Cubase + (??) = Instant multi-track magic!
October 12, 2008 8:05 PM   Subscribe

EmergencyRecordingFilter: What are my options for a reasonably-priced, Cubase-friendly, fully multitrack-enabled control surface right now?

I've just invested in a Yamaha MW12c USB mixer, only to find that the darn thing doesn't allow for full-on, live multitrack recording and mixing (per the Cubase forums).

I have a four-person radio interview to record this week, and each person needs to have a discrete channel for subsequent mixdown and post-production. What are my options for a reasonably-priced, fully Cubase-compatible, 100% multitrack-friendly control surface right now? The Firebox doesn't have enough XLR inputs. The Lexicon Omega gets crap reviews and also doesn't have enough XLR inputs. I'd prefer to have an actual mixing board to work with, as opposed to a fancy FireWire box and a virtual interface, but I'll take what I can get. Are the stand-alone Zoom HD8/HD16 CD multitrack units a worthwhile option?

And I know this is a common enough question, but I couldn't find any 2008-relevant answers to this in the archives, and I have to be up and running in three days. Eek!
posted by mykescipark to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
Are you willing to invest several hundred dollars for something to do one interview? Is there a place in your town where you can rent a mixer or rent studio time to record the interview instead?
posted by fructose at 8:20 PM on October 12, 2008

Response by poster: We'll need it going forward anyway, as we're moving a great majority of our production in-house. This isn't just for one-time use.
posted by mykescipark at 8:36 PM on October 12, 2008

I see you are in the US, give Sweetwater a call first thing tomorrow morning. I can attest to their knowledgeable staff.
posted by Mach5 at 8:39 PM on October 12, 2008

Take a look at the Alesis Multimix 8 Firewire (or the USB 2.0 version). I can't personally vouch for their Cubase compatibility, but they are bundled with Cubase LE, FWIW.
posted by andrewraff at 9:05 PM on October 12, 2008

Best answer: You say control surface, but it sounds like what you're actually after is a digital mixer with an interface that will show up as separate inputs in Cubase.

The Alesis Multimix USB version mentioned above won't be suitable, as the USB interface will only appear as a stereo input in Cubase. The Firewire version will apparently allow you to record four channels independently as well as the stereo buss. However, if you're using Windows I couldn't confidently recommend you go out and purchase a Firewire interface, as there are so many variables at stake.

Is the control surface element (i.e. mapping the mixer faders and knobs to faders and knobs within cubase) important? Would it not make more sense to pick up an affordable interface with four analogue inputs - something like the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra, for example. If you want to record discrete channels which you will process afterwards, I wouldn't have thought having a physical control surface to hand would be that important as you won't need to be riding levels in the same way you would for a live broadcast.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 2:23 AM on October 13, 2008

Response by poster: I'm aware of the distinction, and a control surface would really be best option. I'm willing to settle for less, but I will ultimately be mixing our show in-house as well, and the demands get a lot more complex than just this interview. This is only the immediate need.
posted by mykescipark at 7:00 AM on October 13, 2008

In most instances, a control surface is merely a box with faders, knobs, or a combination of the two. This will be connected to the host machine either with USB or Ethernet, and the physical controls will map to the virtual controls within Cubase.

Something like the Multimix 8 or the Yamaha MW12C is just a mixer, but with a USB or Firewire interface bolted onto it. The controls on the board aren't mirrored on the controls within Cubase. Sure, if you turn the gain on a mic pre down, the signal coming into Cubase will be reduced, but this isn't a control surface as such.

If you need something to do control a live mix of a bunch of microphones or other sources, where you are riding the faders in the same manner as a live broadcast situation, then perhaps the MW12c will do the business for you. I also notice that the MW12c has two separate stereo busses - the main stereo out and "REC OUT / GROUP 1-2". If you had an interface with four line inputs for your computer running cubase, it would be possible to record four discrete channels by routing each microphone individually to stereo out L / stereo out R / REC OUT L / REC OUT R (achieved by using the selection buttons and panning hard left or right on each channel as required) and connecting the outputs for these four busses to the inputs of the audio interface.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 7:45 AM on October 13, 2008

Response by poster: Coach, this is what I thought, too, but I bought the MW12c and found that it doesn't actually interface with Cubase in this fashion - i.e., it provides no automation control to Cubase itself. It's really just a fancy digital I/O box. The panning left/right option is interesting, but it creates more work than it saves, and I'd rather just get something that does what I need it to do out-of-the-box rather than have to jerry-rig every project. Clever, though!
posted by mykescipark at 10:00 AM on October 13, 2008

Myke - I know it doesn't interface with Cubase directly in this fashion. This is why I'm suggesting you use the busses on the mixer as they are intended to be used. The panning isn't jerry-rigging at all. It's called routing. You would just need a small, inexpensive USB interface to get the four analogue inputs into Cubase. Units from M-Audio, Behringer and others are available very cheaply. This way you could have the best of both worlds - your four-microphone pre-record interview could be recorded with four discrete channels for tweaking in post.

Then if you wanted to control levels of a bunch of sources (mics / lines / whatever) live for broadcast, you can still use the mixer for that - as you only need a stereo input into Cubase for something that's happening live, right?

Interfacing with Cubase beyond presenting audio on the inputs of Cubase channels seems to be irrelevant to your application. Not to mention that, even if you did use some kind of control surface and use live, record-enabled or input monitoring channels in Cubase to send out to broadcast, you'd be introducing a whole heap of latency that could cause major monitoring headaches.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 1:48 PM on October 13, 2008

Response by poster: Coach: Duly noted. I realized I misread some aspects of your initial reply once I posted my comments, but in any case, we went ahead and upgraded to a PreSonus FireStudio. We'll see how it goes... Thanks for your comments!
posted by mykescipark at 2:56 PM on October 14, 2008

« Older Want to move, feeling trapped   |   Dating Metadata? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.