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Old 06-02-2011, 11:47 AM   #811
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Always a good idea to render a mixdown and use that as the source of your mastering session. Different people will tell you different things about what volume to render your mix to - AFAIK it's subjective on the type of music you're recording and what hardware/ software you use.
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Old 06-02-2011, 12:04 PM   #812
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So when mastering should I do it on the master bus of my mix session or render a mixdown and do it on that?
While I'm sure you could do it all at once, I generally do it after the mixdown is completed and I have 2-track versions of the songs. The reason being that mastering isn't about 1 single track so much as it is about improving sonic cohesion between tracks.

All this compression/EQ that's being done is actually ostensibly only to make the tracks more similar in volume/crest factor/timbre and to also accommodate special needs of the media you intend to reproduce the music onto (e.g., vinyl, cassette, CD). The idea of the mastering process to improve the sound is kind of a corollary to that goal: it's just gotten more prominent as the physical media became less cumbersome (or existent) and the idea of single-song releases becomes more popular.

But that's beside the point. The real reason I've done it this way is because I generally work on my mixes within their own separate project files. So, instead of trying to assemble everything into one super-huge project file, I can import the finished mixes together into a "mastering" file. This also makes alignment of the tracks (i.e., laying out how they play from one to another) easier to work with as well.

Not everybody necessarily does it this way (e.g., Kurt Ballou of Converge mentioned doing everything in one super-project in an interview with TapeOp). But I think the way I do it is most common because it's not as cumbersome.



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ACTUALLY,, could someone give me a rundown of their process for mixing, in a list of stages? ie, volume levelling, add compression, etc, etc, and so on , mastering.
Probably not. Mixing isn't like following a recipe, and you'll generally find that you go about the process in the way that makes the most sense for the track you're working on. The closest thing to a blanket expression I've heard (and agree with) is "listen to the track, find what needs improvement, figure out how to improve that, repeat." And keep repeating until you either no longer are sure you're making improvements, you can't stand to be around the mix anymore, or you hit your deadline.

I can say I generally do my editing before start the mixing process: trimming out unwanted silences, getting rid of whatever noises slipped in during the recording stage (which, let's face it, does happen), and comping/splicing together the takes as determined to be needed.

I also generally start my mixes in mono. The reason being that there are at least two ways to distinguish sounds in a mix. You can separate the parts by panning, or you can make sure they are largely frequency-independent of each other. In mono, you're forced to make sure that each part gets its own space in the frequency-domain in order to get heard. This generally helps reduce mud/clutter down the line when you start to add in panning.

I also try not to do too much mixing with any particular part solo'd if I can help it. This is harder than it sounds, as it's often very tempting to solo something up and hit it with EQ/Dynamics/Effects until it sounds killer all alone. The problem with that is that it doesn't account for everything else in the mix, so if you did it across the board, you might have a dozen or so parts that sound awesome alone but don't work together at all (or worse: actually interfere with each other).

Lastly, in the event that I want to consider mastering (I often don't), I tend to knock 3-6 dB down (i.e., I peak out around -6 dB or lower) on my master bus during mixdown. This forces me to provide lots of extra headroom for the later mastering stage, which gives a lot more freedom in finessing the tracks to have a similar volume/timbre.
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:20 PM   #813
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Awesome Moseph, cheers for that.

Might sound like a noobish question but here goes. When you're mixing stuff and you need it all to be below say -3db you don't just whack a limiter on the master, right? You go through and balance the volume of everything until nothing spikes over the -3dbs so that mastering can make up the volume? My problem is I'm trying to retain as much dynamics in the recordings as possible but don't know how to do that and get it loud :s
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:57 PM   #814
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Awesome Moseph, cheers for that.

Might sound like a noobish question but here goes. When you're mixing stuff and you need it all to be below say -3db you don't just whack a limiter on the master, right? You go through and balance the volume of everything until nothing spikes over the -3dbs so that mastering can make up the volume? My problem is I'm trying to retain as much dynamics in the recordings as possible but don't know how to do that and get it loud :s

No, it's even easier than that. If I'm worrying about a mastering phase, I just bump down the master fader during mixing so I get the peak amplitude into the -9 to -6 dB range. It's basically transparent (when working in the box), and still leaves you the headroom. If you have a dynamic range of 90+ dB in your mix (which is rare, even for things like opera or symphonic music recorded live) this might not be an option. Generally, it's not a problem.

