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A full hardware synth setup
Old 15th April 2019
  #1
Gear Head
A full hardware synth setup

Hi guys,

I would like to get a overview what I would need for a full hardware setup in the future with the only use of a computer to record everything, so I can work to that the right way. Let’s say a setup with 6 synths + some external effects.

My simple setup is now a korg monologue & a po-33 + audio interface with only 2 inputs and midi i/o. For now that’s ok, but I wonder what I would need when I expand my gear.

What I was thinking is that I would need a mixer with lots of inputs and then connect it to my audio interface and a midi interface with 6+ channels. But probably that wouldn’t be everything.
Old 16th April 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
badmark's Avatar
I have a 2 synth, 2 drum machine + vocoder HW setup that's controlled from a Monologue and recorded 2 track into Reaper. Most of it lives on a couple of ikea shelves on a double keyboard stand, for planned live logistic reasons.

AmpTone MidiSplitter is 1in/4out, rugged and simple; you can always daisychain if needed.

The Lehle passive splitter is a useful purchase for the Monologue, so you can route its output 2 ways. 1 goes into a distortion pedal then the vocoder box, the other goes to the audio in of the other synth (a Mopho) to get some stereo spread.

The Mopho goes via a small compressor and a midi-clocked delay into the mixer. Drum machines (Volca Sample + a DR-770) go straight in. Plus the vocal chain. I started off mixing through/with an Octatrack then used an old Mackie 1202. Now I have the Behringer/Midas MR-18. The only Behringer thing about it is the actual box; the relevant circuitry inside is high-end. Total bargain. Channels 11-16 are given over to the returns from various fx. Main outs go via nice eq and compressor into audio interface.

Theoretically I could route 18 tracks out over usb, but meh to working on more than 2 tracks on the computer.
Old 16th April 2019
  #3
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by badmark View Post
I have a 2 synth, 2 drum machine + vocoder HW setup that's controlled from a Monologue and recorded 2 track into Reaper. Most of it lives on a couple of ikea shelves on a double keyboard stand, for planned live logistic reasons.

AmpTone MidiSplitter is 1in/4out, rugged and simple; you can always daisychain if needed.

The Lehle passive splitter is a useful purchase for the Monologue, so you can route its output 2 ways. 1 goes into a distortion pedal then the vocoder box, the other goes to the audio in of the other synth (a Mopho) to get some stereo spread.

The Mopho goes via a small compressor and a midi-clocked delay into the mixer. Drum machines (Volca Sample + a DR-770) go straight in. Plus the vocal chain. I started off mixing through/with an Octatrack then used an old Mackie 1202. Now I have the Behringer/Midas MR-18. The only Behringer thing about it is the actual box; the relevant circuitry inside is high-end. Total bargain. Channels 11-16 are given over to the returns from various fx. Main outs go via nice eq and compressor into audio interface.

Theoretically I could route 18 tracks out over usb, but meh to working on more than 2 tracks on the computer.
That’s interesting. There are a few things that are unclear for me. Mostly the midi is confusing.

That midi splitter is only for midi in to the synths right? But how do you manage to connect multiple synths midi out to a daw so you can edit your recordings with midi after you done? Then you really need some sort midi interface with lots of midi ins and midi outs right?

And what about sync? Korg products have the nice feature that it has a sync in and out port, but I wonder how you can run everything in sync when you connect some older stuff to it as well from other brands. I’ve seen people using a sequencer like a mpc for that, but is something like that really necessary?

And for that Lehle passive splitter.. I don’t really get it how that works. That creates a double channel of you audio out? Switching between clean signal and signal with effects goes all by a mixer then I believe?
Old 17th April 2019
  #4
Lives for gear
 
badmark's Avatar
I don't edit my recordings with midi, I only do live takes, yeah for what you want I think there are bigger boxes available. Midi is both quite simple and rather head-scratching, which is why nowadays I keep it away from the DAW.

I triggered the Volca Sample, and a delay, from the Monologue via sync to start with. But. Long story about sync not working for me except for nosebleed techno. I use the Lehle so I can split the Monologue output before it gets to the mixer. One (undistorted) side ends up entering the mixer via the Mopho stereo outputs, and the distorted side goes into a single channel after its trip through the vocoder.

