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21 ways to assemble a home recording RIG
A Tour through the Diverse Home Studio options available Today
Rig #16 The "It's Gotta Be Digital" Large Multi-track and DAW Rig
Who it is for:
This rig is for the professional or the advanced user who knows what it is and why they want it. Tweak's next studio? It could be. It can be the mix machine for a large modular multitrack, or feeding and controlling your DAW.
Hooking it up:
The DM3200 or its big brother the DM4800 plus the IF-FW/DM or IFFWDMMk2 interface works with Cubase, Logic and Sonar 4 and above. Or, if you don't want to use a computer, the new Tascam X48 would make an excellent multi-track recorder, or with some minor modifications your ADAT or Mackie stand alone multi track.
Another method of connecting the DM3200 to a computer is with the MOTU 2408 Mk3, which offers 24 channels of TDIF i/o that will pipe right into the DM3200 TDIF ports, which come included with the DM3200. The 2408 will also convert ADAT to TDIF, so if you have a lot of ADAT devices, this is a way to get them in without buying an extra ADAT card.
I would cram this rig with everything I need to take on any project I want. The board, the Tascam DM3200. It adds an interesting twist on the digital mixer concept. In its own write, it has scads of i/o. 16 analog i/o (mic or line, with inserts) and 4 analog returns/ 4 sends. You can add more analog cards for more. Digitally, there's 3 TDIF and 1 ADAT for 32 channels of digital i/o, plus s/pdif and AES/EBU. While that is plenty, there's more under the hood. An optional Firewire card lets you use it as a 24 channel audio interface. Plus it works as a control surface for your DAW. You can make it work in Mackie Control Mode or HUI emulation. I think the possibilities are intriguing here.
You can add mics of your choice, but I listed some of the nicer ones. If you are going to spend this much on a mixer you probably don't need to cut corners on your mics.
A MIDI i/o port is included. So add the keyboard of choice. I love the feel of the Kurweil's. Get some premium sample libraries if you don't have a lot of players around, but with a system like this, they will come. We are having a discussion about the DM 3200 here.
With a rig of this caliber you can easily add better converters via any of the main digital protocols (ADAT, AES, s/pdif (coax or TOS). You can add premium preamps as well.
Rig #17 Large Computer based or Multi-track based Analog Installation
Who it is for:
This rig is mainly for someone who has or wants a lot of hardware in their studio. If you have a lot of synths, or a recording bands with 16-24 mics this makes a nice rig. If you want to mix on real faders in the analog domain, a 28-4 like the Allen and Heath ZED428 and an audio interface with 24 channels of analog i/o, like the MOTU 24io will do the job. This is for those mixing out of the box.
Audio interface line outs to the mixer's line inputs. Any combination of 1-20 (or to the max the interface can handle) line outs from the sends, direct outs or busses (sub group outs) to the audio interface line inputs. You can configure this depending on how many simultaneous tracks are recorded. If you have only 9 mics you could just take 9 direct outs to the interface. Monitors are connected from the mixer's control room outs. Effects devices (reverbs, delays, harmonizers) go on the mixer's sends and returns. Mics go on the mixer's mic preamps or on standalone preamps connected to the mixer's line inputs. Guitars connect through a direct box to the mixer's mic inputs. Compressors (eqs, filters, limiters) may be strapped across a bus or put on a mixer insert, depending on how you like to work.
As time goes on in out home studio enterprises we collect gear. Keeping it all "online" and ready for your production becomes a challenge in itself. Mixerless options become cost-prohibitive when you exceed 24 inputs, and this is also the case for those using all but the most expensive digital mixers. The Analog 8-bus mixer comes to rescue. Indeed, it is the classic approach to the large home studio that has been used for over a decade, with great results and unmatched flexibility. Back in the late '80s and '90s this was THE approach to use. You can add anything you want--24 track digital recorders, 16 track reel to reels, cassette, DAT, and most importantly to us now, your 8x8 or enhanced 16x16 DAW audio interface. With the large board at the center, you can choose either the multi-track or DAW approach or even run both if you want
This system takes space, and is ideal for multi-room setups where you have a "control room" and a "studio room" where the performers play. The big 8-bus boards have a talkback monitoring system built into the mixer, to which you connect a second set of active monitors.
I chose the SX4882 for this page because I had it its former version, the MX900 and know it and its relatively inexpensive. Other options are the Mackie 24-8 and 32-8, the Toft ATB series (which we have a discussion on here) which is about all you can find under $10,000. Pro analog boards are making a comeback and are very expensive. All of these boards have a "Mix B" functionality which, in terms of the SX4882, gives it 48 channels, not counting the returns. You have 6 sends and 8 busses and main, control room, studio and 2 headphone outs. What's more there are 24 inserts and 24 direct outs. You have the flexibility to record full bands, mic up drum kits, or add a huge arsenal of hardware synths and processors. You can also use it to monitor all the outputs of your audio interfaces, connect DAT and Tape, and do bounces throughout the system, to and from computers and outboard recorders. You can also set up a 5.1 surround monitoring system if you want.
Add a control surface
for real fader automation for your sequencer. Yet let the analog board do the summing rather than doing pure digital bounces in the sequencer. I think you will find, as i do, that analog mixing is still a preferred way to mix, and adds an organicity lacking in much of today's digital mixes. The drawback to rigs of this nature is the incredible investment in cables and cable management one has to do.
Patchbays may be as much a curse as a blessing. With so many cables in the mix you really should go balanced all the way. This helps a lot.
Rig #18 Dual Purpose Gigging / Recording Rig
I also call it the "Onyx 1640i rig"
Who it is for:
Bands who need a board for their gigs, yet also need it for recording rehearsals, demos, or full productions at their home studio. Compatible with major sequencers and can be licensed to work with Pro Tools M-powered
Hooking it up:
The snake goes to the XLR inputs of the Onyx and Mics and line instruments are connected to the snake on stage or in the recording room. Firewire connects to a computer for full 16x16 audio interface integration. Sends may be used for stage monitors, FX boxes, or other processors. Inserts on every channel for hardware compressors. Recording outs on D-subs to connect to traditional multi-tracks for times when a computer is not desired.
Here it is. You have a band and you need a rig for gigs and you want to bring it back to your rehearsal space and be able to track that next CD. Also if you bring a computer the rig will be able to record while you are gigging too. Advantages here are the sound qualities of the Onyx preamps and Perkins EQ, onboard compression and limiting to help you get the most from your PA.
Tweak says: Bravo Mackie! The 1640i is going to revolutionize things. Finally, we have a 16 ch mixer with BUILT IN AUDIO INTERFACE, that can record 16 separate tracks to a computer and MIX 16 outputs from a computer. Not only that, but you can use it as a gigging mixer too. 6 aux sends and 4 busses mean you can have all the stage monitors you need. Need to record the gig but don't want to lug your computer to the show? No prob. You have 16 recording outs (direct outs) on 2 D-subs that can go to a modular Multi-track.
Click the link to zzounds to read about Pro Tools M-powered compatibility and compatibility with other sequencers.
Alternatives to the Onyx 1640i are: