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Is a mixer really necessary?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by nadsozinc, Feb 3, 2002.

  1. nadsozinc

    nadsozinc Guest

    I've been reading a bunch of these forums for a while now, trying to figure out how to get a little studio set up. I am completely new at this, but I'm really excited about giving it a try...the problem is that I have no idea what I'm doing. From what I've been able to gather, I should start with an SM57 and/or 58, a mic pre, a real soundcard (gonna miss my sb16 with 775ms latency), and software (I gave in to impulsiveness and bought Cubase). The thing I have not been able to figure out is what exactly the purpose of a mixer is when I already have Cubase. Is it just a luxury, only there because using the mouse gets tedious? It has also proved impossible to figure out which soundcard to get. I want a lot of inputs; I'd like to be able to record a couple of guitars, a bass, and a drumset at once. My thought is this: when I can afford to get the mics, I'd like to be able to use them without buying a new soundcard! I'd like to spend less than $1000 US on the soundcard, and will be using win2000. The MOTU 2408 mkII was looking great until I read about their customer support and hatred of windows. One last thing, which I realize is perhaps the ultimate newbie question: what is the difference between an analog and digital input? My level of knowledge seems to be so low that my questions aren't really addressed, everyone already knows the answers! Thanks for reading this and for any help you can give, I didn't realize how much I had to ask until I started typing!
  2. Logan

    Logan Active Member

    Apr 21, 2001
    Elm Tree Ont. Canada
    Hey man
    Check out some of the posts from Cold and Ugly that are going on around yours, he is asking the same questions and alot of your questions have been covered. Analogue is real sound and digital is the representation of that sound that your computer can understand. So you need a sound card and analog to digital converters to convert the signal from your mics and instruments to 1s and zeros, which is how digital information is represented. You will also need digital to analog converters to get the signal back into a format that your amp and speakers can deal with. The converters come in all flavours from 16 bit 44.1 k (which is what is on CDs) to 24 bit 96 k. The reason for more bits and a higher sampling rate is to get a more realistic sound. Check out some sites that deal with this info 'cause I'm giving you a really simpistic version here. The reason you need a mixer is two fold. 1: there is latency involved in digital audio and when you are recording a band you will want to set up a moniter mix through your mixer that does not go through the computer or you will have that delay to deal with. 2: You will still need the inputs of your mixer to get the sound into the converters, at least until you have a rack full of mic pres. Also some folks like to send the mix to their mixer to avoid having to do fader moves with a mouse and to be able to use hardware out board gear ( 'verbs comps delays etc.)
    To do all this you need something more substantial than that SBlaster. There are cards that will allow you to multi track, check out Frontier Design and RME for starts and there are many others as well. Take care Logan
  3. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Hey Nad - If you're that new (and you sound like you are) then start with this concept: You have just entered a "foreign country" known as pro audio, DAW land, recording world, masochists anonymous... point being, to even learn how to ask "where's the bathroom", it helps to know what language the denizens of your newly chosen "country" speak. Here's a link to help - if you read this whole thing a few times, you will be much better equipped to ask the questions you REALLY want answered, not to mention being able to ask even more questions. Check it out -


    On your question about why a mixer - Logan pretty well nailed it - Only thing I might add is that there are a few multi-channel sound "cards" now which claim to have built-in pre-amps. If these are any good (can't tell you, don't have one) it would possibly eliminate ONE of the needs for a separate mixer. For the most part though, unless you have a budget I would kill for, you're better off with 1 or 2 mid-to-high end pre-amps (pre's in your new "country") and a well made reasonably priced mixer with (pretty standard on not-too-cheap boards) insert points, which can be wired pretty flexibly for different uses. This mixer, among other things, gives you as many pre-amps as the mixer has mic channels. Just don't expect Avalon or Neve quality sound at that price.

    Another thing - if you end up acquiring several Midi sound modules or keyboards and want Cubase to run them for you, having a bunch of extra line level inputs will allow you to do a submix of all those inputs, and record them with just 2 channels of input to the computer ( at least for scratch tracks)- With the right pieces of gear, you can increase your options on how you work, and eventually find a way that you can be efficient and productive with.

    So, read some more, here and anywhere idiots like us gather - then ask away. We aim to please - (you aim too, please) (man, even the ROCK I found that one under had already turned to dirt...) Oh, yeah - Lightening the mood now and then keeps us (me, anyway)from going stark-ravin'-nutsy-kookoo trying to remember all the crap that's necessary to make all the crap actually work, so we can (rarely) remember that what we really started out to do was MAKE SOME FREAKIN' MUSIC !!!?!?!
  4. wrave

    wrave Guest

    Hey there! Just to let you know a little about my experience, a year ago I did not own any recording equipment and I started looking around. Like you the amount of confusion for us "newbies" is massive!!!

    I got in touch with Sweetwater and they pointed me towards the ProTools Digi001. You can find all kinds of pros and cons about this equipment but for me it has been the perfect introduction into computer based audio. Right off the bat I had mic pres, direct line ins for my instruments and a software bundle that did a whole lot more than I could ever imagine being done to a recorded sound file.

    Since then I've read a lot of the forums and while I now know there are all sorts of alternatives, the Digi001 has proven to be the most flexible reintroduction in to recording I can imagine. I see lots of guys have to worry about all kinds of technical compatabilities when they try this piece of equipment and that chunk of software. All I had to do was install one PC card, do a software install and connect one cable and I was up and running.

    ProTools does everything I need and now I am adding some mics and decent monitors. Going this way has allowed me to get my feet wet very quickly and learn as I go along. It might be something you'ld want to consider.

    Have fun and good luck!
  5. wrave

    wrave Guest

    Sorry, I never did make my point. Is it Monday?

    What I intended to say was that the Digi001 I/O box, the sound card and the software that come with it are a complete studio in a box. I don't have any need for a mixer at this point. In fact, from what I've read with this kind of a small set up, putting a mixer into the signal chain could very well increase the liklyhood of adding noise from the mixer's circuitry. Like I said, this has worked really well for me.

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