Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Kibosh
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:09 pm

Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Kibosh » Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:38 am

Hey all,

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.
Option A
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.

Option B
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.

Summarize
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.

102455
Posts: 1631
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 1:41 pm
Location: Location: Location:
Contact:

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by 102455 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:09 am

http://lividinstruments.com/products/ds1/

Still not quite there yet, with the amount of channels or knobs that a hardware mixer has........ but it's getting close.

I too get frustrated seeing "DAW controllers" with a solitary knob above each fader. Who designs these things? :-/

jlgrimes
Posts: 1260
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:55 am
Location: Atlanta, Ga

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by jlgrimes » Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:22 am

Kibosh wrote:Hey all,

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.
Option A
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.

Option B
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.

Summarize
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.
The key is figuring out why exactly you need a digital mixer.

The only four reasons I can think of is:

1. Extra inputs.
2. ergonomics.
3. DAW Controller with motorized faders.
4. Improved sound quality.

I would think a digital mixer would do little to improve your sound quality as you probably already have better effects already built into Live and probably would save money buying VST plugins (or even dedicated effect units). Live already has 64 bit mixing engine which is probably better than most digital mixers. A good analog mixer though could arguably improve your sound quality, but that would be expensive.

I could definitely see the ergonomic use as it is usually easier to get to the back of a mixer vs audio interface. You probably could find an audio interface with a similar setup (some of them are digital mixers). One thing to worry about is if you have a mixer with its inputs facing upwards for ergonomical reasons, you will have to worry more about dust buildup in the inputs which will probably require servicing overtime. Had that problem with my analog mixer. Overall though having a mixer might also be "more fun" and it often attracts clients because the mixer reminds them of old school professional studios especially if it is a big one.

As far as extra inputs, you would probably save money using the adat option on your card and investing in a behringer ada8000. It's main drawback is that it doesn't do high sample rates such as 88.2 but you would probably get that with the digital mixer as well especially if it's old. One issue with adding expansions to audio interfaces is that you would need to start worrying about word clock if you plan on using spidif in conjunction with adat. Don't know if digital mixers have this problem.

For a DAW controller I think it would be best to get something your DAW supports, otherwise you would create all the assignments yourself which would be possible but maybe not beneficial to your time. I think a popular DAW controller would be better but research you might find out who are using what digital mixers as controllers with great results in Live.

Kibosh
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:09 pm

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Kibosh » Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:10 pm

Ah, it's that Dubstop mixer. I think it's a nice attempt, and they wanted to keep the costs low. I also think you just can't make a good mixing controller if you keep it with basic MIDI. It will need more programming using VST's to link up. For example like we have Max4Live in Ableton or like they did with that Console 1 channel strip.
jlgrimes wrote: 1. Extra inputs.
2. Ergonomics.
3. DAW Controller with motorized faders.
4. Improved sound quality.
I think the sound quality will stay about the same. The X32 uses 40bit floating point at 48KHz: In this article you can download WAV's comparing it with other digital mixers (you will have to download because listening through Soundcloud gives it reduced quality): http://www.sonicsense.com/blog/mixers-c ... ive-24-4-2 It's not that I'm going to use it to record a symphonic orchestra.

In my ears to Behringer sounds as good as the new Presonus StudioLive AI series and that Soundcraft, but half the price and double the features. The old PreSonus doesn't sound that good. I now use a Steinberg UR824 interface also at 48KHz. What I've read is that the effects are good enough and you get 8 slots for them to be used on a bus or as insert. If they are better then Ableton in build effects, I don't know but the good part off the X32, is that I will still be able to use everything inside Ableton.

Your latest point off research off people using a digital mixer with a DAW are not many I'm afraid. I couldn't find much about it. The older series off digital mixers didn't sound as good. What I've learned now is that for some reason mixers are more targeted to the live crowd then at us home studio DAW users.

Inputs from start with the X32 Producer is 16, expandable to 32. The USB interface part is 32x32 streaming in and out simultaneous and with very flexibel routing. I almost never exceed 24 channels. So I can still use 8 IO as a bus. The mixer has a 0.5ms latency, and with my Steinberg I'm at 10ms overall. I think for latency I'm safe.

Motorized faders: Yep.
Ergonomics: Yep
More fun: Yep

Hmmm, looking to it like that, makes me lean to "B" again: Getting the mixer.

Dragonbreath
Posts: 561
Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2007 2:34 am

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Dragonbreath » Sat Jul 26, 2014 6:23 pm

[quote="Kibosh"][quote="102455"] The mixer has a 0.5ms latency, and with my Steinberg I'm at 10ms overall. I think for latency I'm safe.quote]


I think that 0.5ms is internal latency. Dont think you would get that type of performance using it an audio interface with Ableton. If you use all outbord and just Ableton to record you should be fine, but your steinberg probably has somekind of sofware mixer that should allow you the same thing. Can you use the knobs on the x32 for daw control. other then that I dont see much extra value to another controller apart from the motorised faders

Kibosh
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:09 pm

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Kibosh » Sun Jul 27, 2014 8:26 am

The 0.5ms is indeed the internal latency off the mixer. AI to AO. With the Steinberg I get AI to Ableton and from Ableton back to the interface about 10ms. I still can tweak my PC for even better latency if needed.

