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Thoughts around a high end hybrid tracking and monitoring setup? Audio Interfaces
Old 24th October 2018
  #1
Gear Head
 

Thoughts around a high end hybrid tracking and monitoring setup?

Hello,

I have a small project studio that my friends and I use to make music. It is in my basement and I am working on building out control and live rooms.

I have saved up some money (~30k) to invest in the studio and I am trying to decide on the best path forward. I'd like to enlist the help of forum members here to poke at some options.

My initial thinking was to buy a small format analog console (currently looking at the Audient ASP4816, Trident 78 or the API The Box). I also noticed that Interphase Audio released their Ark Console, and while it pushes the budget up a bit, it looks like an incredible option as well.

There are a couple of reasons for thinking about a SFAC:

- I spend my day working on a computer, and find it to be creatively draining to sit at another computer and be creative making music.
- I've done live sound for the past 18 years and really enjoy the tactile experience of finding a mix, routing a monitor mix, etc.
- My setup could use some upgrades across all spectrums of studio life, namely in the tracking, monitoring and mixing stages. I'll explain this a bit more below.

I'm still on the fence as SFAC don't seem totally necessary for creating good sounding music, even if they make the experience much more enjoyable. I'm just not sure it is worth it to invest in a piece of gear like the SFAC or if I can find ways to improve the computer experience.

Let me explain a bit about what I have at the moment. I run an Audient ID22 w/ an Audient ASP880. Both are great products and I have a decent setup around routing two mixes out to a Presonus headphone setup which supports 6 people. I use Reaper as my main DAW, though sometimes I tinker in Ableton Live.

This setup allows me to track up to 8 inputs at a time, which is a pretty good number, I don't necessarily need more.

My biggest stumbling blocks (besides the frustration of sitting at a computer) are that everything is connected ad-hoc. I have to plug and unplug items all the time, and it takes a long time to spin up a recording and experiment. I plan to solve this by investing in a nice patch bay and linking everything in the studio so I don't have to muck around with it when an idea strikes or I need to be up and recording right away.

I am currently looking at a Redco R196-D25PG, and all of the cables needed. This should solve this particular frustration while also making expansion a straight-forward affair. I think that solves the "delay" problem mostly. I haven't worked with a patchbay before, but understand the concepts and as far as I can tell that should make it easier to move things around without having to find the cables, plug in the gear, etc.

The next issue I felt a SFAC would improve is my frontend. I have a number of mics, but will be purchasing a Rode NT1 and a Sennheiser 421 to round out my selection. I think I am okay there for the time being but that leaves the ASP880 mic preamps. Thus far they have been decent, but I wonder if it is worth investing in a better set of preamps, possibly some EQs on the way in?

I well aware of that draw around high end audio gear and I know you can make music on anything these days. I say this because I'm trying to be reasonable in my research and not just jump on what I want to do, but rather be informed of what I should probably do.

Where a console really peaks my interest is in the routing. Currently with the headphone mixes, and all the routing I do in Reaper, having a console would solve some of the pains there of clicking around to find faders, building up cue mixes, so on and so forth. I am using the ID22 for all of this, and with the headphone mixes, I no longer have the option of adding in another set of monitors (I have a set of KRKs I'd like to get in place and a single Avantone MixCube). So my control room routing is a bit lacking at the moment.

Then we come to the mixing aspects. I'm not a huge fan of the workflow of external summing and mixing down to a two track to print back into the box. I understand some of the benefits there, but getting a nice summing mix setup is just as expensive as a SFAC but doesn't offer benefits my monitoring or tracking setups, which I think are more important for the work I do at present. Mixing isn't the main part of my work (yet).

Mixing ITB is not fun though, and as I mentioned previously, draining, so I would like to find some ways to improve the experience. One consideration is the QCon Pro (w/ expander) setup. They look like fantastic devices and get me way from the keyboard and mouse a bit more, while giving me that tactile "mixing" feeling. They would be a bit of a learning curve, but seem like a valid option for what I am looking for.

I guess at the end of the day, what I'm looking for is a good hybrid setup, something that utilizes the power of ITB as a tape machine, and doesn't mind using the DAW for things, but that has a good workflow and a quality signal coming into the box. I look at it in three categories:

- Tracking (mic -> preamp/channel -> AD -> computer)
- Monitoring (computer -> DA -> monitor control -> monitors -> ears)
- Mixing (computer -> [DA -> mix workflow -> AD] -> computer)

I can even live with working over time to improve each category, and focusing this round on a single area.

With all that said, give me the best you've got gearslutz, what are your thoughts on how you would spend $30,000 given you already have a computer, monitors and a patchbay (those two are givens in my setup). What would you do?

