Combining mic signals

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Full Time Dreamer, Jul 19, 2003.

  1. Here's a question for the esteemed panel, any help would be greatly appreciated.

    OK, i have 3 888's running a 24bit TDM system. I'm in the process of expanding my project studio to be able to record full band, right now i can only record 1 and 2 mic overdubs. I have a Tascam TMD 4000 digital console and 2 AES cards, so i do have the ability to combine multiple mic sources thru the console before they go to the 888's. However, i am looking for alternate solutions because A) i dont love the Tascam A to D's and would prefer to use the 888 A to D's, my console doesnt have analog outs. and B) i dont want to rely on that console unless i have to. and C), i dont want to print mics separately then combine them within pro tools later.

    So, i have a ton of great outboard mic pre's, Avalon 737, Drawmer 1960's, Focusrite ISA's and i'm lookin for a Sytek, plus lots of good eq's etc.... I need opinions on the best way(s) to combine multiple mic signals (such as 2 mics on the snare, 2 mics on the kick, etc.....) into single audio inputs to the 888 (one track for kick, one track for snare, etc...)

    Again, i'm hoping not to use my Tascam TMD 4000 although if you think i should, tell me. is there anything out there that i dont really know about thats good at combining signals and doesnt take up much space and is at least mildly cost effective?

    Please help.
    -Full Time Dreamer
  2. Guest

    I'm a little confused - exactly what is the problem?

    You have three 888's - that means you have twenty-four analog inputs into pro tools. You also say you have plenty of mic preamps.

    So why do you need to "combine" mics onto one recorded track? I record full bands constantly, and I rarely have any need for more than 16 simultaneous inputs. While it is true that many sessions may have 48 or 64 tracks (or more), many of them are done as overdubs, and still there is no need for more than 16 at any one time.

    With 24 inputs I can't imagine ever running out. You could set up 12 drum mics (does anyone would need more than that?) and still have enough left for stereo keyboard, elec. guitar, elec. bass, a couple of horns, and a scratch vocal.

    Unless you are individually mic'ing every instrument in an orchestra (again, not sure why you'd want to...) 24 inputs should be way more than enough.

    You can always bounce tracks down to stereo pairs later if track count becomes a problem.
  3. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    yes. I have an 02R/01V combo with 2 adat bridges light piped to CD8AT cards. I record huge horne bands and small to medium orchestras occasionally and I never needed to use over 20 mic channels at once.

    If I were you I would get rid of the 888´s. DO you have the 888/24?
  4. Littledog, either you didnt read my post, or i'm just horrible at explaining myself.
    I have enough raw 888 inputs. My specific question was, (Maybe this is a better way to say it) there a better way to combine multiple mic signals BEFORE they hit the 888, without using my Tascam console.

    For example, if i use a mic on the top of the snare, and a mic on the bottom of the snare, but i want to combine those two mics into a single 888 input (ie: a single digital track), is there a better way to do it besides using my tascam console? I dont like the tascam analog to digital converters, and the tascam doesnt have much headroom, i'd like to avoid it.
    Does anyone know of a better way to combine signals without the use of a console? There might not be one, i dont know of one, thats why i'm asking.
    ..........or......... is there maybe a small high quality line mixer with busing that can combine signals well?

    as a side note, i've been engineering major label projects for over a decade, i know all of the right ways to engineer. what i havent done yet on a grand scale is attempt to do it at home and get the same quality level that i can get out of the really big studios. Hence the reason for this post.
    what i'm trying to avoid is a track sheet that looks like
    track 1 inside kick
    track 2 outside kick
    track 3 snare top
    track 4 snare bottom

    I want a track sheet that says
    track 1 Kick
    track 2 snare

    any help is appreciated
    -Full Time Dreamer
  5. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    well..the first obvious choice would be a used analog mixer.

    Another way to go that would take up less space and would be really hi-fi would to get a few of these little 2 into 1 passive mixers.
    they're $349 a channel . so four would be $1396. That's still cheaper than buying a good sounding board, with out the footprint and uneeded components of a mixer.
    This would allow you to combine Snare, tom1, tom2 top & bottom, and Kick in & out.
    If you need more dual mic combinning, get a few more.

