Do high end mixers matter?

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by WarpHead » Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:45 pm

JES wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 12:57 pm
Thanks @Dave Peck The A&H has six sends, and I won't need more than 8 mono channels, so that's sounding pretty good.

Is the Onyx sonically any different than the VLZ4 line?
I've got an Onyx. No experience with VLZ though. Onyx has the 'Perkins EQ' with 2-band sweepable mids which can be nice for a bit extra finetuning or EQ'ed feedback patching, but to be honest I would not buy one for sonics. You're probably better off with A&H in the sound/EQ dept.

The Onyx does give you an immense amount of routing capability (post/pre switching of Aux sends, aux return and sub group routing, etc), but they're prone to develop defects - crackly pots, the dreaded L or R main bus channel conking out (probably due to a master insert jack glitch, some workarounds have been reported), sticky/glitchy buttons (have to wack it pretty hard to unsolo a channel), etc. They're also a nightmare to open up, let alone do any type of internal maintenance or servicing, so I wouldn't even consider it as a fix-er-upper.

I got mine for 250 from a TV studio and for that money it was a no brainer because I needed lots of routing/aux. Anything more, and I would have serious doubts and would be looking for something else.

Did I sell you on the Onyx? :hihi:
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Carrousel » Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:51 pm

By contrast the mixwizard has brilliant build quality and is extremely quiet. I know next to nothing about pre-amps (being a full synth-head) but I believe they’re very good. The mixer opens up really easily and every channel has its own board. A really good buy for a solid, reliable and clean mixer. I’ve used mine almost daily for about 4 or 5 years now and it’s never developed so much as a crackle or drop-out on any pot or connection. I must admit I didn’t read your initial request in detail but a mixwizard might suit you very well.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by SonarBk » Thu Jan 07, 2021 11:31 pm

Another option might be Tascam Model 12, if you are short on space or the Model 24 if you can squeeze it in. I have the Tascam Model 24 which has plenty of headroom for eurorack levels, plus it can be used as a USB interface with DAW and also a stand-alone recorder to SD card. The Model 12 has MIDI which the Model 24 does not and the Model 24 has more routing options.

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by helix » Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:47 am

It’s difficult to be scientific about these things as always and in this case even harder as I’ve changed multiple things, including going from 48kHz to 96kHz sample rate. I had absolutely next to no latency with the 828s anyway so I wouldn’t say it’s made that much difference. It states 5ms on the settings panel now and it previously stated something like 12ms so I guess accounting for the doubling of sample rate it’s maybe 10-15% lower latency? The biggest difference to me is the sound quality. I have taken away the mixwizard channels from before the synths go into the soundcard, but they’re still all going through the desk once they come out of the soundcard for summing, so I don’t think it’s that. It’s either that something is somehow radically different with my gainstaging (seems unlikely) or that the new converters are much better. I’m slightly surprised at the difference myself because a lot of the received wisdom on forums like this is that converters haven’t changed much over the last 10 years or so - such that you can only tell the difference on delicately recorded acoustic material or if you spend many £1000s, but to me the 16a converters are miles better than my 828mkiis. Could easily be honeymoon-period-psychosomatic effects based on the fact that my re-wire worked the way I expected and I didn’t fry anything along the way, but we’ll see :hihi:

Yeah i think the 828mk2 came out in 2003 or 4. I'm sure the 16a was 2016. In 12 years i'm sure they would have made an improvement. People used to complain about the MOTU converters (black lion even still make "upgraded" converters for MOTU stuff..)

Can i ask why you've gone to 96khz? I've read so, so SO many posts and watched so many youtube videos from professionals on how there's essentially no point. It's so far above the 20khzz threshold, and the 44.1 nyquist frequency that all your'e doing it working your computer a lot harder. But then, i guess if your computer can handle it, why not?!

My system only goes up to 48khz as iv'e got some of the older mk2's in it. My studio is more of a spare bedroom type affair, with less than ideal acoustics and room shape so i don't bother going higher than 44k as i can't hear any difference at all. My hearing goes well up to 18khz still at least according to tests (im 34 and used to be a DJ so i'm very lucky) But i literally cannot hear any audible difference from the two in my current setup. Also my PC is 10 years old now and a little long in the tooth!!

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by helix » Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:48 am

I'd love to hear some A/B comparisons of your 16a doing the same sequence, or recording the same full track (even if its just a demo snippet) between 44/48khz and 96khz and take a listen on my hd25's. I'm really keen on upgrading everything as long as i can actually hear a difference personally.