(Note: I realize this is all opinion and personal taste, but I'm curious to explore some of my options by provoking a response. I've done tons of research and already have a number of "good", "better", "best" type options from preamps, to AD/DA, to monitor controllers, to SFAC. I merely want to have a discussion with some people about these)
Old 25th October 2018
  #2
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
For $30k you probably can get a pretty nice console and patchbay happening. If you can afford that, it seems like it will make you happiest.
Old 25th October 2018
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Just remember. Quality cables cost a bundle. But worth it. If you go with console and patch bay I’d budget 5k at least. And get them longer than you need as your circumstances may change and nothing worse than being a foot or two short of your next layout
Old 25th October 2018
  #4
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
For $30k you probably can get a pretty nice console and patchbay happening. If you can afford that, it seems like it will make you happiest.
Yeah, I've been leaning this direction for sure. I've investigated all of these "categories" at each level, AD/DA, monitor controller, preamps, etc. They all end up totaling the same amount of money regardless, and are vastly disparate workflows at each step. Consoles integrate all of that, hmm...
Old 25th October 2018
  #5
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snoggin View Post
Just remember. Quality cables cost a bundle. But worth it. If you go with console and patch bay I’d budget 5k at least. And get them longer than you need as your circumstances may change and nothing worse than being a foot or two short of your next layout
I was looking at some bundles from Pro Audio LA. Looks like they use Mogami. Those come up a lot and are considered top notch. Any other ones I should look into?

Thanks for the reminder on cable quality.
Old 25th October 2018
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Swurveman's Avatar
I did exactly what you want to do- without a console- with two RME PCIE interfaces , my converters (I used 2- Aurora 16's), two Redco R196-D25PG patchbays and a Tascam US-2000 controller.

The RME mixer (Totalmix) allows you to route your tracking inputs to multiple headphones outputs, while tracking as many tracks as you have in inputs in your conversion. It also allows you to route to your hardware (D-A) and back (A-D) when you want to use your hardware hardware inserts in your DAW.

The patchbay allows you to route your mic inputs to different preamp outputs and patch your preamp outputs to your hardware compressors, eq etc. and into your converters. It flexibly helps you to route to and from your converters for hardware inserts in your DAW. With a few patch chord changes you can move from using your hardware to track to using your hardware as hardware inserts in your DAW.

The controller allows you to move faders instead of moving the mouse for fader rides etc.

The guy above is right: To do it takes a lot of cables. I have all the gear I used and more in the link below. If you have any questions, ask away.

Check out my gear list below. I used all of that in a hybrid setup that kicks ass.
Old 25th October 2018
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by glymur View Post
I was looking at some bundles from Pro Audio LA. Looks like they use Mogami. Those come up a lot and are considered top notch. Any other ones I should look into?

Thanks for the reminder on cable quality.
I had pro audio la do all my cables for my initial set up. Top notch but expensive in Ca with 9% tax. Great stuff. I’m building my own for the intro room stuff because there is so much.

Trying to do the same quality as pro audio la by myself and ordered the same parts from Redco
Old 25th October 2018
  #8
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swurveman View Post
I did exactly what you want to do- without a console- with two RME PCIE interfaces , my converters (I used 2- Aurora 16's), two Redco R196-D25PG patchbays and a Tascam US-2000 controller.

The RME mixer (Totalmix) allows you to route your tracking inputs to multiple headphones outputs, while tracking as many tracks as you have in inputs in your conversion. It also allows you to route to your hardware (D-A) and back (A-D) when you want to use your hardware hardware inserts in your DAW.

The patchbay allows you to route your mic inputs to different preamp outputs and patch your preamp outputs to your hardware compressors, eq etc. and into your converters. It flexibly helps you to route to and from your converters for hardware inserts in your DAW. With a few patch chord changes you can move from using your hardware to track to using your hardware as hardware inserts in your DAW.

The controller allows you to move faders instead of moving the mouse for fader rides etc.

The guy above is right: To do it takes a lot of cables. I have all the gear I used and more in the link below. If you have any questions, ask away.

Check out my gear list below. I used all of that in a hybrid setup that kicks ass.
Interesting! I was looking at the RME gear, except the MADIface XT w/ an initial B80 Mothership setup (not cheap, but top notch and upgradeable over time). TotalMix was a major factor in that, it seems really great for managing that much I/O.

Nevermind, I found the TASCAM in your link below. Leaving this here, but it's a TASCAM US-2400.

Quote:
I'm a little confused about your TASCAM US-2000 mention. Is that the right model name? When I search for that I get a 16x8 interface. Could you expand on that a bit?
One other question, is there a reason for using two Aurora's? My assumption is that you added 16 channels later, but I wasn't sure if there was a benefit to using two converters like that. The Aurora (n) looks great. I've been looking at that, a Symphony I/O MKii or possibly diving in the deep end and going B80 Mothership (as I mentioned above).

