There has been much debate over the last few years about the advantages and disadvantages of analog summing. Some mixers swear by it, some say it’s worthless. Here’s my take, and of course it is right? Wait why did I end that with a question mark? Insecurity.
What is analog summing?
Let’s get down to the basics: analog summing is taking a song you mixed in your DAW, that is in the digital realm, and bouncing it down through an analog summing box (that costs usually a rack and a half). And then exporting back to the digital world where Tron and all live.
Why would a mixer do this?
Why do audio engineers make any mixing decision? Because they believe it sounds better. Many great audio engineers believe bouncing to an analog converter makes their mixes sound warmer, wider, “more real” than their paltry digital counterparts. And you know what they’re right.
However,there’s a whole heap of 10x audio engineers that don’t do analog summing, everything is in in-the-box (that is inside their computer). Probably one of the most famous mixers, Dave Pensado, does everything in-the-box. And he’s mixed songs for Beyonce! I feel a Kanye moment coming on.
Here’s the thing audio engineers who see analog summing as pointless are also right. So what’s going on? Are we in the upside down world via Stranger Things?I think both sides are right because it comes down to the type of songs you’re mixing. Just like you wouldn’t throw heavy autotune on Adele (unless she was doing a trap song ), you probably wouldn’t need to use analog summing on an EDM song where every single sound is a digital forgery of an analog sound. Not to mention you’ll be uploading said song to Soundcloud (who are going to down sample it anyway).
Sean Daniel does a shoot out between digital summing vs analog summing (using a Dangerous Music D-Box) and for my money the analog does sound better. However, it would be interesting if he did a test with analog summing plugins on the digital mix and compared that to the analog bounce (maybe I should do this test).
Is this just old heads vs young heads?
I also see this debate as a generational divide. The old foggies usually want to go back to the good old days, and want their mixes to retain some of that good ol’ vintage analog warmth. Which to be honest, did have some merit as about 10 years ago, plugins didn’t have the same processing power to accurately mimic analog compression. But now in 2016, my argument would be “bro have you seen what they can do with snapchat filters? You don’t think they can faithfully reproduce “the analog sound” in a freakin’ 64 bit plugin?”.
“Oh ok you’re still on Windows 95, okay bye”.
To wrap this all up, I do use analog summing when it makes sense for the song and I don’t use it when it doesn’t make sense. Make sense? What I want to know is do you go to the trouble of analog summing or are in-the-box mixes good enough or better?