Note: It's now 2011. I
wrote this article in 2003,
and DAW technology and sound has changed
since then. I'm only posting this for the sheer
recording of how it was back then. When I wrote this article, I was
discussing digital and audio
differences with Lynn Fuston on the 3D Audio Forum. He made an
comparison of 30 different DAW summing
busses to see if different they sound
different. To answer that question, he made a mix on all of the
systems -- I got the CDR and evaluated the sound of
recommend going to Lynn's site
and purchasing his comparison CD so
you can hear for it for yourself. By purchasing his CD, you'll find out
which system is which. Meanwhile, my listening experience was done on 3
separate evenings, so I did my best to stay fresh - yet I know that
with 2 or 3 more listens it's possible I might shift my opinion here
and there. I wrote all my findings out before seeing which
platform was which, so I couldn't be swayed by any previous experience
with those systems I was familiar with.
summing methods do sound different. When the quality of any given
system is well established, the differences are small. But it all comes
down to references (what you compare with) and preferences.
Note: I have
re-arranged the order from Lynn's CDR in order to group things that are
more similar. To find the differences you hear, purchase Lynn's DAWSUM
CDR. Check his site for other shoot-outs of mic pre's, mics, and more.
note: Analog summing
boxes and analog consoles get a variety of responses here. I find that major contributing factors to analog summing
are the D-A
converters hooked up to these boxes, the audio interconnecting cables,
and the quality of the power cord going into the wall. We use the
Nautilus Master Technology Commander (completely Discrete Class-A -
made by Inward
for our analog summing, along with top-of-the-line D-A's and cables, as
well as high-end power cords.
the comparisons below used high
end power cords, or documented high-end audio cables. The
openness and articulation and "flavor" of any analog summing box relies
on all elements involved.
Today, higher quality audio components and lots of upgrades to firmware
and software have evolved. With that
said, let's check
out my findings from 2003!
Dawsum CD A
JV's highest ratings:
Pro Tools High Density vs. 5, Mac OS9 - Most
open, best defined, wide
snappy highs, clarity of vocal enunciation, detail. Musical and
Pro Tools Mix+ through Lynn Fuston's analog
Pultec EQP-1A3 (and
more)... Close to PT HD because of more apparent level and better
mid-bottom punch (not surprising because it's going into the analog
domain) but not as much separation (not surprising due to that nice
vintage Pultec). Really it's a tie with the one above if you want a
more solid sound. The analog element is a different "flavor" so your
preference is important when picking the method you use to make your
Yamaha 02R-96 (HWMxr-Digital) - Close or
tied with PT Mix+ because the
sound stage is good, warmth and highs are excellent, but not as much
separation as PT HD.
Performer - Very nice - wide - a close, more analog sound right
along with PT HD, but PT HD still has better piano dynamic
distinctions, and the vocals are more articulated, but this is one of
the best - and newer versions are probably even closer.
Trident 24 analog summing console w/ Pro
Tools High Density-192 - Good
muscle on highs and lows, good apparent level but a hair less exciting
on the upper top.
Vegas: Nearly tied with the Trident,
articulates well, good level.
Paris: Snappy high-highs, good separation
and live sounding, but not as
punchy and a hair thinner than selections above.
Sony Oxford (HWMxr-Digital) - Nice fat
analog sound and attitude, but
not as open on top as selections above.
Now for the details on all
Tools LE - Upper highs are more apparent, but broken up and a hair
spitty and more hashy sounding than Paris.
Tools Mix+ 5.1.1 on OS9 - Good, highs not as high as Yamaha 02R-96,
bass doesn't speak as well as Yamaha 02R-96, Paris has more open snappy
Tools High Density 5, OS9 - This was my first pick, as noted above.
Very musical sounding. Highs are more evenly balanced than 1A which is
snappy, but thinner. Good vocal projection and organ sings out more
musically than Paris. Verb at end is very musical compared to Paris.
Most evenly balanced.
Tools 6 on Mac OSX - Close to Logic (less muted) and extremely
close to Panasonic DA7
Tools Mix+ (source file was Mix 24) through [Lynn's] Pultec
EQP-1A3. This platform was routed D > Mytek 8x96 > Pultec (in
BYPASS, transformers only) > Mytek AD 2021. - Highs speak better
than Trident 24 (see below) analog (could be fewer electronics than the
Trident's ciruit path), bass notes are better separated in PT HD (a
common note about digital), but the mid bottom is fuller on this one.
Yamaha 02R-96 (below) snaps nicely next to this but the apparent level
isn't as good as this. This is a near-tie with PT HD - but it has that
- Cleaner highs than Pro Tools LE, but similar sounding. More
emotional than Pro Tools LE. Crisper upper top than Fairlight.
5.5 OS9 - Good, but a hair muted vs. PT HD or Digital Performer
- Muted highs.
