So whats the answer? - Soundcard with ntrack

Searched and didnt see a definate answer

What is the sound card to get to make n-track act like a true-multi-recorder? IE: 8/16 tracks independantly recorded at once, edited independantly afterwards… two 4 trackers? (2 stereo inputers), etc? … need to buy … but need to know -WHAT- to buy …

I searched forums, but got this and that answers… … ??

Look at the MOTU line or PreSonus Firepod

I’m loving my EMU 1820M. 18 inputs/20 outputs. Great card. Had it for a couple years now. No problems.

D

How are the built in effects for it Diogenes?
How does this part work and has it made life easy on your CPU? Or am I in left field?

They are not bad. Certainly usable for some things but nothing to write home about. My favorite use is for effects on monitor and/or headphone mixes. You can insert the effect or effects on a signal for your monitor mix and still record dry while using NO CPU overhead. Touch O’ verb for a vocalist’s headphone mix for example.

Bottom line… they are good meat and potatoes effects that are usuable without being great. The guitar/distortion sims are absolutely useless though… I’m not a big fan of software guitar amps anyway. Maybe someday…

D

There are many different ways to get multiple input/output. I use a Tascam DM-24 digital mixer feeding a Frontier Designs Dakota via ADAT light-pipe as my soundcard. You can also interface this board via firewire with the right option card or TDIF if you have something like a MOTU interface. This is an expensive but flexible approach since you can set up a really good monitor mix and the board can be used for live sound as well (also for live multi-track recording). It also provides 16 good mic pres (with inserts) with direct digital outputs or the ability to use the whole channel with dynamic processors, 4-band parametric EQ on each channel.

Before I got the DM-24 I used a Yamaha 01V with the same interface card which is a less expensive alternative with an 8 channel output limit (although you could theoretically use the SPDIF output to get 2 more channels).

The only downside I have found (other than cost) of this approach is that it does not provide a MIDI synthesizer for a click track. For this you would need either a soft-synth or external hardware synthesizer.

Jim

There is no definitive answer. It’s like asking "What’s the best car to buy?"

Virtually any soundcard will do what you’re asking for. There’s a wide range of options depending on the features and quality level you want. Even the most inexpensive gear is really quite good when used properly (e.g., SoundBlaster Live).

BTW, you’re implying that a “true multi-tracker” means recording one channel at a time, but it shouldn’t be limited to that. n-Track with any audio input is a true multitracker in every sense of the word, and the more audio channels you can record at once, the more it’s like what I would call “true multi-trackers”.

Regardless, the vast majority of studio recording (including home-studio) is done one track (or one stereo track) at a time, except when recording drums.

Well… am using a 16x4 mixer… nothing special, but want n-track to be able to record -live- each track seperatly at the same time… :)

Would that be 4 tracks or 16 tracks at once, you’re looking to do?

Does the 16x4 have direct outs on each channel? If not you may be limited with the mixer. You can run out of the insert jacks. But that will mean that the only thing the mixer will help you is by providing the preamp stage of each channel. If you are planning on using the mixer by using the faders for record levels, etc., then you will need direct outs.

Hmm, if my post seems a bit non-sequitur, it’s because it was. I misread the question!

The only thing that’s completely wrong with what I said was “almost any soundcard will do”. Assuming you want to record up to 16 tracks at once, you need a multichannel soundcard, maybe two of them. And as vanclan mentioned, it’ll only work if your mixer has inserts or direct outs on each channel. If not you probably need a different mixer, but it depends on what you’re recording and how many mic preamps you need.

No doubt the EMU mentioned above would work great. You can also use two 8-channel soundcards and slave one to the other for clocking. (Some cards have this ability ‘built-in’ and you just turn it on. With others, you use the ADAT or S/PDIF out from one into the same on the other and clock the second off that input.)

HTH

There are many manufacturers which offer multiple input solutions. I am familiar with offereings from RME, Frontier Designs, and MOTU but there are many others. Most are designed for line-level inputs but some may offer preamps on some channels.

