Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How I Ditched My Console And Loved It

This last weekend was jam packed for me. I work at a good sized church and on a regular weekend that's two rehearsals and three services. I spend a good deal of time behind the desk and a good deal more time running around getting ready. Usually when it's all over I go home and collapse for the rest of the day. This week though I had to stick around for an additional rehearsal for an upcoming event and then stay after that to tech an outdoor baptism service.

Last year I did that service with just four QSC K-10s, a little Allen & Heath console and some outboard. I also brought along a laptop and interface to capture audio to pass along to the video guy. This year I decided to lighten the load even a little more and ditch the console and outboard.

I've got a  MOTU 896mk3 interface with eight analog ins and eight analog outs. That sounds like plenty enough I/O to run an event with so little going on. I tried using the included CueMix software from MOTU which I have used before on small corporate style events but when you start needing monitor mixes things get dicey. Since I was going to have Reaper open anyway I figured I'd give it a go as a live mixing tool.

I was not disappointed.

The input list was keys, acoustic guitar, two singers, a mic for testimony, a shotgun to point at the water and playback from a phone for walk in music. I needed two monitor mixes, a main PA mix and a delay fill because the seating area was narrow and over 300 feet deep. 

I set up tracks for my inputs, labeled them and set up a limiter on the pre-record insert chain just to be safe. That took care of everything on the recording side. Everything else is a separate process so I could throw EQ, compression and effects as well as mix levels without disturbing what was going to tape. (Please forgive my old terminology, it really was tape when I got started in this business and old habits die hard.) I did my EQ and compression right on the tracks while I set up separate buses for delay and reverb effects. Once that was all in place I set up one more bus to catch everything for the delay line and threw the appropriate milliseconds on there.

With everything in place it was just a matter of assigning hardware outputs to the appropriate auxes and buses. I tested it out in the shop the night before and felt pretty confident. Just to be safe though I stuck a little analog mixer in with the rig. There was no need for it though. I did a clean boot up and everything just worked. I got channel EQs and compression dialed in, adjusted the time on the delay fill, and everything worked like a charm.

EDIT: To deal with latency I just cranked up the sample rate. Running at 96 kHz instead of 44.1 cuts the length of each sample in half. Since latency is determined by how many samples are in the buffer at a given time, shorter samples means less latency. I also reduced my buffer size which helped even more. In the end I had a stable DAW with 2.8 milliseconds of latency which is undetectable under most if not all circumstances.


  1. I've done this before, as well... It was half nightmare and half awesome.

    However, we used pro-tools instead of reaper... I'm sure with reaper the nightmare part of it wouldn't have been there.

    1. As much as I get knocked for being a Reaper guy the program just keeps on making me look good when the chips are down. Easy setup, undetectable latency, quality recordings, no crashes. Well worth it at 10 times the price!


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