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Multitracking using hardware

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Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:28 pm

Hey all.

So, a couple of months ago having decided to eschew DAWs for the immediacy, straightforwardness and relative simplicity of hardware, I bought a Tascam D32-SD. In a previous post somewhere I made the assertion that I was aware of its limitations. That's because I'm an idiot, because I really wasn't (aware, that is).

Great little machine but no MIDI. None. Zero. Zilch. Which makes it all but useless for me. Being me, I didn't sit down with it until the 'return and refund' time had elapsed so I'm stuck with it. Except I'm not, so I'm looking for something else (I'll sell it on, unused and boxed etc. for whatever I can get for it, no worries).

Which leaves me wondering what next. I really liked the look of the Tascam Model 24, but ... no MIDI. In fact, searching the manual for the word 'MIDI' returns exactly none, zero, zilch results. I know it's got USB on it, but there are no incidences of the word 'sync' in the manual (isn't it great we can search them fast these days!) either.

So sod Tascam. What the heck?

Therefore I'm looking for something else. My needs are simple. I have a room full of synthesizers and I want to record them, but I want to do so with the ability to sync them via MIDI (USB or DIN, I don't care).

I'm after a digital recorder that can do 24 track minimum, 32+ is better. I may need a new desk to go with it if it's a rackmount.

I have an A&H Qu16 desk, but it's digital outputs are rather lacking (AES and the proprietary snake-over-ethernet thing but no set of ADATs). I love it, but the lack of decent digital I/O means I may have to replace it with something else, in case that's worthy of note.

24-bit is nice, but frankly I've always been quite happy with 16 bit so I don't really care. I can hear the difference but it's a case of diminishing returns really and for my purposes I've usually got a hot signal so I can make use of most of the bits, apart from reverb tails.

Budget is flexible because I like pain. I'd be prepared to go up to 3k for a decent home setup and maybe a bit more if it was really worth it.

Any ideas?
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby James Perrett » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:25 pm

Real old fashioned multitracks don't have MIDI either. That's where SMPTE to MIDI convertors come in. Stripe on of your tracks with SMPTE timecode and then have everything else sync to it.
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:53 pm

James Perrett wrote:Real old fashioned multitracks don't have MIDI either. That's where SMPTE to MIDI convertors come in. Stripe on of your tracks with SMPTE timecode and then have everything else sync to it.

I used to do that in the early 90s with cassette multitrackers!

Call me Mr. Picky, but I'm rather expecting 2019 to not need me to do that, especially as my D2424 was syncing over MIDI nearly 2 decades ago ;)
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:36 pm

I haven't done much recording over the last few years (and virtually none that involved midi) but what I did I did on hardware for 8-10 years before returning ITB. I use Reaper on my old Mac Pro as a multitrack recorder and the X32 as the interface/mixer (and the occasional midi via USB). I went back to hardware all those years ago in them hope it would make me more productive but it didn't and my current system is just as straightforward and non-distracting as the hardware setup ever was. Procrastination is much more of a problem than ease of use or otherwise ever was.

TBH I always wished it was possible to record midi to a track on my digital multitrack recorder (which, I was amazed to find nobody made a box for) I always liked the idea of recording the performance rather than the audio a good idea for electronically generated sounds.
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:38 pm

I agree. I get that DAWs are simply amazing things, and if there was a hardware box with a video output that ran version X of Logic Pro (for example) in firmware I'd be all over it.

I understand that for many people simply not upgrading their computer works. It doesn't for me because of the security implications, not to mention the fact that computers are less stable than firmware. As we all know, at some random point suddenly a driver issue emerges, or something else goes awry and I'm simply not up for it any more. One thing you can say about dedicated hardware is that it's generally pretty stable, at least until you hook it up to a computer. I work with computers all the time, I program them for a living. I don't want one in my go-to-relax place, unless it's as easy to access and as stable as the embedded Linux in the Korg Kronos.

I was incredibly creative when I didn't have a computer, and I'm genuinely rediscovering that creativity in my nest of synths right now, the only thing I'm lacking is the ability to capture it effectively in an easy manner, which really involves some basic multi-tracking.

How hard can it be? Have we really 'progressed' to the point that the best way to achieve this is with 10+ year old hardware? Surely not!

Box. Sliders. Record button. DIN socket. There has to be something, somewhere. If, for example the Tascam Model 24 had a simple DIN for sync, job done. If the Tascam DP32-SD had a MIDI port, job done.

