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Roland M240 or M24E Mixers Mixers (Analog)
Old 12th November 2010
  #1
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Roland M240 or M24E Mixers

Has anyone used or owned on of these, as i have the chance to buy one quite cheaply. Just need to know what the quality is like when passing gear thru one of these, and any problems i should look out for.

I know they don't have any EQ cababilities, i do all my EQ'n and that in my DAW. But would be nice to have a 24 channel mixer.

Cheers
Old 18th November 2010
  #2
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You found one!?

Well I know nothing about them, sorry. But I am looking to purchase one as well. If you aren't going to purchase it, would you be kind enough to pass on the info?
Old 18th November 2010
  #3
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Aha! I have an M-240 I don't use any more. The only possible use I can see for it here is as a monitor mixer for my HD24, but since I am always doing the live sound I never use it.

Write me a PM if interested in buying it... I've been forgetting to advertise it!

L
Old 11th May 2011
  #4
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Still have this if anyone is interested...

<L>
Old 31st March 2012
  #5
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All the songs on this album was mixed on my Roland M-240. It's mostly midi sequenced old hardware synths, drum machines running from midi clock and lots of cheap outboard efx. I think it sounds pretty nice! Not SSL or Neve quality but...

The Night Machine on Spotify
Old 31st March 2012
  #6
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I used to have a M160 when they were new. I did what it supposed to do, but nothing I would buy today 15-20 years later.
Old 8th January 2013
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by White Falcon View Post
All the songs on this album was mixed on my Roland M-240. It's mostly midi sequenced old hardware synths, drum machines running from midi clock and lots of cheap outboard efx. I think it sounds pretty nice! Not SSL or Neve quality but...

The Night Machine on Spotify
nice jams, i dig it
Old 16th June 2013
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aleric51 View Post
nice jams, i dig it
Thanks!
Old 16th June 2013
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by White Falcon View Post
All the songs on this album was mixed on my Roland M-240. It's mostly midi sequenced old hardware synths, drum machines running from midi clock and lots of cheap outboard efx. I think it sounds pretty nice! Not SSL or Neve quality but...

The Night Machine on Spotify
I dig it too.
Old 16th June 2013
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
I dig it too.
Thanks again
Old 16th January 2016
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by White Falcon View Post
All the songs on this album was mixed on my Roland M-240. It's mostly midi sequenced old hardware synths, drum machines running from midi clock and lots of cheap outboard efx. I think it sounds pretty nice! Not SSL or Neve quality but...

The Night Machine on Spotify
The first track called Cortos Theme is that a juno 106 doing the sweeping bass there?

I am blowing life in this old thread because I too can buy either a Roland M-24E or an yamaha EM300, what is your guys opinions on these mixers? I am actually after old School ****ty sound except if it's just ****ty noisy sound which I'm not after. But low-fi gritty and warm sound, yes please!
Old 16th January 2016
  #12
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Thanks for listening! The sweeping bass is a Sequential Circuits ProOne, but that sound could easily be done on a 106.



The M24E adds a three band EQ (as you probably know), so it's more flexible. I mixed the tracks on Neuromancer on the M240, without EQ and mostly without using 'the box' - just built in sequencers, arpeggiators, MIDI clock, triggers and CV/Gate. The Alesis HR-16B was the master clock if I remember correctly Add to that old Roland efx racks and analog delay etc.

The EM300 will be a lot grittier than the Roland mixers by just looking at the specs. The Rolands were made to be as clean as possible, and can be that if you don't overload the inputs (which sounds nice btw ) The EM300 is more of a PA type mixer, but I'm sure it can sound nice as well - I've always loved old Yamaha gear. But the EM300 is not comparable to the venerable PM1000 desks and its siblings as the circuits doesn't look very similar.

So 'low-fi gritty and warm' sounds (no pun) more like a job for the Yamaha. Good luck
Old 8th April 2016
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loujudson View Post
Still have this if anyone is interested...

<L>
i'm actually looking to pick one of the M-240's up. anyone know of any for sale? right now ebay has two (one without a power supply and one with a sketchy looking power supply)
Old 8th April 2016
  #14
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Used to have an M16E. The "E" stands for Equalizer btw, so the E-models do have EQ. The M16-E has low, hi, and mid sweep.

