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Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

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Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby The Silent Coup » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:54 am

Hi all,

I have a Soundtracs Megas 40/24/2 mixing console, which while i love dearly, have reluctantly decided to part company with it. This is due to having renovated and upgraded my control room, soffit mounting the speakers and thus losing some volume in the room. At approx. 1.8m long and about a meter deep, i think its just too big now!

However, I am loath to lose the enormous connectivity it provided, both with regard to input and buss output channels, and so am looking into options whereby something close to the numbers in the Megas can be retained.

I should also mention i have a MOTU 24io, which coincides nicely with the 24 buss channels on the desk, giving 24 track recording at 96khz. However, I would certainly consider selling this too in order to provide some additional flexibility if a digital only route were the best option.

With regard to usage, the board would quite often be filled up with outputs from a MOTU
24io, Alesis A6, and AKAI Z8 (all of which are greedy when it comes to channel hogging), as well as sundry other devices.

Additionally, 24 inputs from a stage box in the live room could account for a fair share of board space too when recording bands etc.

Taking all this into account, a new set up would require a minimum 24 input channels as well as buss outputs. While this seems a lot for smaller format mixers, I would not be averse to something like ADAT or such like as I am of the understanding these can provide large IO counts in a small footprint. However, I am open to any and all suggestions.

Having been stuck in an early 00s timeloop with regard to studio equipment developments, I am little blind as to what the best available options are today and so seek advice from the infinitely knowledgeable citizens of the SOS Forums!

Many thanks

Chris
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Jumpeyspyder » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:03 pm

I would probably look at a digital mixer

Behringer X32 would be my starting place

What kind of budget do you have ?
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:22 pm

+1, it is what I did. A full size X32 has 38 analogue inputs (plus USB replay) and 22 analogue outputs. It comes with 32x32 I/O over USB to a computer as standard.

If budgets allow you could replace the studio snake with an S16 or two and have all the I/O you could ever need.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby James Perrett » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:54 pm

Personally I'd take this in two stages...

I'd go for a digital link to the computer - something like ADAT which would be the cheapest but limited to 32 channels each way on a single interface (unless anyone knows anything bigger), MADI - up to 64 channels each way on a single link (but you can have multiple links) or Dante (not sure of the limits on this). RME make decent ADAT and MADI computer interfaces.

I would then look at pre-amps/convertors for each digital link standard. If you are used to a conventional mixing desk then the Audient ASP880 is one of the few that has the facilities you'd expect from desk mic inputs. These have ADAT outputs There are other cheaper options but, in my experience, once you go for an Audient you'll find the others frustrating. Focusrite have recently gone for the Dante route (although they also make preamps with ADAT outputs too). I'll leave suggestions for MADI equipped preamps/convertors to others.

If you only need line inputs then look at the Ferrofish range.

Going for a standardised digital link to the computer interface should help with longevity of the system as these standards change far less frequently than other computer standards (ADAT has been around for about 25 years). If your audio interface becomes unsupported you won't have to replace everything, just the interface itself.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby planetnine » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:05 pm

Dante if you can afford it, if only for its scalability and mix-and-match-ability.


>
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Sam Inglis » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:24 pm

For me the key question is how much hands-on control you need or want over routing, cue mixing and so on. A purely digital system can cater for an incredible range of different scenarios, especially if you take the Dante or AVB route, but you'd have to be willing to do a lot of setting up in software, rather than using knobs and faders and buttons. The great advantage of having a physical mixer is that you can set up cue mixes and so on much more quickly than is possible in software. Last time I looked there was also a serious lack of proper 'master section' devices with monitor control and talkback in Dante world, but that may have changed now.

At the studio I use most often, the control room was originally based around a Soundtracs console, but that has now been replaced with an Audient ASP8024. It is still, obviously, quite big, but smaller than the Soundtracs and incredibly flexible in terms of routing, with a ridiculous number of auxes. Definitely worth a look if you still feel that an analogue mixer is the best option for you.

If you do go for a digital console be warned that the X32 for example limits you to base sample rates and can't operate at 96kHz.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:45 pm

The Midas M32 spec allows for future firmware updates to implement 96kHz, and we are talking an order of magnitude cheaper than the proper 'Pro' options. If you have the budget though, as always, buying the best you can afford is never a bad idea.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:14 pm

Consider an Audient

perhaps a 24 channel 8024

the inline nature means you still have plenty of channels,
keep the familiarity of operational paradigm, most of the connectivity, and actually upgrade the sound....
and lower the noise floor.

i'd sooner shoot myself than put an X32 in place of a Megas

and shortly after doing so, so would you.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Zukan » Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:44 pm

^^^^ Yeah that.