Some cards (like the Frontier Designs Dakota) provide a digital interface on the card which can be used with other devices sharing the same interface type. The Frontier stuff uses ADAT lightpipe as an interface so you can connect either their own Tango A/D D/A analog interface (line input/output) or something like a Presonnus Firepod (8 mic preamps with ADAT interface and 8 line-level outputs). The total cost of this can approach that of the digital mixer but there may be reasons to do this.

In addition to those systems which use a digital connection between an outboard box and the PCI card there are PCI cards with “fan-out” cables that have the A/D converters on the card itself which are almost certainly less expensive per channel. a quick look at on-line music stores should turn up lots of options.

You should look over your board to determine whether you have enough outputs. In general if you are doing live recording you need either a snake splitter in front of the board and a preamplified computer interface (splitters are very costly so this is only done by pros), inserts on all channels with a bit of cable magic if you also want to use effects on the inserts, or direct outs (as others have said). Wjile you can use aux outputs to get a few channels, they are generally partially used for effects and will not provide enough outs for discrete tracking of all channels.

Others will probably chime in with specific interfaces that they have had experience with. I have found the Frontier Design stuff adequate but I don’t believe it would be the most cost-effective if you are planning to use an analog mixer as the front-end. I chose it in part because it also includes MIDI interfaces so there is a single driver for the whole deal (simplicity is good) but in practice I have had little use for MIDI so you have to decide whether this is important for you.

Jim

As far as number of channels go, the best bang for buck is probably ther hercules 16/12 fw - but it has a few shortcomings, mainly no proper monitoring.

You can get a few channels out of a single desk. Out of my UB2442fx-pro, I have inserts and direct outs on the first 8 channels, four auxes sends, and four groups. If I need more than 8 channels in, I run an aux out to a soundcard channel, although currently the soundcard main outs come back through 15/16.

So, on the desk, I’m set up this way -
Channels 1-8 direct out/insert (which is interesting, last week I recorded the kick from an insert and an eqed kick from the direct out to seperate channels at the same time. Ended up using the eqed kick)
Channels 9/10 - 11/12 are out using aux 1-2
Channel 13/14 can use Aux 4 (aux 3 goes to the built in effects, and has an effect out send) or one of the subgroup outs.
15/16 is a feed from the soundcard main outs.

I don’t monitor through my soundcard per-se, I get all my monitoring levels at the desk independant (more or less) to the levels going to the soundcard. It’s pretty flexible, but a little bulky as opposed to a couple of preamps and a soundcard that can control the monitoring levels. I did my first serious work with this setup a couple of weeks ago and quite liked the hands on side of it.

Willy.

BTW, if I had my time again, I’d probably get a different soundcard. It was between the EMU and the Herc pretty much at the time, dunno what I’d get now.

Here is a 10 input soundcard for 200 bucks. However, I am not sure what to do with the RCA inputs. Wouldn’t it be better to have 1/4 inch inputs? It has 2 XLR inputs, but it would be nice to have 10 XLR inputs as well.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product…=701376

Doghouseman,

It is not the connector but the circuitry behind the connector that matters. In this case the 2 input XLRs can accept microphone inputs (jumper selectable between mic and line level) but I believe that rest of the inputs and outputs are line-level with most being unbalanced. This would be fine for recording using a mixer as a front-end since the cable runs will be short and if the board inserts are used to send the signal to the card these signals would be unbalanced anyway. A simple adapter will fix the connector issue.

I believe a number of forum members have used this card. To get 16 channels you will need two cards but since it provides for word-clock they can be accurately synchronized at the hardware level. While that guarantees sample clock synchronization I don’t know if the software drivers result in exact synchronization between files generated by each card. One reason I like my Dakota card is that the mediation between the hardware and software is through a single card with a single driver but I am not sure if that makes a practical difference.

Jim

Quote (jimbob @ June 14 2006,15:51)
Doghouseman,

It is not the connector but the circuitry behind the connector that matters. In this case the 2 input XLRs can accept microphone inputs (jumper selectable between mic and line level) but I believe that rest of the inputs and outputs are line-level with most being unbalanced. This would be fine for recording using a mixer as a front-end since the cable runs will be short and if the board inserts are used to send the signal to the card these signals would be unbalanced anyway. A simple adapter will fix the connector issue.

