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Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:42 pm

Hey all, my first post here, so I shall introduce myself briefly too.

I am Will Louch, a sound engineer in the UK, and currently post on FutureProducers.com Electrical.com, Johnlsayers.com. If I am not posting, I am working in the studio, reading or talking about music and technology in some way. Sad but true.

Now after that, this question is going to sound stupid, but I am starting up my own place, not so much for a business, but more for myself, and I have never had to work out the signal path in digital audio, well....ever. I am a tape head, and so this is all greek to me.

I am attempting to base my studio space around a DAW, and a soundcraft analogue desk. My question is, what interface do I require in order to record via my console to my DAW, with ideally all 24 channels being able to be recorded at one time (if required). I would ideally want to set levels and EQ with my console, and use UAD plugins if required from my DAW. Is there a solution for me to be able to do this?

Any helpful advice is much appreciated, and hello SOS world.


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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Mixedup » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:49 pm

Hi Will. Welcome to the forums.

Do you just need to record 24 tracks simultaneously, or do oyu need to send 24 tracks out of your computer, into the desk for processing and back again?

There are loads of boxes that will do what you want, but a little more info will help us fine-tune our recommendations.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:56 pm

Thanks for the speedy reply.

Ideally I am looking to be able to record up to 24 tracks simultaneously, purely for flexibility, I realise this amount of tracks will very very rarely need to be recorded at the same time, for my space anyway. So maybe 20 or 16 would be looked in to.

I would like to be able to send 24tracks to the console for processing and then back again. But this is more of a definite number.

Although adding an extra stage of ADC or DAC is just going to affect my fidelity, so maybe mixing in the box is an option. What options do I have?
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:05 pm

Welcome to the SOS Forums!
Most manufacturers tend to offer inputs and outputs in multiple of 8, so if you can manage with a maximum of sixteen simultaneous channels this should save you a chunk of cash.

However, if you definitely need 24 outputs for connection to an existing analogue mixing desk during mixdown then a 24-in/24-out is the most likely scenario. Are you sure you’ll get a benefit over mixing in the box though?

Personally my choice would be a 16-in/out audio interface and mixing in the box, unless my mixing desk were good enough to definitely add some ‘magic glue’ to improve my mixes beyond the degradation of passing each channel through a further stage of D/A and A/D


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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby The Elf » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:10 pm

The one piece of advice I always offer to these questions is for you to seriously consider whether you *need* a hardware mixer.

A lot will depend on what other gear you have, how many mic pre-amps you need, whether you have a mixer who’s sound you adore, etc, but don’t run ahead with the idea that a hardware mixer is a given. You can *choose* to have one, but it really isn’t a necessity any more. If you can lose the mixer then you’ll have more to spend on your audio interface, more space in your studio, and a system that can recall mixes much more easily.

As I said, it’s your choice, but it is a choice. I chose to lose the mixer and I’ve not regretted it for a moment.

I can record up to 24 simultaneous analogue tracks using my RME Fireface and a pair of Behringer ADA8000 interfaces, connected to the Fireface’s pair of ADAT ports.

Hope that helps in some way.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:13 pm

You raise a very good point I was concerned about with additional ADC DAC.

I guess the console wouldn't be required to mix on, would I be using it to set levels, and gain stage? Pres, channels to interface, to DAW?

The console certainly wont be worth the additional processing, so I think 16 channels may have to be the best case here, although what 24 channel options do I have?


Edit: post above, i was just thinking the same, do i actually require a console. Having 16 or 24 channels of mic pres could get pretty expensive though.

I do think that I would get a better quality recording using outboard pres rather than a console. Unless i already owned a Neve 51series or something, but this project is pretty much on a shoestring.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Steve Hill » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:24 pm

You don't say what your budget is but something like a Motu 24 i/o will give you 24 ins and outs at a mid-level budget (without using any ADAT stuff requiring different boxes to use them). But they are all line level inputs - you need mic pre-amps too, whether those on the console or other outboard boxes.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:31 pm

I was looking at that myself. Its description confused me, it said its a hard disc recorder interface, and i mix directly from it. Does that mean it am forced to use their software it coems with? oh digital, i really dont understand you.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby cfb4 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:43 pm

The MOTU stuff will work with any DAW software, or you can record with their software (Audiodesk, i think?). They also have this virtual console called Cuemix. It's basically for mixing cue sends for performers - and includes compreession, FX etc. Most interfaces c/w something like this - it's a way of avoiding 'performer patience' sapping latencies by the use of a DSP-created 'matrix mix' inside the interface. So you can dial up, say, some vocal with reverb and eq in the singers cans without sending the vocal monitor path in and out of the DAW. They still sing along to the tracks from the DAW, streaming from disk - but their vocal will be direct from the interface and blended in.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:23 pm

The MOTU definitely has to be line level inputs?

