Patch Bays or Mixers

Patch Bays and Mixers, sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious.

There are lots of posts on the forums where users are either attempting to build their own patch bay or trying to switch a mic signal through a patch bay. The general feel is never to switch phantom power through a patch bay.

Allen and Heath Xone DB4
Allen and Heath Xone DB4

A studio mixer with sliders all facing the horizontal axis is often one of the best solutions as long as the mixer as enough line outs to feed a patch bay. What happens if you have a rack mounted console with combo receptacles (XLR/TRS) at the rear of the unit?   Continue reading “Patch Bays or Mixers”

Focusrite 18i20 Revision One

Focusrite 18i20 Release One

As an avid user and lover of the Focusrite mic preamps I recently found my preamp had a broken button for the +48V phantom supply.  As one part of the button had broken off I tried to find the missing part and try a quick fix. Since I had to open the unit I’ll share some thoughts.

The 18i20 uses Cirrus Logic CS4272 114 dB, 24-Bit, 192 kHz Stereo Codec A/D DACs, JRC4565 (New Japanese Radio Company) and HEF4053 triple single pole double throw analogue switches.

Although I paid way over market RRP for the unit they were in scarce local supply when ordered so I wasn’t too surprised. As a DAC it’s absolutely incredible and although giving spec lower than some of the others giving a more optimistic SNR there is absolutely no audible noise.  I use Eltax Millenium 500 speakers in the sound system as the main drivers along with some cheap arsed Sansui’s and although the Eltax speakers are supposedly entry level and bass heavy I have not found this to be the case. As a rule this website is not critical of other products, we aren’t a Phile Critics Zine Zone, the Eltax 500s perform very well on higher powered amplifiers. I also use RCF Ayra 8 monitors for mixing.  The Focusrite – Behringer NU6000 mix makes for good listening and although the Golden Eared fraternity may cringe I think the match is pretty good. The Eltax btw handle an input power of about 400W admirably with absolutely no audible distortion.

XMOS - USB, AVB, I2C, TDM, S/PDIF, DSD and ADAT
XMOS – USB, AVB, I2C, TDM, S/PDIF, DSD and ADAT

The first revision 18i20 may not have the newer GUI of the newer version, neither the latency but it doesn’t really make a difference in the grand scheme of things. But you should be able to pick up the older version now quite cheaply which makes it a very attractive purchase. I have read a lot about out of box failures etc but if you are on the lookout for an 8 input mixer I cannot think of one thing which is against the Focusrite.  Oh, I wish they had used alloy knobs and buttons, plastic doesn’t do this product justice. Let ist cost more, this is a beautiful product.

Focusrite 18i20 1st Edition top cover removed
Focusrite 18i20 1st Edition top cover removed

As far as DACs go, I cannot fault the unit. I don’t particularly like the mixing software, more to get the hang of  the I/O but it’s not a difficult learning curve. I believe Numero Dos (and no, not the “gonna have a number two” kind) has what I would term more efficient software, shorter and more understandable mixing software.

If you are planning to purchase a digital mixer in the near future to do recording/mixing through USB, give it a try. All of the models are similar except of course for the amount of available channels.

More info coming up in a future column.

DIY DAC for Audio

Bits, Bytes and Sampling – DIY DAC

To kick off we need to piss of a couple of people, one being the high end user wanting the fastest sampling rate possible and the second, that cheap means nasty. A DIY DAC may mean a purchase and mod with better supply or even a build from loose components up.

Some Capable DACs - purchased but not a DIY DAC
Some Capable DACs

 

When we went into the Philips Hi-Fi arena 50 years back the CD disk was supposedly going to be the end of our woes, high definition audio at a sampling rate of 44.1kHz and in total using 16 bits to reproduce simply put pitch, loudness and quality.   16 bits of binary, looking at the analogue breakdown would equal to over 65 000 variants of a signal at 44.1kHz sampling.

For a stereo system we calculate the bitrate as being 2 x 44100 x 16 or 1411 kb/s or 1.411 Mb/s. Continue reading “DIY DAC for Audio”

“Sound City” – A forgotten Art

Sound City and analogue mixers

I watched this movie a few weeks back and it had me intrigued on many levels.  Not just the snippets of famous and much loved musical genius but the mere fact that one went to Sound City Studios to make music first and secondly to become famous.

Neve 8078
The legendary Neve 8078 in The Way Recording Studio, London.  (Wiki )

You had one take.  Now with our DAW, digital mixer and a host of plug ins one can become famous from your bedroom. And it happens. It just so also happens, and not because of my age, that much of the music made then rather than now is timeless.  Here I’ll single out Fleetwood Mac.  Who didn’t have a crush on Stevie Nicks in the 70s, girls and guys.  But we must stop and consider the impact that the aristocratic Michael Fleetwood had on this group. Co-founder and driving force,  I always visualise this goliath behind a drum set and mixed through a Neve 8028.

David Grohl really does a fantastic job in this documentary, a must see for not only 70s music and audio enthusiasts but budding sound engineers as well. Continue reading ““Sound City” – A forgotten Art”

Analogue Routing – patchbays and cables

Samson S-Patch Plus

Patchbays – routing your signal

Note:  This is a preliminary article and will cover the construction of a basic Arduino controlled patch bay/audio signal router.  Users should be aware that manufacturing a patchbay as a DIY project can and will will be very expensive. The Samson S-Patch Plus retails for between R2000 and R2500.00 in South Africa.  A parts B.o.M places this project at about R5 000.00. However, careful consideration of B.o.M (input types) and digital control will be infinitely cheaper than an electronic audio signal router off the shelf.

The Samson S-Patch Plus is remarkable in that it tidies up your flow,  gets rid of unsightly cables, is quick and affordable.  If you are like me you prefer to purchase pro series audio because it’s modular and often cheaper than commercial consumer integrated audio.  So you can throw away the parts you don’t like and only add that which you deem necessary and very importantly, have some control from the PC or laptop.

This comes at a price of course, spaghetti!  And if you are like the mechanic whose car never runs properly this spills down to never being able to find that missing plug or socket. To be honest, pro audio can be a nightmare.

Samson S-Patch Plus
Samson S-Patch Plus

Continue reading “Analogue Routing – patchbays and cables”

Upgrading to the new Mixer or Mic-preamplifier

Scarlett 18i20 Gen 1

To upgrade or not to upgrade is the question

So last year Focusrite decided to change their range of 1st gen Scarlett series to 2nd generation and I found myself looking at my older 18i20 unit which had just lost a couple of bucks in value.

Scary stuff, but not as scary as vehicle depreciation.  So the question that arises is does one sell now, get new or hang on?  This is a dilemma which we all face at some time or another.  The solution is usually to use common sense and logic. Team marketing hope that you have neither. Continue reading “Upgrading to the new Mixer or Mic-preamplifier”