10 Best Summing Mixer Hardware

Best Summing Mixer HardwareIn this guide we’ll cover the 10 best summing mixer rack units for home recording studio. 

Quick answer: if you want the best value for money, take a look at Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT.

However, the Rupert Neve Designs 5059 Satellite the top rated summing mixer you can get.

Again from Dangerous Music is the D-BOX which is the popular choice among home studio users.

The rest of this post we’ll briefly explain what analog summing mixing is in the buying guide section, as well as provide the best advice when it comes to choosing or deciding whether or not you should be using summing mixers in your home recording setup.

By the end of this post, you should have a clearer understand on the benefits of using an analog summing mixer, as well as clear the air once and for all about whether or not you should get one. And if you do, you have a simple choice of just 10 to get yourself started.

Let’s take a closer look 🙂


Table of Contents

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The 10 Best Analog Summing Mixers – At a Glance

Dangerous Music D-BOX+Dangerous Music D-BOX+

AmazonSweetwater

Feature rich unit, combining a monitoring system and DA conversion into the summing mixer, plus talk-back capability, and studio headphone amplification.

More details…

Pros: Same reliable quality that made D-Box known; Additional input for USB and Bluetooth; Separate source selection; Three speaker sets; Remote control app

Cons: Uses Bluetooth only for computer connection; Stereo difference monitoring is absent


PPhoenix Audio Nicerizer Junior Summing Mixerhoenix Audio Nicerizer Junior Summing Mixer

Sweetwater

An affordable option that gives a distinct character to your sound. This is thanks to the unit’s transformerless design. While the mixer’s priority is still on the clarity of the sound, the Nicerizer uses proprietary components to imbue a unique flavor to your mix.

More details…

Pros: Transformerless input stage; Can accommodate both balanced and unbalanced signals; Proprietary design and components for a unique sound

Cons: ‘mix sweetening’ factor might not be for everybody


Solid State Logic Sigma Summing MixerSolid State Logic Sigma Summing Mixer

AmazonSweetwater

SSL brings in its long history of analog equipment dominance into a summing mixer that bears its name, the Solid State Logic Sigma.  Packed with the SSL SuperAnalogue mix engine, an automation capability, an app, and many other features, the Sigma is a complete summing unit that builds upon the brand’s legacy.

More details…

Pros: Uses proprietary SSL software; Synchronized remote control through the app; Talkback capability

Cons: No effects processing and dynamics hardware


Dangerous Music 2-BUS LTDangerous Music 2-BUS LT

Amazon – Sweetwater (Ebony version)

A no-frills mastering grade summing mixer amplifier with basic features, focusing on offering more high-quality channels and connections for the money, and minimizing on other “bells and whistles.”

More details…

Pros: 16 channels; Great three-dimensional definition; Simple to setup and use

Cons: Preamp options restricted


Rupert Neve Designs 5059Rupert Neve Designs 5059 Satellite

Amazon – Sweetwater

Models the big console sound of the famous Rupert Neve Designs large consoles. The result is the best mastering grade quality for the money, plus lots of channels, options, and the “Silk” feature for dialing in warmth and texture.

More details…

Pros: High-quality mastering grade results; Saturation control; Ability create two separate mixes

Cons: Costly for some buyers


Radial Space Heater

Amazon – Sweetwater

A summing mixer that offers one of the best vacuum tube saturation for the money. Though the minimal channels availability may be insufficient for some, it makes up for it with the high quality distortion and warmth it provides.

More details…

Pros: Vaccum tube saturation; Adjustable voltage modes; Amazing distortion and warmth

Cons: Limited channel options


SPL MixDream XP Analog Summing MixerSPL MixDream XP Analog Summing Mixer

Sweetwater

A cascadable 16-in-2 summing mixer, with the discrete class A technology based on 60-volt rails, an expandable channel count through multiple unit connections, and high dynamic range.

More details…

Pros: Straightforward operation; Transparent sound; Expands stereo width and depth

Cons: No headphone jack; No insert on the Master output


SPL MixDream Summing MixerSPL MixDream Summing Mixer

Sweetwater

The MixDream doesn’t have the elaborate processing steps and complicated insertions that bigger machines are equipped to do. But it assures latency-free listening and high-quality summation. Aside from these, the MixDream is a no-nonsense mixer that can have a wide variety of uses.

More details…

Pros: Precise stereo positioning; Great mix depth and width

Cons: No extra features aside from the stereo effects


Heritage Audio MCM-8 II 500Heritage Audio MCM-8 II 500

Sweetwater

This vintage-looking beauty gives any mix the sought-after analog warmth while also giving the legit analog experience through its finely-made knobs and switches.

