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Mixing and multitracking of more than 8 channels
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear  
Author Mixing and multitracking of more than 8 channels
ch3oh
Hey folks,
this has probably been beaten to death as there are numerous discussions of similar things here. Or maybe it is precisely because of the sheer volume of information available. But I'm a bit stuck.

As I now have considerably more gear than I had a couple of years ago, I find myself in a situation where my mixing and recording arrangement becomes less and less convenient. At the moment, all my mixing is done in octatrack: modular feeds two of its inputs and the drum machine feeds another two. The stereo output then goes to my 4 input interface for the recording.

There are several limitations to this:
- no real way to multitrack. I want to record my jams into several stems, extract the good parts, properly mix and maybe (re)arrange them
- adding more synths to the equation is kind of pita since I either have to daisy-chain them on the way to octatrack or use remaining inputs on my sound card (and monitor through it, which brings another set of problems). To the point where they just sit in their boxes.
- EQing is limited as well since I can EQ 4 channels at most in the octatrack, and it is not all that immediate
- this mixing arrangement consumes octatrack inputs which I'd like to have available for sampling other sources

So I'm in the market to fix that.
I definitely need more audio interface channels and I very likely need a mixer for its immediacy as opposed to how I do this now or would do if I'd run everything straight into the DAW.
So far, I see several arrangements:

Motu 16A and Mackie 1642 VLZ4:
+ 16 Inputs on the interface
+ 16 channels on the mixer with 8 direct outs to the interface and additional outs via sends, inserts and subgroups
+ DC coupled outputs on the interface, and plenty of them — fewer chances I'll need ES-8 in the future
- the most expensive options of all
- some other options have even more input channels

Motu 8A + Behringer ADA8200 and Mackie 1642 VLZ4:
+ somewhat less expensive
+ Still has 8 DC-coupled outputs for me to use with modular
+ 8A itself is half the size of 16A, what makes it travel-friendlier
- I assume, that connecting both interfaces via ADAT will _just work_ (I'm on a mac), but as with anything this is another link in the system which may or may not work as expected

I don't care too much about ADC quality at this point since my music has a healthy dose of noise regardless.

Zoom LiveTrak L-20:
+ tons of input channels (20)
+ complete solution in one box
+ half as expensive compared to the first option
- only two stereo output channels from DAW and not DC coupled
- shall I want ES-8 I'd probably need to resort to aggregate devices to combine all the IO
- no one knob per function, but still an improvement over my current workflow
- may require attenuation for eurorack hot signals

These are not the only products out there, but these options seem to fit my requirements more or less.

What would be your thoughts? Am I missing something? What else I need to consider?
acidbob
Not a motu fanboy, but any good soundcard with at least two adat inputs and then you just get an ad converter (some has pots on the front) to add if you need more channels. If you need an analog mixer on top of that, well then you have to sum into that mixer, unless it has it own converter, and then i dont see why you couldnt just get a 16 ch digital mixer.

My setup is rme ufx+2x octamic
And a soundcraft efx12 on the side
BenA718
I am using a Focusrite OctoPre to expand the inputs of my 18i20 to 16, and an ADA 8200 to get 16 audio outs as well for mixing OTB. However, for synths, I tend to do 99% of my mixing ITB.

A couple of things I would recommend thinking about:

1. Get a patchbay. This will greatly simply your workflow, save wear and tear on your equipment, and help keep things neat.

2. To go this route you will need a LOT of cables; like, a LOT. So be aware of that hidden cost, calculate your needs, and buy everything you need up front. Hosa makes affordable 8 channel TRS snakes that work great for things like this.
ch3oh
Thanks

Is ADAT connectivity really just plug and play? Are all units with ADAT ports equally compatible? Just want to make sure, if I go this route, is there a chance of running into some compatibility issues? This is new to me, don't have experience with this type of connection yet.

I guess my main problem with digital mixers is the reduced number of controls with a single function. I get that there's a reason for that — flexibility. There are other upsides like scene recall too. Just not sure if I want to add a little bit more cognitive load in exchange for this flexibility. Yet.

Need to take a closer look at Allen & Heath Qu-16 — it seems to have decent amount of analog outputs and all 16 channels can be streamed to the DAW.
ch3oh
BenA718 wrote:
I am using a Focusrite OctoPre to expand the inputs of my 18i20 to 16, and an ADA 8200 to get 16 audio outs as well for mixing OTB. However, for synths, I tend to do 99% of my mixing ITB.

A couple of things I would recommend thinking about:

1. Get a patchbay. This will greatly simply your workflow, save wear and tear on your equipment, and help keep things neat.

