Why does mixbus sound "better"

I got mixbus demo running today from av linux to give it a shot as i was thinking of getting the full version.

But i may hang of until v3 as i dont know if i can work with ardour 2.


i noticed that there seems to be a big difference in how things sound between ardour and mixbus.

I took the wave files from a project that i had already finished imported them into mixbus and in less than half the time had a much better, fuller sounding smoother mix, from the same source files as working with ardour.##

Why does mixbus seem to sound better?

In ardour im always fighting with eq on vocal mics never quite finding a good sound i like, but in mixbus with just the provided eq - RESULT. combine that with the tape saturation and Gverb+ you have a solid smooth sounding mix.

So what is so differemt?

In ardour i use eq10q, should i stop using that and go back to a tradtion tupe eq plugin? just a 3 band eq with lo and hi filters?

@LeatusPenguin: Carla looks definitely worth trying. Thanks.


While not a trim control like Mixbus has, Ardour does have the ‘region gain’ (By default mapped to ^ [boost] and & [cut] IIRC) which allows you to boost and cut region input by 1dB intervals, which can be used for a similar effect. I am often using a combination of this and the trim control in Mixbus. But as others said, a simple amplifier plugin at the start of the channel strip will work as well.



There’s also the gain automation setting which is like a pre-fader gain control. You can’t click on a slider to adjust it but it’s very useful for some jobs.

I got mixbus demo running today from av linux
I think that answers the original question... :-b

if u can assigned a plugin parameter then that’s sorted

having gain control is really important. it allows u to get your channel input levels all similar so u can actually mix with the faders.

it’s just handy to have gain accessible without having to double click a plugin.

ah yeah gain automation. use that to even out vocals before using compression. very useful.

how easy would it be to create your own channels strips with knobs that could be assigned to plugins

how easy would it be to create your own channels strips with knobs that could be assigned to plugins

Something like that I was also thinking about. Some kind of “macro plugin”.

Imagine the following: You start a macro plugin editor. It first asks how many inputs and outputs your macro plugin is supposed to have. Then you get a mixer window on which you can add buses. To those buses you can add plugins. This plugin editor needs its own connection manager, which has only the connections of the buses added to the plugin and the defined input and output connections of the plugin. You set up your plugin macro and decide which controls are to be displayed to the plugin user.

A simple plugin macro would consist of only one bus with a series of plugins. But also more complex plugins would be possible.

I would use this for example to set up a harmonizing plugin. I usually route a mono vocal track into two buses. One of them I slightly pitch up and the other one slightly down. To both of them I add some milliseconds delay. Finally I pan one bus slightly to the left and the other one to the right and mix it to the original signal. This gives a nice harmonizing effect.

Unfortunately I have to do this set up for every track I need it for. Therefore I end up with a lot of extra buses and the jack connections get really complex.

It would be so cool to closure this up into some macro plugin, which appears in every project in the plugin manager simply to be added to any channel strip.

personally that is how i run effects, as i come from an anologue way of running things where every desk you come to is set that way. Effects are usually on there own bus its how i work. i much prefer having things like reverbs delays choruses, harmonizers etc on a bus, then i can eq it seperatly and even compress it seperatly or even gate it if i want. Have the effect completly wet. you can do other neet stuff to aswell like if you want to get a quick phasinig effect you can add in some dry signal or go complelty dry and just use the pre delay. Even at 0ms predely theres still a small amount of delay that can add some phasing.

anyway, i very rarely use effects directly on a channel, unless its distortion of instruments.

I’ll need to spend some time and create templates for the various configurations i use. But ive been hanging off as ive not decided on which plugins to use all the time. And i still need to purchase linux DSP’s plugins, once i get those i will be able to setup some standard templates. ive demod them and id use them over what im using just now.

One thing i did notice in mixbus though was that every non mixbus plugin i tried to add to a track caused mixbus to crash. I thought this was a bug in ardour 2. I remember calf plugins crashing ardour 2, however on reading mixbus forums this was supposidly fixed.

But i am running it under kx studio instead of av linux so it may be that

Some very insightfull comments guys. Thanks.

