As a dayjob I'm a programmer for industrial automation systems (it's not PC programming) and that means sitting behind a laptop all day. At home, more often I feel not making music, just because I would be holding that mouse again and gaze at a PC screen. Also with a mouse, you can only do one thing at a time, I have two hands with still all fingers: I want knobs!
So at the end of last year I decided I wanted more hands-on and bought myself my first hardware synth, the Nord-Lead 4R. Because I loved this aproach so much, I also bought the Roland ARIA TB-3 and TR-8. It just much more fun for me to have all those dedicated knobs. And for me that's the magic word: "Dedicated knobs"!
So here I am, my audio interface with 8 inputs is now too small. I need to expand.
This are my options:
- A: Expand my current Steinberg UR824 with a Focusrite OctoPre through ADAT for another 8 channels and try to find a good DAW mixer / controller, but I haven't found one yet and have serious doubts it exists.
- B: Get a digital mixer like the Behringer X32 Producer and have 32 channels where Ableton would become insert points.
For now it's the cheapest solution, but I also want to have hands-on when mixing. I've been looking at those DAW Controllers, but for some reason they are almost always the same. Eight sliders, some push buttons above it and one rotary knob for each channel. For me, they are useless. There is the Softube Console 1 which is a channel strip. Great idea but it uses it's own plugins and more important, it has no faders.
I also have Ableton Push, it's great for creating all the clips, control some parameters and stuff, but to much menu diving when mixing.
To have a good hands-on for making a mixdown, I would need at least 16 faders (with layering to have more channels) and a channel strip for the basics, EQ, Compressor, sends/receives, panning, ... I didn't find a unit like this yet. Probably because just using MIDI it will be impossible to make. I don't know.
For now more then a month I've been looking into the market off digital mixers. The idea is to stream my external gear pre- dynamics to Ableton and stream it back to the mixer for final mixing (Ableton will be a sort off insert point for the mixer). Then I also would stream the softsynths (ex. NI Massive) and other stuff made inside Ableton to the mixer other channels. I found a mixer that can do this: The Behringer X32 Producer. Or to say it differently: With the X32 I can add my hardware gear and also software synths, all together in the mixer and do the complete mixdown on the X32.
In a way, I can still use Ableton with all it's power and have a mixer below my hands. On the other hand, Ableton can do all off this already and much more, but with a mouse.
Because the Behringer X32 only has XLR connections and no "line-ins" with "pad" feature, I will also need 8x ART Dual Z-Direct passive DI boxes to connect my gear to it. All this together would set me back +/- €1600 hard earned euro's. For that money I can get the Focusrite OctoPre MkII (€418) and another synth or drum machine.
So what would the X32 bring to the table: A complete hands-on experience for mixing and the ability to connect all my gear with expansion possibility's. That is the plus side.
The drawback: It's expensive but so are the bigger DAW controllers as that Mackie MCU (which is also to limited), and beside hands-on, it adds nothing that Ableton can't do.
At this point my head is still flipping between A & B, and it actually is giving me stress which is a bad thing. Like you probably have guessed already, the "hands-on" has become very important to me, but so also my hard earned cash. Even when writing this post, at one point I thought: leave it and go for "A", but then I thought, no-no, do it, get "B"! Aaaaargh!
So I would love to hear your thoughts about this.
PS: I make electronic music on a Windows 7 PC.