System Upgrade/Mixing desk

Hi, being somewhat fed-up with computer screens, i am looking for a suitable desk that sounds/feels old school and analogy but still within the digital domain. Ideally i would like something out of the box that plugs into my computer (running Cubase 9 pro) via USB with no need for ANY plugin cards.I,m not too keen on the various control surfaces on the market however. As many channels and tracks as possible and as high a sample rate as although many of my older projects were recorded back in the cd days (4800) these days my sample rates are much higher and i dont want to re-sample if at all possible. I have spent alot of time researching and seeing older desks on certain auction sites however feel this may be a little risky and am unsure if they will compete with the newer hybridy types available today. I hear alot of talk of guys having to tweak 16 hidden layers in order to get the last 16 channels of a 32-channel desk operational. I have my eye on the Allen and Heath GL 2800 48 which is a 48 channel desk and would be about the average amount of tracks i can gobble up on Cubase. I know its got a ‘live’ reputation and would have way too many inputs for any new projects i start but its a fine looking machine. Any projects now would require max 12-inputs.I would appreciate if anyone has any recommendations or experience.
The bottom line is sound quality and simple connectivity and i know the A and H has a good reputation with pre-amps etc. I would be running old projects through the desk and final mixes would be through the desk too so really all my computer would be doing would be storing my raw Waves and outputting back through the desk. I,m not sure if there is a desk that kind if combines both of these functions - ie you may like a certain effect within cubase so can utilise BOTH daw and desk. Maybe i,m asking for too much here. Yes i have drooled over some high-end desks such as SSL and some MIDAS stuff which i,m sure would cope easily with all of this however i do have a limited budget.Hope someone can help. Thanks

Sounds like you’re mixing two thoughts.

The USB solution would basically mean, the desk is digital. Something simple like X32/M32 provides a 32 channel USB interface. Mixing would still be digital and provide absolutely no advantage over ITB aside from a set of faders and the internal processing capabilities of the board.

If you want an analog desk you’d simply need an amount of decent DA converters plus an interface. Or an interface with a lot of outputs.

Yes indeed i am going down to look at an A and H QU32 available just one hour drive from here this weekend though unsure if 32 channels will be
enough for my requirements. At least i will be able to see and try her out before committing. With that in mind i am also looking at the A and H SQ7
which boasts more channels and 96KHz rates. I am slightly concerned that primarily these boards are designed (or sold/advertised) as live rigs as opposed to studio use and welcome any comments from anyone who uses these (or similar) desks with a DAW (preferably Cubase) in a studio environment. You are correct in saying the analog desks will require alot of ‘accessories’ and i think the allen-heath-gl2800-48 would qualify under this category it appears after all to be based on old-school analog technology although it would look good in my studio. Just cant be bothered with all the external cabling. I guess it would be reasonable with ADAT but i dont want to go back to that world. But then i suppose you might question why one would need a desk at all when there is already one within your DAW. Ultimately i am trying to squeeze more life into the recording process. I currently use a UR44 for input and find it all rather ‘flat’ sounding and perhaps clinical. I plan to use the studio for larger projects and will require more inputs too. I hope this clarifies things a bit and welcome any discussions on this subject.

Bit of a huge jump from a UR44 to a huge console! You’d probably need thunderbolt 2(or better)/USB-C (usb 3.1) to handle all those channels at 96K. You could do with it with a cheap 48 channel mixer like a soundcraft GB8 48 and say three UAD apollo 16s supplying the ins and outs - still not gonna get much change from 12K. The plus side with the UAD setup is you could experiment with different pre-amp models on the way in to give you different flavours of console when tracking.

Great info. thanks and something i had,nt considered with such a big jump - the stresses on the CPU /Memory having to deal with higher sample rates.
A bad habit i,ve got is opening new tracks in Cubase for almost each event even if its just a short section of audio. Which is why i think i need more channels. If I had a bit of a springclean (and its almost the right time of year for that) then i can compress things down a bit and settle for a more standard 32 ch. desk. However, i dont want to regret in 2/3 years time that i did,nt go for something a bit better. If you are going to spend that kind of outlay would,nt it be better going for one of the higher end MIDAS pro desks or SSL( though maybe a bit out of my range). I,m sure I will find the right balance for me though it will probably involve a compromise of some kind. Its great to hear from others with experience or who are perhaps looking to upgrade.