I think they're very nice indeed, extremely price worthy. Or .. 'were' very price worthy. Today it depends on condition though, cause they're like 25 years old. But they're pretty much like Mackie's mixers. There's very low noise, filters sounds perfectly fine to me, less 'flattering' than Mackie, and they seem to be able to take a beating and keep working. Overall they sound .. I don't know .. functional. They don't add much character at all, or remove anything. They are just 'there'. Never had any problems with it whatsoever.

Roland got two different lines with these mixers. Every model is either the line mixer model (labeled M-120, M-160 etc) without preamps and EQ, or the E-model (labeled M-12E, M-16E etc) which is the same but fewer aux sends, a few doable preamps and EQ. Smallest are 4 channel Boss models, largest is the analog M-480.

One thing that differs between the models is however they got channel inserts or not, and if so how many. Another thing is they don't offer much in terms of grounding or balanced ins and outs. The 24 ch models I believe have balanced output, but not much else about these mixers are balanced. So keep them away from other high-powered signal cables and magnetic fields.

Last edited by Sk106; 8th April 2016 at 03:51 PM..
Old 4th October 2016
  #15
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How do you connect any of these mixers to a DAW system?

I've got a Roland M-480 (48 mono/24 stereo inputs), a Behringer PX-2000 audio patchbay (24 inputs) and a Focusrite 18i20 (8 line inputs) USB audio interface. With a good number of synths, drum machines, sampler etc. with individual outputs it would be nice with a system which would let me record those outputs individually to the DAW.
Obviously, with a maximum of 8 simultaneous recording inputs on the 18i20, but with many more synth outputs I assume I'd need to reconfigure my setup now and then, so how should I connect it all up for the greatest flexibility?
Old 4th October 2016
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
How do you connect any of these mixers to a DAW system?

I've got a Roland M-480 (48 mono/24 stereo inputs), a Behringer PX-2000 audio patchbay (24 inputs) and a Focusrite 18i20 (8 line inputs) USB audio interface. With a good number of synths, drum machines, sampler etc. with individual outputs it would be nice with a system which would let me record those outputs individually to the DAW.
How should I connect it all up for the greatest flexibility?
I would keep it simple, skip the patchbay, hook up everything to the mixer. Then hook up the send and monitor (or sub) outputs of the 480 to the 1-8 inputs of the 18i20.

That way everything comes in to the mixer, using it as a monitor mixer (through the main outputs). But when you wanna print 'that' drum machine and 'that' synth into the computer through the 18i20? Raise up the send 1/2 on the drum machine channel of the 480, and send 3/4 on the synth channel of the 480. That will send only them to the soundcard. This procedure can be applied to any channel on the mixer.

Last edited by Sk106; 4th October 2016 at 10:18 PM..
Old 5th October 2016
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk106 View Post
I would keep it simple, skip the patchbay, hook up everything to the mixer. Then hook up the send and monitor (or sub) outputs of the 480 to the 1-8 inputs of the 18i20.

So to select which 8 audio output sources to record with the DAW I would essentially use the 6 effects "Send" outputs and route them into the 18i20? Do all all six sends do the same thing even though four sends are labeled "Effect" while the other two are labeled "Aux"?

I'm not sure how the "Sub" output works (I've never used it) but it seems this is similar to the "Send" section only that it's a pure on/off output instead? So, to for the 7th and 8th audio source (synth etc.), would I just have "Sub" switched on for them (and all six "Send" pots to their minimum position) and have them panned hard-L and hard-R respectively, and finally connect the "Sub" L and R outputs to inputs 7 and 8 of the 18i20?
You also suggested using the "Monitor" outputs: is an audio source selected for this by pressing its "Cue" button?


Quote:
That way everything comes in to the mixer, using it as a monitor mixer (through the main outputs). But when you wanna print 'that' drum machine and 'that' synth into the computer through the 18i20? Raise up the send 1/2 on the drum machine channel of the 480, and send 3/4 on the synth channel of the 480. That will send only them to the soundcard. This procedure can be applied to any channel on the mixer.
And likewise the "Aux" 1 and 2 pots so that a total of 6 sends is possible with those sends?
Sounds like a good idea! But this would mean that I can't use any of my hardware effects processors. I haven't decided if DAW plugins are the way to go or not (I'm still new to the world of DAW), but the ability to use hardware effects would allow me to jam properly without having to use the DAW all the time (I also have an external MIDI sequencer, so the DAW would be mostly only be used as a multitrack recorder).

