by Craig Anderton
The success of Avid’s Eleven Rack has exceeded expectations, but it’s not undeserved. I did a Pro Review on it and over the course of doing the review, enjoyed a real chemistry with it—it’s a fine, well-thought-out unit.
However, one of the first questions in the Pro Review was whether Eleven Rack would work with other DAWs, because quite a few people had the misconception that it worked only with Pro Tools LE. The answer is yes—and no. So, let’s look at the pros and cons of using Eleven Rack with other, non-Avid programs.
For those who need a quick refresher course, Eleven Rack (Fig. 1) is a combination live performance multieffects and Pro Tools LE USB interface.
Fig. 1: You can think of Eleven Rack as a multieffects that just happens to work as an interface for Pro Tools LE, or a Pro Tools LE interface you can just happen to take onstage as a multieffects.
Although based on Avid’s Eleven amp simulator plug-in, the rack version is something else altogether. It’s sturdily built, has guitar/mic/MIDI I/O, and some effects emulations that are up there with anything else I’ve heard. It has a high fun factor, and the cost is reasonable considering that it can do double-duty for stage and studio. And while it serves as an Avid-approved device that allows you to run Pro Tools LE, as with other Pro Tools interfaces it also works as an ASIO interface with other DAWs.
The biggest problem is that Eleven Rack's on-screen editor loads under Pro Tools; it's not going to work in any other program, or for that matter, in Pro Tools 11.
Fig. 2: You won’t see this GUI in anything other than Pro Tools, but note that you won't see it in Pro Tools 11 and up.
But, there’s a mitigating factor. Because Eleven Rack was designed to double as a live performance rig, front-panel editing is surprisingly painless. You don’t get the cool graphics and all, but if you want to call up presets and tweak them, you can certainly do so without the computer editor. In most other respects, though, you don’t give up anything by using Eleven Rack with other DAWs.
We’ll talk about using Eleven Rack with Sonar, Live, Acid, Mixcraft, Record, and Cubase, but the principle of operation is pretty much the same for any ASIO-compatible program. Note: There are a lot of screen shots in this article due to covering so many different programs, so I’ve made them small to avoid them taking over the page.
Eleven Rack presents four input drivers to an ASIO DAW. We’ll start with Sonar because it shows these very clearly (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3: Eleven Rack’s input and output drivers, shown in Sonar’s Audio Options window.
Note that these can all be used simultaneously, e.g., you can feed what’s going into the Eleven Rack S/PDIF input to one DAW track, the line in to another track, and the guitar being processed through the rack to yet another track. Here’s the story on the four drivers. Remember, you need to enable Input Monitoring for the track you’re feeding with Eleven Rack to hear its output.
Eleven Rack Guitar/Mic In. The guitar comes in on the left channel, and the mic on the right. This is basically a DI connection to the guitar, and is very useful if you want to drive amp sims within your DAW. If you want guitar only, choose the left input and if you want only mic, choose the right. To select only the straight guitar/mic sound and send it to your DAW:
From the Eleven Rack main screen that shows the presets, press and hold the Edit/Back button to access the User Options.
Use the Scroll wheel to select Rig Input.
Adjust the second knob from the left (red indicator) so the display shows anything except RIG INPUT: Guitar or RIG INPUT: Mic as you’ll hear the guitar or Mic through the rack’s processing.
Once that’s set, hit Edit/Back twice to get to the main editing page.
If you want to use Eleven Rack's True-Z input feature (a clever way to emulate the loading of various types of amps and processors) for your guitar before feeding your DAW or any subsequent amp sims—yet still go essentially direct—there’s an easy workaround. Choose the Guitar input as described in Step 4 above, but then bypass all the effects.
Press the Edit/Back button once.
Turn the Scroll wheel to highlight any effect other than Input (e.g., Mod, Dly, etc.)
Press SW1 to edit the effect controls, and use SW1 to choose Bypass.
Now use the Scroll wheel to scroll through the various effects in the chain, and set each one to Bypass.
Hit the Edit/Back button again.
Turn the Scroll wheel counter-clockwise until the display shows the Input stage as being selected, then rotate the second control from the left to choose the desired True-Z input characteristics.
Eleven Rack Rig In. This driver picks up the Eleven Rack output—what you hear at the Rack out is what you get. The Rig Input selector obviously makes a difference here, because what you select at the input (Guitar, Mic, Line or Digital) is what will be feeding Eleven Rack, and therefore, what you’ll hear coming in to your DAW.
Eleven Rack Digital In. This picks up whatever’s feeding the S/PDIF or AES/EBU input, independently of what’s going on with the rack.
