Question about I/O for Synths/Soundcard

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Question about I/O for Synths/Soundcard

Post by Evengy » Mon May 19, 2014 2:03 pm


attention, dumb question alert!

im using a komplete audio 6 soundcard with 4 inputs. also im using a virus b and a elektron maschinedrum so all 4 inputs are used. im planning to buy two or three synths in the next one or two years so is that right that i need a new soundcard?

do you use stereo channels for every synth or is there a situation when i can use a Y-cable?

maybe im buying a soundcard for ~500€ and 8 Inputs, i only have the possibility to connect 4 hardware devices when im using stereo? is that really true? i can´t believe that. when i buy another synth in five years i need a new soundcard again?

do i have a brainlag? can you explain how you deal with synths and soundcards?

thanks again and have a nice day

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Re: Question about I/O for Synths/Soundcard

Post by timday » Mon May 19, 2014 2:30 pm

I have a similar situation. Generally I'd use multiple audio ins - you're basically right.

A couple of things though which might help -
- Lots of analogue synths are in fact mono (MS-20, Minibrute and Microbrute, Korg Volcas of all types, some of the old Moogs, etc) - check the specification.
- Some hardware can get a bit clever (e.g. the Roland TR-8 has all the drums on multiple audio over USB which I think is a genius move, but only possible because the TR-8 is digital so doesn't need an analogue to digital converter to get the sound into a USB cable).
- Pro Tools has an aggregate I/O which lets you use all your soundcards at once so your old ones aren't sudenly useless, IIRC once this is set up Ableton can access and use it, but it can be a bit unstable and of course you have to have Pro Tools.

Probably the best way is to get an interface which has e.g.8 I/O but is expandable - something like a Focusrite Saffire Pro-40 has 8 analogue ins but also a digital ADAT port which can be used to expand via something like an Octopre, which gives you another 8 analogue ins. Focusrite is probably the minimum quality I'd go for (their budget range is pretty good) although M-Audio do similar stuff at slightly less cash. If you have more money I'd go for MOTU or RME which seem to get a lot of love round here.

The alternative is to go in via a mixing desk but that will bring everything into one track so you won't be able to use separate FX etc. or mix in Live.

I'm afraid that's the way it is. Audio ins need audio inputs.

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Re: Question about I/O for Synths/Soundcard

Post by 8O » Mon May 19, 2014 3:36 pm

Depends on whether you want to use all your synths at the same time. If not, then you might be fine adding a mixer with multiple bus outputs - i.e. have all your synths connected to the mixer inputs and then use the main and bus outputs of the mixer to route a subset of them to your soundcard.

Richie Witch
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Re: Question about I/O for Synths/Soundcard

Post by Richie Witch » Mon May 19, 2014 9:58 pm

Here's some solutions I've been looking at:

Option 1) Buy a patch bay: Run all four of your soundcard inputs to the patchbay, then run the outputs of your two favorite synths to the matching ports on the patchbay, using "Normal" mode. If you connect your other synth outputs to the patchbay, it only takes a couple short patch cables to reroute which synths go to the soundcard ports. It makes it quick and easy to change synths, but you can still only record two synths at the same time.

Option 2) Buy a line-mixer: no point paying for a bunch of mic pres if you're just going to plug synths into it. There are several inexpensive stereo line mixer/splitters out there that are perfect for a collection of synths. Just run the master pair from the mixer to one of the stereo inputs of your soundcard and you can connect all your synths to the line mixer inputs. The downside is that if you are playing multiple synths at the same time, you will have to blend them to a single stereo track to record them.

Option 3) Your particular soundcard has an S/PDIF input (channels 5/6), so you could buy a 2-channel S/PDIF-compatible preamp and access two more channels that way. If you buy a preamp with insert ports, you can patch another synth to those ports, bypassing the preamp, going directly to the converter. This option would also allow you to plug mics into channels 5/6 while you reserve your other four inputs for synths.

Option 4) If you've got synth fever and you just know you're going to buy a bunch more synths that you want to play all together, bite the bullet and buy a new soundcard with more analog inputs, but make sure it has at least one ADAT input so next time you can add an eight-channel ADAT line mixer that will allow you to hook up four more stereo synths and still be able to record each synth to their own stereo track simultaneously.
Win10/Intel i7 rig | Live 10 | DSI, Yamaha, Korg, and Novation synths, and 12U of Eurorack | various outboard gear | Dune 2, Circle2, Enzyme, Kontakt |

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Re: Question about I/O for Synths/Soundcard

Post by Evengy » Wed May 21, 2014 11:59 am

thanks for your advice! im planning to use all synths at the same because i wanna jam my tracks from start to the beginning. every device should have it´s own track so that i can mix, use fx etc. in live

i thought about the babyface but there aren´t also enough inputs. i can´t believe that the marketing says "22 channels" but the breakout cable offers only 2 analog inputs. why is there no breakout cable with analog inputs only.

my nerves.... i need some meditation :-/

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