More details…

Pros: Two-in-one (series chassis and summing mixer) operation; Per-slot basis of power supply ensures slots are sufficiently powered; Great build quality

Cons: Limited mixing slots


Heritage Audio MCM-20.4Heritage Audio MCM-20.4

Sweetwater

One of the newest summing miers to the market, with impressive vintage sound, albeit the narrow frequency response produces sound quality that’s not exactly “mastering grade.”

More details…

Pros: 20 channels; Individual channel level controls; Offers sophisticated routing options; Impressive headroom with low-noise

Cons: Not the greatest sound quality on the market


Best Analog Summing Mixers

Below are brief overviews and descriptions for the best summing mixers out there on the market.  If you need assistance in making the right choice, or even in finding out if you really do need a summing mixer for your music projects, take a look at the buying guide section of this post.


Dangerous Music D-BOX+

Dangerous Music D-BOX+

See price @ Amazon or Sweetwater

Dangerous Music’s D-BOX became an industry name when it released one of the first out-of-the-box summing mixers ten years ago. In this latest update, Dangerous Music ups the ante with a ton of new features. Most of these features are for improving the mixer’s capacity to deal with other forms of data.

Features & Specs

The most significant updates on the D-BOX+ seem to have focused on flexibility. Aside from the original three input sources, connectivity through USB and Bluetooth have been added to the unit. Source selection now also includes an A/B selection for the control room and artist headphones. Output (speaker) selection has also been expanded from two to three.

As one would expect, the D-BOX’s rear panel is chock full of sockets for a wide variety of input. There is a parallel-wired pair of quarter-inch headphone output and three pairs of balanced speaker line outputs. The third pair can be used for a subwoofer. There is also a USB 2.0 Type B socket for accepting an audio signal of up to 192kHz.

Arguably the most important update for the D-Box is the remote control app which enables users to access all of its features via Bluetooth. You can also play tracks from a phone – a nifty feature, given how we mostly play tracks through our phones these days.

The D-BOX+ has a talkback capability that can also be used through a smartphone mic. This capability also has a ‘momentoggle’ option which allows activation of the talkback mic only when the button is held.

Sound-wise, D-BOX’s’ headphone amplifiers provide a lot of headroom to compensate for any possible headphone impedance. It can also get pretty loud: the unit can blast out +27dBU before you can hear significant clipping. Moreover, both as a monitoring device and a summing mixer, the D-BOX+ has a superb, crystal-clear sound.

We also have to mention the build quality, which is outstanding. The rackmount is made of powder-coated steel. The whole thing looks sturdy and professional.

All in all, we feel that the update D-BOX is even more reasonably priced than the original, given the number of features added into it.

Bottom-line

The trademark simplicity and the “best-bang-for-your-buck” reputation that have come to define Dangerous Music can still be seen in the D-BOX’s update. In fact, we have the impression that Dangerous Music beefed the unit up really good. There are just too many added features, many of which we feel are necessary for the current production milieu. It feels like Dangerous Music has targeted the right audience through its new features. After all, the summing mixer market is a specific kind of market with very specific needs. The needs addressed in the D-BOX+ are exactly what these engineers want to be addressed.

Pros

  • Same reliable quality that made D-Box known
  • Additional input for USB and Bluetooth
  • Separate source selection
  • Three speaker sets
  • Remote control app

Cons

  • Uses Bluetooth only for computer connection
  • Stereo difference monitoring is absent

Phoenix Audio Nicerizer Junior Summing Mixer

Phoenix Audio Nicerizer Junior Summing Mixer

See price @ Sweetwater

Branding itself as a “tone machine”, Phoenix Audio’s Nicerizer Junior Summing Mixer is an affordable option that gives a distinct character to your sound. This is thanks to the unit’s transformerless design. While the mixer’s priority is still on the clarity of the sound, the Nicerizer uses proprietary components to imbue a unique flavor to your mix. It thus has capabilities for summing both high-fidelity mix and heavily-flavored, “analog-sounding” ones. It can be the best summing mixer for certain purposes.

Features & Specs

The Nicerizer is mounted in an elegant-looking 2RU 19″ rackmount chassis. The unit itself is kind of heavy, which tells you a lot about how much analog circuitry is inside this machine.

Uncharacteristically for a summing mixer, each channel has detented pan controls. It also boasts precise stereo placement and easy recall for the panning.

The Phoenix Audio Nicerizer has 16 channels for summing. Each channel also has a +8dB Boost button on each channel. This boost button can give a channel a saturated and thicker sound.

Its proprietary transformerless input stage also sets it apart from its bedfellows. Many analog mixers use transformers to process input, but these can affect slew rates and dampen the transients. Ditching the transformers altogether allows the Nicerizer to have a more distinct sound.

