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SAC FAQ for any who are interested

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This was compiled the other day from a SAC user on the Forum. It gives you a great idea of what SAC is and how it functions. The SAC Forum is found at http://www.sawstudiouser.com/forums


Frequently Asked Questions


What exactly is SAC?

SAC, the Software Audio Console, is a PC-based digital mixer of up to 72 channels offering independent low latency, high quality mixing for a main FOH console, and up to 24 seperate monitor consoles. SAC is perfectly capable of functioning as not only a FOH mixer, monitor mixers, and processing rack, but can also (with a few plugins) handle most of your speaker management as well as functioning in the same capacity as a musician-controlled monitor system (like Aviom or Hear Technologies equipment). In many cases, it can be all you need between your inputs and your amps.


Why should I choose SAC over a standard console?

SAC offers superior sound quality for a cost far less than that of an analog or digital mixer of far lesser quality, I/O capability, and ease of use. SAC has the ability to replace up to 24 seperate consoles, effects racks, speaker processing, personal monitoring systems, and can be controlled by multiple independent simultaneous wired and wireless remotes, and can eliminate or reduce the need for a FOH snake, all for less than the cost of a mid-level analog mixer. SAC is also easy to operate, utilizing the paradigm of an analog console without the complicated interface most digital mixers present. Any operator who can proficiently operate an analog console can operate SAC with a few minutes of instruction, and learn to configure and maintain it with ease.


Is SAC a stable platform? Can you really mix on a computer?

SAC is installed in major performance venues, churches, and is used on tours worldwide. SAC, and its sister product SAWStudio have run flawlessly in several Las Vegas shows for thousands of daily shows without any major glitches. In the rare event of hardware failure (it happens to any type of equipment), a SAC rig can be repaired by anyone with basic PC hardware skills using off-the-shelf equipment, and does not require a trip to a manufacturer, so its recovery time (and cost) in the event of incidental damage is much less than a traditional console, which is a "closed box" to the consumer. In fact, it is less expensive to purchase two completely redundant SAC systems than it is to purchase one digital console of similar capacity. It's safe to say that SAC is not only stable and reliable, but also one of the easiest and quickest systems to return to operation in the event of damage.


How do you mix on SAC? Where are the faders?

Most mixing can be done on screen with the mouse and keyboard. External fader controllers are supported, and can be handy for cross fades, quick, precise movements, and moving faders at different speeds, but making adjustments to processing (EQ, Dynamics, Reverb, Aux sends, etc.) is much quicker on screen than on a controller. Much basic mixing can be done on screen as well, as the software gives the operator the ability to select and move multiple channels simultaneously. The possibility for up to 32 channels of fader control exists, but only one fader pack is really necessary, as the software can chase the faders to the on screen hot-channel.


What type of computer do I need for SAC?


SAC is a versatile application which can run on many Windows PCs. A lean installation of Windows XP is recommended, and Windows Vista will work with some tweaking. Older versions of Windows than XP are not supported, and Windows 7 is not recommended, until it can be fully tested and evaluated. Instructions on how to customize Windows XP are available on the SAC website, and tips are available through the forum. A SAC PC should be dedicated to SAC. This means keeping it off the Internet, and limiting installed applications to needed audio applications only. It is possible to re-purpose an existing PC or buy one off the shelf if you are not comfortable building, but building your own system (or having one custom built) is recommended. Desktops and laptops may both be used, but desktops are more common choices, for their input/output capabilities. Many systems are out there running stably, but here are some things to look for:


The fastest single-processor speed you can afford. Many processors today have multiple cores, such as the Core2Duo, the Core2Quad, and i7. SAC's power will be augmented by a faster core speed more so than multiple cores, although on some systems, having a dual core processor may be beneficial to handle non-SAC threads. A common option to improve stability is to force SAC onto only one core using an internal menu command, so money spent on multiple cores will not be well spent. Processors such as the Intel E8400 and E8500 are popular.

