Fredenstein MixCubes (AES 2015 NYC PT.3)


I’m a big advocate of OTB and hybrid mixing, specifically for music. One of the big problems with using the automation in your DAW in conjunction with an analog mixer or summing box is the lack of automation after the analog outboard processing that is inserted into a channel or bus. Fredenstein, who is a great up and coming company (Hutch Hutchinson from ex-Manley fame is now working with them) has released the Mix Cube, which is a modular desktop system that is sold in groups of 8 channels, expandable up to 32 channels.

Part of the great news is that it apparently has automation via USB or MIDI. I asked Hutch on more about the automation and I’ve quoted him below along with the official press release description. Street prices: The Mix Cube with 8 Channels will be $1299, 16 Channels will be $1999, 24 Channels will be $2699 and for 32 Channels $3399.  -Nathan Eldred

Me: Hutch, can you tell us more about the automation?

Hutch: The Mix Cube is totally digital controlled analog, so all levels, pans, mutes, solo’s etc send and receive MIDI messages (or USB). You can even assign channels to groups via MIDI. If you adjust a screen control, it sends MIDI. If you have an appropriately configured MIDI controller, the Mix Cube will respond. If a DAW sends a MIDI message to set fader 27 to -11.5 dB, the Mix Cube will make that channel -11.5 dB and be ready for the next move. At AES we will plan to demonstrate it with a readily available low cost moving fader MIDI controller.

Presumably, one could insert a DAW in the path and record the MIDI stream, edit, punch in, etc while outputting the MIDI back to the controller and Mix Cube. It is like using a MIDI controller to write fader moves in the DAW, but in this case, the Mix Cube enables some or all of those faders to be in the analog realm. Kind of cool, if you want to insert some analog processing before the faders. And you don’t have to learn a new automation system or change your work flow very much at all.

Another goal was to keep the Mix Cube very clean and capable of vey high standards of performance. Rather than put in a one-size-fits-all color circuit, we understand that most engineers will use the Mix Cube to feed stereo compressors or processors chosen for the color they provide, and that choice may depend on the song. Maybe the new Louder than Liftoff box, maybe a pair of our F602’s for a vintage tube vibe, but probably you already have something that you like. Yes, very low noise, the S/N ratio is 104 dB with 32 channels and master all set for unity gain, with the reference signal just shy of clipping at +28 dBu.

That is pretty rare. +28 dBu is a few dB better than most gear and that number represents input, mix buss and output maximum levels, so yeah, headroom. Crosstalk is also extremely low plus the frequency and phase response is great, so the imaging tends to be pretty fine too. But sorry, no A/D or D/A in the Mix Cube. It is pure analog as far as audio is concerned. And no transformers or tubes either. I don’t think we could have fit them in if we wanted to.

Manufacturer’s press release is below:
The Fredenstein MIX CUBE is a compact answer to the question of mixing in the box or mixing out of the box with a solution born of thinking outside of the box.

The MIX CUBE is a high quality digital controlled analog mixer that can be configured as 8X2, 16X2, 24X2 or 32X2 while only needing about 6.3” (16cm) by 6”3 by 6.3” inches of desk space.

It features a front to back balanced audio path with a fully discrete output stage. The MIX CUBE can be thought of a remarkably compact, extreme performance, purist analog mixer for the digital age.

Each of the channels has gain control in ½ dB steps, pan, cut and solo. Any set of channels can be controlled by one of four fader groups. The master mix also has gain control, balance and cut. Presets can be easily saved and recalled.

The 4 Fader Groups provide a convenient way of controlling multiple channels. For example, one could assign 10 drum channels to Group 1, (indicated numerically below the channel and with a color change) and adjust the level or mute or solo just the drums. Also, in the Audio Menu, all channels can be increased or reduced by 3 dB or 10 dB steps. One can easily find the optimal level to drive the mix buss and outboard processors.

The MIX CUBE also has MIDI ports and a USB port to allow full remote control. For example, a low cost moving fader MIDI controller can provide a traditional tactile interface for the MIX CUBE. Alternatively, A DAW can control the MIX CUBE via MIDI or USB and provide a fully automated mix in the analog domain while the digital to analog converters operate at their optimum levels.

The MIX CUBE has a 4.3” 480×272 pixel full color TFT graphics display that clearly shows levels, pans, groups, etc. 3 Encoders and 3 buttons give the engineer quick access to any control.

The Mix Cube also has a built in peak output meter, with 64 segments from -44 to +20 dB. Naturally it is referenced to the professional +4 dBm standard, so the range is actually -40 to +24 dBu with an additional clip indicator at +28dBu.

Inputs are industry standard DSub 25’s and the outputs are XLR3.
Maximum Input / Output +28 dBu
Frequency Response -0.5 dB 10 Hz – 80 kHz
THD & N .006%
S/N Ratio (8 channels installed, all unity gain) 110 dB
S/N Ratio (32 channels installed, all unity gain) 104 dB
Crosstalk (adjacent channels panned L & R) 100 dB @ 1kHz, 83 dB @ 10kHz

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