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Why use a mixing console for recording?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by KingRazor, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. This is something I've always been curious about.

    Let me clarify my question a bit before you answer:

    Assuming you have access to an audio interface with enough inputs to record whatever it is you're recording...would you still have any use for a mixing console?

    If you do record using a mixing console, do you use EQ, compression, or effects from the console before the signal reaches the recording software? If so, why not provide a dry signal to the software and use the software's EQ/effects?

    When mixing a recording, do you adjust levels "live" in real time? (in other words, do you make volume changes during a song) or do you set the levels where you want and apply them to the entire song?

    I'm asking these questions because I don't know the answer, not sarcastically. I am simply curious.
  2. DanHB18


    May 4, 2010
    For one, in my experience, analog eqs and compressors sound soo much better (subjective of course) than stuff done totally in the box

  3. It used to be but most of those famous console summing mixers have not equivalent plug-ins where few could hear the difference. Even better, you could mix-and-match to make even more interesting summing/eq combinations.
  4. DanHB18


    May 4, 2010
    +1 to the above comment, although I kinda have to disagree. IME their is a dIfference between an SSL console and an SSL plugin, but how many of us have actually sat at an SSL and compared the two. Nothing wrong with the SSL plugins tho
  5. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    For recording with the audio interface? No, I would not. I do everything in software.

    If I wanted to use an outboard compressor or whatever, I'd just reamp it. This way I had my clean/uncolored/whatever tracks and could do whatever I wanted with them.
  6. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    The best reason I can think of to use a mixer is to be able to use phantom powered Condenser microphones. To my ear they record much better sound than cardoid wand mics. YRMV.
  7. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    What if the interface had phantom power? Mine does.
  8. DBCrocky


    Oct 18, 2011
    Cary, NC
    Personally, I think computers make great mixing boxes, but they don't make good recording boxes.

    Issues like latency always seem to plague recording direct to software. And I wouldn't even want to think about recording sixteen tracks at a time to a computer. Nothing will make you look like an idiot like a computer glitch in the middle of a multitrack recording take.

    I record to an ADAT HD with a Mackie 24 track console. Then I move the tracks on to the computer for mixing. I do it this way because it works and does not give me headaches.
  9. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I'm no expert, but the bandleader on NYE used a MacBook Pro (entry level) to run the mixer, a wireless network using an AirPort Express for everyone to mix their own IEM's with their iPads, and recorded the gig live, 16 channels/tracks and it worked great.
  10. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    It not really an issue if you set it up right.

    Most computers these days can handle that just fine. Guys that do a lot of PC recording have a much beefier computer than most so it's a non issue.

    A Mac is the recording standard. The new Mac Pro can have up to 12 cores for processing. 12! They can hold up to 32GB of memory. It wouldn't even break a sweat doing 16 tracks, while surfing a porn site, updating a word doc, and watching a movie. Granted, they cost a fortune, but that's the kind of stuff pros are using these days.
  11. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Can't really generalized that "All" computers have problems. Depends on many things. Try an SSD for the record to drive. Move the tracks to traditional drives after takes.

    Yes if you put huge number of inputs in,
    you might have to add some buffers and increase latency for the interfaces to keep up, but I don't know of any software DAW that doesn't automatically adjust these days?

    ADATs are still valid. And they can be synced to recorded tracks also.

    Computers can even network and share the load during recording.
  12. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Back to the OP
    The less of anything in the signal or digital track during recording is ideal.
    You can always add it later.

    Sometimes you need to hear an example of what it's going to sound like, For example a singer needs reverb, a guitar needs some effects. Record a raw track, and a processed track. The processed track may be perfect, or you can apply the effects to the raw track at mixdown to get it perfect.

    Recorded process tracks sometimes just have too much of something that just doesn't sound as good as you thought when you're mixing down.

    If your band is simple or great, and you only need stereo to record, then many mixers these days have USB 2 channel out to directly record to a simple DAW. It's usually though that you hear something different that needs to be tweaked when you listen to it in the car, and you don't have enough tracks to adjust one part if you only record stereo.
  13. dezspet


    Mar 21, 2007
    I use a mixing console, because I am using three different "ways" in making music: audio tracks, midi tracks and software instruments. To be able to organize everything without always plugging in/out the actual soundsource, and monitoring the tracks during recording I need the console. Maybe there is a simple solution to do it without the console, I just never really thought about it...
  14. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Depends on your DAW set-up; but if you don't have a lot of processing muscle, the biggest advantage to a full mixing board is the ability to set up multiple headphone mixes w/o additionally taxing the processor or dealing with latency. That can be make-or-break when recording initial band tracks.

    Of course, with more capable recent computer rigs, that's less of a problem than it used to be.
  15. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Lately, I have been running without one, but do prefer to have one. Mostly because I like to use compression on the drums and a few other instruments on the way in to the interface.

    I use 2xMOTU 8pre's and have a 4 space rack worth of single space compressors as well as a few others too and find that I end up with more uniform and listenable recordings if I can compress during the recording. I also have a guitar player who benefits greatly from compression. He plays some things so lightly and otherthings with a 'regular' touch. Without compressing him its easy for him to get lost in a mix...and I still compress his sound (and also the drums) when mixing too. I also use a lot of compression on vocal tracks. :)
  16. DanHB18


    May 4, 2010
    I have to disagree. Get it right at the source.
  17. +1.
    Recording 101: don't polish a turd, get it right at the source.

    Mixers are used for those with higher budgets and optimal when mixing/recording as opposed to using a digital interface as far as ease of use, especially when recording or mixing huge sessions with tons of tracks. Also high quality boards have pres, on board eqs, compressors, and much more bells and whistles...if you're new to the whole engineering world just stick to mixing and recording in the box then venture out as you like.
  18. I came here tonight to pick brains on a similar topic....

    I've been asking myself the same question, but in recent days as I've been researching it's becoming clearer.

    We've been using a mixer and taking direct outs to Digi 003 to DAW for some years now - I always hated the fact there's multiple places to adjust the gain. And going without the mixer, there's never enough proper pre's for mics and monitoring, though it can be done is a real hassle if you need to adjust in the middle of a session, especially when everyone is wearing a fricking guitar!

    With ProTools 10 upgrade on the horizon (and I'm not the operator of that, yet....) looks like we are ditching the digi hardware finally! Yeah!

    On our current budget, looks like we will be replacing it with a new FW mixer, probably the Mackie Onyx 1640i.

    16 channels of mic pre, SIX ch of aux sends for monitoring and outboard FX, 4 subgroups, AND a 16 in/16 out FW interface.

    I'm thrilled at the idea, because is really simplifies the signal path and monitoring sitchy. Not only that, but because you can return 16ch back to the analog board, you can actually use it for real analog style mixdown to tape. If you're good with a computer I realize it *can* be done, but the high-end DAW don't have analog control surfaces for nothing.....

    $1500 street. You can't hardly get 16ch of IO for that price, let along a really decent quality and good sounding mixer.

    Take a look...

    So to answer the question, mixer may not be necessary but if you are going to be doing regular recording sessions with different bands (changing your settings and levels) often it's the only way to go IMO.


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