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Old February 28th, 2009, 05:57 PM   #1
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video guy decides to multitrack on PC

What I want to do
------
Record from multiple sources (multitrack) on PC, simultaneously.

What I currently have
------
1) some mics (dynamic, condenser)
2) Panasonic AG-DVX102B video cam with 2x XLR inputs (the mics have only been connected to the cam so far)

My question
------
Which are the best components to buy to get a good multrack studio set-up with a strong focus on sound quality? My mic choices are made (the best mic in the bunch will be the Rode NT1A, to give some idea of what I want to be able to exploit, sonically).

PC is:
dual-core 2GHz
2GB ram
plenty of HD space
Windows XP
...with bog-standard onboard audio.

My main concern is getting clean, noiseless signals into the PC and monitoring without latency, and I'll get whatever I need to get those results.

Firewire and USB interfaces?
-----------
I have read up about about firewire and USB 2.0 digital interfaces on mixers and as separate devices, but I am unsure how solid the results are for audio. I have heard latency can be a pain when monitoring and am unsure if analogue connections to the PC using a higher-quality multi-input soundcard is the better way.

I can spend big if need be (and only if need be). All I really want to be able to do is lay down 8 or so mono tracks with the least noise (at 16bit/44.1 or 48KHz) with professional results.

Appreciate any advice for what mixer and/or soundcard and/or digital interface to look at, etc. Or anything else I might need that I've overlooked. Thanks!
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Old February 28th, 2009, 06:23 PM   #2
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I have had good luck with the Echo Audio AudioFire firewire interfaces. Either the AudioFire 8 or the AudioFire 12 will do what you want. The '8 has 2 dual mic/line level inputs and 6 line inputs, 8 line outputs, plus 2 channels S/PDIF I/O. The '12 has 12 line level inputs and outputs. You would need a mixer 'upstream' to control the levels sent to the interface - I have a Mackie 1642 in that role. By patching the interface outputs through the mixer and back to the interface inputs I can do a mixdown in the analog domain if I want. And an NT1a serves as my principle desk mic. Those particular interfaces can be daisy-chained on the firewire bus so you're pretty open-ended as to the number of channels of full-duplex I/O you can build.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 07:07 PM   #3
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I bought a MOTU 896MK3, which is a 2-rack-mount sized 8 channel interface that records nicely via firewire into Sony Soundforge9...it has hardware and software controls, including compression and reverb, and assignable outputs (including two live xlr outs you could use for your camera.) It is, unfortunately, ac powered, limiting its field use somewhat, but compact and a quality piece of kit. About US$1k..../Battle Vaughan/miamiherald.com video team
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Old March 1st, 2009, 04:37 AM   #4
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Many thanks for your suggestions, guys. The ECHO and MOTU both look great. I need to decide on one of those.

I was hoping to pair it up with a relatively inexpensive mixer (something about half the price of that Mackie you mentioned, Steve). Yamaha MG166c or similar.

Or is it worth spending more on the mixer than this, considering I think the models in this price range will meet my needs fine but they may be noticeably noisier (I'm just not sure if it's a false economy).
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Old March 1st, 2009, 06:01 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Taylor View Post
Many thanks for your suggestions, guys. The ECHO and MOTU both look great. I need to decide on one of those.

I was hoping to pair it up with a relatively inexpensive mixer (something about half the price of that Mackie you mentioned, Steve). Yamaha MG166c or similar.

Or is it worth spending more on the mixer than this, considering I think the models in this price range will meet my needs fine but they may be noticeably noisier (I'm just not sure if it's a false economy).
Should have asked before - when you say "multitrack," what are you really looking to do and what workflow do you anticipate? You said you want to record multiple tracks ... what is the maximum number of mics or tracks do you plan to record concurrently? X-track multitracking could mean laying down all X tracks at once, or it could mean doing it in X passes, recording each instrument separately, or some combination thereof. "Tracking" often involves building a piece in layers, laying down each instrument by itself, starting with a click track to set the tempo (left out of the final mix of course) and adding the drum kit, guitar, bass, vocals, etc as separate takes recorded to playback of the previous tracks. Tracks might be recorded as live performances or they might be created by stringing together loops. The end result of the process is a project in DAW software such as Audition, Vegas, or whatever, that contains many parallel tracks, all laid down by themselves, one at a time, that are then mixed to the final stereo song. The complexity of the mixer you need and the number of channels needed in the interface are driven by the maximum number of mics you're going to be recording at once, and/or the maximum number of tracks you want to mix in the analog domain. If you mix in the digital domain (using the DAW's software mixer) when you do the mix-down, you really only need a few channels of I/O and a mixer with enough channels to handle the maximum number of mics required for recording one track.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 10:37 AM   #6
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Steve, thanks for your help.

