Help me lighten my load

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Cucco, Aug 1, 2007.

  1. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey guys -

    I've decided to start lightening my load on remotes and I thought I'd hit you guys up for ideas. Here's what I'm going to do - I'll list the stuff that I take on gigs and why. Then I'll list what I consider to be my requirements and then I want to see if any of you guys have some innovative or creative ideas.

    What I take -

    -Mics (not looking at any changes here)
    -Cables (not really looking for changes here either)
    -Preamps (usually 16 channels - 8 primary are usually Millennia or Grace - 8 secondary are Mackie Onyx 800R)
    -AD/DA - Lynx Aurora 8 and Benchmark DAC1
    -Recorders - Computer with monitor/KB/Mouse and Alesis HD24 as backup/redundant system. The Lynx has the ADAT card installed so I can send AES to the PC and ADAT to the HD24 at the same time.
    -Monitoring - most gigs are just headphones- Beyer 770Pros and AKG 240S's - occassionally it's Adam A7 monitors in transit cases.

    What my requirements are -

    -Minimum of 8 track count for on-location. 16 or more preferred.
    -Redundancy capability.
    -Must keep my 8 primary pairs of preamps (or something of similar build/sound quality)

    My plan is to eventually migrate to a laptop setup which would dramatically cut down on the amount of gear needed to be carried. However, that's not in the budget at the moment. I do have a good firewire card in the PC though, so if I go with a firewire type interface, I can always change later to the laptop and still be okay. When I go to the laptop, it will be an ADK.

    My current thoughts were to get some type of 2-track solid-state recorder with digital inputs and allow the Lynx to do some of the internal mixing and send a 2-track safety to the second device via AES (using AES to SPDIF imp converter if necessary) or analog if absolutely necessary.

    However, I've also been considering using something like the Fireface 800 to act as the interface as well as the HP amp and/or monitor amp and have it do the internal mixing and send out an SPDIF safety signal to the backup recorder. In this case, I would have a 12 track count system (8 primary plus the 4 built-in) and I could always drag out extra pres without having to add another rack. If necessary, I could have as many as 20 tracks if necessary if I add both the Grace and the Millennia (8 through the lightpipe, 8 through the line inputs and 4 preamps built-in).

    I'm not terribly worried about the quality of the conversion as I'd likely rarely use the built-in conversion and I've been pleased in the past with RME's quality. I wouldn't expect the pres to be worth much, but I suppose they could cover a woodwind spot mic or brass spot mic without much issue. (obviously not right for ribbons though, so that would be somewhat limiting).

    Currently, the pres and the conversion are all in 1 rack. I have 2 rack spaces left in that rack. In another transit rack I have the onyx 800 and the HD24. It makes for a very tidy "second" system if needed but if I went with the Fireface, I would ultimately be able to get rid of this second transit rack and eventually get rid of the computer transit case (pelican 1610) and the monitor case (steel briefcase). That's 2 very large cases and 1 small case out of the equation. Not only would this lighten my load, it would free up much needed space in my Honda and it would lighten the load on my back (which, considering the fact that I'm not getting younger every day, might be very positive.)

    So....sorry for the long post, but I'm very curious to know what some of you guys think!


  2. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    For your info: I had two firefaces. I had trouble with CPU load while trying to use both at once, however alone the unit worked well. The Pre-amps I found lacked a bit of gain. The A/D was pretty good, an certainly the unit was built well. The fireface had a very nice PCB layout, as I recall.

    As for a monitor amp, I think it would be very nice. You can set it up with the PC, and it retains your previous set up when you reboot. Very nice feature if you don't want to have the PC On, or running the mixer app. all the time.
  3. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    My 8-track location rig consists of...

    4 ribbons and 6 CCMs.
    4 stereo RABBIT mic pres (battery powered)
    Modified FF400 (battery powered).
    Laptop capable of 8-tracks of 2496. (battery powered)
    Micro-Tracker as a 2 track safety recorder.
    1 tall stand for ww spot and misc.
    All other mics hang or attach to venue supplied support.
    Cables, of course.

    All fits into two gig bags which I carry in one trip from the car.
    Lite weight and complete independence from venue power.
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Thanks guys!

    So, in your opinion, how useful/user-friendly is the RME mixer.

    As much as I like my Lynx stuff, I find the mixer to be clunky and annoying at best - limiting and frustrating at worst.
  5. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    I have the Lynx L22, and I agree the mixer is funky. Usable but funky. I like the way RME laid out there mixer. It took about 5 minutes to figure it out, after that my only complaint was there was so many I/O options it was hard to display them all at once. But all and all its a pretty good set up.
  6. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Having the very same thoughts at present, looking to rid myself of all my rack gear and replacing it with a small battery powered kit.

    This all came to a head again last week when I had three nights of a music festival to record in an inner city venue with NO PARKING. I had to get help from my 82 yr old father to come and collect me with the car at the end of each night.

    Now I want a very high quality multi track rig that fits in a backpack. Its going to be based around the beautiful new Nagra 6, 6 channel recorder, some small pres, probably from Kostas Metaxas, and maybe a laptop for control and backup.

    Looking to dump the Lynx A/D (beautiful device mind you), AMEK and TC preamps and the Genex recorder. I am not getting any younger and the important thing for me now is to actually be able to comfortably get to these venues on public transport, after a long work day, and record well, with minimal setup and hassle. Bring on the battery powered devices.

    Zilla, your kit makes me green with envy. Well sorted.
  7. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Yep, I find the Lynx mixer to be very ergonomically suspect, its a case of reflecting the hardware layout instead of reflecting how the user will use it. I have complained to Lynx about it, and was given a dismissive explanation that it reflected what the hardware did. :)
  8. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    The RME TotalMix hardware mixer is very comprehensive. The nice thing about TotalMix is that if you laptop craps out, TotalMix keeps going. It runs in the FF device itself. Therefore your safety recorder will not loose its mix feed.

    I did notice that when you pull down a fader to -infinity an audible plop sometimes accures. This has not been a practicle problem for me as usually I am dealing with static mixes only.

    Both the 400 and 800 have been solid and good sounding. For live location recording they are just fine. For those times that you want to raise the bar, a quality clock (Rosendahl) will take these units to the next level.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    What about muting the channel - does it make a similar plop? I'm usually working with static mixes as well, but who knows, sometimes a change occurs...
  10. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Thats interesting I never heard any plops when I pulled the faders down to -infinity on the firefaces I used to own. Although I didn't mess with total mix that much after I got my basic routing set up. I had alot of issues with 2 firefaces being used together however.
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    All great stuff so far! Thanks guys!

    I don't suspect I'll need 2 interfaces - with 16 channels of ADAT input and 10 channels of analog (or 12...I can't exactly tell), I should be covered.

    I would love to see this:

    Single, self-contained system containing 8 high-quality preamps, built-in A/D conversion (96 kHz at least, but for the marketing hype, 192 wouldn't hurt). A built in 2 channel summing mixer with analog out and headphone out which records directly to hard disc.

    Perhaps this could be built into a simple 2RU computer chassis and based on a linux system or something similar.

    Personally, I wouldn't require or even want 48V phantom. I'd be very content doing that externally closer to the mics (when necessary). I'm much prefer the cleanliness from not having it in the circuitry. In addition, I'd like to see 70dB of gain.

    I wonder if such a device would be buildable by the collective minds on this forum.

    I'd gladly pay $5K for this! (And I can probably get the programming guy to do it with promise of payment from unit sales...)

    Any interested takers on putting this project together??
  12. BRH

    BRH Active Member

    Get this and be done with the mixing and matching!!!!

    That out to do it!! LOL

    I hear it has really good preamps.

    Jeremy, what you need is a 'Schleper'..... a audio utility person to help transport, setup, lay cabling, and answer questions from lookie-lou types, as well as security.
    I have experience with this type of work...........
    Maybe you are getting too big and need to partnership with someone, or hire somebody to help for a couple of bucks... someone trustworthy.
    You are going to like the Deva...... it's only about $13,000
  13. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Wow your asking for a cheaper spider:
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Believe me - I've been looking very seriously at the spider.

    I just wish they offered it without the conversion!!! I REALLY want an 8 channel pre with a summing bus and pan controls that operate post direct output and gain.
  15. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    ..But then you write...
    Which is it?

    The first is a pretty tall order. Probably not possible for under $15k.
    The second request is significantly more achievable.
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yeah...I know - I said I want two different things.

    I'd love to have the all-in-one interface. But...I realize that this is impractical at best. Could it be built? Sure. But, the best way to do this (from a business point of view) is to build it in bulk and market it. All of which takes a lot of money!

    However, I could get by (quite satisfactorily) with a preamp as I described in quote b above. In fact, this would negate my need for a new control surface and others...

    I would be willing to pay a decent price for the 8 channel pre/summing bus/mixer so long as it had the high gain (70+ dB), clean/transparent sound (on par with my existing pres). Again - phantom power not necessary as I'd be willing to do that in a seperate box, but I'm fine if it's in there too.

    What are your thoughts?

    I've been chatting with another RO'er off-line about this too. I just have to figure out exactly what I want and how much I'm willing to pay for it.
  17. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Exactly. This is the design process. You must first list desired goals (size, cost, weight, cost, features, cost, audio quality, cost, and cost). This narrows the possibilities from infinite to something digestible; then start compromising.

    Just remember that the more goals you try to meet, the more you will have to compromise. My current philosophy is to have more task-specific devices. Then I can optimize circuits for its intended purpose with less compromises in quality, size etc.. To this end I have seperate kits: a live archival rig, a session-rig, and a take-no-prisoners-high-end rig.
  18. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    This I know. After all, I do design weapons systems for our government - it's all a requirements-based setup.

    The two things which I've identified have actually been very well thought out. They are just two separate and different desires. Both are valid and I would purchase both. However, one is more obtainable (the 8 channel pre with mix/sum bus). The other is a pipe dream that I wish someone would develop (and I would buy!)

    My huge gripe is that many companies offer some kind of 4 channel preamp with a summing bus included (API, Benchmark, others.) However, I often need more than 4 channels!

    I'd LOVE to start recording in 2 track only (rather than having 4,6, or 8 tracks rolling) but...
    1 - I don't want to use a standard mixer to do this for two reasons -
    A - I don't trust many brands of mixers available to me to not destroy the sound from the preamps
    B - I don't want to have to lug a heavy mixer in addition to what I have to carry currently.
    (The API external mix bus looks like a good solution/alternative though.)

    The other reason I don't mix to 2 track in the field is because I don't trust what I hear in the field. Since 80% of my mixes are done through cans on location and I simply don't trust cans, I don't want to take the risk of a horribly mutilated recording due to a piss-poor monitoring situation.

    I can kind of get past that last reason since I'm finding myself trusting myself (not the cans) more and more as time goes on, but that initial feeling of letting go is always a scary one.
  19. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    I figured so. I wrote that for others reading these posts. And also to elicite more specific requirements from you. Something like...

    It can't weigh more than 117 pounds,
    It must have 4'' diameter bakelite knobs.
    It must be transformer coupled, tube gain with no negative feedback.
    It must be purple and lime green.

    You mixer is totally buildable. One suggestion that I would offer is this: NO PAN-POTS. This will reduce the complexity greatly and allow a much cleaner signal path. Have an L-C-R bus assignment switch instead. I have done without panning for 8 years now, and there is no lack for spacious width and depth in my recordings, rather there is more.
  20. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Interesting...LCR bus - this is a great idea!

    Okay, so here's my list of requirements -

    Stepped attenuation. (prefer stepped switches, but will accept high-tolerance stepped attenuators)

    3U or less

    Solid build - max weight 35 lbs (yes, I know that's heavy as hell!)

    Must be all XLR in/out all operating balanced at +4.

    I don't have any preferences as to whether it's transformer/transformerless (but I don't like that prick Optimus Prime...such a do-gooder...) or tube. I'm more interested in a clear sound than the topology and while I know the sound is directly affected by topology, I also know that any of these topologies is capable of a clean/open/transparent sound.

    I would prefer an internal 110vac power supply but would accept external if necessary or significant improvement could be had.

    I would prefer the unit to cost less than $4000. (negotiable).

    I would need direct outputs on all 8 channels as well as the 2 channel mix bus.

    Metering is not essential as I do this elsewhere anyway and unless it's comprehensive metering, I find it to be useless. Besides, I also assume/expect it to be very unlikely to overload the input stage.

    Does that help a little?

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