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What recording interface should I buy?
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LawMan2012
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8th May 2012
Old 8th May 2012
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What recording interface should I buy?

I have a new iMac, Pro Tools 10 and am getting more into recording. My Mbox Mini 2 is not cutting it. Here's what I'm looking for, and if some of you more experience gear guys could comment on what I should buy, I'd really appreciate it:

1. More inputs and outputs (I want to be able to record a drum kit, so maybe 12?)

2. Decent preamps (I'm not ready to start buying preamps, so if a unit's preamps can get my by)

3. Midi capability (I want to plug my midi keyboard into it and dial up all kinds of samples, also want to plug my electronic drum kit into it and select a sound for each pad and be able to hear that through my monitors)

4. Front panel input plugs (I'm taking a pro tools class as local community college. They have Profire 2626 together with a Hosa rack unit that has spaces for inputs on the front panel. If I can skip needing the Hosa and just buy an interface that has front inputs, that would be great.)

5. Ability to have 4 simultaneous stereo headphone mixes. (I want 4 headphone outs, each stereo)


What should I buy? What should I not buy? I can spend up to $2,000.00. Thanks.
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8th May 2012
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Have you looked at RME UFX? Four solid preamps and converters, plus a low-latency DSP monitor matrix that should enable you to configure your four headphone outputs. The street price is slightly above your budget at about $2300. RME UCX is a lower cost alternative if two preamps and less i/o will work for you.

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8th May 2012
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Agree for RME, great brand, great converters...

Also, for less money, Focusrite and Motu both offers flexible firewire interfaces with 8 pre expansion...
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As others have said, you can't go wrong with RME. Best bang for buck IMO.
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8th May 2012
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+1 for RME. Well made and reliable. They pretty much sum up the definition of a "work horse" piece of gear.

for multiple headphone outputs though you'll need to get a headphone splitter box. If you want 4 headphone outs you'll need that no matter what interface you buy. Something like this: Rolls HA43 - 4 Output Stereo Headphone Amplifier HA43 PRO B&H
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LawMan2012
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11th May 2012
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I ended up buying the Universal Audio Apollo DUO on Sweetwater. But I am having some buyer's remorse now. I'm new to recording, and I'm not sure if my skills are high enough to fully utilize this gear. Also, I've realized I can get more mic pre's and inputs from other brands for a lower price. I originally thought the Apollo was loaded with plugins, but now I realize that you must buy the UAD plugins and they are not cheap.

I could return it directly to Sweetwater when I receive the package, or try it out.

I'm not a big fan of having to pay for plugins after I spend 2k on a unit. I'd rather buy a unit with an entire suite of mediocre plugins over buying a unit for the same price with good plugins that I have to continually pay for. Any recommendations for this? Does the RME UFX come with an entire suite of plugins?

Thoughts?
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11th May 2012
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RME UFX is the balls...
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11th May 2012
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no prob, lawman. several of us on the hilo thread have. he comes w/references you can talk to and, 500 saved is 500 to be slutty with on other needed gear
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11th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LawMan2012 View Post
I ended up buying the Universal Audio Apollo DUO on Sweetwater. But I am having some buyer's remorse now. I'm new to recording, and I'm not sure if my skills are high enough to fully utilize this gear. Also, I've realized I can get more mic pre's and inputs from other brands for a lower price. I originally thought the Apollo was loaded with plugins, but now I realize that you must buy the UAD plugins and they are not cheap.

I could return it directly to Sweetwater when I receive the package, or try it out.

I'm not a big fan of having to pay for plugins after I spend 2k on a unit. I'd rather buy a unit with an entire suite of mediocre plugins over buying a unit for the same price with good plugins that I have to continually pay for. Any recommendations for this? Does the RME UFX come with an entire suite of plugins?

Thoughts?
Most of the focsurite interfaces come with several focusrite vst plugins, not a whole lot of them, but they have some nice ones. I know that the Saffires and the scarlett units come with them, becuase I have the liquid saffire 56, and love it. I use pro tools though, so I don't use plugins, but for 99 USD, you can get a VST to RTAS wrapper that will let you use these plugins with pro tools.

The liquid saffire 56 has 8 Mic pre amps, and they are the focusrite preamps (some of the best pres), and 2 of those 8 mic pres, (the liquid mic pres) emulate 10 of the most sought after pre amps. And you still have 8 line inputs that don't use the preamps, if you want to connect other analog pres, and you have 2 ADAT connections for 16 more mic pres that can connect via ADAT light pipe. The conversion is "transparent".