I was looking at a combination of two Focusrite octopre MKIIs in tandem with the MOTU 24I/O interface. This would provide me with 16 channels of mic pre, and thus 16 channels of line level to MOTU interface. With 8 channels to expand with for different sounding or coloured micpres at a later date, for specific sound requirements.

Does this make sense in terms of connecting and compatibility with out and ins? it is confusing me a lot, as you can probably tell. Do I require a wordclock? the MOTU suggests it has one, but where in the signal chain does it need to be?

As far as I can see I can tell, it goes like this.

Mic > Focusrite > MOTU > DAW.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Sam Inglis » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:42 pm

Will you be using this setup to record bands, or just individual instruments? If you need to provide multiple cue mixes and headphone feeds simultaneously then a mixing desk can still be valuable. You don't say what Soundcraft model you have, but most have pretty decent preamps in them, and I wouldn't have thought that moving to an Octopre or similar would represent a huge leap in preamp quality. Having the desk also allows you to EQ things on the way in, if that appeals.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:51 pm

I was planning on going through a Soundcraft LX7II, it isnt bought as yet, just an idea at this stage. I quite like the idea of no console and better pres, and it would actually be cheaper, but then you threw a spanner in the works with the headphone mixes.

Is there anyway to do that via the DAW or interface?

I would like to have the option of recording a couple of instruments at a time, say Drums and Bass at the same time, to really get the foundations tight, then overdubbing the rest. So headphone mixes would be a nice addition. Do I HAVE to have a console in the digital world to achieve this?
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Sam Inglis » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:01 pm

Not at all, you can do cue mixing in you DAW if running at low latency, and most interfaces will come with cue mixing software that runs at near-zero latency. Sorry, I thought you already had the desk and were trying to figure out how to build a studio around it. If you don't already have a desk then by all means consider the alternative. Or you could perhaps look into desks with built-in Firewire interfaces such as the Mackie Onyx range.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby The Elf » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:05 pm

Wlouch wrote:I was planning on going through a Soundcraft LX7II, it isnt bought as yet, just an idea at this stage. I quite like the idea of no console and better pres, and it would actually be cheaper, but then you threw a spanner in the works with the headphone mixes.

Is there anyway to do that via the DAW or interface
Yes – you can just use a send in a DAW exactly the same way as you would on a hardware mixer. However, many Audio Interfaces allow you to create submixes in their own mixing application (which sits in front of your recording software) and this is often the better option, since it avoids any latency going through the software. This is the way I do it.

Wlouch wrote:I would like to have the option of recording a couple of instruments at a time, say Drums and Bass at the same time, to really get the foundations tight, then overdubbing the rest. So headphone mixes would be a nice addition. Do I HAVE to have a console in the digital world to achieve this?
No you don’t, but you can have one if you prefer it.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:16 pm

I am pretty sure I want to be console-less then. Unless I inherit something amazing, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable setup/operation to me.


In terms of specs and connections, does this word

Mics > 2x Focusrite Octopres > Wallbox > MOTU interface > DAW.

Being able to send out headphone mixes from my MOTU via wallbox. Correct?

Thank you all for the speedy help so far, really appreciate it.

I am a digital douche
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Steve Hill » Tue Aug 03, 2010 5:28 pm

Yep, that will work. Don't forget the Motu is not a headphone amp though. You'll need to connect one or more pairs of its outputs up to a headphone amp of some sort.

Some headphone amps have extra inputs so performers can dial up "more me" - and thus require more than two channels of inputs.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Tue Aug 03, 2010 5:38 pm

excellent news.

Im regards to headphone amps, as much as i dislike Behringer, they seem to do a cheap one, does it really matter on the quality of the headphone amp? as i feel i need to spend elsewhere a lot more importantly, i can always upgrade if need be at a later date.

I do also know that good headphone mixes are really important for good recordings, but that is more me than the amp. But its not priority piece of kit in terms of starting out is it?
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Mixedup » Tue Aug 03, 2010 6:59 pm

All good advice so far... though it might also be worth having a read of my recent Hybrid Systems article, which discusses some of this stuff at more length.

Actually, though it can be cumbersome compared with modern systems, working with a (second hand) console can be an economical way of getting a good rack of preamps, and you get al the cue-mixxing and monitor control you need thrown in.

