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iPad based mixing/recording/production recommendations
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author iPad based mixing/recording/production recommendations
mattsb
My small studio is currently made up of

- Rhodes
- Polysix
- Digitakt
- 4-6 voice Eurorack

I’m currently running it all into an EPM16 mixer, and use Eventide pedals as effects. I cant see myself getting much more gear on this front. Maybe 1 more voice. I have Ableton but I am not wedded to using it.

I want to get into recording for publishing onto Bandcamp for fun and to help get local gigs. I am not looking to make a career out of this. I dont expect to meticulously build pieces up one track at a time, this is more like multitrack record a performance and then mix it down.

Given space constraints and a desire to stay away from a mouse and keyboard during performance/recording I was thinking of using an iPad as the live mixing/recording control surface, and ditching the analog mixer. So: Auria, Cubasis ?? That I could then also use for the final mix ?

Another alternative is keep the mixer, get a Zoom H6 for recording and use Ableton for final mixing. This looks like the simplest/cheapest option, TBH although I was hoping for 8 inputs.

But for the iPad centric flow, I’m stuck finding a good USB interface that works well with an iPad, has enough inputs, at a reasonable price. The ideal choice looks like an RME UCX (barely enough inputs and $$) or UFX ($$$). Sub optimal choices are Presonus (quality?), Focusrite (no iPad mixing app), MOTU (Not enough inputs, no mixing app, browser interface reputedly laggy). Then there are options like RME babyface + another ADAT connected box for more A/Ds.

So I’m wondering if anyone else has optimized a computer-less workflow that can offer some advice to someone looking to get started. Or someone who has attempted it and decided we’re not there yet.
Koekepan
I created a hardware, DAWless studio.

(OK, technically my workstations are digital, so they are digital audio workstations, but I can record, mix and master something without a general purpose computer in sight.)

My first insight is that there are significant workflow advantages. You spend more time on making what you have groovy, than paddling through an ocean of possibilities. The question that you are asking seems best related to the question of recording the output and doing the final mix/master stage there, rather than full music production, but I'll try to talk about my findings.

It appears, from your initial comment, that your goal is to record a performance in one fell swoop, then perhaps do some twiddling afterwards. There are a few products that will allow for this approach without a computer, but if you want to be able to apply things like EQ in a mixdown, you probably have to compromise on input count - which mightn't bother you, if you have a sub-mixer at work, for example from your eurorack. On the other hand, if you don't care about your recorder doing a mixdown because it's all going to go into a computer at a later date on its way to Bandcamp, then a straightforward session recorder will do the trick.

So what are the big boys on each side?

In the red corner, we have session recorders. These are things like the Zoom L20, the Tascam Model 24 and their smaller brethren. Plug in a dozen channels or more, and hit record. You'll get the master bus, and all your individual channels pre compression and EQ. The workflow plan is to record all the things as well as your live master mix, then take it to a computer and go nuts with mixing and mastering - or just take the master bus as-is, maybe normalise it, and toss it up on bandcamp (or wherever). Direct editing on these puppies is largely limited to things like punch-in work.

In the blue corner, we have tools like Tascam's Portastudio (DP32-SD is the current top of the line), and the Zoom R24. They're both limited to 8 concurrent input channels, and are designed for overdubbing, multitracking, mixdowns and other functions directly on the hardware. My DP32-SD will do everything down to the final normalising, giving me a final .WAV file that I can then do whatever with. However, recording a whole session without submixers doing things can be challenging if you have more channels to input in one go than the multitrack recorder does.

I'm eyeballing your description here, and you say that you have two keyboards, one sequencer/synth and a eurorack setup. Assuming you get a stereo line from each one of them, you could record the whole enchilada on a multitrack recorder. But what with your talk of an iPad, it sounds as if you are happy doing that final work off the hardware, so you may actually be happier having more channels, and getting something like the Model 24 to do the recording, giving you more lines from several of your devices, as well as some external insert and send options.

With the benefit of experience, combined with the particulars of your situation, I would not use an iPad as your multitrack recorder. It's too much of a moving target, Apple has a bad habit of changing things under the feet of artists, and iPad software is often rather crippled compared to desktop options. My advice is to find a way to record your session as well as you can, and then mix/master afterwards. I don't regret my choice one iota, but it isn't the ideal match for you. For less money than some of the RME interfaces, I would suggest a Tascam Model 24, using it as a session recorder, and then take the SD card from that as your bridge to the world of mixing and mastering. During recording, work with the knobs and keys in front of you, and just forget the rest until you get around to it.

The other side of the equation is that the Model 24 also gives a direct USB line out, so that you can use it as an audio interface. I believe that Zoom's L20 will do a similar trick. At that point, why would you go to the RME? Whether this would play nicely with an iPad or not I can't say, but I'd try to keep the iPad out of this. The USB line means that you can use Ableton for your recording work if you want to - or not, as pleases you.

I hope that this helps. I researched this extensively before I put down my money, so I think that I can answer more questions.
mattsb
Wow. Thanks so much for all that. You have reminded me of options that I had considered and ignored.

To confirm your suspicions, yes I want to record raw maybe with some EQ and then do minor mixdown/mastering later. I had looked at the Tascam Model 24 and dismissed it as too big for me, but the idea was appealing and it has a higher track count than the smaller Zooms that I had considered. There is also the L20 and a smaller Tascam coming out. I hadnt looked at other “Portastudio” options, so I will look at those.

Since I’m recording “raw” I need an input each for the Rhodes and Polysix, a stereo pair for the Digitakt, and a track per voice (ideally) out of the Eurorack. 8 is tight but should do it.
Koekepan
You're very welcome.

I am going to give you a piece of advice that is all too often ignored.

You need more channels. You always need more channels. How many channels are enough? More than you have, and less than too many, and there is no such thing as too many channels.

What would you do with a hardware studio and more channels? All sorts of things. Every pair of channels turns into a stereo return for a subchannel, for example. Do you want to do cool things with an eventide pedal and the wet output? Give it its own channels! And so on, and so forth. If you can't think of what to do with more channels, that says more about you than about your hardware.

I suggest, for this reason, that you bite the bullet, and pick one of the L20 or Model 24 that suits you the best. The L20 actually has some really neat features that you may like. Then again, the Model 24 does as well.

So what am I thinking?

* Rhodes
* Polysix
** Digitakt
* Euro 1
* Euro 2
* Euro 3
* Euro 4
* Euro 5
* Euro 6

That's 10 already, out of 20 main inputs, ignoring the last couple that give you RCA connectors, and doesn't give you access to all three AUX buses.

So let's use three pairs for three AUX returns (assuming you don't want to use the internal effects system).

Now you're up to 16.

Add effects between the Polysix and the Rhodes and the mixer, making them each stereo, and you're up to 18.

Add, let's say, a Waldorf Blofeld, and that's two more.

They go fast, don't they?

I'd go L20, or Model 24, and suck up the size and cost. It's the smart decision, unless you have a Significant Other with a tight fist and an electrified cattleprod behind you.
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