Analog Summing vs Digital Summing: A Comprehensive Shootout - Trust Me Shops

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Analog Summing vs Digital Summing: A Comprehensive Shootout

Analog Summing vs Digital Summing: A Comprehensive Shootout

B&H explora - All posts
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There I was, three years of audio digital engineering to my name and wondering why nothing I bounced ever sounded as good as what I heard in the session itself. Inside my DAW, the mix would feel wide and sound impactful. Then, I’d render the track, and find myself gut-punched by the washed-out sound of the finished product. Lifeless. Harsh. Unacceptable.

What is a summing mixer anyway?

A neophyte still—and banging my head against the digital wall of fixed-point architecture, where harsh digital clipping can be an immutable problem—I called up my trusty audio-engineering store and told them about the problem.

“Have you tried a summing mixer?” the salesman asked.

“What’s that?”

“Your Digital Audio Workstation—speaking in simple terms here—handles the combination of your tracks with nothing more than math. Math is fine, but math is math: cold, analytical, vibeless. A summing mixer gives you some of the mojo of analog consoles. It combines all your tracks through an analog signal path, and the result can be warmer, more delineated, less washed out, and all-around better.”

Well, he sold me—specifically, he sold me a Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT and a Lynx Aurora 16-channel AD/DA. I never turned back, even as I read about vaunted industry pros calling summing mixers “snake oil.” The setup worked for me.

But how far has software come?

Years later, Slate Digital released the Virtual Console Collection. Steven Slate explained in his colorful way how the VCC modeled console summing entirely in software, sidestepping the need for a summing mixer.

Other developers also launched “in-the-box summing solutions”—Sonimus, Waves, and even Airwindows programmed platforms that sought to supplant your DAW’s bland, boring math.

Next came a volley of online articles and videos, much of it centered around tests that missed the point; A/B comparisons don’t really capture what it’s like to mix through a chosen signal path. This, as we’ll examine, is most of the fun.

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