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Suggestions Needed for DAW Controller + Interface

Hey guys,
I know I'm usually answering rather than asking but I've hit a little bit of a snag when planning out the new purchases.


In short, it's about time for a very large studio upgrade for me and I really want hardware controls for the DAW mixer channels, I really hate controlling all the knobs and faders virtually, it's not intuitive and I can't move multiple faders around at the same time when mixing, I also need to upgrade on interface, At the moment I have 16CH (UMC1820 and ADA8200) and I find myself limited by channel count, quality and really want a DAW control surface.

The setups and prices I'm considering at the moment and the questions I have with each :

1 - Cheap - Behringer X32 (full size one) for both Interface and controller, From what I understand the preamps on these mixers suck ass and the channels on some tend to have quite a lot of electrical interference.

2 - Slightly Less Cheap - RME Digiface USB with 4x ADA8200 as interface (from A/B comparison these ADAT units seem to punch well above their price bracket) and 32 channels of Icon Platform X+ / M+. My qualm here is that that is a lot of money just for some faders.

3 - Similar to 2 - MOTU 24 AI / AO and an older decent analogue mixer. Issue with this for me is that there's no motorised faders and I would be mixing in analogue potentially increasing noise and I have very little experience with analogue mixing in a studio setting.

I'm really stuck, I'm having difficulties finding any cheaper/used motorised faders. If anyone has any thoughts on better options for cheaper I'd greatly appreciate it.

Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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One thing you could consider is an analog desk with VCA automation / groups, though it isn't exactly a control surface for your DAW. Some of this comes down to how much you want to spend and how much work you want to do to get up and running. I guess my question is... how much do you want to spend and how much space do you have?

 

IMO, there are some things about analog consoles that make them really, really nice to use, especially from an ergonomics perspective. You're also getting a bunch of mic preamps and EQs of whatever quality the board has, which may or may not matter to you.  If you manage to get your hands on a Midas, Crest or a decent Soundcraft, those mic preamps and EQs are actually pretty useful.

 

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35 minutes ago, H713 said:

IMO, there are some things about analog consoles that make them really, really nice to use, especially from an ergonomics perspective. You're also getting a bunch of mic preamps and EQs of whatever quality the board has, which may or may not matter to you.  If you manage to get your hands on a Midas, Crest or a decent Soundcraft, those mic preamps and EQs are actually pretty useful.

 

Space and money aren't a massive issue, obviously I'd prefer it didn't cost me too much and didn't take up too much room but if it's worth the extra it I'll consider it.


Absolutely agree on this point though, I previously have owned a Midas Venice 320 and Mackie 32.4, neither were excellent so far as mixers go but I found them useful for a time. With regards to the Preamp question, the ADA8200 has Venice pres and though it obviously doesn't have per channel EQ I usually do all that sort of stuff ITB. My previous plan was to just use an analogue desk Midas Legend/Heritage line) and pump the DAW output through it like an insert but that just felt silly to me, though the Heritage line has memory for fader and knob positioning it's not automated so switching between projects would mean a tonne of time setting everything back to the same parameters. On top of that it's old gear so you're up for maintenance if anything goes wrong and then there's the question of whether or not it will introduce excess interference to the system.

Obvious evolution from there was to consider going AIO with the X32 until I spent some time with one outside of a live setting and found the pres overly noisy and that I would likely never use any of the onboard effects. The X32 I used may just have been a poor example but it seems like integration would be a pain seeing as it's intended for live use. 

From there I knew I wanted a control surface but to pick up an X32 for that purpose and not use it as an interface seemed a waste, so here I am.
Kinda stuck between Digital tracking with Analogue mixing, Both digital but with a physical interface or the option of absolutely blowing the budget and going for a bespoke/solely analogue solution.

Actually, you just reminded be of the BCR2000, I might do some digging to see if I could set 4 of those (or their modern equivalent) as dedicated Parametric EQ that way I could have the best of both worlds, Digital mixing but with tactile EQ/compression and faders with automation ability for all of them..... I just keep making this worse for myself....

Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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If you can find a Heritage or an XL series that hasn't been beaten to death, you'd have a hard time beating that. What counts on those desks is that they're fully modular- that makes fixing a bad channel strip super easy and painless. They are also built incredibly well- you're getting very nice faders (and that means very nice tactile feel). The Legend is not modular.

 

Midas consoles shouldn't be a maintenance nightmare if it hasn't been abused and toured for 30 years. I'd be nervous if it spent its life being toured hard, but something like an XL200 that spent its life in a venue should be pretty reliable. At least in my country, we've got some awfully well-funded churches that were able to afford a brand-new XL200 when they came out, and a lot of them are switching to digital boards. Most analog consoles, even when they're not in great shape, don't cause EMI. They might have noisy channels, but that's usually caused by something else, and it usually isn't too hard to fix.