I was,nt sure from your gear list what was what but am slowly googling everything to find out. Are you using a desk or DAW desk ?

Ah i see - you are using an Appollo quad for the analog pre-amp sound and to share some of the processing power. OK this is a game changer perhaps the need for a desk is questionable although that has always been in the back of my mind. I also just saw the AXR4 logging into this very forum (duh and drool simultaneously). mmmmmmm.

Might need a new thread as i am veering in a slightly different direction now. So the new Steinberg AXR4 is only MAC compatible not Windows pc
yet ?.

Hi again, still on the quest of production perfection i have been looking to upgrade my system with a slant towards analog/hands on/out of the box feel. My current system is a good silent hi-spec Windows pc running Cubase 9 pro, W7 and UR 44 all in the box. The machine is never on-line appart from 10 minutes every six months for upgrades if that. I have looked at various options without really yet pinning it down:. I do tend to ramble quite alot both writing and recording ie i tend to generate alot of tracks (on average 75 per song) but i know i can compress that down to a reasonable 48 especially if i have forked out cash and need to. Here are my (semi) conclusions:

Large 48 channel analog desk (probably A and H) or similar with all the external attachments required. Not sure thats the way forward. Eliminated.

Mid range multi channel digital desk eg A and H SQ7 (with perhaps more limited external factors than analog) and this is where the title “mixer sample rates” comes in. I feel the mid range option a bit limiting re sample rates and more importantly longevity ie future investment. Still considering this option. Getting back to the title, i have concerns with some of the mid range digital desk options where most run at 96khz tops with the exception of the Matrix which i believe runs up to 192. My last project was recorded at 192 and if i bought a desk running at 96 is it a simple case of resampling the waves down to 96 and is that relatively painless.

Hybrid desks (Midas pro 2, SSL Matrix with a plethora of associated plug-ins, Yamaha et all). Maybe a full system is slightly out of my price range now but still considering this option. I could probably afford the Matrix alone, spend a year or so learning how to use it and start investing in the rack gear as i see fit. This desk always seems to attract me in my googling journey and i see it as a good future investment. Still considering this option.

ok perhaps the next two options should be opened as a new subject but i will run with it:

Other - no desk but start to build up an external range of ‘analog’ rack mount kit ie the same kind of external kit required for Matrix and somehow (not sure exactly how to do this) incorporate it into your DAW. This option might include a 500 series chassis with several high end plug in cards good eq, compressor and pre,s. I know i am missing the control part of this equation ie i guess there must be a further device required to sync these signals into the DAW. Hopefully someone will enlighten me. In a way this options means i could accumulate the outboard kit,use it almost immediately with my current DAW and invest in the MATRIX at a later date when there are more used Matrix on the market. You dont see that many out there and the new price is around 14k UK pounds. However whether i still have the capital in two years time for the Matrix is anyones guess at this rate.

Other (alternative) - no desk but start to build up a collection of good quality software plug-ins. This is new territory to me and will no doubt require lots of research, trial and error but its a consideration. I feel i have a good solid foundation for my waves within Cubase but want to squeeze more out of it. I know it kind of contradicts my whole ‘out of the box’ thinking.

I understand that there is no one answer to all of this but am open to all comments including “oh no heres that old Scottish dither who cant make up his mind” again. I know that it is down to ME to decide what I want (i,ve been on a few forums this week) but welcome any thoughts - thanks.

It might be good to condense the above into an actual specific question (if it’s in there I didn’t get to it, sorry)…

No need for more than one thread for this. I’ll merge.

@ yorlum: I can somehow understand the wish for a real thing to get your hands on. Anyway, what a digital console can do (I know and love A&H consoles for live mixing, GLD/DLive, haven’t worked on an SQ yet - which is a kind of a low budget baby DLive) is far behind the flexibility of ITB. Wouldn’t even consider that for studio work because of an unnecessary extra layer of ‘trouble’.

The channel processing is great - an extensive set of tools for live work where you need to be fast in many situations. It’s not at all better than a collection of high quality plugins though. In direct comparison with whatever you can simply insert in Cubase it looks limited and complicated. Made for a different use case. Working ITB you don’t have to care about routing anything anywhere, breaking down your projects to a limited number of channels, adapt to a desks’ native samplerate etc.

