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MACKIE ONYX 400F (audio interface)


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Originally posted by rcassent

I did another 3 days worth of testing with the 400f and delta 1010 with Sonar. I am still using the delta1010 as my interface. You might think i am a little crazy but the 400f does not provide me with 8 total inputs for recording and the delta1010 does with the 400f as a standalone pre.



Then something is obviously wrong in your configuration. I got 8 inputs without any work in Sonar. In Sonar's audio properties you need to activate all inputs. Then you should be able to assignate any of the 8 inputs to any track for recording. Of course they will be listed as pairs (from 1 to 9 including spdif), so you have 5 pairs with the option to use the left or right channel of each pair (so really 15 possible inputs). Left is the first channel, right is the second (for example: right of channel pair #5 is really #6).

But of course, the Delta works the same way so that shouldn't be a problem... just make sure all channels are activated in your configuration.


Originally posted by rcassent

The 4 mic pre's on the 400f work great and our loud but the 4 line inputs have no gain. the 400f manual shows a diagram with a keyboard plugged into the low level line inputs on the onyx 400f. There is little gain on these inputs and with any keyboard using full gain, the DB results are min, so the diagram is misleading in that respect.



I'm not using any synth so I can't say. I've connected my PodXT Live to the inputs 5-6 and I can clip them without turning the Pod's volume all the way up. There is a thread going on over the the recording forum (Phil O'Keefe's one I think) about recording levels. They are explaining that 0dB on your converter is really + 22dBFS (or something around that depending on the interface). The nominal recording level is said to be around -18dB on most digital recorders, higher and you are limiting headroom for transient and high frequency response. -18 is not even half of the available headroom, so it is a bit scary at first to record and see a waveform that barely rises from the middle point, but it makes total sense from an electronic point of view (converters are analog devices, remember that). And when you start piling up tracks, the total output rises. If you record everything close to 0dB, you need to pull down on the faders when mixing to not clip the final mix anyway.
There is a reason why the -6dB light is yellow and not green ;)

The reason there is no gain on the 5-8 inputs is that they kept the signal path as clean as possible. Having a gain there means you really have an amplifier in the path (inputs 1-4 for example are not true line inputs, they are just padded inputs that go through the Onyx preamps).

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reply to hardtailed

Then something is obviously wrong in your configuration. I got 8 inputs without any work in Sonar. In Sonar's audio properties you need to activate all inputs. Then you should be able to assignate any of the 8 inputs to any track for recording.

I did a bad job on my expanation. Channels 5-8 on the onyx have
working recordable inputs but they are very low level as you stated in your last post. So to record, even with Sonar, there is not enough level without using an additional preamp for these line level channels. My keyboards or a line level input device(tape deck or CD) do not produce a hot enough siginal thru the 400f. the channels do record but the wave they produce is very small. Not true with the delta1010. Line level inputs produce enough siginal to record and playback with alot of headroom. no need to normailize audio.
I can record using the 400f channels 5-8 and then normalize audio
in sonar but this is an extra step and i am still stuck with low level monitoring when i record. Channels 1-4 are hot as you stated
(padded inputs that go through the Onyx preamps) with plenty of head room. thanks for your reply. you keep me thinking!

There is a thread going on over the the recording forum (Phil O'Keefe's one I think) about recording levels.

can you post that link?

thanks

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My second 400F died. The firewire port fried and took out the firewire port on my motherboard in the process. Dealer exchanged it for a new one, I am now on unit 3. And I'm not the only one, a user at the Mackie forums is now going on unit #4!!!

Pretty hard to maintain that these are quality units. Look before you leap.

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Folks -

I have plenty of pro grade gear and connectivity in my regular home studio. The problem is that this space is also my home office, and when I'm not on the road, I spend probably 10-12 hours a day there doing my 'real' job. The result is that when I finally close up shop for the day, the last thing I want to do is stay in that office/studio.

