When digital mixers came onto the market people were struck by their features, channel count and recall capabilities. Quickly what would have cost tens of thousands of dollars in hardware was now available for a tenth of the price, not to mention that the space required to house all of this was considerably less than its analog predecessors. Instant recall of the mix and all it’s parameters saw work flows change and people felt there was no returning to analog hardware which now appeared to be outdated technology. Sound quality took a back seat to the wondrous capabilities of these new digital tools.
Overtime however the appeal of all of these features wore off as many people started to question several aspects of digital mixers. Firstly was the question of sound quality, something had been lost in the digital process. Stereo image, depth and clarity all seemed lacking compared to their analog equivalents. Much of this was due to poor A/D and D/A conversion coupled with low resolution sample rates. The reality was a great deal of the information was being lost in this process and hence this loss of information led to a reduction in sound quality.
In the development of APB DynaSonics products, our reference sound is neutral – equal to the sound of a piece of wire. This is accomplished using low phase shift designs, minimizing the use of electrolytic or any other capacitors in the audio signal and using high quality electronic components in well laid out critical designs for optimum performance. Output signals are true to their original inputs, with special care in summing amplifier stages that are considered the most critical stage in audio mixers. They are designed to combine mixed input signals with no compromise, accurately retaining of all signals content and the subtle nuances of the original signal. Once signal integrity is lost in digital sampling and combining, it can never be recovered.
Analog data is continuous, allowing for an infinite number of possible values. Digital data is discrete, allowing for a finite set of values. Even if you increase sample rates to improve resolution you are still limited by time. As we add more digital signal processing more time is need to process the data. Digital processing power has not yet reached a point which matches the speed of analog circuitry.
Secondly while it is wonderful to grab a laptop or some other device and walk around the room tweaking the system remotely on a digital mixer, reliability is not always a constant factor. A simple glitch in the software or a drop out in the Wi-Fi means loss of control of the system and even at times loss of the complete mix which could have disastrous ramifications in the midst of an important event.
Production companies have started to run spare digital consoles at FOH to reduce the risk of system failure but even so there are some legendary and documented catastrophes that have been caused by digital mixers. The proven reliability and modular design of analog mixers provide reliability you can depend on night after night.
Finally although digital mixers pack a lot of features into a small package the reality is in a large amount of situations many of those features simply are not needed and if put in the hands of an in-experienced user can create more problems than benefits. The primary elements of a mixer should be a high quality microphone pre-amplifier, some basic equalization, especially in the form of a high pass filter if voice is being reproduced, and simple, flexible easy to use bussing. This will ensure high quality intelligibility is achieved quickly and easily every time.