Then, in mastering, if I like the dynamic range/volume trade-off, I can just bump up the fader again (though this time it'll be a track fader for that particular song) to use up the remaining headroom if I don't want to adjust the dynamic range on that track (for whatever reason). Nothing lost at all in that case.
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Old 06-02-2011, 02:36 PM   #815
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So just mix to reasonable levels and the master fader will retain all your dynamics now matter what the volume, should've realised that. Do you put limiters on any individual tracks at all? At the moment I'e got one on my kick so it's all huge and stuff but will this have any repercussions later?
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Old 06-02-2011, 02:50 PM   #816
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...because I go out and enjoy my life. Great conclusion you jumped to there.
Wait I figured it out, you don't have $89 because you spent it all on eye liner right?
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Old 06-02-2011, 02:52 PM   #817
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And RE: Mastering.

See if you can sit in with a mastering engineer for free. You'll learn more from that than any books or FAQ's. Not to knock books and FAQ's. But I always learn more from doing and watching than reading, well, after I've got a good grasp on the topic anyways.
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Old 06-02-2011, 03:02 PM   #818
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mastering isnt as hard as everyone makes it out to be, especially for an independent, non-commercial release. Use very high volume, fiddle with a soft knee'd low ratio compressor, play with EQ's for 20 minutes at a time with an hour break inbetween, make 4 or 5 "masters" and compare and tweek them together and with professional mixes that sound similar to your music or what you're going for, and finish it.

if you want the multiband compressor, massive ear fuck sound, a professional is probably a good idea.

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Old 06-02-2011, 03:29 PM   #819
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With mastering, it's not about the Peak level but more about RMS, or average, level. How you get high RMS levels is beyond me, I'm not a Mastering engineer so I shouldn't give advice.

But TBH I've learnt to hate squashed mixes. And by squashed I mean detrimentally squashed. You can have loud, but when it gets to loud it just sounds wimpy.

Take the last Birds of Tokyo album, that thing is 'loud as fuck' but listen to the first song. The kick drum sounds about 8mm small. And if you turn it up it just sound nasty. Compare it to say, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, same rhythmic 4 to the floor kick drum by itself, yet you turn that up and it sounds awesome. The remastered version add a bit of sub to the kick and that sounds cool, but the original has so much more dynamics overall it's such a pleasure to listen to.

Grace by Jeff Buckley has ridiculous dynamics. If you ever get the chance to listen to Lover You Should've Come Over on some reeaaaaly good speakers through some really good converters then do it. It sounds amazing. Even through my Mackie's and Rosetta 200 (admittedly high end converters) it impresses everyone that I work with.
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Old 06-02-2011, 03:40 PM   #820
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i agree, limiting the dynamic abilities of a song for the sake of "loudness" is essentially eliminating a possible dimention to the music. People like really 'loud' music because they dont have to pay attention to it or rather, it doesnt require them to.
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:12 PM   #821
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Wait I figured it out, you don't have $89 because you spent it all on eye liner right?
How clever.

I actually spent it on going out for drinks with friends, train tickets, meals out, cinema, shopping in Liverpool, Chester Races, watching Roger Waters in Manchester, band practices, a nice bottle of whisky, some books, a new 7 string and some monitors. But yeah, you're right, none of that is important, what you should definitely do is remember that one time I had to wear eyeliner in a music video and flog that horse good and dead. It'll be funny eventually, right?

in before lol u mad?
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i agree, limiting the dynamic abilities of a song for the sake of "loudness" is essentially eliminating a possible dimention to the music. People like really 'loud' music because they dont have to pay attention to it or rather, it doesnt require them to.
This is what I'm trying to achieve but I do still like a mix to really hit home when necessary, so I'm trying to walk a line between nice dynamics and hitting hard, and with my limited experience and non-existent mastering abilities I'm struggling.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:26 PM   #822
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well, creating dynamics is as simple as turning the instrumentation down temporarily for a bridge or some other compositional element, maybe eliminating a loud voice. but yeah it is hard sometimes to get huge sound to hit when you want it. just keep praciticing with compression.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:29 PM   #823
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Yeah, I know I can just turn some parts of the song down on the master automation or whatever but it kinda feels like cheating.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:44 PM   #824
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Might sound like a noobish question but here goes. When you're mixing stuff and you need it all to be below say -3db you don't just whack a limiter on the master, right? You go through and balance the volume of everything until nothing spikes over the -3dbs so that mastering can make up the volume? My problem is I'm trying to retain as much dynamics in the recordings as possible but don't know how to do that and get it loud :s

http://www.audiorecording.me/how-to-mix-instrument-frequencies-for-best-sound.html

Here's how I do it. I mix the drums first in stereo. I prefer to mix the snare, kick and center tom in the middle, the overheads panned hard right and left, and the high-hat slightly off center to the right with remaining cymbals panned hard right and left. Try the following settings...the kick drum at 0dB, the bass drum between -5dB and -10dB while your percussion and cymbals should sit somewhere around the -20dB.

