the best consoles ever made (the Neve 8068 Serial #1) here and it’s in premium condition, everything works, so why wouldn’t you start to tweak and make your record sound as good as it can. The chances are that folks who bring their material to run through our consoles are hearing details for the first time in their productions that they missed in their own studios as we have amazing sounding control rooms.”
If you haven’t guessed it yet Mixer X is the Neve 8068 installed at Capitol Records Studio B in LA and thanks to Steve for taking the time to help me debunk the summing myth with his mixes. One produced “In-the-box” and the other summed through was can only be described as a beautiful piece of audio art (gear porn).
Let us know how you did in these tests in the comments below and if you have any more ideas for articles and series like this please do let and know and we will do our best to get creative and who knows, maybe we can debunk some more audio myths, I’m sure there are plenty to get cracking on?
One last thing. In the final test, example A was the Neve 8068 and B was the Capitol “In-the-box” mix. So now you know.