More and more gear is touchscreen-enabled these days, which is great for many applications. There have also been several successful takes at tablet apps that function as touchscreen interfaces for DAWs; it’s just how a lot of people want to work today. But admit it - it feels like there’s something missing. The accuracy and real-time feedback of a physical knob on a mixer channel still just works. ART has always been about combining technology and practicality, and the Tube Mix audio interface brings mixers back - way back - to a time when they were finished in wood grain and were all about controls you could actually touch.
That there’s a truly old-school-vibed USB-capable audio interface out there is cool enough, but the ‘Tube’ in Tube Mix refers to a 12AX7 valve which can be shifted around to two different locations in the circuit. You can assign it to act as a dual channel tube mic preamp, or stack it and apply it to the instrument input for extra harmonic juice with guitar, bass or analogue synth. Tube Mix has two mic inputs, one high impedance instrument input, and two line inputs, which can all be used simultaneously. All input channels have a three-band EQ with 15dB of boost or cut at 12kHz, 2.5kHz and 80Hz, two aux sends, pan and level controls, while the high impedance instrument input has an amp simulation function as well.
The output section is equally versatile as it allows for a separate stereo monitor mix on the main bus while recording via the aux bus, or vice versa. There’s also a flexible control room/headphone section which allows routing to monitor the main mix plus a USB input and aux sends. There are VU meters to monitor the record level or the aux send level, too. It’s all very practically laid out - even the headphone output is on the user-facing edge of the unit so you won’t have cords draping all over your work surface. It’s funny if not downright annoying that so many devices overlook this. It has a very sturdy metal chassis too, so it really feels like something you could find in a grungy pub - y’know, the kind of mixer that has handled 40 years of abuse without a sweat.
Now, the way the tube is integrated in the signal chain means you won’t be able to use it to overdrive the preamp; it’s really there to warm up your tracks rather than be a substitute for a distortion box or anything like that. But it works beautifully on clean guitars (especially with the Amp Simulator engaged) and bass, and adds a lot of vibe to vocals. In fact, it’s hard to think of an application where it doesn’t add a little extra ‘something,’ and it certainly goes a long way towards putting some analogue atmosphere into digitally recorded tracks.
Hits and Misses
Very musical tube
Two aux sends per channel
Great build quality
No inbuilt effects