Posted on 21. Mar, 2016 by Daniel Duskin (Record Producer, Mixing & Mastering Engineer) in Mixing, ♫ Online Services
Here is a brief, yet exciting, chronicle of the historic journey that my newly acquired vintage—analog, large format—mixing console made, before it reached its final destination in my mix room today.
This mixing board began it’s life as a 60 channel Neve desk, and now living as a newly re-capped and modified Neve/SSL hybrid 60/72 channel large format analog mixing console. It changed owners after helping to produce more than just a few multi-platinum, and multi-diamond, hit making singles & albums.
About 25 years ago, my console found its way to a small island 184 miles from the coast of Miami Florida, where it was utilized in a prominent studio as the very best recording and mixing console in any of it’s rooms (and the best of most other hit-making consoles around the world). This studio had countless hits that were produced by artists; such as The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Celine Dion, R.E.M, Electric Light Orchestra, The Police, Iron Maiden, Talking Heads, Lenny Kravitz, Shakira, Judas Priest, Mick Jagger, P. Diddy, The B-52’s, Anthrax, The Cure, Joe Cocker, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Thompson Twins, Bjork, Shania Twain, A Flock of Seagulls, Julian Lennon, Roger Waters, Robert Palmer, Barry White, Thin Lizzy, Scissor Sisters, Roxy Music, and many more.
Let’s go back in time to see some of the history that was nurtured and finalized with my mixing console…
Lenny Kravitz’s double platinum album was mixed, produced, and recorded, with my console; which turned out the hit single “American Woman” (No. 1, on the US Billboard Hot 100). It was recorded and mixed with my console for the Austin Power’s movie “The Spy Who Shagged Me”.
While working on her 1995 album, Bjork recorded many of her vocals while laying on the sand near the clear blue water. These vocals then went through this desk, which produced the hit singles, “Army of Me”, and “It’s Oh So Quite”.
Prior to this, my mixing console was originally purchased for use in a studio created by Roy Orbison in 1963 that went on to produce hits with artists such as Willie Nelson, B. B. King, Dean Martin, Crystal Gayle, King’s Of Leon, Dolly Parton, Roy Rogers, Randy Travis, Chet Atkins, Reba McEntire, Waylon Jennings, Brooks & Dunn, Clint Eastwood, Travis Tritt, Ronnie Milsap, Loretta Lynn, John Hiatt, George Jones, Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, and legendary producers such as Chuck Ainlay.
After using this console, I have been delighted to find out that simply running music through mixing this desk improves the sonic character of any recording, like magic.
Furthermore, while researching the history of my desk—it had become clear that this board imparts a unique sound that we all know and love, considering the number of hit singles and albums that were created on it.
Before I had acquired my previous analog mixing console, I largely believed the pervasive hype that emulated or modeled digital plugin EQ’s and compressors copying various well known and highly respected audio processing manufacturers, such as Neve, SSL, API, Trident, Helios, Harrison, Tube Tech, Manley, Empirical Labs, dbx, Teletronix, Summit, Maag, and more, created by plugin sellers such as Universal Audio, Slate Digital, WAVES, & SoftTube, were fairly indistinguishable from the original. How very wrong that belief was.
It has been fascinating to listen and discover that even in 2016, the very best digital plugin emulations or models of classic EQ’s and compressors are not as indistinguishable as many of us have been led to believe.
After further examination, it turned out that the difference was significant enough that even many lower grade analog EQ’s in 2016 tended to sound better than the very best plugin EQ’s available in 2016.This drove me to conduct many more listening comparisons to see if what I was hearing was real, or some type of placebo.I began to conduct some blind tests, by having a friend or co-worker to flip back and forth without letting me known which was which, as I picked my preference.
The most notable difference was that analog EQ’s and compressors sounded significantly more open, and had an increased sense of depth.
Plugin EQ’s manipulate controlled sonic frequencies just fine (just as the previous console EQ did), yet sadly the digital EQ sounded somewhat false (empty) and flat (lacking openness, space, and depth).
When making the same adjustments on a real analog console, almost every adjustment sounds far more natural, as if the original recorded audio must have started out that way.
There is an amazing sonic character that comes from this desk which cannot be obtained in the box.
We all know the sound of this board, because it has been imprinted on so many hit songs of the 1970′s all the way through the new millennium that we love.
It sounds great, and feels great. It’s time to mix!
author: Dan Duskin