Analog Summing. Let do this again :)

The "Brandon thread started to go in a few different ways so I thought I’d break it out and do the analog summing conversation again:)

I have summed through my D&R console for about 6 months about 3 years ago. At the same time I collected the individual channels through the direct outs. Several times I AB’d the analog summed tracks against the individual tracks recorded back into the daw and summed then put through the main summing amp. I have never been able to pick out which was which in blind tests. To me they were exactly the same. To me the thing I was hearing was just using cool hardware and the summing section of a console is just another piece of cool hardware. A dangerous summing box or Neve console is just a piece of gear with a sound.

SSL has an interesting summing video that you can clearly hear the positive difference that summing makes. I’ve never been able to recreate this.

Using slate or other console plugins is a completely valid way of achieving “summing” as a sound. I’ve heard that cross talk is an important part of summing. I’ll buy that. Still mixing on a console and taking direct outs would still get you this.

To summarize I believe people are mistaking hearing cool sounding gear as hearing summing because the gear forces you to sum and its hard to compare to digital summing.


It’s hard to make a value judgement about this because it’s art, and it’s hard to do a meaningful scientific test of it because by its very nature analog(ue :grin: ) summing can and will change the decisions you make as a mixer because you react to what you hear and feel - you can’t limit a test to a single variable because that stifles the point of it!

You can describe scientifically what’s going on, of course, and just be happy to accept that to some people it’s a good thing in terms of how a unifying colouration and saturation over however many channels of summing you have affects the end result.

If I can briefly stray into dangerous psychoacoustic waters…

The wonderful world of sound is ENTIRELY a creation of our minds, since sound is just vibrations. We could just as easily have evolved to perceive those vibrations with our sense of touch, but our brains prefer to deal with it by presenting our consciousness with a whole made up sensory experience of pitches, timbres, rhythms etc. In a way, our experience of sound is a form of synesthesia - vibrations felt in our cochleas produce a wonderful extra sensory universe that helps us understand our surroundings etc.

As such, as individuals and as cultures we get to define what “good” sound even means. It’s not like touch where good touch involves lack of pain, or vision where good sight involves not seeing a sabre-tooth tiger leaping out of the darkness to kill you. In sound it’s just a blank canvas. So we define “Good” based on precedent. For example, it’s interesting that we come up with scientific rationales for our use of octaves divided into twelve tones, but we only understand this division and pitch intervals/ scales etc as being music because we hear them as young children and get used to them. In other cultures different non-semitone intervals are used to divide up octaves, so there’s nothing universal about that.

My point is that for the best part of 100 years, our culture has got used to the idea that good records sound like lots of tracks with unifying distortions caused by the way the tracks were recorded, mixed and summed in consoles with channels that share the same characteristics but are not identical, then more distortions caused by the recording and playback mediums. There are no absolutes here - this ends up sounding right because our ears are used to it. A good example of this is guitar distortion. In the beginning, it was undesirable. But our culture got used to it and eventually we’ve learned to embrace it.

Everyone posting on this forum, unless they’re children, can safely be said to have grown up with the sound of analogue summing being pervasive in our culture. Even to someone who just passively enjoys music, the extra harmonic colouration will be picked up by the automatic process of the ear and brain as a clue that all the different parts of the mix belong together - our ears are ALWAYS doing this job and looking for clues for how to group the disparate series of harmonics that hit our eardrums. That’s how we identify the different sources of multiple sounds happening at once.

Then after the best part of a century, digital comes along and it has no colour at all. The mathematics of bit depth and sample rate are sound - for a given frequency and dynamic range, digital reproduces sound perfectly and digital summing is literally A+B+C etc with nothing added and nothing lost.

But as mixers our only benchmark to determine whether a mix is Good or Bad is precedence. And precedence tells us that good finished mixes have unifying harmonic colouration caused by analogue summing, even if that effect is subtle. So we add it one way or another - extra preamp drive on the way in, more colourful mics, vst plugins that replicate analogue distortions, or even new ways to create homogeny across the mix like coloured mastering processes, distortion caused by brick wall limiting or lossy conversion artifacts. However we do it, part of mixing is making the disparate sounds that make up the mix sound like they belong together, and analogue summing is one option.

Oh, Christ on a bike. Another essay. This is what happens when I’m at work and my boss isn’t is the office. :scream:

Edit: I’ve read this through and frankly I’ll be amazed if my train of thought makes sense to anyone. It might be mad ramblings. Ignore if need be.


its like most analog gear, you hear a build up of noise, that warm (holy shit is that banned or not? lol) thing everyone raves about lol

Ive tried summing a few ways. I have tried it through a console and through a 500 series 10 channel enclosure that allows you to sum through the modules. i sent as many tracks through the console as i could and with the 500 series i used preamp modules and stems from busses. I never felt like it improved anything, i always went back ITB. the only thing i enjoyed was being able to mix more on the console and less ITB, but i never heard the difference. I tried the more scientific approach as well and watched videos etc. and just never got it to work as other have. I am not against it, but it does not fit into my workflow at all.

