WARNING: Serious Geeking Out To Follow
Over the last year or so I’ve finally gotten comfortable mixing music on the gear I have available. Software and hardware-wise I’m sort of at the point where if something doesn’t come out as well as it should, then PEBKAC.
However…I’m always looking for places where a small amount of efficiency can be gained. Case in point: in Reaper (the recording software I use) it often takes a lot of mouse clicks to a.) get at a thing I need to adjust; and b.) switch between editing and mixing. Some of these things can be mitigated if you’re willing to take the time and customize dozens of options to your liking, but I find that to be a major creativity buzzkill. Moreover, it’s not always explicit what some settings actually change, leaving you in the dark as to what you’ve possibly screwed up (and how to undo the damage).
Recently, Harrison put their Mixbus software on sale as part of a promotion for TapeOp magazine readers and I decided to give it a ride. At the price, if it didn’t work out I wouldn’t be at too much of a loss.
So far, I like the results I’m getting (with a few caveats).
- Built-in console strips and tape saturation sound really good!
- Having the most important stuff (e.q., compressors, faders) on the mix window saves a lot of time by putting everything at your fingertips.
- The console strips force you to listen, rather than “mix with your eyes” (read: get distracted by fancy plugin GUI’s).
- The metering is nice, and again does not require flipping through multiple screens.
- Supports AU plugins on Mac.
- Built on an open-source back end (Ardour) and helps support continued development of the software.
- Version 3 will be built on Ardour 3, adding 64bit and multicore processing support. And MIDI!
- No MIDI, so it probably won’t replace your favorite DAW for writing purposes.
- Editing is slightly clunky and slow in the arrangement window…not a problem if you are simply using Mixbus for mixing only.
- Does not include basic “utility” plugins, like Gain, De-essing
- No VST support on Mac
- 32bit only (can’t use more than 4gb system RAM)
- Can’t use multicore processing- things can get a bit laggy / glitchy when mixing 25+ tracks.
- Requires JACK to be installed and running before opening, and JACK setup is a little more complicated than regular CoreAudio.
So, should you dump your favorite software to use Harrison Mixbus? Definitely not! As a tool or supplement for mixing, at the current sale price it is a no-brainer (for me).
tl;dr version: I’m getting better sounding results (and faster) with Mixbus. YMMV. Thumbs up, with a few caveats.