Outgrowing Interface, do I need a mixer?

Hello Elektronauts, I’ve reached my input routing max and was wondering what some of you have done to remedy this natural progression of gear acquisition. My current setup is…

TR8/TB3/Volca Keys/Monotribe --> Octatrack --> Focusrite 2i4 USB --> Mac

I’ve also got a few other machines plus I’m going to be picking up an A4 soon so I need to rethink my setup…thinking a USB mixer is the logical answer vs getting an interface with more inputs but wanted to hear what some of you have done routing-wise to keep the OT in the mix with more than 4 additional devices. Also, with the USB mixers available now do they make the USB interfaces somewhat obsolete, or would it still be logical to route machines to mixer to interface to computer?

Would be great to hear how you guys and gals are managing this…thanks!

For small setups I use a 8 or a 16 channel mixer from Mackie and use an audio interface on the mains, or monitors, or sub-busses for recording.

Here are some questions, which I think are worth to be considered …

How many channels do you think you need now? … then add some channels for future expansion of your setup.

Are the pre-amps appropriate? Do you plan to mix/record with microphones?

What kind of equalizer do you need? Is a parametric mid band required, or can you live with fixed frequency bands? Do you need more than the usual three bands?

Do you need aux-sends to include outboard equipment? How many?

Do you need send/return jacks for some of the channels?

Do you need sub-busses? If you don’t need sub-busses 8 to 12 channels could be appropriate. If you need sub-busses you will find them in 16 channel boards and upwards.

Check out mixers from various brands, Allen & Heath, Soundcraft, Mackie, Yamaha … just to name a few. Best to check them out at your nearest store. Second best, ask a friend, third … YouTube.

Last but not least … get a board that you think you would like to use for the next 5 to 10 years.

The usb support is very different. Most are stereo outputs only.

Thanks SoundRider, I’m just getting started with the hardware thing so still in the dark with some of this stuff. I haven’t worked with a sub-buses, send-returns, outboard equipment beyond my hardware noted, or EQs (my OT has been my EQ where needed), although I can see that considering these would be ideal when working with multiple devices. My buddy got a Behringer Xenyx X1204USB and after setting it up in Logic via USB it looked like a much more powerful and expandable solution than my setup that I have trying to condense all my signals into/through the OT and then into my computer via interface. Seems like that setup would give me way more routing options and expandability beyond using my interface + a few small mono mixers I see a lot people using to just bus signals down, and at relatively the same cost which is why it got me wondering why would anyone go with a USB interface vs getting a USB mixer and routing from there into a DAW or recorder? I know there’s always a quality factor in there between brands/models but is there a pro/con between these two types of devices?

Btw…thanks for those questions for me and your setup…definitely got me thinking about stuff I wasn’t!

You’r welcome.

If you consider to do the recording with your DAW you should think about what is appropriate for your workflow and what quality you need.

  1. Quality
    The AD/DC converters should at least support 41.8 kHz and this on at least 24 bit. This gives some headroom for the recordings in the DAW, where working at 96 kHz could be a good compromise between CPU/Memory load and quality of sound. Working at 96 kHz would be better, but 192 kHz is not really required to get professional quality. If you are interested in this topic, there are some discussions ongoing in the web.

  2. Workflow
    Most small mixers provide stereo USB only and this requires either to record the whole outboard mix at once or each sound source seperately. If time is not a problem this would be the most money saving solution.

Multichannel (parallel) recording is supported by more expensive boards. Some give you sub-busses to be connected to a soundcard that has multi inputs also. Some give you an USB interface that allows for direct multi channel recording.

Most digital boards allow multitrack recording over USB. An interesting analog candidate came up resently. This is the Soundcraft Signature 22 MTK. It gives you 22 channels over the USB.

IMO a mixer gives you more flexibility live and in the studio. It’s not a must have, but you can just do more interesting things, if you built your setup around a mixer with some aux, send/returns/busses. It’s quite useful to have plugged-in the outboard gear and have a flexible routing at your fingertips.

If you want to save some space on the desktop, you could also check out boxes that are both, mixer and audio interface. MOTU comes to my mind. An interesting starters desk could also be the Portastudio series from Tascam, like the Tascam DP-32 SD. Just as a suggestion … :wink:

Let us know, what you come up with :smiley:

Definitely…thanks again!

Have you checked this one? It was mentioned on this board some time ago, and had me GASing almost immediately, at least:

this one ticks quite alot of boxes IMO… there’s also a 22 track version.

I outgrew my saffire pro 24 so got the pro 40 and then the focusrite octopre to add a load more inputs.

Might not have fit your needs, but anyone reading this should know that the pro 24 also accepts boxes like the octopre via the optical input :slight_smile: