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Analogue Summing (previously SSL Fusion)

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Analogue Summing (previously SSL Fusion)

Postby Zukan » Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:26 am

I find SSL Fusion an elegant solution for mastering projects that require that little extra 'colour'. I am sure it also serves well across the master bus. However, this got me thinking about the old nugget 'are summing boxes worth the money'?

I'd be interested to read your views on this subject and would love first hand experience views if possible. Anyone ventured down the summing route ?
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:01 am

For years I was suspicious of analogue summing boxes, given that DAWs can sum perfectly! However, I finally cottoned onto the fact that it's because analogue summing ISN'T perfect that it can sound euphonic, due to the way all the channels interact with each other at the mixing buss in the real world.

Ironically, I was convinced after I've tried out the Console5 plug-in pair (http://www.airwindows.com/console5), a free download from Chris Johnson of Airwindows fame, rather than by hardware summing mixers.

It's a two stage encode/decode process – you place one instance of his Console5channel plug-in on each of your playback channels, which changes their slew rate/EQ, and then apply the reciprocal process at the mix buss with a single instance of his Console5Buss plug-in. With a single playback channel, the two processes cancel each other out exactly, but as soon as you add more channels to the mix they interact in a subtle fashion.

To my ears the results are subtle yet glorious - Console5 removes any digital glare (largely due to its slew limiting), provides glue and spacial depth to mixes, adding a sense of space around each sound that aids separation, while its gentle accentuation of the mids gives them extra clarity and detail in a quite remarkable way. I was so impressed I now support Chris via Patreon!

Chris also offers Neve/API/SSL plug-ins that add the characteristic sounds of particular desks that you can use in combination, but for me the Console encode/decode pair is already a winner!


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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:16 am

Martin Walker wrote:For years I was suspicious of analogue summing boxes, given that DAWs can sum perfectly! However, I finally cottoned onto the fact that it's because analogue summing ISN'T perfect that it can sound euphonic...

Yes, it is about the analogue imperfections, but it is a very complex issue.

In the analogue world, with multiple signals passing through console channels and tape machines multiple times, there are countless high-pass filters everywhere in the form of inter-stage coupling capacitors which all introduce not only frequency response changes, but also phase shifts. Same for coupling transformers. And then there is HF crosstalk effects within and between adjacent channels and elsewhere introducing more phase shifts and response changes. And added noise, and added distortions.

These imperfections can add something to the overall impression -- a bit like film grain compared to an HD video image. The former can often be perceived as more organic and natural, so more pleasing and involving...

BUT... I don't think you need to go to the lengths of a hardware summing box to get the same effect. There are a number of plugins now that can deliver something very similar and acceptable, and I have often found that just running the ITB stereo mix through an external preamp for a bit of analogue-y transformer saturation / distortion / phase tweaking can do much the same thing!

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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:56 am

Martin Walker wrote:Ironically, I was convinced after I've tried out the Console5 plug-in pair (http://www.airwindows.com/console5), a free download from Chris Johnson of Airwindows fame, rather than by hardware summing mixers.
That's intriguing Martin, will definitely give it a look when I'm next in front of my proper machine.
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:10 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:BUT... I don't think you need to go to the lengths of a hardware summing box to get the same effect. There are a number of plugins now that can deliver something very similar and acceptable...

Exactly Hugh - hence my recommendation of Airwindows' Console5 plug-ins, which you can download for free to see if they float your boat ;)


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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:32 pm

I've been through various incarnations of this - I've had the big desk, I've had the active summing setup, passive, then ITB summing with hardware bus chains on every stem, ITB with analogue mix bus chain, and fully ITB.

FOR ME, the digital summing just sounds better. It's more open, there's better low end extension...I just prefer it. I picked it around 80% of the time in my own blind tests.

Is analogue summing different? Yes. Is it better? Well that depends on your aesthetic. I think mixing on a DESK is very different in terms of the decisions it leads you to make, via the methods it requires you to employ. I don't think it necessarily sounds better in and of itself, although again, it does sound different. Some engineers make a better sounding mix on a desk than they do in the box because of the paradigm.

Knowing that you're a fellow Acustica fan, Ed, I'd say that you're better off staying entirely ITB.
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Zukan » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:33 pm

Martin, is there a better video showing this in action? That dude did my head in with his epic Ben Hur diatribe.
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:49 pm

Since we're talking analogue effects and Jack mentioned Acustica, are there any plans at SOS to test their new tape saturation plug in?
Asking for a friend... ;)
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:03 pm

It's GREAT!