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by naturligfunktion » Fri Jan 08, 2021 7:27 am

Carrousel wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:26 am
Well I was multitracking everything through my old 828s anyway, using the mix wizard as a bunch of front end channel strips. So far the tube mixer hasn’t arrived yet so the only thing that’s changed is my synths now go directly into the new soundcard (16a) and then back out again on their own channels and now into the mix wizard for back end external summing. So for me the only thing that’s changed so far is much better sound quality (which I think is the converters) and moving to proper post-recording-of-tracks OTB analog mixing (instead of multitracking and monitoring ableton’s master output) - but since I’m waiting on the tube summer to arrive I’ve not actually properly recorded or mixed anything yet. I’ve just been running a few tests for myself. Once the tube summer arrives and I (likely) get rid of the mix wizard and replace it with a bunch of faders for in-DAW track level control I’ll report back.

Edit: I’ll also let you know whether I go with motorised faders or not....a whole other headache
Cool, I think your improvement in sound quality comes from the fact that you record straight into the interface, without going through the mixer first. As I mentioned in my previous post, when I took that route, the sound improvement was huge (then again, I didn't have an equally nice mixer as you!).

I took the time to look up the Niceizer tube summer. That looks really cool. I bet it will make it sound pretty damn sweet! Let us know when you get it!

Re: motorised faders. Yeah. Let's leave that headache for another day :lol:
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Carrousel » Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:14 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 7:27 am

Cool, I think your improvement in sound quality comes from the fact that you record straight into the interface, without going through the mixer first. As I mentioned in my previous post, when I took that route, the sound improvement was huge (then again, I didn't have an equally nice mixer as you!).

I took the time to look up the Niceizer tube summer. That looks really cool. I bet it will make it sound pretty damn sweet! Let us know when you get it!

Re: motorised faders. Yeah. Let's leave that headache for another day :lol:

I briefly mentioned in an earlier post (though didn’t quote you) that I can’t get the Nicerizer unfortunately - the B-stock unit I wanted had already sold and I can’t afford the full price unit. I’ve gone with a Tegeler Tube Summing Mixer instead so I’ll let you know how I get on when it arrives.

Regarding not going through the mixer first - I would assume that to be correct, except for the fact that all the tracks get sent straight back out of the soundcard and into the mixer - I’m then monitoring the master mix from the mixer’s master output. Would it really make that much difference putting the mixer after the converters rather than before them?
Last edited by Carrousel on Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Carrousel » Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:17 am

helix wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:48 am
I'd love to hear some A/B comparisons of your 16a doing the same sequence, or recording the same full track (even if its just a demo snippet) between 44/48khz and 96khz and take a listen on my hd25's. I'm really keen on upgrading everything as long as i can actually hear a difference personally.
Yeah I’ll try and do this once I get past setting everything up properly and start recording stuff again.

I’m not sure why I moved to a higher sample rate really - partly to minimise latency (although as mentioned I couldn’t really detect it anyway) and partly because although I have an A level understanding of nyquist limits and understand that it shouldn’t impact perceptible human hearing, I just think higher may be better in some way that isn’t accounted for by those maths - and like you say, if the computer can handle it then why not.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by naturligfunktion » Fri Jan 08, 2021 9:02 am

Carrousel wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:14 am
Regarding not going through the mixer first - I would assume that to be correct, except for the fact that all the tracks get sent straight back out of the soundcard and into the mixer - I’m then monitoring the master mix from the mixer’s master output. Would it really make that much difference putting the mixer after the converters rather than before them?
Honestly I have no clue here.. you have to make comparisons when you get the summing mixer I suppose :)
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by helix » Fri Jan 08, 2021 11:21 am

Carrousel wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:17 am
helix wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:48 am
I'd love to hear some A/B comparisons of your 16a doing the same sequence, or recording the same full track (even if its just a demo snippet) between 44/48khz and 96khz and take a listen on my hd25's. I'm really keen on upgrading everything as long as i can actually hear a difference personally.
Yeah I’ll try and do this once I get past setting everything up properly and start recording stuff again.

I’m not sure why I moved to a higher sample rate really - partly to minimise latency (although as mentioned I couldn’t really detect it anyway) and partly because although I have an A level understanding of nyquist limits and understand that it shouldn’t impact perceptible human hearing, I just think higher may be better in some way that isn’t accounted for by those maths - and like you say, if the computer can handle it then why not.
Nice one, i look forward to it, feel free to just PM me with it if nobody else is interested, i'd be very grateful even if nobody else is haha

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Carrousel » Fri Jan 08, 2021 11:39 am

By the way, worth pointing out that I’m not suggesting the increased sample rate is what’s producing my perceived improvement in sound quality - I think that’s moving from 828mkii converters to 16a converters. Increasing the sample rate is just something I wanted to try along the way.