 

 

What a lot of people do is they essentially treat their DAW like a multitrack tape recorder, without the tape, then do almost everything through the desk. That tends to work better with a board built for studio use (particularly inline consoles), but most of the Midas boards have enough channels that sacrificing some of them for tape returns isn't a problem. I'll leave the 30 page argument thread about what the best workflow looks like to Gearslutz.

 

There any studio consoles (that aren't a project) for sale in your part of the world?

 

I've always preferred a real analog interface over a digital interface, and I'm not even that old. The thing I hate about rotary encoders is that there's no absolute position (at least if it's an incremental rotary encoder like most of them), while a pot has end stops. If that doesn't bother you, that makes things easier. 

 

What you might consider is booking some time in a fully (or at least largely) analog studio and seeing how you feel about it.

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You have no idea how long I've been on the lookout for one of the classic MIDAS desks at a decent price, only one online currently (Heritage) is in greece for AUD $22,000. I know I said money wasn't a massive issue but that's a little much for me.
I completely agree on the quality point, perhaps I should have phrased my last comment differently but I've had the chance to play with an old XL4 an man did that thing just exude quality.
 

1 hour ago, H713 said:

There any studio consoles (that aren't a project) for sale in your part of the world?

I mean, nothing above 16 channels that I recognise the model of at a glance or for an excellent price but there's an AMEK Big 44, modular DDA / QMR  thing and a Soundcraft GB8 40 (live mixer) for more or less a thousand bucks. AMEX and DDA are both about 5x more expensive than the Soundcraft and though the DDA intrigues me it also scares me more than a little.

 

1 hour ago, H713 said:

What a lot of people do is they essentially treat their DAW like a multitrack tape recorder, without the tape, then do almost everything through the desk. That tends to work better with a board built for studio use (particularly inline consoles), but most of the Midas boards have enough channels that sacrificing some of them for tape returns isn't a problem.

I tend to use a lot of effects, when recording with friends it's mostly progressive indie stuff that they demand a tonne of artificial processing on and when I record/write/mix myself it's just for fun and whatever I'm feeling like at the time. In order to still use ITB effects post EQ/mixer I would need a metric butt-tonne more interface channels if I'm understanding this signal path correctly (and I may well not be) but I suppose that is something I could be convinced of.
 

1 hour ago, H713 said:

I'll leave the 30 page argument thread about what the best workflow looks like to Gearslutz.

Somewhat of a tangent, not a massive fan of their name change but I freaking love the guys over there. Everyone is angry at everyone else for having the wrong opinion about today's chosen brand and they were the ones that put me on to 3U Audio. Honestly probably the best boutique mics and certainly the best priced mics on the planet.

 

1 hour ago, H713 said:

What you might consider is booking some time in a fully (or at least largely) analog studio and seeing how you feel about it.

I've spent a fair amount of time around analogue gear though not a tonne in a studio so I'll see if I can get the time to visit some acquaintances in the industry and have a play around with their expensive SSL that they'll never be able to settle the loan on, especially in a studio context it seems that the functionality I require ( automated parameter recall among others) really isn't available for any reasonable budget (I'm talking high 5 or low 6 figures USD minimum). Though I certainly agree that having hardware controls feels so much more intuitive. 

Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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Id stick away from the X32. Its a decent desk for the price packing a lot of features but that was back when it was first released when it had no competition at that price point. It also suffers from bad QC testing so its very common to get one out of the box with broken faders or knobs or will break shorty after purchases. At my original work place out of the 8 purchased half went back for replacement in the first few months. Another point the faders are horrid to use very steppy. 


Why you looking at full mixing desks just for DAW control? There are some very decent DAW controllers available now. On a budget the Behringer X touch system is very decent and if you wanting high end the AVID S1 is really nice.

If you want budget and something decent a old behringer product might be a good choice. Behringer bcf2000. One of the best daw controllers for very little money. really good sturdy well designed. Everything negative about behringer doesnt exist in this product. The Behringer negative about it is they discontinued it and there super hard to get.

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1 minute ago, Ahoy Hoy said:

Id stick away from the X32. Its a decent desk for the price packing a lot of features but that was back when it was first released when it had no competition at that price point. It also suffers from bad QC testing so its very common to get one out of the box with broken faders or knobs or will break shorty after purchases. At my original work place out of the 8 purchased half went back for replacement in the first few months. Another point the faders are horrid to use very steppy. 

Why you looking at full mixing desks just for DAW control? There are some very decent DAW controllers available now. On a budget the Behringer X touch system is very decent and if you wanting high end the AVID S1 is really nice.