Thats really odd about the eq10q, ive never experienced any problems with it. i mainly use KX studio and it just works, no pops clicks or lock ups. When i use it i try and not use “too much” . My profession is live sound engineering has been ever since i left college (20 years ago) and no to well how over EQ can cause problems.

Now that i think about it, ive came across the same kind of problems on a couple of digital consoles and also on some anologue consoles where they just dont sound as good as you want.

I may just ditch the eq10q plugin and go back to a more traditional channel type eq and keep the graphic eq for overall mix EQ.

As for the tape saturation, i did try adding tape saturation in the same projection in ardour 3 and didnt like it. To be honest i wasnt really too sure about the tape saturation in mixbus on the project i was using. As everyone has said, it added a percieved loudness and the track i was working on wasnt really meant to be a loud track.

What i really liked about mixbus was there was a more solid feeling of gain structure. My faders were more or less at zero for every track, where as in ardour i can end up with some tracks half way down on the fader.

What would be nice to have in ardour would be to atleast have a gain control for every track.

On the plus side, i learnt alot of realy usefull tricks from watching the mixbus videos that can be used in ardour, like gain automation. Where you split a track into regions and adjust the gain so that you can use compression more effectivly. particularly usefull on vocals when you get some phrases that are alot louder than the rest of the track.

Anyway, I’ll still continue to support ardour, even if i buy mixbus. Mixbus does have some really cool features, like the buses taking some of the plugin parameters and putting sliders for them under the plugin area.

The other thing i noticed between ardour and mixbus, was on my vocal track i ended up with a very noticable his that i had to mask by cutting out the silence and then using crosfades at the beginning and end of each region so that it was less noticable. In mixbus the his just wasnt there. Im guessing it was the EQ.

Theres no automation of sends in ardour 2 so that is a killer for me, i need to be able to use automation of sends when using delays so i can precisely catch specific words or phrases to a delay, easy peasy in ardour 3, but fidly in ardour 2 as you have to create an empty bus to use as a send.


Thanks for all the information.

I’ll go back to trying different plugins again :slight_smile:

And for the record, I completely agree with LinuxDSP’s last post here(Just had to say it since I have been disagreeing so much lately:)


What would be nice to have in ardour would be to atleast have a gain control for every track.

which differs from the faders in what way?

Mixbus does have some really cool features, like the buses taking some of the plugin parameters and putting sliders for them under the plugin area.

Ardour3 can display any plugin parameter control inline in the mixer strip.

Ardour3 can display any plugin parameter control inline in the mixer strip.
Ehh... How?

@paul I think that veda sticks is referring to pre fader pre inserts gain control which is easily achievable with an amplifier plugin like this https://tinyurl.com/k4ttdwt

@dbra Right click on the plugin you wish and in controls you can select which control to display in the channel.

This is because Mixbus implements saturation for every channel (and some other processing I guess). Busses have a tape saturation emulation. Eq curves are more like console eqs where curves have proportional-q. If you want this kind of sound with ardour try using broad curves in eq10q and saturation in your busses (Calf tape saturator or similar)

@veda_sticks: because mixbus uses oxygen-free gold-plated high-purity super-precision floating point numbers? :slight_smile:
seriously though you should make sure you compare like for like - I read a detailed blog post somewhere a while back comparing reaper to mixbus, and the conclusion they reached was that they could mix ‘louder’ because of the tape saturation, which initially made it sound ‘better’ - in that case it would mean the mix was subjectively louder, which makes a huge difference when trying to A / B something, but also that by pushing the mix into the harmonically richer tape saturation you might gain more perceived / subjective loudness for similar settings, making everything sound bigger and fuller - at the expense of some slight (perhaps desirable) signal degradation - depends what sound you are trying to get.
EQs can and do sound very different - there is considerable skill required to design an EQ which can sound ‘right’ - graphical EQs give you (almost too many) parameters to twiddle, some ‘character’ EQs (Pultec, etc) can just make any mix sound “better” (one of the few cases where that can genuinely be said about any hardware / plugin) - other relatively ‘simple’ EQs (Neve etc) can sound amazing because (either by good fortune - or most likely painstaking design) they have been ‘tuned’ - frequency, slope, Q etc and the control interactions - so you’d find it hard to do anything wrong. EQ10Q still has some bugs in it which frightened me a bit… (I’ve had filters lock up or pop and bang loudly when I tried it). The most difficult thing to do is be entirely objective - sometimes you have to be very ‘scientific’ about it - if you can’t measure some deterministic repeatable characteristic, you certainly won’t be able to hear it - there is no voodoo - if the numbers are the same, it sounds the same. Try nulling a few exports against ardour, with or without various settings enabled, you might be surprised