I set out to solve this problem by purchasing a MacBook Pro 17 and Logic Pro 7.2. The idea was that I could start recording/tracking and etching out song ideas downstairs. I have a small Presonus Firebox that I stole from my other Mac, and with various modelers, amps, mics, and guitars around the house I figured this should do it.

I started researching my options to see if there was a better solution in the form of a firewire interface for the MacBook. As you might imagine, I came across the MOTU Traveler and Ultralite, the RME Fireface 800 and 400 (when?), and the Mackie Onyx 400F. I noted that some folks on the net had less than stellar remarks to make about the mic preamps in the Firebox, and also the MOTU Ultralite.

I have a lot of respect for Mackie, and still own a number of their pieces (SDR-24/96, 1402-VLZ mixer, Universal remote, etc.) I specifically have respect for their solid state preamps, and thought the 400 might be the answer.

After reading this thread over the span of yesterday and today, I'm presently not planning to buy the Onyx 400F. This is a bummer, as I thought I had found my solution. I will likely need to head towards a Traveler or one of the RME units.

I just wanted to sum up the issues that I have located in this thread, and see if there's something that's been squared away that I'm not seeing. Also - if there are redeeming features (such as a new batch of units that address the shortcomings), I'd like to hear about them.

Onyx 400F - Quality Issues
=====================

Brittle high end in DACs - subjective (and I too like high end), but obviously caught some users'/readers' attention. I don't recall seeing many other reviews anywhere stating that something was too clear or too bright. Again - given the choice, I'll take it brighter than duller.

Not surround capable - Huh? You cannot address the individual outputs from within your software? What are they good for other than potentially monitoring or post pre-amp analog?If this is true, this is a waste of outputs. This would be a deal breaker for me, as I have been working in surround for a while now.

Lack of appropriate gain on line inputs 5-8? That effectively removes these from the feature list for me. Is there an internal pad that can be jumpered around?

Firewire whine? (grounding) - resolved?

Phantom power whine?

C/R & Phones whine?

Recall issues (like those at GC)? Stories of multiple returns?

Firewire problems - one user mentioned blowing up his MB?

WDM driver issues in SONAR - like it or not, this is probably one of the most popular PC recording applications (if not the most popular). Working with Audition is nice, but that is not the 'killer app' for the music centric PC (and I do own Cubase SX as well). ASIO alone is not the solution (see next).

Paraphrasing Mackie: "Why would you want to use WDM when you can use ASIO with Sonar?" Here's the biggie as I see it: WDM lets you use different interfaces concurrently. In my case this means the Lynx AES16 with my Apogee Rosetta 800/192 while also using my MOTU PCI-424 (interfaces to my Tascam DM-24) and my Mackie SDR-24/96.

Driver 'Hijack" issues?

Build quality (knobs, etc) - more than one user.

=====================

In any case, while it may sound like I'm trashing the unit, I really wanted things to work out. Can anything short of a re-release of the 400F (400F-V2 ?) bring back general confidence (mine and others') in the unit?

Apologies in advance to Dan - I've seen how helpful and candid he has been.

Pete Lyall

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If I had it to do over, I would like at the RME and MOTU myself. I wouldn't buy a 400F until the drivers have been properly sorted out. Mackie mentioned in their forum they might be looking into that but they haven't actually offered anything, so who knows if that's even going to happen. Anyhow the one major thing about the 400F you would probably find a dealbreaker is that only one audio app at a time can operate. This means no concurrent audio interfaces. Until they update the 400F driver in that regard, it's probably not the unit for you judging from what info you've shared.

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Originally posted by Pete Lyall

I have a lot of respect for Mackie, and still own a number of their pieces (SDR-24/96, 1402-VLZ mixer, Universal remote, etc.) I specifically have respect for their solid state preamps, and thought the 400 might be the answer.


After reading this thread over the span of yesterday and today, I'm presently not planning to buy the Onyx 400F. This is a bummer, as I thought I had found my solution. I will likely need to head towards a Traveler or one of the RME units.


