i've been spending a lot (probably too much) time recently contemplating how best to expand my setup in the future and would greatly appreciate any advice on the following notion.
if i were to use an analog mixer to mix audio from my DAW, essentially using at as a glorified tape machine, would latencies make it impractical to use the DAW as an effects rack?
ie, route the aux sends from the mixer back into tracks in the DAW, put effects on these channels (really only stuff like reverbs, delays and other such effects) and then take the outputs of these channels back into the mixers aux returns.
since standalone outboard digital effects units involve AD-DSP-DA just as the DAW would, might any latency be comparable and thus workable or is this not practical?
I doubt it will work. You might be able to get a a single instance of reverb before you start suffering noticable latency. I've tried this with guitar plugins like amplitube. Running just that plugin works fine with the buffer set very low. Add another plugin and a noticable latency is heard... at more tracks and its all over...
You could always try it and see but I doubt it. Particularly with you are trying to use the same PC as your "glorified tape machine PC".
You could just sub mix and apply reverb to parallel channels with the DAW then send them all out to the console while you save up for a dedicated effects unit. I vote for the KSP-8. $2100 and you get 8 mono or 4 stereo effects sends...
I think they reason digital processors work like that is because it's a standalone box. If i'm notmistaken, DAW's induce more latency because it has to convert audio, but also interface with different software programs. As I understand, latency there is for a/d/a conversion, but also software processing. A digital effects unit (or, i think even digital mulititrack "workstations") have less latency problems because it's an integrated unit with proprietary processing.
So i'm pretty sure you would get too much latency to be useable. It would be just like a monitoring latency when tracking...
I've never made it work with no latency. Audio interface manufacturers may try and claim its possible but in the real world its different. Can't you just put fx on the tracks while they're still ITB? Or is it hardware synths that you want to add DAW fx to?
It works fine for delay fx that are longer than the round trip latency. Since delays are my most commonly used effect, I've exploited this a few times in lieu of acquiring additional stand-alone delay lines.
Patch the console's aux send to a DAW aux return, then route it's output back to the console. You'll now have a fixed delay time determined by the DAW's buffer size. Drop a delay plug on the aux track and you can lengthen the delay time and add feedback taps. Drop a de-esser plug on it and clean up those vocal sends or drop in an EQ to hard filter the return. Pretty flexible for mid - long delay stuff... stuff... stuff... stuff...
well the plan is to get a nice little analog console, 16 channels, use eq and dynamics on the console, therefore have to send these processed signals to reverb / delays, as opposed to sending them pre-eq and pre-dynamics itb before the mixer.
i would be running cubase sx3 on a very fast amd pc with a fireface 800 as the interface, lynx aurora over adat for the 16 channel outputs to the mixer, the ff800 analog i/o for the fx sends and returns. it would seem a tidy little stup if i can operate with the latency. but again, only for reverbs and delays and such effects.
You would need a dedicated computer to be used as an FX processor. And depending on the plugins used your mileage may vary. The key here is to not have any harddrive activity, like playback tracks, on the machine and only have it doing DSP. I think you will find that you will get around 256 samples of latency for reliable performance with heavy usage.
If using a RME HDSP Series product, like the Fireface 800, this is indeed a possibility...
THE HDSP series comes with a mixer (also known as TotalMix) which offers zero latency monitoring. This mixer lives "outsidde" of your recording application...very much like having an external mixer sitting on your desk. TotalMix allows the re-routing of all your inputs and playback channels so that you can create FX Sends and headphone monitoring submixes on the fly and recall them at a moments notice with 8 presets per session. There is 0% CPU hit on the computer using this mixer as it is all done by the DSP on the unit. There is also Dimming, Mono Summing, Mackie Control Support, M/S processing, Mute/Solo, Pan, Volume, phase inversion(currently only FF800) and full metering.
Also, using any soundcard will work at zero latency when using an external mixer. The key here is to not monitor your live input through the DAW's software mixer. You must only monitor through your external mixer. All DAW's will automatically create an offset to record your input signal in time with the existing material. You can even use plugins on your playback channels. It is only LIVE INPUT that latency ever becomes an issue...and that includes VSTi's as well, hence the need for low latency monitoring drivers such as ASIO. Remember that latency is only an issue if you want to monitor your FX or Instruments in your DAW on live input. If you are using external FX this is not a problem if you are using an external mixer or something like RME's TotalMix.
So...Yes, you can use your computer like a tape deck. If it wasn't possible then how did people do this stuff 10 years ago before ASIO existed???
If you only want to route external tracks through a DAW to use it as an effects processor, there's no way to escape the latency problem using current technologies. As another poster said, some effects might work OK (mostly delays if you do the math of delay time + latency and maybe reverb if you don't mind a healthy pre-delay!), but modulation, distortion or any other effects which require synchronization in the time domain will not work well.
The opposite is possible with Cubase SX and Nuendo: if all your tracks are in the DAW and you want to route DAW tracks through an external processor and back into the DAW without timing issue, Cubase/Nuendo will automatically adjust for latency (once you setup that external loop). It's a relatively new feature to both products -- Look at Steinberg's site under "Automatic Latency Compensation for External Hardware."
My suggestion would be to skip the mixer at this stage and use this Cubase feature for your effects sends and returns to let Cubase automatically deal with the latency (use group tracks, etc). Then you can output all the tracks/busses (including the effects returns now recorded into Cubase) to your analog mixer for mixdown.