Another nifty feature of the Nicerizer is that it can accept balanced and unbalanced signals. The mixer compensates for the signal so no gain is lost. This makes the unit a nice option for live performances too.

The unit can dish out a maximum output level of +26dB. The Nicerizer also has two main stereo inputs, both with their own level controls.

You will often see the words “class A circuitry” and “proprietary design” in their marketing. For instance, they use a “custom-wound” DB694 output transformer. This is paired with their own DSOP-2 output amplifier. This tells us that Phoenix Audio cares a lot about the uniqueness of their sound. If you’re looking for a unit that imparts a particular ‘flavor’ to your mix, the Nicerizer is a good choice.

Bottom-line

The Nicerizer is a solid unit that aims to do its job, and more. While there are not much in the way of bells and whistles, the Nicerizer’s charms lie under the hood. The proprietary design and ‘transformerless’ sound definitely stand out.

As we have already established, the Nicerizer’s sweetening capabilities may not apply to all kinds of mixes. If you are shooting for a more transparent sound, the flavor that the summing unit imparts on your mix may not be your cup of tea. Nonetheless, we think that the Nicerizer would work well in harsher mixes that benefit from a bit of edge.

Pros

  • Transformerless input stage
  • Can accommodate both balanced and unbalanced signals
  • Proprietary design and components for a unique sound

Cons

  • ‘mix sweetening’ factor might not be for everybody

Solid State Logic Sigma Summing Mixer

Solid State Logic Sigma Summing Mixer

See price @ Amazon or Sweetwater

Way back during the heyday of big recording studios when mixing was still done on analog mixers, Solid State Logic was an industry giant. Now in the age of DAWs and bedroom studios, SSL brings in its long history of analog equipment dominance into a summing mixer that bears its name, the Solid State Logic Sigma.

Packed with the SSL SuperAnalogue mix engine, an automation capability, an app, and many other features, the Sigma is a complete summing unit that builds upon the brand’s legacy.

Features & Specs

We already mentioned that the Sigma uses the SSL SuperAnalogue mix engine. This means that users familiar with SSL would not have a hard time learning how to use the Sigma.

Data automation through DAW is central to Sigma’s workflow. All of Sigma’s 16 mono channels can be automated. Its proprietary MDAC ((Multiplying Digital to Analogue Converter) technology, first used in SSL’s Duality and AWS studio consoles, allows communication between your DAW and the Sigma. Communication is mediated through HUI, MCU or MIDI depending on the DAW and the computing unit.

Aside from summing capabilities, Sigma allows front-panel metering of its 16 channels. Each channel can be switched between mono or stereo. Aside from these, there are two user-programmable switches to control any of the 14 functions.

The rear panel has three pairs of balanced XLR outputs for Mix, Monitor, and alternate stereo outputs. It also has a network cable connector (ethernet) socket for high-speed computer connection. This effectively makes the mixer function like a control surface.

Much of what makes Sigma such a powerful device can be seen in its app, the Delta-Control Single Fader Plug-in. Compatible with AAX/RTAS/VST/VST3, the app allows users to make changes in the volume and to mute certain channels, much like a DAW plugin. Each channel can be linked to an instance in the DAW, which means that 16 instances of the plugin can control all of the channels in the Sigma.

This beautiful marriage between analog and digital enables users to use the Sigma for some onboard tricks. For instance, each of the stereo mix buses has sends and returns, making it possible to do some post-processing. The A/B configuration also makes it possible to do some parallel compression, all within the Sigma.

We also have to mention that talkback feature which is a practical feature for anyone who wants to use the Sigma for serious recording sessions.

Bottom-line

Producers and engineers who have had some experience with SSL will feel at home with the Sigma. This is both on matters of sound and work-flow. The Sigma’s perfect balance of analog and digital functionalities makes it a practical and powerful device for well-experienced mix engineers.

Still, new users will also appreciate the plugin which allows for remote operation. The app has faders that can be routed through the DAW using SSL’s proprietary MDAC technology.

Although a bit more pricey than the rest of the mixers discussed here, the SSL provides tried and tested formulas with some forward-looking innovations. In short, it is a veritable power tool.

Pros

  • Uses proprietary SSL software
  • Synchronized remote control through the app
  • Talkback capability

Cons

  • No effects processing and dynamics hardware

Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT

Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT

Compare prices @ Amazon or Sweetwater (Ebony version)

If what you want is a no-frills analog summing mixer that will do one thing and do it well (give you that big console sound for out-of-the-box mixing), take a look at Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT. What makes this unit special is that it offers sufficient connections for the same price of other summing mixers that offer more features, but at the cost of limiting your channel options. This summing mixer is one of the best straightforward units out there that offers the essentials: sixteen great sounding analog input summing channels, and a dual stereo output that will feed your monitoring chain.