Have we really progressed to the point we can't do this any more with current firmware boxes? I refuse to believe it :)
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Chevytraveller » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:01 am

it's not a case of "it can't be done", certainly not from a technical point of view.. it's just that the two markets of hardware vs DAW have diverged to a point that manufacturers of hardware recorders only bother with USB sync because that is 90% of the market..
the 10% isn't worth the connector and development costs.

As far as solutions to your conundrum go, you are looking at some sort of striped track that can be read from an MTC generator or possibly a sequencer/sampler/recorder that can follow MTC/MIDI clock..
I can only think of a couple:

The Akai MPC Live and X..
These allow long samples/recordings which can be locked to the onboard sequencer and/or external clock (There are also rumours of a new Akai clip launching machine coming at NAMM in a couple of weeks)

The other machine capable of synced, long clip recording I can think of is the Synthstrom Deluge.. a curious little box that is ridiculously powerful and being updated regularly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyxhKQSSEKA

Don't be put off by the "sample" nature of these devices as they can record entire sections or even tracks of music

It's probably worth seeing what happens at NAMM as there is a bit of a DAWless wave driving product design at the moment..

hope this helps

:bouncy:
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:23 am

Some good food for thought there - thank you :thumbup:
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby nathanscribe » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:07 pm

If you didn't mind an older unit, the previous incarnation of those 24 and 32 track Tascams did have MIDI. I believe the first release was buggy but there was an update that solved that.
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:55 pm

Cheers .. yes, I did know that. Having given things some thought I'm going to wait and see what NAMM 2019 brings, if anything and dive into a much larger investigation into various options in the Spring.

I have plenty to be getting on with in the meantime, and may well go down the SMPTE route as a temporary working method, so it's not exactly a blocker right now :D
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby OneWorld » Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:39 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:Cheers .. yes, I did know that. Having given things some thought I'm going to wait and see what NAMM 2019 brings, if anything and dive into a much larger investigation into various options in the Spring.

I have plenty to be getting on with in the meantime, and may well go down the SMPTE route as a temporary working method, so it's not exactly a blocker right now :D

If it were not down to a few facilities lacking on a hardware recorder I would ditch the Daw quicker than the postman vanishing after knocking on the door, leaving a 'we tried to deliver a parcel but you not in' card in his/her wake.

I have used a Mackie HDR24 - grand machine and yes has MIDI

Akai DPS16 - ancient but reliable and a good egg, track count too small though, has MIDI

Yammy AW2400 - great machine but got fed up of forever changing layers - has MIDI. I could never quite get the sync working predictably

TASCAM DP24 - didn't like the effects, the short throw faders and I used MIDI over USB, I got it to sync (I think it can only work as slave?) but either way, the sync was unpredictable, the DP never seemed to 'remember' the settings

I see you have the A&H QU16, I am seriously considering the QU24, but note it only records either all 16 tracks or a stereo track, so would still need a PC to do multitrack recording

I am now considering the TASCAM Model 24, but have had bad experiences with TASCAM, you buy their swag and on a whim they discontinue the product and shut down any support etc

I feel instinctively there is a mixer/multitrack recorder/interface that has full length flying faders/MIDI/digital outs etc about to be rolled out by one of the manufacturers any day soon and the Model 24 was announced a short while ago at £999, but I am seeing them on eBaby at £829.00, the price can only go in one direction now (Unless Brexit sees the £1 have parity with the $1USD)
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jan 12, 2019 4:28 pm

OneWorld wrote:I see you have the A&H QU16, I am seriously considering the QU24, but note it only records either all 16 tracks or a stereo track, so would still need a PC to do multitrack recording

Yes, the Qu-Drive feature records 16 tracks plus the stereo mix as 17th and 18th tracks but you can't select a subset of tracks to record, nor can you punch in/out or overdub, and any unused channels record as silent uncompressed WAV files, so it's OK for realtime live recording but not very useful for studio work.

I've seen a number of nice looking multitrack recorders but again, they are for live work.

I think my 'dream' solution would be multiple ADATs or MADI interfaces on the Qu that would act as channel sends and tape returns, combined with a hardware rackmount 64-track recorder that supports MIDI sync options and works with SD cards or removable SSD drives and which offers basic editing features much like the Alesis HD24 or the Fostex D2424 did.

It would also be nice if the Qu had the ability to record automation as well, and sync that to MTC coming from the recorder (on a whim I just double checked the manual and it looks like it's nearly there - it can control faders over MIDI according to the docs, I'm going to look into that more as I might be able to make that work for me in the short term if I can do so by generating that MIDI information from my Squarp sequencer).

I'm going to continue searching over the coming months. Maybe I'll end up spending a LOT more money on something more in the 'professional hardware' category if it does the trick. Not something to rush into though, so I'll proceed cautiously and do my due diligence on whatever candidate products appear.