I believe a number of forum members have used this card. To get 16 channels you will need two cards but since it provides for word-clock they can be accurately synchronized at the hardware level. While that guarantees sample clock synchronization I don't know if the software drivers result in exact synchronization between files generated by each card. One reason I like my Dakota card is that the mediation between the hardware and software is through a single card with a single driver but I am not sure if that makes a practical difference.

Jim

So balanced inputs is another way of saying that they are amplified?

I am using this mixer http://www.alesis.com/products/mixers/studio12r/index.html

Which has an insert on each track, but I think the signal would be balanced, or amplified. The inserts are for effects.

So, I need a 1/4 to RCA adaptor?

Thanks.

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So balanced inputs is another way of saying that they are amplified?


The short answer is no.

Since I rarely give short answers I will continue. An unbalanced connection uses two wires with one of the two being the analog ground of the system (usually connected to the chassis at at least one point). Normally the ground connection is the “shield” of the cable (a foil or braided conductor completely encircling the center (or signal) conductor. This ground provides both for shielding and the return current for the signal.

In a balanced system the shield is still connected to ground but two conductors are used inside the shield. One conductor normally carries a positive version of the signal and the other and inverted or negative version of the signal. You can think of each providing the return path for the other. The impedance of each with respect to ground is equal or “balanced”. Note that you can have a balanced connection even if the signal is not differential because the impedance balance is the important factor in noise rejection.

The input circuitry in a balanced connection looks only at the voltage difference between the two conductors, not at the relationship of the signal voltage to ground. This provides extra noise-immunity since any interferining signal that gets through the shield is applied equally and in phase to both conductors and is subtracted out by the input stage. So for the signal 1-(-1) = 2 whereas for the noise signal 1-1 = 0. This only occurs when the impedance from the noise source to each signal conductor is equal (this is assisted by twisting the conductors) and the impedance between each signal conductor and ground is equal (balanced). If you ground one of the conductors (such as using a plug adapter between an XLR and a mono phone plug) the signal becomes unbalanced and the extra noise imunity is lost. Using a transformer adapter will maintain the balance up to the transformer.

An unbalanced input looks at the voltage difference between ground and the signal connector and since this connection scheme has more direct coupling to ground than to the signal conductor, interfering noise can more easily induce a current in the shield and the input is thus more susceptible to induced noise. This is not normally a problem for short cable runs and is used regularly for many applications, especially when the signal levels are high.

Microphones typically generate such small signals that unbalanced cables cannot be relliably used for runs more that about 10-20 feet before noise pick-up becomes an issue. This means that pro microphones inevitably have balanced connections but also means that an additional amplifier is needed to get to levels where the unbalanced internal circuitry of most mixers can be used without noise issues. This is the microphone preamp. Using additional amplification on a line-level signal will cause clipping so when balanced line-level connections are used the gain must be reduced by a trimpot or input attenuator (pad).

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Which has an insert on each track, but I think the signal would be balanced, or amplified. The inserts are for effects.


While the inserts are normally used for effects, they are also a convenient point to tap into the signal for recording. This jack follows the mic preamp and has three contacts, an unbalaced “send” signal (the output of the mic pre) and an unbalanced “return” contact (the input to the rest of the channel) as well as a common ground contact. When nothing is plugged in the send is internally connected to the return. When a “stereo” (tip/ring/sleeve or TRS) plug is fully inserted the internal connection is opened and an external device can be “inserted” (placed in series) with the signal.

The trick is that different board designers selct different contacts for the send and returns although the ground is always the sleeve connection. There are several ways to tap into this point which is convenient for recording because only the signal for that channel is present and it is at “line” level (more or less). The way that involves the least soldering and works regardless of the wiring of the insert is to buy an insert cable at the music store or Radio Shack (stereo plug to two mono plugs) and a mono Y-connector. Plug the strereo end into the insert and the two mono plugs into the Y-connector. For the M-audio card you will also need to convert the mono plug of the Y-connector to an RCA connector with an appropriate phone plug to RCA plug adapter.

On some boards you can just use a guitar cable partially plugged in to the insert (one click) with a mono phone plug to RCA adapter at the other end. The other method is more general and you can still use an effect either before or after the recording input by using a second short unbalanced cable and putting the effect between either the send and the Y or between the Y and the return.

Jim

LOL