Features & Specs

The 2-Bus LT features an active analog summing circuitry that was designed by the renowned Chris Muth. Connected to the circuitry are 2 D-Sub connectors. They are located around the back of the device, and can connect sixteen channels (eight stereo stems). The analog circuitry allows you to be able to run digital inputs at levels hotter than you normally would, without sacrificing ample headroom. It’s capable of handling D/A conversion with +27 dBu max input level. You won’t even need to pay attention to the clipping signals within your DAW’s mixer, since the audio will come through without much risk of distortion. In addition to the summing input channels are 2 XLR expandable inputs, and 2 pairs of stereo XLR outputs for main and monitors. The front of the device is very lean, with only one master knob, and eight mono switches that pairs the sixteen channels. In addition, there is an expansion port that you can use to link other summing mixers together for more summing channels.

It’s evident that what Dangerous Music sought to accomplish with the 2-Bus LT is a stripped down summing mixer and amplifier which has only the essentials that you’d want for analog mixing. This is important especially if you already have the other features you’d like in other dedicated gear. Additionally, there are many other types of devices that will emulate the job of a summing mixer. Such as passive summing boxes or line mixers. But often you’d require a lot of make-up gain just to get your audio back to the right level. In the case of the 2-Bus LT, users notice an incredible increase in headroom, massive soundstage, with incredible three-dimension definition. With the space, you get wide and precise panning, deep reverbs, powerful bass, and articulate trebles in your mix. Any downside? The only one we could find is that it doesn’t allow option for using any preamps you want.

Bottom-line

Dangerous Music 2-BUS LT’s greatest points are its simplicity, the open clear sound that minimizes the potential for distortion significantly, and the 16 channels it offers. Those would be the 3 main things that would make this summing mixer a great buy. It may not be as feature rich as its cousin, the D-Box (mentioned below), which is your “everything-in-a-box” sort of summing mixer.  But it does offer more channels, plus the ability to link up with another summing mixer for even more. Plus its straightforwardness gives it a streamlined workflow. If you’ve been struggling to get that “bigger sound” out of your DAW and mixes, check it out.

Pros

  • 16 channels means more to play with
  • Great three-dimensional definition
  • Simple to setup and use
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Preamp options restricted


Rupert Neve Designs 5059

Rupert Neve Designs 5059

Compare prices @ Amazon or Sweetwater

The Rupert Neve Designs 5059 Satellite is considered the highest quality summing mixer on this list. Those who are in the know may already be familiar with them, and especially the manufacturer. Rupert Neve Designs is responsible for some of the best studio consoles and hardware on the market, they even have their own Wikipedia page). These consoles can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars — they are real class. And seeing that getting that sweet and silky console sound from those massive consoles is practically impossible within a DAW, the company came out with this sweet sounding summing mixer, which you can use right out of the package to give your “in-the-box” production a more profession console sound.

Features & Specs

With the 5059 Satellite you get sixteen channels, each with their own individual level and pans, plus insert and bus-2 send buttons. With it, you can control two separate stem mixes, and create two different sounding mixes out of your channels. It has two stereo busses with master Texture controls. The Texture controls are continuously variable, with Silk and Silk+ modes, which you use to dial in and fine tune the harmonic ratio and tonality of each stereo buss.

You use “Silk” mode to control the degree of transformer saturation in the high frequencies, which, when you dial it up, gives your tracks more sparkle. If you need to add more thickness and meat to your low end, that is where the “Silk+” mode should comes in handy. Dialing in the Silk+ should add more texture if your mix happens to be dry and thin. Using the Texture controls, you get the result of summing that pretty much promises to treat your audio with the same degree of analog warmth applied to classic hit music recorded and mixed in massive studios housing the Neve Designs immense console for the past decades. The summing mixer also gives you the ability to integrate the device with your outboard equipment.

General user reviews across the internet on the Satellite are universally positive. I’ve read one user saying that using this in tandem with his DAW feels like mixing on a large console without faders. Another owner, actually being familiar with the large 5088 consoles by Neve, said that the Satellite actually gave the original a run for its money, which is quite a surprising claim. Others found that their subkick and bass is now more round, defined, and clearer to pick out from a dense mix, with vocals that are smoother and creamier than before.

Bottom-line

The Rupert Neve Designs 5059 Satellite is probably the best summing mixer hardware you can get right now for the money. It costs twice as much as the other great choices on this list, but it also has the highest praise, with generally more channels for summing.