    Another around for somse other mixer products. they're out's only a matter of budget.

    P.S. if you only need to combine K(1&2) and Snare(T&B) then two of the above is only $698...mackie budget and veri discrete/Hi-Fi....mmmm wish I had 'em...
  6. Guest

    Well, believe it or not, i read your post, but that doesn't mean that i understood it! :D

    Am I understanding you to say that the only reason you want to combine mics is to make a neater track sheet? There are other ways of doing it without buying new gear.

    For instance, record your snare top & bottom to two seperate tracks. Then create an aux fader and call it "snare". Set the outputs of your two mic tracks to the aux fader, and then hide the two original snare tracks so all you see is the new "snare" fader.

    This gives you all the advantage of a spare and neat mixing board on screen, yet still leaves you the option of changing the blend at mixdown if it should become necessary.

    Or am I still misunderstanding? The only other rationale I can think of is if you are trying to cut down the size of your sessions for storage or archiving reasons. Even so, you can always bounce multiple tracks down to one later and delete the original. A little extra time, but still no equipment expense.

    Anyway, I have to admire the commitment to aesthetics of anyone who will go to such great lengths just to have neater track sheets! :c:
  7. Freeform

    Freeform Guest

    *cough* Just wanted to say Hi Full Time Dreamer ;) my only guess would be getting a cheap mixer and for example mix the top and bottom snare and assign it to a specific bus, then sending the direct outs of the buses into the 888s.
  8. Dear Recorderman,
    alas, somebody finally understands and has a solution for me. Thank you so much. Littledog, you still dont get me, but thats ok, i appreciate the attempt.

    Recorderman, those Brent Averill boxes look like exactly the kind of thing i am looking for, and 2 boxes should cover me in the short run. Not the cheapest gear running, but space is more valuable than money right now, and they are not astronomically priced, i think they'll do fine.

    Anyone know how hard it would be to build a box like this? I'm a good engineer but i'm tech illiterate.

    If anyone knows of another company making similar boxes at high quality with a cheaper price tag, please chime in now. Otherwise, i think i've found my solution. many thanks
    PS. Hello "Freeform", its good to see you on the boards.
  9. Tungstengruvsten

    Tungstengruvsten Active Member

    Sep 10, 2001
    Guelph, Ontario
    I've read and re-read the thread but i'm still confused - why dole out the cash for a line mixer
    when you could bounce the 2 tracks within protools? I mean record them separate, find the blend you like between the two tracks and bounce them to a new track. You'd also have even more control over the phase of the two tracks before you commit to combining them. I'd consider this before I used the pre's in the 4000 or even used it to accomplish this task...

    >"what i havent done yet on a grand scale is >attempt to do it at home and get the same >quality level that i can get out of the really >big studios."
    See this points me to thinking you would be better off getting the 2 mics through your pre's and into prostools to keep the quality as high as possible...

    Also, there are line mixers that are all solid state, all valve(manley), high and low quality, and for the most part they will all affect the sound of the tracks going through them... you have an output level knob on your pre's so a box with more gain adjustment is just more components in the audio path.

    It would be super easy to build a 2>1 line-level box, price would depend on the guts of it and if you wanted xfmrs, etc. Even a simple little passive one would do if yer pre's have output gain- why not refine your post and see if the 'tech talk' guys can point you towards a couple simple solutions if you are bent on doing this 'outside the box'...

    good luck!
  10. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    OK..were in for one of those Analog vs. Digital lessons here...put your flak jackets on.

