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Thread April 25, 2015 editorial: comments

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Mike Levine

Mike Levine

1064 posts
AFicionado
First post
1 Posted on 04/25/2015 at 10:00:12

Are Faders Fading Away?

I don’t have statistics to back this up, but from my own observations as a music-tech journalist, it seems that — with the exception of high-end Pro Tools controllers —there is a lot less talk these days about mixer control surfaces (for the studio) than there was a few years ago. Back then, I remember constantly hearing people pining for a physical fader to push, and saying that onscreen ones just didn’t have the same feel as the hardware variety.

As someone with enough years on me to remember the pre-DAW era, when having a mixer was a necessity, not a choice, I’m not particularly nostalgic for physical faders. I suspect that we’re seeing less talk about mixer controllers because there are fewer people in the recording market who even remember physical faders. For them, mixing onscreen is normal, it’s not a compromise. I’m not making a value judgment here, I understand why some people might prefer moving a fader to a mouse when adjusting a mixer, but I just don’t feel that way. What about you? Do you have a preference?

Bear in mind, that I’m talking here about control surfaces designed as a physical extension of your DAW mixer. I’m not getting into the issue of the sonic qualities of a good analog console versus. mixing in the box. If you asked me if I would like mixing on an SSL or other large-format mixer, with the audio quality that goes along with it, sure, I would love that. However, I would dearly miss the total recall one gets when mixing strictly in the box. Even on a console with moving faders that can be automated, recalling a mix is a lot more effort than it is in a DAW, where all you have to do is open a song file.

There’s plenty of room for debate when you talk about software versus hardware mixing (witness the diametrically opposed opinions you can find on the subject of analog summing boxes), but there’s no doubt that mixing consoles are not nearly as prevalent as they once were. That said, they’re not dead either. If you want an example of someone using analog mixers very successfully and creatively, check out this week’s interview with Grammy-nominated producer/engineer Joel Hamilton, whose Brooklyn-based studio features an interesting hybrid of analog and digital gear.

Have a great week.

Mike Levine
U.S. Editor
Audiofanzine
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