It would be lovely to see a re-emergence of hardware DAW alternatives, much like we saw over recent times with the re-emergence of analogue synths.
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 12, 2019 4:43 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:I think my 'dream' solution would be multiple ADATs...
Not if you'd ever done it - I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy!
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jan 12, 2019 5:02 pm

The Elf wrote:
Eddy Deegan wrote:I think my 'dream' solution would be multiple ADATs...
Not if you'd ever done it - I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy!

I'll stick that in the back of my head for later, thanks for the tip :tongue:

Out of curiousity, why is it so painful? I had visions of just plugging in the necessary connections, doing whatever config setup was required at both ends (sync, clocks, on/off settings, routings or whatever) and then forgetting about them forevermore. But I've never used ADAT so that was perhaps a naive expectation.
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 12, 2019 5:17 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:
The Elf wrote:
Eddy Deegan wrote:I think my 'dream' solution would be multiple ADATs...
Not if you'd ever done it - I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy!
I'll stick that in the back of my head for later, thanks for the tip :tongue:

Out of curiousity, why is it so painful? I had visions of just plugging in the necessary connections, doing whatever config setup was required at both ends (sync, clocks, on/off settings, routings or whatever) and then forgetting about them forevermore. But I've never used ADAT so that was perhaps a naive expectation.
Press 'Play' and sit and wait (and pray) for them to lock up - if they ever do. And NEVER split a stereo pair between machines. Once you've done a dozen overdubs you'll be wanting to throw them through the nearest window. :headbang:
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jan 12, 2019 5:43 pm

The Elf wrote:
Eddy Deegan wrote:
The Elf wrote:
Eddy Deegan wrote:I think my 'dream' solution would be multiple ADATs...
Not if you'd ever done it - I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy!
I'll stick that in the back of my head for later, thanks for the tip :tongue:

Out of curiousity, why is it so painful? I had visions of just plugging in the necessary connections, doing whatever config setup was required at both ends (sync, clocks, on/off settings, routings or whatever) and then forgetting about them forevermore. But I've never used ADAT so that was perhaps a naive expectation.
Press 'Play' and sit and wait (and pray) for them to lock up - if they ever do. And NEVER split a stereo pair between machines. Once you've done a dozen overdubs you'll be wanting to throw them through the nearest window. :headbang:

Ahh, sorry - I think we might have gotten confused! I meant using ADAT optical I/O to connect devices as opposed to an ADAT hardware recorder ;)
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 12, 2019 5:45 pm

Phew! I'm relieved! :lol: :headbang:
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Jan 12, 2019 5:51 pm

The Mackie HDR/SDR/MDR, Akai DR16 Pro, Alesis HD24, various Fostexs and, I'm sure, others I have forgotten can do the Digital Hard Disk Recorder with midi sync thing but all are old, potentially unreliable and use obsolete media. I still have my old SDR 24/96 in the rack and it uses IDE drives I've just fired it up and it seems to be working though............ I'm not sure how it would react to a SATA/IDE convertor and an SSD but I may try it (though many of the Amazon reviews suggest the cheap converters are unreliable).

Despite that if I could have both ADAT connectivity and USB in my X32 I would probably have the SDR set up and running but as that is impossible I guess it'll next get turned on in another 2 years.........
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 12, 2019 6:11 pm

I'll add another thought...

If you intend to get your material mixed elsewhere you need to consider how you will export your data. One client I work with has been using an old Alesis 24-track recorder (just upgraded him to a Zoom LiveTrak) and I've had to keep a Windows XP laptop with Firewire port to be able to transfer the audio data. Another client sends me CDs from an old Roland recorder that writes in a bespoke format - which again requires me to drag out the WinXP laptop with CD drive to run some conversion software.

Of course, this may not be of concern to you, but just thought I should mention it.
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:50 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:The Mackie HDR/SDR/MDR, Akai DR16 Pro, Alesis HD24, various Fostexs and, I'm sure, others I have forgotten can do the Digital Hard Disk Recorder with midi sync thing but all are old, potentially unreliable and use obsolete media.

Back in the day I got a 100GB IDE hard drive for my Fostex D series recorder. Worked fine but took two days to format ...

CC
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Re: Multitracking using hardware

Postby James Perrett » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:12 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:The Mackie HDR/SDR/MDR,

Weren't they just PC's with custom software? I'm fairly sure that the Iz Radar system was a PC too. There would be nothing to stop you configuring something like Reaper to work and appear like a hardware multitracker - you just have to resist the temptation to change things once you've set it up and keep it away from the Internet.
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