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Recording from a bands Powered Mixer to a Computer Line-in

Member for

21 years
I'm trying to do a live off the floor recording by taking the Record Tape Out on a powered mixer and plugging the 2 stereo ouputs (a Y cable) into the Line-in jack on a USB line/mic device (basically an external sound 16bit/44Khz card). The PC is a fast WinXP box with 1Gb of Ram using Audacity or Soundforge.

It's working and the sound is clean and separated but I have the following problems:

- the signal is very hot. I have the levels on the mixer turned down to practically nothing and the computer mixer down pretty low. We tried (all on separate channels:
- steel guitar (direct-in to mixer)
- electric guitar (mic in front of speaker)
- 2 vocal mics
- 3 drum mics (kick, snare, overhead)
(bass player was absent)

It seems either the vocal mic or possibly the steel guitar peaks the meters at the drop of a hat. On top of that we have to play so quietly it doesn't really capture our rock n' roll band sound.

So I'm trying to figure out what the solution is;
- plug into a better quality internal sound card line-in? I was thinking of dumping the $30 USB device and trying an SoundBlaster XFI internal card.
- is there a better output from the mixer to use? There are 2 1/4" jacks called L/R Monitor Output and also a single 1/4" output jack (not sure what it is). I've been using the Record Tape Out.

.. and for the issue of quiet playing and hearing;
- take the monitor ouput into a small submixer and run headphones out of it for all 4 band members. We can then shut off the main speakers (which are feeding back into the mics anyway.

Any suggestions?

Comments

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 05/13/2008 - 12:58
Okay.. I managed to pick up a used m-audio 2496 sound card! Yeeha - this should vastly improve things. Now my other problem..

What do I use to supply 4 headphone mixes, when the powered mixer only has a rec-out (being used to send to the computer line-in)?

Would I take the 2 RCA outputs from the computer sound card (2496) and plug that into some sort of headphone breakout box?

I suppose the signal would have to go through an amplifier before it reaches the headphones.

Or could I plug 2 Y cables into the L/R channels on the amp and plug 2 pairs of headphones into each Y cable?

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 05/05/2008 - 07:35
- Here's some new info from the manual:

When connecting mics to the powered mixer:
- channels 1-6 are Lo-Z/Hi-Z jack (XLR)
- channels 7-8 are MIC/LINE jack (XLR).

* When connecting a line level device to
channels 1–6, turn on the PAD switch.

---------------------
Pad switch (PAD) (1–6 only)
This switch attenuates the input signal by 30 dB.
When connecting a line level device to channels
1–6, or if the mic input is distorted, turn this
switch on (the pressed-in position).

-------------

So here's where I'm confused;
- it sounds like the Pad switches for channels 1-6 might control the hot signal.
- the problem I had was - in channel 1 (a SM58 mic) was hot and channel 4 (an acoustic guitar plugged directly into the mixer) was hot. Would the guitar be a line level signal? Does the guitar have a DI built into it?

Member for

15 years 10 months

Kapt.Krunch Mon, 05/05/2008 - 08:03
Rimshot wrote: - Does the guitar have a DI built into it?

We don't know. I have an old Harmony that I put a soundhole pickup in, and it's low-level, because it has no preamp. I also have an Ovation and a Taylor of which both contain active battery-powered preamps, and their levels are significantly hotter. They don't have "DI"s, they have preamps, which boost a signal.

I've got a feeling that maybe you just need to do some proper level-adjusting through every stage of the system.

An input signal too low will add noise because you have to turn up something else after it to make up gain. Anything after THAT will pass along the extra noise.

An input signal too high will overload that stage, and everything after THAT will pass along the noise and distortion.

And, if you already have a bad signal, taking that bad signal out to another mixer to feed into a soundcard by attenuating IT will only give you the same bad sound at a lower volume.

It's a juggling act. You need to figure out how to get the first thing a device sees at an optimal level. That means not peaking the meters, and having the channel faders at their optimal levels, which gives a bit of wiggle room for boost and attenuation. And you'll have to adjust the input trim pots...that's what they are for.

Then, with the mixer levels set appropriately, and the outputs set to their nominal settings, (if there is an RCA out level), you have to adjust the input levels of the next device to accept the carefully adjusted signal properly into it. And so on.

And, yes, lose the floor monitors.

Kapt.Krunch

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 05/05/2008 - 13:06
Sage advice! Thanks. I'll check it out.

This is what I get for trying to record 'on the cheap'. I've done this before with other bands (with better equipment i.e a Mackie Mixer and Garageband) and got good results. Its tricky getting the levels right but once it's setup its surprizingly clean.

Oh yes - it is an ovation guitar; with a preamp.

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 05/15/2008 - 13:12
Well I tried out the M-audio 2496 card last night and it worked like a charm. Crystal clear - and no problems at all handling the signal; no peaking at all.
Lots of room to play with..

The only thing I couldn't get to work was the 2496 outputs to play thru the mixer for playback thru the speakers. Odd.. I eventually switched the OS mixer to use the built-in sound device and played it thru that to the mixer.
Maybe a routing problem?

Working on digging up a headphone solution, a bandmate has a friend that apparently has a warehouse full of audio stuff from an old business. So hopefully we'll find something that works.

Member for

15 years 10 months

hueseph Thu, 05/01/2008 - 13:51
Headphones would definitely be a good idea. The monitor outs would probably be bad if it's a powered mixer. It seems to me the tape outs would be your best bet. What interface is it that you are using? You mentioned what it is but knowing th exact product might help.

Member for

15 years 10 months

hueseph Thu, 05/01/2008 - 14:18
It may well be that the output of your mixer is just too much for that consumer device. Is there any way to switch the output on the tape outs of that mixer from what I assume is +4dB to -10dB? For what it's worth, you could probably get a cheap usb or pci solution for under $100. Edirol has a very simple usb device that is designed for exactly what you are doing:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BD1AF0/?tag=r06fa-20

I can't help but think an M-Audio device like this one would be perfect for you though:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Audiophile2496

Member for

21 years

Member Fri, 05/02/2008 - 07:23
I think you are right that the USB consumer device can't handle the signal coming from the powered mixer.

just had thought.. I have a small 6 channel mixer. What if I took the Rec Out from the powered mixer and fed it into my small mixer before connecting to the computer line input. Would that allow me to groom the signal down to manageable strength before it hits the computer?

BTW - I did test the USB device with a standard line level signal from a tape deck or stereo receiver and the quality was very good (it didn't peak the meters)

Member for

15 years 10 months

Kapt.Krunch Fri, 05/02/2008 - 07:48
Which powered mixer are you using? And, since Vantech's page links to their documentation does not work, what are the inputs and their respective levels, and does that volume +/- switch control the recording level, as well as output? Perhaps that is dimed and taking an already hot signal and boosting it to the computer? Does it work independently of the software? Bring up the recording program, arm a track, and adjust those levels while running something in? If you have a "Mixer" function in your software, does it move faders for that track? Does it adjust the input level at all, even though it doesn't tie to the software mixer movements?

Let us know?

Kapt.Krunch
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