Pros

  • Talkback, headphone monitoring, and monitor controller are great additional features
  • Supports multiple monitor pairing
  • Mastering grade quality

Cons

  • Headphones phones only monitor input source
  • Limited channels
  • No dim switch


Radial Space Heater

Compare prices @ Amazon or Sweetwater

The Radial Space Heater is an analog summing mixer with vacuum tube saturation. This summing mixer is not just about summing all your channels and giving your digital audio more headroom and a big-console sound. The people that made Space Heater, Radial Engineering, designed it to add depth and harmonic richness to digital tracks tracks, with lots of warmth or distortion drive that can be easily dialed in by degrees. This makes it perfect for vocals, guitars, keys, or any electronic or acoustic instruments that you think could use the added warmth or bite to your DAW-based productions.

Features & Specs

The front side Space Heater features eight input summing channels that you can use to set up as a hardware insert. With this you can add tube saturation and warmth to your mix by sending individual tracks through the Space Heater. There are four 12AX7 vacuum tube modules on the device, each sharing two channels that work in tandem with the summing mixer. So when you’ve perfected the tracks and you want to sum your final mix, you can run your stems through the Space Heater and record the stereo mix with your DAW. Being that there are only eight summing channels, or four stereo channels, this means there is a little bit of a limitation in regard to the number of inputs you have. However, there are two stereo link jacks on the back of the device that you can use to link with another Space Heater for addition channel summing.

Also on the back is a number of I/O connectors. These are eight balanced inputs (1/4″ TRS), two balanced summing bus outputs (XLR), and eight pairs of send and receive jacks (1/4″ TRS) for balanced inserts. If you want individual channel outputs, there is a DB-25 socket as well, with another DB-25 socket that works parallel to the TRS input jacks.

In terms of function, you can adjust and fine tune how much clean headroom you will want before you add distortion, thanks to the three adjustable voltage modes (35/70/140-volts). With your selection, you can fine-tune the amount of analog warmth and distortion the Space Heater will give you. For instance, if you want a lot of gritty warmth and distortion, set it in 35-volt mode, which restricts headroom and adds more crunch. If you want a totally clean headroom with lots of space, set it to max at 140-volts. 70-volts gives you, consequently, a balance of large headroom and smooth warm sound. On top of that, each stereo pair can be adjusted individually so you can have a combination of clean sounds on one channel pair, and grit another another.

User testimonials are almost universally positive. Those who have used the Space Heater have said that it warmed their audio signal in a pleasing way, which they could control, causing the mix to really “glue” together. Many love its well built rackmounted design, finding it easy to mount and get going. Because it uses two D-Sub connectors, this also makes it simple for users to set it up and run ins and outs. Any downsides? Some users may complain that four tubes sharing eight channels to be limiting. You can run these as stereo channels in L/R configurations, there might be a bit of a challenge in getting the L/R signals to balance accurately since the knobs are not stepped.

Bottom-line

The Radial Space Heater is a great summing mixer that will give you a big console sound with added warmth and distortion to your discernment. If that’s what you’re looking for, then this is a great option for you, and at the price, it can’t be beat.

Pros

  • Vaccum tube saturation
  • Adjustable voltage modes
  • Amazing distortion and warmth

Cons

  • Limited channel options


SPL MixDream XP Analog Summing Mixer

SPL MixDream XP Analog Summing Mixer

Sweetwater

Like the MixDream, the MixDream XP is a cascadable 16-in-2 summing mixer. In fact, the two devices share a lot of things other than the name: the discrete class A technology based on 60-volt rails, an expandable channel count through multiple unit connections, high dynamic range, and so on. But what sets the MixDream XP apart is the ‘XP’ aspect which stands for ‘expansion.’

Features & Specs

MixDream XP has no panning and fader control, so all of the mixing control done in the DAW is retained.

Most users rave about the bigger and punchier sound and the stereo separation. These are all because of the expansion and limiting done within the mixer. But we think that the XP’s defining feature is its transparency. It doesn’t give much to the mix by way of color. This simplicity makes the device versatile.

The unit has an input impedance of 10kOhm. It can process up to +28dBu for both input and output level. With a noise level -97dBu, it is very silent during operation. Its dynamic range of 125dB is also very impressive.

The XP is also among the cheapest summation devices you can get that doesn’t compromise the sound.

Bottom-line

Like the MixDream, MixDream XP does its job well without any extra mumbo jumbo. It is easy to set up, intuitive to use, and the lack of faders makes it a straightforward summing mixer. The transparency of the mix is worth mentioning because although there is enough warmth to make the mix sound tight, it does not give as much color as the other summing mixers in this list.

The “expansion” aspect, however, is central to this unit’s identity. The integrated stereo width expander and the stereo limiter makes the mixes punchier and wider-sounding. This gives the mix more presence and impact.

