If you follow me on Twitter, you may have known that I spent the weekend in the Chicago area installing an Apogee Symphony System for a client and doing some training. The install went surprisingly well, with no major issues, aside from a missing BNC cable.

If you’re not familiar with the Symphony system, you should check it out. It’s a phenomenal PCI-based system that connects any Apogee converter directly into your DAW (in this case, Logic) with insane audio quality along with virtually no latency.

The system is a dream home studio setup, and it’s all centered around the Symphony system and a Toft ATB24 24-channel recording console. (Pictured above.)

I have to admit, while I don’t use a recording console in my home studio, I grew very attached to the Toft board. It’s a great-sounding console with a ton of routing options. There’s something about running an analog signal through an analog mixer that makes you feel like a real recording engineer.

Of course, a great recording console requires a rack full of great converters and outboard gear.

In case you can’t quite make out the gear, here’s the list, from top to bottom:

  • Eventide H8000FW
  • Furman AR15 Voltage Regulator
  • Universal Audio LA610
  • Two Empirical Labs Distressors
  • Apogee AD16X
  • Apogee DA16X
  • Switchcraft 64-point patchbay
  • Ebtech Line Level Shifter (8-channel)
  • a second Furman power conditioner

 Pretty sexy, right? 

So you might ask, “In a world full of such awesome outboard equipment and powerful recording software, why would anyone bother with a recording console?” I’ve heard some big names in the recording industry say that Pro Tools can do everything a recording console can do, and that they would never use a console again. All they need is a mouse and keyboard.

With that in mind, should console manufacturers be worried? Is it really pointless to have a console in your studio?

I think not. While you certainly can create a great record without a mixer, there was something about that Toft console that just sounded good. In addition to the rack of gear, my client also had some nice keyboards — a Korg M3 with the Radius module, an Access Virus TI Polar, and a Roland V-Synth.

We ran these directly into the console. All I can say is wow. While these keyboards are all awesome, they sounded even more amazing through the Toft. There was this fullness and warmth. The more I pushed the fader up, sending the signal into the red, the better it sounded. 

As you know, in any DAW, you can push the fader up, and the signal will get louder, but the tone won’t change, until that nasty clipping happens. While a more educated author could tell you all the things that are happening on the console to cause this, what I can tell you is that I definitely noticed a “fuller” sound through the console.

This will come in handy especially during mixdown. Rather than adjusting faders in Logic, my client will be able to run the signals out through the board, where there is significantly more headroom than in a DAW platform. This can give you a leg up on your mix, adding more punch.

Do we all need to go out and buy a console? Nah. But I have to say the Toft has significantly grabbed my attention. Don’t count analog mixers out just yet. They’ll be around for a long, long time.

  • Jason

    your wrong about DAWS by the way, in REASON 7 if you push the fader levels higher the input signals that go into rack extensions and effects units distorts and changes in tone, the thing that analogue desks give that DAWS cant is reality, a DAW is perfectly copying and imitating by sampling, its perfect and crisp but an analogue desk or unit is receiving a signal, distorting the signal carrying the signal and sending it back out. Theres good digital and bad digital, theres digital that sounds too thin and harsh then theres the perfect digital of ambiance and ice cold electronica but theres also bad analogue like desks that totally mud everything and destroy transients and add hiss and others that add subtle colour, The key is to find the best digital and best analogue in your set up and hybrid them – i look at it like the movie business, i like films like Terminator 2, old school reel to reel tape filming with dashes of cgi to polish the movie off but i cant stand films that are 80% cgi and seem to slick and digital and soulless, a good balnce of digital for clarity and precision and analogue for depth and punch will benefit all producers, a little of the old and a little of the new.

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  • timofey

    i’m using old full analog dj mixer Vestax PCV 275, sending signal from Mbox thru it and returning back, sound becoming milder and louder with out upping level, and good low freq can be added

    • Nice. Thanks Tim! Welcome to HSC.

      • timofey

        i’m here for about 3 month , just don’t like to chat, if i haven’t things to be said.

  • If the analog console is dead, you’d better call SSL and API, and inform them. 🙂

    Hitting the mix buss of a Neve/API/SSL desk gives you something that the warming plugins simply don’t give you yet.

    I’d mix on a large format desk any day of the week over mixing in the box, if given the option.

  • Darrin

    I just dont fathom why tascam discontinued the us2400…the time for that piece is now.

    We just need automated faders and pan pots we can touch…and just one set of knobs for the channel strip and that is all we need.

    • I’ve not used the US2400, but the Euphonix MCMix is a great control surface. (It’s Mac only, though…as of today.)

  • Cool post! For sure the analog console is going *nowhere*. Most home studios may go without it for good, but aside from the sonic advantages to mixing that analog boards offer, the tracking advantages are also important. Most major tracking rooms are still running analog consoles, because they are simply way more reliable for giving quick headphone cues and balances, solving any glitches, and if we’re talking NEVE/API, etc they come with amazing mic-pre’s. Also if a channel/control/whatever on your Control 24 goes down – grin & bear it (there’s always a workaround, of course) or end the session. On an analog board, you can pull out a module, throw in a spare, and your tech goes-a-soldering in the tech room. Sharing controls and switching banks, etc. truly sucks on a fast paced bedtracking session – dedicated controls and channels are much safer, quicker and more intuitive for tracking.

    Just a few thoughts ;+)

  • John

    A 32 bit floating point summing buss (almost any modern DAW, except for ProTools which has a 48 bit fixed buss) will have a theoretical 1536 db signal to noise ratio (in practice can figure more like 196 db S/N). No analog console has anywhere remotely close to that.

    There are all manner of sonic virtues to the non-linearities that can occur in a well implemented analog signal path but it won’t have more headroom than the internal summing in a DAW.

    • John & Mike – Thanks for the clarification. I see what you’re saying. However, I have noticed that when using a summing mixer or any mixer in general, you can typically run the outputs of your DAW much hotter without running into clipping.

      Either way, I think we’re all in agreement that a mixer does still sound good.

  • I agree about the joys of an external mixer. I’m not so sure about your headroom comment. If you push the signal up in the analogue domain to get some nice analogue distortion you’ll have to attenuate it when you re-digitize. The difference between analogue and digital isn’t really in the amount of headroom, it’s what happens when you run-out. I find that a lot of DAW users don’t actually understand the meaning of the term headroom (and in peak-metering mode on DAWs it has NO meaning).

  • That is a very nice studio set up. Very well thought out with a pretty big bang for the buck.

  • I have to agree with william. I think it will be treated more like analog tape get treated now.

  • WILLIAM JONES

    I don’t think analog board will ever completely go away!