Sountracs to Behringer = Angelina Jolie to Sonya from Eastenders.

If you have fundage then Rane might be a decent hybrid solution.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Wease » Wed Mar 14, 2018 9:30 pm

what do studio gnome and zukan think of the allen and heath qu range as a behringer alternative


i have a similar quandary to the OP see.....can see the benefits of digital mixer over mixer to converter route see.....what do you guys think??

love and respect
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:15 pm

I demoed the QU16 before buying into the Berry X32 range. It is very good but I couldn't hear any difference in sound (nor in the GLD or iLive in a live sound context). I am a fan of A&H but I doubt they are in the same league as the proper 'pro' kit like the above mentioned Audient 8024. Is the Qu better than X32? Not significantly IMO and the X32 is a good bit cheaper than the QU32 (though the latter has more faders, one per channel). Go and try both and see which one ticks the right boxes for you. If the budget is in the £2-2.5k rather than the £18k the Audient costs then that's where you are.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby James Perrett » Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:28 pm

The problem with all the small digital desks is the fact that you only have a limited number of controls. From my limited experience, the X32 works well but it is nothing like as immediate as working with a big analogue desk.

I have a live sound engineer friend who used to be a diehard analogue fan but he likes the Digico desks and the bigger Allen and Heath ones too. Only problem is that they're expensive and probably the same size as the Megas.

Personally, if I didn't already have a big desk, I'd just use the mixing built into the DAW with a control surface for a few faders and transport. I find that Reaper's display is more intuitive than a small digital mixer.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby The Silent Coup » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:44 am

Wow!

I was at a conference all day yesterday, so was quite amazed to see so many replies!

Thanks people!

Now to my responses:

@Jumpyspyder and @SamSpoons: Started my studio audio life with Behringer kit and, while for a time, feel it addresses a more starter/budget end. I may be wrong though! However, I certainly do fall into "budget" category.

I think id only get about £600-£800 for the Megas, and then another few hundred for the MOTU 24io if that were to go. A little extra top up would then give me a budget of about £1500 max. So no Audient or Midas I imagine.

James Perrett wrote:Personally I'd take this in two stages...

I'd go for a digital link to the computer - something like ADAT...MADI...Dante...

This was perhaps the path I was thinking of looking into initially. The studio co-owner spent some time in India setting up conference rooms, offices etc. with London Blu-Link hardware and is a big proponent of getting some of that in. Perhaps with some sort of touch screen interface rather than a mixer! Budgetary constraints may perhaps put a dampener on that though. Nonetheless, I will look into Ferrofish.

Sam Inglis wrote:For me the key question is how much hands-on control you need or want over routing, cue mixing and so on...

If you do go for a digital console be warned that the X32 for example limits you to base sample rates and can't operate at 96kHz.

Thanks for point the latter out, Sam. Good to know. I am definitely of the hands-on mindset; there is enough time spent looking at a DAW onscreen that the opportunity to do some playing in the "real world" is a nice thing.

James Perrett wrote:Personally, if I didn't already have a big desk, I'd just use the mixing built into the DAW with a control surface for a few faders and transport. I find that Reaper's display is more intuitive than a small digital mixer.

This was perhaps the most likely scenario I was considering. Do you have any recommendations on control surfaces? Ill have route around SOS archives too.

Thanks

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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Matt Houghton » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:56 am

How may inputs are you wanting to record at one time? Judging by what you've said about the budget, it sounds to me like what you need is either preamps plus a control surface, as discussed above, or a small console with 8-16 preamps and a patchbay — wire all your gear into the patchbay instead of the console, and patch it in when & where needed, and use the console for mic preamps and zero-latency cue mixes. You can pick up a lot of console second hand for £1k now!

If you go down the interface-and-no-desk route, then you could upgrade the interface as others have suggested. But as long as the drivers work with the computer/OS, there's no reason you can't add more I/O to your MOTU system. IIRC you can attach up to four 24IO boxes to that PCI/PCIe system (I used to run a pair of them). And you can pick up 24IO boxes for less than the Ferrofish units. The Ferrofishes are rather easier to integrate, as there's more space around the jacks (and the higher channel count ones use D-subs). But if you have the right looms to fit the 24IO, you could up your channel count to 48IO very affordably. That would leave you plenty for a smaller console of decent quality if you go second hand.

