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Live event with Mackie Onyx 1640i, 10+ channels

Discussion in 'Recording' started by champ1979, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    There's a music event next week that I have to record, and I was hoping to get some advice. There will be about 10-12 channels (3 vocals, guitarist, percussion, and a few other instruments), and we are using a Mackie Onyx 1640i which has a Firewire interface. I have a Dell Precision 6600 PC laptop (8 GB, Quad Core i7, approx 150GB free space), and I'll be using Mixcraft 6 as my DAW. Few questions with my setup:

    1. I just need a firewire cable to go from the Mackie to my Dell right, and I should be all set? (I have a firewire port on the PC). I've already installed the PC driver.
    2. How much drive space should I prepare for, for about 6 hours of recording (two 3 hours sessions)? I am planning to get an external hard drive for this, any suggestions or does it not matter much which one I get?
    3. Any recommended settings (buffer size, bit rate, etc)? I have no idea what these mean, but I know that these settings can affect the quality.
    4. Also, wondering how the DAW works...once my firewire is plugged in, how does Mixcraft know to pick up all the 12 different channels? Do I just need to ARM 12 tracks? Is that even possible? Or does it automatically start recording on 12 separate tracks?
    5. Anything else I should be aware of?

  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I don't know Mixcraft, but you'll probably have to add tracks to the project and assign hardware inputs to respective tracks, then arm the tracks. You may need to select the correct driver in the preferences.

    I prefer to record at 24 bit and 48kHz. At that quality it will use about half a gigabyte per track per hour.

    I would plan to spend some time ahead of the gig connecting and troubleshooting the setup.

    Look into optimizing a PC for recording. Usually the first thing suggested is to disable the wireless.
  3. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    Thanks for your help!
  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Texas Instruments Firewire Chipset ONLY. Any other Firewire may not work for you.
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    as far as buffer settings, as long as the musicians aren't monitoring the audio thru the cpu, you would be safe to keep the buffers pretty high. there seems to be 'magic' numbers on a case by case basis, but generally if you keep the buffers high, you're cpu will be happy. that said, your cpu's specs are nice and you shouldn't have problems at any setting, w/ this many tracks.

    in the past i've had issues w/ western digital harddrives, not being compatible with protools, but it's a very picky program, mackie makes pretty reliable stuff, so you should be fine. i use a generic esata compatible harddrive enclosure, and adapter card and my laptop.

    make sure you set the 'gain stages' properly. keep your input signals about halfway up the meters, and you'll be fine.
  6. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    Thanks for all the input. I was able to test it with the Mackie, and it worked seamlessly. Few follow up questions:

    @kmetal: when you say to keep the input signals halfway up, you mean that "volume" slider on each track right? Is there a reason to keep it at half? Is this to prevent from clipping? Is there a risk of having too low of a sound?

    Also, I'm wondering does my laptop soundcard limit the quality of the sound coming in from the mackie via Firewire? I assumed that since my laptop had a firewire port that I should be all set. But I am just wondering now if I should get an external sound card or something. The sound was pretty good when I did the test, but then that was just a test and I had only two channels coming in. At the event there will be 10 or more channels.
  7. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    No! Set the mic pre gains so the level on the meters in your recording software peak at or near the midway point. In this case the faders are for mixing, not for setting record levels.

    Is any of the audio going through the built in sound card? If not then it should have no effect.
  8. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    Hmm, I'm not sure if I'll have access to the mic pre gains. It's a live music program and the sound guys are going to keep the levels to optimize for the live performance. All I'm going to get is a firewire cable :)

    The audio comes only from the firewire...every channel on my recording software will be mapped to one of the channels on the Mackie. Does that mean the sound card doesn't come into play?

  9. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    If they know what they're doing and run the gains correctly you'll be okay. If something is getting too close to clipping show them your meters. Maybe they'll make an adjustment.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've never worked with Mixcraft. You may need to create 12 tracks and assign the I/O's independently to correspond and accept signals from the Alesis buses/sends on a track by track basis.

    Also, you might want to talk to the FOH engineer and have him set his firewire sends as pre and not post, because if it's set for post, any changes the FOH guys make will reflect the signal being sent to you... so if they alter their signal in any way on the fly, you will see that alteration.

  11. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Definitely have them set the record sends to pre-fader.
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    This pre-and post-setting on the mixer is of the utmost importance. I specialize in live on location recording and broadcast production. Most of the time, either myself or the sound company providing the PA will have what is known as a microphone splitter box. This boxes loaded with special transformers. These transformers allow a combined sharing of the microphones. I never take a feed from a PA board. I only share the microphones with them. They can screw up and blow up completely and I'll still be capturing a recording with all the microphones still operational. The transformers in the splitter box allow for electrical isolation between the PA guys equipment and my own. Some passive PA monitor splitter boxes have no transformers and you should not use those. Other splitters are known as active splitters which a lot of people like but I really do not care for. They've got their own cheap microphone preamps built into those splitters and I don't want those cheap microphone preamps, I don't care how much they cost. Not to sound I want. Not the sound I produce or go for. Sometimes you have no choice. And I did not like my experience with those active splitter boxes. Not when goofball sounded guys are supposed to switch the device to its low-level microphone output but due to their incompetence, they might leave one switched to line level output. That's more than 50 DB too much. Pure distortion. Unlistenable. Unusable. So I prefer the passive transformer splitter boxes. Because whatever goes in comes out that way and without alteration or additional gain you do not want or need. And that which will grossly affect your sound and your recording.

