Funny thing about those old analog mixing desks: the VU meters gave really good visual feedback. Now you can add that to your modern DAW, for free.
In the latest “here’s free stuff because we want your e-mail address” play, Waves are giving away a handsome VU meter with simulated needle. And it’s not just some twee retro touch: the way these meters respond to audio signal is actually often easier to see.
Mixing is all about listening. But there’s no shame in giving your ears a little extra reinforcement. I’m actually very suspicious that metering is part of what’s to blame as people have trouble mixing on computers. You’ll hear comments like people moving from one DAW to another to improve how a mix “sounds” – which is peculiar, given most DAWs literally mix by adding together numbers, and most DAWs even share the same mix accuracy in terms of how those numbers represent. If you and a friend add two and two, one of your fours isn’t more awesome than the other one, so you get the point. (Also suspect: these very often involve Ableton Live, whose meters I find a bit hard to see, even after Live 9 refurbished them a bit.)
Now, of course, it’s (very) possible people just don’t know how to mix. But then, if you’re learning mixing, this kind of visual feedback may be even more useful to newcomers – and old-timers will appreciate its familiarity.
While we’re on the topic, you might also consider mixing down in the superb (and almost weirdly inexpensive) Harrison Mixbus, which includes lots of sonic and usability features from traditional consoles – metering included. It even runs on Linux.
In the meantime, though, have fun with turning back the clock for free with this: