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Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

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Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby Frank Rideau » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:01 am

I'd like to share an experience because I think it might be interesting to hear what you guys think about it.

I have a Soundcraft Signature MTK 12 channels. This is at the center of my studio set up. I use it as an audio interface, via multichannel USB connection. I love the set up I built with this, it's so efficient, I have all the channels permanently fed by different instruments, microphones, synths, outboard FX. I can use the mixer for live jams, multi-track recording, overdubbing, outboard FX processing, bouncing stems or mixes, tracking tape into the DAW, etc... All of these different configurations are very easy to switch from each others, sometimes just a matter of pressing the USB switch returns on the tracks and using already set in/out mapping templates in Reaper.

Recently the USB connection stopped working, things went broken, investigation pointed out to hardware problem, probably related to broken power supply.
Looking on the internet, I found this topic full of people with the exact same problem as me.
https://proforums.harman.com/soundcraft/discussion/125552/soundcraft-signature-22-mtk-usb-problem-please-help#latest
And there is 2 or 3 other similar topics. There is obviously something wrong with the mixer fabrication.

Suddenly, I felt very disappointed with the quality of the product. I have this device for about 3-4 years, got it new then. Now I realize that the weakest point of my studio set up was the USB connection between audio device and DAW, this very critical link by which everything will stop working if it goes broken. I am stuck dead in the middle of a project, no playback possible, no recording. Oh, yeah, I still have a mixer, but funny things seems to happen in the FX return as well. Not looking good.
Got in touch with the local distributor, they told me to bring it back to where I bought it to be shipped for repair.
But now I am kind of pissed that this happens, I find it to be a very difficult failure to accept. I might just sell it a very cheap price and move on to something else. I am facing 3 options.
1, Go through the repair process and keep this device, hope it's a very specific problem.
2. Because It was really efficient to me, stay with the USB multitrack configuration, but look for another product.
3. Move to another type of audio interface and forget about USB device, which when you think about it, is connected though this little shitty cable and wobbly USB port. The weakest link of your studio...

So from there, what would be your recommendation?

Cheers.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:23 am

What alternative to USB are you considering?

If your Soundcraft is still under warrantee and you need to be back up and running fast my inclination would be to buy an inexpensive USB* audio interface with the minimum channels to get the job done (which would probably serve as a mobile rig with a laptop as well as a backup in future) and get your Soundcraft repaired. But if out of warrantee then get a quote for the repair and balance the fact that you like the way the Soundcraft fits your workflow and the relative cost of changing to something else which lets you work in a similar way.

* There is not much wrong with USB TBH, the full sized B type connector fitted to most 'proper' kit is pretty robust and even the mini B is not bad and the interface is pretty reliable. If you have had a hardware failure that could happen with any of the alternatives too.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby Frank Rideau » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:46 am

I could indeed borrow another USB interface from a friend, that is what I will do to keep the project moving forward.

I always used USB devices, I am not an expert of the other alternatives. I even don't know if my PC motherboard has the thunderbolt port... I need to look.

I really liked the soundcraft. In fact I simply loved this mixer. But I hate HW problem with such a new device and the fact many other users seem to have the same problem. I am loosing confidence in the product.

Maybe I need to be reassure with the USB-type of interface. Yes, it's reliable. It just feel so cheap to plug that small cable in the USB port, not really like a sturdy XLR connector. But I guess you are right.

Thanks for all your guidance and wisdom.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:52 am

TBF XLR cables are designed for constant use on the road, the USB cable for fairly static situations so it's not surprising that one is more physically robust than the other. Do you think the failure is due to the cable or connector?
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby Frank Rideau » Fri Dec 13, 2019 2:03 am

No the failure is definitively hardware, but happen only when the USB is connected. Strange as it might sound, other users that got it repaired said it is related to the power supply.
But it's the USB connection who is triggering the fault. Remove the cable, and you have a working mixer without USB device. Put the cable on and then the mixer goes berzerk.
Check the link I posted, everyone is describing the same issue.
Cheers.

P.s I know the problem is not related to the weak looking cable. My comment was more a general feeling I always had about USB connection. I take your point as It might be a false impression.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby Arpangel » Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:20 am

Does your computer have a FireWire port? I've never used USB for audio, I had problems once and it put me off, I've used FireWire /Thunderbolt ever since.
My experience with the latest Soundcraft mixers has been disappointing, I had to return two of them, both failed (dead channels) within just a few weeks, I'm wondering if standards of construction, or quality control has dropped a bit. If that's true it's a shame, I've always liked Soundcraft mixers.
If you want to make a leap in quality, I'd check out the Midas Venice series, in a different league, but they are FireWire only.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby The Elf » Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:02 am

USB is woeful as a pro connection, but that's not what it is, or what it was ever meant to be. And the ridiculous number of different USB connection 'standards' has me fuming every time I have to find that one cable a piece of gear demands.

But USB is the best of a bad bunch, so you have to make it work. It really is that simple.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby James Perrett » Fri Dec 13, 2019 4:09 pm

I think you've probably been the victim of poor design decisions on Soundcraft's part for that particular piece of gear. While I've not used USB for audio for as long as I've used as I've used Firewire or PCI, it has always been easy to set up and reliable for the sort of thing that I do. I was very impressed with how easy it was to get an X32 mixer working with my laptop via USB and reliably recording 32 channels of audio for long periods of time.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby CS70 » Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:45 pm

I would inquiry with Soundcraft? For what I gather they are a respectable operation and if this is a generalized problem it may be a design issue (say it gets too warm near the chip) and at least they may advise about what to do. As much as a dealer can be good, a manufacturer like that often has pride in its products and may want to go the extra mile to keep a reasonable customer satisfied.
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby ef37a » Sat Dec 14, 2019 12:55 am

To just keep to the point about USB being a bit of a fragile connector? Well yes, compared to XLR but it is no worse than DIN or RCA , neither will survive a size 12 hoof.

However I am constantly surprised at how few people know of/think of the principle of the 'sacrificial connector'?

Where you have a piece of critical, expensive (like a $400 mixer!) device or piece of test gear. Don't plug straight into it. Use short USB extender cables. They can be got as short as 200mm. At the valuable kit end, cable tie the extension to something, use a cable tie adhesive pad if nothing else is handy.

Now you can connect/disconnect as often as you like, safe in the knowledge that you will not wear out the connector on the valuable, probably difficult to service, important gear.

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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby ceejay » Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:02 am

ef37a wrote:Don't plug straight into it. Use short USB extender cables.
Can't always do that. For example, I have an Alesis Q88 keyboard that won't work if you use anything longer than the short USB cable it comes with (or a powered USB hub).
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Re: Sharing an experience with USB based mixer audio device

Postby ef37a » Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:09 am

ceejay wrote:
ef37a wrote:Don't plug straight into it. Use short USB extender cables.
Can't always do that. For example, I have an Alesis Q88 keyboard that won't work if you use anything longer than the short USB cable it comes with (or a powered USB hub).

USB devices CAN be fussy about cables. NI say 3mtrs is the maximum recommended for my KA6 but I needed 5mtrs. One cable worked fine on one desktop but not on another. A second 5mtr cable, of better quality, worked fine on both.

Bottom line: Buy the best quality USB cables you can although I find any cheap **** works fine on most things 95% of the time!

In any case, if the Q88 works from a powered hub THAT becomes your sacrificial extension. Rather an expensive way to do it but, there y'go!

(Er? Would say "there is alway one innit!" but it is Christmas time so, Peace and Goodwill and all that swaddlin')

'Lindy' cables are of excellent quality and not silly money.

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