Over the top

A good friend of mine was in town for the weekend and wanted to play a show in town. I volunteered to help set it up and naturally supplied the gear for the event. It was a pretty simple setup – acoustic guitar, keys, 2 vocals at a small venue. Fortunately I have access to a Bose L1 model 2 system through work, which really is amazing. I was all set to just use that with the Bose T1 mixer (which also sounds fantastic) except that I wanted to record the event. The T1 only gives you a stereo feed to the computer. What fun is that right? If I’m going to record, I want individual tracks to mix later and if I’m doing that then I might as well throw up another mic or two? You can see where this is all headed.

So there are a few different ways I can do this. I have a Mackie Onyx i1640, which is perfect for this kind of thing, but way too big for our little venue. I also have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 in a SKB Studio Flyer, which I adore (more on that later). With that decision made my next one is how to go about doing the recording and mixing.

Option A: Use the Saffire MixControl software to route each input to a discrete output. That would effectively give me a recording split. Then I can take those outputs and feed the Bose T1 mixer. Pro’s for this is that the Focusrite will keep passing that signal along no matter what happens on the computer. For the most part, I’m completely independent.

Option B: Bring everything into the DAW and use the DAW to record AND mix. The big pro here is that I have some great Waves plugins that are mostly zero latency and would make things sound even sweeter live. I opt for this route. Now which DAW to use? Lately I’ve been mixing and tracking in PreSonus Studio One. However I’m thinking in advance now. I’m likely to not be close to the computer as it will be up by the singer. (of course I could use a snake… but still too much to bring and overkill for this gig). What do I do if I need to adjust levels during the show?

Enter Digital Performer. The latest version added skins AND iPhone control. Giddy up. Guess what, it works amazing and is so simple to use. That’s the winner. So I setup a template with all my inputs with plugins that I’ll be mixing live in the DP mixer, and 2 more inputs for ambient mic as well as a nice condenser for the acoustic that I won’t feed the main mix. This is really easy to do in any DAW. Just mute the tracks you don’t want to hear. It will still capture the tracks. The other really important step is to go into your application that handles the internal mixer for your interface… in this case Mix Control. MUTE ALL INPUTS. Otherwise you’ll get a nice flanged, chorus sound live which isn’t so nice. Since it was a small session I was able to run the buffers at 128 which kept it nice and snappy.

So how did it all go? Swimmingly. I got great sound live and also for recording. No hiccups, no problems. LOVED it.

Here’s a shot of the rack and quick walk through the setup:

This is in the Studio Flyer case from SKB. It’s available 2U or 4U and allows you to have everything cabled up complete with pass through to the laptop enclosure. This case makes it such a breeze to travel and record with a laptop. Nice and secure.

As I said, I tracked it all through the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40, which had 8 mic preamps to make it easy to capture all the tracks I needed. The pre amps and converters are great in this guy for the money.

I ran it all into Digital Performer, used Waves plugins, and used the Bose L1M2 for our live PA.

Mics used:   
Live vocals: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/D5/
Acoustic guitar : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/C5miktek/
Ambient mic : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/NT4/
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