Liquid Saffire 56 Audio Interfaces Professional 28 In / 28 Out with 2 Liquid and 6 Focusrite Pre-amps

Oh, and you can get the Liquid saffire 56 for 799 USD from B&H photos pro audio dept.
Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 - FireWire Digital LIQUID SAFFIRE 56

This is where I bought mine from, and all you have to do to see the "real" price is click the "click to see price" link right under the price.

Here is a list of the preamps that the liquid pre amps emulate:

Emulation Name Emulated Preamp
Trany H API3124+
Silver 2 Avalon VT-737SP
FF Red 1 H Focusrite RED1
Saville Row Helios console
Dunk Manley Slam!
New Age 1 Millennia HV3D
Class A 2A Neve 1073
Old Tube Pultec MB1
Deutsch 72 Telefunken V72
Stellar 1B Universal Audio M610
Flat No emulation running

One great thing is that you will have room to grow with this interface. I have been a pro AE for 20 years, and I have this at home, with 7 or 8 different ADAT mic pres, that I connect for different applications, I have done a whole band with this and with 2 Focusrite Octo pres connected, for a total of 24 mics, and went straight to pro tools with 24 tracks at once. All we had to do was overdub a few parts that were a little sloppy and the album was all recorded over 1 weeekend.

The great thing is that this interface is so very simple to use and it is flexible and it sounds great, more like analog than a sterile digital sound and feel to it. It can also grow with you, so you don't have to throw it away in year or two.

Jim
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12th May 2012
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jimbridgman,

I am leaning towards the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 due to your review and the features it has.

I have a question: My band plays live and I would like a unit I could record with in a live situation as well with my Macbook. Can this handle a live situation?

My setup would be microphones from stage into Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 and then into my macbook. Can I produce live sound through my mains, using two of the line outputs, and then also record concurrently on my Macbook pro using Pro Tools with low latency? Thanks.
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12th May 2012
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ive used a saffire 56 to record live and its been great.. you could run 8 channels into it and route them directly to the 8 line outs and onto a mixer/PA or alternatively you could use the saffire software mixer to mix the signal to 2 line outs for PA.. you could also then record into a DAW easily from there..

Bare in mind if you go that way your entire setup relies on the computer not crashing which is possibly not a great way to go.. You could do better with the RME UFX as it has an onboard mixer with more features than the saffires mixer which would help you for a live gig, more importantly the UFX doesnt run any of the mixing off the computer software and instead runs everything from hardware.. So your computer is just a screen for the UFX and if the computer crashes your gig doesnt fall apart.. Only downfall to the UFX is it only has 4 onboard pre amps and that might not be enough for a live gig unless you added another ADAT interface with more pres.

the other thing to consider with this stuff is itr all has a learning curve (especially if you are relatively new to audio and recording).. none of the decent interfaces are going to make instant sense and might take a while to learn.
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12th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LawMan2012 View Post
jimbridgman,

I am leaning towards the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 due to your review and the features it has.

I have a question: My band plays live and I would like a unit I could record with in a live situation as well with my Macbook. Can this handle a live situation?

My setup would be microphones from stage into Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 and then into my macbook. Can I produce live sound through my mains, using two of the line outputs, and then also record concurrently on my Macbook pro using Pro Tools with low latency? Thanks.
Yes you can do this with the LS 56, and the LS 56 will work in "stand alone" mode as well, meaning you don't have to connect the computer to use the the interface and connect to a P/A and or main monitors, but of course you can't really record to pro tools with out the computer, but you could use another 2 track recorder like say a zoom or similar, as a bakup if needed on seperate outs, just in case the computer crashes.

The nice thing about the LS 56 is that is has 10 line outs, so you could have a different mix going to the mains and a few headphone amps connected to a couple of the other outs, and have those feed your personal headphone mixes live, if that is part of your intent, all of them with seperate mixes, all from within the saffire mix control app. You can have 16 different mixes from the 14 outputs (the 10 analog lines and 2 stereo headphone outs).

Jim
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14th May 2012
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Originally Posted by ebulb View Post
ive used a saffire 56 to record live and its been great.. you could run 8 channels into it and route them directly to the 8 line outs and onto a mixer/PA or alternatively you could use the saffire software mixer to mix the signal to 2 line outs for PA.. you could also then record into a DAW easily from there..

