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Interfaces as converters
Old 20th October 2013
  #1
Interfaces as converters

Hey there, this has probably been covered elsewhere, so please point me in the right direction if so, but I was unable to find it. My recording setup ends in a firewire interface (Mackie Onyx Blackbird) and an iMac. For vocals and things that I want to add extra warmth to, when I use an outboard preamp (such as an ISA one), how do I set the interface to just be a converter so I can get the sound from the actual preamp. I know Im not doing it right when I just plug the preamp into the interface and turn the pre up and the interface down. Help? Thanks everyone!
Old 20th October 2013
  #2
Like most interfaces with built in mic inputs, the Onyx Blackbird also has line-level inputs via the TRS section of the combo jacks.

You simply connect the output of your external mic pre via a balanced XLR to TRS or TRS to TRS cable (depending on what kind of output connector your mic pre has) to any one of the combo jacks. Do use a balanced cable.

Do not use the Onyx XLR input jacks since they are for mic-level only. The Mackie "front-end" is essentially transparent (wide bandwidth and very low distortion) when operated at low gain as a line input. The TRS section of the combo inputs is the only way to access the analog inputs of the ADC in the Onyx other than by the unbalanced "insert" inputs on Ch. 1 & 2. The unbalanced "insert" inputs are not intended (or optimum) for use by an external mic pre.

To utilize the "character" of a mic pre like an ISA1 or a 1073 which adds harmonic distortion at higher output levels to the signal creating "warmth", keep the Mackie gain low (near unity or less) and use the mic pre gain to control levels. If you want less "warmth", lower the ISA1 gain a little and raise the interface gain.
Old 21st October 2013
  #3
Makes total sense, thanks!!
Old 21st October 2013
  #4
Makes sense, thanks for the thorough explanation!! I'll give that a try
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