I agree in keeping it simple which gave me the idea that an alternative setup would be to attach the audio patchbay to the mixer's inputs, and all individual outputs to the patchbay.
For jamming I would do nothing, but for recording to the DAW I would insert up to 8 patch cables into the patchbay, thereby breaking the current signal flow and re-routing those synth sources directly into the 18i20 instead (bypassing the mixer). Would that work?
And that would also avoid any confusion over the "standard" use of the mixer with its effects section and headphone output as well, I assume.

Finally, how about the audio for me to actually listen to (speakers/headphones) while jamming, DAW-recording and DAW-playback: where would I take that from? I understand that there would be a slight delay (latency) from listening to the direct signal from the synths/drum machines vs. the DAW audio, but obviously when recording new synth tracks I would have to listen to the already recorded tracks while playing something else on my keyboards all in sync. So how would mix "direct-live" and "delayed-recorded" audio sources?
Old 5th October 2016
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
So to select which 8 audio output sources to record with the DAW I would essentially use the 6 effects "Send" outputs and route them into the 18i20?
That was my suggestion, yes. It's a simple one, there are surely others, but used right it will work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
Do all all six sends do the same thing even though four sends are labeled "Effect" while the other two are labeled "Aux"?
I'm not sure how the "Sub" output works (I've never used it) but it seems this is similar to the "Send" section only that it's a pure on/off output instead? So, to for the 7th and 8th audio source (synth etc.), would I just have "Sub" switched on for them (and all six "Send" pots to their minimum position) and have them panned hard-L and hard-R respectively, and finally connect the "Sub" L and R outputs to inputs 7 and 8 of the 18i20?
You also suggested using the "Monitor" outputs: is an audio source selected for this by pressing its "Cue" button?
What I suggested was more of a general method, than a method worked out in perfect detail. Just like you, I noticed that it only has 6 sends. So if you absolutely must send 4 stereo pairs at the same time, you'd have to use some of the other output types along with it. I don't know how they work, since I haven't owned the 480. But being Roland I know they're probably very simple and predictable, and 'should' work similarly to the aux sends. The manual will surely explain it, if you really need to know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
Sounds like a good idea! But this would mean that I can't use any of my hardware effects processors.
I had a feeling this one might come up But like I said, 'more of a general method, than a method worked out in perfect detail'.

The culprit I see in this, is that the 480 is made as a monitoring mixer, not a recording mixer.
A monitoring mixer receives lots of signals, sends/receives potential fx, bunch it all together and send it out through main L/R.
A recording mixer on the other hand, emphasizes the ability to receive signals and route them through a complex scheme of inputs and outputs, while at the same time giving you control over what you hear and don't hear. The 480 isn't really a recording mixer. None of the Roland M-series are. That's your problem. You can use a recording mixer for both purposes, but a monitoring mixer is a simpler design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
I agree in keeping it simple which gave me the idea that an alternative setup would be to attach the audio patchbay to the mixer's inputs, and all individual outputs to the patchbay.
For jamming I would do nothing, but for recording to the DAW I would insert up to 8 patch cables into the patchbay, thereby breaking the current signal flow and re-routing those synth sources directly into the 18i20 instead (bypassing the mixer). Would that work?
What you're suggesting is simply to unplug the cable between patchbay and mixer, and route the synth - coming to the patchbay - through the patchbay and back out again, towards the DAW. That's the same thing as unjacking the synth from the patchbay and plugging into the soundcard directly.

The only way I see that working, with your patchbay, is if you only get to use 24 inputs to the mixer (not 48, because you'll need 24 of the patch bay outputs ready to be patched over to the DAW) and at the same time you won't be able to hear the sound you're recording into the DAW - except through the software monitoring. Also it will prevent you from having any of your external fx units on the raw sound before you record it - should you want that.