Earlier on in the thread, Mike Rivers suggested I harvest it for stats. On a sleepless night in a hotel, I did just that. (and it worked better than Ambien).

I made a list of only those people who actually used the 400f in their studio, and recorded only their 1st person experience. Here’s the results:

Craig received his unit from Mackie and reported excellent performance.

Of 22 users who bought their units through regular channels:

- 3 are happy without reservation

- 6 are generally satisfied but report problems

- 13 express multiple problems and regret the purchase

Correcting for extremities (removing the single most negative and positive response) yields 2:6:12:

- 10% happy
- 30% satisfied with reservations
- 60% unhappy

Of the 13 who express multiple problems and regret:

- 1/3 expressed initial satisfaction, but as problems mounted with continued use, satisfaction turned to regret over the course of the thread.

- 6 expressed initial unit failure and regret

- Of the 2 who exchanged their units for a new one, both expressed dissatisfaction with the replacement; one exchanged the 2nd unit for a 3rd unit.

Problems reported include:

- Bright converters (a problem for some, an asset for others)

- Headphone output issue

- Multiple Hum and Whine issues

- Insufficient gain issues

- Pops when turning on and off

- Latency on G5 issue – subsequently resolved by Mackie

- Wobbly knobs and build quality issues

- Driver Issues – problems working with sonar, cakewalk, and multiple active programs.

- Damage to computer.


Like you, Pete, I own high, medium, and low end gear, and a 1402-VLZ is always on hand, one of my favorite “just in case” pieces of gear. But given what amounts to stunning levels of customer dissatisfaction, I can’t imagine buying a 400f anytime soon.

-peaceloveandbrittanylips

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Thanks to both Music Calgary and Brittanylips for the replies.

It appears that the stats that Brittanylips collated substantiated my much less scientific scanning of this thread. To be fair, this is not the only location I had seen Mac Firewire driver issues mentioned, and the hint is that there may have been some Apple Core Audio issues. If anybody has more detail on these, I'd like to hear about them.

As I mentioned, at present I have a Firebox. It seems fine, and I'm in no particular hurry. Honestly, I haven't used the mic preamps yet, other than to receive my DI box output (Radial JDV). Other folks online have panned the mic pres on both this and the MOTU Ultralite as being lacking.

Given the fallout of the Mackie unit (unless something changes),
I have somewhat retargeted my search. I would appreciate any remarks that folks have to offer, whether they are positive or negative. Presently, the units I'm investigating are as follows:

MOTU TRAVELER - $750-$850

Looks very capable, and I haven't seen any negative press on it. The price is not bad, and the feature set looks pretty comprehensive. The worst thing I've heard is that the build is somewhat flimsy for a portable. This probably won't be an issue in the living room.

FOCUSRITE SAFFIRE and SAFFIRE PRO - $399/$699

This unit also looks quite nice. Focusrite has a reasonable reputation in the mic preamp market. The vertical PC oriented unit looks somewhat cheap (and others have noted this), but the fact that it has built-in DSP to do reverb foldback for monitoring without incurring the roundtrip delay of going in and out of the DAW seems like a great feature. The PRO 1u rack version seems to have a more versatile I/O structure, but no DSP.

RME FIREFACE 400 and 800 ???/$1500

I can't really find much on the 400 yet - is it released? On the 800, it does look like a great box, and I have seen a lot of positive buzz around the net. Other than a steep price and a possible lack of portability (not a big deal), I cannot see a downside to this device.

APOGEE ENSEMBLE - $1800

The integration messaging (for Apple products) is very seductive. While this unit is the highest in price and possibly the lowest number of I/O's (no MIDI, etc.), the branding and the integration with Logic are hard to resist. I do have an Apogee Rosetta 192 with the firewire card, but I really didn't want to have to drag separate mic preamps out of the main studio. Also I hear that this has been chronically delayed do to software issues (some say Apple driver problems).

In any case, I'd appreciate your thoughts on these options.

