Blind Taste Test: Passive Summing vs ITB

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chris harris
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Post by chris harris » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:00 am

I spoke about your methodology and gave feedback about it IN MY VERY FIRST POST IN THIS THREAD.

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Post by spacelabstudio » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:12 am

subatomic pieces wrote:If you just want to know if people prefer working with analog or digital summing, then why not just ask people who've tried both? The problem is that you seem to intend to prove something. And, you won't be able to do it.
I've never seen anyone do a blind test, so I haven't seen anyone who has isolated expectation from their perceived result. And I'm trying to evaluate my gear which no one else has. I don't expect everyone on the board to want to participate. It's a time commitment to critically listen to all of the tracks. But if someone is interested in sharing their impressions, that is useful to me, and maybe to other people interested in using something similar.

I'll probably do another test that is better in terms of methodology. No stems, just straight up summing of individual tracks. And I'll eliminate the different make up gains, as that really should be isolated as its own test if people want to hear different preamps. If people express any interest I'll invite this group to listen.

You seem to be convinced that I have some dark, hidden agenda. The whole point of soliciting feedback from other people and setting it up in a blinded way is to try to remove my own biases (we all have them) from the equation.

Chris

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Post by chris harris » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:21 am

I'm definitely interested in hearing your results. It's interesting to me to hear the same signal passed through different preamps. I'm just put off by the notion that this will somehow prove whether or not summing in the analog domain is "better".

For me, the test is useful in evaluating the character or sound of preamps, nothing more.

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Post by T-rex » Sat Oct 02, 2010 10:04 am

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Post by rolandk » Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:09 pm

subatomic pieces wrote:For me, the test is useful in evaluating the character or sound of preamps, nothing more.
You could have just said that and left it alone, but for some reason you are determined to shit ALL OVER this thread.
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Sat Oct 02, 2010 10:05 pm

Hi,

After listening to the corrected files.

I pick #5.

Best detail in the whole frequency spectrum, better overall definition between the elements (separation) and overall transients seemed less destroyed.

The others I disliked in varying degrees, the worst being #3, followed quickly by #7.

#3 just sounded dull, and the Stereo image too collapsed.

# 7 had the bass panned a little left of center (check your calibration on this device please) so I discarded it immediately, since it is not the same mix version because of the lopsided bass. It also suffered of transients being destroyed.


To me, a good mix PRESERVES the original intention of the artist, whether it be playing a bass with a plectrum (pick), playing drums with mallets, or playing a synth line that is soft then turns "raw" later as it "evolves" through filtering, or what have you.

To me, ANYTHING that alters, changes, distorts, modifies, or otherwise messes with what the artist intended, especially if it is a mix decision, should be done with extreme care.

It is their music, after all... and we are all just the midwives...

Cheers
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Post by jnTracks » Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:00 am

noeqplease wrote:Hi,

After listening to the corrected files.

I pick #5.

Best detail in the whole frequency spectrum, better overall definition between the elements (separation) and overall transients seemed less destroyed.

The others I disliked in varying degrees, the worst being #3, followed quickly by #7.

#3 just sounded dull, and the Stereo image too collapsed.

# 7 had the bass panned a little left of center (check your calibration on this device please) so I discarded it immediately, since it is not the same mix version because of the lopsided bass. It also suffered of transients being destroyed.


To me, a good mix PRESERVES the original intention of the artist, whether it be playing a bass with a plectrum (pick), playing drums with mallets, or playing a synth line that is soft then turns "raw" later as it "evolves" through filtering, or what have you.

To me, ANYTHING that alters, changes, distorts, modifies, or otherwise messes with what the artist intended, especially if it is a mix decision, should be done with extreme care.

It is their music, after all... and we are all just the midwives...

Cheers
that's cool. a few more picks from folks with more experienced ears than me will also be cool. ok so i'll still be following the thread to see the reveal
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Post by losthighway » Sun Oct 03, 2010 9:23 am

Yeah, I wanna know which one is which. I'm curious. And also hope everyone is done being offended and upset by your experiment. :)

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Post by nobody, really » Sun Oct 03, 2010 5:20 pm

my entirely unhelpful opinion: they all sounded the same, except 7, which to me sounded the best.

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Post by spacelabstudio » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:59 am

Answers:

1) OTB, Sytek
2) ITB
3) Sytek w/Burr Brown chips
4) Great River
5) ITB run through Sytek
6) ITB run through Sytek (identical file to 5)
7) OTB, RNP

The RNP was the only unit where I couldn't fine tune the output, hence the shift in image. If I were to do it again I would run each channel of the RNP out to my pair of DBX 160As or Speck ASC's (set flat, no compression) so I could fine tune the output.

5 and 6 are the same file--I had my randomizer randomly pick one to duplicate to see if people had different opinions about the exact same file--sort of baseline for how differently people might perceive the same thing from one moment to the next. I don't actually own any Hamptone pres, but they're on my todo list.

