Basically, the 2-Bus is a 16 input x 2 output summing device intended to be used in conjunction with your DAW to supposedly add an analog sound quality to your two track mixes. The front panel sports two rows of eight buttons. Each section (button pairing) controls a pair of inputs (each of the input channels on the back are fixed in left-to-right stereo groupings): The Mono function puts the inputs in the center of the mix, while the +6 button boosts each pair by 6dB. On the back, the 2-Bus provides stereo, main, and monitor outs, which are controlled by a step-attenuated output knob with 10dB of overall range. If you need more inputs, the 2-Bus can link to additional 2-Buses, the 2-Bus LT, and the Dangerous Mixer.
My studio is pretty much 50/50 in its analog-to-digital gear ratio, making the 2-Bus a logical addition. Still, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wire it into my patch bay (I didn’t know if I wanted to buy it after the review loan period was up) or just hardwire it to the outs on my Pro Tools rig. I went with the former and I’m glad that I did, as doing so allowed me to use all my prized analog outboard gear along with the 2-Bus. For example, I could assign my main vocal and bass tracks to mono outputs 15 and 16 in Pro Tools, then insert a mono outboard compressor on the vocal, an EQ on the bass, and finally run into the 2-Bus, engaging the Mono function to put these tracks up the middle of the mix. Also, I could patch the main outputs of the 2-Bus into a stereo compressor and then back into Pro Tools (or a 1/2″ deck).
I decided to put the 2-Bus to the test on a project for which I had already created a bunch of stems. I ran the stems from my DDA console into the 2-Bus, but also left the signal on the console so I could A/B the outputs of each.
My first impression was that the 2-Bus was a lot quieter and that the stereo image was wider than that of my console. There was tons of headroom as well—about double what I would get from my console.
However, as a lot of you aren’t working on large format consoles, I decided to listen for differences between the 2-Bus and what I’d hear when just assigning Pro Tools tracks to stereo pairs. First, I mixed down one pass of a song with every out assigned to channels one and two on Pro Tools, and then took these outs and put them directly onto an Alesis MasterLink. Then, I made 8 stereo stem mixes—drums, bass, guitars (3), piano, vocals, and backing vocals—and patched each of these outs into the 2-Bus, using the step-attenuated output knob to set the level before sending the mix to the MasterLink.
Bottom line: The 2-Bus really showed its power. It didn’t color the sound, but it added a huge amount of width. This improvement in imaging made the mix sound not only bigger, but more “professional.”
I don’t feel that the 2-Bus colors the sound—so don’t run to this unit because you feel your mix needs to be warmed up. However, the difference in the stereo image of my mixes post-2-Bus (and the lower amount of noise generated compared to my console) is pretty staggering. Furthermore, comparing the end result of coming from only a stereo output of Pro Tools to routing my signals through the 2-Bus showed a marked difference in overall sound quality. Given that, I’d recommend giving the 2-Bus a spin if you’re an “in-the-box” mixer and think your digital mixes could use a little extra something. The 2-Bus isn’t a magic bullet—nothing is—but it sure helps.
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