Pros

  • Straightforward operation
  • Transparent sound
  • Expands stereo width and depth

Cons

  • No headphone jack
  • No insert on the Master output

SPL MixDream Summing Mixer

SPL MixDream Summing Mixer

See price @ Sweetwater

SPL’s MixDream Summing Mixer brands itself as a 16-in-2 cascadable mixer in a 2U chassis. It uses Class A technology to run 60 volts during summing to deliver clear audio to the final mix. Through an insert functionality, the unit can process a complex mix of more than 16 channels.

The MixDream doesn’t have the elaborate processing steps and complicated insertions that bigger machines are equipped to do. But it assures latency-free listening and high-quality summation. Aside from these, the MixDream is a no-nonsense mixer that can have a wide variety of uses.

Features & Specs

For better or for worse, the Mixdream is a pure summing mixer. It doesn’t have panning and fader controls, which makes it a simpler machine than the previous mixers we covered. That means you will never lose all the necessary functionalities that you should have been doing in your DAW. This also means that you will have a more straight-forward summing workflow.

Each channel in the MixDream has a 3-stage toggle switch. It has a No-Mix switch which removes a channel from the mix pre-fader, allowing you to “bounce-back” the signal to your DAW. This can be useful if you want to apply an effect to the signal, say, a bit of compression, before summing it into the mix. The signal can then be re-recorded through Direct Output.

Its 125dB dynamic range also ensures that every frequency in your mix is captured while also maintaining a very low noise floor.

MixDream has individual and overpass bypass relays. The unit also reduces A/D conversions as all analog tracks can be summed before conversion.

It also has a peak limiter on the master bus as well as a switchable stereo expander that uses a mid-side matrix. Aside from these, there are master inserts for additional effects.

Some users say that the MixDream gives their mix a ‘fatter’ sound compared to the in-the-box mix. This is most likely due to the limiting and the stereo expansion that works perfectly in conjunction with the mixer.

The MixDream doesn’t give the sound a lot of color. What it seems to be striving for is depth, width, and high dynamic range.

MixDream is also resource-efficient, making it easy for the DAW to process the signal with minimum latency. This is without sacrificing the quality of the resampled signal.

If you have the extra cash and you need to deal with more than 16 channels, you can even link multiple units for a surround operation (up to three units).

Bottom-line

SPL MixDream is a solid device for a summing mixer purist. While it doesn’t have panning or leveling features (which you don’t really need from a summing mixer), it produces a great-sounding end product. Moreover, the stripped-down set-up is not without some practical functionalities. For instance, the No-Mix switch which enables bouncing back a channel for DAW processing can have a lot of uses.

Aside from the post-processing stereo expander and limiter, SP MixDream is as simple and solid as a mixer can get. What you are buying is the MixDream’s sound which is impeccable in many ways. We can even say that it is the best summing mixer at its price point.

Pros

  • Precise stereo positioning
  • reat mix depth and width

Cons

  • No extra features aside from the stereo effects

Heritage Audio MCM-8 II 500

Heritage Audio MCM-8 II 500

See price @ Sweetwater

Heritage Audio’s MCM-8 II is a little box with high ambitions. It is a 500 Series Chassis with summing capabilities for 10 channels. Utilizing a “per slot” power technology, this vintage-looking beauty gives any mix the sought-after analog warmth while also giving the legit analog experience through its finely-made knobs and switches.

Features & Specs

Being a two-in-one device, the MCM-8 II allows users to bypass the 500 series module and use just the mixer. This can be done using a simple A/B button. The same functionality allows for the comparison of processed and unprocessed signals.

The device’s signature feature is the per-slot technology which allows the individual handling of each slot’s power supplies. Each module is separate from the rest. This allows the MCM-8 II drive up to 400mA per rail in each slot. There is also a phantom power capability for a total of 140mA.

The MCM-8 II has 10 channels. Each channel has Pan and Fading controls via dual concentric detented potentiometers.

An ON switch needs to be engaged to send the channel signal to the Mix. Each slot also has an LED indicator for correct power operation

In keeping with the vintage aesthetic, the Mix Bus is patterned after the 80 Series consoles. It uses passive voltage summing technology. Lost gain is regained through a Class transformer-based output stage that is driven by 2n3055. This is the same protocol used in the Heritage Audio 1073.

Gold-plated XLRS and DSUB23 inputs and outputs ensure top-shelf signal clarity.

Looks-wise, the unit definitely captures that vintage vibe. Made of heavy gauge steel and an aluminum front panel, it is as sturdy as it looks. It even has an analog VU meter, although users say that it barely moves, if ever. Another knob worth mentioning is the Master Fader which has a stepped feel.