Martin's partially right about the multiples of 8 rule, though there are plenty of interfaces that offer 10 ins and outs, and then can be increased in multiples of 8 via ADAT. FWIW, I'm running an RME Fireface 800, which gives 10 ins and outs, and a Creamware/Sonic Core A16 Ultra, which adds another 16 line level IO and it works nicely. I used to use the MOTU 24IO system, which was reasonable quality-wise, though I found it badly designed, so that the connectors on the rear couldn't accommodate decent-quality jack connectors — something the A16 Ultra gets around by off-setting the two rows of jacks.

But if you're happy mixing in the box, and just need mic pres for tracking, I'd second the recommendation of getting an interface and a couple of expansion units. No point paying through the nose for all of it though: just get a soundcard with decent preamps, one ADAT expander with 8 nice pres, and add a couple of Behringer ADA8000s. They're very good despite the name on the box, and you have to pay quite a bit to get much improvement. Just make sure you but your critical tracks through your better preamps, and the rest through the ADA8000 and you'll be fine.

Alternatively, when you add all this up, a mixer with built in audio interface — like the Allen & Heath ZED R16 — begins to look VERY tempting!
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:13 am

^^Noted. You are not the first person to mention about the MOTU being far from excellent. RME was recommended by them as well.

So I have been looking in to RME PCIe Audio Interfaces, ideally so I can connect my Pres via ADAT inputs, straight to the RME.

If for example I got two of those Behringer 8 channel pres, can i connect them together to essentially become one larger 16ch mic pre, so there wouldnt be latency between the two going to my RME interface.

I assume my sound card will then output whatever is fed in to the RME via the pres ADAT links?

How do ADAT audi interfaces work with headphone mixes? ADAT compatible headphone amp i presume? or like the MOTU does the RME interface have software dedicated to do this?
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby . . . Delete This User . . . » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:30 am

Mixedup wrote: I used to use the MOTU 24IO system, which was reasonable quality-wise, though I found it badly designed, so that the connectors on the rear couldn't accommodate decent-quality jack connectors — something the A16 Ultra gets around by off-setting the two rows of jacks.

neutrik now make somewhat slimmer series of jack plugs...

the issue is not just found on the 24 i/o My RME ADI8 Pro also, and assorted other interfaces, including some from Digidesign, other MOTU units, Focusrite, and several other manufacturers.....

switchcraft plugs on the other hand never had this problem.... yet are still good quality connectors.....


So, unfortunate design choices on the part of manufacturers of interfaces and plugs maybe, but not bad design per se. ....

besides, if you want 48 sockets + wordclock in a 1U space, then you're going to be tightly packed.... the A16 gets around it by being twice the size ....
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby The Elf » Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:58 am

Wlouch wrote:How do ADAT audi interfaces work with headphone mixes? ADAT compatible headphone amp i presume?
No. You just plug a couple of spare analogue outputs from the ADAT interfaces into a normal amp input. The ADAT connection is only between the Audio Interface and the ADAT interface(s). After that it's analogue all the way.
PC<=>Audio Interface<=>ADAT pre<=>analogue equipment.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby grab » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:22 am

FWIW, my old Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 will happily drive headphones from the line-outs. OK, maybe not happily, but certainly good enough for a singer's monitoring if they don't want them stupid loud.

Re ADAT outs, it's worth considering the old Focusrite Octopre LE (plus digital board) for expansion, or the new Octopre MkII Dynamic. Both of these by default will send the amplified mic ins to both the analogue outs and the ADAT outs - but you can also tell them to drive the analogue outs from the ADAT ins instead. So an extra 8 line outs for your interface, basically. Alternatively you could buy a Behringer ADA8000 which also does the same trick, but if you're planning on buying an Octopre anyway then it might be cheaper to upgrade to the Dynamic than to get an extra ADA8000. It also gives you per-channel compressors on those Octopre ins, in the (unlikely in the studio) event you need them. Or a second-hand Octopre LE will come in a fair bit cheaper than a new Octopre MkII (Octopre LEs are currently going for around £200 on eBay) and Paul White's SoS review said the preamps are identical, so scoring one of those would be good bang for the buck.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby James Perrett » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:26 am

I've decided that ADAT is my universal computer connection standard. It allows me to use the same mic preamps with my portable laptop setup as with my studio setup. ADAT also has the bonus of electrical isolation so that my audio gear isn't affected by any ground loop problems from the computer.

The Behringer ADA8000's are excellent value for money if you are happy working at 44.1 or 48kHz sampling rates. There are a whole host of alternatives moving up market - the Audient ASP008 is on my shopping list once I've paid for my studio build.

Cheers

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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:37 pm

Well I have to be working at 48khz sampling rate maximum if I want to be using ADAT as a connection. Although supposedly the OCTOpre ADAT add on also comes with two cables so you can work at higher bitrates if you require, so you can feed the other devices with the extra sampling information.

In regards to plugging a headphone set in to the pre outputs. Surely I am unable to get a headphone mix that way, it would only be the single channel you are plugging in to?

again some great advice. I looked in to the Audient, but yeah, its out of my price range, although it does look and sound amazing.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby The Elf » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:50 pm

Wlouch wrote:In regards to plugging a headphone set in to the pre outputs. Surely I am unable to get a headphone mix that way, it would only be the single channel you are plugging in to?
You just send a sub-mix to any output, either from your DAW (using a send on each channel), and/or from the AI’s mixer application – I know RME’s TotalMix can do this, but I can’t comment on others.

For example, I designate my ADAT 15+16 outputs as my artist foldback. I create a pre-fade Aux Send from Cubase, create the mix and send it to outputs ADAT 15+16. In this way I can create an artist mix of the already recorded tracks. For the artist’s live signal I use TotalMix to also mix in the incoming microphone signal back to ADAT 15+16 too.

Like many things technical, this is all far easier to see in practice than it is to read!
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:28 pm

Thanks. That made perfect sense. I know what you mean about reading it, and then doing it, much much easier to see someone doing it whilst they explain. But I am pretty sure I fully understood that.

I have decided to go without a console.

My current winners are:

RME HDSPe RayDAT 24 Bit/96 kHz 66-Channel ADAT PCI Express Card (4 ADAT lightpipe channels)

2x Focusrite OctoPre w/ADAT - Possibly the Behringer option, although I heard some A/B tests with them earlier and wasnt hugely impressed. Admittedly they were being compared to Pro Tools pres, but still...

Drawmer M-Clock Lite AES Grade 1 Master Clock (to keep all digital devices running smoothly)


If anyone knows of a better bang for buck word clock, then please do shout.

I also read the cabling for word clock i/o is hugely important, any standard or makes/models I should be looking at?

Thanks again.
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:35 pm

In addition, the OCTOpre having 6 of its 8 input on the back just seems stupid to me. Who wants to lean behind a rack unit to plug in cabling, i realise its a minor problem, but wow.

/rant mode off
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby The Elf » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:49 pm

Wlouch wrote:In addition, the OCTOpre having 6 of its 8 input on the back just seems stupid to me. Who wants to lean behind a rack unit to plug in cabling, i realise its a minor problem, but wow.
...and I hate the fact that my Behringer’s have their mic inputs on the front, since the cabling clutters the front of my rack. It looks ridiculous and the cables get in the way when I’m setting levels.

I’m sympathetic to having some line I/O on the front of a rack device, but personally I prefer it all round the back where it can be taken neatly up to the back of my patchbays. I never go round the back to plug in!
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Wlouch » Wed Aug 04, 2010 3:09 pm

haha fair enough. I much prefer plugging in to pres at the front, all subjective really.

It wont stop be buying them though.

Microphone stands, any heavy duty bargains about? Havent had to buy any since getting the studios Beyers, but i dont think i will be able to afford 10-14 of those this time around, as, well...its my money this time
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Re: Studio Schematics

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Aug 05, 2010 1:13 pm

Wlouch wrote:Well I have to be working at 48khz sampling rate maximum if I want to be using ADAT as a connection. Although supposedly the OCTOpre ADAT add on also comes with two cables so you can work at higher bitrates if you require, so you can feed the other devices with the extra sampling information.


Didn't notice anyone else responding to this, so here's some extra info just to make sure you understand ADAT limitations.

ADAT was originally designed to run eight simultaneous channels at 16-bit/48kHz only (the original Blackface ADAT recorder with its ADAT Type I format) although later generations supported both 44.1 and 48kHz sample rates and 20-bits (ADAT Type II).

Later on, Alesis revealed their ADAT/SMUX II format to enable 88.2 or 96kHz sample rates, using two of the ADAT channels for each of these 'high resolution' tracks, so if you want to use either of these sample rates you'll only get four channels down a single ADAT cable rather than the normal 8.

ADAT/SMUX IV appeared even later for 176.4 or 192kHz work, multiplexing four channels for each and resulting in just two channels down each ADAT cable.

In other words, if 48kHz is the highest sample rate you need to use then there's no channel restriction, but if you want to go higher you'll need more ADAT I/O ports to cope with the extra data.


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