Tim Latham

Mixing pro tools in the box

I’ve heard from many mix engineers of varying skill that “you can’t mix in the box or shouldn’t”. And my response it that I can “mix in the box” only because I’ve retrained myself to do so. It’s an ongoing debate with valid points made on both sides. Mixing in pro tools is certainly not the same as mixing on a big console. Having spent almost 2 decades in the analog world, I have a different point of view then those who’ve started their careers in the pro tools world. In the early versions of pro tools, doing anything in it sounded like crap. When digidesign got the HD together, I was sold. Not just on recording in it. It was a great digital recorder that replaced reel to reel machines forever. But it also was a great editor. It changed the way in which records were made forever.
But it was a few years before “mixing in the box” became an issue. Technically, you should be able to do a much better job mixing pro tools files through an SSL or a NEVE in a big name recording studio. And at fist that’s exactly what I did. And then the budgets started shrinking, fast. I saw the budget tsunami on the horizon and built my own HD mixing studio with a ton of plugins as well as my analog gear. I spent a lot of time tuning my room and it’s pretty damn flat. Then I had to re-learn how to mix. This was a challenge, but I had my analog experience to draw from. One of the first projects completed in my new room won Best New Artist on the MTV awards, The Gym Class Heroes. There have been many since, including a Grammy Award for the Broadway cast album for “In The Heights”. So yes, it can be done without compromising quality. I would never work in a manner that would give my clients anything but the best that I could possibly give them. And I have successfully made the change to mixing in the box. For those who tell you that it can’t be done, I say that it cannot be done by them.

Posted on October 15, 2009.
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One Response to Mixing pro tools in the box

  1. Max Carola says:

    Dear Tim,
    I totally agree with you about ITB mixing. I still mix on SSL and I have my HD3 studio and I don’t miss the big desk, especially if it’s not well manteined. I agree that HD made a huge step. It took to me quite a bit to find a proper way to manage headroom and dynamics in a proper way for digitale. For me the trick was to forget about all the analog tricks and reinvent a new approach unique to the digital world. I I must say that it works fine for me. I have all the plugins that give me that classic sound and all the new stuff like melodine or the timing tricks. I think that the real problem is that sometimes the missing part of the new projects is the hard work on arrangements, the cure for the structures and details.
    Thank you.

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