Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

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Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby Mrblue83 » October 28th, 2016, 2:05 pm

Hello there, I am new to the forum and looking for some advice. So thought I would post here first.

I have a small semi pro studio and at the moment we have A Ghost Soundcraft Desk, and are recording analogue to a HD24, which if needed can then be imported into a DAW for editing.
Though this is very time consuming to do.


So we are looking at the possibility of changing this and maybe going from the mixer, into an Audio interface /DAW, then back out of the interface to the mixer.



AUDIO > MIXER > INTERFACE/DAW < MIXER



This in theory would allow mixing outside the box after the DAW. Mixing on a desk is just a better feeling than with a mouse in my opinion.

Can anyone help in regards to if this is possible or advisable? Or to suggest alternative ideas, if this one is stupid?

If it is possible could anyone suggest an audio interface that would work for this and isn't thousands of pounds.


Thanks for taking the time to read this
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby J-Bot » October 28th, 2016, 4:52 pm

First, how many channels do you need on the interface? 8? 16? 24? In any case, MOTU, RME, and Focusrite, should have something. And a lot of times, those interfaces can be daisy-chained to get the number of input channels you need. I'm assuming you have the older 24 channel Ghost desk, and that it's purely analog in/out.

Also, just to be sure, realize that the audio signal will degrade just a little every time it crosses the converters in the interface (well, it sill degrades just a little bit as it passes through each device in the signal chain). So, however many channels you end up needing, do some research, and make sure you go with an interface known to have good quality converters.

It sounds like going source > mixer > interface/DAW > interface > mixer should keep any deterioration in quality pretty minimal, just get something with good converters!

The only thing I'm uncertain of, is how to get all the tracks you need back to the mixer to mix individual tracks. Many audio interfaces these days have limited number of output jacks, and usually throw the larger number of track outputs into the optical out/ADAT. Although, my knowledge here is a little limited. I think many interfaces can do 8 line level outputs, so again, daisy chaining might be an option. You'll probably have to deal with firewire, or newer thunderbolt interfaces.

I don't know what the best options are overall for what you want to do. Quite a few people around here are more knowledgeable than me, though I think they're pretty busy these days. I'm hoping someone else can provide finer grained details.
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby Mrblue83 » October 29th, 2016, 7:17 am

Hi Thanks for the reply

I need 16 channels ideally. though 24 would obviously be great.

I have looked at some interfaces, but like you say. Most do not offer more than 8 analogue outputs. Which I do need for the mixing desk. I have only seen two I think with sixteen analogue outputs and they were very expensive.

Again like you I am not familiar with ADAT, though I am not opposed to using it, if someone could explain it to me.
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby J-Bot » October 30th, 2016, 1:14 am

ADAT is basically a fiber optic line that sends a digital signal. I looked at the HD24 specs, and it looks like it has 3 ADAT I/O on the rear panel. Problem is, to get all 24 channels (each ADAT output only sends 8 channels from the HD24) you'd still need a trio of audio interfaces daisy chained up, and it's still going to have to access the IDE drive to send the data down the fiber optic line to the interface, and from the interface into the DAW.

Thought: Get a trio of 8-channel audio interfaces. Depending on which brand/interface meets your needs, you can probably get away with spending around £1200 or less. You'll still have the HD24 in case you need it for recording to IDE drives, and you'll have 24 channels of audio to send via USB, firewire, or lightning ports, depending on your DAW PC. If it's a mac with thunderbolt ports, you might want to go with a thunderbolt interface, though they are newer and more expensive. Firewire, as you might know, needs a Texas-Instruments chipset for the most stability. USB 2.0 should work, but with 16 to 24 channels, and high quality audio (say 24-bit/96KHz) you'll start seeing some latency. USB 3.0, though they're still pretty new to the audio world, and probably a bit more expensive, would offer significantly more throughput for data, so less latency.

Since you're already sending the source through the ghost, you may not even want or need an interface with it's own pre-amps, but just about all modern interfaces have them. Or maybe you like the interface pre-amps better than those on the ghost, or maybe you already have plenty of external mic pres. I don't know. But shop around, and see if something meets your needs.

Here are a few suggestions, keeping in mind I don't know your budget needs, just that you don't want to spend thousands. I'm looking on Thomann because I don't know much about European/UK vendors, so Thomann is kind of my litmus test for prices. Maybe a local shop has stuff a little cheaper.

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is on Thomann for about £350 each. https://www.thomann.de/gb/focusrite_sca ... nd_gen.htm You could daisy chain 3 of those together (USB out of one and into the next one, then out of the last one and into the DAW), should show up as a single interface under ASIO, each one has 8 XLR pre-amped inputs, and 8 line outs on the back plus 2 monitor outputs. The rest of the channels are probably via the ADAT lightpipe input/output on the back. 3 of them would run you a little under £1200.