2. To go this route you will need a LOT of cables; like, a LOT. So be aware of that hidden cost, calculate your needs, and buy everything you need up front. Hosa makes affordable 8 channel TRS snakes that work great for things like this.


Yeah, patch bay is on my list, just didn't want to inflate my initial post even further.

Cables though… that's a really good point! I ran into the same issue with my initial eurorack case.


In general, I envision the following workflow: I will have all or most my sound sources running into the mixer where I will get draft mix that sounds okay. Then separate channels of this mix will be recorded with interface into the DAW where the final mix will happen. This way I can stay OTB until I guet decent results and then push the remaining 20% to completion.
autopoiesis
EQing is about equally immediate on the L20 as on the octatrack and the multitracking taps each channel before EQ and fader. so your EQing and levels are only reflected in the mix out.

I use an L20 as mixer and audio interface, with euro signals attenuated going in via RYO Airtenuators, all inputs in use always, and I'm happy with it. but because of pre-fader & pre-EQ multitracking taps, its "mixer functions" during recording are really only useful for setting send levels and creating a mix that you could use as a reference for your subsequent ITB mixing of the recorded stems. but as an audio interface with a lot of inputs and actually a lot of aux sends (each of the 6 aux outputs is stereo so you can pan two sources out the same jack), that can double as a mixer for scenarios where you do only care about the final stereo sum, it's a pretty great deal IMO

also bearing in mind that with these 6-12 aux outputs and the mixing + audio interface all integrated, it would be not at all necessary to consider a patchbay if you went this route.
xonetacular
Allen heath qu 16/24/32
Just me
Roland VS-2480.
Dave Kendall
@ch3oh
Throwing you a curve ball here - have a look at a used Yamaha 01v96i. New, they may still be a bit pricey (I haven't checked recently), but can be had relatively cheap second-hand - that makes it a bargain, because You don't need a soundcard with it ! - just connect a single USB2 cable between the Mac and the desk and install yamaha/steinberg driver software. It was easy for a relative computer idiot like me to install, and I used mine on a Mac with no problems for years - the USB connection never glitched once.

* The USB2 connection handles 16 channels of up to 24-bit 96kHz audio in BOTH directions between the mixer and your DAW.
* In addition, there are 16 analogue inputs on the basic unexpanded model - the first 12 channels can be individually switched between Line and MIC, and there are two further stereo line inputs.
* As well as the analogue and USB inputs, there is an ADAT lightpipe pair, giving 8 inputs/outputs. Again, these are on the basic model.
* 4 onboard FX processors (2 in 96kHz mode)
* 4 freely assignable analogue outputs.
* SP/DIF in and out.
* MIDI in/out/thru DIN sockets and MIDI over USB.
* Has type II EQ - this is warm and musical and much better than the older type I like on the 02/r. Some people dislike yammy EQ, but I'm guessing many of them never switched the channels to type II - the channels default to type I! However, store a scene with every channel, aux send and buss set to type II EQ, and use that as a template - an easy workaround.
* Compressor and dynamics (gate, expander etc) on every channel, and on aux sends and buss outputs.
* 99 scene memories.
* 8 aux sends, each switchable pre or post fader and/or EQ.
* 8 busses or groups, which can be assigned to the stereo buss for subgrouping instruments for the final mix.
* Every input channel can be assigned to "direct out" if you like, so every input can be routed to a different track within your DAW. You can combine this with the busses if you want to sub-group instruments going to tape.
* Full suite of VCM plugins included as standard - Open Deck Tape simulator (awesome) Multiband Compressor, vintage EQ, 2 types of vintage compressor, a flanger and phaser, and REV X reverb. You can have up to 4 stereo or 4 dual mono VCM plugins simultaneously.
* Total recall of all settings. Level automation on each channel via MIDI.
* Freely copy / paste EQ, dynamics, or all channel settings from channel to channel.
* Flexible routing - you can route almost anything to anything else.
* Can act as a controller for pro-tools, cubase and others.
* Reliable. Yamahas are built well, and to last. Spares are also still easily available.
* Free editing software available ( I didn't bother with that )
* Fits in a 19" wide space.

I totally loved mine, and only retired it when getting a bigger desk.
Sure, it's not as "sexy" as more modern digital desks, and you need to RTFM smile but it's quiet, clean, sounds good, is very powerful, flexible and reliable, and is a lot of bang for the buck considering it acts as a 16-channel interface for the mac too, with just one cable.