The Monologue is the 'brains' of my midi set-up. Its midi out goes to the in of the MidiSplitter. I pick a preset on the Monologue, 37 say, the Mopho goes to preset 37 on its bank 1 and the Eventide Space on vocal duty also goes to its preset 37. They, another pedal and the 2 drum machines also take the midi clock part of the signal so when I press Play on the Monologue everything kicks into action. As midi systems go it's not hugely sophisticated probably but setting it up did require quite a lot of rtfm alas.
Old 17th April 2019
  #5
Well, depending on what you get, you probably don't even need the mixer hehe. My setup for home (the non guitar based stuff anyways) is exactly your theoretical setup. Six synths (if you count the modular as one), some outboard stuff, 2 drum machines. Ditched using a mixer years ago when I got an interface with inputs for everything directly. I have a MOTU 828 so Ive got 8 1/4" ready to go, and ADAT I/O for another 8 in and out. I run all my synths mono except for my Nord Modular, the drum machines (which actually aren't here right now but they go into the first 4 ins on the ADAT converter) and the real modular. The module I mainly use for output has two channels on it so that gets 2 channels on the MOTU too. My synths take up all 8 inputs that way, 4 mono, 2 dual channel. Main outboard fx box (I work mostly ITB for that though) goes in and out through the MOTUs SPDIF. If I want to use it in a track, I just bus tracks to the SPDIF and return it to another channel. No repatching or anything needed. In the rare case I want to use any other outboard effects, or if Im recording and want to use another preamp, borrow a synth or something to use on a track, etc.. Everything in my rack is connected to a patchbay. Its setup for my default workflow. But thanks to everything going through the patchbay, Im not limited to just that static setup anymore.

Up until I got my first MOTU I was using a mixer (my setup was also alot bigger 15 or so years ago). Everything into the mixer, mixers bus outputs into however many inputs I had available. With my old Mackie, I was limited to 2, with my big bad Behringer Eurodesk I had 4. That jerk Uli cut the price on the Eurodesks in half right after I bought mine. I could've gotten the 8 bus 32 channel one for the same price I paid for my 24 channel 4 bus!
Old 17th April 2019
  #6
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by badmark View Post
I don't edit my recordings with midi, I only do live takes, yeah for what you want I think there are bigger boxes available. Midi is both quite simple and rather head-scratching, which is why nowadays I keep it away from the DAW.

I triggered the Volca Sample, and a delay, from the Monologue via sync to start with. But. Long story about sync not working for me except for nosebleed techno. I use the Lehle so I can split the Monologue output before it gets to the mixer. One (undistorted) side ends up entering the mixer via the Mopho stereo outputs, and the distorted side goes into a single channel after its trip through the vocoder.

The Monologue is the 'brains' of my midi set-up. Its midi out goes to the in of the MidiSplitter. I pick a preset on the Monologue, 37 say, the Mopho goes to preset 37 on its bank 1 and the Eventide Space on vocal duty also goes to its preset 37. They, another pedal and the 2 drum machines also take the midi clock part of the signal so when I press Play on the Monologue everything kicks into action. As midi systems go it's not hugely sophisticated probably but setting it up did require quite a lot of rtfm alas.
Ah, this is difficult to understand when you only read this without seeing it.

I want to do also live takes without taking a look on my pc, but having the option to maybe edit lets say 2 synths in midi seems like it’s quit a handy option. But if I take a second think about it, it may be good to do it without it, because limiting yourself is a good thing. With acoustic instruments of course you also have to do takes and do it till it’s right.

The last part I don’t fully get how your sync part works of your setup. I guess midi tru is something also part of a in sync setup? I never used midi tru, so I don’t know a lot about it.

But let say for now I add a arturia drumbrute impacy and a kawai k1 to my setup I would imagine the cheapest way for inputs would be to connect a mixer to my setup? And then besides that I would need a midi splitter for the sync part?

Sorry if it’s a obvious question, but I have still a lot to learn of basic stuff.
Old 17th April 2019
  #7
Gear Addict
 
Pindrive's Avatar
Your best mixing will be done, once you have everything tracked out. Including vocals & other instruments. A mixer is essential for writing. At least the way I go about it. But, I want to be able to adjust each level, in final mixing. So each of the keyboards need to be down to a single track or stereo tracks. I ended up with a Roland M160 rack mixer, for my needs. It's compact, no EQ. It's a great little studio mixer, though. Especially for Keys. I also have a decent stereo compressor, Symetrix(not High end) & can access some good effects in my ensoniq sampler. It's good to have a few guitar pedals laying around for odd effects on things & at least an SM57 mic to grab some sounds. Lots of cables Never have enough cables & adaptors.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
Here for the gear
 
Plum Age's Avatar
I'm running a similar setup to what you want to do: 2 drum machines, 3-4 synths connected to a single stereo audio interface. Everything is controlled via midi (granted, from SEQ24 on a computer), and I basically just record live like that.

I have a single channel USB-> midi out that goes into a midi splitter, single in, 5 out, and then each out goes to MIDI IN on each synth. Here's a crude schematic:

[PC RUNNING SEQUENCER]--USB>MIDI---->[MIDI SPLIT]---->[synth 1]
[ ]---->[synth 2]
[ ]---->...

I'd reccomend this MIDI routing over daisy chaining (using the MIDI THRU on some synths), it might add latency to the signal, and I find it difficult to recall what's going where.

Any midi out generating device could be the input on the midi split bus, hardware sequencer, keyboard, pc interface etc.
Even if you don't want to sequence with a computer (I feel ya) i'd get a pc midi interface, to debug your MIDI connections. MIDIOX is a free program that'll let you monitor all incoming MIDI messages and send ones yourself. It's gold.


All the audio just runs to an 8 channel mixer. I'd advice getting more mixer channels than you need!
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