Hardware For a Better Mix

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Before I can continue with more tutorials for better mixing, I need to cover an important topic about some hardware stuff that is the most important for proper mixing. You probably saw many tutorials if studios with a lot of synths and drum machines and with other hardware that can help you with your creative processes. But I didn’t saw many online tutorials about the gear that will help you increase your mixes. There are many sponsored tutorials about analogue hardware gear that will help you get a bit better sound, such as compressors, limiters, Analog EQs, and many other products. Still, it is infrequent to find tutorials with an explanation and importance of the AD/DA conversion. The cheapest way to get all needed for a start is to buy “Sound Card.” Sound Card is an audio unit composed of several audio pieces into one unit that we call Sound Card! Sound Card haves Preamps for microphones, AD (analogue to digital) converters, DA ( digital to analogue) converters, ASIO drivers, Routing software, some of them come with internal DSP (Digital signal processing) with integrated Effects. When you decide to improve your mixing, and general quality of your sound design, mixing, mastering, there are several factors that you shell understand in a whole process.

We use computers to store only images of sounds. Every time we play those images from our computers, we need a translator that will translate these images to speakers so that speakers can play that saved image. How good will it translate it? That depends on the DA converter. Form a digital image of the sound (waveform) to a real sound in the room. That is the reason why we connect our speakers to output on the sound card. The output on the soundcard is DA converter. The better DA converter – The better translation – Better hearing! You can understand this as a better pair of hears. AD converters! For our way of making the music, not many of us need a high-end AD converter if you do not record anything. But that could be a fantastic upgrade for every studio. Everything that you bounce, you can record on high-end AD converter, and when you pass all the stems trough high-end converter, you will get much better results from just bouncing it. By bouncing samples, you give a command to CPU or DSP of soundcard on your computer to process the whole process with effects into one sample/stem, and your CPU is made to do so many different things, and CPU is not an expert for audio. Some other pieces of gear are made for this specifically! The IMPORTANT thing about upgrading your DA converters is that you will feel your mixes are much worse than they used to sound, and it’s because better DA converters are going to translate much better and you will hear more detailed, which leads many people to the conclusion that DA converters are bad. With better DA converters – Better hearing – more work!

Summing! While building the project, the number of channels is increasing. And when we got our tracks ready, mostly we do it with “Audio Export” options on our DAWs. This process is the same, as I already mentioned. One hundred of audio/midi/instruments channels summed by doing “audio export,” we are giving a command to our CPU to sum all of those channels into the final two channels. Again, we are commanding our “non-Audio Pro” unit to do such a complicated process. Some of you might notice that the final mixdown is sounding a bit different from what you hear directly from DAW. It is because we are again commanding a non-professional unit (CPU) to do the process. The best guy for this job is a summing mixer. Summing mixers are units whose purpose is to sum all of those sounds into the final track, and that can be done only by recording the whole track!

Speakers! Speakers are our best friends, and all of us need to choose our friends carefully. During my career, I had several pairs of speakers and never stopped changing them in search of better results. I had Tannoy than moved for Adam A7X after I bought Focal Solo Be6, then I moved to Event Opal after I came back to Focal Solo be6 just extended with subwoofer Focal Sub6 and finally moved to Focal SM9. After all these speakers and changes, after 15 years of learning and I finally got to the point where I can say that I am delighted, but for the 1st time after 2003 when I started producing. Now I am at the point where I hope that I won’t need to upgrade my speakers until they stop working.

The importance of Acoustics treatment of the room is also a huge one. If you do not have a suitable acoustic treatment of the room, do not expect a lot. You can get satisfactory results with not treated rooms, but do not expect high-end quality. I won’t discuss acoustic as I am not a pro in the area and I do not want to speak about things I don’t understand 100%

E-Clip Studio Setup Explanation: I want to explain my audio setup as that way is the best of understanding the whole process.

I use PC in the studio and RME Fireface 800 as an audio unit, and Apogee DA16x as my DA converters. That means I use only RME FF800 for routing and controlling my Apogee converters, and for ASIO drivers only! Eight outputs from Apogee are going into Dangerous Music DBOX, where they get summed, and only two channels are returning to RME 800 and get recorded in Cubase. So I use Apogee converters only as of the audio outputs from DAW to Dbox, while DBox haves extra DA converter specially made for listening. This really good converter from DBox is only used to pass a summed signal from Dbox to speakers. Eight channels summed in DBox, and the summed signal sent from Dbox to speakers, and the same summed signal sent back to Fireface for a recording. This is my weak spot, as I use high-end converters until I hit back Fireface800 AD converter for recording. On my wish list is propper AD converter, Cranesong HEDD or Burl AD, and with this, I would close a fantastic converter patch, as now the only weak spot is recording everything back and must be upgraded! The main reason for using the summing mixer is that you can mix, and hear the final result straight away. Mixing trough these converters is different than mixing trough the master channel and mixes trough the summing mixer you get a way better transients, lowe end, and stereo depth.

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