Summing Mixer

PDP

There once was a note
What is a "summing" mixer, and how is it different than a regular console/mixer ?
 

ashcat_lt

Well-known member
All mixers sum, but not all summers really mix. ;)

For the most part, the summing mixers don't have any of the gain, eq, sends, or faders that a full-on mixing board would have. They used to be called "line mixers" and be relatively inexpensive back when they were used to mix all of the sound modules in your MIDI rig. Then digital recording hit and some people had problems with a completely digital mix chain, and decided that running out to the analog world one last time would magically fix everything. So now they're called "summing mixers" and command premium prices.

For the most part, they are just jacks and resistors. Some of them are completely passive and literally nothing but jacks and resistors. But the trip through those resistors is a lossy process. You need to gain it back up to get to respectable levels. The truly passive ones "allow" you to use any mic preamp or other gain source that you might have. The active ones include some sort of stereo gain stage at the end.

Many nowadays include buttons to assign each input to either the Left or Right or both channels. The idea is that you send individual tracks or submix "stems" out to the summing box, control all the relative levels and everything else in the DAW, but the analog thing is what finally actually adds (sums) the signals together for the final stereo mix.
 

RawDepth

New member
...and decided that running out to the analog world one last time would magically fix everything....

You make it sound as if using a summer is a waste of money and only for the naive. On my system, the difference between digital and analog summing is day and night. Even my 7 year old niece can hear the improvement through the summing box.

I'm not saying that it is for everyone. I'm just saying that it solved my problem. (The final mix-down process in my daw was causing a noticeable loss of quality. The final print version sounded different (far worse) than the playback did during the editing and mixing stage.) Now it sounds similar. I am finally happy. I'll never go back.
 
B

Beck

Guest
Summing is a relatively new buzz term used to sell you something you didn't know you needed, and probably don't need. Yeah, the basic models are not much different than a good line mixer. I'm all for mixing OTB, so using an external mixer with analog sends, EQ, etc is a good idea IMO. And to be fair many devices pitched as Summing mixers are geared and have features helpful for people that have never seen analog tape or analog mixers. The best are designed to make it easy for you to use ourboard gear with a DAW that would otherwise be totally ITB. But most good mixers could do that. It's just you children are so far removed from real recording that manufacturers take advantage of your ignorance and sell you something with a different name... summing vs. mixing, when you could just as well buy a good line mixer or console and have a better product. That's the sad truth.
 

ashcat_lt

Well-known member
When I first became aware of this trend back around the turn of the century, I predicted that there would soon be a "virtual analog summing device". I thought I was joking...

 

RawDepth

New member
Summing is a relatively new buzz term used to sell you something you didn't know you needed, and probably don't need. Yeah, the basic models are not much different than a good line mixer. I'm all for mixing OTB, so using an external mixer with analog sends, EQ, etc is a good idea IMO. And to be fair many devices pitched as Summing mixers are geared and have features helpful for people that have never seen analog tape or analog mixers. The best are designed to make it easy for you to use ourboard gear with a DAW that would otherwise be totally ITB. But most good mixers could do that. It's just you children are so far removed from real recording that manufacturers take advantage of your ignorance and sell you something with a different name... summing vs. mixing, when you could just as well buy a good line mixer or console and have a better product. That's the sad truth.

The signal path in a full blown mixer is too long, adding unnecessary noise as it passes through all of those extra unused stages. A summing mixer is designed to be short and sweet for a reason.

No manufacturers took advantage of me. I did my research, read reviews, tested, and seeked out the tool I needed to solve a problem. I don't appreciate being called ignorant for not doing it your way.
 

Farview

Well-known member
You make it sound as if using a summer is a waste of money and only for the naive. On my system, the difference between digital and analog summing is day and night. Even my 7 year old niece can hear the improvement through the summing box.

I'm not saying that it is for everyone. I'm just saying that it solved my problem. (The final mix-down process in my daw was causing a noticeable loss of quality. The final print version sounded different (far worse) than the playback did during the editing and mixing stage.) Now it sounds similar. I am finally happy. I'll never go back.
I hear people say this, but I don't understand how it is even possible, without some sort of setting snafu. The playback you are listening to is being summed digitally. Storing it as a file really shouldn't change anything because the summing doesn't change.

I have not had this happen unless I was rendering it to the wrong file type/bit depth/something.
 

rayc

retroreprobate
The fragile transients and harmonics can survive in a vacuum but are lost or squashed in a crystal lattice...
OK
I'd add that you should beware when the banana bends and the ice melts because you've had it.
I prefer the red ones myself though the orange ones aren't bad.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
That looks like the real Alexander Dumble....and while his comments may seem like something from Greek mythology to some.....the guy's amps are considered THE top of the line sonically by some of the most discerning players.
Dumble pretty much kicked off the whole "boutique amp" thing.