I might know why. This may have to do with headroom on the console. I wanna have a quick chat with Dangerous to see if their opinion is what I think mine is (if that even makes sense)

There’s a lot of videos, can you link the one you were referring to?

I have absolutely no idea what summing is. I intend to remain in ignorance.


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I think it was this one. I can’t listen right now.

My view is that analogue summing / modelled analogue summing is first and foremost a workflow consideration as much as it is a sonic texture.

My experience with modelled analogue summing (via VCC) is that it allows me to achieve the sound I desire in a more intuitive way, with less effort and deliberate thought needed to achieve all those horrid (and often contradictory) mixing buzz-words like "depth, width, space, glue, separation,clarity etc etc.

I recently experimented by doing a mix without VCC, VTM or any of my favorite analogue-modelling plugins in Reaper. I just used totally native Reaper plugins, including many of the JS plugins when I got stuck looking for saturation. I think I got there in the end, but it was very hard work.



What summing units have you tried so far?

I have not tried any purpose built “summing units”. I’ve used my D&R console that has loads of head room mainly. I experimented with an old mackie 32 channel analog board. I also used a hand made 16 channel resistance mixer. My D&R console is transformerless except in the and summing module. It is a B-room board that were typically used in radio, recording and some high-end touring applications. It would be like a midas, Neotek or studer type console. Not a Harrison, API or SSL. In its day in my configuration I would have sold for about $70,000

Hmm. My theory was that it was a headroom issue in the way the board was built. Guess not. Oh well. Aint the first time I’ve been wrong.

OK, time to parade my ignorance. I have heard the term analog(ue) summing here and there but have no clear idea what it is and hence for what purposes it is best suited. I don’t want to pollute this thread with newbage, so would one of you knowledgeable ones please shoot me a link where I can read some 101 on this? Thanks!

Every analog mixing console has a analog summing section that combines the individual channels into a 2 channel stereo bus track.

There are active summing units that add the channels together with electronic circuitry and there are also passive summing units that combine the channels via a network of resistors. The passive units loose some signal strength due to the resistive network and are usually boosted using a separate active amplifier.

OK, so basically analog summing in a box or console is approximately equivalent to the master-out in a DAW? And the argument/debate is whether doing so in an analog box is appreciably different/better than doing everything ITB? Have I got that part right?

That’s correct, although I would say “different” in a fairly small way, but “better” only for some who care to go down that rabbit-hole, or @Coquet-Shack indicated, if you’re happy doing things ITB and you don’t care to explore it, you’re really not missing out on anything.

As @Cirrus indicated in his post, the mania over AS has mainly come about because most older engineers found the transition to digital summing “different” to their long established work methods, and the sounds they were used to. This, combined with lots of confusing (& technically wrong descriptors) like “more headroom” have combined (summed, if you will) to lead to a situation where many outrightly claim that AS is inherently superior to DS.

If you’re curious about the “difference”, go and have a listen to this SSL video posted by @Paul999 and make up your own mind as to whether it’s worth worrying about:


Thanks Andrew @ColdRoomStudio! I will watch that right now. And:

Well, I can definitely hear the difference in that vid. I sure would like to hear a similar comparison for more acoustic-based sounds, to see if the difference is similarly pronounced.

I may have to look into summing plugins that @Paul999 mentioned, because I won’t be getting an outboard console, that’s for sure, for the simple reason that I have nowhere to put one. Thanks for the info guys!

Oh, ok!.. I kinda wasn’t expecting that…That’s actually definitely a route I would recommend to anyone who is curious. One thing I would say is that gain staging becomes more critical when dealing with emulated AS than in the purely digital domain, so just be aware of that.

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I wonder, it could well be that the Izotope Ozone that I’ve been using heavily for mastering/2bus work has that sort of thing baked in. I sort of suspect it does… will do a deep dive in the manual and see what I can find.

But yeah, I just don’t have any space to put a rack in or any other outboard gear. My “mancave” room is multipurpose, it’s also where we have the big-screen TV and comfy sofa (“lounge” for my Commonwealth and Antipodean friends) for when my wife and I want to watch a movie or other large-screen-appropriate material. Here’s an ugly panorama/fisheye view of the room, taken standing in the doorway. The TV is on the right, where the image is dark and the black TV is hard to see. The photo makes the space look bigger than it is; the room is about 9x13 feet (2.7 x 3.9m). Just enough room to swing a dead cat in there.

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Looks kind of spacious with the fish eye lens.