Edit: also apologies for at this point straying reasonably far from the initial query regarding high end mixers.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Tofupancho » Fri Jan 08, 2021 2:01 pm

Random Access Memories is a great example of expert use of a lot of the best tape, toob, and transformer equipment out there. Not to mention real spaces, dynamic range, world class musicians, and the perspective of many people who have a lot of experience making top notch albums. You’ve Come A Long Way Baby is a great example of expert use of a lot of gear that was designed to get the job done first, in many cases designed originally as budget equipment by the standards of many decades past. For better and worse. I definitely don’t know every box that he used for those tracks, some did sound great by any standard, and you can bet it all got the best expert tape/tüb/transformer treatment at the mastering stage.

If you make better music by jamming on a bunch of gear at once through an affordable mixer than you might tracking one instrument at a time through a single nice DI and preamp, the important thing is that you were able to capture the former. If you slave over all the details of your sounds and performances to have something unique with a lot of your dna in it, less is more if only for the fact that you’re removing any cheap electrical components from your signal path. But most importantly, make a bunch of music, move forward, make mistakes. Better to overthink something tangible than the theoretical.

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by JES » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:25 pm

Thanks for the replies to my queries. One other question. In terms of sound quality and mix bus, etc., would there be an appreciable difference between me using VCAs in my rack and external faderbox and something like a Mackie VLZ4 or Allen and Heath? Would one be clearer or better than the other, or is the quality about the same? Obviously the Mackie or A&H have more features, but in terms of sound only. My VCAs are Happy Nerding 3xVCA, Intellijel Linix, Rebel Tech Mix04, etc.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by grizzleb » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:40 pm

Yes, I would like to hear A/Bs of the same sequence run through nice gear and more basic stuff. Trying to figure out how to set my system up and the number of options are extremely confusing

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by JES » Sat Jan 09, 2021 7:23 pm

grizzleb wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:40 pm
Yes, I would like to hear A/Bs of the same sequence run through nice gear and more basic stuff. Trying to figure out how to set my system up and the number of options are extremely confusing
It’s really hard for an amateur to know. There is a lot of marketing BS. But on the other hand, I can heard the difference between mics pres or mics (within reason—ie, when it’s not subtle). With “born electronic” signals, I wonder how much it matters, if at all.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Dave Peck » Sat Jan 09, 2021 9:22 pm

JES wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:25 pm
Thanks for the replies to my queries. One other question. In terms of sound quality and mix bus, etc., would there be an appreciable difference between me using VCAs in my rack and external faderbox and something like a Mackie VLZ4 or Allen and Heath? Would one be clearer or better than the other, or is the quality about the same? Obviously the Mackie or A&H have more features, but in terms of sound only. My VCAs are Happy Nerding 3xVCA, Intellijel Linix, Rebel Tech Mix04, etc.
Not sure I understand this question.... I mean, whatever patches you are creating in the modular, they are still going to use all the same VCAs in the exact same ways regardless if there is a Mackie / A&H mixer between the modular and the DAW or not...

Lots of people use both a fader controller box AND an analog hardware mixer, because these two things don't really serve all of the same purposes. The fader box helps you build up complex track automation for your DAW tracks, the analog mixer helps you route and mix signals in more complex ways before the signal is sent to the DAW, and may also be used to do analog mixing after you are done tracking. But then again, some people build very complex project routings entirely in the DAW with many cascaded FX sends and subgroups and plugins and never use a hardware mixer OR a fader controller, they do it all with a mouse.

I would think the question would be more like - 'would adding a hardware mixer to the rig help you get better results or not'. And the answer to that is maybe - it depends on how you use it and whether you work better with external hardware, all in-the-box, or some combination.

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Blairio » Sat Jan 09, 2021 10:35 pm

I guess that as long as the analog mixer sitting before the audio interface does not have a significantly constrained dynamic range, elevated noise floor, and decent frequency response... it should not impair the quality of the recorded audio.

I have an aging Mackie VLZ 1402 sitting in front of my Motu 4, for convenience. A bunch of synths and drum machines pass through it, and I have my favourite two FX in the FX. sends. I use the Mackie as a glorified patch bay - but as long as I set gain structures reasonably well, I can't 'hear' the mixer - least ways not using electronic sound sources, and monitoring on my Equator D5's. I guess mine is a typical hobbyists setup, but quality of recordings is good.

