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Consolidating hybrid workflow by possibly adding high end small console/mixer Control Surfaces
Old 19th May 2016
  #1
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Consolidating hybrid workflow by possibly adding high end small console/mixer

Hi all,

Long time lurker here.

I mainly make electronic music and record my own voice (both for music and voiceover stuff).

I have a decent selection of synths, effects and outboard that I have gathered over some time and am enjoying making music with. It all sounds great, but my workflow is getting in the way. Currently most of is hooked up to 96 point bantam patchbay, which helps, but is still not ideal. I feel I'm not getting the most out of my gear, as some of it is quite inflexibly set up.

Also, I have also began doing a lot ITB, as it's really effective for me. But trying to patch in outboard is a cumbersome process, I find.

I rarely record more than 1 mic (my voice) at a time, and no need for recording more than 2-4 channels of other stuff. But I like to monitor a lot of hardware without necessarily recording it.

Here is what I have:

RME UFX soundcard
Cranesong Avocet
Amphion one18s
Louder than liftoff Silver Bullet
2 x Distressors
Couple of other compressors
Eventide H8000FW
Various other effect boxes (eventide h9, space, springreverb and misc stuff)
Heritage Audio MCM-8 500 series PSU with 8 channels of summing
Various 500-series stuff - 2x Neve tape emulators, Shadow Hills Optograph, IGS Tubecore, IGS Photon, Heritage Audio 73eq, Phoenix pre-amp, Maag Eq4, Elysia Nvelope, (SB4001 - in the mail).

Various modular synths, samplers and other synths, around 20 outputs, give or take)

I have been toying with the idea of getting an external mixer of some sort to monitor my external sound sources and maybe also function as an inline mixer with outputs from the DAW.

I really want faders, but am not really sure what the best fit for me would be. I have looked at both the Speck LiLo and the API The Box.

I have also found that I am not really using a lot of the 500 stuff as much as I had hoped, with exception to the Neve tape emus, and hopefully the SB4001 when that arrives. I could probably free up a great deal of cash losing some or most of it. I mainly just record my mic through my RME preamp and process ITB.

There might not even be a question in here, but any thoughts from anyone with a kind of similar hybrid setup would be most welcome. How did you consolidate your hybrid workflow? Would a small high end console be a benefit, or yet another obstacle?
Old 19th May 2016
  #2
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drBill's Avatar
I have a somewhat similar setup as you do. This is how I have things set up now. I would call it "hybrid".

I have the Silver Bullet set up on i/o 1-4 of my DAW's AD/DA. That way between tracking and Mix modes on the SB, it's always in action - either monitoring thru - getting ready to print the mix, or flipped over to tracking for affecting overdubs and / or affecting previously recorded tracks which I want to grease up. Always....

The rest of my 48 channels of i/o are patched into my converters via my 96 point TT bays, and the primary pieces of outboard are patched into the i/o of the remaining 44 channels of i/o. I'm considering using only 40 channels and leave the last 4 open for random stuff that I might want to patch in.

The stuff I use constantly is patched, and by doing so, it comes up automatically on the inserts of my DAW. Super fast and convenient. Actually faster than plugins.

Then, re: synths - my outboard synths and samplers feed a D&R mixer which is also patched into an insert on the DAW. So all I have to do it open a midi track, bring the mixer's output (which is already patched) into the input of an audio track and...BAM! Ready to go.

So....aside from things like Mic Pre's or obscure gear which I only occasionally use, it's all available with the click of a mouse INSIDE the DAW - no mid-session patching required.

It's been life changing for me - workflow wise. I get so much more use out of my outboard now.

BTW, good on ya for picking up a Silver Bullet!!! I've got 4 on my inserts. :-)

Hope that helps. Shout out if I didn't explain it well....
Old 19th May 2016
  #3
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Thanks for that, doc! Yeah, the SB is fantastic. I have it permanently patched to as an i/o on my stereo out from logic (actually, from the SB through the Neve 542s). That way I alway monitor through it, and for individual tracks, I just solo them and bounce. No need even to switch from mixing to tracking on the SB.

I've been thinking along similar lines, just getting a different soundcard(s) with some more inputs and outputs and just it all up in the DAW, and it makes sense.

Except for the missing faders. I would really love to run tracks out through something with faders. I'm not too fussed about analog summing, I can barely tell the difference when checking it out (at least on youtube). But since the analog summing bit isn't something that's really important to me, maybe I'd be just as well off with a controller?

Any suggestions as to a synth/sampler-mixer that sounds nice? In this kind if scenario it probably doesn't have to be very complex. Just nice, solid sound.

Thanks again for your reply!
Old 19th May 2016
  #4
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Maybe something simple like the Speck X.Sum might be all I need for mixing external instruments?
Old 20th May 2016
  #5
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ekofisk View Post

Any suggestions as to a synth/sampler-mixer that sounds nice? In this kind if scenario it probably doesn't have to be very complex. Just nice, solid sound.