5 OS-X - Better than Soundscape, but the Manley 16x2 is better
than Logic or Soundscape (and Sony Oxford HWMxr-Digital is more open
- Good, but PT HD has better separation and better top. Sony
Oxford (HWMxr-Digital) is more analog sounding.
- Good, but PT HD is more snappy, Digital Performer is more
live with better vocal articulation.
- Ok, but not great - a hair drab
Vision Pro - Better than SAW, but not as open as DP4, Yamaha
02R-96 or PT HD.
- Snare is duller than Studio Vision Pro, blurrier than PT HD,
less separation than Studio Vision Pro
- Better than Cubase, not as good as Manley 16x2, PT, Yamaha
02R-96. Paris is more exciting, better highs.
Edit Pro - Good apparent level, but PT HD has more separation
between instruments and a better sound stage image. Mid bottom a hair
bigger than PT HD.
- Good but not as punchy as Sony Oxford (see below) , and PT
HD has better separation.
- Nearly tied with Cool Edit Pro. PT HD is snappier, Sony Oxford
has still thicker bottom but this one is excellent.
9000J analog console using Pro Tools 888/24 DA/AD (HWMxr-Analog) -
Very natural, better than Pro Tools Mix+ 5.1.1 on OS9. Better apparent
level than any so far. More evenly projecting than PT HD and excellent
24 analog console -- using Pro Tools-192 and Apogee 8000
converters (HWMxr-Analog) - More open highs than Sony Oxford , more
level than Yamaha 02R-96 or Cool Edit Pro. Highs have nice muscle, but
not as exciting as Paris. Good punchy mid-bottom - not surprising as
it's an analog board and those Apogee converters help.
2-Bus--RADAR 24 Nyquist DA / Cranesong Spider AD
(HWMxr-Analog) - Top end is much slower and rolled off than Paris.
Horns are not as tight. Snare is less immediate than Paris.
16x2 Line Mixer using Pro Tools HD-192 converters (HWMxr-Analog)
- Good, but Paris is still snappier. Snare sounds a little compressed.
Articulation of bass is not as good as Dangerous 2-Bus, and the snare
in Dangerous 2-Bus has better transients.
Oxford (HWMxr-Digital) - Transients aren't as snappy as Paris, but
there is a nice apparent level in the mid bottom and the bottom is
punchier than Paris. Bottom goes lower than Yamaha 02R-96
(HWMxr-Digital), but Yamaha 02R-96 (HWMxr-Digital) highs are wider,
more open. Kinda analog sounding.
DMX-R100 (HWMxr-Digital) - Duller than Paris or Panasonic DA7
(HWMxr-Digital) - not so hot - Sony Oxford (HWMxr-Digital) is better
for bottom and musicality, and the Panasonic DA7, Logic 5.5 and PT 6 on
Mac OSX all have better top articulation.
- Bottom and mid bottom isn't as nice as Pro Tools High
Density 5, OS9. Yamaha PM-2000--RADAR 24 Nyquist DA is a little
grainier on the top than this one. Tail on reverb at end isn't as long
as Pro Tools High Density 5, OS9.
PM-2000--RADAR 24 Nyquist DA / Cranesong Spider AD
(HWMxr-Analog) - Bass not as defined as Paris Slightly duller and less
lively than Paris. Upper mids are slightly more smeared than Paris.
02R-96 (HWMxr-Digital) - Even better than Digital Performer.
Bass speaks very well, highs seem to go higher than PT HD but the
separation between instruments isn't as good as PT HD. Verb is good,
warmer than PT HD with a hair fuller low mid.
DA7 (HWMxr-Digital) - Good, but not as good as PT HD or
DM 24 (HWMxr-Digital) - Not as natural as Trident 24 analog,
highs slightly broken up, PT HD has more definition.
comes to mind, is that real engineering isn't about the platform,
because in a lot of cases these puppies sounded very similar, such that
the average Joe couldn't tell the difference if you paid them to sit
and listen. What
counts is the recordist who is committed to great sound will find a way
to make his or her gear work to their liking.
ago (when I wasn't mastering) I upgraded my recording gear from a Soundcraft
board and 1" Otari 8-track machine
to an MCI JH428 console and an MCI JH24 machine.
was shocked at how dull and washed-out sounding my MCI recordings were
to the ones made on that dinky Soundcraft! Yikes - some upgrade!
So I put $18,000 of custom modifications into my MCI gear
and the sound quality completely changed. Legendary mastering engineer,
Doug Sax, stated at that time that an album I engineered was "The
cleanest record [he] heard all year." (and no - it wasn't January!)
wasn't the board that made my recordings come to life, it was my
commitment to great sound and my intention to achieve that. That old
MCI 428 only had a 3-section eq (with my own modified frequencies) but
along with some cool outboard stuff, that simple board worked wonders.
new up and coming recordists of today have tons more options
available to them than I did back then... but in the long run, their intentions
be the key to their success in the audio industry.
very special thanks to Lynn Fuston at 3D Audio for making this
extraordinary test possible.