Bottom-line

One can get the impression while using the MCM-8 II that you are using a top-of-the-shelf product. Every component within this box is of high quality, from the knobs and inputs up to the VU meter. Interaction with the device is an enjoyable, if not luxurious, experience by itself.

This translates very well to the mix’s sound. There is the sought-after vintage warmth, but each channel gives the signal some clarity and punch. The noise floor on this unit is also significantly lower than other Heritage Audio mixer products such as the MK1. This is impressive given how the device utilizes vintage-style transformers.

Versatility is one of MCM-8 II’s most powerful selling points. It can be used as a series chassis, a line mixer, a summing mixer, or all of the above, depending on the need.

If your current set-up needs a series chassis with summing mixer capabilities, then this is perfect for you.

Pros

  • Two-in-one (series chassis and summing mixer) operation
  • Per-slot basis of power supply ensures slots are sufficiently powered
  • Great build quality

Cons

  • Limited mixing slots

Heritage Audio MCM-20.4

Heritage Audio MCM-20.4

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The Heritage Audio MCM-20.4 is a vintage style rackmounted summing mixer that simulates the big sound of those massive Neve studio consoles. It is a sixteen input channel summing mixer that provides analog audio with sophisticated routing options. Despite its hardware looks, that makes it seem like it was made in the 70s or 80s, this is truly made for your DAW based productions. There are a total of 20 channels, but 16 of them are summing channels with 2 groups of 8. What they provide is an impressive amount of head room with very low noise across all channels. If you’re just looking for an elegant solution for summing your mixing channels for your DAW, but you also need something that has a lot of connections, then take a look at this.

Features & Specs

Here’s the breakdown on what it has. The front of the device is populated by columns and rows of pots and knobs that control each channel’s pan and level, with the addition of a mute switch. There are 2 stereo sub groups for the 16 channels. The subgroups are passively summed into the master bus, which has its own balanced point and VU meters. There are four channels for pre/post-fader aux sends as well on the front panel, and each channel allows you to port signal out to either 2 mono aux sends or a stereo aux effects. On the back, you have two pairs of XLR connectors, one for monitor, other for main, plus a pair of R/L XLR I/O connectors for master send and return. Finally, there are 8 DB-25 connectors at the back for I/O, insert sends and returns.

Because this is a fairly new summing mixer on the market, there are currently not a lot of user reviews on it. However, in the coming months, expect to see more and more reviews pop up over the course of the year. One particular review I read by Ari Raskin on SonicScoop, tested and reviewed the summing mixer as sounding good, doing more in the way of helping to really enlarge a mix with that big console sound. The only downsides were a few little gripes that the pots and pans were not precisely accurate, meaning you’d have to watch your levels and use your ears if you wanted to balance a L/R signal perfectly for things like kick, bass, or lead vocals. Also, it has a super flat frequency response from 169 Hz to 4.8 kHz, which is not that wide, and not exactly what you’d call “mastering quality.” Despite that, Raskin still recommends the MCM 20.4 as a great summing mixer for those looking for one. (You can see the very detailed review here.)

Bottom-line

Heritage Audio MCM-20.4 has great potential for you home studio. It’s reasonable priced and comes with all the basics you need for a good summing mixer, with send, return, and lots of inputs and controls. If you’re looking for that big analog sound for you in-the-box mixing, you can give this a go.

Pros

  • 20 channels
  • Individual channel level controls
  • Offers sophisticated routing options
  • Impressive headroom with low-noise

Cons

  • Not the greatest sound quality on the market

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analog mixerAnalog Summing Mixer Buying Guide

If you’re a music producer or audio engineer for your home studio, you know that getting the best sound possible from your gear is going to be a lifelong task to tackle. And as digital audio continues to dominate the music production scene, we all try, more and more, to squeeze out of our digital devices and software a sound that was only possible from thousands of dollars worth of gear in several square feet of space.

We’re getting super close to that ideal. We achieve this by relying on software emulation or outbound gear simulation. And one outbound gear solution that you’ll find to be a great, and even essential, addition to any music home studio is the analog summing mixer.

What is an Analog Summing Mixer?

Summing mixing is very simple to understand if you keep in mind it’s chief purpose: combining all your audio tracks from several output channels down to a simple stereo track. In other words, the stereo track is the “sum of” the total tracks on your mixer.

Technically speaking, when we speak of “summing,” we refer specifically to the “summing amp” within those massive hardware studio consoles. The summing amp is a circuit in the mix bus that handles all the audio channels running through the console. It combines all the electrical audio signals (analog signals) into one stereo output.

“Mixing In-The-Box”

In your digital audio workstation, the digital mixer has an algorithm which does a similar thing the summing amp does, but within the digital realm: it combines all your digital audio signals to one stereo output. If you decide, then, to do all your mixing with just your DAW, you end up doing what is called in music production circles, “in-the-box” mixing (we’ll call it ITB for now for short).

