Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

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Slrstcs
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Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

Post by Slrstcs » Wed May 16, 2018 7:12 am

Hey! I have a pretty basic routing/workflow question about integrating a mixer into a digital recording studio- any help would be amazing.

I would like to upgrade my AD/DA and declutter my workflow a bit- I've been using three 8-channel Focusrite units for my conversion/interface, allowing for 24 track recording, but also lots of clock/sample rate synching and troubleshooting- plus, the gear takes up 3 rack spaces.

I'm also looking at picking up a mixer so I can mix with faders, use outboard EQ, etc. Specifically, something 24 or 32 tracks.

If I picked up something like the Antelope Orion 32, and I wanted to record a rock band with 20 mics, I think my signal would basically go from mics to mic preamps, into the converters, using up 20 tracks of AD. Then, I route out of the DAW to the mixer-

Do most people end up bussing down to just a stereo out from the mixer, and print only the stereo mix into the DAW? Or, is it more typical to try and route each individual track back into the DAW? That would require a ton of inputs- I'm mostly looking at using compression and other effects in-the-box- but I guess I would essentially dial in dynamics procsssing/effects in Logic, pull up the faders, and then print only the stereo track in the computer?

I run Logic on a Mac, and use external preamps and fairly nice mics I've been accumulating. Mostly recording rock music, usually using at least 16 tracks at a time.

Thank you!

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Re: Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

Post by drumsound » Wed May 16, 2018 3:03 pm

I believe most folks take each channel/input to the DAW discreetly, 1:1 if you will. If you're not using the mixer's mic inputs, you can then come out of the DAW on a 1:1 ratio as well. If you want to use the mixer mic pres, you'll either need enough channels for a mic input and a separate line input from the DAW (don't send the mic signals to the stereo mix bus). Or you could get an in-line mixer, designed for recording, that gives you a separate "channel within a channel" for monitoring off the multitrack (in this case the DAW, but in the past the tape deck).

Without enough channels for both mic and DAW returns, you can take a stereo feed from the DAW for monitoring while tracking, but then break out the DAW channels when its time to mix.

I suggest getting a patchbay to make all of this easier.

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Re: Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

Post by joninc » Wed May 16, 2018 4:13 pm

drumsound wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 3:03 pm

Without enough channels for both mic and DAW returns, you can take a stereo feed from the DAW for monitoring while tracking, but then break out the DAW channels when its time to mix.
I actually could run more outputs from my DAW than just stereo if I wanted to but find it way better to leave it all ITB until mix time so I can make easy rough mixes along the way and it's always the same when I open it up as it was when I last left it etc...
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Re: Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

Post by losthighway » Wed May 16, 2018 6:38 pm

Slrstcs wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 7:12 am
Do most people end up bussing down to just a stereo out from the mixer, and print only the stereo mix into the DAW? Or, is it more typical to try and route each individual track back into the DAW? That would require a ton of inputs- I'm mostly looking at using compression and other effects in-the-box- but I guess I would essentially dial in dynamics procsssing/effects in Logic, pull up the faders, and then print only the stereo track in the computer?
I'm gonna be a huge pain and say that in my opinion (some may differ) you actually get more out of using some quality outboard compressors and doing your volume adjustments/mix down to stereo track in the box. That is assuming you didn't have five figures to drop on a really sexy mixing board.

In my studio my mixing desk is a monitor mixer during recording, and a router for processing tracks with outboard gear while mixing. All of my preamps are external, all of my compression and much of my reverb is outboard, almost all of my eq work is in the computer. I do a little eq on some of my reverb sends, or if I'm sending something to a fuzz box, or a guitar amp and I need something tactile to tweak what's headed towards it.

But.... that is a lot of one person's opinion. If you get a reliable board you can explore analog summing, the eq's on your board, riding faders and all that jazz and decide what works best for you.

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Re: Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

Post by Cirrus » Thu May 17, 2018 3:37 am

Slrstcs wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 7:12 am
I'm also looking at picking up a mixer so I can mix with faders, use outboard EQ, etc. Specifically, something 24 or 32 tracks.

...

Do most people end up bussing down to just a stereo out from the mixer, and print only the stereo mix into the DAW? Or, is it more typical to try and route each individual track back into the DAW? That would require a ton of inputs- I'm mostly looking at using compression and other effects in-the-box- but I guess I would essentially dial in dynamics procsssing/effects in Logic, pull up the faders, and then print only the stereo track in the computer?
It depends on what you're wanting to do, and where the mix actually happens -ITB or on the mixer? I'm interpreting your question as being, "once you've recorded the band and you're mixing the resulting multi-track DAW recording, if you're mixing it on an analogue board do you record the resulting mix as a stereo track or do you record it back in as individual tracks?"

