Technical backstage: Harrison Mixbus – an interesting alternative DAW

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.

“Other DAW mixers are designed by companies with experience in computer sound, but no pedigree in world-class recording facilities.  The Mixbus mixer is designed by Harrison: the maker of consoles used in the world’s most demanding music, film, and live performance facilities.” (from site)

When I read this statement (early 2010) I was very impressed and I thought “it’s true, I want try this software”. It was very low price (approximately $75 as I remember) and I bought Mixbus immediatly.

The first time I listened my records by Mixbus I perceived a better sound of mid and high frequency. Less harsh, more body and a superior depth. Wow, it’s ITB Valhalla? (ITB = In The Box otherwise audio mixed on computer)

Harrison implemented his digital summing algorithm (the same of their digital consolle) into a very cheap but powerful DAW Ardour, an open source project by Paul Davis.

He worked on another application too, available for Linux and OS X, named Jack (Jack Audio Connection Kit). It’s a virtual router and it can manage soundcard inputs and outputs and all virtual connections into computer. Also it can re-direct audio flush from an application to another without leave it from computer.

Features of Harrison Mixbus mixer are three band EQ and dynamics on every channels and busses, eight busses (from the version 2.x) with tape saturation and tone control, auxs and inserts freely assignable to pre or post fader, all parameters automation, freely assignable routing and master equipped with K-14 Meter(*), tape saturation, control tone and dynamic processor.

Unfortunately at that time Ardour and Mixbus too (obviously) wouldn’t managed MIDI narrow down their application.

(*) K-14 meter is a method to monitor audio level into digital system, Bob Katz made it and here he explained about it: part 1part 2

The first time I used Mixbus 1.x to summing tracks from Logic Pro. It was a live recording of acoustic ensemble composed by drums, double bass, strings quartet, piano, key synth, acoustic guitar and voice. I created a several group (drums, strings and keys) and I routed them with single tracks (double bass, acoustic guitar and voice) to Mixbus by Jack OSX to summing them without add other processes.

After I compared the same mix from Logic bounce and Mixbus record and the last sounded better.

I noticed better mid vocal frequency, a snare superior body and less harshed hi-hat and cymbals. Otherwise a natural, better acoustic sound.

About editing I like Ardour/Mixbus for his tools, clear graphics design and easy automation.

One year ago I mixed my band RSVP album (you can listen it on Youtube) with Mixbus 2.x, the project’s tracks included two acoustics drums, electric guitar, electric bass, keyboards, saxophone, trumpet, voiceover, movie audio sample, a pico-paso (analog oscillator) and other tools (like a drill).

I worked like an analog consolle (with automation) with few plug-ins unlike other DAWs. It sounded GREAT!

At the same time I suggested (and I taught) Ardour to my friends for record, edit and mix their latest news podcasts ( or Mixbus with Jack OSX to my customer Andrea Fedeli to make virtual summing from his DAW (with no added costs buiyng expensive brand analog gear).

Mixbus and Jack are availables for Linux, Mac OSX (PPC and Intel) and Windows.

Today Mixbus 2 still don’t manage MIDI but next major update surely will do it because Ardour 3 has already been implemented.



Below: Mixbus mixer

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