However, many experienced producers and engineers find that, while not unethical, there are some general limitations that comes with solely ITB mixing. Often, working solely with digital audio signals can result in an overly “clean” and uncharacteristic sound, lacking the luster and character of classic recordings. This might not be entirely important for certain genres of music that are primarily electronic (and therefore, whose “clean naked” sound is characteristic of it… for instance, chip-tune or 8-bit music), but it really makes an essential difference in your mix if you want that commercial sound. Mixes can be small, thin, and flat, compared to the sound you’d get if you were mixing your music on a hardware console.

Digital algorithms vs Analog circuitry

Let’s understand why this is so. It can be comprehended if you understand the difference between “analog clipping” and “digital clipping.”

Digital clipping, as you know, is not very forgiving. There is a definite ceiling to the level of output gain that you can send through a digital audio signal. This is why we are always warned against it, and why we are persistently admonished engineering mentors to “monitor your levels.” Anything past a certain point is just going to sound nasty without any hope of redemption. This is the kind of clipping you get when working within a DAW.

In the case of analog clipping, there is a higher, more undefined ceiling. Your voltage wires and tubes becomes hotter until it reaches the point of burn out, but up until that point, there is no “limit,” so to speak. This virtual increase in headroom, and the ability to push your levels further and further, is what gives your audio that warm, characteristic “analog sound” that only the vintage gear can provide. While you must still monitor your levels, the maximum value beyond a certain “limit” is undefined. So you can get anywhere from clean, open sounds with lots of headroom, to crunched distortion that’s full of grit and attitude. Both of which is missing it the typical digital audio signal environment.

The sum of all solutions…

The only way to get the latter analog sound is to run your mixes through one of those large consoles. But most of us are going to be mixing in a DAW solely. So to breathe more life into our digital signals and receive the analog redemption that we want, we use an analog summing mixer/amp that will sum our channels, while still allowing us to mix inside of our DAW. The result is the flexibility and convenience that comes with mixing on our laptop or computer, with the feeling of a big studio console sound that would otherwise take up more room and cost than we could afford.

How does it sound?

Good. The result from using a summing mixer is often immediately apparent. Whereas previously your mixing in a DAW might feel “tight” and limited to begin with (due to limited headroom), mixing on analog consoles will feel larger and more expansive. Because of the analog circuitry, there is a larger allowance for headroom in your audio signals. This naturally adds a certain kind of “color” that a digital mixer cannot provide (unless it’s emulated artificially). And there is more depth and definition that makes it easier to perform mixing decisions. You can “see” where everything is in your music, so to speak. Combine a summing mixer, then, with a good pair of monitors, and you’ll be singing this Johnny Nash song.

Some of the best summing mixer devices go as far as to provide you with distortion and saturation effects to add some fuzz and life to mixes. That said, even though there are lots of plugins on the market that can emulate that sound, like tape emulation plugins and exciter plugins. But the general consensus on the matter is that the authentic sound beats the emulated sound.

Benefits of an analog summing mixer

  • Clearer definition of audio
  • More modest headroom
  • Genuine vintage analog warmth
  • Flexibility of mixing within your DAW
  • Many summing mixers give you the option of saturation and tube sound control

Disadvantages

  • Generally not the “cheapest” gear you can buy for your studio
  • Being hardware, takes up (a little) studio space
  • You may need to buy more than one if you have lots of channels to sum

That pretty much covers a basic introduction to summing mixers.


Final Thoughts

This completes the buying guide and advice for finding the best summing mixer you can buy online.

In this guide, you would’ve learned what analog summing mixing is, what it means, and why you would want it in your workflow. You also would’ve looked through the useful specifications and read the device descriptions, drawing a proper comparison between the leading analog summing mixers for sale to find which one was best for your kind of setup. This decision would’ve been based on the amount of channels you need, and the price that you can afford.

You also may have hopeful come to a conclusion yourself as to whether or not you should get one, and hopefully determined that an analog summing mixer would in fact make a great addition to your music production and home studio setup.

If you read this guide out of curiosity, let us know in the comments what your thoughts are. Do you have any of the summing mixers mentioned? What is your experience with them? Which other would you recommend that you felt should’ve made the list?


How we came to these resultsHow did I come to these results

This is the result of hours and days of research online to find the best summing mixer. Research was done via forums like Gearslutz.com, combing through product reviews on Tape Op, Sonic Scoop, and Sound On Sound, as well as researched every bit of user testimonials from buyers and owners to come up with the best result that can be bought online.

The result of this research brought be to a total 10 best summing mixer hardware that you should be using in your studio.

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