Thanks again for your reply!
No problem. Happy to help.

I like the D&R mixers. The vision can be either table top or rack mount. Pricey new, but if you can find a used one, they are readily affordable.

I've got two mounted in a "swinging mixer wall" in my new control room. One for monitoring, headphone mixes, etc., and one for the keyboard / module inputs.








After abandoning my automated 120 input D&R in the new Control Room buildout, I really love having these guys on a wall that swings out when I need em.

Last edited by drBill; 20th May 2016 at 03:25 AM..
Old 20th May 2016
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ekofisk View Post
Various modular synths, samplers and other synths, around 20 outputs, give or take)
If you've been monitoring these outputs in real time, how have you been mixing them in the past? Maybe I missed that.

Like you, I've long run quite a few hardware outputs simultaneously, and I'm having trouble imagining how you would do that effectively without a mixer.

I think the Speck LiLo is actually a really strong contender, given that it is line level ins only, and can actually handle two inputs per physical channel, so 32 inputs at mix down on the 16 channel unit. Plus, balanced sends and inserts on every channel and the group and master buses, so you can patch in whatever effects you were talking about to thicken sound or whatever.

The Speck stuff is nice and clean--perfect for electronic music I think. If you want to add tape/transformer/tube-like qualities to the mix, use the effects you have. Pretty easy.
Old 20th May 2016
  #7
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What are you using for Ad/da, drBill?
Old 20th May 2016
  #8
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Old 20th May 2016
  #9
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Put a small real analog mixer that has at least 4 busses next to your synths. 2 of those 4 busses are for the monitoring you are looking for, the other 2 go back to the DAW. Now you can add EQ / effects / dynamics to your synths before A to D digital conversion. By having that mixer where the synths are it allows you to dial that in while playing (or have the client do so). I typically recomend grabbing a clean used Samson MPL2242 for under $200 (USA) for this duty which is decent and gets the job done however it looks like you want to get something better for more money. Remember there are "chopped" down larger analog mixers that will work here too.
Old 20th May 2016
  #10
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ekofisk View Post
What are you using for Ad/da, drBill?
Avid 16X16's.
Old 22nd May 2016
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pieter k View Post
If you've been monitoring these outputs in real time, how have you been mixing them in the past? Maybe I missed that.

Like you, I've long run quite a few hardware outputs simultaneously, and I'm having trouble imagining how you would do that effectively without a mixer.

I think the Speck LiLo is actually a really strong contender, given that it is line level ins only, and can actually handle two inputs per physical channel, so 32 inputs at mix down on the 16 channel unit. Plus, balanced sends and inserts on every channel and the group and master buses, so you can patch in whatever effects you were talking about to thicken sound or whatever.

The Speck stuff is nice and clean--perfect for electronic music I think. If you want to add tape/transformer/tube-like qualities to the mix, use the effects you have. Pretty easy.
I've been monitoring all the outboard stuff through the computer. Being as my soundcard (RME UFX) only has 12 inputs, this would typically limit what I can monitor at any time to a couple of synths and some effects + processing.

I think actually, for my original question, the Speck X.Mix is perfect. While it doesn't have faders or inline functionality, it does have a lot of inputs and 2 stereo output busses. I could route all instruments to one bus, and effects/processing to another. Could probably get away with using Logic as a mixer, setting up some sort of matrix in there, with sends, busses, etc.

However, I was just thinking, if I got something like the Antelope Orion 32+, with 32 i/o, I could probably keep most stuff patched in at all times, and have a few options through a patchbay or something. This would probably mean one or two more stages of ad/da on a typical signal, but might not be too noticable. Any thoughts on this?
Old 22nd May 2016
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Avid 16X16's.
How would you rate these?

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I might consider something like the Antelope Orion. Would probably be fine for my needs, and something like the Burl Mothership would be complete overkill, I reckon. Or would it....?
Old 23rd May 2016
  #13
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drBill's Avatar
I'd rate them as excellent.
Old 23rd May 2016
  #14
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Sonic Reducer's Avatar
 

I've had the Avids and now have a Mothership. The Avids are the best converters I've ever heard in that price range. The Burl is like 6 % better to my taste, so I wouldn't sweat it. But what a 6 % it is..
Old 23rd May 2016
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic Reducer View Post
I've had the Avids and now have a Mothership. The Avids are the best converters I've ever heard in that price range. The Burl is like 6 % better to my taste, so I wouldn't sweat it. But what a 6 % it is..
Yeah. I REALLY don't want to make this thread into what converter sounds "best" type thread, but if you have had any experience with either, would something like an Antelope Orion be a noticeable step up from the RME UFX? Like I said previously, 85% electronic instruments, and voice.

