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Help please: Volume / Mixing / Interfaces Desktop Synthesizers
Old 19th February 2008
Help please: Volume / Mixing / Interfaces

I saw DivineChemical's thread and had a similar question. Didn't want to hijack it.

I consider myself an electronic musician and not an engineer, so I don't feel too dumb asking this question I guess:

I'm currently using 2 MOTU Ultralites. I have no console for recording at the moment. I just run ALL my synths and effects directly in and out of the Ultralites. I have no "Big Knob" type device, just feeding the monitors directly from the interface.

The reason I tried this was to minimize signal loss and stop the constant cable swapping. With this setup I can usually route any audio source to any destination without unplugging anything. I also don't have to power on a mixer to browse the internet with audio which is nice.

My problems:

1) I've got both of the Ultralites daisy-chained via Firewire, but I can only select one or the other as the input device and output device. I can even select one as the input and the other as the output but I can't choose both simultaneously. That's what I thought the daisy-chain was for. This means I have to plug the monitors from Ultralite #1 to Ultralite #2 when I want to use any of the outputs on #2.

2) Volume levels between softsynths and hardware are radically different. How come my plug-ins and the Virus TI through USB have more volume, but my hardware synths sound so low? I don't remember having this issue when I mixed everything OTB. I've got the Blofeld, the Micron and the XL-7 cranked all the way but they still sound pretty quiet (except the Evolver but it's still not as loud as it should be). There seems to be no adjustable gain boost when mixing with the Ultralites in Ableton Live.

Am I doing something wrong or should I just go back to the mixing console?
Old 19th February 2008
Lives for gear
teknosmoker's Avatar

Almost all hardware synths are -10 and unbalanced. If you run them into a set of +4 inputs, the signal of your synths is going to be lower. Like DivineChemical said, you're going to want a pre if you want to give them additional gain (a good one will also give the signal some nice color too) . Then again, if you're recording at 24 bit, it's not very necessary to get an incredibly hot signal. This is very different from the analog world, where signal-to-noise ratio forces you to get a signal as hot as possible. I agree again with DC, that it would be best to just lower the overall signal of all your softsynths. You'll also have the benefit of increased headroom. thumbsup

Old 25th February 2008
OK, so I'm sacrificing half of my gear on the alter of eBay in the quest for better sound and the hopes of streamlining my workflow.

I've decided to go back to mixing OTB with a Speck Xsum and an RME 400 after the auctions end. I'm using ADAM A7's and Monster Cables, so I'm alright on that side. Probably need some more room treatment eventually.

Before I buy these though, I'd like to get some details about the whole 400 vs. 800 debate. I've been searching some posts on audio forums and some say the 400 sounds worse than the 800. Others say they're the same. Then there's another camp who say the A/D conversion on the 400 is superior to the 800, but the D/A conversion on the 800 is better than the 400. If I email RME and ask them, they'll probably say they're the same.

If anyone's interested, here's what I decided to keep:

Access Virus TI (desktop), DSI Evolver (desktop), Waldorf Blofeld, Spectral Audio Neptune II, Focusrite Trakmaster (with A/D card), TC Electronic Triple C (multiband comp), ESI M4U (MIDI interface), Monster Power 2500 (x2)

Keeping my live setup the same:

(MPC-1000, Waldorf Micro Q Phoenix, Alesis Photon X25, Lexicon MX400, Ashly line mixer)
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