So the guy probably knew what he was talking about.
 

Farview

Well-known member
I think that might be an example of someone coming up with a theory that works in their own head, but has no basis in reality. He only makes tube amps, he doesn't need to understand the difference between tube and solid state to build and design tube amps. Just like you don't have to know how your automatic transmission works in order to operate a car.
 

RawDepth

New member
I hear people say this, but I don't understand how it is even possible, without some sort of setting snafu. The playback you are listening to is being summed digitally. Storing it as a file really shouldn't change anything because the summing doesn't change.

I have not had this happen unless I was rendering it to the wrong file type/bit depth/something.

I don't know why the final file sounds different. It renders all session tracks to a wav file. Perhaps some rounding error or math shortcut is taking place when I render. Perhaps because I am running a 32 bit daw on a 64 bit operating system. Maybe my daw software just sucks. I don't know why, I can't explain it. It just sounds worse after the render. Always has...

Others have reported the same problem. There are threads here covering ITB anomalies.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
I think that might be an example of someone coming up with a theory that works in their own head, but has no basis in reality.

Well...the reality is that tube amps DO sound better than transistor amps! :D
His amps sound particularly good...so he must have uncovered some "truths" in the designs. I mean, I doubt he just guessed at it and got lucky.

Just like you don't have to know how your automatic transmission works in order to operate a car.

Yeah....but you would is you were building a car.
He was building amps....not just operating them. :)
 

ashcat_lt

Well-known member
Well...the reality is that tube amps DO sound better than transistor amps! :D
His amps sound particularly good...so he must have uncovered some "truths" in the designs. I mean, I doubt he just guessed at it and got lucky.
It really is that easy, actually. This is ancient technology. All of the designs have been tried and tested for half a century. All this dude has to do is tweak an R here, a C there, "compare" various mojo parts until he decides it sounds good.

Yeah....but you would is you were building a car.
He was building amps....not just operating them. :)
Next time you're at the shop, ask your mechanic to explain the physics behind the operation of the transmission.
 

Farview

Well-known member
Well...the reality is that tube amps DO sound better than transistor amps! :D
His amps sound particularly good...so he must have uncovered some "truths" in the designs. I mean, I doubt he just guessed at it and got lucky.



Yeah....but you would is you were building a car.
He was building amps....not just operating them. :)
Again, he doesn't have to know why.

You don't have to know how the transmission works to design a car, only the outward parameters of it. (size, interface, etc...)

Better analogy: you don't have to know how a double clutch manual maunual transmission works in order to design a standard fluid driven automatic transmission.

I didn't say that tube amps don't sound better, or that he doesn't know how to design great sounding amps, but his explanation of why tube amps sound better than SS amps is nonsense. Anyone that remembers high school physics should be able to recognize that.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
Next time you're at the shop, ask your mechanic to explain the physics behind the operation of the transmission.

Why would I need to do that?
I'm not planning to build one.


....his explanation of why tube amps sound better than SS amps is nonsense. Anyone that remembers high school physics should be able to recognize that.

Well....maybe he's giving a really generic, non-technical explanation, as he likes to view it.

There are differences between tubes and transistors, and I did find something that refers to the gap energy being quantified in a transistor, whereas, in a vacuum tube the flow of electrons is not impeded, which maintains frequencies better.....so maybe that's what he was really getting at...?
Hhis "lattice/fragile harmonics" comment does sound like sci-fi....:D...but like you said, maybe it's just how he formulated in his head and then worded it in the video.

IOW....people refer to audio in all kinds of odd terms....such as "warm" or what have you, which has ZERO fact in actual physics....yet everyone tends to understand what that means.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
All this dude has to do is tweak an R here, a C there, "compare" various mojo parts until he decides it sounds good.

You got it figured out! ;)
I guess all the players who are willing to drop the big $$$ on a Dumble, are just buying a few special Rs & Cs....'cuz they don't know any better.

I know he started out tweaking Fenders and whatnot....but I think it's safe to say he was able to build amps that are very unique sounding, which involved a bit more than just "tweaking an R here, and a C there".
I mean, if it was as simple as that....Dumble amps would have no more value than a new Fender with a few tweaked Rs & Cs.

I'm not trying to sell you or anyone on Dumble amps....but I just don't get this out-of-hand minimizing and almost dismissive mocking, of the guy's abilty to build tube amps that set a serious high bar for other amp builders to aim for.
 
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