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Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

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Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby dickiefunk » Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:26 pm

Hi guys,

I’m using a MOTU828es interface in my studio and have the following outboard :-

Warm TB12
Audient Mico (will eventually be replaced with an ASP800)
Klark Teknik KT-2a
Klark Teknik KT-76
Klark Teknik EQP-KT x2 (not here yet)

At the moment I have my TB12 running into the input of the KT-2a and then out to the 828es. The Mico is similarly connected with channel 1 > KT-76 > 828es. Channel 2 of the Mico goes straight into the 828es.

What I would like to achieve is to have everything connected in such a way that I can choose any preamp/compressor/eq combination via the 828es’s DSP mixer or Control Room in Cuba’s 10 without having to physically unplug and re-connect things manually. It is extremely difficult to do this in my small room and I would like a much more efficient workflow.

I spoke to a tech at MOTU and he said I need to have each piece of outboard connected like this

e.g. Warm TB12 output > MOTU input + MOTU output to TB12 input

Am I understanding this correctly? Also, are there any differences in audio quality/noise in connecting my hardware this way? Would it be better to use the MOTU DSP mixer or Cubase’s Control Room?
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby jaminem » Fri Jan 24, 2020 2:20 pm

The 'right' answer to this is get a patchbay.

I know you said you done want to reconnect things, but connecting the outputs to the top row normalised to the 828's inputs on the bottom row and vice versa (either with another patch bay or on a another set of 8 sockets on the same bay) means that your TB12 is say always routed to the input 1 so you won't need to 'patch' anything if you go straight in, but you can route the out of the TB12 the in of the KT-76 and then out back into the 828's input one if yow want to compress while tracking

Similarly normalise the out of the outboard to spare input and vice versa and set them up as external effects in Cubase, that way you can use as plugins during mixing and inserts in between pre-amp and outboard when tracking.

The Neutrik SYP is like £45 and makes this whole thing a doddle.

This is exactly how I have my studio set up.

Surely you can spare 1U? anything else is a compromise...
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby The Elf » Fri Jan 24, 2020 2:21 pm

Sounds like it's time for a patchbay...
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jan 24, 2020 3:49 pm

If you have a large enough interface with enough spare analogue line inputs and outputs, you can use it as a 'digital patchbay', and do all the signal routing between outboard hardware devices via the interface's mixer app or even the DAW itself.

Plenty of people do exactly that, and with the arguable advantage that different 'standard' outboard chain configurations can be stored as different DAW templates..

The most significant downside, though, is the relatively large number of A-D and D-A conversions that would be involved in any chain of outboard gear.

Consider, as an example, a chain of: Preamp > interface > Compressor > interface > EQ > interface. In that scenario, the recording signal chain comprises three A-Ds and two D-As...

Sound quality probably won't be an issue -- assuming you've set a sensible gain structure you're unlikely to have problems with noise and distortion etc from multiple conversions.

But you may well have problems with converter /interface latency and that could be rather significant if you want to monitor the output of the whole change as you perform. 5-10ms would be a realistic kind of figure in that scenario which is easily enough to make playing and especially singing start to become noticeable, uncomfortable, or even challenging.

So I'd concur with those above suggesting that a simple analogue patch-bay would actually be a better solution. Although arguably slightly less convenient (in that you can't instantly recall favourite patches), it would potentially be rather more practical.

The other alternative would be to invest in an analogue crosspoint router -- essentially, an active remote-controlled patchbay. These restore the advantage of being able to save and recall popular patches, they can be remote controlled which may be an extra convenience, and you never have to worry about dirty unreliable sockets! But are more expensive than many A-type patch-bays and often can only be controlled from a computer.

I use two in my own setup along with some traditional patch-bays. One is built into my Crookwood mastering console, and the other is a (now discontinued) SSL X-Patch. The latter do come up on the sales websites occasionally for bargain prices...
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby dickiefunk » Sat Jan 25, 2020 4:28 pm

Thanks yes I think a patchbay is the way to go. I hadn’t taken into account the increased latency! Will there be any increase in noise doing this?

