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Integration of Outboard with DAW

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Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby paulsmusic » Wed Feb 24, 2021 1:11 pm

I have 2 x UAD Apollo 8 thunderbolt interfaces that I want to integrate with some outboard preamps and effects, and am trying to figure out the best way to integrate my outboard with my interfaces / DAW.

I have 2 x Warm EQs, 1 x WA-LA compressor, 1 x WA-76 compressor, 1 x SSL Fusion, 1 x Drawmer 1968 MkII, a UAD 4-710D preamp, and will be adding a Focusrite ISA 428. I also have a Ferrofish Pulse 16 (16 analogue I/O, and 16 ADAT I/O), and 2 x Samson S-Plus Patchbays.

I was thinking of connecting my outboard FX units, UAD 4-710D , and Focusrite ISA 428 to the Pulse 16 (via the patchbays), to leave the analogue I/O on my Apollo units free. I wondered if using the ADAT I/O for my outboard via the Pulse 16 would create latency (I'm using Cubase Pro which can measure latency when adding external effects, so this may not be an issue).

Suggestions for making the most of my set-up would be hugely appreciated!
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Feb 26, 2021 12:56 am

Yes, latency is inherent in sending and receiving a signal through analog gear from the digital domain. How bad it is all depends on how you plan to use it and how the signal path is constructed. Your buffer size will have a big impact.

For example, in Studio One v4.6, with a device block size of 64 samples, I get 7.27ms roundtrip (offset at 96 samples) from my ART PRO VLAII when run in stereo. At 2048 samples, I get 89.9ms with the same offset.

Assuming you're using the analog gear inline before the converters you won't have latency issues. i.e. mic pre>EQ>Compressor>Pulse. If you try setting them up as inserts, you may get away with it, depending on how the gear responds and what the stack looks like. Latency is not an issue when mixing so that'll free some things up.
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby James Perrett » Fri Feb 26, 2021 2:42 am

The Pulse 16 is unlikely to add much latency - you may find a millisecond or so discrepancy compared to the convertors in the Apollo but, as Paul says, the big latency is going to be in the driver buffers.
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby Mixedup » Fri Feb 26, 2021 7:55 am

The Apollo converters are (technically, at least) better than the Ferrofish ones. Not that I have any issue with my own Ferrofish ones. So I'm curious what it is you want to leave them free for!

Either way, I'd just wire it all up to the patchbays since you have them. That gives you the freedom to create longer signal paths without introducing latency (other than the one stage of D-A/A-D you need to access the outside world while mixing. You can set up the normalling so that you don't have to patch everything every time you want to access something. And this way you don't pass through multiple stages of A-D/D-A conversion just to use, say, a preamp/EQ/compressor combo.

One thing to check — I'm not sure if it's fixed yet (it wasn't in C10.5) but Cubase's external FX had difficulty compensating for latency with *some* (eg RME) interfaces when using ADAT expanders. It's to do with the relative latency of the onboard and ADAT converters and the way the interface reports (only a single) latency to the host's delay compensation system... and Cubase's inability to apply latency offset less than zero. No idea if this affects the UA/Ferrofish combo.
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby paulsmusic » Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:14 pm

Mixedup wrote:The Apollo converters are (technically, at least) better than the Ferrofish ones. Not that I have any issue with my own Ferrofish ones. So I'm curious what it is you want to leave them free for!

I want to leave the analogue inputs free on the Apollo for connecting mics / instruments. Thanks for the suggestions, I guess what I'm wanting to do is hook things up with the least amount of A/D and D/A conversion possible. Making good use of the patchbay seems the way to go...
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby paulsmusic » Sat Feb 27, 2021 9:07 am

Is it safe to have phantom power running through the patchbay? i.e. if I connect the inputs from the Apollo to the patchbay, could I connect a microphone to the patchbay with phantom power from the Apollo? And would this degrade the signal, as opposed to just connecting the mic straight into the Apollo?
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby CS70 » Sat Feb 27, 2021 12:08 pm

You can (with as XLR patchbay of course), but I wouldn't.. the risk of turning it on by mistake and sending it over to where it shouldn't be is too big to me. These days it makes sense to use outboard only if it's top shelf kit, and frying some line outs in that nice SSL Fusion isn't that appealing..
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Feb 27, 2021 12:28 pm

paulsmusic wrote:Is it safe to have phantom power running through the patchbay?

Assuming you're talking about type-A quarter-inch patchbays, the general rule is no, it's not safe. The inevitable shorting that goes on as a plug is inserted or removed can create quite significant voltage spikes when phantom is present on the lines, and that has been known to destroy both preamp input stages and microphone output stages (in mics with transformerless outputs).

There are ways of plugging mics via patchbays, but they usually involve isolating the phantom power from the bay, and providing power to the mic separately (often at the studio wall box). If you want to patch mics, do it with an XLR patchbay -- it's much safer!
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Re: Integration of Outboard with DAW

Postby paulsmusic » Sat Feb 27, 2021 1:39 pm

Great advice as usual - thanks guys!
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