Bass guitar and vocals are always in the center of the mix. And using a stereo double on choruses and harmonies results in lots of depth.

Consider doubling guitars to give them extra depth and pan each hard right and hard left. I always encourage guitarists to ad-lib on the doubles, this adds some extra body to the mix.

Learning to boost or cut the different frequencies for each instrument is what you need to practice...until you find what works best for your music.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:47 PM   #825
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Yeah, I know I can just turn some parts of the song down on the master automation or whatever but it kinda feels like cheating.
lol guilt


automation is like....all i do
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Old 06-03-2011, 07:42 AM   #826
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So just mix to reasonable levels and the master fader will retain all your dynamics now matter what the volume, should've realised that.
This isn't exactly true, but ends up being generally true in practice. Like I said, in the digital domain (especially at 24-bits) you have a lot of dynamic range to play with above the noise floor. Most popular music styles (even the "most dynamic" stuff) don't need more than about 20 dB of dynamic range (peak). Since you're working with 90+ dB of dynamic range in the digital realm, you can knock down by 3-12 dB and diminish your volume without having to actually adjust the dynamic range (you're still a good 80+ dB above the noise floor).

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Do you put limiters on any individual tracks at all?
Sometimes. You might even say "often", depending on what I'm working on. Again, the process is really about figuring out what all the components in the mix need, figuring out what tools you have at your disposal, and then figuring out what they actually do.

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At the moment I'e got one on my kick so it's all huge and stuff but will this have any repercussions later?
Yes. Though it's impossible to say if you're going to end up caring or not. I realize that's a bit cryptic, but the nature of mixing is that each song will have its own set of circumstances.


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How you get high RMS levels is beyond me, I'm not a Mastering engineer so I shouldn't give advice.
Conceptually, "getting there" isn't hard. RMS levels are just a measurement of volume: turning up will make it louder. The reason compression comes into play is because RMS levels (which more closely reflect how we perceive volume) are actually lower than peak levels, but the machinery doesn't care about the difference: it's gonna have clipping/distortion whenever anything maxes out. In the digital realm, this sounds pretty horrible, so dynamic range compression/limiting is used to tame the peak values while still pulling up the RMS volume.

That's all there is to "get high RMS levels." The hard part is doing it in a way that doesn't sound awful.


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This is what I'm trying to achieve but I do still like a mix to really hit home when necessary, so I'm trying to walk a line between nice dynamics and hitting hard, and with my limited experience and non-existent mastering abilities I'm struggling.
Here's the counter-intuitive thing: making it loud removes the ability to have it be hard hitting. It's the contrast between the soft parts and the loud parts that can give you a "hard hit."

Think of it this way:

(01) Assume you have a track that is squashed to death by compression. The quiet parts are maybe 6 dB (RMS) quieter than the loud parts. If you listen at a level that is comfortable for the quiet parts, when the loud parts kick in they'll be about 6 dB louder.

(02) Assume you have a track that has more dynamic range. We'll say a difference of 12 dB between the quiet and loud parts. If you listen at a level that is comfortable for the quiet parts, when the loud parts kick in, they'll be about 12 dB louder.

12 dB can be a lot louder than 6 dB, depending on where your starting point is (the ear tends to care less about the difference as your SPL levels get higher).

If you want to actually hear this in action, try the following:

(01) Do a YouTube search for "Loudness" and "Death Magnetic." When that Metallica album came out, the commercial release was squashed to hell, but oddly enough the Guitar Hero versions were pre-master. Some folks made a bunch of videos demonstrating the differences. When you listen to them, don't crank your volume, make it loud enough to hear everything well, but not so loud that you need to raise your voice to talk over it. Then focus in on the kick, snare, and bass guitar parts. What do you hear?

(02) Do a comparison of two albums of relatively similar styles: one from the past decade, and another one at least 10 years older. My recommendations are respectively Songs for the Deaf (Queens of the Stone Age) and Electra 2000 (Hum) respectively (okay, so there's only a 9-year difference, regardless it works because I'm cherry-picking). Line up two tracks side by side in your DAW and switch between them. In my example, QotSA is way louder than Hum. Then grab an analysis plugin, and find the difference in RMS level between the two. Turn down the "louder" track until the RMS levels are pretty much the same. Now turn up your speakers by the same degree. Pay particular attention to the drums (and usually the bass). What do you hear?