On another note, I’ve just realised that the DSP mixer in the MOTU Audio Control mixer has modelled LA2a compressors and British EQ’s!? This should be worth checking out. Also, the 828ES has two inserts but am not sure if they would offer any advantage over using the connection method of my original post?
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 25, 2020 7:31 pm

dickiefunk wrote:Thanks yes I think a patchbay is the way to go. I hadn’t taken into account the increased latency! Will there be any increase in noise doing this?
Use decent (balanced wherever you can) cables and there's no need to expect any additional noise.

But plan, plan, PLAN your bay(s)! If you have to have any cables in the front of the bays to work 'normally' then you haven't got it right!
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby Watchmaker » Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:24 pm

That's why my bay's are simply moved terminals for the connectors on the hardware. I mean, simplicity is why. I have tried templates many times, but every project, nearly every sessions, is different so I'm patching anyway and I've boxed myself in on plumbing more than once!
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby dickiefunk » Sat Jan 25, 2020 9:54 pm

The Elf wrote:
dickiefunk wrote:Thanks yes I think a patchbay is the way to go. I hadn’t taken into account the increased latency! Will there be any increase in noise doing this?
Use decent (balanced wherever you can) cables and there's no need to expect any additional noise.

But plan, plan, PLAN your bay(s)! If you have to have any cables in the front of the bays to work 'normally' then you haven't got it right!

Thanks for this. Could you expand on this more please?
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:59 pm

The discussion and links in the thread below can hopefully shine some light:
https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=29562
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby dickiefunk » Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:02 am

The Elf wrote:The discussion and links in the thread below can hopefully shine some light:
https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=29562

Ok great thanks I’ll have a good read :thumbup:
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby dickiefunk » Sun Jan 26, 2020 8:23 am

Are there any affordable alternatives to the SSL X-Patch?
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby CS70 » Sun Jan 26, 2020 11:13 am

As a side thought, a lot depends on what you want to do with the outboard. If you don't plan to record entire bands and or lots of channels, a multi I/O interface can really do the ticket.

At the home studio I use a 10 I/O interface with an ADAT expander for at total of 18 mono I/O (since 2 outputs are to the monitor controller, it's 18 ins and 16 outs), routed with TotalMix (it's an RME).

I have two use cases: recording a single channel (vocal and guitar), two channels (vocal and guitars together, or multiple vocals or guitars); and mixing.

For the first case, I have a a couple of preamps attached, a LA- 610 followed by a Pultec clone inline, and another two channel Aphex 207D pre directly in the interface. I found that with the 610/pultec chain I can dial in a good base sound directly at recording, which needs only minor tweaks at mixing time. So they stay inline. The Aphex is a very clean amp when I want no color. Recording is only a matter of taking the XLRs with the right label and plug it into a microphone. There is no latency to speak of (and I am super-sensitive to it, so I'd know).

For the second case, the 610 has a line in also connected to the interface, so I can use it (and its optical compression section and the pultec after) and all the other outboard routing via TotalMix or even from the DAW directly - either as a track output recording to another track or a with the "external hardware" plugin. The only "price" is the little coloring that I get if I want to use the pultec but it passes thru the 610 circuitry.. but let's say like that, I don't use any hardware when I want perfect clarity ;-)

Switches and instruments inputs on the hardware front panel allow me to use the whole shebang with electric guitars directly should I chose to (but normally I just mic amps).

I did try originally a patchbay but it was much more of a hassle, taking rack (and room!) space and adding complication for nothing. The slight coloring I may get with the pultec and the optical section of the 610 is only nice and well worth the price. Whatever latency may be introduced by the D/A/D rounds is compensated by the DAW and I've never detected any particular signal degradation.

If I need to overdub a complex mix, I simply bounce it in a new project - which is way easier to me than go and plugging cables in and out.

Ymmv of course as a lot depends on what use you make of the hardware. Best of luck!
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby The Elf » Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:58 pm

dickiefunk wrote:Are there any affordable alternatives to the SSL X-Patch?
I would say it's overkill for what you're needing. Just go grab a Samson S-Patch, cable it up and go.
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Re: Best way to connect outboard preamps/compressors and EQ’s to interface

Postby Argiletonne » Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:39 am

I usually like to use cables, xlr permitting or 1/4 to xlr, or even 1/4 to 1/4.
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