This feels like forcing it. You're trying to get tools, that was made for other purposes, to do something they're not made to do. You could sell the 480 and get a recording mixer instead. Or add a recording mixer to this setup - Gearslut that you seem to be

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
Finally, how about the audio for me to actually listen to (speakers/headphones) while jamming, DAW-recording and DAW-playback: where would I take that from? I understand that there would be a slight delay (latency) from listening to the direct signal from the synths/drum machines vs. the DAW audio, but obviously when recording new synth tracks I would have to listen to the already recorded tracks while playing something else on my keyboards all in sync. So how would mix "direct-live" and "delayed-recorded" audio sources?
You assume there will be a delay between sounds triggered via MIDI compared to the audio track output from the DAW. This is sort of incorrect.

As long as you're using a DAW that uses good and effective latency compensation you should not have a problem between playing back audio and direct sound triggered via MIDI. This is done automatically through software compensation. If you're using a 256 ms buffer setting on your soundcard, then the DAW 'should' adjust the timing for exactly when it sends out each MIDI command, so sounds from both sources will occur simultaneously. Not sample accurate, but within a couple of milliseconds of each other I should think.

This also depends on how many MIDI commands you send out. MIDI commands are sent serially, like one big train or cars. That signal-road only got 2 lanes - incoming and outgoing. It ain't like the highway which may have multiple lanes in the same direction. If you got 1 MIDI interface, or just 1 receiving hardware unit, and you send you a whole orchestra composition through MIDI, there will be a MIDI command traffic jam in the MIDI interface, and the MIDI command to play a note will arrive at slightly different times to different units.

I always find myself having to adjust the sound file of a DAW-track a few milliseconds back and forth anyway. Not that the synchronization is off, but just to get the feel right.

If you'd put a gun to my head, I would guess that Cubase/Nuendo is the best one on the particular area of stable latency compensation - particularly with outboard equipment. They started very early with the importance of synchronization and for a long time they had the best (and only) latency compensation out there. They also have by far the best support for utilizing external MIDI devices overall.

Last edited by Sk106; 5th October 2016 at 01:39 AM..
Old 5th October 2016
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk106 View Post
What I suggested was more of a general method, than a method worked out in perfect detail.
Thanks for your reply. I didn't know about recording vs. monitoring mixers. It appears I've been thinking in recording mixer terms (i.e. the analogy of a 24-track recording studio) while not having the correct gear for that.


(routing through the patchbay)
Quote:
What you're suggesting is simply to unplug the cable between patchbay and mixer, and route the synth - coming to the patchbay - through the patchbay and back out again, towards the DAW. That's the same thing as unjacking the synth from the patchbay and plugging into the soundcard directly.
Correct. The idea being that (with the 8 input limitation of the 18i20 vs. many many more synth etc. outputs) I won't have to unplug a multitude of cables on the back of my gear each time I decide to record a different instrument but instead repatch from the patchbay's front panel.


Quote:
The only way I see that working, with your patchbay, is if you only get to use 24 inputs to the mixer (not 48, because you'll need 24 of the patch bay outputs ready to be patched over to the DAW) and at the same time you won't be able to hear the sound you're recording into the DAW - except through the software monitoring. Also it will prevent you from having any of your external fx units on the raw sound before you record it - should you want that.
Yes, you're right about the 48 inputs; I would need a 2nd (or third) patchbay for accomodating all available individual outputs if I am to eliminate any unplugging on the back of my rack (or find a compromise where I instead record multiple passes of a given synth to the DAW or decide which individual outputs I can do without).
Hmmmm... yes, I see what you mean about not being able to apply any external hardware effects to what I'll be recording into the DAW. That could or could not pose an issue depending on if I find FX plugins sufficient or not.

About not hearing the recorded sound -I'm not sure I fully understand. Is this because I'm dealing with two different "areas" of audio: the mixer output and the 18i20 output?
How would the following work: connect the monitor speakers/headphones to the mixer's master output, then connect the 18i20's stereo output into two of the mixer's inputs (but of course with all "Send" pots (and "Sub" switches) for those channels set to off/minimum to avoid feedback) so that I can hear everything at once?


