Simple hardware question

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TomB
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Hi,

I'm planning on setting up a home recording studio on-a-budget soon and after looking into a few options I decided that a Linux box running Ardour would suit my needs best.

However, I have a little problems in understanding the basic concept of additional hardware needed, since I'm pretty new on DAW's (experienced in old analogue set-ups though).

I'm thinking about getting a Hammerfall HDSP 9632, which will give me 32 channels to work with. That should be more than enough. How I understand it I needs some kind of device to hook up to the SC in order to record multiple tracks at once digitally. Would an RME Octamic D do the trick? How I understand it is that one Octamic would give me 8 simultaniously usable channels, and an additional Octamic would give me 8 more and so on. Is this how it works?

If so, would I need anything extra besides the following in order to be able to record 16 channels at once:

  • High spec PC
  • Linux distribution customized for low latency
  • Hammerfdall HDSP 9632
  • 2 * Octamic D
  • Mics and stands of course ;-)

I'm trying to figure out my exact budget needed before I start buying stuff. If possible I'd like to keep it under € 4000.

Thanks.

Havoc
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A RME 9632 will give you 32 channels in total. So that is counting ins and outs at the same time. If you would read the specs, then you will see that only 16 IOs are usable at the same time.

And I think it will then depend on the sample rate used. You use two 44.1/48 adat channels for a single 88.2/96 channel. Can any HDSP9632 user confirm this?

The Octamic will give you 8 inputs. And another one will give you another 8 inputs. But how many outputs do you need?

Expert in non-working solutions

TomB
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I guess I just need two output channels to send to a power amp for monitoring, probably using a BoB. And perhaps the odd routing to external FX equipment, but that would happen after recording, so that's not really important I suppose.

What I'd really want is that the setup is easily expandable over time, so perhaps I'd be better of with a 9652? You can connect three Octamics to that one I suppose?

For recording I'll probably use just 44.1 (since it will end up on a regular CD anyway). I suppose that'd leave me all available channels?

rotoquezada
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HDSP9652 is an all digital I/O solution, as the Octamics D have just an analog to digital converter you're still short of analog outputs for monitoring or cue tracks.
Besides, when using ADAT S/MUX modes, the octamics use 2 adat input channels each! so for 96kHz, 16 channels recording you'll get short with "just" three ADAT I/O.

For flexibility I'd advice you to stick with the HDSP9652, it's 3 X ADAT I/O + 1 coax S/PDIF I/O anyway, and you can add another 9652 later to your computer if you need to! Oh! by the way, hdspmixer, the mixer app you can use for the 9652 on linux is quite nice to use and lets you set up monitor/cue tracks with zero latency in hardware easily. (bypassing ardour/jack, of course).

For begginings pick two or three behringer ada8000 as bidirectional a/d d/a ADAT converters (they have regular to good preamplifiers with global phantom power, not marvelous but work ok) or else some marian adcon (german adat convertor with two preamp' channels, all other inputs are line level). You can use the preamps on the behringers/marian converters or rather live'em at unity gain and stick between your mikes and the converters the preamp you want to ( nice valvular ones for instance :^) )

96kHz recording might be overkill unless you have VERY good monitoring gear but I'advice you anyway to stick to at least 48kHz for recording and do all editing with that SR too, you can downsample to 44.1kHz with dithering the final master later using ardour.

good luck!

TomB
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Besides, when using ADAT S/MUX modes, the octamics use 2 adat input channels each! so for 96kHz, 16 channels recording you’ll get short with “just” three ADAT I/O.

Ah, that's good to know. And that also goes for lower SRs?
About the HDSP's being a purely digital matter: I assumed that you could get analogue output through a breakoutcable, but they also only provide digital signals then?

For begginings pick two or three behringer ada8000 as bidirectional a/d d/a ADAT converters

I've been looking at those, but they are so cheap (250 to 300 EUR range) that I'm a bit sceptic about the quality/durability.

Thanks for your advice by the way. It's also good to see that a linux-app exists for controlling the HDSP's hardware mixer.

rotoquezada
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ADAT 48/44.1 uses a single toslink for 8 channels, so my guess is that the octamics use a single toslink output for this rates, you need to check out the manual at RME site.

