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digital mixers and expanders - i'm confused...

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digital mixers and expanders - i'm confused...

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:09 am
by julio883
I apologize if part of my request is already present somewhere in the forum, I tried to find it, but I have not found it, and unfortunately I'm supposed to decide something soon.
The problem is this:
I would like to improve my system, which is based on:

RME FireFace 400, nEar 05 ESI;
1a partition XP 32
2a partition XP x64
Sonar 8

Someone told me that the component which I really need is a digital mixer, (Yamaha 01V96, Yamaha DM1000, Tascam dm3200) :
1) What is the main difference between them?
2) is the mLAN System present in all of them?
3) Is it true that a mixer such as these have so many good converters for each channel? If yes, is my new Fireface useless?

Others have told me that I can make a quantum leap with a good expander (YAMAHA MOTIF RACK XS), because it takes work away to the CPU (but then, the quad??), and it would sound better than the plugin I'm using ( Superior Drummer, Native Istruments, Trilogy, Virtual Bassist): but then, what's the use of a PC with a quad they advised me to buy few months ago?

I do not have a big budget, but I try not to throw away money, I'd rather get something good instead of all things, but inadequate:

should I go for a mixer, an expander or neither?

Thanks to all and please excuse the inconvenience.

Re: digital mixers and expanders - i'm confused...

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:17 am
by MarkOne
I really can't see the need for a mixer in your situation at all.

All your I/O is on the Fireface, and I can't see that a mixer, digital or otherwise is going to give you anything - Lots of people with mixers find them using them as glorified control room/monitor controllers.

I have a bunch of hardware keyboards and modules and still find the mixer a useful thing to have, but I'm not sure if I was starting again I'd bother.

As to a keyboard module/expander, there are camps that like hardware (I do, and like I said I have a bunch of hardware here, and love it) but looking at my current project, I'm using my NI B4, the Akoustik Pianos and a whole bunch of Arturia Moog, and a load of Apple instruments too, and very little is coming from the hardware, The Prophecy being a regular notable exception, so I don't actually need the modules. I would have thought with that spec PC you don't need to offload the instruments to a module for processor load reasons.

Re: digital mixers and expanders - i'm confused...

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:26 am
by Dave B
MarkOne wrote:I really can't see the need for a mixer in your situation at all.

+1 ... someone is trying to get you to part with cash for no good reason. The only reason might be if you have more additional synths / outboard to wire in than you have inputs on your soundcard ...

Re: digital mixers and expanders - i'm confused...

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:33 am
by The Elf
Welcome Julio! :D

It all depends on what you mean by ‘improve’.

Firstly, you do not *need* a ‘mixer’ per se.

If you want more inputs to your DAW, then a new audio interface (which might be a mixer with USB/Firewire connectivity) is one approach. You need to decide of those inputs which need to be line and which mic and how many of each. If you like your FF400 then a FF800 might be a familiar step up for you.

If, on the other hand, you have enough I/O, but want to improve the audio reaching your DAW then one approach would either be to upgrade your audio interface, or maybe add an input device, such as a pre-amp. You might also want to choose a pre-amp that can connect digitally to your Fireface 400 to bypass its own A/D converter. If you are using external instruments then maybe a DI box or two might be good option.

As to adding a Yamaha Motif… well, you could do worse, but do you want to go the hardware synth route? Yes, an external synth would avoid your PC having to generate sounds itself using a plug-in synth, but it doesn’t sound as if you’re struggling for processing anyway. Personally I would take this advice with a generous pinch of salt. At best you are not going to improve on Superior Drummer for your drum sounds.

It’s hard to comment until we understand what YOU want, as opposed to what someone seems to be trying to sell you. What sort of music do you make? Do you use mics? What can you not do that you’d like to do? What aspect of your sound do YOU feel needs improving?

Re: digital mixers and expanders - i'm confused...

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:18 pm
by julio883
Thank you.

I normally work alone, using a MIDI controller, a Rode NT1 mic.

My music is almost a British rock genre - drums, guits and bass (ac. piano, synths sometimes).

The fact is that I've been in a little home studio, and when I get back with my project saved in that studio with the same plugins, and mixdown the tracks, I see in wavelab a different dynamic, more compact, no peaks, as I always get in my mixdown... :frown:

...he uses Nuendo 3, but I don't think it could be the reason...
he uses a Yamaha DM1000, that's why I started to think that it can make a difference, so the shop man surely understand this... :)

don't know... maybe I am not using in the right way what I already have... if this is the case, can you pls point me in the right direction (main argument - tutorials) to improve my skills?

Thank you again

Re: digital mixers and expanders - i'm confused...

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:33 pm
by The Elf
The guy in the shop is trying to make money...

And forget about how the peaks *look*. What is more important is how your mixes *sound*. Can I assume that the mixes you have had done elsewhere sound more powerful? This is a familiar cry in these forums!

I think you just need to work on your mixing. The difference you are describing is unlikely to be about hardware/software – it is about controlling your mix, paying particular attention to EQ and dynamics. Once those skills start to come together you will realise that it is not about the hardware or software – it is about the ears and skills of the engineer.

It is worth searching in the SOS articles database for some of the many features on mixing, EQ, compression and the like. They will be a good starting point.

Keep your money in your pocket!