Review: Harrison Mixbus 2

It’s not hugely inaccurate to say that modern DAWs are pretty similar when it comes to feature sets. Sure, Live has its non linear sequencer, Cubase integrates VST3.5 to enable deeper connection to plugins, Logic has an infinitely adjustable macro environment, and so on and so forth, but the bricks and mortar tick list of things they do and how they do them is largely the same. Harrison see this and dare to be different; Mixbus aims to be a much more faithful representation of an analogue studio in a box.


REQUIREMENTS:

Mac OSX (10.4+) or Linux x32/x64

Version Reviewed: 2.0.2

 

PROS:
  • Good sound
  • Quick internal mixing workflow
CONS:
  • Difficult to set up
  • Doesn’t work well with MIDI
  • Editor weak compared to competition
Price at Review: $219Unfortunately the cons outweigh the pros for Mixbus 2, with clumsy interface and set up meaning that the good sound it’s capable of just doesn’t cut it.

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Before we start, an important distinction needs to be made; Mixbux IS a DAW, but in the most basic sense of the word. Compared to major competitors, which have added more and more MIDI sequencing functionality as years have gone by, Mixbus feels pretty stripped back without any bells or whistles. What you get with Mixbus is a multi track audio sequencer that’s been set up to emulate an analogue environment – virtual analogue mixer and all.

Right out of the gate, Mixbus has some obstacles to overcome before you can even use it for the first time. Compared to more or less every other piece of music software for the Mac that seamlessly integrates Core Audio and Core MIDI, having to install and configure Jack – a virtual audio patchbay – and MIDI Patchbay – one for MIDI – before you begin immediately counts against Mixbus.

there’s no doubt that having EQ and compression available on each channel strip allows for a very quick start to the mixing process

Harrison’s vision obviously extended further than simply developing their software as plugins and into the idea that the entire analgue experience is what makes mixing with their consoles special. We couldn’t help but see that as somewhat flawed though, considering that be that as it may Mixbus IS a digital solution no matter how much you skin the GUI to look like a traditional desk. What Harrison have tried to do is apply their knowledge of both workflow and sound quality tips and tricks to the DAW, and there’s no doubt that having EQ and compression available on each channel strip allows for a very quick start to the mixing process.

We tested the output of Mixbus against Logic 9, and found that an eight track sum, with all levels at flat, Logic sounds more transparent and true to the component tracks than Mixbus but Mixbus’s mix was slightly better composed in the bassiest areas of the session. Both sessions needed the master fader altering by the same amount to avoid going into the red, but Mixbus’s going into the red sounded, by design, a little easier on the ear.

We do like the way that throughout the signal chain the pseudo soft clipping and overloading is maintained throughout, and you can push levels into a hollow, distorted mess easily enough but will never hear the tell tale signs of digital clipping. Relying solely on your ears is a little strange at first, as sitting in front of a computer screen and mixing digitally has always come with a certain workflow, but it’s a method that those of you who’ve never gotten on with DAW mixing’s technical nature will likely find refreshing.

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