And I'd say... both. Sorta. I'd definitely record the mixer's main mixbus output as a stereo track back into the DAW. Because that's the mix! If you're mixing it using an analogue mixer and outboard gear, the output of all that is a stereo master bus and that's what you should record, because the whole point of the mix was to get it to that format.

But then, what if you or the client want to change something later? Well, in that case your stereo mixdown won't help you. You'll have to re-create the mix, and that means taking copious notes. So it's also common practice to record stems at the end of the mix session; submixes of the major elements of the mix, which would get you out of trouble if they want the drums a bit louder, or less bass guitar, or more reverb on the vocals, without you having to re-create the entire mix. A rock band example might be recording stereo stem mixes for;

- Drums + Percussion
- Bass
- Guitars
- All other instruments
- Backing Vocals
- Main Vocal

The slight fly in the ointment is reverb/delay effects, master bus processing, and any sidechaining between stems. With reverb-type effects you've either got the choice of printing them to their own stem, or letting each instrument have its own reverb/delay on its own stem. That's just down to your own workflow and signal flow options, really. Master Bus Processing like a mix bus compressor, you really have no choice but to record its settings and re-create them if you need to change the mix later. Sidechaining, like if you've got the kick drum ducking the bass guitar, when you record your stems you've got to make sure that this is still happening.

The "ideal" is that when you mix those stems together at unity gain, you get your stereo mix.

I guess an even bigger ideal is to never have to use those stems, but... :lol:


Personally, I mix entirely ITB and I'd need a pretty high-end mixing board with lots of outboard gear before I'd bother doing a hybrid or entirely out-the-box mix.

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Re: Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

Post by Magnetic Services » Thu May 17, 2018 8:12 am

if you got a 24 in/24 out converter, you could track everything through your mixer's preamps/EQ, through the direct outs, and into the converter. Monitor during tracking with just the DAW's stereo master, then when it's time to mix you could route each track back to a mixer channel for hands-on mixing, this time recording the mixer's stereo bus into the DAW.
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Re: Noob: Routing a Mixer w/Converters

Post by Nick Sevilla » Sat May 19, 2018 9:31 am

This has been my setup for years now:

Allen & Heath GL2800 32 channel mixer. Setup as follows:

Left side 16 channels is PLAYBACK from Pro Tools.

Right side 16 channels is RECORDING to Pro Tools.

Everything is on a patchbay. I use Samson 1/4" TRS for it, since the console is all pretty much 1/4" TRS, and I have TRS to db25 for the converters.

Converters now are Focusrite RedNet 2 (analog to digital conversion) attached to the TDM cards via a RedNet HD32R box (only digital).

The right side is set up to be POST FADER POST EQ direct outs, so I have direct recording level control of the signal hitting the converters, along with EQ as well, to shape the sound a little on the way in. the Left side is not set up like this, as I do not use the direct outs at all. Jumpers inside the console change each channels Direct Out between pre and post fader, and pre or post EQ. Very useful.

I use Avid Artist control and mix controllers to record the automation inside Pro Tools.

The playback is basically stems to channels on the console, which are bussed to buss 1-2 and back into Pro Tools to record the final mix. This allows me to use analog summing, and use EQ or outboard on a stem if needed. And it simplifies recording the stems afterwards.

So, in total I use 14 channels (7 stereo stems or submixes) to mix with. Later on I will add another 16 channel RedNet 2, and possibly use more submixes for mixdown, but right now this works very well.

The last album I mixed like this was a couple of weeks ago:

Channels 1-2 Bass.
Ch. 3-4 drums and percussions.
Ch. 5-6 Guitars / violins
Ch. 7-8 piano.
Ch. 9-10 keyboards.
Ch. 11-12 vocals.
Ch. 13-14 effects.

Ch. 15-16 was the playback monitoring of the Stereo mix itself, so could not be used for a submix stem.

The console's channels are panned hard left / right, fader set to unity gain ( 0 ), so that any automation of panning or stereo effects inside Pro Tools can be panned about and changed, and you don't have to worry about it on the console.

All playback channels on the console are calibrated to +14dB VU = 0dBFS, meaning the maximum possible output digitally will hit each individual channel at the +14 dB VU level, leaving a further 4 dB of headroom that will never see any audio. this avoids any possible distortion, and also allows full use of the dynamic range of the console, while not ever really being low enough to allow the console's noise floor to be heard except when there is no sound coming through it. The console is extremely quiet so not a concern.

It sounded better, more open, more dimensional, than mixing entirely ITB. That said not all projects benefit from this sort of summing. If I were mixing a more electronic style album, I may just mix completely ITB, as it has a different character.
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