Modern day studio’s typically prefer to work in a digital environment. It goes without saying that there’s many benefits to digital audio.
In this tutorial we’re not going to look at the evolution of studio’s, but were going to look at how you can combine digital and analogue equipment in what’s called a ‘Hybrid mixing setup’.
A hybrid mixing setup uses both analogue and digital gear, and thus get’s the best of both worlds. Without further adu, you can check out the tutorial right here.
There’s many different approaches we could to have a ‘hybrid’ signal flow. For many reasons tracking and recording is the easiest when done digital. (Things like editing are just a lot quicker when they’re done in a digital environment.)
Obviously you can still record on tape, and also there are products on the market allowing you to output your tape-tracks directly to your audio interface. (That way you can digitally record what you have just got on tape.)
In this tutorial I’m mainly focussing on smaller projectstudio’s and homestudio’s so I’m assuming you won’t be tracking on tape.
Setup 1 - Mixing in the box using ‘outboard gear’.
The computer is the heart of this process. Besides that we have an audio-interface with a number of in- and out-puts. These in and outputs can be used to have analogue gear as insert on our DAW-channels. This allows us to use some external processors in a digital mixing setup. Many DAW’s allow you to set up outputs and inputs of your interface to be used as inserts in your projects.
It could also be very helpful to look for a midi controller with faders as many people prefer faders and knobs over mouseclicks when mixing music.
Setup 2. Mixing on a desk using a DAW.
The computer is still the heart of the process as it plays the multitrack from the DAW, but mixing is done with an analogue board.
This means that the outputs of our interface are all connected to the input of a mixing desk, this allows us to have the computer more ‘on the side’ rather than in the centre of our setup. Using outboard gear would be done by using the actual insert send and returns on the mixing desk. In this routing setup we focus more on the traditional, less visual way of mixing.
You could still chose to do certain processing and plugins from within the DAW, so this way you really get the best of both worlds and be very flexible.
As we are routing our multitrack through the mixing console during mixing we will have to record the output of it’s mix-buss back in the DAW as a mix. Also we can records stamps in case we want to still be able to process groups of tracks, like drums, instruments and vocals on separated stereo tracks.
Things to take note of…
When working with analogue gear there are literally things to take note of. All the settings you dial in on your outboard gear need to be noted down in order to recreate the same mix when you might have to open the session once again.
This means you got to note which insert is used on which channel, and which devices are used on these inserts. Also note the actual settings of these devices and / or chosen presets. You could actually do this in the DAW itself. Most DAWS allow you to take notes, and this is one of the reasons why that is helpful!
What setup to look at?
So lets look at, what I think, is an ideal setup for a hybrid environment which allows growth and updates over time. I am directing this more towards home studios with a smaller budget that have the ambition to grow into larger scale productions. I believe that the ‘right setup’ is something that’s different per person, per studio and sometimes even per project, as each might have different purposes and workflows.
First off I would say to look for a really good audio interface with good conversion, high sample-rates, and a good amount of in- and out-puts.
Whenever you start working with outboard gear, one of the first things you will want to have next is a patchbay. This allows you to route all the inputs and outputs of your interface, gear and instruments without having to climb behind all of your devices. Patchbays come with different size connectors, typically 1/4” or 1/8” jack connectors. And they can really help you to move quickly in your studio as it’s typically just a matter of connecting one or two small cables and we’re ready to go!
Eventually you might want to start looking for an actual analogue console to work from. Even in a digital setup they can work their magic due to a number of factors.
4. Outboard gear.
Well, yeah.. This is where the fun begins as this can be anything you want depending on YOUR specific needs. Are you looking for external compression, equalisation, fx processing? There’s so much good gear you can hunt for!
Depending on the budget you have, there a many different types of mixers you can look for.
Besides that Wick has started WickieMedia, he is also author, blogger and video-editor for the site.
Wick is very passionate about audio engineering, music production, graphic design, motion graphics and good cappuchino.
Wick is the author of 'Audio Engineering - Dynamic Processing' and 'Audio Engineering - Spectral Processing'.
You can find both titles in the iBookstore.
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