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Analog Summing: Can You Hear the Difference?

On most mixes, I try to incorporate some type of analog summing.

It’s been a part of the sound of popular records for quite a long time, so I at least attempt the process to see if it has a positive effect on my mixes.

Certain engineers swear by it, others argue the difference it makes is negligible.

Regardless, both hardware (Dangerous Music) and software (Waves) companies have provided affordable options for engineers who want to incorporate the sound. In the case of the Waves NLS, the concept of a plugin emulating an exclusively analog process is peculiar, but I still find it very usable.a

With the audio examples below, I’d love to see if you can identify which have been summed through analog gear, and if you think it has a positive or negative effect on the mixes.

Here’s what you need to know about the clips:

  • The summing was done by sending 3 auxiliary tracks through an SSL Duality, one for the Drums and Bass, one for the Guitars and Keys, one for the Vocals. I used a slight amount of on-board EQ, and also incorporated the Manley Vari-Mu (Drums and Bass) and ELOP (Guitars and Keys) compressors, but these pieces of hardware aren’t applying any gain reduction, I simply wanted to get the sound of the electronics.
  • I’ve tried to keep the summed and non-summed versions very close in overall volume so you can judge based on the difference in timbre and dynamics, not amplitude.
  • I have provided mastered and non-mastered versions for each of the songs so you can hear how analog summing affects later processing (if at all.)

I’m excited to see the results of this listening test, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. I’m still in the process of finishing the masters for this soon-to-be released record by Ugly, Ugly Words, so any feedback is much appreciated.

Check the comments to find out which one was summed!

Rebound — Not Mastered:

A:

B:

 

Rebound — Mastered:

A:

ADVERTISEMENT

B:

 

Warrant Officers Song — Not Mastered:

A:

B:

 

Warrant Officers Song — Mastered:

A:

B:

 

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Ian Vargo

Ian Vargo

Ian Vargo is a Producer, Mixer and Audio Professor based in Los Angeles. He has worked on numerous major label and independent records. Get in touch on his website or learn more from him in Mastering in the Box and Mixing Pop.

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