Last edited by Moseph; 06-03-2011 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 06-03-2011, 08:20 AM   #827
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Just done the death magnetic thing and jesus, what a ridiculously squashed waveform. I haven't really got the time for the second one but I'd take a guess at the Hum drums and bass would be a lot clearer?

I'm still a little bit confused as to how to go about the whole thing though. Right, let's say I'm mixing my drums, I've got them sounding pretty good, but when I put all the instruments in as well everything is really pushing the limiter on the master, so do I turn everything down so that nothing goes above say -3db and mix at that volume level or do I just turn it down enough that it isn't constantly pushing on my limiter, I'm sorry for being a bit vague but I seriously want to get this right.
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Old 06-03-2011, 08:31 AM   #828
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(02) Do a comparison of two albums of relatively similar styles: one from the past decade, and another one at least 10 years older. My recommendations are respectively Songs for the Deaf (Queens of the Stone Age) and Electra 2000 (Hum) respectively (okay, so there's only a 9-year difference, regardless it works because I'm cherry-picking). Line up two tracks side by side in your DAW and switch between them. In my example, QotSA is way louder than Hum. Then grab an analysis plugin, and find the difference in RMS level between the two. Turn down the "louder" track until the RMS levels are pretty much the same. Now turn up your speakers by the same degree. Pay particular attention to the drums (and usually the bass). What do you hear?
I've only ever heard that Hum album because you keep plugging it, and my god, the drums are amazing on that album.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:42 AM   #829
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http://soundcloud.com/alter-eden/tobacco-dynamics-test

What I've done on that one is just lower the volumes of everything so that nothing is peaking badly and everything is averaging about -2/1db with nothing on the master bus. Pick it apart for me if you'd be so kind, like, what should I put on the master bus? What's too loud/quiet (new speakers, need references)? Ignore the bass though, shite tone.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:49 AM   #830
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Just done the death magnetic thing and jesus, what a ridiculously squashed waveform. I haven't really got the time for the second one but I'd take a guess at the Hum drums and bass would be a lot clearer?
Well, those "What do you hear?" questions were supposed to be rhetorical, but it's good you did the exercise.

As for the Hum/QotSA thing, I don't know if I'd say they're "clearer" (the Hum mix is actually kind of muddy), but there's definitely a lot more "impact" caused by the drums on that album.

It's more about "transient" vs. "steady" sounds: drums are naturally transient, whereas heavily distorted guitars tend to be more "steady" in nature. And a big part of "impact" or "hard hitting" has to do with finding the right balance between the two.


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I've only ever heard that Hum album because you keep plugging it, and my god, the drums are amazing on that album.
Ye gods, you're right! Twice in 6 months! I'll try to be more reasonable about it.

Though to be fair, I'm talking about it in exactly the same context ("loudness") in both threads.
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Old 06-03-2011, 10:27 AM   #831
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Ye gods, you're right! Twice in 6 months! I'll try to be more reasonable about it.

Though to be fair, I'm talking about it in exactly the same context ("loudness") in both threads.
Haha. Sorry, I don't follow this place as much these days, so I just assumed if I had seen you mentioned them twice , you must have mentioned them 20 times
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Old 06-03-2011, 10:46 AM   #832
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I listened to my mix with your critique in mind. I definitely get the crushed feeling from the whole mix, this is mostly because the recording is really dense and I had just thrown a compressor on everything but drums grouped together. I mixed it all in one session, so I might have caught this if I'd taken a break and come back with fresh ears.

The guitar sound is not really fixable, the recording itself is 2 years old and lackluster and I was just trying to breath some life into it by adding some soft clipping.

The drum sound is actually pretty much what I'm going for. I could maybe add some more overheads/reverb to tie it together, but I'm pretty happy with it as it is. Also, I'm using Superior Drummer 2.0 triggered by an E-kit, so your comment about tom mics doesn't apply.