The short version is this -

It DOES do that elusive 'placement' of the midrange in such a way that the source seems to sit more naturally, more comfortably. Things are less stark and 'pokey'. It's rather like the difference between two really amazing TV's, both of which are high definition, but one of which has that 'Samsung-like' level of realness that's sort of too much - everything looks like a film set instead of a film. It knocks that level of slightly plastic detail back into place.

It DOES limit transients in an awesome way.

It DOES NOT provide, AT THIS TIME, all the machines you might expect it to.

It DOES NOT do hiss, wow or flutter. You can add those if you want, using other plug ins. But when the midrange phase response and limiting behaviour is right, you realise that the wow and flutter etc is not really whats attractive about the sound of tape after all - some plug ins rely so much on those very obvious 'flaws' to create the effect. They can be very cool at times, especially when overdone, but they're not really a factor in what people love about the sound of tape. Quite the opposite actually, from an engineer's perspective.

I'd start by checking out the 30 and 15 ips versions of the Ampex multitrack - A0 and A1...and the Studer 2 track on C1 and C2.

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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:44 pm

Zukan wrote:Martin, is there a better video showing this in action? That dude did my head in with his epic Ben Hur diatribe.

Not that I know of - Chris Johnson's videos are informative, but it's sometimes difficult to find within them some A/B tests that makes it easy to see exactly what his plugins are doing.

This is why I ended up downloading them myself and trying some mixes of my in-progress track with/without - probably best if I send you some of these to A/B, so you hear for yourself what I heard.

Ironically, I noticed the improvements more through loudspeakers than my headphones, so I suspect there's some spatial stuff going on.


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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 10, 2019 6:02 pm

I had a Sumo box to try, and didn't do much for me.

Not because I don't like the effect (I do) but because I can get it entirely ITB. My trick is mainly a liberal use of the Wave J37 tape emulation. It does smooth things in a way that really make a track more organic, removing any annoying "sticky" frequency peak without making thing dull. To my ears, it just works. I tend to use the emulation pretty much like I would use a tape - on most channels and then on the master bus, all with "flat" settings.

With the Sumo, I had a much harder workflow to get to similar results - first print the individual tracks, then when done print the master bus - and go back to the original track if I found I'd exaggerated some settings..

Interesting with the new tape plugin, I'll check it out!

As a pro, the summer did look cool on the table rack.
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:13 pm

blinddrew wrote:Since we're talking analogue effects and Jack mentioned Acustica, are there any plans at SOS to test their new tape saturation plug in?
Asking for a friend... ;)

Had a look, didn't know it was an Italian company (or at least, Italian brains :) )!

Would love to try the tape thing, but there's no trial and even at the promotional price it's fairly expensive - not sure my mixes would be so incredibly better for it.
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:25 pm

Yep, know what you mean. Jack's obviously a fan but 1) he's doing this full time so payback is more significant and 2) he's much better at this!
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby ConcertinaChap » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:38 am

blinddrew wrote: 2) he's much better at this!

Aye, just about the most frustrating part of this game is you can't be as good as the good guys just by wanting to be, you have to put in the time and effort :x

Thanks for the thread, lads, I'm learning stuff here.

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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Zukan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:52 am

Martin Walker wrote:
Zukan wrote:Martin, is there a better video showing this in action? That dude did my head in with his epic Ben Hur diatribe.

Not that I know of - Chris Johnson's videos are informative, but it's sometimes difficult to find within them some A/B tests that makes it easy to see exactly what his plugins are doing.

This is why I ended up downloading them myself and trying some mixes of my in-progress track with/without - probably best if I send you some of these to A/B, so you hear for yourself what I heard.

Ironically, I noticed the improvements more through loudspeakers than my headphones, so I suspect there's some spatial stuff going on.


Martin

Thanks Myth.
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Zukan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:54 am

Interesting views.

Personally, I love crafting the master bus and have written a whole book on the subject. Would I go down the hardware summing route? Quite possibly and only if my hardware signal path was staid and static.
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Jack Ruston » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:37 am

blinddrew wrote:Yep, know what you mean. Jack's obviously a fan but 1) he's doing this full time so payback is more significant and 2) he's much better at this!

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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby zenguitar » Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:31 pm

Typical!

Less than 6 months after I bought an iD14. But happy with what it does for me :)

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Analogue Summing

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:25 pm

Zukan wrote:https://audient.com/products/audio-interfaces/sono/overview/

Sheesh, just add a reactive load and you're pretty much done for guitar gear
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