    Here is another sticky wicket. While they might be able to accommodate you with a pre-fader output to your recording system, depending upon how that mixer has been internally configured, even the pre-fader send output might still include the 1640 equalizers might not be bypassed? So if they're twisting their knobs on their equalizers, it could affect your recording as well? Most mixers than consoles will only feed just the microphone preamp. But different manufacturers and different consoles today, frequently offer different kinds of internal signal routing which can be easily changed or modified. And people have their own specific reasons for doing things like that that might otherwise ruin the sound of your recording if those are included in the feed to you? And depending on the console manufacturer and configuration this too is not all that unusual. But a scourge to the recording engineer. And that's why folks like myself use completely separate autonomous equipment to the PA company except for the microphones and that's all.

    So I really hope this all goes well for you and that the PA guys work with you? I've worked with some PA Schmuckers that act like children and they would not care if you had designed and built the equipment they were using. They can't think out of the speaker box. And they will be highly un-accommodating. These rank amateurs do not bode well by me. I want to smash them in the teeth with a 58. Bottom line, most are morons. Especially on a local level. You won't find that with the professional touring companies because they know what they're doing. And they are frequently quite accommodating. You can work with other professionals. You cannot work with amateurs because they are amateurs and they will always know better than you. Right. Check. Got that. Idiots. I mean even with people I've known and worked with for 20 years act like that. And I don't put up with that crap. So you've got to watch out when you are with me LOL. Because if you've not doing it right, I'm going to set you straight whether you like it or not. And a lot of them don't like that. Too bad. When I get contracted to make a recording, I'm going to make a good recording and I'm not going to let some know nothing PA knucklehead screw it up for me. So sometimes you have to take a stance in what you're doing. Of course there is nothing you can do if they have not properly maintained their equipment. Which is another reason why you don't want to take a feed from a PA board. Bad feelings go around when you have to do what I've done. I don't care. I am there as a professional and they are there as amateur PA guys which is all they are. And you can expect much from someone like that. I've had to teach the recording schoolteachers. And if dumb ass amateurs don't want to take any advice from a professional? It's their problem. And I'm not going to allow it to be mine. So they better understand you are being paid to do a job in conjunction with them. You are the EIC (Engineer In Charge) and you won't necessarily be the most popular fella. And because I am not their to win praise from PA guys. I'm there to make a professional recording.

    So making live recordings with PA guys you have not worked with can put you in a precarious position and frequently does. Which is not what I would call enjoyable when ya really wonder why you're doing this?

    Not only can this all be personally complicated... it may be further complicated by ground Loop hum as soon as you plug your stuff into their PA system. And you will receive immediate orders from the PA guys to disconnect. So take a few of those 3 into 2 AC power cord plug adapters with you. And a single, surge protected, computer UPS power distribution unit for your use. Without those ancillary devices, you are asking for nothing more than trouble, guaranteed. It's specially when a computer is involved with their switching power supplies and no electrical isolation whatsoever. And you cannot be cutting the ground pins of all your audio connections, which is why you're going to take the electrical risk of shock with those AC ground lifter plugs because you're going to have to. If you don't have those 3 into 2 plug adapters, you're screwed. And don't be tearing the ground pin off of those AC plugs! Use the lifter they're $.59. Don't be stupid. I know that's hard to take and hard for me to say for someone who has not been presented with this kind of situation before. Good PA guys are great to work with. But there is more bad ones than good ones.

    Just so you know.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    On the old 1640, you had no choice, the firewire send was post-gain and pre-everything else - you couldn't record the EQ even if you wanted to (and faders had no effect on what was recorded) unless you took the output from one channel and ran it back into another channel's input. That was the point of the system, the house engineer could do whatever he/she wanted to the sound for the audience in the room, and you'd just be recording the raw input for mixing and processing later.

    On the new 1640i, there's a button that lets you (or the person running the board) select whether each channel will record the EQ. You probably don't want to record that stuff, it's being EQ'd for the performance space, so be sure it's set to 'pre'. Then the only thing you have to worry about is the house engineer messing with the gain. The button is right above the EQ section of each channel strip (SEND - PRE/POST). This setting won't have any effect on what the house engineer is doing, so they shouldn't complain.

    The 1640i was designed exactly for this situation, it should work well, and you won't need any splitters (although that's an even safer way to go for reasons Remy mentioned, but you shouldn't have to, this board will do exactly what you need if set correctly). You are still slightly dependent on what the engineer does with the board, but you can minimize the risk.

    And as hueseph said, a firewire card with a TI chipset is a must (or test in advance recording 16 channels with whatever you've got). Other chipsets are unreliable with this unit. Might work, might not. Been there, done that, bought a new firewire card. If you're getting hum on the recording, try running the laptop on battery power only.

    According to the 1640i manual, it also comes standard with a handy new feature from mackie:

    "21. Turd Polisher. If the songs are no good, engage this switch to polish them up. It will instantly transform your songs to Top-40 status without all of the hard work. Congratulations, you just polished a turd!"

    Looks like I need to upgrade from the 1640 to the 1640i, I've been polishing turds manually for far too long.

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