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by JES » Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:11 am

Dave Peck wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 9:22 pm
Not sure I understand this question.... I mean, whatever patches you are creating in the modular, they are still going to use all the same VCAs in the exact same ways regardless if there is a Mackie / A&H mixer between the modular and the DAW or not...

I would think the question would be more like - 'would adding a hardware mixer to the rig help you get better results or not'. And the answer to that is maybe - it depends on how you use it and whether you work better with external hardware, all in-the-box, or some combination.
Thanks Dave. Evidently, my followup question wasn't clear. I have some extra VCAs from downsizing my system. I need the volume and routing control functions of a mixer. EQ I could take or leave. One way to achieve this is with a small format mixer, but I'm concerned about losing dimension and low end with it. Another would be to use a bunch of extra VCAs (including a Matrix for sends) and some CV faders to control them. There is an obvious functional difference. The question I have is whether there is a sonic difference between the two choices.

One other wrinkle: I'll be doing all takes live to 2-track. No mixing in the computer--just final edits and any EQ that I need at that point on the full mix.

That said, Blario's answers more or less get at what I'm asking.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Dave Peck » Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:19 pm

Ah, got it. There's no reason to think that the VCA/matrix mix/fader plan would be either better or worse sonically than a decent mid-level mixer, unless your VCAs happened to be especially bad quality or something like that. Both methods would work and could give good results. But I bet the dedicated mixer would be a bit easier to work with overall. And probably cheaper once you add everything up.

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Carrousel » Sun Jan 10, 2021 8:06 pm

Carrousel wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:51 pm
By contrast the mixwizard has brilliant build quality and is extremely quiet. I know next to nothing about pre-amps (being a full synth-head) but I believe they’re very good. The mixer opens up really easily and every channel has its own board. A really good buy for a solid, reliable and clean mixer. I’ve used mine almost daily for about 4 or 5 years now and it’s never developed so much as a crackle or drop-out on any pot or connection. I must admit I didn’t read your initial request in detail but a mixwizard might suit you very well.
Gear has such a funny way of fucking with you. Used this mixer for years and years with literally no issues; I step onto a synth forum to boast about its reliability and within a week one of the channels has gone all distorted - I guess the pre-amp must have gone or something? Such a joke...

Never mind, tube summing mixer should be here tomorrow and I’ve decided to get a softube fader 1 (motorised!) to retain hands on mixing. Now I just need to suck it up and spend >£150 on DB25 looms :waah:
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by D Rock » Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:03 pm

I’m still on a cheap Mackie 1642 that I picked up from a church off reverb for 100 bucks shipped. That runs 8 channels into a focusrite sapphire so I can mix and record live jams. Does everything I need for dirty techno but I’ve never played with anything nicer so I’m unsure if my sound would benefit much from a more expensive mixer.

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by JES » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:24 am

Carrousel wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 8:06 pm
Carrousel wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:51 pm
By contrast the mixwizard has brilliant build quality and is extremely quiet. I know next to nothing about pre-amps (being a full synth-head) but I believe they’re very good. The mixer opens up really easily and every channel has its own board. A really good buy for a solid, reliable and clean mixer. I’ve used mine almost daily for about 4 or 5 years now and it’s never developed so much as a crackle or drop-out on any pot or connection. I must admit I didn’t read your initial request in detail but a mixwizard might suit you very well.
Gear has such a funny way of fucking with you. Used this mixer for years and years with literally no issues; I step onto a synth forum to boast about its reliability and within a week one of the channels has gone all distorted - I guess the pre-amp must have gone or something? Such a joke...
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Tumulishroomaroom » Mon Jan 11, 2021 12:30 pm

@Carousel I'm curious to know how your experience with the tube summing mixer will turn out as it's something I'd be interested to do in the future too. Tegeler seems to make very nice gear too + with 40 channels you should be good for a while ! Analog summing mixers seem to be a nice solution for compact, hybrid and luxurious mixing system.
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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by Chaos215bar2 » Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:47 pm

helix wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:47 am
Yeah i think the 828mk2 came out in 2003 or 4. I'm sure the 16a was 2016. In 12 years i'm sure they would have made an improvement. People used to complain about the MOTU converters (black lion even still make "upgraded" converters for MOTU stuff..)

