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rack setup

Discussion in 'Recording' started by kliffdog, Aug 17, 2007.

  1. kliffdog

    kliffdog Guest

    I want to build a rack set up. I have no idea where to start.
    This is my set up right now. I'm running Ableton Live on my PC with an Alesis MuliMix 16 channel firewire mixer. I run plugins for effects. I hate plugins, and want less wires running across my desk. so I think a rack is the way to go. Am I right? I have no idea how a rack is set up. or the minimal pieces I need to buy to make a humble rack set up. help me!
  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    Depends on how you want to record. Also depends on how much $$$ you're willing to cough up. Let's examine some of both sides of that coin.

    How many tracks at once? Do you want to record mainly dry, and route the tracks to the rack effects later? How many at once would you want to do this with? Are you going to "print with effects"? Once they are in there, no way to fix or change anything except to perform it all over again.

    In the computer, you can treat every track with multiple effects individually, or as multiple groups, (dependant on your overhead allowing it). Out of the computer, you can treat one track (stereo or mono) or one group submixed through the outboard chain...unless you have multiple redundant types of outboard processors, and multi-channel I/O for the computer.

    In a computer, you can always change or undo effects easily. Out of the computer, once it goes through the chain and back in, you're stuck with it...or you do it again.

    In a computer, you'll likely add less environmental noise with effects. Out of the computer, you take the digital signal, convert it to analog, run it into an A/D converter of the effects units, if digital, (or possibly all analog through a unit like a compressor), and possibly back through a D/A converter, back through the A/D converter of the mixer/computer interface. Depending on how many digital outboard effects you use, it could add up. Also, all the outboard rack effects, analog or digital, are likely to add SOME noise. All to get a digital effects unit to do what it already does in a computer...crunch numbers.

    Of course, there's something to be said for running things through GOOD outboard processors. Good analog preamps and compressors, etc. will likely sound better, and anything is easier with a few knobs to grab and tweak. Good outboard effects are likely better than bad plug-ins. Good plug-ins are likely better than bad outboard gear.

    Some outboard digital processors will have digital I/O of some kind, allowing you to bypass another A/D and D/A stage. Your computer will need something to interface with those.

    You'd be wise to get a patchbay to bypass anything not being used in a rack. Or, you could crawl around the back of the rack repatching all the time. You'll need lots of cables.

    For good outboard gear to be as good as good plug-ins, you'll need lots of cash. We don't know which effects you usually use, but think about what you use, and that should tell you what you would need.

    Do you use compression? You'd need a compressor. Do you use reverb/delay? You'd need that. One of each for each track (stereo or mono, or group) you want to run through realtime.

    A power conditioner is always a good thing to have in a rack.

    So, when you finally get your rack gear all bought and set up, and you finally get the tracks recorded through it back into the computer, and you manage to minimize any noise that may have been added, and you get it close to mixed and sounding pretty good...what'cha gonna do?

    Most people will probably run each track individually, or as groups, through plug-ins to finish it off. :shock:

    The best thing about a rack full of gear is that those can always come in very handy for live peformances...much more so than just a computer. Drag the rack with you. So, they can do double duty, if desired.

    Just some things to think about, and start a discussion. Definitely could be good. Then again, may not be. Depends.

  3. Jazzpunk1020

    Jazzpunk1020 Guest

    I hate to add anymore questions to this, but are their huge problems with latency with cheaper A/D D/A converters. Or is it best just to wait till money is expendable?
  4. mark02131

    mark02131 Active Member

    Jun 9, 2004
    Boston, MA
    rack's are nice if you have more then a few pieces of equipment. There also nice if you and PC's don't get along.

    Start with an empty rack add a patch bay and a power conditioner. Then you will be ready to add your A/D converter, preamp, compressors, reverbs, and effects.

    Now you can use your PC as a recorder/editor.

    To answer Jazzpunk1020's question: There is no substitute for a really good A/D D/A converter Aside from mic's I feel it's one of the most important pieces of equipment you can own. You can here the difference between different converters. So if you get a chance to try them before you buy.
  5. kliffdog

    kliffdog Guest

    O.K. now I'm thinking maybe a rack isn't in my best intrest right now. What about a plugin powercore? I was looking @ one on Ebay. Kinda costly, but I dont think as much as building a rack. And I gather that plugins can infact sound better than analog? I built a small studio in my shed to record my own stuff, but now I got a few bands that want me to record for them. I would like to be able to record live sets of the whole band. right now I'm running 16 tracks. I would like to have 24. is there anything out there that can do that in the price range of a few grand? Thats what got me thinking I need a rack setup. I've seen gear like the presonus DigiMax FS and I thought that I could stack a few of those on a rack and wala. sorry, but I got one more... Litepipe? dont know much about it. is this a better route than fire wire? Or cheaper maybe?
  6. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    Well, now there are other considerations since your intent is to record live bands. That piece of info may have changed the perspective a bit.