A solid motherboard, with a stable chipset. Chipsets from Intel are made to run stably with their processors, and are recommended. For Core2Duo processors, look for the Intel G31 chipset, such as on some of the Asus P5Q, or similar motherboards by Gigabyte, and other leading brands. Look for good user reviews on a board, and use the forum to verify your choices. Fancy options like surround sound, HDMI output, extra, front panel connections, etc, are not necessary. Often similar versions of the motherboard are available without them, and they will only cost extra and possibly consume resources. Built-in video will work quite well (and with low overhead) in most cases, so no external graphics card is required unless the motherboard doesn't have the video on-board. The only peripheral option you may want to consider is Gigabit LAN on board, and Firewire (look for a Texas Instruments firewire chipset).

Sufficient RAM and storage space. 4Gb of Ram, of the appropriate type and speed for your motherboard will be more than sufficient for any SAC related tasks (Windows XP can address only 3.5Gb). If you plan to only use the PC for SAC, the hard drive need not be excessively large, as SAC and Windows can both easily reside within 10Gb or less. If, however, you plan to use the drive for recording with SAW (or any DAW, for that matter) you will need to invest in the largest hard drive you can afford, and perhaps more than one of them. With digital audio, storage space is your friend.

A sturdy case. While you can build a SAC PC with a cheap case, seriously consider a well-built rack-mountable case, not only for aesthetics but also so that the PC may be mounted in shock-mount case.

A large, high-resolution wide monitor. The bigger the better, but watch for the highest resolution so you can fit more channels on the screen. A wide monitor is better also, for the same reason.


What type of audio interface do I need for SAC?

SAC requires an audio interface with low-latency ASIO or MME drivers, with the preference of ASIO. Most users use ADAT based cards, and those are listed here. Other interfaces can work as well, such as MADI, or direct Firewire interfaces. USB is typically not recommended with a small number of exceptions. The RME Raydat offers 32 channels of ADAT I/O at a good price, and is very popular.


The following cards are frequently used, and are recommended:


RME: DIGI9636, DIGI9652, HDSP9636, HDSP9652, Raydat, Fireface 400, Fireface 800, Fireface UC, Digiface, and others. In fact, most RME hardware is acceptable.

MOTU: 324 or 424 interface with 2408 breakout box.

M-Audio: Profire Lightbridge, Profire 2626.


With each of these interfaces, you will also need microphone preamps and digital to analog output converters. The most popular of these is the Behringer ADA8000 which offers excellent quality for a very reasonable price. Other options are available also, at varying costs. The ADA8000 has, however, been installed and used in major venues, and is the general equipment of choice. Each ADA8000 is connected to the interface card with two optical cables, providing 8 channels of audio each way while also keeping word-clock sync.


What are Remotes?

SAC has the ability to have most of its functions be controlled by SAC-Remote, a companion application which uses standard Ethernet or wireless networking to connect to the host PC and control its functions. Users can be assigned rights to FOH, Monitor consoles, or one personal monitor console. Remotes do not process any audio, and can be anything from desktop computers with large monitors to small netbooks. They can be used to run FOH, like a standard monitor console, or placed with individual musicians to control their personal monitor or IEM mix, without fear of interference with FOH, thanks to user rights. Remotes can control nearly all mixer functions, currently with the exception of plugins, giving full control of a monitor mix to individual performers or a monitor engineer, and are even robust enough to control FOH in many venues. Multiple simultaneous independent remote connections are allowed,


Can I use my favorite effects?SAC supports zero-latency DirectX, VST, and SAC native plugin effects, through which most effects needs can be met. Effects that add latency are problematic in live situations, and are not supported to prevent degradation of audio quality.


How much does it cost? Can I buy it as a pre-made system?The SAC software is available for $500. The PC and audio hardware will have a varying cost. It is possible to have a fully functional rig for less than $2000, and it is possible to spend many thousands more for extra features, more channels, better preamps. SAC is available in pre-built systems from Computer Integrated Audio.

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