Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
neo

Cabling A Mixing Desk To An Audio Interface for Recording and Mixing

21 posts in this topic

OK, so this will be my first studio mixer so I have no real idea what I'm doing really but I have some ideas.

The desk has 4 group outputs and the main stereo output. The Ultralite has 6 line inputs and 8 line outputs. I currently have no outboard processing so effects will be added in the box.

I was think of either:

1. cabling the 4 group and 2 stereo main inputs to the 6 inputs of the ultralight. Group 1 and 2 will be treated as mono outputs for kick and bass, 3 & 4 as stereo pair for percussion and the main outputs for synths and everything else - this way I can record up to 6 (2 mono, 2 stereo) sources at once. Speakers would be connected to the Ultralite.

2. Group 1-4 same as above, but running 2 outputs of the Ultralite to a stereo input of the mixer. Speakers would be connected to the main outputs of the mixer.

On top of this I would have a couple of the outputs of the Ultralite going to input channels of the mixer so that I can run samples and softsynths, etc. through the desk's EQ (and eventually outboard processing).

Essentially what I want (I think, unless someone can explain why it's not a good idea) is to write and mix using the desk, then record unaffected but EQ'd stems into Logic for editing/arranging and adding effects before sending the stems back through the mixer for summing to a stereo track.

What do other people do? Which of these 2 options is a better idea? Is there an even better 3rd option? Am I crazy to be going all hardware when all over the world people are moving in the opposite direction? Etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent conundrum! :)

Hey, can you post pics of the top / rear of the mixing desk, and maybe front / rear of your audio interface so I can get a visual of what's going on too?

Will get back to you re my thoughts...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK - one issue with what you're talking about for running the busses from the desk and the mains into the Motu - you're still going to end up mixing down inside the box. However, the motu virtual mixdown function is freakin' awesome for it and it's nice to know your way around CueMix so when you strip the studio down (e.g. travel or gig) you still know how to use the motu's internal functions.

Second issue - can you actually use the stereo mains as another buss group on the desk? If you can't, or you can't turn certain channels from running to the main outs off, then you're always going to get bleed into the mains from things you're sending to the groups. Being an '80s type desk, you should have that functionality... just double check. There'll be like an L-R button/switch per channel, just make sure when it's popped out, the channel doesn't get routed to the mains.

Third issue... make sure the busses don't actually default to the main L-R... otherwise you're back to square one and everything you send to the buss groups will end up going straight to main anyway, defeating using it. Again, should be a button/switch to select. Again... a lot of the older '80's desks are popular as foldback desks for the very reason that you can route the busses without going to the main outs.

Consider how many VSTi's you use. You might find it's actually more use to you to have multiple stereo outs from the motu go to multiple stereo ins on the desk. I run all 8 outs of my motu into channels on my desk for that reason. You can take advantage of the great EQ'ing in your desk on individual instruments and WAV/MP3/Whatever files that way. Will give you the feel i think you're looking for with the desk :)

So, i like option one better - just check to see if you've got a studio or main output volume control. Make sure you run speakers from the desk directly no matter what, it offers much more excellent control over volume than the Motu can. If you have a main or studio out seperate to the main mix buss (the master out), use that for your speakers. My desk has both studio and a seperate master out, so i use the studio output for the monitors. Being an 8 buss desk, i route all 8 busses back to the Motu and use CueMix virtual mixdown output into my sequencer to mix down when required.

If you don't have the luxury of a studio out, then def option 2 is the way to go... and make sure you run multiple stereo outs from the Motu into your desk if you're using more than 2 VSTi's - you'll be amazed how much more hardware like it makes a VSTi.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

back.jpg

You can't really read the labels in the I/O but just quickly, the I/O for each module type is as follows from top to bottom:

From right to left:

10 x Mono Input = Mic XLR In, Line In, Insert, Direct Out

6 x Stereo Input = Input A L/R In, Input B L/R In

4 x Group Module = XLR Group Out (unbal), Tape/FX Return L/R In, Group Insert

Master Output Module = XLR L/R Out (bal), Mono Out (unbal), L/R Insert,  6 Aux Outs

Then below all that I have two extra stereo outputs, Tape L/R and Control Room L/R

All channels can route to either group 1-2, 3-4, or Mix which is the main L-R. I'm not 100% sure whether or not I can switch the group outputs in and out of the main mix, though. If not then I guess the main outputs can't be used as another group output.

The manual is here http://www.soundcraft.com/product_sheet.asp?product_id=36 but reading it, I'm not sure if it's saying I can or I can't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, do I need to take note of the XLR output pins? i.e. Which one is 'hot' - I've never used XLR cables before. To get the group and  L/R outputs into the Ultralite I only need unbalanced cables, yeah? i.e. XLR(f) - TS - they's only be a foot long. Balanced ones are like 5 times the price.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK... mixing desks 101 - Auxiliary outs are like an extra buss. You're Auxiliaries, if you look closely on the desk front panel where all the faders are, form an extra bunch of knobs below the EQ type bank, typically. These Auxiliaries are what you use to send signal to your aux outs. You're aux outs can then be sent to external effects or, in the case of live audio with only one desk, you might choose to use some of them to run foldback. Effectively, you're Aux's for a mixing desk within your desk. As per the manual, most useful for effects.

Looking in the manual... on pages 14 & 16... you have Mix, Aux 1-2, 3-4 buttons to select where the channel is routed. Ergo - you can use it as a 6 buss desk. The trick will be to turn the group channels off, stoping them from going to the main mix, but that should still allow them their individual outputs.

PFL = Pre Fade Listen. This will allow you to select individual channels and send them straight to either studio and/or headphones (depending how you've configed the desk) without fader control but typically post EQ. This allows you to tune in and specifically EQ certain things without having to mute the entire desk. Very useful both live and in the studio.

You'll probably need to ask on another forum, 'cause i can't see it in your manual, but are the Aux's pre or post fade? Some people like them post, i'm not one of them. Post fade means when you hit the fader, you also adjust the auxiliary. Makes them a nightmare for doing foldback and reduces control to effects units. Can make life easier as post fade means when you bump the level you also turn up/down the signal to an effects unit reducing it's level propotionally... but it pisses me off. IMO, if you can't remember your aux is up and you're trying to pull something out of the mix, your a freakin' idiot and smoked too much weed during the session.

It looks like the studio out on your desk mirrors the stereo master. This means you're back down to a 4 buss system unless you want to run your monitors directly from your Motu and use CueMix to control their volume. You're likely to find 4 groups/busses are more than enough, though. Typically, you'll only use the seperate in's when you're bouncing down in a live recording situation. I doubt you'll hit the limitation of only 4 busses until you have 4 musos in front of you playing live instruments. Not so bad with Midi - you just bounce the synths down in midi and play back whay you recorded later allowing you to single them out later and make individual waves if that's what tickles your fancy.

There's nothing 'special' about your XLR outs - they use pin 2 hot. There was a while where some companies, like Jands, where running pin 3 hot. Fark knows why... but they did and it was a mess. This desk obides by the 'standard', so you're sweet. Personally, i'd spend the extra dosh on some fully balanced cables. They'll fix a bunch of other issues for you, potentially, in the future. You've got a pretty girly there, treat her right and spend the money on some nice balanced leads, MK? :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I can definitely live with 4 busses. Which means I plug my monitors into the control room outs.

All of my other leads I use for instruments are balanced, it's just the XLR balanced leads (which I need for recording the group outputs and the main mix) are expensive, but I trust you that it's worth it. I don't plan on skimping, just wondered if they were necessary :)

Auxes 1 & 2 are pre-fade by default and 3, 4, 5, and 6 are post fade. I believe it's a jumper setting to adjust this. I won't actually really be using any of them until I get some outboard FX anyway, although I imagine they would be the ideal for sending a custom headphones mix to a vocalist, am I right? EDIT: I just realised maybe not as it would be a mono mix unless I used up 2 auxes.

Then again, I do have inputs in my Evolver and Machinedrum for routing sounds in through their filters and effects. Ooooooh I smell possibilities!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more thing, I cannot grasp what I might need a 1KHz oscillator for.

Thanks to Jester for all of your valuable informations! :-*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more thing, I cannot grasp what I might need a 1KHz oscillator for.

Test Tone... allows you to level-match all your gear, especially if you're using external effect chains. Hit the tone, tweak the levels to = 0dBu on the analogue VU meters on the various bits of gear it's running through (which might then correspond with, say, -12dBFS or -16dBFS or -18BFS on the digital DAW meters).

Confused? Does my head in a bit too.

The problem is there's a few variables on the standard, and even more variations of the same theme...

http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=5618129

I tend to work from the idea of 0dBu on my mixer = -16dBFS in my software. This means I can tweak around with levels at the mixer, then send them into the DAW at an optimum level. I find, with my gear at least, things sound so much nicer when I'm not hitting the AD converters at redline. Or perhaps it's because the DAW sums the lesser-hot audio clips better. Or perhaps it's all in my head?

But it all gets a bit confusing at the other end once something is summed, then smashed through a maximising limiter - or I just pop on a commercial CD - in the computer as it then comes back into the desk quite hot.

But hey, it works in theory. ;)

Jesters poured in a heap of great info so I won't add much more, only to ask, do you think you'll still mixdown via the desk?

Personally, my mixer is my glorified patcher and sketchpad. I use it to do rough hardware MIDI mixes, then use it to patch synths etc into the DAW, then it might be used for some more hardware synth noodlings while hearing the rest of the arrangement from the DAW, however, the final mix is always from audio recorded and mixed in the computer. So by this point, the mixer becomes an over-qualified volume control.

While I've considered mixdowns solely in the desk, all I see is a massive compromise as I only have 8 outs from DAW, and if I'm mixing true stereo stuff, then I'm only gonna have, say, 4 or 5 discrete channels available to mix. Stuff that, I reckon, when automation across 30+ channels in the DAW makes far more sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Auxes 1 & 2 are pre-fade by default and 3, 4, 5, and 6 are post fade. I believe it's a jumper setting to adjust this. I won't actually really be using any of them until I get some outboard FX anyway, although I imagine they would be the ideal for sending a custom headphones mix to a vocalist, am I right? EDIT: I just realised maybe not as it would be a mono mix unless I used up 2 auxes.

Why do you need stereo for monitoring foldback? Vocalist only has one voice. Guitar only has one amp/noise source... drummer is deaf anyway. Bass... well, we all know that it carries best in mono. Only synthpop key hero's require stereo. Mono is fine you just need to ensure you patch it through to L&R on the headphones. In a lot of cases, if you don't have very open headphones with, well, less than pro vocalists, you'll find it best to drop one of one of their ears so they can keep pitch properly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right right. Interesting stuff to consider. Thanks for your insights as well, Spectrum. Thanks again, Jester.

I guess I'd better wait till she arrives and see how she sounds before I think about it too much really. I think if I use Jester's idea of sending out 8 channels of samples/synths to the desk for warm up / pre-mix EQ then mixing in the box probably will yield a better result.

Thanks heaps for your input guys! Only 2 more days till she arrives ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Test Tone... allows you to level-match all your gear, especially if you're using external effect chains. Hit the tone, tweak the levels to = 0dBu on the analogue VU meters on the various bits of gear it's running through (which might then correspond with, say, -12dBFS or -16dBFS or -18BFS on the digital DAW meters).

Confused? Does my head in a bit too.

The problem is there's a few variables on the standard, and even more variations of the same theme...

http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=5618129

I tend to work from the idea of 0dBu on my mixer = -16dBFS in my software. This means I can tweak around with levels at the mixer, then send them into the DAW at an optimum level. I find, with my gear at least, things sound so much nicer when I'm not hitting the AD converters at redline. Or perhaps it's because the DAW sums the lesser-hot audio clips better. Or perhaps it's all in my head?

But it all gets a bit confusing at the other end once something is summed, then smashed through a maximising limiter - or I just pop on a commercial CD - in the computer as it then comes back into the desk quite hot.

But hey, it works in theory. ;)

Jesters poured in a heap of great info so I won't add much more, only to ask, do you think you'll still mixdown via the desk?

Personally, my mixer is my glorified patcher and sketchpad. I use it to do rough hardware MIDI mixes, then use it to patch synths etc into the DAW, then it might be used for some more hardware synth noodlings while hearing the rest of the arrangement from the DAW, however, the final mix is always from audio recorded and mixed in the computer. So by this point, the mixer becomes an over-qualified volume control.

While I've considered mixdowns solely in the desk, all I see is a massive compromise as I only have 8 outs from DAW, and if I'm mixing true stereo stuff, then I'm only gonna have, say, 4 or 5 discrete channels available to mix. Stuff that, I reckon, when automation across 30+ channels in the DAW makes far more sense.

if you had a desk that created nice artifacts you could bounce stems down for external mixing just to get "that sound".. but i don't think that a mackie is gonna do you any favours in that department

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^^^ Yeah very true, and another good reason why I never pursued the idea. The Mackie works fine as a clean way to route sounds about, but hardly brings anything exciting to the table.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was looking to do a similar thing, but its hard to find an 8bus console these days - or maybe im looking in the wrong places?

I'm always on the look out form an old analogue tascam desk (or any of those nice sounding desks from the 80's) but they all seem to be in land fill or just not for sale...

*continues to mix with mouse...*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i think one of pawn shops in chapel st had a tascam desk

if i have time tomorrow i can try n check

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Teac pro makes good products - like Akai Pro. They'd be the same or better quality as Tascam. Go check it out - $200 is still pretty cheap if it's in good nik and sounds OK.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Teac pro makes good products - like Akai Pro. They'd be the same or better quality as Tascam. Go check it out - $200 is still pretty cheap if it's in good nik and sounds OK.

Im after 8 bus, not 8 channel... wasnt implying anything about the quality of the desk it self ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0