Eleven Rack Line Input. This picks up whatever’s feeding the1/4” phone or XLR line inputs, independently of what’s going on with the rack.
Now let’s see how other programs handle this.
Fig. 4: With Sony Acid, choose Eleven Rack ASIO as the audio device type. In this screen shot, the Guitar In/Mic In driver is being chosen as the default audio recording device, but you can change this within any Acid audio track using the Record Input selector.
Fig. 5: Use Cubase’s Device Setup to specify Eleven Rack as the VST Audio System. Under VST Connections – Input, add buses that correspond to the inputs you want to use. These will then show up as “Active” in the Device Setup window under “State.”
Fig. 6: In Mixcraft Preferences, chose the default recording device (here, it’s the Rig itself) and default output. Like Acid, you can modify the input within individual tracks.
Fig. 7: Input settings are obvious with Propellerhead Record. Under Preferences, click on the Active Input Channels button, and enable the Eleven Rack inputs you want to use.
Ableton Live is a special case, because it doesn’t name the drivers. Setting Preferences in straightforward for the audio device, but the input configuration requires some explanation (Fig. 8).
Fig. 8: With Live, enable the inputs you want to use from Eleven Rack in the input config section.
In Live, 1/2 is the Guitar/Mic input. 3/4 is the Rig, 5/6 the Digital in, and 7/8 the Line in. If you want to use the left and right channels as independent inputs, you also need to select the equivalent Mono inputs. In the screen shot, 1 and 2 are also selected as possible mono inputs so that only the guitar or only the mic can be selected.
If you know how to choose the input drivers in your program of choice, then you almost certainly know how to set the output drivers, so there’s no need to go into that here. The output choices are pretty straightforward, with one exception.
Main Out. This is what you’d typically use to monitor what’s happening with your DAW, e.g., if you have headphones plugged into the Phones jack, and the Volume control up.
Digital Out. This sends the signal to the digital outs, which presumably feed a monitoring system with a digital audio input.
Re-Amp. And this is the exception...so let’s get into re-amping with Eleven Rack.
This has always been one of Eleven Rack’s strongest features, and fortunately, it translates to programs other than Pro Tools. Here’s the process (Fig. 9).
Fig. 9: Re-amping with Eleven Rack in Sonar. Other programs follow the same basic principle.
For the track you want to re-amp (presumably straight guitar, but why be normal? It could be anything!), set its output to ReAmp instead of, for example, the master audio output. Input echo should not be on for this track. The screen shot shows this selected for track 1.
Set Eleven Rack’s Rig Input to RIG INPUT: Re-Amp.
Create a track to record the re-amped sound, and set its input to Stereo Eleven Rig (track 2 in the screen shot). This track’s output will usually go to the Master bus, e.g, Eleven Main Out, so you can monitor it. Enable Input Echo monitor so you can hear the re-amped sound.
Start recording from the beginning of the track to be re-amped, and you’ll record the re-amped sound into that track.
Now you can re-amp through Eleven Rack’s processors. Hint: Check out the article on how to make amp sims sound more organic, where you put a parametric EQ after the sim output to tame “rogue” resonances—it makes all the difference in the world in terms of “smoothing” out the sound.
Eleven Rack does MIDI too, but you need to be a little careful here. There are two flavors of MIDI. If you look at the available MIDI devices, you’ll see two associated with Eleven Rack.
Eleven Rack: This does MIDI-over-USB for MIDI parameter control of the Eleven Rack. It has nothing to do with the 5-pin DIN connectors on the back.
External: This works with the 5-pin MIDI DIN connectors. For example, suppose you have a master keyboard with a physical MIDI out. You would patch this into the Eleven Rack’s physical MIDI in jack, then enable External as a MIDI input so that your DAW can record the data coming from your keyboard.
Here’s how to select the 5-pin MIDI I/O for various programs.
Fig. 10: In Sonar, both Eleven Rack and External are selected in the MIDI devices window.
Fig. 11: Acid’s Preferences has a tab for MIDI. In this screenshot, Eleven Rack and External are selected.
Fig. 12: Cubase’s Device Setup page lets you click on MIDI port setup, which shows the Eleven Rack and External options. These become active when used in a project.
Fig. 13: Mixcraft’s Preferences page allows choosing External as your port for MIDI recording.
Fig. 14: With Record, you choose a control surface, then the port to which it connects.
Fig. 15: Access the MIDI section of Live’s Preferences page to assign External as the source for MIDI input.
And there you have it—how to use Eleven Rack with a variety of ASIO programs. If your favorite program isn’t shown here, the procedure for doing assignments will be similar.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.