If I have taken the core topic too far afield, my apologies. I did start out looking at the Onyx.

Pete

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FWIW if I had it to do over and I had a bit more of a budget I'd get DACs from Mytek, i.e.
http://www.mytekdigital.com/products/8x192adda.htm

And different pres for each specific task, i.e. for $700 you can get a DAV BG-1 which will outperform most other pres in that range so far as doing vocals, etc. As you know it's better to have different pres for different tasks. A lot of this comes down to your requirements vs. your budget. If I had the money I'd probably get into an API lunchbox as a front end for the Mytek. But I don't. :)

Anyhow here's what a forum user Rich Mays from another audio forum had to say about the Mackie:

It stayed for one job and I sold it the next week. My ears felt sandpapered and the highly-touted Onxyx micpres were not even close to the Benchmarks.


In retrospect, though, I should not have expected a $400 box to sound on the same level as the Benchmark micpres. The surprise was that the A/D side did not come close (to my ears) to the Masterlink A/Ds it was supposed to replace.


I sold it quickly and bought a Metric Halo 2882. Clearly superior A/D, better micpres (but not as quiet). The Benchmark remains the primary micpre front end, and they are beyond reproach. Twice the money but more than twice the performance and flexibility in the Metric Halo 2882.


I started by saying it was for classical. I prefer to add color later (if at all). For the studio it is an entirely different approach. The guy who bought it got a good deal and he must be happy as I have not heard from him!

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Originally posted by Brittanylips


Earlier on in the thread, Mike Rivers suggested I harvest it for stats. On a sleepless night in a hotel, I did just that. (and it worked better than Ambien).

Nice work, and interesting stats. Of course this isn't a very large sample, but the ratios seem to jive with my impression from reading the messages.

Now, get some sleep.

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Whoa!

I looked at the link for Mytekdigital. Based on what I saw, you may end up with an amazing unit, but you will do it cafeteria style (buy this part, then that part), and will pay handsomely for it as well. The firewire card alone lists for more than you can get a new Traveler on eBay. After that, you would still need to address the issue of mic preamps.

I do have the Rosetta 192/Firewire and some preamps, as well as other front end gear in the 'real' studio. While I am prone to going overboard, I'm trying not to go to crazy for this application.

In my case, I think this would be overkill. I'm really still just looking for a reasonably high quality one-size-fits-all solution to hang off of my new Macbook Pro 17 (firewire).

Given that you obviously have pretty upper end tastes, do any of the four groups of units I mentioned a few posts back even remotely float your boat? Emit air bubbles even?

Thanks!

Pete

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Originally posted by Pete Lyall

I looked at the link for Mytekdigital. Based on what I saw, you may end up with an amazing unit, but you will do it cafeteria style (buy this part, then that part), and will pay handsomely for it as well.

That's the real engineer's way to do it. If you want to buy a do-it-all box, you have to accept the decisions (of which selling price is a big one) that the manufacturer makes. If you assemble a system from components, you get to choose where to spend the most money, and what you can put aside and upgrade later. You won't get all the benefit of the A/D converter if you cheap out on the mic preamp, but when you scrape up the money for a better mic preamp, you'll really be upgrading two things, and that's a good deal.

In my case, I think this would be overkill. I'm really still just looking for a reasonably high quality one-size-fits-all solution to hang off of my new Macbook Pro 17 (firewire).

In that case, you can't worry about the performance of the individual parts inside the box and you have to listen to the whole box and evaluate the functions. Most important, you want it to work. It doesn't matter how good or bad the mic preamps are if the driver is unstable, or if there's noise in the headphone jack that will drive you nuts since you listen to it all the time. Accept the faults that you can live with, and reject the device that has faults that you can't live with. And if you can't find one box that you can live with, you always have the option of the system approach.

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Originally posted by MikeRivers

That's the real engineer's way to do it. If you want to buy a do-it-all box, you have to accept the decisions (of which selling price is a big one) that the manufacturer makes. If you assemble a system from components, you get to choose where to spend the most money, and what you can put aside and upgrade later.


