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Can you hear a difference?


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I just found this page on the Digidesign site. It's a comparison of ITB mixes done strictly with Pro Tools, vs mixes done with an analog console. Can YOU hear a difference? If so, do you feel that the differences are sufficient enough to weigh the equation in favor of one approach over the other, with all of the corresponding advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

 

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Awesome. When I get home, I'll load the files into my recorderin' computer and listen.

 

Haven't read the link, how do they eliminate all other variables than format? Obviously, they can't do a double-blind, as the engineer knows full well if he's on a computer or a mixer. The engineer's pre-existing notions about the media would have an effect on the mix, eg. "that's as good as digital is going to sound," or "there's only so much an analog circuit can be made to do." Similarly, if the purpose going in were to show there's little difference between the formats sonically, the engineer would be deliberately attempting to make the mixes sound alike, rather than optimize them based on the strengths of each format.

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I'll have to check this out when I get home from work. Tape appeals to me more than digital in an aesthetic and idealistic way, but I am a little biased, since my favorite bands and records are mostly from the '60s and '70s.

 

I've only had the opportunity to record to Pro Tools in a studio, which is something I hope to change soon. Digital does sound pretty great these days, but I'm drawn to the limitations of tape.. A limited number of tracks, much more motivation to nail your part in one take, that kind of thing.

 

I'll bet these examples sound pretty similar, because that's what Digidesign is trying to prove. It'd be interesting if an analog enthusiast did the same experiment.

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I felt there was some difference noticeable -- but my test results didn't reflect an ability to identify which was which... I ended up on the low side of chance. And that was with some re-roll -- I didn't just fly through. That said, these old ears have been through a lot and I was listening over m everyday rig, built around NS10m's and not my serious monitors. (Which aren't all that serious but I like 'em.)

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I felt there was some difference noticeable -- but my test results didn't reflect an ability to identify which was which...

 

 

Same here. I could tell a difference, and in some cases I thought one sounded better than the other. But my ability to specify which was the console mix was pretty random.

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Believe it or not, I still have not had the time to listen to them myself, but hopefully things will slow down a bit by this weekend so I can take the time to do so. From what I understand, there are a few mixes that are identified in terms of "console" or "ITB", and then several others that are not, and those are the ones you try to say or guess which is which. I think the source tracks were all played with Pro Tools, with only the summing (ITB vs analog console) being different. Using tape and an analog console vs ITB PT might also be an interesting experiment, although I would suspect that it would be easier to tell one from the other.

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Believe it or not, I still have not had the time to listen to them myself, but hopefully things will slow down a bit by this weekend so I can take the time to do so. From what I understand, there are a few mixes that are identified in terms of "console" or "ITB", and then several others that are not, and those are the ones you try to say or guess which is which. I think the source tracks were all played with Pro Tools, with only the summing (ITB vs analog console) being different. Using tape and an analog console vs ITB PT might also be an interesting experiment, although I would suspect that it would be easier to tell one from the other.

 

 

That's pretty much correct, Phil. You have a chance to listen to a splice-job that cuts back and forth between ITB and console, with them both identified for varying periods (from relatively long to barely a second or so).

 

I thought I'd developed a sense of the admittedly quite small difference but when push came to shove in the blind ID test, I came out on the low side of random. (ie, I apparently got it wrong just a little more than I got it right). And that was with some roll backs to relisten. I gave myself every advantage except setting up my Event 20/20bas in my "serious mix" position instead of listening on my everyday, eq-compensated NS10m set up. (That said, I'm very used to the everyday set up, even though it's not as flat or wide-spectrum as the Events.)

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wow. this is a bit useless imo.

 

i mean first off, mike shipley? gimme a break...

 

if I could mix like him either ITB or on a board id be happy as a pig in {censored}.

 

secondly, what kind of console was used? i didnt see any mention. im guessing something that costs 6 figures and resides in a room with another 6 figures worth of outboard and a million dollar acoustic job. not a ghost in your basement with a dbx 1066 and 2 real traps set up.

 

and last, but most importantly, were any of the songs in those "tests" something that you'd want to buy? because if it wasn't, who cares how it was mixed.

 

 

id rather hear a good tune recorded like a robert johnson record than a lousy tune recorded like def leppard's hysteria.

 

just my $.03

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Well, this isn't exactly a scientifically presented test, but it's probably one of the more rigorous demonstration/tests I've seen in a BB.

 

I think it's interesting that you were guessing the console was a high end one -- and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a desk with a solid rep -- but if they were going to cook it, you'd assume it'd be a Behringer board or something. :D

 

I agree on the Robert Johnson thing -- but I have to say that those records sound a lot better than they did when I first heard them in the 70s -- modern technology has really improved the ability to recapture the sound -- quite possibly better than th e first strikings.

 

And that s ame march of technology has presented qunadries for many of us. I used to mix OTB and moved to ITB around the turn of the century. I've done my own back and forth testing and came to the conclusion that on my rig, things can sound different, maybe better in some ways -- but that the hassle of going back to OTB mixing (I'm not one of those lucky dogs with an automated desk).

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wow. this is a bit useless imo.


i mean first off, mike shipley? gimme a break...


if I could mix like him either ITB or on a board id be happy as a pig in {censored}.


secondly, what kind of console was used? i didnt see any mention.

 

 

The console was a SSL 4000 series.

 

What you say about Mike Shipley is true, but I don't understand your point. Mike Shipley didn't work on any of the ITB mixes on the test. He did a console mix.

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That's pretty much correct, Phil. You have a chance to listen to a splice-job that cuts back and forth between ITB and console, with them both identified for varying periods (from relatively long to barely a second or so).

