You may have heard…
There is an industry debate over which is better sounding:

  • A mix produced with mathematic precision inside your DAW… a process known as “ITB”, for “in the box”
  • A mix produced by the good old transistor/tube/mojo assisted wire summing of an analog console, and more specifically by a summing mixer… a process know as “OTB”, for “out of the bow”

The stakes are high for both sides of the aisle:

  • If it is true that analog summing sounds better, then professional ITB mixers might be shunned for not having added that magic to their client’s material.
  • If it is false, why are all the big names in hardware selling every flavor of summing mixer?

What is summing?

Summing is the process of mixing N audio tracks into 2 audio tracks (for stereo) or more (depending on your pick of surround sound format).

For generations, this task was performed by the analog mixers.

With the advent of the digital, capable computers and hardware emulation plug-ins, it is now also done programmatically by DAWs. The advent of the home budget studio is tiping the balance in favor of this ITB option…

Is there a difference in sound?

Yes, there is a difference.

Despite its promise of mathematical perfectness, digital summing seems to have less “space between the instruments”, “3D”, “tightness of low-end”, “sizzle of high-end”…

Judge for yourself!

Last week-end, I was lucky enough to be granted access to a Burl B32 Vancouver.

Not having any large mixes on hand, I downloaded good quality source material from a 2011 Telefunken remix contest. The band is The Brew, the song “What I want”.

With that in hand, I spent a couple of hours mixing ITB.
I then ran the mix via Antelope’s Orion 32 to the Burl B32, all buttons in: BX5 and +6dB.

Click here to download the 2 resulting audio files: “ITB.wav” and “Burl32.wav”.

What do you think?