I think that's less and less true. You know, the same argument was initially made against DAWs, and at first, “real engineers” avoided them. Now they are the landscape. Same with these things.

Times have changed, and more functions are included into single devices as part of the natural evolution of the field, and with broad consumer choices.

I recall that at one time the PowR dithering algorithm was offered by itself in a fabulously expensive box that did that and nothing else. And it certainly seemed “real engineery” to buy one. Now, it’s just another subroutine in the robust world of a DAW.

Which isn’t to rail against the hard core sluttiness of dedicated components. Just that the dichotomy between good and separate vs. bad and together is not as true as it used to be (hastily-rushed-to-market falling-apart-at-the-seams low-end all-in-ones notwithstanding…)

Originally posted by Pete Lyall

I do have the Rosetta 192/Firewire and some preamps, as well as other front end gear in the 'real' studio. ...I'm really still just looking for a reasonably high quality one-size-fits-all solution to hang off of my new Macbook Pro 17 (firewire).


I get the sense that we have similar setups, main with bells and whistles plus Apple laptop for portable.

I have a FireFace 800 which is both flexible and solid, and a great example of an all-in-one without a lot of compromise. Plus, RME offers great support. It sounds like you would do OK with less inputs and flexibility for your portable interface, so the 800 might be feature overkill, but the extra features and flexibility certainly don’t hurt to have around, and you could buy it today. The FireFace 400 should be available late July/early August for around $1000.

If you don’t need all the inputs and flexibility and can wait, the Apogee Ensemble should be killer. Actually, given the team that’s worked on it, it should be more like mass murderer (great pres, great converters). I have heard it’s on the verge of shipping; however, early units may be spoken for. I would imagine that this is one of those products that makes “cafeteria style” recording that much more of a relic. And at $1800, it’s a bargain in its class although not exactly entry-level.

-peaceloveandbrittanylips

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First we need to remember that Mike dates back to the invention of the transistor ;^} (Don't worry Mike - I'm hovering in that neighborhood as well). In fact I chatted with Mike a few years back in the Mackie digital recorder forum (I authored the quiet fan mod for the SDR-24/96).

I'm with Brittanylips on this one. While I know the general philosophy is that 'buy an all-in-one, you get less in each department than if you had bought separates', I do believe that advances in ASIC design have brought really decent combo units to market. This is similar to what has happened in the consumer audio space. It used to be taboo to buy a receiver, and preferable to by an integrared amp, or better yet a separate preamp and power amp. I have two receivers in my main listening/viewing spaces these days. Audiophile grade? Absolutely not. Am I pleased with them? Absolutely.

That said, I don't think it's unreasonable in this marketplace to want to find a decent collection of I/O capabilities (line/inst/mic, various digital I/O's, and a clean and dependable host interface).

My goal is to find something that's portable enough so that if I want to move from the great room to the living room, I won't spend 15 minutes moving and recabling. I want something that's decent enough quality-wise that if I do hit the inspirational mother lode, that I can transfer my tracks up to my primary studio without having to redo them. (I know this is an arguable rationale).

To paraphrase Freddy Mercury - "I want it all, and I want it now".

Oh - and without breaking the bank ;^}

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Originally posted by Brittanylips

Times have changed, and more functions are included into single devices as part of the natural evolution of the field, and with broad consumer choices.

"Consumer" being the operative word here. Recording equipment is sold largely as consumer products today, to people who aren't engineers, who don't really know what's going on inside the box, and just want to record music. Some (I'm talking about the gear, not musicians) is better than others, and some are just going through the motions. But I'll admit that for the casual user (which is the hat the Pete seems to have on in this thread), most of them aren't really dreadful, and someone who understands what he's doing can get pretty darn good results with stuff that it's easy to toss off as "low end junk."

There's still a market for individual components and that's what keeps some manufacturers in business. It's easy to make an OK preamp or A/D converter, but it's hard to make a really great one. For those who care (and not everybody has to care) it's available, but at the component level.

You can buy a $13.95 boom box, you can buy a $300 boom box, or you can spend $50,000 on a pair of speakers, $30,000 on single channel 15 watt triod amplifiers with a chassis milled out of a solid block of aluminum, and so on until you work your way back to the $500 phono cartridge in the $1800 tone arm on the $10,000 turntable. But if you just want to play CDs at band practice, the $13.95 boom box will work fine.

Which isn’t to rail against the hard core sluttiness of dedicated components. Just that the dichotomy between good and separate vs. bad and together is not as true as it used to be (hastily-rushed-to-market falling-apart-at-the-seams low-end all-in-ones notwithstanding…)

No arguments there - I'm perfectly happy with my Onyx mixer and Firewire card, but I have component gear that sounds better when I'm in a position to use it.

And if my calculations are correct, this is my 200th post. I'll be waiting for the bells and whistles.

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reply to hardtailed from BTW, out of curiosity. When you record your synths with inputs 5-8, what is the average signal level?

Sorry for taking so long. averge signal level is -18DB when recorded in Sonar and that is being generous. my synths are maxed at that point. I did do a sucessful muliti track live recording using the 400f as a standalone with the delta 1010 as the interface. the recording came out quite nice. 7 audio in's and 4 midi inputs recording live without any issues. mackie actually called me and said they are sending me my 100 dollar rebate after calling them to B***H about it.

thanks for all your help Hardtailed. i am still going to look at the RME fireface.
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The more I'm learning, the more I'm realizing it all comes down to context. In my case the 1220 DB25-ed into the 400F gives me 8 channels of digital pres which are perfectly usable for tracking rock drums, voiceovers, etc.

So as long as I can add one premium channel to that and a couple premium mics, I should be OK for all the stuff I'm doing, i.e. I'm not tracking live bands. My view is that it's better to go out and spend $700 on a DAV BG-1 and $1400 on a Mytek DAC to have a truly pro quality channel right now than to buy a bunch of
"stepping stone" gear on the way.

I'm no gear snob though. As far as I'm concerned all prosumer gear nowadays is perfectly capable of making a decent album in the hands of the right people. It's all about the music and the vision.

The main beef I have with the 400F is the drivers, not the sound. The drivers are the pits. The sound is quite reasonable.

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Originally posted by MikeRivers

"Consumer" being the operative word here. Recording equipment is sold largely as consumer products today, to people who aren't engineers, who don't really know what's going on inside the box, and just want to record music. Some (I'm talking about the gear, not musicians) is better than others, and some are just going through the motions. But I'll admit that for the casual user (which is the hat the Pete seems to have on in this thread), most of them aren't really dreadful, and someone who understands what he's doing can get pretty darn good results with stuff that it's easy to toss off as "low end junk."


A couple of hundred years ago, a pianist had to know an awful lot about what goes on inside a piano. I suppose a mark of a "real pianist" was the ability to tune, voice, and fix your instrument.

I wonder though, how many of the great pianists of the last century - Rubenstien, Hoffman, Horrowitz, Argerich, Pollini, Lang Lang - ever tuned a piano in their life. My guess is none.

Once a technology matures, the experts who use it don't deal with its components, only about honing their expert use.

Recording technology, particularly digital, is remarkably young. Not wanting to know what goes on inside the box will be the hallmark of tommorrow's producers just as it is the hallmark of today's pianists.

Incidentally, my Steinway is American made but includes the German renner action which I prefer (equivalent to swapping out an opamp?). But I certainly don't mess around in there. Steinway does the work, supplemented by private technicians. All I know is that when I push a button it works.

There's nothing inherently noble about an end user ganging together seperate components. It's simply a legacy of any nascent field. So while I too cherish my outboard preamps and compressors, I'm more interested in having my recording technology as transparent as my piano technology. I just want to push a button and have it work.

