It’s gotten to the point anymore, that when I play around on the synthesizer, I almost always record the output, because I never know when something amazing will come out and may not ever hear again.
When I first got my Eurorack stuff, I was happy just to have it and took audio from the headphone out of the Pittsburgh Modular Outs module into the line in on my sound card. It was noisy and definitely sub-optimal, but hey I had a freakin’ synthesizer and I was making music with it. I didn’t care.
Soon, I wanted an upgrade, and my Focusrite 2i2 was plenty. As I did more live jams, I realized I wanted more versatility in my mixes, and and wanted to bring in as many channels as possible into Reaper. The sound card in my HP Z800 is not what you’d call a “grown-up” audio card with ADAT capability, and I had no troubles with using the USB2.0 on the computer to get signals in, so I posed the question “What the best way to get audio into the computer?” on Muff Wiggler’s Facebook page and on the SDIY mailing list.
I wanted to keep the project under $300. I got a lot of responses in very short time.
So, I learned three different ways to do this. 1) A real console mixer with USB/Firewire out, 2) Eurorack modules that do it, or 3) a rack unit that can do the A-to-D conversion and send it to USB.
I ultimately settled on a MOTO 828x Mk3 I found gently used on Ebay, for $230 (versus the $750 retail).
Here is a very rough compilation of the results of my poll. Lots of options in a wide price range. I share this in case you need to answer the question for yourself.
This is not an exhaustive study, but in one day I got a lot of ideas and will continue to lust after the McMillen M-Mix because it looks the coolest.
Facebook guy Lester Barnes gave me permission to borrow his comments:
If you really are talking Best D to A in the business and money is no object then Prism Sound are probably the best – Orpheus being one of their 8 channel options but most of these are going to be like using a sledge hammer to crack a walnut !
My impression from the OP’s original post is that he wants the way to get 8 channels from his Modular to his computer, not necessarily the best quality money can buy.
With that in mind, one thing that really does need covering and thinking about is how you get your 8 channels from and to your audio interface – seems like a simple thing and something that’s a no brainier once you’ve acquired you dream audio interface, but it’s not:
There are a number of points to consider:
1. Level Modular is hotter than line level
2. Balanced/unbalanced/semi-balanced – if you want to avoid troubles with noise, level issues, hum, interference
3 I/O What options does your interface have for this ? TRS balanced Jacks, XLR, Unbalanced Jacks, ADAT Light Pipe, SPDIF, Tunderbolt, etc
4. Ergonomics! Once all of the above are established – how easily can you simply patch to a channel of your choice both to and from both from the front end of your Modular and to the audio interface ?
Number 1 – Level is the easiest in some ways to solve as you can trim down the levels before they hit the computer via a VCA or mixer. Tougher to get the other way round as you then need a bit of a pre-amp or a VCA with a big gain to get audio from the computer back up to Modular level for processing
Number 2 – Balanced/unbalanced etc: There is virtually no point in worrying about high quality D to A on your audio interface if the signals and sounds coming from your Modular are a bit noisy, have interference or earth hums or inconsistent levels due to poor signal – But, we live in an unbalanced world so we have to try and live with this the best we can – Some systems offer a kind of semi-balanced option (I don’t understand the voodoo of this) but there are systems that make the best of two and provide a semi balanced option – So Much Better !
Number 3. I/O – so many types of analogue IO and Digital – each with it’s own issues and formats – how does one end connect to the other ?
Number 4. Ergonomics Do you really want to be reaching around trying to find one of eight converter leads that connect to your audio interface – finally find it, then realise that it’s not long enough etc – Do you have a way to keep 8 cables from snaking up your Modular even before you get patching ? There are superb options that bring all of your patching to and from the computer to one simple module ! !
I spent many, many years trying to find the right way to solve all four of these points above. My journey has been long and expensive but I have it almost nailed – with two separate systems working for me:
Highest End – I have a Prism Orpheus interface and had Hinton Electronics build a custom Modular interface with balanced -semi balanced channels and trimmers with a Custom snake to connect to it – The highest quality you can get but also quite a lot of expense
The other system is using a new MOTU 24 Ai and 24 Ao pair of interfaces – these provide 24 channels of In and Out as well as 56 channels of ADAT light pipe for Expert Sleepers modules and Silent Way software. For the amount of channels and the very latest developments and interconnectivity via Ethernet and dual in GUIs they are very reasonably priced !
I said it earlier as others have too but NW2S make the ultimate life saver – Their IO modules – these are 8 in and 8 out on one small module that sits on your rack – you can route the DB25 cable behind the module too so no need to have a big clunky cable on the front either (to connect the module to your audio interface) Once you do this, the IO looks like any other module on your system and is always ready to patch to from where ever you choose. This module sorts out point 1 above as it will automatically trim the module levels to line and vice versa coming from the DAW to the Modular – It solves point 2 as it also provides balanced connections to the interface so nice clean sounds –
Point 3 was a conscious decision for me once I realised how I could work the other points out using the NW2S modules- The Motu interfaces were the best deal with the highest number of IOs and expandable too
I now have 32 channels of balanced audio to and from logic and a further 56 channels of expert sleepers (24 and 48 via the Motus and 3 x NE2S IOs)
Food for thought.