The Presonus Audiobox 1818VSL is pretty similar and slightly cheaper at around £320, and again, you would daisy chain 3 of them to get 24 channels in and out. https://www.thomann.de/gb/presonus_audiobox_1818vsl.htm That could squeeze you in just under £1000. Both interfaces use the universal inputs, so you can use XLR or 1/4" TS/TRS leads. My only real concern is the USB 2.0 bottleneck if you needed to send very high fidelity (24-bit/96KHz quality) tracks all at once across the USB 2.0 cable, not to mention the USB bus in the DAW. If you're recording at 16-bit/48KHz or 44.1KHz quality, it might not be as much of an issue with the bottle necking. Both of those interfaces also have word clock or sync, but I don't know how stable or jittery they are. I think MM is one of the authorities on word clock and jitter around here.

On the firewire side, the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 is pretty similar to the Scarlett, just using a firewire connection (might offer a little more bandwidth than USB 2.0). And it is a similarly priced interface. https://www.thomann.de/gb/focusrite_saffire_pro_40.htm I think it's an interface that's been around awhile, but has a fairly solid reputation.

Most of the thunderbolt interfaces I've seen are pretty pricey. Talking a few hundred for 2 or 4 channels. Getting 3 with 8 channels will probably be well over what you want to pay.

Another benefit of the 3 interfaces, is that you could send the 3 ADAT outs from the HD24 into each of the ADAT In on each of the interfaces. At least I THINK that's how it would work. It might be faster than doing a direct transfer from the IDE hard disk, I don't know for sure since it would still have to access the IDE drives to send the data out....I think?


I hope that helps.
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby Farview » October 31st, 2016, 10:39 am

I had a 32 channel ghost hooked up to my daw. I used a motu 24io and a 2408 to get all 32 tracks to and from the daw. I hooked it up just like you would a tape deck. Tape outs to the interface inputs and the interface outputs to the tape returns.

For speeds sake, I made templates in the daw that set up a session with all the i/o already set up, so it doesn't take a half hour to route everything every time you start a new song.

Eventually, I was just using the board for preamps and headphone mixes. Since I was a commercial studio, the time and lack of recall made board mixes cost more than anyone was willing to pay. (Also, uads ssl channel sounded better than the ghost, even my modified one)
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby Mrblue83 » November 1st, 2016, 4:20 pm

Thanks for the quick replies guys.

J-Bot. Thanks so much for all the research. I have just started checking into those interfaces. I did like the sound of the https://www.thomann.de/gb/focusrite_sca ... nd_gen.htm though I am not sure if you can actually just daisy chain them together. I think you have to use ADAT to link them, or so a quick Google search told me. Maybe someone with better knowledge could enlighten us?


Farview - Thank you for your reply as well. Your setup sounds great, though I had a look for a Motu 24io and apparently they are a discontinued product?
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby J-Bot » November 1st, 2016, 5:42 pm

Ah, hmm, yeah, you're right about the daisy chaining. I wonder if that's a limit of the USB interfaces. I'm pretty sure firewire can be directly daisy chained, but it might have to send ADAT out to a 3rd unit in the chain.

And yeah, the Motu 24i/o is discontinued. It used to be a PCI-E card that would be inside the machine with 4 firewire ports connecting to the analog breakout box with all of the analog connectors. I think the current version of that is the Motu 24 Ai and Ao One unit is 24-in, the other is 24-out each one is £1K. But they both use D-25 connections on the back

The Motu 16 A AVB has 16 analog inputs and 16 outputs on the back, but it's a £1500 interface. However, it would give you an immediate 16 channels to work with. Can use USB 2.0 or Thunderbolt to interface with the computer DAW. https://www.thomann.de/gb/motu_16a.htm
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby Mrblue83 » November 8th, 2016, 5:14 am

Thanks for the replies again.

I found this about linking Focusrite's via AdAT https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/ ... nnel-count

The Motu is looking good, though it is a bit over my budget. In an ideal world I would go for an Antelope Orion 32.

Might have to stay as analogue for now, then importing into the box if need be.
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Re: Using a DAW with a Mixing Desk

Postby shreddersinc » December 15th, 2016, 6:01 pm

with a motu 828mk(?) you would have 2 banks of adat and 8 line in's in the back plus 2combo jacks in the front...That's 26 I think, I believe you could also get 2 more with s/pdif

You would have your 24 hooked up the way you want and 2 more preamps through the motu
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