So the question, I think, becomes, how {censored}ty is too {censored}ty? At what point do the compromises of an all-in-one make it either unacceptably low quality, or so aggravating to use that it's just not worth it?

Everyone has different standards and budgets, hence different answers. In this thread, the 400f is too {censored}ty for 60% of its users.

And the fact that components are still good business is not, IMHO, a distinction between pro and consumer as much as it is the hallmark of a young technology.

So for me, the FireFace (and likely the Ensemble) is not too {censored}ty, particularly when paired with my outboard. But as much as I love, for example, my Fearn preamp, in a hundred years an outboard mic pre will be as quaint as the lemur fat they used to use to grease up a piano. (I think it was lemur fat...)

-peaceloveandbrittanylips

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Originally posted by Brittanylips


A couple of hundred years ago, a pianist had to know an awful lot about what goes on inside a piano. I suppose a mark of a "real pianist" was the ability to tune, voice, and fix your instrument.

I wasn't aware of that bit of history. I figured they just played their pianos out of tune until they sold a commission.

I wonder though, how many of the great pianists of the last century - Rubenstien, Hoffman, Horrowitz, Argerich, Pollini, Lang Lang - ever tuned a piano in their life. My guess is none.


Once a technology matures, the experts who use it don't deal with its components, only about honing their expert use.

You're right, but not for the reason you propose. The great pianists of this era all have their own piano technicians. Keeping the piano at home in good shape is just a business expense. And when they tour, either they take their own piano (and tech) or they're sponsored by a piano company who delivers a piano to the venue and a technician to set it up for the pianist and the room. Heck, even rock'n'roll bands have a staff of guitar technicians and drum technicians. Most drummers don't know how to tune their drums (and that's always been the case) but I suspect that most guitarists can still tune their guitar and change a string when it breaks.

Recording technology, particularly digital, is remarkably young. Not wanting to know what goes on inside the box will be the hallmark of tommorrow's producers just as it is the hallmark of today's pianists.

I'll bet that a good concert pianist knows more about what goes on inside his box than today's big name producer. Today's big name engineer is pretty interesting, though. Some of them really know what's going on inside the digital boxes even though they never grew up on analog hardware and never got any training in electronics. But they're the ones puzzled by things like what to do when connectors don't mate, or the levels are too low or high. And the major artists who have home studios (like Whitney Houston's famous living room) all have their own staff engineers who are expected to keep everyting ready to record at any time.

There's nothing inherently noble about an end user ganging together seperate components. It's simply a legacy of any nascent field. So while I too cherish my outboard preamps and compressors, I'm more interested in having my recording technology as transparent as my piano technology. I just want to push a button and have it work.

And today you can have that, but somebody has to do the work. If you want a Roland VS, you can just open the box. If you want a ProTools system, even if you use all Digidesign hardware, you still have to know something.

So the question, I think, becomes, how {censored}ty is too {censored}ty? At what point do the compromises of an all-in-one make it either unacceptably low quality, or so aggravating to use that it's just not worth it?

That's always the question, and the threshold is different for each of us. You can get a wide range of integrated systems, but you can always make something better if you're willing to do your own system engineering.

Everyone has different standards and budgets, hence different answers. In this thread, the 400f is too {censored}ty for 60% of its users.

This is an unusual situation. There is obviously a hardware flaw in every 400F (they build them very well - all of them are alike) and 40% of the users hasn't discovered the flaw yet. But with a few exceptions, if people can get sound out of it at all, generally they like what they hear of what they want to hear.

And the fact that components are still good business is not, IMHO, a distinction between pro and consumer as much as it is the hallmark of a young technology.

I don't know about that. The "hi-fi" industry has been around since about 1950, hardly a young technology, and people are still buying component systems. Granted, the HTIB (Home Theater In a Box) is more popular than components, and that part IS a young industry.