Bare in mind if you go that way your entire setup relies on the computer not crashing which is possibly not a great way to go.. You could do better with the RME UFX as it has an onboard mixer with more features than the saffires mixer which would help you for a live gig, more importantly the UFX doesnt run any of the mixing off the computer software and instead runs everything from hardware.. So your computer is just a screen for the UFX and if the computer crashes your gig doesnt fall apart.. Only downfall to the UFX is it only has 4 onboard pre amps and that might not be enough for a live gig unless you added another ADAT interface with more pres.

the other thing to consider with this stuff is itr all has a learning curve (especially if you are relatively new to audio and recording).. none of the decent interfaces are going to make instant sense and might take a while to learn.
Thanks for your response. So my setup would be the microphones on stage into the LS 56, firewire to my Macbook, and then line outs to my PA and/or mixer. You're saying that if my Macbook crashes, the PA and/or mixer would be affected as well?

It seems to me that if my computer crashes, the Pro Tools recording would stop, but it should continue to take the mic inputs and send the signal through the line outs to the PA and/or mixer, and not interfere with the gig. Is this correct? Or must the Focusrite software be running on my Macbook concurrently with the LS 56 for the unit to work?

Thanks.
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14th May 2012
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14th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LawMan2012 View Post
Thanks for your response. So my setup would be the microphones on stage into the LS 56, firewire to my Macbook, and then line outs to my PA and/or mixer. You're saying that if my Macbook crashes, the PA and/or mixer would be affected as well?

It seems to me that if my computer crashes, the Pro Tools recording would stop, but it should continue to take the mic inputs and send the signal through the line outs to the PA and/or mixer, and not interfere with the gig. Is this correct? Or must the Focusrite software be running on my Macbook concurrently with the LS 56 for the unit to work?

Thanks.

You are 100% correct, the Macbook does not need to be running for the interface to pass audio. All of the Focusrite products now work in "stadalone" mode, and and do not require a computer to pass audio. I can see the meters on my interface moving when a mic is connected for a session and for some reason we need to reboot the computer... I usually have the outputs from the interface muted on my Mackie 32X8, just so that there are no spikes to my amp/speakers, from the reboot (older interfaces used to send a loud click on power on/off, or reboot). So I know it is passing audio, as well as Focusrite even says that it works in standalone mode, on thier website and in the manual.

Jim
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14th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LawMan2012 View Post
Thanks for your response. So my setup would be the microphones on stage into the LS 56, firewire to my Macbook, and then line outs to my PA and/or mixer. You're saying that if my Macbook crashes, the PA and/or mixer would be affected as well?

It seems to me that if my computer crashes, the Pro Tools recording would stop, but it should continue to take the mic inputs and send the signal through the line outs to the PA and/or mixer, and not interfere with the gig. Is this correct? Or must the Focusrite software be running on my Macbook concurrently with the LS 56 for the unit to work?

Thanks.
yes if your computer crashed in that situation you would loose live sound.. To my knowledge you would find the same result from just about every firewire or USB interface on the market, if the computer crashed you would loose live sound also.. The only exception i am aware of is RME interfaces such as UFX, it runs all its mixing facilitys on DSP inside the interface and the computer just acts as a screen. If the computer crashed with it your live sound wouldnt crash.. Also the UFX has a very simply USB port to connect a hard drive to record your tracks so even if your computer crashed it wouldnt crash your recording.. In addition its also got a lot more options with FX which would help with live sound such as EQ on each channel and compression and a reverb/delay buss.

If you had the LS56 you could use it in a standalone mode but it would be running a preset mix and you wouldnt be able to adjust levels or run it with a DAW to record in that config.. That is more of a feature that allows you to turn your interface into a generic standalone pre amp, its different in some ways beucase you can still route your 8 ins to 2 x analog outs and also set output levels after the input gain, but if you suddenly realised at your gig that mic 3 needed to be turned up you cant easily change that without a computer connected and then as soon as you plug the computer in to adjust the levels you are back to the situation if it crashes you loose live sound also.

