A while back, I decided to ditch all my analog and digital synths and drum machines and use only virtual instruments and samples. The plan was to use analog outboard gear to warm up and color the sterile ITB sounds and also sum the mixes in the analog domain.
I didn’t have enough money to buy a proper summing mixer since those set you back at least $3-4K if not more. So I decided to use a custom passive one I had lying around. Going down that road requires a stereo mic pre for the makeup gain, which needs to be high-end since it sits on the 2bus and you’re putting your entire track through it. The next best thing would be two mono pres but it requires precise gain matching. So I bought a used API A2D off some guy on Gearslutz and I was all set.
That purchase had many reasons behind it. First of all, you get the API sound and you can introduce color to your mix. Secondly it has precise meters so you can gain match. Third, it has an AD converter so you can bring back whatever you’re working on to your daw. And lastly, it has a balanced insert so you can send the signal after amplification to whatever outboard gear you have and bring it back to A2D and then convert it to digital. Plus you have two channels of quality pre which you can use for other purposes and you can clock your audio interface with it.
What I’ve been doing on my last three EPs is that I mix my tracks in my DAW to stems, then send the stems out from Apogee Rosetta 800’s DA to my summing mixer. The output of my summing mixer goes to A2D to get the makeup gain and color. Then I use the inserts on A2D to send the signal to my Elysia xfilter and EQ it, after that I send the output to the SSL Buss Comp and and compress it just a tad then the output goes to two Rupert Neve Designs 542 tape emulators (they have an actual tape head inside) and finally return the signal to A2D and bring it back to the digital domain.
Is going through all that trouble worth it? Hell yeah! Since analog summing is imperfect summing, you get a better stereo image, more open mixes and I find the middle of stereo field not to be dead on and a tad wider and the low end is more defined and detailed. The tracks get much warmer plus the whole process is much more fun for me than spending thousands of dollars on vintage synths and drum machines just to tweak the cut-off and resonance knobs or play with the kick’s decay!