Having 8 FX slots for a bus or insert and channel strip with Gate, Comp and EQ will mean it will also take away processing inside Ableton. The basics can be done in the mixer.

Ableton will then be used more for MIDI off course, for use off softsynths, samples etc.. and also for the sounds that need more special effects as for example Rob Papen's Delay.

At this time, like I see it. That dubspot controller has 8 faders and 4 knobs and works with standard MIDI. This will cost me €500 (just a guess). Expanding my interface with for example the Focusrite OctoPre for another 8 extra channels costs €400. Making it €900 total for 16 inputs, no channel strip, and only 8 non motorized faders.

My steinberg is only a couple off months old (in Belgium still more then a year warranty on it), so when I receive the mixer and I'm pleased with it (works as advertised) then the Steinberg will be sold for hopefully +400 euro's. At the end I will have paided €1200 for 16 motorized faders, full channel strip with all the basics, 16 analog inputs expandable to 32. So it's only €300 more expensive, but I will get a lot more for it and more important, a much better hands-on experience.

Khazul
Posts: 3185
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Reading, UK

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Khazul » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:00 pm

I wouldn't bother. In the end a digital mixer will probably just add another layer of control surface abstraction which TBH just annoying. Im not even sure there is anything around anymore that is actually good for this dual role (mix control and control surface) - i used to use a Yamaha 01x+i88x which wasn't bad, but these days I'm much happier with an RME UFX and mixing in live with fairly minimal control surfaces.

(And Im a programmer by day so I understand the desire to avoid feeling like you at work - its a mind set thing - not a computer thing - realising and dealing with that can be quite an expensive waste of time).

Get a good controller that integrates really well with Iive. Learn to use it all together to the point you just don't have to think about it anymore.
Nothing to see here - move along!

fishmonkey
Posts: 4087
Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 4:50 am

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by fishmonkey » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:14 am

i love having control surfaces and faders. however i hate it when a control surface doesn't integrate really well.
badbrainz wrote: I'm a drummer, so I'm already at an intellectual disadvantage here

Dragonbreath
Posts: 561
Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2007 2:34 am

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Dragonbreath » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:04 pm

Yeah I think the UFX is probably the best bet. It will lower your latency in ableton give you better converters and alot of inputs. You can trade your steinberg for an octopre and get a control surface. What do you want to do with your control surface? The Apc40 is pretty well integrated in ableton. The new one look nice.

Using the x32 with ableton would give you similar roundtrip latencies as your steinberg so to sync sounds with your outboard you dont gain anything there.

Kibosh
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:09 pm

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Kibosh » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:23 pm

You are missing the point: I don't like the controllers like an APC40.

If you know a controller with 16 faders, dedicated knobs for gate, compressor, EQ, send/receives and panning I'm all ears.

Ryder17
Posts: 185
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:53 pm

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Ryder17 » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:52 pm

Tascam us-2400? I happen to have one for sale....I think...

Kibosh
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:09 pm

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Kibosh » Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:05 pm

Something like that Tascam, but then with a channel strip.

So that tascam + a console 1 could work. But the Tascam is discontinued and probably, if you count up the price for each controller with an audio interface, you'll be more expensive than a Behringer X32 Compact or Producer.

login
Posts: 1816
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:41 am

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by login » Mon Jul 28, 2014 3:06 pm

I vote for option A.As other have pointed out adding a digital mixer will make things more complex.

Other option for controlling mixer in ableton is the new Novation Launchcontrol XL http://us.novationmusic.com/midi-contro ... control-xl for the price you could get 2. I know maybe they are not thet best built in the world.

Kibosh
Posts: 61
Joined: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:09 pm

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by Kibosh » Mon Jul 28, 2014 3:38 pm

Did you read my first post? I already have Ableton Push, why should a botter with a Launchcontrol? :roll:

And why should adding a digital mixer make things more complex? Routing in Ableton is a breeze.

login
Posts: 1816
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:41 am

Re: Digital mixer with Ableton, good or bad idea

Post by login » Mon Jul 28, 2014 4:00 pm

Kibosh wrote:Did you read my first post? I already have Ableton Push, why should a botter with a Launchcontrol? :roll:

And why should adding a digital mixer make things more complex? Routing in Ableton is a breeze.

Yeah I did, you need 16 faders and mix controls. I know the perfect solution for you doesn't exists I was just pointting out other mixing control surface.

Other option: build you own midi controller, Livid instruments sells kits, you could get your 16 faders and many encoders/knobs per channel if you want.

Post Reply