The LS56 is killer interface and much less expensive than the UFX but for live use id say the UFX is your better choice.
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14th May 2012
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Originally Posted by jimbridgman View Post
You are 100% correct, the Macbook does not need to be running for the interface to pass audio. All of the Focusrite products now work in "stadalone" mode, and and do not require a computer to pass audio. I can see the meters on my interface moving when a mic is connected for a session and for some reason we need to reboot the computer... I usually the inputs from the interface muted on my Mackie 32X8 muted, just so that there are not spikes to my amp/speakers, from the reboot (older interfaces used to send a loud click on power on/off, or reboot). So I know it is passing audio, as well as Focusrite even says that it works in standalone mode, on thier website and in the manual.

Jim
But if you have your computer running with saffire mixer and then suddenly pull the power on the computer (to simulate a crash) will you not loose sound and/or the mix settings you had running in mix control ? I am under the impression the saffire runs as either a standalone unit or an interface, one or the other and not really as both ?

For example if you want to have a preset routing setup of 8 inputs to 2 x analog outputs (as the OP suggests for running live sound) you need to setup that routing option and any other levels for your inputs in mixcontrol first and then save that config to the LS56 hardware in order for that config to be active when you power it up in standalone mode.. If you dont save that routing to hardware it wont power up that way, im pretty sure it willl just route your analog ins directly to their outputs with unity output level and the only control you have is the pre amp gain knobs.. Id be happy to be corrected on that though as im not 100% sure..

Also if you save the setup to hardware and then plug the unit back in im pretty sure it will go back to running in "interface" mode and if your system crashed at that point it doesnt keep running as standalone again.. You physically have to save your mix to hardware and set it up to run in standalone mode.. I havent looked at it for a while but those are my memories of how it works..
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14th May 2012
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Originally Posted by ebulb View Post
But if you have your computer running with saffire mixer and then suddenly pull the power on the computer (to simulate a crash) will you not loose sound and/or the mix settings you had running in mix control ? I am under the impression the saffire runs as either a standalone unit or an interface, one or the other and not really as both ?

For example if you want to have a preset routing setup of 8 inputs to 2 x analog outputs (as the OP suggests for running live sound) you need to setup that routing option and any other levels for your inputs in mixcontrol first and then save that config to the LS56 hardware in order for that config to be active when you power it up in standalone mode.. If you dont save that routing to hardware it wont power up that way, im pretty sure it willl just route your analog ins directly to their outputs with unity output level and the only control you have is the pre amp gain knobs.. Id be happy to be corrected on that though as im not 100% sure..

Also if you save the setup to hardware and then plug the unit back in im pretty sure it will go back to running in "interface" mode and if your system crashed at that point it doesnt keep running as standalone again.. You physically have to save your mix to hardware and set it up to run in standalone mode.. I havent looked at it for a while but those are my memories of how it works..
Not anymore. The lastest versions of frmware and the mixcontrol will still send audio through the interface with the last used configuration, what you are describing would be in a power failure, and the LS 56 itself is powered off, then yes you will lose the config you were just using. The interface itself will still pass audio no matter what, except for a power failure, at the last configuration that was used. I have done that and made sure the levels and headphone mixes that were last setup, still worked, as expected, and no level changes.

Now I have not used it in a live situation, so I am not too sure that it would be the best thing for a live situation. Something like a used tascam DM-3200 would probably be a better choice.

Jim
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15th May 2012
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Originally Posted by jimbridgman View Post
The interface itself will still pass audio no matter what, except for a power failure, at the last configuration that was used.
Jim
Ok... i knew LS56 worked as a standalone unit but i thought you had to use the "save to hardware" feature to keep working with the same settings (without the computer).. If it keeps working after computer crash and retains the last mix setup thats great. I guess that ability makes it more robust for a live situation although the lack of EQ or any basic FX still limits it a bit, thats where i think the UFX would be a better option..
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15th May 2012
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Originally Posted by ebulb View Post
Ok... i knew LS56 worked as a standalone unit but i thought you had to use the "save to hardware" feature to keep working with the same settings (without the computer).. If it keeps working after computer crash and retains the last mix setup thats great. I guess that ability makes it more robust for a live situation although the lack of EQ or any basic FX still limits it a bit, thats where i think the UFX would be a better option..
The LS has not had the ability to "save" a config to the device in quite some time now, well all the time I have owned my at least. It was just an atomatic thing once you make a change to the saffire mix and save it, it is copied to the device.

Yeah I would agree with you about the UFX, but the OP wanted at least 8 mic pres.