If you want budget and something decent a old behringer product might be a good choice. Behringer bcf2000. One of the best daw controllers for very little money. really good sturdy well designed. Everything negative about behringer doesnt exist in this product. The Behringer negative about it is they discontinued it and there super hard to get.

Yeah, I'm a big fan of the X touch and BC lines, I went over the differences between the Icon models and X touch line in a duplicate thread over on GS but you're right to bring them up. In fact, I specifically mentioned the BCR here because I still have extremely fond memories of that thing. The reason one of the options in the initial post included the X32 is purely monetary, it's less money to purchase an X32 for use as interface and DAW controller than the RME/8200/Controller setup. Having said that, I agree the X32 isn't great for studio use though I've not had any of the same negative experiences you have, perhaps their QC got much better by the time I played around with them. 

I think with H713 and the conversations I've had elsewhere the options really have come back to going for a decent analogue desk and making it work, settling for the X32 or going with external control surfaces and losing some hardware controls with the added benefit of not having to use an X32.

If anyone does have any new or out of the box ideas I'm kinda open to anything for now while I plan out the build, if we end up coming up with some insane plot that just might work I'll just build around it.
 

Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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As for analogue mixers, I can vouch for the Mackie VLZ4 series. They do 4, 8, 12, 14, 16, 24 and 32 channel models. I currently own the 32 channel version, and it's excellent for my work as I also prefer controlling my DAW with something physical, rather than a button/slider on a screen. If you jump on either the 24 or 32 channel model, you get USB interfacing aswell.

 

I would also take a look at the Presonus FaderPort 16. It's a great little unit. https://www.presonus.com/products/FaderPort-16

LTT's Resident Porsche fanboy and nutjob Audiophile.

 

If you have any questions about ultra high end audio (Or any speakers or audio gear!), don't be afraid to shoot me a message, or mention me.

 

Spent over 960k on audio gear, still trying to increase sound quality.

 

For a guide on Microphones and Interfaces, I strongly suggest scrolling through @The Flying Sloth's guide.

 

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30 minutes ago, Derkoli said:

As for analogue mixers, I can vouch for the Mackie VLZ4 series. They do 4, 8, 12, 14, 16, 24 and 32 channel models. I currently own the 32 channel version, and it's excellent for my work as I also prefer controlling my DAW with something physical, rather than a button/slider on a screen. If you jump on either the 24 or 32 channel model, you get USB interfacing aswell.

That looks to be the newer replacement for the Onyx 32.4 I owned some time ago, I'll certainly keep an eye out in case any come up at a good price.
I think I'll be contacting the guy selling the DDA as it's been on the market for AAAAAAGES and it's still there, might be able to argue him down to a lower price, then again, I have found very limited information online about the QMR series so we'll see how much I hate my bank balance later.

Faderport is a good shout too, basically one of the three options for control surface and the Icon line doesn't come close to the other two so it's basically a two horse race between the Xtouch and Faderport.

Thanks for the reccs

Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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11 hours ago, The Flying Sloth said:

That looks to be the newer replacement for the Onyx 32.4 I owned some time ago, I'll certainly keep an eye out in case any come up at a good price.
I think I'll be contacting the guy selling the DDA as it's been on the market for AAAAAAGES and it's still there, might be able to argue him down to a lower price, then again, I have found very limited information online about the QMR series so we'll see how much I hate my bank balance later.

Faderport is a good shout too, basically one of the three options for control surface and the Icon line doesn't come close to the other two so it's basically a two horse race between the Xtouch and Faderport.

Thanks for the reccs

I wouldn't worry too much about the DDA. They made very good consoles that were quite reliable. A lot of the DDA consoles were slightly less insane compared to the Midas in terms of weight. Anyone who has moved an XL4 knows what I'm talking about. I believe they got bought by Midas a while back.

 

I'd take an older DDA over a Mackie any day of the week. With the DDA, it's modular. In the event a channel strip has an issue (noisy switch or something), you pull the channel strip out of the desk to repair it (it's very quick and easy to remove). You can even run the desk without that channel strip until you get it working. 

 

With the Mackie, replacing a switch is a project, which likely involves flipping the console upside down and taking out a crapload of screws. 


FWIW, I think you should be able to talk the price on the DDA down. I don't know a ton about the QMR series, but I think his asking price is a bit high for what it is. 

 

A bit more costly, but Clair is selling off a few Heritage 3000s. No idea if they ship to Australia (won't be cheap if they do). Clearwing is selling off a Midas XL250 for significantly less ($2500), but they don't ship internationally, so you'd have to try to work something out in that regard. They also have a Soundcraft Series 4 (the old one from the late 80s) for $600. That would be a great console too, but only if it is in good working condition

 

One other nice desk to look for are Crest consoles- particularly the Century series.

 

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1 hour ago, H713 said:

I wouldn't worry too much about the DDA. They made very good consoles that were quite reliable. A lot of the DDA consoles were slightly less insane compared to the Midas in terms of weight. Anyone who has moved an XL4 knows what I'm talking about. I believe they got bought by Midas a while back.

 

I'd take an older DDA over a Mackie any day of the week. With the DDA, it's modular. In the event a channel strip has an issue (noisy switch or something), you pull the channel strip out of the desk to repair it (it's very quick and easy to remove). You can even run the desk without that channel strip until you get it working. 

 

With the Mackie, replacing a switch is a project, which likely involves flipping the console upside down and taking out a crapload of screws. 


FWIW, I think you should be able to talk the price on the DDA down. I don't know a ton about the QMR series, but I think his asking price is a bit high for what it is. 

 

A bit more costly, but Clair is selling off a few Heritage 3000s. No idea if they ship to Australia (won't be cheap if they do). Clearwing is selling off a Midas XL250 for significantly less ($2500), but they don't ship internationally, so you'd have to try to work something out in that regard. They also have a Soundcraft Series 4 (the old one from the late 80s) for $600. That would be a great console too, but only if it is in good working condition

 

One other nice desk to look for are Crest consoles- particularly the Century series.

 

My issue with the DDA is that I can find very limited information about compatibility between mixer series, the desk looks to only be 20 inputs and has a tonne of output channels which I really don't need. While I could try and sell them and get my hands on a few more input channels that sounds like a lot of work and given it's an old niche brand for a niche product it may not ever eventuate. Oh man, That heritage is calling to me though, I've always loved those things though hate the fact that the 'recall' still requires manual intervention, I mean, it was a $100,000 console for god's sake. From memory the XL250 and DDA consoles are closely related too so that's something. 

Crest Century consoles seem to be a lot cheaper though, how would you say they stack up? There's a 40ch Crest Century LM that I could have imported for about 1.5x as much as the Soundcraft GB8 (4x cheaper than the H3000 without shipping and a little lower than half the cost of the XL250 once you take shipping into account). The Soundcraft Series 4 looks promising though it seems to be missing a bank of something on the right, maybe a master or monitoring section. I know it's modular but I have a feeling it would be a pain to get a replacement.

All of this, of course, is assuming that I can find it in myself to go down the rabbit hole of OTB mixing, the pres in the consoles are likely much better than the ADA8200 and EQ is a nice touch but the finality of having to bounce something back into my DAW at the end of a session and having to start all over if I jump between projects seems a big commitment for me. I know that in order to get a desk with true recall ability it will cost me a tonne more. It's just an adjustment I'm not sure I can commit to just yet. I think I might snag a cheap used desk locally (some Tascam or Peavy piece of junk) for cheap and play around with it to see if I can indeed make that commitment before building out the new studio, I want to be sure that whatever solution I choose lasts.

Quite honestly, if any of these analogue boards had true recall I'd be jumping all over them, recall means I can tinker as much as I want and jump between projects without having to either lose my progress, manually reset all parameters or bounce something out.

I certainly have a lot to think about so thanks a bunch for bringing up all the options you have, it seems pretty clear to me that the options are basically what I figured initially, deal with the poor audio but great functionality of the x32, Medium of both with the Xtouch and 8200 or great sound with complete workflow change and an analogue board.
 

Sloth's the name, audio gear is the game
My Microphone and Interface tips and recommendations

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Crest consoles stack up pretty well. They sound great and have a pretty good EQ. IIRC, the Century series (and the V12) have adjustable Q on the mid bands like the Midas does. The only thing to be aware of is that they weren't as expensive when they were new, and in my experience noisy / intermittent switches are more common on Crest boards as they age than with a high end Midas. They're silver plated contacts rather than gold-plated contacts. For example, the bus switches and pad switches on my XR20 were really bad when I got it (it also sat in storage for  a really long time, so that may be part of it), but a squirt of deoxit usually solves that. Modular channel strips makes this a lot easier to deal with.

 

Crest bought out Gamble in the early 1990s, so there are quite a few similarities between Crest consoles and the well-liked Gamble EX56 (another great desk, but quite rare). The mic preamps in the Crest are really pretty great. They won't sound like a transformer-coupled Neve- they're very clean and low-distortion.

 

The Midas XL250 is a monitor version of the XL200, and the XL200 is basically a scaled-down XL4 with fewer buses and fewer aux sends.

 

 

You may be able to add recall with motorized faders to some of these consoles after the fact.

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