This article is part 3 of the Audio Summing Debate and we are at the half-way point in our listening test. We are going back to the AMS Neve 8816 summing mixer as it has as audio magic trick to pull out of it’s top hat of delights. This time we run the same track through the 8816 but we have engaged the 8816s secret mixing weapon, Width <W> (No actual magic was, is, nor has ever been done!)
Once again, it’s the same 2 minute track featuring real drums, guitars (both acoustic and electric), bass, and vocals and busses down to 16 track quite nicely. For the full track sheet check the First testing article.
It would be unfair to only use my console in this test so the good folks at AMS Neve have lent me a rather lovely Neve 8816 summing mixer and 8804 Fader Pack. The 8816 gives us 16 channels of Neve 80 series mixing topology in a beautiful hand built and hardwired 2U rack. If you want the analogue console workflow but either don’t have the physical space or the financial budget the 8816, either with or without the 8804 fader pack, could be an option for you. It’s a great way to get all the lovely 70’s Neve sound without the hassle of a vintage console.
The Audio Interface
All the audio for these tests is being routed through the new Universal Audio Apollo X16 running at 96KHz with a headroom of +24dBu.
One of the mixes you will hear 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 audio example once again uses the AMS Neve 8816 summing mixer in place of the Audient console. In this mix you are hearing the 16 channels from the Apollo X16 routed to the 8816 in pairs hard panned left and right. The faders on the 8804 fader pack are all set to +5 with the master faders set to 0.
What makes this test different from the test done in Part 1 is we have engaged the 8816s secret mixing weapon, Width <W>. With its built-in stereo width function engaged. This is another one of those magic “makes it sound better” buttons. The Width can be wound in to a level that you find most pleasing. I have found I like Width set between 12 o-clock and 2:30. It’s gentle but very pleasing.
How Width Works
The Width control is post mix level control, and alters the stereo image from mono through stereo to enhanced stereo. Width is a sum and difference insert that uses Mid/Side processing to enhance the stereo image. I really like it, used sparingly.
Take The Challenge
Below you will find audio two examples A and B of the test mixes described above. We would like to know which one your prefer. If you wish, you can then leave us a comment saying which you think is which, but this is not part of the test. It’s all about the sound of the mix.
Which Mix Do You Prefer?
Over this series of articles and tests we have a total of 6 different summed mixes for you to listen too. Once you have had a chance to listen to all of these we will be back with a final article in which we will reveal the results. As always if you have any comments or questions please do leave them in the comments section below.