Hope this helps. smile

P.S. - You can have more physical inputs than available channels, and can switch between the different types for different jobs, say, tracking and mixing.

So to summarise inputs for a basic model;

* 16 channels to/from the DAW via USB2
* 16 analogue input channels
* 4 stereo or dual mono internal FX returns.
* SP/DIF stereo input

That’s 38 inputs out of the maximum 40 input channels for a standard desk. Using an ADA 8200 hooked up to the built-in ADAT port would add another 8 analogue inputs (and outputs).

Adding a 16-channel card takes the total inputs up to 62, including the stereo onboard FX !

You can mix and match inputs on a per channel and per scene basis. smile
BenA718
ch3oh wrote:


In general, I envision the following workflow: I will have all or most my sound sources running into the mixer where I will get draft mix that sounds okay. Then separate channels of this mix will be recorded with interface into the DAW where the final mix will happen. This way I can stay OTB until I guet decent results and then push the remaining 20% to completion.

FOR DEMOS, I use the identical workflow but implemented slightly differently — I premix my modular using Sound Stage and then use a small mixer for combining the modular, external synths and guitar. A single aux goes to an RV-500 and I run wet and dry to two stereo pairs on my interface. This was designed around live use so my live setup is identical to my demo workflow, no brain rewiring required!

FOR TRACKING, I run each element into my interface independently.
Koekepan
Alongside the Zoom Livetrak, have you considered the Tascam Model 24? I seem to recall that offers a bunch of channels into the computer as well.
ch3oh
Lots of great suggestions and a ton of manuals ahead of me — thanks for that!

I guess the general consensus here is that in my case, a digital desk will be superior. This idea starts growing on me. So far, I was skimming through the manual for A&H Qu-16 and this thing looks impressive — very flexible. And still cheaper than AI + analog desk combo I referred to earlier.

Will need to read more about Tascam Model 24, Yamaha 01v96i.

Roland VS-2480 — seems to be discontinued and have a rather big footprint.

autopoiesis wrote:
EQing is about equally immediate on the L20 as on the octatrack and the multitracking taps each channel before EQ and fader. so your EQing and levels are only reflected in the mix out.

Octatrack EQing is a pain when you perform your music at the same time because it takes an indefinite number of steps to get to the EQ page depending on where you start. And this takes time and cognitive effort to do this every single time. At least with all these digital desks, the eq on every channel is a single press away.

Pre-EQ and fader direct out sounds less convenient to me in the aforementioned scenario. I get why it is useful for recording or mixing engineer, but since in my case it is the same person that makes sounds and records them, I always jump back and forth between bits of sound design and mixing until I get something decent. Pre-everything will throw away part of these efforts. Ideally, this should be configurable.

Quote:
each of the 6 aux outputs is stereo so you can pan two sources out the same jack


This is so cool. I knew about the trick of using monitor mixes that way but didn't realize the idea works the same way to just output more channels out of the desk.

Quote:
FOR DEMOS, I use the identical workflow but implemented slightly differently — I premix my modular using Sound Stage and then use a small mixer for combining the modular, external synths and guitar. A single aux goes to an RV-500 and I run wet and dry to two stereo pairs on my interface. This was designed around live use so my live setup is identical to my demo workflow, no brain rewiring required!


Pretty much identical to my current approach with my live project: summed modular mix goes into input C of the octatrack and 100% wet output of erbeverb goes into input D. Works for putting sounds together but has zero flexibility. Maybe the sound stage would have helped here, but i don't have it : (

One of the goals I want to achieve with the expansion being discussed is to understand my needs better in terms of the mixer (and mixing process) for live use. That's why I want to start with a bigger desk first and then determine the bare minimum I need to work efficiently and get decent results live.
Sinamsis
I have a couple thoughts on this topics...

First of all converters. Some people tell you all converters are the same past a certain point, others say this is absolutely false. Others mention it's not just converters, but the components that surround the converters in the signal chain. I have no clue. But I tried a Soundcraft MTK 22 for a while as my modular mixer/interface, and I can tell you with confidence that it was not as good as my other interfaces. It's not about introducing noise into the signal. It's about representing the frequency content of the source signal accurately.

Otherwise, ADAT ins and outs should work if the devices are capable of accepting ADAT input and output. You also need to consider how you will sync word clock. I have owned a Behringer ADA82000 in the past and it was decent. IMO I guess you could skimp a little on the ADDA, as that is an upgradable part, and the Behringer ADDAs are so cheap.