 

Thanks for confirming that. :) Are the cuts back and forth of the same song? IOW, did they mix the same song twice - once through the analog console and once ITB? Or do they flip back and forth between two different songs? To me, the comparisons would make more sense if they used the same material for both the analog console and ITB mixes.

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FYI

 

PT 7.4 is on it's way. Improved DAE is one of it's features. This test was done with the current DAE. Apparently, according to the beta testers, the new DAE sounds wonderful...

 

I don't doubt that analog summing can sound better, different, or just more... analog. But I like ITB. I'll be an ostrich on this issue and be happy with not knowing. I'd rather get a running list of all the ITB mixes that are charting and sound good.

 

I can't fathom investing in outboard summing, compression, and eq. Ouch.

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I've heard rumours about 7.4 being in the works. I wonder if it will be compatible with Windows XP as well as Vista? I sure hope so - I am NOT ready to "go Vista" yet.

 

if they were going to cook it, you'd assume it'd be a Behringer board or something.

 

If they were going to cook the results, they probably wouldn't hire Mike Shipley to do a console mix, either.

 

Both are good points IMO. :)

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The console was a SSL 4000 series.


What you say about Mike Shipley is true, but I don't understand your point. Mike Shipley didn't work on any of the ITB mixes on the test. He did a console mix.

 

 

ah ha. i just went back and read what was on the page more closely. admittedly i was in a bit of a rush before and didnt read as close as i thought and didnt watch the video to see if they explained things more. going back i saw this..

 

"So, we did an experiment to see how closely we could match some mixes done on a large-format analog console using Pro Tools and modeled console channel strip plug-ins, and have posted the resulting audio files for you to hear."

 

notice anything in there? like "how closely we could match some mixes". this i think is a huge flaw. its not about whether one sounds better, its about if they can do the same or very similar mix ITB AFTER an OTB mix was done by a great mixer. and who mixed the ITB versions? that guy needs a credit!:poke: (edit: the do give it to them on the explanation page)

 

i would have thought they'd use the same guy doing 2 mixes so you can really see what factor the gear played. different people, one of which is copying the other guy isnt right imo.

 

ok so found some more. "To limit the comparison to audio processing and reduce complexity, they were not allowed to use console automation. All of the effects they used (reverb, delay, and so on) were built into the tracks feeding the analog console from Pro Tools via 48 discrete analog audio outputs."

 

so it seems all the fx on the console mix had to use plug-ins if i understand this correctly. and they couldnt use board automation! yeah, thats reality:rolleyes:

 

it also SEEMS, that they used a SSL 4000 because they wanted to show that using the SSL 4000 plugs they could get the same sounds.

 

"Once the console mixes were complete, Digidesign Product Specialist Tom Graham and Professional Products Market Manager Gannon Kashiwa duplicated the mixes in Pro Tools by painstakingly matching all volume levels, panning, EQ, channel dynamics, and bus compression to their analog console counterparts."

 

now that makes me think they had the exact same settings used by shipley and co. if so, thats not 2 different mixes. thats like a weird analog to digital recall or something. I would much rather hear someone mix the same song how they want to mix it in each platform.

 

sorry if it seems like im {censored}ting on this comparison but there's alot not being said. i mean, this isnt how the real world works.

 

as mentioned people have their preferences for different reasons. and thats cool. but how would i know which is better from this test? what about a mix done on any other console aside from the ssl 4000?

 

like i said, sorry for any negativity about it. im a big skeptic when it comes to tests on a product conducted by the manufacturer. and i use PT!

 

loving the new poke emoticon tho....

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im certainly to the point where its moot. i just dont care anymore. if someone wants to hold onto their console and only use that, well thats their life. i know what i prefer using and thats all that matters to me.

 

Ultimately, everyone has to come to their own decisions one way or the other, and for those of us who have found something we're happy with, it's a matter we've already reached a decision on and don't have to think about all the time.

 

But for those who are curious, or have only worked one way or the other, or who wonder what all the discussion and fuss is about, this topic still may hold some interest. :)

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I'm interested in this, largely because I'm simply curious.

 

It won't change the way I do things because I'm happy with the sound and the automation in my DAW, but I'm still really interested in what people's perceptions are.

 

My GUESS is that many people are going to perceive that they sound different, but that one is not blatantly better sounding than the other, but more different.

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I only listened to the heavy rock band movie. Since I'm committed to mixing OTB, I have to admit that by watching the movie I may perhaps be not objective.

 

I believe I could hear the differences between them. For me it was more of a quality in the lower midrange of the distorted guitars. I thought the OTB sounded slightly better, with the sound a bit more complex. I can make a couple of comparison it would be to tube amps and modelers, and synthesizers and electric keyboards.

 

Amp modelers sound good and they mimic really well, but you can hear the difference in the tone shaping in that the modelers sound more consistent in the tone shaping while the actual tube amp seems a bit more complex, warmer and interesting. I have quite a few synthesizers. The synth acoustic piano sounds are good, but not one of them as good as my Petrof/Weinbach upright. The synths have good electric Wurli samples, including my Nord Electro II, but none of them sound as good as my actual Wurli. You can tell the difference immediately.

 

I think that's the same that you get with the ITB, it's close, Not as dramatic a difference as the synths, but the analog processing in general is better, with some exceptions.

 

One thing that I find bizarre in the introduction movie is the idea that they could get a null result from placing the ITB processing from the OTB processing. I don't believe that an analog processor would give you exactly the same result each time you fed it the same signal. In which case you could never have a real canceling of the signals when trying to null out an ITB with an OTB process.

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