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Multi-channel recording help

Discussion in 'Studio Techniques' started by Beef, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. Beef

    Beef New Member

    Hey everybody

    I just got my first iMac the other day as well as a copy of Logic Pro 9. I have been doing recording in my basement for a few years, having previously been using Adobe Audition on my PC. I have a fairly decent 10-channel mixer board with a USB interface (link below) and I have always been stuck having my recordings show up in one stereo track or two mono. I was never completely sure if it was the hardware or the software, or both. Now that I have logic, I tried it out for the first time to have the same results. I'm not terribly surprised at this, I knew full well it could be my mixer, and now that i tried it with a program I know accepts multi-channel i am certain this must be it. All I am trying to figure out, is what else would I need to get, hardware wise, between my mixer and my mac to be able to get multi-channel recordings. I myself play the drums so having this ability would be extremely helpful.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who can help me!

  3. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    "Stereo sound refers to any method of sound reproduction in which an attempt is made to create an illusion of directionality and audible perspective" (Source: Wikipedia)

    In audio routing there is no such thing as a "stereo input". Two channels are two channels, it's that simple. For inputs and outputs always think of a number of audio channels, regardless of their content.

    If you get two signals (channels) from your audio interface and you want them to stick together on one track, then you route both inputs to one stereo track. This makes it easier to work with them. If you want to process the two channels differently, you route them to two mono tracks. This has nothing to do with the nature of a "stereo signal". It is your own decision to process two signals (channels) on one track or separately on two tracks.

    In Logic you can always switch a channelstrip between stereo and mono and the available inputs and outputs on this channelstrip will change accordingly. You are not bound to a type of signal. You decide what you want:

    (This drawing does not apply to your hardware because your mixer provides only 2 input channels via USB. See below.)

    It is the hardware. Logic gets the list of available audio inputs and outputs from the operating system and the system gets the list from the audio interface.

    Your mixer can only send 2 channels over USB:
    This means, the Mac and Logic see only two input channels. Your mixer model has direct outputs for each channel but where would you plug the cables in? It does not help to drill additional holes into your Mac.

    For multichannel recording you need an audio interface with as much input channels as you want to record. There are several interfaces with 8 inputs available, Firewire or USB. You got to make a plan: How many inputs do you need? How many of them must handle microphones and how many of them must be line inputs? According to that, some other features and your budget you can choose an interface.

    If you think about buying an interface, another issue arises:

    A modern audio interface in the mid price range delivers a better quality than most hardware mixers. You would record directly to the interface. Then – what for is the hardware mixer? Ok, you could use the direct outputs of the mixer and become independent from the level of the input signal (mic or line). But are the mic preamps really that good? And there is another thing I would not like:

    Such a configuration is bad for computer recording because the signal goes through a mediocre EQ, through the gain stage at the fader and has an unbalanced output. You have much better tools in Logic, which do not degrade the sound as such a mixer does. For our application the direct output should sit right after the preamp, pre EQ, and should be balanced.

    Therefore I think the best recommendation for you is to get an audio interface with enough mic preamps and preferably expandable by ADAT in case you need more channels beside the drums.
  4. Beef

    Beef New Member

    Peter, thanks a lot for the in depth answer!

    My first question is where you found the quote about the Direct Outputs,

    "The direct outputs of the X2442USB (1 each per mono input channel) are ideal for recording if several tracks are to be recorded simultaneously. These unbalanced phone jacks are post-EQ, post-mute and post-fader."

    I checked my manual as well as the internet and couldn't find the same info. If fact, my manual doesn't say a damn thing about the direct outputs. I even did a search for the term for 'direct output' in the pdf version and nothing showed up. A little odd on their part. So I'd love to take a look at what you read.

    Regardless, from what you've told me, I have two options: To get an audio interface that accepts at least 8 inputs via 1/4", and I would just have to deal with my direct outs being post fade/EQ and unbalanced, or, get one that has at least 8 mic inputs and just cut the mixer our of the equation. Yes?(I'm speaking in terms of just being able to record all 8 of my drum mics on separate channels in logic, forgetting any possibilities of needing more)

    Could you elaborate a little more on what you said here? I don't quite get what you mean.

    Also, my manual doesn't seem to speak of the 8 sub outputs that it has either, so I'm not quite sure what those would be used for. Would they be able to play any role in getting the 8 channels to an audio interface?

    Thanks again for your help
  5. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    In the English Behringer PDF manual on page 16.
    Scroll down a little, on the left side below the "BUY NOW!" box you see three grey dropdown menus. One shows "Manuals ..." and you can select the only manual available.