Quote:
This feels like forcing it. You're trying to get tools, that was made for other purposes, to do something they're not made to do. You could sell the 480 and get a recording mixer instead. Or add a recording mixer to this setup - Gearslut that you seem to be

Probably mostly due to ignorance.
Apart from dabbling around with some DAW software demos I have no experience using them though I have basic knowledge of "old school" multitrack analog tape recording which is the analogy I'm trying to pass on to a DAW setup.
At least for starters I'm visioning a DAW setup as a multi-track tape machine, but obviously also as a mixer (mostly because I don't have any EQs on the Roland M-480), but I also want to be able to jam with my gear with just my MIDI setup which is what appears to complicate things (as opposed to just attaching a USB keyboard to the computer and doing everything ITB).


Quote:
You assume there will be a delay between sounds triggered via MIDI compared to the audio track output from the DAW. This is sort of incorrect.
No, I meant a delay between the "live" sound from for example a keyboard I'm playing (recording a new track) vs. the DAW's already recorded audio track(s).
But your explanation with MIDI vs. audio gave me some food for thought: is my understanding correct if I say that anything previously recorded in the DAW will automatically be shifted forward a bit (by the latency value) so that whatever I record live will come out in perfect sync those tracks?

OK, so concluding it does indeed appear that I need to buy a recording mixer to fully be able to set things up in the 24-track (tapeless) recording studio way without a lot of workarounds. That would let me record/mix in a more "hands on" traditional way and I'm guessing I could also set it up so that I could use it to mix down the playback (but I would need another couple of 18i20 units or Focusrite's Octopre Mk. II expansion unit) for a full 24 tracks. All that (or even just a recording mixer) would cost quite a bit of extra cash, which I'm trying to avoid.


So there's your initial suggestion which sounds like a (free) compromise, and to make things less confusing in terms of the send/sub outputs for recording to the 18i20 I could have say, channels 1-8 permanently set up for recording to it and instead route whatever instruments I'd want to record via the patchbay. It might mean buying an additional patchbay or two, but as far as I know they don't cost that much anyway.
It appears I won't be able to use any of my hardware effects though, perhaps only except if I settle for less outputs to the 18i20 (i.e. 6 outputs to it would let me jam with say both reverb and delay when not having the DAW switched on).

What do most people do if they have a lot of analog synths they want to record into a DAW without too much complication, fuss or expense? Buy a recording mixer (with the amount of channels being the same as the audio interface's number of inputs), possibly with an audio patchbay? Or have the DAW used for all mixing and effects ITB, using patchbays or a mixer such as mine only to route the various instrument signals to its audio interface inputs?
Old 5th October 2016
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
Yes, you're right about the 48 inputs; Hmmmm... yes, I see what you mean about not being able to apply any external hardware effects to what I'll be recording into the DAW.
//
What do most people do if they have a lot of analog synths they want to record into a DAW without too much complication, fuss or expense?
One could suggest a simple studio-type mixer, which uses a direct input into the computer. Meaning, you'll have a mixer which plugs into the computer with a USB or Firewire cable. The largest within what I'd refer to a low cost, that I know of, is Soundcraft Signature 22MTK. I'm thinking you want as many channels as you can.
It's a 22 channel desktop mixer with all the features you'd expect from any mixer that size, even onboard fx, which will give you a 22 channel mixer plus 22 channels inputs and output to your computer - through 1 digital cable. On each mixerchannel, there's a button switch, where you can choose whether this channel is going to play back the sound from the analog cable input, or the sound from the computer input. You can't listen to both at the same time though.

It's not the only one which does this, but it's the largest one I know of at a low price. Costs could be helped by the fact that you can then sell the M480 and the Focusrite soundcard. They'll be superflous. The mixer will be your soundcard and mixer all on one. Can be used like a traditional mixer without the computer too.