    A. If you need multiple mics to get the sound you want, it doesn't mean you have to record them all to tape. What if you use 24 mics? You can save all those decisions those for the mix if you want to or can afford to. How about when there was only 16track, or 24track before smpte. many times you want to comp those mics down. When you are tracking, the decisions on tom panning, relative level between the top & bottom mic, phase, etc. is at the best it's ever going to get. If you leave all of those mics separate then you have to spend valuable time recreating very fine and very important balances that you already had once. On top of that, the whole time you are overdubbing you have this house of cards, that you have to take care of just to have a drum balance. Instead, if you made those decisions @ the tracking, you'd only have K,S,Tom,OH,Hat and ride maybe to throw up in a straight line (with maybe a little more K). Then for monitoring you can bounce all but the K&S to a neat little stereo pair (just for OD monitoring only). These approaches take fewer tracks and leave valuable computer resources available. Or if you're in the analog domain, you have more tracks to work with.
    B. For purely sonic reasons (unless your going to send all tracks back out and mix analog...even then, again, the wasted time recreated relationships you already had (as good as it'll b probably get) comping in analog is superior sounding than bouncing to disc. The tactile response and feedback from balancing two or more anresolutionalog faders is of a higher resolution. It'll make you get it right. As to phase, you might need to move that mic an inch, etc. to get the right combination, that you are focusing on while you track. In my case (two mics)) I might be using an IBP. All of these things I just mentioned are of a higher resolution than dig. Moving a mic or using an IBP is finer than sliding the tracks (maybe 96K is getting close.
    Bouncing to disc doesn't sound as good as comping in analog and converting one signal.

    Anyway to recap. It's neater. saves time. makes OD'ing simpler. Anytime you can commit (rightly) and NOT put off a decision you are better off. Of course this takes experience. Knowing how you need things to sound in the end. In the case of the drums and all of those mics, you're never in a better place to get the balance as well as when you're cutting them.

    At the very first studio i ever worked at I once got a tape recorded by an old school engineer (he had done Zep, WAR, etc) and I poo-poo'd the tracks at first when I saw the track sheet say: "Kick, Snare, Kit). Her had recorded/comped all the tom/OH/hat/etc mics onto w stereo pair. BUT it sounded great. just put those four up and done. You could still adjust the down and back beats and there were so many more track on the 24. The productions could get bigger.

    P.S. Going to the TECH guys for a DIY way to build a passive (or active) combinning network is a good idea Eric, if you're inclined to build and not buy.
  11. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    Sometimes I cant hear phase things on the snare untill I take the mix to other speakers. I guess expierence is the key here.
  12. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Yes. And sometimes. those are the two mics some leave split. It all depends there are no rules. That's why all of this stuff can be sooooo contested. What works for you doesn't work for her, etc.
  13. Tungstengruvsten

    Tungstengruvsten Active Member

    Sep 10, 2001
    Guelph, Ontario
    I totally getcha here and understand all this-no lesson needed. I've worked both ways many times. What I was proposing was an immediate solution that would not require any building or purchasing/wiring/extra work whatsoever. FTDreamer never said he was using all 24 of his inputs and was maxed out, so he must have empty tracks.

    Example and ideal situation:
    Monitoring from the converters, FTDreamer gets his top and bottom snare mic's into his fave pre/eq/compressor chains and finds a good balance between them(using the pre/comp output knob) AS IF he was gonna mix them down to one track. But instead he records the two. Now in PT he can bounce em down to one track, no need to adjust anything technically as they were 'balanced' against each other on the way in. If he wants to slide a track or flip phase or adjust volume he can, but otherwise a quick bounce and he's got his one snare track(or kick or whatever)

    Hey lets face it sometimes yer working fast and furious and don't have time for this step when it's a 12 minute spacerock tune that requires you to pause to mixdown the 2 tracks to one... but if yer 'puter is fast then why not? :)
  14. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Ideal situation for whom?
    maybe some of you guys should really read the other guys post and see what they're asking. He doesn't want top bounce internally or record each mic to a track. Just becuase you can't understand nor hear the diff. doesn't mean it has no validity. It does.
    you can bring a horse to water....
  15. to clear things up a bit, let me repost pieces of my original post

    ******* i am looking for alternate solutions because A) i dont love the Tascam A to D's and would prefer to use the 888 A to D's, my console doesnt have analog outs. and B) i dont want to rely on that console unless i have to. and C), i dont want to print mics separately then combine them within pro tools later. ******