Unfortunately don't have a lot of opportunities to hear this gear in real life, so doing lots of research around each.

Will look through your gear list incase I missed something.

Last edited by glymur; 25th October 2018 at 08:23 PM.. Reason: I found my answer to the question I asked.
Old 25th October 2018
  #9
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snoggin View Post
I had pro audio la do all my cables for my initial set up. Top notch but expensive in Ca with 9% tax. Great stuff. I’m building my own for the intro room stuff because there is so much.

Trying to do the same quality as pro audio la by myself and ordered the same parts from Redco
Have you found this to be a cheaper route? I honestly have no idea how much savings there is in DIY cables. Obviously takes a bit more time as well... but curious if you've found it to be a significant savings.
Old 25th October 2018
  #10
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by glymur View Post
Yeah, I've been leaning this direction for sure. I've investigated all of these "categories" at each level, AD/DA, monitor controller, preamps, etc. They all end up totaling the same amount of money regardless, and are vastly disparate workflows at each step. Consoles integrate all of that, hmm...
Follow your bliss!
Old 25th October 2018
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Swurveman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by glymur View Post
Interesting! I was looking at the RME gear, except the MADIface XT w/ an initial B80 Mothership setup (not cheap, but top notch and upgradeable over time). TotalMix was a major factor in that, it seems really great for managing that much I/O.

Nevermind, I found the TASCAM in your link below. Leaving this here, but it's a TASCAM US-2400.



One other question, is there a reason for using two Aurora's? My assumption is that you added 16 channels later, but I wasn't sure if there was a benefit to using two converters like that. The Aurora (n) looks great. I've been looking at that, a Symphony I/O MKii or possibly diving in the deep end and going B80 Mothership (as I mentioned above).

Unfortunately don't have a lot of opportunities to hear this gear in real life, so doing lots of research around each.

Will look through your gear list incase I missed something.
I bought the second Aurora due to how many inputs and outputs I was using. I often would use 16 inputs for tracking. So, I needed inputs on the patchbay to route the outputs of the preamps to the inputs and outputs of the hardware (mono and dual mono compressors, EQ etc) and then back to the original A/D in. There is a BNC cable that linked the two units. It worked like a charm.

Using two patchbays I set it up like this:

Mic out -Proaudiola built me 8 input XLR box-> DB-25 for patchbay input
Preamp In
Preamp Out
Aurora In

Then on another part of the bay I had the hardware outs and ins go to the converter ins and outs via patch chords. This was all patched so that it was always set up in my DAW for using this routing for my hardware inserts for mixing. While tracking, I just patched the preamp out (above) into the hardware compressor in and then patched the hardware compressor out back into the 4th row Aurora In that you see above. When I was done tracking, I just re-attached the original cables for use as hardware inserts for mixing. This way, my hardware insert routing never changed in my DAW.

I cannot say enough of how great the RME interface is (the drivers are second to none and the latency is super low) -and how flexible Totalmix is for hybrid users.
Old 26th October 2018
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by glymur View Post
Have you found this to be a cheaper route? I honestly have no idea how much savings there is in DIY cables. Obviously takes a bit more time as well... but curious if you've found it to be a significant savings.
I wound guestimate you save at least half maybe more but it’s s lot of work is why. But hey if your going to have a studio it pays to be able to do this stuff and you will KNOW EVERYYHING inside and out

I’m kinda looking forward to starting. I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to ending soon lol
Old 26th October 2018
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by glymur View Post
Have you found this to be a cheaper route? I honestly have no idea how much savings there is in DIY cables. Obviously takes a bit more time as well... but curious if you've found it to be a significant savings.
I wound guestimate you save at least half maybe more but it’s s lot of work is why. But hey if your going to have a studio it pays to be able to do this stuff and you will KNOW EVERYYHING inside and out

I’m kinda looking forward to starting. I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to ending soon lol
Old 26th October 2018
  #14
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snoggin View Post
I wound guestimate you save at least half maybe more but it’s s lot of work is why. But hey if your going to have a studio it pays to be able to do this stuff and you will KNOW EVERYYHING inside and out

I’m kinda looking forward to starting. I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to ending soon lol
Haha, I bet. Good luck in your adventure. I am tempted for sure. Where did you purchase your cable and ends from?

Thanks for the info.
Old 26th October 2018
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Redco
Old 26th October 2018
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Redco
Old 2nd November 2018
  #17
Lives for gear
 
jdier's Avatar
 

If you decide to move forward in steps, get the patchbay first. It is such a game changer, or at least, it has been for me.

I bought the Redco one you mentioned and love it.
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