If you don't want to go on with DAWs (at this time anyway), there are always hardware recorders. A 32-track hard disk porta studio will also give you mixer plus monitoring abilities. Won't be able to edit much though. And for some more cash there are rackmount recorders from 2-64 tracks available, which works like a straight up replacement for an analog tapemachine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
About not hearing the recorded sound -I'm not sure I fully understand. Is this because I'm dealing with two different "areas" of audio: the mixer output and the 18i20 output?
You won't hear the sound you're recording (except possibly through the realtime DAW monitoring), because the signal goes directly from the synth to the computer. As a rule of thumb, you want to listen to what's coming in directly, because what's coming out of the DAW .. you never know what's been added on there, you know. Depends on how picky you are, I guess. Plus, listening to the input sound through the DAW causes latency.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
How would the following work: connect the monitor speakers/headphones to the mixer's master output, then connect the 18i20's stereo output into two of the mixer's inputs (but of course with all "Send" pots (and "Sub" switches) for those channels set to off/minimum to avoid feedback) so that I can hear everything at once?
That will mean the synth signal gets sent through a send, to the computer, comes back out of the computer live (along with all previously recorded material) and enters the mixer into the 2 channels on the mixer which the DAW is connected to.
This will result in a volume increase for whichever track is sent to the computer via a send, and quite possibly phase or delay issues, since the sound from the sending channel will be heard from two sources at once (channel and DAW).
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
No, I meant a delay between the "live" sound from for example a keyboard I'm playing (recording a new track) vs. the DAW's already recorded audio track(s).
If I understand your scenario right, this will only happen if you either:
A) Trigger an outboard soundsource via MIDI from a (different) hardware keyboard through the computer.
B) Trigger a software synthesizer inside the computer from a hardware keyboard.
C) Listens to the synth audio through the DAW feedbackbus (meaning the sound has to pass through the computer first).
That difference in delay shouldn't be too bad though, as long as you keep your audio interface buffer size setting at low numbers (2 ms latency or so).
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
But your explanation with MIDI vs. audio gave me some food for thought:
Oh, nooo ..
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmcomposer View Post
Is my understanding correct if I say that anything previously recorded in the DAW will automatically be shifted forward a bit (by the latency value) so that whatever I record live will come out in perfect sync those tracks?
It should. But this a bit between different DAWs. Some implements this differently than others, and some are also more or less effective than others. Some have got dedicated low-latency record modes that you enter into only while recording (because the computer processor won't have power enough to do this to all tracks in a mix).

If you got anything of a musical ear, you'll hear if its off, and then you just move the recorded audio back and forth, 1 ms at a time, on the track, until it sits right. The real problem is if the latency compensation is bad so the latency is noticeable while live playing. That will irritate the living Jesus out of you, can't even play like you normally do.

The offset caused by latency should be predictable though. The offset will be as long as your latency delay is. If you got a 4ms delay, you know the audio is 4ms too late. You move the recorded audio back 4 ms.

Latency only occurs if the sound or MIDI signal passes through the DAW, or the sound within the DAW passes through a plugin etc. If the sound has to be recalculated by the processor, latency occurs. It doesn't occur if the sound originates inside the DAW, or just goes in to the DAW, or out of the DAW. Through (processing) is the keyword.

Last edited by Sk106; 5th October 2016 at 05:11 AM..
Old 14th October 2016
  #21
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Wow! I didn't know about mixers like that. I'm generally sceptical of "all in one" solutions as there is usually some cutting corners to get the price down, but being Soundcraft I'd expect the DA/AD conversion to be of high quality, but then again so should the 18i20, and it only does that and costs only US$ 300 less than the mixer (this was for the 2nd generation -I have the 1st generation as far as I know). So cramming all the components for a quality mixer and two Lexicon effects processors for $300 without compromising quality?....
I don't think I'd get that much money for my Roland M-480 today, would I? And even by selling it and the Focusrite 18i20 I'm sure I'd have to pay a fair bit of money extra to get that mixer. Another option of course would be to buy a used analog recording mixer though as you see I'd have to do quite a bit of research to know what I'd be looking for first.

I'm all for trying out DAW software since I already have the hardware (computer), and when it comes to software I read good things about Tracktion 5 free which, unlike Ableton Live Lite (which came with the 18i20) doesn't have those track and other limitations, and is of course free. There's also Presonus studio One 3 Prime which is also free, but doesn't have VST capabilities like Tracktion. Might be worth trying out anyway as there aren't any costs involved.

Since I haven't previously multi-track recorded any of my stuff in the past it would probably be wise to start off with what I already have regarding hardware, follow your suggestion of using the M-480 send/sub outputs to the 18i20 and take it from there. As a compromise I could play around with just say 4 outputs to the 18i20 so as not to sacrifice all my hardware effects. I'll likely find out more as I gain more experience, then see what I'm missing (or that it works fine the way it is!).
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