I want to do live audio. ie. a band recorded at once.

That mixer I mentioned (and others like it) have (more than) enough mic/line inputs, etc. but I was more concerned about how mixers in this price range sound, quality-wise. Unsure if it's worth spending more for better sound (my gut feeling says it probably isn't). Things like mic preamp quality, etc.

That's all I'm concerned about. Features are adequately covered.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 10:51 AM   #7
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What about somethng like this M-AUDIO - NRV10 - 10 x 10 FireWire Digital Audio Interface | 8 x 2 Analog Mixer with Effects with something like this you can send the whole mix and the single tracks for mixing later. Another alternative is this Welcome to Fostex USA and then you transfer the wav files via USB to your PC for mixing, or you could even mix internally and just transfer a final stereo file to your computer.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 01:18 PM   #8
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The general concensus is that most decent A-Ds that can get audio into the PC nowadays are pretty good in terms of mic amp quality - a huge change from 10 years ago. I'd cheerfully admit to no longer using my proper mixers - the one in the studio here simply serves as a method of integrating additional sound sources into a master mix - but very often the only knob I touch is the master volume - when the phone rings! Everything on screen (well, two screens) is automated, so there's really no need to mix outside anymore. The quality of all the hardware mixers I have used over the past few years is high enough to not make it a limiting factor anymore.

You mentioned latency. There is still a delay, but on all my audio kit this is much less than it used to be, as drivers have progressed. I'm using a Lexicon external audio box now on the edit machine and it's quite happy.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 01:57 PM   #9
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The nice thing about the MOTU is that it serves as a mixer, dynamics processor and analog/digital converter all in one...you can mix with the knobs and led readouts, or mix in sofware with provided apps...record into Sound Forge, afaik, Audition, soundbooth, cakewalk, etc as well. If you realllllly want to get fancy, look at the Presonus Studio Live, which is a conventional mixer with full dynamics and effects processing, digitizing, etc, about 2K$. / B. Vaughan
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Old March 1st, 2009, 08:10 PM   #10
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Thanks for your suggestions, guys.
Ken, thanks for that link. I also discovered the M-Audio Project Mix I/O and Tascam FW models, which are intriguing from a DAW perspective.

Paul and Battle Vaughan, thanks for your posts. Now the problem: deciding!
:)
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Old March 2nd, 2009, 01:36 AM   #11
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Its my pleasure to help out. To be honest, I am a musician with over a decade of experience in digital recording using computers, but when I decided to get into video production I soon abandoned that way and bought a Fostex MR8HD. The sheer simplicity of recording to that thing saves me so much time and a lot of money. Its smaller, can record 4 microphones simultaneously, costs about $350 and the quality is just about the same as what I was getting out of my laptop hooked up to an external soundcard hooked up to a mixer. With the Fostex at the end of the day I just hook it up to my computer via USB and transfer all the wav files. Only downside is it records at 44.1K 16bit, but I never had problems syncing it up in post.
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Old March 8th, 2009, 03:02 PM   #12
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I'm the opposite of you, music guy wanting to do video work :).

I come from doing music work, and boy, my newest interface is the Yamaha N12 and I love using it. It has tons of features on it and the preamps are sweeter than anything you can find in the range. Its conversion kills the RME too, which means this thing just eats babies over anything mentioned. Plus the onboard DSP rocks and you get a monitoring system with it too. By using onboard dsp you can save your computer processing too.

You will want a better mic though... I can't stand the Rode mics... even a CAD M179 will do much better
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Old March 8th, 2009, 03:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Taylor View Post
Thanks for your suggestions, guys.
Ken, thanks for that link. I also discovered the M-Audio Project Mix I/O and Tascam FW models, which are intriguing from a DAW perspective.

Paul and Battle Vaughan, thanks for your posts. Now the problem: deciding!
:)
The Project Mix has horrible conversion and preamps. Stay away. In fact, I'd say get the Profire 2626 if you want to go lower than the N12. The Tascam is alright too, but it makes up for itself with motorized faders.
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