As for the mixes that you linked earlier, they sound pretty good but seriously lack bass guitar. Try boosting 100-200Hz and compressing the fuck out of it, especially with a compressor that can add some soft clipping.
if you're using superor drummer all the more reason to crush and boost the overheads, don't smash them too hard or you'll get ultra pump on the cymbals but you'd be surprised at how present your entire kit can sound from overheads/ mono room mic

check this:
http://soundcloud.com/pwen_wilsons_nose/deadly-rhinocerous-horn-is

I'm using the same kit you're using; SD2 was recorded in an amazing live room, i'd advise you to utilize the room sound rather than trying to isolate the close mics; since you did that, it makes it sound like you did some heavy dick sound replacement on them dramz. as far as the final bus comp, just set the release time to auto if you can, it might help your guitars sound a bit too...

i'm not sure what this recording is for but you may want to go in yourself and lay down some Di'd guitars using something like amplitube underneath the recorded tone, sounds funny but that would sound less solid state/ plastic sounding than the tone you got from mic'ing that shit up. Don't worry about preserving performance, your client isn't going to complain if their shit sounds like sex in the ear pussy
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Old 06-03-2011, 12:52 PM   #833
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Wait I figured it out, you don't have $89 because you spent it all on eye liner right?
i laughed
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Old 06-03-2011, 02:40 PM   #834
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Hey I need some advice.
Is there any recording software that can cope with two usb interfaces at same time and synch them, this would be a great cheap alternative to expensive multi track usb interfaces.
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Old 06-03-2011, 02:57 PM   #835
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you could use spdif to link them, and not connect one of them to usb
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Old 06-03-2011, 03:28 PM   #836
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you could use spdif to link them, and not connect one of them to usb
so i would link them via spdif and only connect one of them to usb ? Would this work ?
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Old 06-03-2011, 03:38 PM   #837
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Hey I need some advice.
Is there any recording software that can cope with two usb interfaces at same time and synch them, this would be a great cheap alternative to expensive multi track usb interfaces.
With Mac OS X + Logic you can create aggregate devices which can consist of channels from more than one audio interface.
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Old 06-03-2011, 04:03 PM   #838
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The problem is the clock on both interfaces will be different and they will tend to desynch. Or am i wrong ?
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Old 06-03-2011, 04:08 PM   #839
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Hey I need some advice.
Is there any recording software that can cope with two usb interfaces at same time and synch them, this would be a great cheap alternative to expensive multi track usb interfaces.

You could try driver wrappers. It's possible something like ASIO4ALL would work out for you: it generally tries to make available I/O for any devices that Windows recognizes.

There is, however, a consideration of cost-of-scale.

Consider for a moment that the Tascam US-1800 is a USB 2.0 device with 16 inputs and 4 outputs and appears to have a street price of $300. Let's ignore MIDI and the line inputs for a second and focus on the 8 channels of mic/line inputs.

Chaining together even 2 inexpensive devices (assuming it works) is will probably run you about $200-300. The cheapest new interface I'm seeing on Musiciansfriend right now that has at least 2 channels of preamps is the Alesis io|2: at $99. So for the same price (i.e., $300 for 3 Alesis units) you're looking at 3/4 the inputs of the same type, plus whatever headaches you get trying to make things work with a collection of devices held together with the digital equivalent of shoestring and chewing gum. Plus whatever might happen with MIDI devices (though I suspect this won't be a huge deal).

So unless you're planning on trying to find a bunch of interfaces used for dirt cheap, this might not be the least-expensive option (neat idea, though).


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The problem is the clock on both interfaces will be different and they will tend to desynch. Or am i wrong ?

Maybe, maybe not. If you had clock I/O, or you could set up the drivers to read from the computer or some other master device it could possibly work out for you.

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Old 06-03-2011, 06:45 PM   #840
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so i would link them via spdif and only connect one of them to usb ? Would this work ?
you can clock to spdif


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You could try driver wrappers. It's possible something like ASIO4ALL would work out for you: it generally tries to make available I/O for any devices that Windows recognizes.

There is, however, a consideration of cost-of-scale.

Consider for a moment that the Tascam US-1800 is a USB 2.0 device with 16 inputs and 4 outputs and appears to have a street price of $300. Let's ignore MIDI and the line inputs for a second and focus on the 8 channels of mic/line inputs.

Chaining together even 2 inexpensive devices (assuming it works) is will probably run you about $200-300. The cheapest new interface I'm seeing on Musiciansfriend right now that has at least 2 channels of preamps is the Alesis io|2: at $99. So for the same price (i.e., $300 for 3 Alesis units) you're looking at 3/4 the inputs of the same type, plus whatever headaches you get trying to make things work with a collection of devices held together with the digital equivalent of shoestring and chewing gum. Plus whatever might happen with MIDI devices (though I suspect this won't be a huge deal).

So unless you're planning on trying to find a bunch of interfaces used for dirt cheap, this might not be the least-expensive option (neat idea, though).





Maybe, maybe not. If you had clock I/O, or you could set up the drivers to read from the computer or some other master device it could possibly work out for you.
it's possible he already has two interfaces and that's why he's asking...

Last edited by Xomblies; 06-03-2011 at 06:48 PM.
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