Pro Mixing: Modern Music Mixing with System 5 and Pro Tools

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing

In a recent article, I talked about how and why top TV and Film composers rely on the Avid System 5 hybrid-mixing console with Pro Tools HDX to efficiently deliver great sounding soundtracks. It probably doesn’t seem like a big stretch that an entirely digital console and integrated digital workstation can deliver very complex modern scores with orchestral elements and synth pre-records mixed in surround that inspires composers to say things like:

“Almost every major film and TV composer who has their own studio and is delivering big wide (stem) mixes…they’ve all got the S5. And there’s a reason…it’s got incredible amount of adaptability. It does what people in our position need it to do, which is: work fast, work steady and then give options to quickly spit out wide mixes. There’s no other piece of gear that does it better than S5.”

– Christopher Lennertz

But what about top producers/engineers mixing hit records? Mixing Hip Hop, R&B, Pop and Rock hits… Surely you must be talking about an analog console with a digital workstation or even a classic 2-inch analog tape machine, right? Some would say that the traditional large format analog consoles have some magic that happens in the circuits to produce that hit record recipe. Some have said that a digital console lacks that magic and it’s summing is sterile. But owners of the System 5 and the S5 Fusion would say otherwise…

“Some people will argue that vinyl sounds better than a CD. But that’s subjective… If you want to hear hiss and lack of high end (or warmth) – that’s your preference. But at the end of the day, if you start with full pristine frequency response of digital, you can go wherever you want from there. And that’s the beauty of it… Give me all of the quality and all of the frequencies. I’ll decide what I want to distort, I’ll decide what I want to pull in and pull out. And ultimately I will achieve that sound of 2” tape if I so choose and that’s where I need to take this record. You can get there almost in a better way…

With all the quality and flexibility you get with Pro Tools (and S5), you can take your mixes to other places and you have infinite possibilities. You can always go back to that world of distortion if you so choose. That’s to me is the most important thing. That’s why I will always stand by mixing in a digital environment.

Sure there’s other consoles – but I’m in a system where Pro Tools is talking to my console and vice versa… That alone gives me an advantage over everyone else out there that is just mixing with another console (without an S5) or just with Pro Tools. Those two things stacked together are like ‘I’ve got everything now’. The shear flexibility of the S5 is one of my favorite things…

– Noah “40” Shebib, producer, mixer, songwriter

Drake, Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Alicia Keys

There is nothing quite like this desk [S5 Fusion] in the world. What you can do on here daily surprises me… The sound of the console is undeniable, the punch and sound of the console is a very true thing. It’s different than (our older) SSL was, but in a lot of ways for me it’s better. We aren’t locked into one sound, which was a very particular sound and not so subtle where everything is going to have that element across your mix. What we’ve done is add a whole bunch of outboard options to add a little of that color if the client wants that… But the console has a distinct sound of it’s own, it brings it’s own characteristics to your music, but not so much in an intrusive way that forces itself upon you. Our clients really love it.

From a purely business point of view when we had the old analogue desk, our electric bill was incredibly high. The next month after we installed the S5 Fusion, the electric bill came and it was literally two thirds less than it had been the month before and the only thing that changed was the console.”

– Andrew Koss, owner/producer, Tainted Blue Studio; New York

“Being an analog man at heart, the System 5 convinced my soul to embrace the ultimate digital console. Its unprecedented flexibility with EUCON, its outstanding sonic performance, and its ease of use make the System 5 the perfect choice for our Studio 1.”

– Ronald Prent, creative director, Wisseloord Studios, Netherlands

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Marketing manager for Avid Post Audio and Pro Mixing, I am also a veteran engineer/recordist/editor. I've worked on music scores for dozens of feature films, including Ice Age, Collateral, and The Spirit.