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I need a mixer to mic a drum kit (4-8 channels) and that gives me the same # of outputs or at least 4 outs. It will run through my Motu (via quarter inch) for digital recording. Please recommend one with high quality pres.
Some interfaces can be expanded for more channels. Motu makes preamplifiers that expand some of their stuff. You can also get a second interface of the same type or model line and link the clocks so they record at the same speed.
As far as a mixer goes, If your interface has the channels and its just a matter of getting the mics up to line level, you can do like I did and just buy a multichannel preamp. In my case, I use M-Audio 1010LT boards. They only have two XLR mic inputs that are adjustable from mic level or line level. The rest of the channels are line level. The signal strength is fairly strong enough where I could record drums without a preamp, but I'd have to boost the signal strength out of the tracks mixing which brings the noise floor up.
I used several mixers over the years, for their preamplification of mics and provide phantom power to the overhead mics. None were what I call great and I had to mix the crap out of the tracks to get something decent. I also used to mic 8 mics down to a stereo track. This was even more difficult because it required live mixing to get the stereo mix just right because there was not a whole lot you could do mixing besides compress/multiband, add reverb or EQ the entire drum set to get an acceptable sounding drum set. I became quite expert at it when I only had 8 channels to record an entire band live.
One of the better mixers I used was an old vintage Sunn mixer that was only 8 channels. Didnt even have phantom power so I had to use one of those dual channel ART separate phantom power supplies. It had a simple gain treble bass and volume for each channel but It had inserts that tapped each channel after the preamp so the rest of the board wasnt even used. The analog preamps were good enough to get a decent mic level with minimal noise and coloration.
In comparison my Soundcraftsmen, Soundtech, Behringer, Tapco, Mackie and about 4 others just didnt have preamps that sounded as good. (I did allot of experimentation to get optimal results over the 10 years recording that way. I'm an electronic tech and do allot of electronic restorations. I buy gear, restore it and resell it so I've gotten a chance to try allot of different gear out over the years.) I can get optimal sound out of just about any piece of gear, but if you want really good sound quality you simply want flat preamps that capture the full frequency spectrum with minimal coloration. Size if a factor too. No sence having a huge board that you only use thr preamps on and takes up a bunch of needed workstation space.
What I'm using now is a fairly inexpensive solution. I won a bid on a used Nady 8 channel Preamp for $30. Its a rack mount which was what I needed for crowded workstation. I run 8 mics into it and it feeds one of my 1010LT boards at line level. Each channel has phantom power, a low cut switch and a mic gain knob which is all I need. I have no need of combine channels so theres no channel mixing like a mixer, just line outs for each mic.
The signal quality is mediochre. Not stellar but not crap. Just an amplified mic. The Nady uses good op amps used in high end gear. The unit can be modified to sound as good as a high end unit but I havent found the need at this point. I could also invest in a better rackmount preamp but I'm not doing a whole lot of live drum recording lately since my studio drummer retired.
If you wanted to record multiple mics and sum them together, then a mixer with several aux busses for recording would be the way to go, but as I and the other poster said, it makes more sence to just buy more interface channels so each mic is recorded to its own track and you can mix each track independantly to drum up a good mix (pun intended)