Heh I think LinuxDSP both hit it and missed it. The true strength of Mixbus is what you already noticed…

I took the wave files from a project that i had already finished imported them into mixbus and in less than half the time had a much better, fuller sounding smoother mix, from the same source files as working with ardour.##

As LinuxDSP said, there is a bit of an art to designing good DSP, even beyond simple math in that you will design things in a way that it requires as little ‘fiddling’ as possible to get a good sound. That is what is key about Mixbus, that I can get a good sound much faster because both the DSP is always available without having to manually pick and insert it, but also because that DSP is well designed to allow you to move quickly to get a sound. Will it work for everything? No, not at all. I still find myself inserting for instance LinuxDSP’s Black EQ on difficult vocals etc. but overall I often find Mixbus’s built in DSP quite good and I don’t spend a lot of time messing with it. That I think is the key, not necessarily that it sounds ‘magical’ though it can sound different as LinuxDSP says and often times that is a pleasurable difference, but that it allows you to get that sound much quicker. You can certainly do it in other DAWs with a lot more work, but that is why I like Mixbus:)

Will it work for everything? No, not at all...

Its almost impossible to design anything that would - and that’s not really a bad thing - inherent in not providing the user with all the options they could possible control, short of e.g. writing the EQ themselves, there are going to be aspects some people see as limitations or others see as good design choices (example - there are some guitar amp sims which give you precise ability to adjust evey aspect of the virtual mics etc, which is all clever DSP, but if / when I use one of these ‘DSP’ amps it’s precisiely because I don’t want to spend days adjusting microphone placement, virtual or otherwise - I’m paying for someone else to have found the two or three good sounds that actually work so I can just use them)
So you may find that a good general purpose console EQ isn’t so good for ‘surgical’ problem solving and vice -versa, and that used to mean some difficult and expensive choices about which console to install / outboard gear to buy - we are fortunate that technology has now provided us with the ability to have many different ‘consoles’ - no need to book a different studio, just load up a different template.
Something like Mixbus gives you integration, but that strength is also probably its biggest weakness - you can’t split the processing out to other DAWs etc, and if you did, even via a plugin, you would immediately lose that integration making it just another plugin - its great to have all the controls right there waiting, but it means your DSP usage is significantly higher - less space for other tools you might need - sure you can switch off some processing if you want, but then you’re having to make the same workflow choices / interruptions as with other plugins…

All very valid comments and certainly some very useful tips in here. I would add though that gain problems can be avoided by tracking your signal as close to 0db upon input and using normalization techniques on your source audio before you even go into gain automation and plugins etc. Good signal to noise on raw input material to start with is a big plus. If the levels then are still not up to par, sure, automate, amplify … etc etc etc.

@Veda_Sticks: Adding to the original question, if you are used to working on consoles it is indeed so that you “listen” more to the sound as opposed to watch the number and little indicators flash across your screen. The number of people that look at a +1 clip on an indicator and start tweaking things even if they don’t sound anywhere “wrong” is amazing. I would like to argue that this makes something in Mixbus sound “better” faster, as you spend more time listening to what you’re doing, rather than contemplating your plugins etc how you would route them and so on, that work has been done for you to a simple extent, as a console provides it for you. But I would suppose that once you have established a good workflow in Ardour3 (EQ, tape sat, tube emulators and so on) and a host of suitable plugins to emulate the Mixbus layout you should be able to achieve similar results, granted its a bit more work but heyho. I normally save a few presets and pull up my favourites and go from there.