Should I add a vintage analog mixer to my digital setup?

I have my old Allen & Heath GS3 mixing board sitting next to me, unused, there just as a talisman for the studio. When new it was a mid-range mixer, priced about like a lightly-used second-hand city car, dedicated to the then growing multitrack project studio.

The mixer could be stay connected both to sources (synthesizers, voice microphones, drum mics – you name them) and, at the same time, to the multitrack tape recorder. This one was typically eight tracks, the exact number of the busses in the mixer. But the count could go even higher, in particular with the then growing market of multitrack digital recorders (of which the Alesis ADAT was probably the most famous).

Pressing a switch would have reversed the audio signal path. So, there was a first phase in which you recorded audio sources, making a pre-mix that would have ended into a number or tracks lower than the available inputs; and a second phase, where you reversed the inputs, and could use the same internal equalizers and the connected dynamic processors and modulating effects to process the recorded tracks. These could then be mixed down to a stereo master, to its dedicated set of jacks.

Despite not being a high-end mixer, it had interesting audio qualities, with a fat sound and very musical (even if very limited) equalization filters. While not imparting that open sound typical of much more expensive mixers, its sound possessed in any case a three dimensional quality, sort of a liquid quality making the sound sources seem to be floating in space. Exhibiting a strong low-end, it was very much loved by indie rock and electronic dance producers.

Its construction is all TL072P and NE5532 opamps, good middle-range chips widely used in quality audio circuits. At the time, integrated circuits were considered of a lower quality, compared to the discrete circuits of the previous high-end consoles. Also, the lack of transformers on the inputs made this class of audio devices considered to sound flatter. As a concession to high-quality design, this mixer has discrete channel cards with a clean layout, made less expensive by attaching them to a single front plate instead of separate channel strips. It’s all metal frame, made to destroy things during transportation.

The heart of the beast

I’m wondering if using it as a summing board would make sense. Just eight channels from the audio interface, down to the stereo bus. Unity volume or the like. Digital technology has made great advancements in these years, but there is still something missing, that glossy patina that analog gears imparted to the sound. Often darker, less detailed, but with that hint of tasty saturation and real-life volume that seems to have gone lost with most digital gears.

Should I take the snakes out of the locker, and give a new life to this old chap?