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I'm kind of new at setting things up in a studio, so please bear with me. I'd really appreciate any help I can get.

I just bought a Tascam MSR16S tape machine. I'm having trouble getting it set up, and I'm hoping that someone here can help me.

I've got a Mackie Onyx 1620 board, with the firewire option. I just got the two, eight channel DB25-RCA snakes that I need send signal from the board to the tape machine. I have the snakes hooked up to the "recording outs" on the back of the mixer and into the correct input channels on the tape machine.

Problem is, I can't figure out how to get the signal from the tape machine back to the board for monitoring. I've got a bunch of 8 channel TRS to RCA snakes. The Tascam has 16 inputs and 16 outputs. Does anyone know what I can do?

Also, I'd like to be able to record to tape, then send the audio to the PC for production, and have the option of sending the final mixdown back to the tape machine if I want to. What will I need to do this?

Thanks for any advice.

Please let me know if you need me to clarify anything.


pr0gr4m Mon, 07/17/2006 - 20:08

Well, you've got yourself in quite a pickle there. You are either going to have to buy another mixer some sort of summing device OR you will have to only do 8 tracks at once.

A recording console generally has multiple inputs per channel. So channel one can be switched from MIC input to Tape input. When recording one uses the MIC input and for mixdown, you use the Tape input. That Mackie is not designed to do that. It's really designed for use with a computer. You would hook the outputs into the computer and just have a stereo return to the mixer from the computer. With a multitrack tape machine, there's no stereo mix....16 tracks in, 16 tracks out.

So, here's what you can do. Use it 8 channels at a time. Hook up channels 1-8 out of the Mackie to the 1-8 inputs on the Tascam. Hook up the Tascam 1-8 outputs to inputs 9-16 on the Mackie. Now you can record and playback channels 1-8. Then what you can do is switch that, so that channels 1-8 on the mixer are being output to tracks 9-16 on the Tascam. Channels 9-16 on the mixer will be for playback and you can record tracks 9-16 on the Tascam. Then when everything is recorded and you want to mixdown, plug all the outputs of the Tascam into the inputs of the Mackie and you're go for mixdown.

Another alternative would be to have no tape monitoring. Basically hook all 16 outs of the Mackie into all 16 ins on the Tascam and record. You'll hear what you are recording through the mixer, but you wont hear the signal from the tape. This is a bit risky, but if you absolutely need to record 16 tracks at once, this would be the way to do it.

The more expensive alternative would be to buy another 16 channel mixer or summing device so that all 16 tracks from the Tascam can be combined into a stereo output.

If you need to do serious overdub type stuff, you will need 16 ins and 16 outs so you may want to look for a used board or perhaps another cheapo one just to combine the Tascam outputs.

anonymous Mon, 07/17/2006 - 20:54

Thanks, pr0gr4m.

Do you have any suggestions for a not-too-terribly-expensive board that might be better suited for this sort of application? I just bought the Onyx a couple weeks ago, so I'm still able to return it and get a different one.

Another thing I don't like about the Mackie is that they build all this hype about the Perkins EQ, but it's completely useless when you have the firewire option. I was sort of disappointed.

I doubt I'll ever need to record more than 8 tracks at once, but it would be nice to have the option just in case.

Thanks again.

RemyRAD Mon, 07/17/2006 - 22:20

I think you have made a fine and interesting analog/digital hybrid system. I don't think you need to return the mixer?

As I read the information on this mixer and its abilities, they point out that the FireWire option, allows up to 18 channels of audio to go to or from your computer. Now I am not certain but I do believe that you may have the option to be bidirectional with those 18 channels?

The mixer only has 8 microphone inputs, which you indicate is all you'll need for tracking? The way I look at this is, you should first record into the computer utilizing this mixer. Once you have completed your recording and overdubs, you will now feed those tracks back to the mixer from the FireWire and out to the multitrack analog machine. Now if you do this with only 8 tracks at a time, you will be able to return analog playback head output back to 8 tracks into the computer again to gain the analog sound from tape and amount of saturation you want the tape to give you. You can do this because I believe the FireWire interface is bidirectional! This will also prevent any kind of speed variations from the analog tape machine since you're not using a synchronizer with SMPTE time code and since it will be transferring back to the computer in real time 8 tracks at a time. In other words, you will not be recording to the analog machine, rewind it and feed it back to the computer. You will merely be running the tape machine in record with playback head monitoring in real-time, at the same time. This will leave you with an inherent delay that occurs between the record and playback heads which can be compensated for within the Mackie Traction bundled software. So in the end, you will be able to create your mix either in software or through the mixer with hybrid tracks where you will have some purely digital and some analog influences, if you should so desire! An awesome way to go.

So I do not suggest first tracking to the analog because you will be unable then to realize the differences between the analog and digital sound. This way you will be able to compare "maybe a little analog tape saturation will make these drums sound better....?" As opposed to "why does the bass guitar sound like it's playing through gravel?" then it's too late. (If the analog tape machine is not expertly adjusted to the exact tape formulation, bias noise becomes much more noticeable with bass frequency instruments and sounds like gravel behind the instrument, along with modulation noise from improper bias settings. The scourge of analog recording.)

Now if you also want to use the Perkins equalization on the 1620, you could fold back 8 to 16 tracks/subgroups/stems from the computer software tracks, to the mixer's FireWire line inputs, utilizing the equalization as you wish. Then you would route the master 2 track stereo outputs to the 2 remaining FireWire tracks back to 2 tracks into the computer and its included software. You might have to monitor your mix from the analog outputs of the mixer since you may be utilizing all 18 FireWire channels at once, simultaneously, which might prevent you from simply monitoring them? But then I don't have their manual and I might be way off? But I don't think so?

Now if this is all seems confusing, I can assure you, it is but it is a SOUND SUGGESTION. It will certainly help to teach you much more about signal flow which is valuable information when working with any other audio equipment.

Your audio mother
Ms. Remy Ann David
(remember, mother is only half a word)

hueseph Tue, 07/18/2006 - 17:47

Please feel free to shut me down anyone: just to build on what Remy had to say, I noticed that the onyx does have 8 channels with inserts. You could essentially send the 8 channels through the tascam and from the tape outs on the tascam right back into the onyx and to your daw via firewire. You would have the remaining 4 stereo tracks to go directly into your daw. You bypass having to track to daw then to tape then back to daw. You simply go to daw via tape. Instant analog warmth to disc. I hope I got that right.