[Ardour-Users] analog summing

Brent Busby brent at keycorner.org
Sun Dec 17 11:54:36 PST 2017

Matt Keys <matt at mattkeys.net> writes:

> I'm not really trying to do anything at the moment other than
> understand when and why you'd want to use something like the 2-bus
> (http://dangerousmusic.com/product/2-bus-plus/), or how it is
> different than for example the stereo main outs of a 16 channel analog
> mixer? Is the extra 'color' claim completely bullshit?

I don't think it's bullshit in principle.  I have an Allen & Heath
console which I've proved to my own satisfaction provides color and
thickness that isn't there naturally by A/B comparison, to the point
that when it's not there, instruments that I normally think I know the
sound of, sound anemic and thin when I plug them directly into my
interface.  And it's not a Neve or anything remotely that classy at all.
So yes, I can say from my own observation that going through a mixer can
sound way better than direct hookup.

The thing I never understood about summing though is that usually it
seems like the boxes that provide it are built to make the signal path
as clean and minimal as possible.  If one just admits that what you're
wanting is mild doses distortion, it makes no sense.  When guitarists
want distortion, they just put a nice wild germanium transistor in a
battery powered pedal with unbalanced i/o and let it go.  All this posh
exquisitely crafted audiophile hardware to get your sound dirty...why?

Also, it misses out on the opportunity for more functionality from the
same unit.  A summing box _just_ sums.  You could have a mixer console,
granted, maybe not a Neve, but it doesn't take a Neve to get that job
done.  A mixer is way more useful than a box that takes stuff in and
passes the same stuff back out again (with some magic pixie noise added
in that you couldn't have gotten any other way presumably).  I'd rather
have an actual mixer.

Then again, I've long had exactly the same feeling about dedicated Midi
controller keyboards, that they needlessly avoid added functionality.
Why go through all this trouble to get a Midi keyboard that can't do
anything when you could get a Midi keyboard that's actually a
synthesizer or sampler workstation as well?  Are people really that
committed to working "in-the-box" and not having any real instruments at
all that they need a special kind of keyboard whose main claim to fame
is that aside from outputting bytes, it can't do anything?  Is that an
advantage?  How am I benefiting from this handicap that it can't do
anything on its own?  Even if I start out from the premise that I'm
trying to avoid the complexity of a hardware-based studio (which I'm
not, but let's say I was), and I want to stick with virtual instruments
as much as possible, even then, I have to admit that I need at least one
real keyboard, or else the music will never get played.  Why should that
keyboard be deliberately handicapped in an effort to be as "in-the-box"
as possible?  If it's because you want more controllers (sliders, knobs,
etc.) to map to Midi events, they make devices just for that like the
Behringer BCR2000.  Instead of getting a purposed-made handicapped
controller, you could get a workstation keyboard that actually does
something, and you might as well, since you were going to need at least
one keyboard anyway regardless.

Anyway, summing boxes just seem like more of that sort of Midi
controllers instead of workstation keyboards thing to me.  You could
have gotten a mixer to add that color, but that would have done more,
and God only knows, we can't have that...

- Brent Busby	+ ===============================================
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