As I've read (I have a DIGI9636, and a HDSP MUltiface myself and recently got a HDSP Digiface and a Quadmic) the HDSP9632 has a breakthrough cable with an analog output, but on the other hand has few ADAT I/O, The HDSP9652 instead have only digital breakthrough cables. For both of them you can buy extra analog PCI I/O boards that anyway use internally one of your ADAT ports, so it's better to leave digital I/O on the computer and use external converters.

A bidirectional ADAT AD/DA converter should be not *that* expensive, unless you go with Apogee's ;^) or need to use it for deeply serious mastering. Several people I know use these cheap behringers which do their job and even if they burn (none has, though), are not that expensive to replace. You should read the review at harmony-central.com ... a simple fact is that these ada8000 are really hard to find second hand, and when you find them they are expensive! The ada8000's pre are more or less like the old faithful yamaha 02R' pre, so you should use a better pre anyway. One nice thing about behringer is that the company has changed warranty policies, if something breaks or misfunctions within a year or so, they don't repair it ... they exchange it with a new one :^) Personally I'm longing for a marian adcon, they look nice and are just 1/2 1U rack units!

IMHO, modularity is almost synonym from flexibility ... choose the preamps you want, the mikes you want ... the AD/DA converter is just a signal transport and should not limit your choice on the most important gear as mics and preamps, remember that using a DAW, you'll need the converters mostly for load_in or recording and only sometimes for doing insert paths with outboard ecquipment. With this I don't mean that you should use 12 bit, 22kHz converters (unless it's an artistical choice) but a regular 24bit 44.1/48 kHz should be enough and won't influence your sound as much as your choice in preamps and mikes.

vaapo
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Remember to invest to good
xlr-cables with metal connectors (neutrik?)
extra power cords
monitoring earphones with small mixer might be nice for monitoring
and backup recording device e.g. minidisk atleast, in live recording - trust pc and die.

If you need to carry several times stands, mics etc. then maybe good bag or wooden selfmade box would be good.
Pay attention also to the noise the pc fans produce e.g. my barebone is pretty silent.
I had big problems with consumer 'rca' cables directly to trashbin from shrinkwrap.

/vaapo

Havoc
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I would advise against recoding in 48 kHz and then going to 44.1 kHz. The minimal gains from 48 kHz will be negated by the conversion. Just stick to 44.1 then.

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rotoquezada
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I would advise against recoding in 48 kHz and then going to 44.1 kHz. The minimal gains from 48 kHz will be negated by the conversion. Just stick to 44.1 then.

Well, it all depends on what you're doing, if you want to dump directly to CD in 44.1/16 bit, with no further processing then it's more than reasonable to just sample at 44.1 . Uh ... and if you goal is DVD audio at 48kHz? or 96kHz? There's no easy answer to this, and the 44.1/48 debate is been harsh since the beggining of digital audio, besides some people say that postprocessing the takes doing stuff on frequency domain (i.e. EQ, Filtering, multiband compressing,ecc) using digital filters you might get benefits from a greater bandwidth. Besides you will record on 24bit, won't you? Downsampling on 24bit produces lot less artifacts than in 16 bit, so the final downsample from 48 to 44.1 shouldn't be that nocive (on ardour you're working internally on 32bit float, and resampling using libresample which has very good reviews as a resamping library)

You can take a brief read here with a simple answer http://www.24bitfaq.org/#Q1_3_2_1

... but there are wars still going on round the globe on the sample rate subject, my personal choice it's to record on the highest resoultion/bandwidht my entire digital chain can work at ... with no resampling until the final master. It's a matter of choice, and has to do a lot with the kind of music you're recording, the gear you have and finally with the kind of detail you'd like to achieve. The final judge is your ears ... if it sounds good, it's good!

Havoc
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Oh, I agree on bit-depth, but samplerate is another issue. The difference between 24/48 and 24/44.1 isn't worth the hassle of the resampling in my opinion.

Anyway, the poster said he wanted to go to CD at the end. If going to some medium that was beter served in 48 then I would advise to use 48. No doubt about that.

TomB
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Okay, I made up my mind. I'll go for the HDSP9652 and three Behringer ADA8000 units. This will give me 16 inputs for recording and 8 for cueing/monitoring/routing. A great set-up for a very reasonable price. Leaves me a little more cash to donate to Ardour ;-)