    And you have a third option:

    An interface with ADAT I/O plus an ADAT converter with mic inputs. Then you could use the converter for the drums and the interface for everything else you may need. In this configuration the audio interface can be smaller, as long as it has ADAT in/out. The Behringer ADA8000 converter is pretty cheap and it's mic preamps aren't bad compared to your mixer. There are other options beside ADAT but they are more expensive overall.

    Microphones have a very low output level and need a preamp. When you record the mics directly to the interface you need 8 mic inputs (= 8 mic preamps). There are interfaces on the market which have less mic inputs but 6 or 8 line inputs. With a mixer or converter in front of the interface you have only line signals and can choose between more interfaces.

    Here are the three configurations I am talking of:



    • You keep your mixer (if this can be called an advantage).


    • The direct outs of the Xenyx mixer are post EQ and fader.
    • Unbalanced connections (unless you balance each one).
    • Long cables between Mics and Mixer and/or Mixer and Interface dependig on the local circumstances.




    • You don't need a mixer.
    • Simple setup.
    • With a good interface you get a better signal quality than from your mixer.


    • Long cables between mics and interface.




    • You don't need a mixer.
    • You can use a smaller interface as long as it has ADAT I/O.
    • You can exchange the converter if your quality demand increases.
    • Only two long cables to the interface when the converter is located at the recording place.


    • You need two devices.


    Note: Long cables at the mics are quite usual and since they are balanced they don't make problems. Just don't forget that really good cables (and multicores) are expensive and you pay for the length.
  6. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Under certain circumstances the SUB channels can play a role:

    • You want to reduce the number of outputs because your interface is not big enough. You can for example mix the snare's top and bottom mic to one channel and three toms to two channels, giving a stereo track. Then you have 2 output channels less. This will however limit your freedom for sound processing in the mix.

    • You want to record more than 8 individual channels. Then you would use the sub-busses as additional outputs.

    • You want to feed headphone preamps for monitoring. The subgroups let you mix a couple of independent monitor mixes.

    • You want to add hardware effects to parts of a live performance without effecting the recording signals.
    Note: The SUB outputs of the Xenyx mixers are also unbalanced. Technically a bad idea but understandable for such a big low-budget mixer.

    Although the routing options sound promising, you cannot expect high-quality recordings from a Xenyx mixer. You can get much better quality and almost equal routing possibilities with an interface that has a good built-in mixer and enough line outputs.

    I don't want to talk you into an expensive interface but the interface is the "central station" of your whole setup and should be carefully selected based on quality demand, number of in- and outputs, and your budget.
  7. Beef

    Beef New Member

    Great Peter, thanks, I really appreciate these detailed answers. The last two questions I have for you are:

    1. You said that the outputs are unbalanced unless I balance them. How do I do this?

    2. Do you know anywhere online that has some good tutorials on Logic that can help me get familiar with it, because needless to say, I'm dealing with a lot more than Audition. Something preferably free since I am now saving up for new equipment.

    Thanks again for all your help!
  8. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Behringer HD400 for example. One box handles two channels. Should sell for about $32, this makes $16 per channel = $128 for 8 channels plus cables and plugs.

    There are also adapters from Neutrik, several models with different connectors. The NA2M-J-TX would fit. But they cost about $34 per channel = $272 for 8 channels plus cables and plugs.

    For the direct outputs of your mixer try with unbalanced cables first. This should work. Make them as short as possible, not along power lines and not near power supplies, transformers or other gear that may emit electrical/electromagnetical interferences.

    Sorry, no, I don't know tutorials. Only sf logic ninja on Youtube.
  9. kmoyst

    kmoyst New Member

    This might be relevant to someone reading this thread. I've been using my old UB2442FX-PRO for years as a source of budget preamps. They get the job done running into my delta 1010 which is a great card, but doesn't have preamps.

    I don't use the direct outputs though, I agree I want to avoid as much of the mixer's circuitry as possible, as it's obvious it alters the sound in an unpleasant way. I also like to have the mixer control independent of recording volume for monitoring.

    I use the insert jacks to send to and receive from the soundcard. You can use direct hardware monitoring if your computer is too slow for efficient software monitoring (as mine was 10 years ago). Now I use software monitoring and add all the effects I want in the DAW and return to the same channel for monitoring with the independent fader, pan and eq controls. It's a way to get good use out of existing gear, if you own it.

    I do recommend getting your hands on at least 1-2 good preamps, it will make things sound much better.

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