For anyone who isn't sick of this yet, I'm going to post a better comparison of just the summing a little later today. No stem for drums--individual tracks sent through the box. This will give the box a little better chance of showing us if just the summing alone is noticeably different from ITB. I'll be a little fussier than I was the first time at ensuring an end to end gain of 1 for both channels. I'll just use the non-BB Sytek for make up gain. This test already serves as a decent comparison of different make up gains, so no need to do that over again.

Then I will spring my evil plan. As soon as I figure out what it is.

It's somewhat comforting that for the most part, the results so far seem to be a wash. If anything, it shows that whatever choice I make for a mix isn't going to have dire destructive consequences in terms of the audio quality, so I'm free to use whatever's comfortable in terms of workflow without worrying too much.

Chris

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Bill @ Irie Lab
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Post by Bill @ Irie Lab » Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:57 pm

There are no bigger flamers of others' work than in the scientific community; sad but true. But that is neither here nor there in terms of our discussion.

I recently was at a demonstration given by SSL to showcase the advantages of OTB mix down through one of their consoles.

The OTB seemed to have a more 'outside the speakers' stereo field and the instruments seemed to have more 'air' around them.

Subjective, yes - interesting, yes again.

But the take-away for me was that I didn't care too much for the monitoring system. Preference is all.

Bill

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Post by johnny7 » Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:00 pm

Kudos to the OP for building something, testing out different ideas, involving other peoples' input, and having fun in this wonderful, wacky world of recording!

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Post by chris harris » Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:59 pm

That scientists are critical of others' work, particularly in regards to methodology, is not something that is "sad". We should all be pretty thankful for that kind of science. It's served us well for a long, long time.

Kudos to the OP for building something, testing out different ideas, involving other peoples' input, and recognizing that the results are inconclusive, but figuring out how they can affect and improve his work methods.

Lots of people make a decision about mixing ITB vs. OTB based on their personal situation. OTB mixing can be both cost and space prohibitive. That's totally understandable. And, I realize that lots of people who are interested in tests like this are seeking to have proof that they're not really missing out on anything. Or, on the flip side, there are lots of people who have a lot invested, both monetarily and workflow, in OTB mixing. I'm sure that some of these people are interested in these tests because they want to feel like their investment paid off in improved sound quality.

But, the reality is, if you're in this for the long haul, then making a decision about this isn't something that should be left up to a bunch of strangers commenting on mp3 files. If you're putting together a studio and trying to decide between ITB and OTB mixing, you'd be a fool to make the decision based on anything other than direct personal experience. There are plenty of studios all over the world where you can go in and book a few hours to try mixing on a console or with a summing device. There are also plenty of dealers who will sell you converters and a summing box that you can return if you're not satisfied. Simplified results like these are soooo close. But, then actually mixing into the different methods is soooo different. So, you should really see for yourself which works best for you.

I personally work both ways. I prefer mixing on an analog console. But, I do plenty of ITB mixing for clients that will need to work shorter sessions or who will demand numerous recalls/tweaks. To complicate it even further, when I'm mixing ITB, I prefer to do it in a different application. I usually use DP. But, for ITB mixing, I prefer Cubase. I feel like it sounds better. I'm sure someone could bust out some science and prove to me that both DAWs sound exactly the same when used the same way. But, that doesn't matter to me. I prefer mixing ITB in Cubase. So, in the end, my mixes sound better, and it's a more satisfying experience for me.

To the OP: The "science" here really doesn't matter. You're doing yourself a disservice by trying to keep your methods "scientific". Just go in and do your very best mix of a song ITB. Then, zero the faders and start over, doing your very best mix INTO the summing device and your favorite pair of preamps. After that, listen to both and consider the results, and the process that got you there, and you'll learn a lot more about both methods of working. You don't have to prove anything once and for all. Everyone's audio journey is personal.

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Post by losthighway » Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:07 pm

Well said Subatomic. That struck me as a detailed, pragmatic and well-stated opinion. A little more on the helpful side.

Meanwhile, I was wondering what the sonic implications of mixing through mic pres would be. There is an impedance mismatch at work there, no?

Someone should do this with ITB vs low grade board vs. mid grade board vs. pricey board. I mean this place isn't some kind of shootout, monster truck rally, gear slutz kind of situation.... BUT I think a lot of people have only heard this done with what they have. It is pretty interesting to hear a mix lined up through each respective method.

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:08 pm

losthighway wrote:Well said Subatomic. That struck me as a detailed, pragmatic and well-stated opinion. A little more on the helpful side.

Meanwhile, I was wondering what the sonic implications of mixing through mic pres would be. There is an impedance mismatch at work there, no?

Someone should do this with ITB vs low grade board vs. mid grade board vs. pricey board. I mean this place isn't some kind of shootout, monster truck rally, gear slutz kind of situation.... BUT I think a lot of people have only heard this done with what they have. It is pretty interesting to hear a mix lined up through each respective method.
Hi,

I have some different equipment than what you used... shoot me the mix and I'll run it "blind" so there are more listening varieties.

Cheers
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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