Can i ask why you've gone to 96khz? I've read so, so SO many posts and watched so many youtube videos from professionals on how there's essentially no point. It's so far above the 20khzz threshold, and the 44.1 nyquist frequency that all your'e doing it working your computer a lot harder. But then, i guess if your computer can handle it, why not?!

My system only goes up to 48khz as iv'e got some of the older mk2's in it. My studio is more of a spare bedroom type affair, with less than ideal acoustics and room shape so i don't bother going higher than 44k as i can't hear any difference at all. My hearing goes well up to 18khz still at least according to tests (im 34 and used to be a DJ so i'm very lucky) But i literally cannot hear any audible difference from the two in my current setup. Also my PC is 10 years old now and a little long in the tooth!!
Chris of Learning Modular gave a pretty reasonable sounding explanation for why you might want to go 96 KHz. I'm just trying to paraphrase, so please correct if anything here sounds wrong.

The issue, according to this explanation, is the filtering required to avoid aliasing. Assuming you want to capture sounds up to 20 KHz accurately, even at 48 KHz sampling, you're going to need a filter that goes from essentially unity gain to nothing across about 1/4 of an octave. IIRC, the issue was that this sort of brick wall filtering introduces a varying phase delay near the cutoff frequency, which can obviously affect any processing done past that point in the signal chain. 96 KHz just gives you extra headroom to move any artifacts outside of the audible range.

I don't think conversion to 48 KHz after mastering makes much difference, because the phase delay doesn't make much of a difference (if any) to human hearing. (But this last part may be wild speculation based on just enough information to sound plausible.)

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Re: Do high end mixers matter?

Post by MisterJ » Mon Jan 11, 2021 3:11 pm

Chaos215bar2 wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:47 pm


Chris of Learning Modular gave a pretty reasonable sounding explanation for why you might want to go 96 KHz. I'm just trying to paraphrase, so please correct if anything here sounds wrong.

The issue, according to this explanation, is the filtering required to avoid aliasing. Assuming you want to capture sounds up to 20 KHz accurately, even at 48 KHz sampling, you're going to need a filter that goes from essentially unity gain to nothing across about 1/4 of an octave. IIRC, the issue was that this sort of brick wall filtering introduces a varying phase delay near the cutoff frequency, which can obviously affect any processing done past that point in the signal chain. 96 KHz just gives you extra headroom to move any artifacts outside of the audible range.

I don't think conversion to 48 KHz after mastering makes much difference, because the phase delay doesn't make much of a difference (if any) to human hearing. (But this last part may be wild speculation based on just enough information to sound plausible.)
There might be something to this but there is another problem with Nyquist. I actually pointed this out to my instructor when I first learned about Nyquist in an electronics course many years ago. If you plot out a sine wave at 20khz that is sampled at the Nyquist frequency of 40khz, there will be exactly two samples of that wave. It will be sampled as a sine wave at 20khz but the amplitude will not be sampled correctly. Depending on where the samples fall, it could be anywhere between peak value and zero. So as frequency increases towards Nyquist, there will be a very subtle timbral leveling as the amplitude of the higher harmonics aren't accurately captured. I wasn't the only one to realize this. Shorty afterwards, oversampling ADCs came out which dealt with this by sampling at a higher rate than recording an average of those samples at the usual 44.1 or 48khz. They effectively deal with any timbral leveling and allow the use of higher frequency anti aliasing filters.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oversampling

In the real world of music making what doesn't look good to an engineer designing the circuit can actually sound great to a musician. I don't think the timbral leveling ever was much of an issue and might have even made the resulting sound a bit sweeter--kind of like some sort of subtle randomized low pass filter. I've done lots of samples at 32, 44.1 and 48khz with samplers that have no oversampling and they've always sounded fine to me for what I was doing. There's lots of love out there for 8 bit Ensoniq Mirages due to the aliasing that happens with the sound. My S6000 does have oversampling and I will say, it's ADCs are among the cleanest and most precise sounding that I've used.

And following up on something I put in an earlier post, I was playing something on a nylon string guitar the other morning that I thought I might want to record live. So I had to think of the best way to do it and putting the signal from the microphones through my Mackie mixer was definitely not the way to go. It could do the job yes, but the better option for a quality stereo recording was going directly into the pres of my 828 MK3 with XLR cables. I have a mixer that's great for synthesizers and drum machines but not really the best for live recording. In the pre digital era, I would have used a reel to reel and a dedicated preamp if I was doing a live recording at home. Mackies are great for doing synth mixes but for recording live instruments, I would want something better.

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