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Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

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Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

Postby jellyjim » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:00 pm

Hello

A typical analogue desk might have direct outs on each input channel. I understand these were used to track direct to tape machines

Given such a configuration, how were effects across the stereo/mix bus, such as compression or reverb, put to use?

As I type it occurs to me that perhaps part of the answer is that a distinction was drawn between tracking and a final mix. So for the latter, the tape tracks were returned to the desk and passed through the mix bus to a stereo master.

I'm using the past tense because I'm specifically curious about how it used to be done with analogue desks and tape. Obvioulsy a DAW and a digital desk is much more flexible.

Thanks
Jim
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Re: Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

Postby CS70 » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:26 pm

jellyjim wrote:Given such a configuration, how were effects across the stereo/mix bus, such as compression or reverb, put to use?

Insert points?

How you do today with a DAW and without a mixer is to have enough I/O on your interface. Mono effects take two. Stereo effects take four. Interfaces using MADI or similar digital connections, can carry (via snakes) dozens of channel for your Fairchild and Pultec collection :-D
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Re: Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

Postby James Perrett » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:49 pm

In the days when I was doing analogue recording a typical recording desk would have lots of inputs, 8, 16 or maybe 24 busses as well as separate L-R output busses. You would connect your mics up to the inputs (no faffing around with separate boutique preamps in the old days) and then send them to the busses corresponding to the tape tracks that you wanted to use. As tape tracks were limited it was common to combine more than one source onto a single tape track - even a whole drum kit sometimes. Direct outs were rarely used in my experience.

There would be a separate section of the desk for the returns from the tape machine and there were two common configurations. In the split configuration the monitor returns would normally be on the right hand side of the desk and the monitor channels would have fewer controls than the input channels - maybe 2 band eq instead of 4 and fewer auxes.

In the in-line configuration the monitor returns would appear as part of the channel and the channel features would be shared with the input so that, if desired, you could put the channel eq in the monitor path instead of the input path or you could send the tape monitor signal to all the auxes instead of just one or two.

Once you finished recording you would reconfigure the desk for mixdown so that the tape returns now appeared on the main channels which would free up the monitor section to give you extra line inputs - a very useful feature when MIDI became popular as you could run synths into the desk through these channels and have them playing in sync with the tape so there was no need to record the synth parts to tape.

To use reverb you would use a post fade aux to send the signal to the reverb box while the returns would either go to spare input channels or dedicated reverb return channels. Compression would use inserts and it would be normal to have inserts on all inputs, the tape sends and the master output. It would also be standard practice to have a patch bay so that these connections were easily accessible.

Many of these conventions can be transferred over to a modern DAW - especially things like using reverb busses instead of individual reverbs for each channel. Too many different reverbs will make your mix sound less coherent.
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Re: Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

Postby jellyjim » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:40 am

Thanks, that's really helpful. Would you go so far as to say I am mistaken in saying the direct outs typically went to the tape deck? The busses being used instead
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Re: Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

Postby ef37a » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:11 am

Once again! Duggy Self's Small Signal Audio Design has much to say about the structure and layout of mixers.

The book is really required reading for anyone with even a remote interest in audio matters.

Dave.
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Re: Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:33 am

jellyjim wrote:Thanks, that's really helpful. Would you go so far as to say I am mistaken in saying the direct outs typically went to the tape deck? The busses being used instead

As with all these things, there are no absolutes. It all depends on the nature (and price) of the console and tape recorder.

Building a desk with 16 or 24 mix busses is an expensive thing to do, but a very versatile solution. Providing only 4 or 8 busses and adding channel direct outs is a lot cheaper, but a lot less versatile.

The big problem with direct outs is that you either need a big patchbay so you can plug specific desk channels into specific tape recorder tracks, or you accepted the need to plug sources into specific desk channels in order to record on specific tape tracks. And if the tape machine is plumbed into specific channel direct outs, how do you manage bouncedowns?

So medium sized desks tended instead to have typically eight group mix busses, but duplicate the output sockets so that groups 1-8 fed tracks 1-8 and 9-16 and 17-24 etc. This is quite a reasonable and flexible solution if you don't expect to track more than 8 things at once, but for more than that you're back into patching direct outputs to tape tracks.

The big high-end desks provide every channel with routing to every track for the ultimate in patching flexibility... and so it was pretty rare to need to use the channel direct outs for tracking purposes.

Jame's description of inline and split consoles is spot on -- of course.

H
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Re: Mix bus, analogue desk, direct outs and tape

Postby James Perrett » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:53 am

It may also be worth saying that the budget (relatively) multitracks that I've used also allow you to use only half the inputs and internally they could send input 1 to input 9, input 2 to input 10, etc.

Hugh - you've now got me trying to remember what I used to do when I had an 8 bus desk feeding a 16 channel recorder - I have this memory of commonly using up to 12 tracks at a time so I must have been using some of the direct outs. The particular desk I'm thinking about was a Studiomaster with all the connectors on the top panel so it was very easy to repatch directly on the desk - it was a few years before I started using a patchbay with it.
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