[LAD] Half-OT: Fader mapping - was - Ardour MIDI tracer

Fons Adriaensen fons at linuxaudio.org
Fri Aug 22 12:05:13 UTC 2014

On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 12:32:19PM +0200, Ralf Mardorf wrote:

> IOW the odd design of this mixer and some other
> mixers too, leads to learning how to mix in a
> wrong way.

I'd agree with that (while not commenting on the rest).

Regarding EQ pre or post 'tape', that is for a part
a matter or personal preference, but also related
to history. 

At the start of the multitrack era, many engineers
were perfectly capable of mixing the type of music
they usually handled 'live'. They didn't need a 
hundred trials to arrive at a good mix.

And with only 16 or 24 tracks available, you often had
to pre-mix things before tape. Using EQ at that point
was a natural thing to do.

The typical structure of the mixers used at the time
also plays a role. Desks used for multitrack production
were in fact two mixers in one box.

In the first generation, you had a 'main' mixer with
everything on it, EQ, inserts, large faders, etc. While
recording tracks, this was used to mix the signals going
to tape, on 16 or 24 mixing busses. A separate 'monitoring'
mixer, usually a lot simpler, no EQ or just a very simple
one, was used to create a control room monitor mix of the
tape signals.

Aux busses were shared between the two, so you could
create a monitor mix for a musician using both the mic
signals and those already on tape.

For mixing you would switch the main mixer inputs to the
tape outputs and mix them on a stereo bus, again using all
facilities provided.

These desks tended to be quite large, since the monitor
mixer was a separate section, usually to the right of
the main one.

Using EQ while recording was a natural thing to do when
using such a mixer, simply because it was available, and
for the reasons already mentioned above.

Then came in-line mixers. In-line means that one channel
from the main mixer and one from the monitoring one were
combined into a single strip. So each strip had two faders,
the second normally being a small one. One advantage was
much reduced size. At the same time the signal routing was
made more flexible, to the point that the two signal paths
within a strip could swap roles.

In other words, even while recording tracks you could opt
to use the 'simple' mixer to do that and the 'main' one for
control room monitoring. The result was that at the end of
a session you could have the main mixer completely set up
for the mix, including post-tape EQ and any effects, without
having to change anything. And on some mixers (more as time
went on) you could save that setup and recall it later, so
this was an interesting way to work.

All the large mixers I ever used (Neve, Harrison, SSL) were
in-line, and I usually preferred to use them as explained
above. It was a personal thing, some other engineers at the
place where I worked did the same, and some others never did
unless they had to provide a live mix for broadcasting while
recording multitrack at the same time.

A DAW such as Ardour has remnants of the in-line structure.
Logically there are still two signal paths in each track strip. 
But the 'pre-tape' part, instead of being a mixer, has been
reduced to the mininum: no gain controls and fixed one-to-one
connections from inputs to tracks. The only thing that remains
is that you can measure the input signal, and use it as input
to the main path while transport is stopped or the track is 
recording. With unlimited tracks available, this makes sense
of course, though it encourages postponing everything to the
mixing stage. I'm not convinced that is always a good idea,
you can easily end up with 'too much to handle' there.



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