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Harrison Mixbus

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  • Harrison Mixbus

    I'd been wanting to try this for a while. At the current sale price of $29, it was a no brainer.

    First impressions are, yes this is great, from a workflow perspective. This is exactly the kind of layout and workflow I need for running mixes. As a lifelong Pro Tools devotee, the lack of configurability, the absence of graphic readouts, and the quality of the onboard processing in Mixbus makes it the perfect antidote to the mires and rabbit holes in which we can often find ourselves in traditional DAWs.

    Having said that, for editing, correction, and surgical duties, Pro Tools can't be beaten. But when it comes to mixdown, there are just too many options, too many plugins, too much configurability, even when running strict buss templates, that just get in the way of producing a musical sounding mix with your ears and fingertips.

    Much has been made of Mixbus' summing algorithms, with many people suggesting that they've added summing mojo under the hood. But the reality is, for basic summing duties at least, Mixbus nulls with other DAWs. Flat null, no difference.

    I believe that what's really going on here is that, for those of us who work with native DSP, Mixbus allows us to get up a really good sounding mix with minimal processing.
    The problem with native DSP is that the more plugins you use on a session, the 'smaller' and 'bittier' the mix gets. It's the same in every DAW, ime. And, for most of us, the temptation to add processing in order to make everything 'perfect' is too great. Particularly so since modern machines can handle pretty much anything you throw at them on a standard 20-40 track mix. So you end up adding a touch of saturation here, a little notch there, another dB of comp somewhere else. And by the time you're finished, yes, you've put your mix through the eye of that needle, but what you've got is no longer really a mix, it's more of a sound design, and often not a very good one at that. And this doesn't just affect home recordists like myself - you hear a lot of this on FM radio, where the material has been cookie cuttered to death in Pro Tools or some other DAW.

    So, I think that Mixbus is the perfect antidote to all of this. I ran up a mix of, admittedly, very well recorded material, last night in less than an hour, that sounded bigger, fuller and more 'in the room' as opposed to 'in the speakers' than anything I've done in the last 12 months. What did I spend most of the hour doing? Fader balancing and panning, little eq adjustments here and there, no busses, and no master fader processing. I tried using some of my go-to 'character' plugins at one point (since they integrate perfectly with Mixbus), and immediately heard how they actually diminished the sonic quality of the source tracks. So I dumped them off the session, and carried on mixing.

    +1 for this DAW. I can still use Pro Tools for heavy editing, NR (this is the real world after all!), sound design, etc. But Mixbus forces you to just MIX the thing. It focusses your attention on making sure that your tracks are well recorded in the first place, and removes all distractions from the workflow. Something all of us could do with in this day and age.
    Last edited by gubu; 09-02-2017, 07:23 AM.
    flip the phase

  • #2
    Anyone whose gotten into digital recording has also likely fallen into the trap of overusing plugins for no other reason besides they can.
    Getting back to basics and finding your compass instead of doing things out of habit is always important. In fact its something you should focus on with every new mix.

    Somewhere along the line I started taking an approach of figuring out how I can do more with less and its been the best solution for getting better mixes for me. I still like trying out new plugins when I need them but I avoid using plugins when they simply aren't needed. Some of this comes from my analog background in recording and having to use what hardware effects I had frugally. The other part is having pushed the plugin envelope to extremes and having my mixes get worse instead of better.

    I learned early on, each algorithm performed robs the tracks of transparency and the more plugins I used the more unwanted artifacts creeped into a mix. I was doing quick mixes with bare minimum effects to see how a mix would sound and comparing them to mixes with the full gambit of carefully crafted plugins. The mixes with all the additional plugs were more refined from an engineering standpoint, but it came at a big cost. The basic mixes had a much higher level of transparency and living emotion.

    Since then I've compromised in ways that have retained realism while still providing the flexibility of using plugins, and I did that by using hardware plugins in my recording chain. I find analog plugins provide a higher level of transparency then using plugins, but it is challenging because the analog effects you use tracking cant be undone so you have to dial them up very well before recording.

    Its not necessarily something I'd advise others to use either. Its simply because I been recording for so long (over 50 years) and have spent many of those years recording direct using hardware solutions that my experience lets me do well with that technique. I know ho to target tracks to sound good and thereby minimize the need for drastic numbers of plugins to shape tracks mixing. Most mixes have a bare minimum and the results after mastering have never been better, not only in the audio quality but the power and realism of the music.

    I suppose allot of this also based on the musical composition too. My early musical education was in classical music and playing violin in an orchestra. When I took classes in music theory and composition I advanced to the point of being able to write four part harmonies in my mind and being able to stretch that to 5 or 6 but not much more. I can write parts for 5 or 6 instruments effectively but don't have much need for more then that.

    Most recordings I make consist of tracks played from beginning to end without allot of editing. That too comes from 30 years recording analog and making sure the musical parts were clearly defined before tracking because editing was pretty much limited to punching in parts. There's also the transition from recording to playing the music live. I never saw much sense in writing music that couldn't be performed live. My skills recording equal my performance skills and even though the ability to have unlimited tracks makes it easier to add parts, I'd rather refine and perfect the performance over using short cuts. Its how I refined my writing and recording skills and its worked very well for me.