Looking for a digital mixer, and feeding ext synths properly

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Looking for a digital mixer, and feeding ext synths properly

Postby Aurum Noble » 12 Apr 2013 10:04

Hey guys,

I'm looking to replace my current mixer with something a lot better sometime in the future. Because of my studio expansion plans, the mixer I've got at the moment doesn't provide enough I/O, and the recording volume is really poor (I have to keep boosting the volume every time, and it's often creating too much attenuation to the other inputs). I've been looking at the impressive Behringer X32, but the price tag has placed it way out of my league, so I've been looking to places like eBay for a second hand digital mixer that's under £1000.

Has anyone got any recommendations as to what brand, type and model I should look at? The mixer needs to provide at least 24 channels and MIDI, either through USB or DIN, in order to allow the controls to be assigned to Ableton, and for the volume sliders to be synced to each track, as well as for controlling virtual channels for VSTs and in-built plugins. Ideally, it should have a built-in audio interface, but if I need a new interface to replace my existing one, which one would I need to get?

Also, I have a question about feeding external synths to mixers. At the moment, I'm just using straight 1/4" jacks directly to the mixer, but as I understand, it's not really the way to feed them, and also, I have a habit of using two for stereo, rather than one, since my old habits aren't going to get me far with most mixers, which often have just one 1/4" socket and a balanced XLR (in fact, the Behringer X32 uses just XLR for most inputs and outputs). What's the proper way of feeding external synths to mixers, and would I need to use XLR (converted from 1/4" to balanced via a DI box or rack) in most cases, or could I just get by with a single balanced 1/4"?
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Re: Looking for a digital mixer, and feeding ext synths prop

Postby JayB » 13 Apr 2013 16:17

Honest opinion: avoid Behringer as good as you can. They're famous for selling noise creators masked as professional audio gear.

From your description I'd look for a big audio interface in the first place. Something based on Firewire best. And combine it with a decent DAW controller. I guess the ProTools interfaces and ProControl are a bit too big for you. I've got a MOTU interface which works like a charm so far. :)

As for the connection: a good mixer or interface has "normal" line inputs. Whether it's 1.4" jack or XLR doesn't matter in the first place, only if you connect or disconnect a lot. Balanced or unbalanced depends on your studio situation. Balanced connections are isolated against influences from the outside (humming transformers for example). My synths are all unbalanced connected, mainly because they don't have balanced output themselves. Never had any trouble with distortion or influences, probably because the cables have a good shielding, but also because I keep audio and current locally separated. If your synths have balanced outputs a stereo jack per channel should be your choice.

- JayB
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Re: Looking for a digital mixer, and feeding ext synths prop

Postby Aurum Noble » 14 Apr 2013 09:33

JayBrony wrote:Honest opinion: avoid Behringer as good as you can. They're famous for selling noise creators masked as professional audio gear.

From your description I'd look for a big audio interface in the first place. Something based on Firewire best. And combine it with a decent DAW controller. I guess the ProTools interfaces and ProControl are a bit too big for you. I've got a MOTU interface which works like a charm so far. :)

As for the connection: a good mixer or interface has "normal" line inputs. Whether it's 1.4" jack or XLR doesn't matter in the first place, only if you connect or disconnect a lot. Balanced or unbalanced depends on your studio situation. Balanced connections are isolated against influences from the outside (humming transformers for example). My synths are all unbalanced connected, mainly because they don't have balanced output themselves. Never had any trouble with distortion or influences, probably because the cables have a good shielding, but also because I keep audio and current locally separated. If your synths have balanced outputs a stereo jack per channel should be your choice.

- JayB

Thanks :) I was thinking more along the lines of something like a Yamaha 0xx series (I've seen them cheap on eBay), and combining it with an external audio interface, since I'm planning on expanding my studio with about 4/5 synth racks and maybe a few external effects to take the load off my Mac.

I've seen the MOTU stuff, and they are very impressive, although they do seem to be in the Rolls-Royce league, unless that's just me thinking that the vast majority of MOTU users are Hollywood movie composers.
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Re: Looking for a digital mixer, and feeding ext synths prop

Postby JayB » 16 Apr 2013 04:18

Well your price limit doesn't seem to allow a digital mixer with integrated audio interface. Behringer, Presonus or Tascam are all above 2500€.
Do you really want to have each synth on its own track? I for example have 7 synths, but only three stereo inputs on my interface. I have all my synths go through an analog mixer (Yamaha) which only works as a routing station, so if I want to have a I special synty separately (e.g. For harder side chaining) I take it away from outputs 1-2 and route it to Output 3-4 which are connected to another input of my interface. It's not 100% flexible, but it's cheaper and I still reach my goal. And noise isn't a problem if you turn the synths themselves to maximum volume.

The other question would be the DAW controller...
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Audio Units: Lennar Digital Sylenth, LinPlug CronoX, Korg Legacy Collection Analog and more...
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Re: Looking for a digital mixer, and feeding ext synths prop

Postby Aurum Noble » 18 Apr 2013 08:36

JayBrony wrote:Well your price limit doesn't seem to allow a digital mixer with integrated audio interface. Behringer, Presonus or Tascam are all above 2500€.
Do you really want to have each synth on its own track? I for example have 7 synths, but only three stereo inputs on my interface. I have all my synths go through an analog mixer (Yamaha) which only works as a routing station, so if I want to have a I special synty separately (e.g. For harder side chaining) I take it away from outputs 1-2 and route it to Output 3-4 which are connected to another input of my interface. It's not 100% flexible, but it's cheaper and I still reach my goal. And noise isn't a problem if you turn the synths themselves to maximum volume.

The other question would be the DAW controller...

I've found a MOTU 828 Mk II going cheap on eBay, so that could be my best option, since 8 inputs would be sufficient for my needs, and it can easily be expanded when the time comes, thanks to ADAT.

As for the DAW controller, I'm having a look at various control surfaces, or getting a second-hand digital mixer as a quasi-controller, since, as I've mentioned before, they can be MIDI-ed up easily, although if all else fails, I could just use the 9 sliders on my A-800PRO for now. However, problems would arise when I open up another session, because I'd have to move the sliders manually to match their last position, and that could mess up mastering, but then that could be because I'm lazy :D
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