On the digital desk/controller option, the PreSonus StudioLive III series looks worth considering. Though it may be priced beyond your reach.
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby The Elf » Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:22 pm

I'm in a similar situation, as I need more I/O, but I don't want more bulk. I certainly don't have room for a mixer.

My investigations have lead me to consider a system based around a PCI MADI interface, coupled with an RME MADI/ADAT interface, and linked to a number of line-to-ADAT Creamware/Ferrofish interfaces.

This opens the door for a large number of line inputs, expandable as required.

I was a bit surprised that RME don't offer a Dante option yet, but I don't know how capable Dante is, and I also don't know quite how it works, so I'm a tad wary.

Just thought I'd share, because I've found it extremely difficult to understand the options. As soon as you start talking about MADI or Dante you enter a world of incomprehensible techno-speak, and trying to understand what each of the boxes does, and why you might need it, takes a lot of patient research!
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby ronmac » Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:53 pm

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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby The Silent Coup » Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:18 pm

Matt Houghton wrote:How may inputs are you wanting to record at one time?

Realistically, no more than 16 at any one time. I think we did push 20+ in a session but, at 96khz, our PC soon let us know that was a heavy burden! We make more use of the output side of the MOTU, usually maxing all 24 channels.

Matt Houghton wrote: If you go down the interface-and-no-desk route, then you could upgrade the interface as others have suggested...

Although i havent done a thorough research into the matter yet, one can end up buying a AD converter, ADAT or MADI PCI interface, controller, DA converter, associated gubbins... it ends up becoming quite pricey going down the all-digital route, not to mention prohibitively confusing, as Elf states too!

That said, my impression is this can allow for a lot more flexibility, potential I/O count etc., but then you run into the question of having all that Output but nothing to play around with it on! May as well just have a quality 2 in/2 out and do it all ITB.

Too many decisions!!! :headbang:

I think the 24io is a bit of a legacy product now a days. I havent checked their updates but imagine they are focused on shifting their new 24AI/AO (splitting the functionality of their predecessor into two equally expensive units. The crafty so-n-so's!)

One more question, do you know of any mixer controllers etc. that allow for selecting mixer "pages" of channel counts? e.g. 16 physical faders but "page" 1 controls 1-16 on DAW, "page" 2 = 17-32 etc. (a bit like the Soundcraft Si Expression mixers, which I had actually considered, having used one live)
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby The Elf » Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:30 pm

Yes, and I'll read it again - but strewth! I just make music!!! :headbang: :lol:
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby Matt Houghton » Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:37 pm

The Silent Coup wrote:That said, my impression is this can allow for a lot more flexibility, potential I/O count etc.

The Silent Coup wrote:I think the 24io is a bit of a legacy product now a days.

Two related issues here. Yes, it's a legacy product. But if it works and you're on a budget, it remains an option. There's nothing that offers more IO flexibility in your price bracket — you can have up to 4 x 24IO on one card for 96 ins and outs. The only issue is going to be keeping up with new OS and fitting legacy cards in newer computers.

The Silent Coup wrote:you run into the question of having all that Output but nothing to play around with it on! May as well just have a quality 2 in/2 out and do it all ITB.

Well, there's an option ;)

The Silent Coup wrote:One more question, do you know of any mixer controllers etc. that allow for selecting mixer "pages" of channel counts? e.g. 16 physical faders but "page" 1 controls 1-16 on DAW, "page" 2 = 17-32 etc. (a bit like the Soundcraft Si Expression mixers, which I had actually considered, having used one live)

Most of them do this. All those running on the Mackie MCU protocol do, for instance. A Mackie MCU is eight channels. An expander takes that to 16 channels. Another to 24. So you can scroll in banks of eight. Or 16. Or 24 respectively. PreSonus do a dedicated 16-channel controller all in one...
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Re: Advice on downsizing large mixer but retain I/O

Postby The Red Bladder » Thu Mar 15, 2018 6:12 pm

I will be facing a similar problem. We are building a new control room that will double as post-prod and editing for film and we have been using a 60-frame Amek with 5.1 and 7.1 mixing on every channel
Studio Support Gnome wrote:i'd sooner shoot myself than put an X32 in place of a Megas and shortly after doing so, so would you.
And in support of those wise words, may I say that despite the fact that our old desk takes up far too much real-estate for today's needs, it will be refurbished and recommissioned for its new role as the centre of activity in out post room.
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