    The main thing you may need to worry about is levels management going into the DAW. In the heat of a live performance, all manner of things can happen to send things into clipping, if you are not careful.

    Drums, bass, vocals...even guitars can pop out and ruin a track. You have to be on the ball and watch (and listen) to the performers...and the level meters...and be ready to react.

    A bit of compression/limiting on most things can help. That means a bunch of compressors going in.

    When recording in a studio setting, most people don't change up things drastically within a song...and if they do, it's usually planned for and adjusted. Then, everyone can make adjustments for the next tune if things change. In a live setting, people can be changing all kinds of things, especially between tunes, that can wreck your carefully adjusted recording levels. Even DURING a tune...("Well...Dave turned up his guitar, so I'm gonna turn MINE up." The bass player.."Sheesh, now I have to turn MINE up".) A compressor can act more quickly than most people, and may buy just enough time for you to make an adjustment to bring the input level back to where it needs to be. Will it color the sound when it slams it harder? Perhaps, but if it keeps it from overloading, at least the track wasn't necessarily rendered completely useless.

    This is a different animal than just using a few compressor channels for the entire live FOH mix. For a PA, may be able to send subgroups through each, and possibly across the mains out to keep the overall level under control.

    If you are going to send each mic and direct signal to it's own recording track, then each may need to be dealt with separately. You may not need one for EVERY channel, but you may need one for most. You just don't want to slam the front end of the A/D converter(s).

    It's possible you need fewer if you record at a bit lower volume, but then you may not be getting the most out of it. You could record at a higher rate/depth, which could give you more room to maneuver with fewer artifacts when recording a bit lower volume, than recording at a lower rate/depth.

    How many tracks at once at what rate/depth depends on your computer, but you shouldn't have a problem since you probably will only be doing a straight recording with little, if any, plug-ins running.

    About the number of channels? How many people are in these bands?
    16 tracks isn't enough? If not, that's cool, just asking.

    You could have 5 drum mics, 4 vocals, 2 guitars, 2 bass (one direct, one mic'ed), 2 keyboards, and a sax to fill up 16 channels. That's a full R&B band right there. OK, take away one vocal, and add one for the top and bottom of the Hammond/Leslie and one for the piano/keyboard and that makes 3 keyboard. Take away one guitar, and...well...you get the picture.

    Then again, maybe two guitarists have two amps each...soooo...OK, maybe more tracks will be needed. Just take that into consideration.

    Anyway, the whole point of this is that recording live bands is a whole different beast than a studio recording, for the most part. You may even be able to split the signals before the FOH board, or tap out the pre-fade/pre-EQ of that board's channel direct outs to run to the computer. It depends. Either way, you're both sharing the same mics, you just don't want the FOH guy controlling ANYthing going to the recording. It'll be a different balance of instruments/vocals/effects.

    Yep, since you indicated it was for live recording, perhaps it would be good to have a rack full of A/D, compressors, and possibly some good EQ for those things that need taming. As in, why allow the kick or bass mic to pick up higher frequencies from the stage than it needs? Why allow the guitar amps to pick up anything lower than they need?

    Would a digital recording mixer-to-computer be more handy? One that has tone knobs to keep you from having to buy a bunch of rackmount EQ's? Perhaps onboard compression to avoid having to buy separates?
    Something like a Yamaha 02..whatever...type of thing? Hardware knobs to control the software, instead of a mouse? May still need SOME outboard stuff, but...it depends. Have you considered that route? Perhaps less stuff to haul, and can do double-duty at home.

    Just throwing stuff out to see if anything is helpful.

    As always, everything I write is open to corrections or debate, and I welcome the opportunity to humbly learn more :wink:

  7. bwmac

    bwmac Active Member

    Mar 15, 2007
    Hi Kiffdog, this is my unit

    I started like everyone, a under powered pc.

    Now my (sound card/digital mixer) is the MOTU 828 mkll
    its the top of my rack. below that is a digitech VR vocal harmonizer that I picked up because it was the last one around. I use it as a dual voice reverb for some things. under that is a Peavey Dual Delta FX processor that is mainly just used as a compressor for singers that don't know how to use a mic.

    This picture was during reassembly, when I installed the motu I had to rewire as i run two PCz a 7.1 surround stereo two TVz with sat. tape, key board midi and did I mention that everything is two way. A wiring nightmare; Well for me anyway.
    the only reason for rack is to apply FX before it goes to track, for me anyway. All my work is done (normally) inside the box, so besides my external (sound card,mixer,ad converter, mic-pres {motu 828}) its nice to have a compressor on the mic (which the motu will do), and the vocoder for nostalgia

    Orrrr like the Kapt said

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