    - I like making decisions. I dont like leaving decisions for later. It slows down the whole production process for me, can potentially make editing nightmarish, and project management nightmarish, and i agree with recorderman, get it right going in. If i play with mic placement, EQ, Phase, etc... til my ear hears what it wants to hear, why on earth would i not just commit to that, and keep the can of worms closed down the road. not to mention, what if this recording leaves my hands and someone else mixes it, or does additional production. Do i really want to give them those options? personally no, and if i got tracks like that to mix, I'd be cursing them for not having made the decisions.
    Anyway, i know all the in's and out's of digital and analog systems from a recording standpoint, my question wasnt how to record, it was how to record the way i want to, and this is my preferred method for my given situation. those Averill boxes look perfect, however........

    Are there any techs out there who would like to build me a box like this, high quality parts, and preferrably more inputs, ie: 8 into 4 instead of 4 into 2? or if its dead simple, just tell me how to build a passive one?
    Full Time Dreamer
  16. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Post this in the tech forum
  17. Tungstengruvsten

    Tungstengruvsten Active Member

    Sep 10, 2001
    Guelph, Ontario
    Ahh overlooked the 'don't wanna mix 2 tracks in protools' bit....sorry-wasn't trying to push a point just saw bouncing as the easiest route. My apologies-

    Also, I take a little offence at the 'Just becuase you can't understand nor hear the diff. doesn't mean it has no validity' line...let's not second-guess each other here.

    I absolutely understand what you are getting at, but do you not think running the signals through a couple transformers(if you want to keep the passive mixer balanced you will need transformers like the Averill one) and a handful of components will change the sound? What about the fact that you will have a loss in gain so you don't use all the bits in the conversion stage? What if one of the pre's you wanna use doesn't have an output gain control?

    And just to muddle further, waddya think of this idea:
    this one combines at mic level so you could run 2 mic's into one'll have to supply phantom for condensors of course.
  18. Guest

    FTD, i was never questioning your expertise or morals, only trying to understand your motivation.

    i think i got it now. it's sort of like recording live to 2 track - which would be the ultimate in leaving no decisions until mix time. certainly a totally valid way of working. Your way is just sort of a compromise: "live to eight track" perhaps? ;)

    By the way - i'm working on my reading comprehension - just ordered my copy of "hooked on phonics"... :cool:
  19. Guest

    By the way, often my motivation for asking "why would you do something a certain way as opposed to..." is not at all meant as a critique, but because i am trying to learn how other engineers think about and approach particular situations.

    A lot of what I have learned and a lot of techniques that i now use regularly have come from asking such questions...
  20. Hey Eric,
    Thanks for the link to the Jensens. They look interesting, but actually, that would take away the ability to blend and EQ the mics before combining them. I dont want to limit myself, just trying to get a cleaner signal path into the 888's and avoid the Tascam A to D's.
    I guess my whole mindset with this search is to be able to record at the quality i'm used to (in nice rooms with old Neve's and new 9000J's) but at home. i dont have those consoles, and a tascam digital board isnt my idea of a substitute. So, as clean to tape as possible without limiting my ability to make it sound great with outboard mic pre's, compressors, and EQ's, but retaining a pseudo "busing" capability that a big nice board offers. I have all the nice mics and outboard, and with the Brent Averill boxes, or a less expensive, but still high quality knock off, i believe i'll have it. I'm not trying to over-combine things. I will still take every mic that isnt double micing something direct to the 888 out of my mic pre's/EQ's, etc... Just wanna be able to combine double mic'd things like kick, snare, guitar cabinets, bass cabinets, certain 2 mic mono room config's, all to their own tracks. I dont even print separate bass cab and bass DI, which i know alot of guys do, and is completely valid, but i just like to get the blends sounding right to my ears before it goes down and commit. It always drove me crazy getting 2 inch reels to mix with separate amp and DI tracks, maybe just a personal thing.
    Anyway, i think i'm gonna post on the tech page and see if anyone can build one of these things. that would be pretty cool. Thank you all for your opinions and feedback.
    Full Time Dreamer
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