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Studio audio Interface for live performance?


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  • Studio audio Interface for live performance?

    Hello! I am looking for an quality audio interface rack mount unit that can be used as a live mixer, if this is possible. At this time I have a Mackie Onyx 1640(not i) but since the time of purchase, I have moved from playing in a metal band to and acoustic/keyboard duo. I will also be looking to replace the Mackie board as my studio interface due to the limitations of the original 1640 board(ie. not being able to use outboard effects). I would also like to cut down from the size of the Mackie board for travel purposes. I would like to use outboard effects (compressor, eq, modulation) and mix on a macbook pro. I would also need midi in/out for recording purposes. 8 i/o with at least 4 of them being XLR inputs is preferred.
    Price is not really an issue but I would like to keep it around $2000 or less. I would consider going high if it really is worth it. Is there anything available on the market that fits these specs?

  • #2

    Well a digital mixer with recording capabilities would be your answer. You have your choice of having a firewire output to record on a laptop or recording on the mixer itself. I'd likely go with the on board recording myself. First, I've heard the kind of recordings which can be made on a digital mixer which is fantastic, second, having to deal with a laptop, booting it up, navigating, running a daw program, and saving files etc is an unnecessary distraction that draws your attention away from the audience and makes you focus on the gear and essentially makes you a sound tech or dj instead of a star on stage entertaining them.

    When it comes to live gear, the simpler, compact, durable and trouble free the better. Some of these new mixers store all the tracks in super high fidelity and then you just transfer the projects to a laptop for mixing after the gig is over via firewire or USB cable or memory stick. Or you can mix on the mixer and run hardware effects through the external effects loops or use the built in effects. They are extremely versatile for both live and recording.

    Don't know about midi though. That's more of a DAW option than a live sound console. You could probably accomplish it using a laptop recording via firewire from the mixer and recording mid through a separate midi port connected to a laptop. Midi is simply a matrix of commands that contains no audio until those commands are interfaced with some sound generation device that accepts those commands. Unless the mixer had virtual instruments built in like a daw has programs to do the same, it wouldn't make sense to have a midi port.

    Using midi as a controller to activate record options might be something they have but I really haven't investigated it. The hot option most manufacturers are using is wireless control via blue tooth and an Ipad/Phone. Seems to make sense because its what the kids want now and having yourself tethered to a 25' Max midi cable length doesn't make sense. A musician can stick his Iphone to a guitar and control a mixer. He just has to be sure he doesn't have incoming calls when he's performing or he'll look pretty stupid setting his ear on the phone stuck to his guitar and talking to it.

    The mixer itself is a controller so having a second controller like you would connected to a daw wouldn't make sense either. A controller substitutes for the hands on a daw lacks. The mixer is the controller for a daw so having a midi port to control it is redundant.

    You could easily set up a midi port that connects to a daw via USB, or Firewire to record midi tracks, so its likely your best option. The data must be as close to real time as possible to minimize latency. If you're using the virtual instruments for a keyboard live, then you're probably better off having that laptop within the keyboard players control to change instruments and settings of the virtual instruments.

    In any case, I'd track the live keyboard analog signal into the mixer. If you want to record the midi tracks as well then having a laptop record both would still be the best option. Seems like allot of work though. If you have the sounds you want for live, just record analog. Then go back and multitrack additional midi parts later if you want. Editing all those commands involving velocity, duration, pitch etc are better handled in a studio environment in my opinion. If needed save money on the mixer and get a good midi voice unit for the keyboard that produces some great analog tones for recording live.  

     Some bands use backing tracks, and want to record live at the same time. I don't see and issue recording the background tracks into a digital mixer and playing them back as you record new tracks.   You'd just need a digital mixer that doubles as a stand alone recorder instead of it being an analog mixer with a firewire interface built into it that's connected to a laptop.

    Much of these decisions will be based on the hardware decisions you make and how you're wanting to manipulate your workflow live. I don't own a digital mixer so I'm not the best one for making suggestions unless I knew more details on what you're wanting to do. But a stand alone digital recorder/mixer is the best option for live because it will drive power amps and do the quality tracking at the same time. The rest is just icing on the cake.



    • Count Dissident
      Count Dissident commented
      Editing a comment

      Thank you so much for the reply!! Tons of great info here!! As far as the midi goes, I really need only that for studio work. In the long run, it is not a deal breaker for a unit to use live and as you said, I can but a separate interface for midi in the studio. I was just hoping to fill all my needs for live and studio use with one interface. After reading your reply and researching the units on the market it appears that what I am looking for really doesn't exist.  I agree that a digital mixer looks to be the closest thing to what I am looking for,but my Mackie board handles most of my needs and bringing a laptop along to track the live show isn't too much of a hassle. The real problem I have with the Mackie board is that it bypasses all outboard units during tracking and also does not allow me to use outboard effects when mixing. Is there a product available that would allow me to connect my outboard equipment directly to my DAW?

      On another note, how do you feel the Mackie Onyx preamps and converters compare to audio interfaces such as the RME Fireface, Apogee Duet, Mbox 3 or other comparable units?