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Thread: Digital Mixing (Pro Tools LE) vs. Analog Mixing (Soundcraft Ghost)

  1. #1
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    Digital Mixing (Pro Tools LE) vs. Analog Mixing (Soundcraft Ghost)

    Hi,
    I have a Pro Tools LE system and good outboard gear (Neumann, Neve, RME converters, etc....) but lately I've been really bothered by the lackluster sound of the mixes coming out of my system. I mix everything within the comp. and I'm beginning to think that thats the issue. It just doesn't sound comparable with some of the stuff I've heard that was done on analog consoles (not even at high end studios-usually soundcraft stuff and digital recording equipment). The sense of depth just isn't there and the sound is just too boxy.
    Just wanted to get some opinions on the sound quality of digital vs. analog mixing. I've been thinking about getting a Ghost board at the moment; is it worth it, will it give the mixes a far better sound? Should I be looking at other things instead?

  2. #2
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    I don't have any answers for you but I'm also running a Protools LE system. I'm curious as to what you're using. What type of computer,monitors? Also, how are you running the D/A converters in, through the SPDIF? I have a Soundcraft Spirit Studio 8 bus that I run to two ADATs and have lightpiped projects I've done into the computer with no apparent degradation.

    Ed

  3. #3
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    I'm running a Pro Tools LE system on a Mac G4 with RME converters. I'm clocking the comp. to them using the adat/lightpipe output of the converters to the soundcard, and have it hooked up to the optical output as well. My monitors are a set of Roland DS-90As, the powered ones, but I can't seem to get the digital output to jive with them so well, which kind of sucks. I don't use the DA so much right now, since I'd rather not deal with the latency issues that come with outputting audio to outboard; I the plugins, but usually try to get the sounds I need outside of the comp. (but of course thats not the easiest thing to do when you have to anticipate what the whole thing is going to sound like in the end, so some eq is usually needed). Hope that helped. JP

  4. #4
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    I do most of my tracking the old fashioned way. I use my board to the ADATs. I try to get pretty darn close with the sounds to the ADATs so I don't have to go crazy with the Plug ins. Then I lightpipe the tracks into LE for the tweaking and automation. (LOVE automation!) I have another computer running Gigasampler so I can fly that stuff in on the SPDIFs. I'm running AMD Athlon systems for both computers, the PTLE system is solely dedicated to that function. It's a 1.4g Athlon with 768m of RAM and 2 40g HDs. For monitors I'm using Event 20/20bas's. So far I love using the system.

    Ed

  5. #5
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    I guess it's subjective isn't it? Maybe you just don't agree with the sound of digital/software mixing. Some, like Albini to take an extreme case, won't have anything to do with it, while alot of people will say its changed the way they work. Different strokes fer different folks, I guess.

  6. #6
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    What the heck . . . I'll toss in my thoughts on this (dangerous) subject. First let me say that I've never been able to mix a record in Pro Tools that sounded "right" to me, and I've tried plenty of times. But I don't think my lack of success reflects a flaw in the platform as much as my lack of skill in using the DAW world for the purpose of mixing a multitrack record. I believe entirely different approaches are required to mix a record digitally opposed to analog (and have them come out sounding anything alike). I know it can be done, because I've heard other people get the results. I'm just not the guy for it (currently, anyway).

    I've always mixed on an analog console with analog compressors & EQ, and I know how to make that work for me. I also like to bang the summing buss really hard - nearly to hard clipping - hence I suppose I'm gaining some "mixer compression" I think it's what happens with an analog console as it begins to run out of headroom that really gives it a distinctive sound. In the analog world, harmonic distortion comes on slowly / incrementally and is a controlable resource. In the digital domain, on the other hand, once you hit 0db, that's it - instant DC. I've never been able to use digital clipping as a creative tool. And I don't think I have a very good understanding of how to structure digital gain stages either. I'm used to banging 16 or 24 very hot tracks into the 2-buss and watching the 2-mix VUs smack red without any buss compressor inserted. I just know those circuits are heating up not unlike the power tubes in my GA-40 guitar amp when it's wide open. To me, that's the sound of rock - or at least that's the only way I know how to get the sound I'm after. An analog mixer is physically summing electricity into the 2-mix, whereas a Pro Tools rig (or some such setup) is essentially just doing math . . . crunching numbers . . . I don't think the calculator really has much of a inherent "sound" at all, and I don't know how to make up for the harmonic distortion and mixer compression I've accustomed to using as just another mix tool.

    And let me say I don't think this difference has much at all to do with the actual recording medium, at least not in itself. That is, as an experiment once, I borrowed a couple of Digi 888s and mixed 16 tracks cut (mostly as overdubs) into Pro Tools on my analog console - just as I would as I would if I were mixing from a 2" analog 16-track. I was able to achieve results strikingly similar to mixes from an analog tape machine; I had to use more outboard compression - which figures since I usually hit analog tape extremely hard, thus gaining lots of tape compression - so I had to compensate for that difference. And I've cut lots of records to ADAT and mixed them analog . . . and very many people can't tell what recording medium was used, escpecially once it ends up on a 16-bit 44.1 CD. By the way, the mixer I use in my own studio is a Soundcraft, and I'm rather fond of the way it soft-clips and compresses. I think the most important thing is knowing what you like and what tools you're most effective working with.
    Cheers,
    John Wheeler
    Nashville, TN

  7. #7
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    Hey John,

    I tend to agree with you. I think that's why "classic" outboard gear has become so popular over the past few years. In our digital mixing environments you just don't get the compression and distortion that we've become accustomed to. So we buy some older gear, push it hard until it distorts and then run that into our digital workstations.

    I think that digitally recorded and mixed material will always sound a bit different from something mixed in the analog domain. Plug-ins help to an extent...But there's still something not quite right about them.

    Anyway....Paying more attention in the earlier stages and trying to get that little bit of cooked (insert favorite amplification device here) gain stage sound pays off.

    Peace,

    James

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