I could probably justify (for myself, mind you) getting something like the Mothership if it meant a significant improvement, but I don't want to spend 6-10k on something I can't hear.
Old 23rd May 2016
  #16
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You seem to be confusing wanting many hardware units hooked up and ready to go with needing a huge converter channel count. You have plenty of I/O with your current converters/interface. Even if you wanted to record more than your 12 analog ins on the interface at the same time, you have 2 ADAT ports where you could add converters for not much money. As for more channels out, unless you are doing analog mixing or have a rack of outboard for hardware inserts you don't need more there either.

Since you just need routing / monitoring to leave plenty of hardware synths plugged in, any analog mixer with enough inputs and at least 4 busses will work. The small mixer I mention above will give you 11 stereo synth inputs with 4 busses, a Mackie 24-8 or 32-8 will give you more inputs and 8 busses. With either you have not spent much and it will do the routing and monitoring you want. You spend more than that if you need additional things on the analog mixer like exceptional EQ and/or fancier routing, or plan to do your final mixing on it where you need better specs and headroom. Don't forget to consider the source signal also. While it's admirable to seek a high end signal path, many hardware synths/samplers/drum machines don't exactly put out high end sound. As such, simple analog EQ/dynamics/compression/etc . . will do far more to change/shape/improve it's sound than better converters ever will.
Old 23rd May 2016
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
You seem to be confusing wanting many hardware units hooked up and ready to go with needing a huge converter channel count. You have plenty of I/O with your current converters/interface. Even if you wanted to record more than your 12 analog ins on the interface at the same time, you have 2 ADAT ports where you could add converters for not much money. As for more channels out, unless you are doing analog mixing or have a rack of outboard for hardware inserts you don't need more there either.

Since you just need routing / monitoring to leave plenty of hardware synths plugged in, any analog mixer with enough inputs and at least 4 busses will work. The small mixer I mention above will give you 11 stereo synth inputs with 4 busses, a Mackie 24-8 or 32-8 will give you more inputs and 8 busses. With either you have not spent much and it will do the routing and monitoring you want. You spend more than that if you need additional things on the analog mixer like exceptional EQ and/or fancier routing, or plan to do your final mixing on it where you need better specs and headroom. Don't forget to consider the source signal also. While it's admirable to seek a high end signal path, many hardware synths/samplers/drum machines don't exactly put out high end sound. As such, simple analog EQ/dynamics/compression/etc . . will do far more to change/shape/improve it's sound than better converters ever will.
I am confused, but maybe not the way you are thinking. I just can't decide, that's the problem. That's why I'm just thinking aloud about different scenarios. In my original post, you'll see I also mention wanting faders, which is probably what spawned this desire for an outboard mixer of some sort.

But if I'm being honest, I use a lot of software, and a few choice pieces of hardware, so maybe a high i/o count, internal routing and cutting back on the physical patchbay is the way to go.

And yes, I get the point with synths etc not necessarily demanding very high end conversion, but I have experienced getting a lot more mileage out of analog processing with better conversion, as the lovely analog coating kind of sticks better, if you understand what I mean?
Old 23rd May 2016
  #18
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Good practice is to resell gear you are not using for funding other purchases (or just leave it in your pocket). If you are not using the 500 series stuff then part ways however given you still do vocals - voice overs, you should have at least one good preamp (better than onboard interface pres) that matches well with your choice vocal mic. In fact you may as well have a whole vocal chain before A to D conversion wired up and set to go (maybe using 500 series Pre / EQ / Compressor modules or through stand alone units).

Having an analog mixer and some outboard setup within arms reach of where you use your synths makes sense because you can dial in sounds and levels while actually making sounds. By just using the mixer primarily on the front end for routing and dialing in synth sounds you can still moniter them without runing signal through the DAW. Your Avocet that you use as a monitor controller also has analog stereo inputs (3 of them) so you just route signal from the mixer via a couple or more busses to the Avocet. You will still have a couple busses or main output from the mixer go to your converters for recording when doing that. The thing about signal flow is you can have many different options and be able to switch over with a couple setting changes.

As for having more converter channels to either analog mix your songs or use more hardware units at the same time you have a couple inexpensive options that are likely a step up from the RME UFX. See threads on the 24 channel Alesis HD24XR teamed up with an RME 9652 PCI or Raydat PCIe card, and see threads on the 24 channel SSL which also can be teamed up with those RME cards or it's own SSL card. From your posts you probably don't need more channels or better conversion though. Remeber the slight increase in using a better converter is going to be less change than turning your EQ knob a few degrees for the sources you have. Another thing to keep in mind is that with electronic music you will have many secondary / background elements that need proper 3D placement and balancing so many times having those elements clean and present can do more harm than good.
Old 23rd May 2016
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
Good practice is to resell gear you are not using for funding other purchases (or just leave it in your pocket). If you are not using the 500 series stuff then part ways however given you still do vocals - voice overs, you should have at least one good preamp (better than onboard interface pres) that matches well with your choice vocal mic. In fact you may as well have a whole vocal chain before A to D conversion wired up and set to go (maybe using 500 series Pre / EQ / Compressor modules or through stand alone units).