Otherwise, my workflow for the past several years has been to run everything into a dedicated channel on my interface. I've been using a Behringer X Touch for mixing for the past couple years. Otherwise, I just added a patchbay. Everything hits the patch bay before the interface, and all my outboard effects are connected to the patch bay, so I can insert anything into the signal chain as I'm recording. I also have some dedicated channels to send recorded stuff back and forth from the DAW. Personally I like this workflow.

To be honest, I don't know that you need to be able to track 64 channels at the same time (I have an Antelope Goliath and theoretically I could). I guess it depends on what you're doing. A large mixer and small ADDA might do it for a lot of folks.

Regardless, I would urge you to consider Universal Audio. I think their interfaces are awesome. I wish UAD offered an interface with the IO of the Goliath, I wouldn't have switched. The interfaces sound great to me. While they're not cheap, you certainly can get the older ones for a steal. I just sold my silver Apollo Duo to a fellow wiggler for a fraction of what I paid, and I just disconnected my other Apollo to prepare it for sale. PM me if you're interested. And while I know it sounds like I have vested interest in promoting UAD, I've been singing their praises for years and I will continue to for years. Their interfaces are super reliable. In your case, the one down side is that most, if not all, of their interfaces are not DC coupled. I think a lot of interfaces will lack this feature; it's a design principle. I forget the specific reasoning but essentially there is some concern regarding degrading audio quality somehow (haha this is a horrendous explanation, but the point is that it is a deliberate design choice and one commonly taken).
3hands
I’m running an MOTU 2408 running into a 16 channel mixer via a pair of Neutrik patch bays. It’s bombproof.

I can decide what I want to send into the DAW (I sequence externally) via three AUX sends, and can use the patch bay to select synths, samplers and drum machines and then route them through my external fx and then into Cubase. I also have an MOTU midi patch bay so I have everything active. It’s super easy (although it took forever to set up), and it really compliments my workflow. I’m able to get a lot more done and it’s nice to have everything available a patch cable away..
billyk419
Sinamsis wrote:
I have a couple thoughts on this topics...

First of all converters. Some people tell you all converters are the same past a certain point, others say this is absolutely false. Others mention it's not just converters, but the components that surround the converters in the signal chain. I have no clue. But I tried a Soundcraft MTK 22 for a while as my modular mixer/interface, and I can tell you with confidence that it was not as good as my other interfaces. It's not about introducing noise into the signal. It's about representing the frequency content of the source signal accurately.

Otherwise, ADAT ins and outs should work if the devices are capable of accepting ADAT input and output. You also need to consider how you will sync word clock. I have owned a Behringer ADA82000 in the past and it was decent. IMO I guess you could skimp a little on the ADDA, as that is an upgradable part, and the Behringer ADDAs are so cheap.

Otherwise, my workflow for the past several years has been to run everything into a dedicated channel on my interface. I've been using a Behringer X Touch for mixing for the past couple years. Otherwise, I just added a patchbay. Everything hits the patch bay before the interface, and all my outboard effects are connected to the patch bay, so I can insert anything into the signal chain as I'm recording. I also have some dedicated channels to send recorded stuff back and forth from the DAW. Personally I like this workflow.

To be honest, I don't know that you need to be able to track 64 channels at the same time (I have an Antelope Goliath and theoretically I could). I guess it depends on what you're doing. A large mixer and small ADDA might do it for a lot of folks.

Regardless, I would urge you to consider Universal Audio. I think their interfaces are awesome. I wish UAD offered an interface with the IO of the Goliath, I wouldn't have switched. The interfaces sound great to me. While they're not cheap, you certainly can get the older ones for a steal. I just sold my silver Apollo Duo to a fellow wiggler for a fraction of what I paid, and I just disconnected my other Apollo to prepare it for sale. PM me if you're interested. And while I know it sounds like I have vested interest in promoting UAD, I've been singing their praises for years and I will continue to for years. Their interfaces are super reliable. In your case, the one down side is that most, if not all, of their interfaces are not DC coupled. I think a lot of interfaces will lack this feature; it's a design principle. I forget the specific reasoning but essentially there is some concern regarding degrading audio quality somehow (haha this is a horrendous explanation, but the point is that it is a deliberate design choice and one commonly taken).


I'm a big fan of Universal Audio interfaces as well. I've had a number of different ones over the years and still run an Apollo 16 and 8 DUO cascaded in my studio now.

While the Silver Apollos are not DC-coupled, the black ones actually are now (although I'm not sure about the Apollo 16's). UA was at Knobcon a few years ago just to promote exactly this. I would assume this applies to the new TB3 interfaces as well.
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