Another thought would be to get a mixer/interface that would work better for live work.

Something like an allen and heath Zed R16 new is 2K, or a Tascam DM-3200 used, is about the same, and has effects, eq, more than 8 mic pres, and they can also stand totally alone if a computer freaks out.

A&H Zed R16:
ZED-R16 | ALLEN & HEATH // WORLD CLASS MIXING

Tascam DM-3200:
Product: DM-3200 | TASCAM

I know they are big and bulky and that may make them undesireable, but just another thought.

Jim
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15th May 2012
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Ok... i knew LS56 worked as a standalone unit but i thought you had to use the "save to hardware" feature to keep working with the same settings (without the computer)..
That is correct. I have used one as an adat only into an 003R and you have to set your output routing and save to hardware. It will then function standalone per your settings.
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IMO, you want to separate computer IO from mic preamps. Why? Get as spendy as you can on the preamps--they will outlive YOU...whatever computer interface will be replaced a few years from now.

There's a huge piece of mind in having an analog front end you're comfortable with...I can record to any system and have, give or take, the same sound. or at least a variation on it. Forever. Some $100 interface for a laptop? A 16x32 Apogee set up. A Radar. Tape. Some little iPad IO box? Any of the above. Not saying they're all equal, but if you spend a ton of money on an interface because it takes a lot for good analog circuitry--that's money you'll have to spend next time, too.

And...different preamps marry to MICS differently...so, you'll get another one and not like what they do to your mics.

Spend your money on monitoring, MICS, pres, then other stuff--with the sources (instruments) before any of it. A nice guitar amp--same deal-it will likely outlive you. Spend your money on the stuff that will last...once you have THAT, go for the software and computers and interfaces...unless you make electronica--then the computer kind of IS your source, and I don't know what I'm talking about!
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15th May 2012
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Originally Posted by jimbridgman View Post
The LS has not had the ability to "save" a config to the device in quite some time now, well all the time I have owned my at least. It was just an atomatic thing once you make a change to the saffire mix and save it, it is copied to the device. Jim
I have an LS56 here and just plugged it in, im using latest version 2.4 of mix control and drivers and i can see the save to hardware option under file on PC.. By default the hardware appears setup to take all 8 analog ins and route them via mix 1 output as stereo to all 10 line outs (5 stereo outs in total).. So assuming a person hadnt changed any levels or routing or used the save to hardware feature to overwrite the default settings, this is how it would function on power up without a computer. This might be why your unit appears this way without having done anything..

Also by default the fader levels on the mixer for each channel are set to unity so there is no level variation of any of the inputs being routed to the stereo outs.. The thing is though, if you were to do a live mix on this device you would want to use the fader controls to adjust your output levels for each channel and not just use the gain pots to control the mix.. The proper method (which im sure you know) is to use to the gain pots to maximise input signal and then use the faders on mixcontrol to adjust the channels levels and create a mix...

So if you were using it at a gig you would need the computer to run mixcontrol to operate the faders.. If you setup a mix beforehand the only way to recall that mix at a gig (without a computer) is to use "save to hardware" otherwise when you turn the unit off it will reset back to its default (unity faders)..

I am also pretty sure the reason it appears to you that the unit saves the mix settings in hardware each time you make a change is because when you close mixcontrol your computer remembers the last settings you used and instantly loads them again when you reopen mixcontrol.. Its not a case of getting written to the LS56 but rather storing the last mix setup on the computer.

In the past i wanted to use LS56 as an ADAT pre amp for standalone use with another interface (operating like an octopre).. I needed to select sync source to wordclock and route all analog line ins to the respective ADAT outs and then save to hardware. Since i wanted to use as standalone i couldnt just select those settings in mixcontrol and power down it needed to be saved to hardware ..

As far as still passing audio in the event of a crash i'll take your word for it on that.. If something did crash and needed to reboot it would be fairly easy to overcome in a live setting so long as the audio didnt cut out..
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15th May 2012
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Thanks everyone for the advice, I really appreciate it. Choosing an interface opened a can of worms for me, and there are so many choices now. I really appreciate the discussion on using the LS 56 live. I have considered the other mixer/recording units like the Allen and Heath, but never actually used one of them. I have a desire to have a unit that will do everything in the studio and live, but from what I hear the mixer/recording units often times lack on audio quality in the studio. Thanks again for everyone's thoughtfulness and time.
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