Having an analog mixer and some outboard setup within arms reach of where you use your synths makes sense because you can dial in sounds and levels while actually making sounds. By just using the mixer primarily on the front end for routing and dialing in synth sounds you can still moniter them without runing signal through the DAW. Your Avocet that you use as a monitor controller also has analog stereo inputs (3 of them) so you just route signal from the mixer via a couple or more busses to the Avocet. You will still have a couple busses or main output from the mixer go to your converters for recording when doing that. The thing about signal flow is you can have many different options and be able to switch over with a couple setting changes.

As for having more converter channels to either analog mix your songs or use more hardware units at the same time you have a couple inexpensive options that are likely a step up from the RME UFX. See threads on the 24 channel Alesis HD24XR teamed up with an RME 9652 PCI or Raydat PCIe card, and see threads on the 24 channel SSL which also can be teamed up with those RME cards or it's own SSL card. From your posts you probably don't need more channels or better conversion though. Remeber the slight increase in using a better converter is going to be less change than turning your EQ knob a few degrees for the sources you have. Another thing to keep in mind is that with electronic music you will have many secondary / background elements that need proper 3D placement and balancing so many times having those elements clean and present can do more harm than good.
Thanks for taking the time to answer me.

Yes, I'll probably be selling off unused 500-stuff, but obviously retaining a solid vocal chain.

As for feeding the Avocet with a stereo bus of synths and stuff, I'm not sure. I very rarely compose using just outboard. Often I'll have some elements ITB as well, like voice, effects, etc. In this regard, the upside of using an external analog mixer would be to just use 2 channels (stereo mix from mixer) to monitor all the external synths etc., but still bouncing down processed prints of the individual instruments one at time later.

Which 24 channel SSL do you mean? A soundcard? A mixer? The only thing I found when searching was the Alphalink, but that doesn't look to be a good fit.

And why would having the different elements clean and present be problematic? Surely this can only be a good think, so as to better make mixing decisions?

Thanks again for your time!
Old 24th May 2016
  #20
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SSL 24 channel converters (alphalink)

Check your Avocet manual, I believe you can monitor digital and analog inputs at the same time. That would allow hardware synths to be monitered without latency. There are other routing options too.

Check the breakdown of some famous songs with available multitracks online. You will find some elements / tracks are far from perfect but lend themselves well to 3D placement in the final mix despite sounding terrible on their own (synth tracks included). Bright presence moves elements closer to center and forward, especially with digital. Duller moves elements back. I guess the best practical example I can give is if you are playing a keyboard with a live band. Those keyboard and amp settings you used at home practicing by yourself don't cut it anymore when playing live with others even though the home settings may be as excellent / perfect as it gets. You end up adjusting your settings at the gig in the context of others playing to find the right balance / placement / tone. You will see experienced Engineers post here that they get the front end of the audio right (everything before conversion) so that the song mixes itself. What they know is how to get the sound they want that will likely be right for each element when everything is played together. It's also another reason you don't do much solo'ing during mixdown as it's all about getting the elements working together.

So how does all this effect you? By being able to moniter your front end and make adjustments in context with what you have in the box, it will let you dial in the right sound instead of having to fight it later during mixing. Basically you are in constant overdub mode without the latency, composing as you go with both your soft synths and hardware synths.
Old 24th May 2016
  #21
Could a SSL Sigma together with a Nucleus be something for you - like a "poor" mans SSL mixer ;-)
Old 26th May 2016
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slogun View Post
Could a SSL Sigma together with a Nucleus be something for you - like a "poor" mans SSL mixer ;-)
Oooh, the Nucleus look very interesting as a controller, and even more interesting together with the Sigma. Have you tried either?
Old 27th May 2016
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ekofisk View Post
Oooh, the Nucleus look very interesting as a controller, and even more interesting together with the Sigma. Have you tried either?
I've played with the Nucleus and I do find it to be an amazing controller. Unfortunately they're still a bit too expensive retail for me but you can sometimes find them 2nd hand for half the retail price.
It was on my bucket list for years, and during that time I tried the Avid/Euphonix controllers as well. In comparison the Nucleus feels like a real mixer.
Atm. I'm trying out if Slate Raven MTi2 is something for me Haven't given up my dreams of a Nucleus just yet

Concerning the sound and functionality of Sigma I'm not really experienced to tell... I have their X-Rack set up with most of their modules incl. their Input-modules. Based on the sound of them I can say I'm a happy SSL-user
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