So for me, the FireFace (and likely the Ensemble) is not too {censored}ty, particularly when paired with my outboard. But as much as I love, for example, my Fearn preamp, in a hundred years an outboard mic pre will be as quaint as the lemur fat they used to use to grease up a piano. (I think it was lemur fat...)

Maybe in 100 years the industry will standardize on a digital microphone interface, and the tweakers will be taking apart digital microphones, installing their own preamp, and A/D converter.

Or maybe we'll just synthesize all of our music and there will be no need to play instruments at all. Oh, wait a minute - we're there now.

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Here's the thing. If your art is complex then there will never be a push button solution for you. For people like Frank Zappa the constant modification of things was an important component of the art itself.

If you're living right, your ears are getting better every day. So you will need different gear to progress within that. Truly premium quality gear will never be a mainstream product. It will always be the exclusive domain of visionaries. Mackie can't sell a $600 power supply their channels would reject it completely, but for API it's no problem.

As to the "what's under the hood" syndrome, this is one of the most specious debates of our time IMO.

What do you care if a guy knows how to solder a pot as long as he knows how to dial in a hit? We're making music, not hardware. If a producer gets impressive results then I couldn't care less what they know or don't know. This is art, not trade school.

Time is finite, you can only pack x amount of knowledge into your brain within x amount of time. Id rather hire a producer who has spent 2,000hours mixing and knows nothing about science than a guy who can build a console out a coconut and some chewing gum but can't "get down". In the past it was much more important to be able to service hardware and understand those things, but in this day and age you are far better off hiring a specialist to take care of your hardware and focusing on the art of music production which, at this point, has *very little if anything* to do with electrical engineering.

People who render this argument are behind the times to me. This is 2006, there's absolutely no requirement to understand how hardware works in order to master the software and, all things being equal, it's the guys who know the software best who rule the world right now. You can buy/service ProTools at any of a zillion locations but try finding a guy to hire who has *really* mastered the operation ProTools in a truly musical context - very rare. The hardware is nothing at this point.

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Originally posted by Music Calgary
Id rather hire a producer who has spent 2,000hours mixing and knows nothing about science than a guy who can build a console out a coconut and some chewing gum but can't "get down".


In the past it was much more important to be able to service hardware and understand those things, but in this day and age you are far better off hiring a specialist to take care of your hardware and focusing on the art of music production which, at this point, has *very little if anything* to do with electrical engineering.

Fair enough, but then who are you going to get to engineer it? You gotta hire two people. Or do you plan to do the engineering along with playing the music? That's kind of a waste when you've hired an experienced producer who presumably knows how to get a good performance and a good song out of you, but doesn't know how to turn the knobs or patch in a different mic preamp or re-authorize a plug-in that doesn't work.

People who render this argument are behind the times to me. This is 2006, there's absolutely no requirement to understand how hardware works in order to master the software

This is true, but sometimes you need to do more than master the software. Large studios have always had a maintenance engineer or even staff that didn't make music happen, they made sure that when the music was happening, it could be recorded. And while you may know how to click and drag, having some idea of what reverberation or compression is will help you to "turn the knobs" to get what you're looking for. I'll concede that there's an art form which is based on just trying things willy-nilly and saving what you think sounds neat, but that's a different set of skills and visions.

and, all things being equal, it's the guys who know the software best who rule the world right now.


What does "know the software" mean to you? There's little difference between adjusting a reverb in software than in hardware other than you might be able to get more different sounds out of a single piece of software than you can from a single piece of hardware (but don't tell Lexicon that ;) ) but it will take you longer because you have to go through many more steps and make many more decisions. And how many more records are sold if you get the reverb "just right?"

You can buy/service ProTools at any of a zillion locations but try finding a guy to hire who has *really* mastered the operation ProTools in a truly musical context - very rare.

Right. And you can buy mixers and compressors and mics and effects units by the hundreds, but without a knowledge of what they do, what the controls do, and how to connect them together, they're as useless as someone who has a ProTools system and doesn't know what a mixer or compressor or reverb does.

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