MATRIX offers 40 ch analog summing + easy integration of hardware processors. That’s a point if you’re into that game. At least if you believe in analog summing being better than ITB summing. They’re different, different workflow for little audible differences within a mess of expensive equipment that might have less impact on your results than a lot of more crucial mix decisions.

I’d go for good plugins (UAD etc.) and a multifader controller. I personally don’t even want to use a controller apart of my €20 Logitech standard keyboard and a mouse. I dare to say that most basic set of controls plus a load of key commands enables me to work faster than most people with dedicated controllers. While ‘faster’ doesn’t mean ‘winning a race’, it means if there’s an idea what I could do to this or that signal, it’s the most direct way to get it going in an ITB mix.

Just thoughts :smiley:

Firstly, appologies to the site regulators for my rambles and not being specific in my subject.

I have been going round in circles in my search for a good upgrade solution but at least i have eliminated the analog desk option and now perhaps the digital desk option. The more i research the external desk option (and i travelled 120 miles yesterday to check out a QU32) the more potential problems i foresee. Really nice desk for live sound but perhaps limiting in the studio and no more than a DAW controller with reasonable (mid-range) mic pres. The M32 was another suggestion however at 48k sample rate, kind of restricting. Many previous projects are recorded at 192 so totally unrealistic to re-sample down to 48k. There seem to be no products out there that sit between the plethora of these mid-range desks (above) and the higher end scale such as SSL Matrix and Pro2/Pro3. There was a reasonable PRO3 advertised recently,however its down South and i am up North and i would,nt consider spending the same amount i would pay for a good second hand car without a test drive. I still might take a trip down to have a look.

I guess my next option is, as you suggested, to explore the plug-in world. Kind of makes sense really.
thanks for the advice.

Plugins are crazy good these days. And even if they are not on par with the originals the workflow that unfolds from being able to use a lot of instances of processors that are 90 - 95 % as good, often at 5 - 10 % of the hardware pricing is way more economic (obviously) and fluid.

I’m working on different projects simultaneously, guess that’s a pretty normal situation today. Really enjoy that I don’t have to care for anything but loading up another Cubase project in my little ITB world. Instant total recall is just a bliss, having a metal client in the morning and a singer/songwriter the afternoon :laughing: Sampling rates just come along automatically anyway.

In a hardware driven world, the closest thing is a do-not-touch plain analog summing, where you lay out your projects to hit converters in an identical manner from song to song. The pros and cons of analog summing are a different game altogether, while some people swear on it or take it as the most smooth way to implement hardware compressors etc. I myself couldn’t care less. Been thinking about it, heard, what analog summing does at friends’ places, tested running stems through it and felt that the difference wasn’t worth the hassle. That said, the difference wasn’t that big and not necessarily better, just different. My conclusion was that it would maybe have some more impact if I had mixed through summing, not just playing digital stems through it. But so far I’m totally fine with digital summing indeed. No client has ever mentioned a lack of depth or dimension that would have been related to digital summing.

If you have money to burn, get yourself some delicious plugins. UAD plugins are fantastic (needing hardware to run, not so cheap, but cheaper than a console solution), Plugin Alliance has great offers, Fabfilter, Soundtoys, Softtube, Waves - you know them all already. And nowadays even Cubase (and most other DAWs) have stock plugins bundled that are more than usable for a lot of tasks, even such beyond standard operations.

The QU32 is an ‘old’ product btw, the ancestor of the SQ series. Nice for small live gigs, great as a multichannel interface (as long as you’re fine with 48 kHz), standard in its preamps, subpar in it’s processing power compared to ITB. Why should anyone try to do a mix on it in the studio?

Great info here - many thanks.

In conclusion, so far, no one hardware product seems to tick all the boxes for me. Most mid-range dont have enough and the upper range
seem just a little too much to invest in perhaps. Not much in the middle ground but i guess thats the definition of ‘semi pro’ and PRO.
If in doubt do nothing and research elsewhere.

I was going to start a new thread on ‘best plugins’ but you have already suggested a good few here to begin the next part of the journey.

Let the research begin…

Have fun :slight_smile:

Especially the UAD stuff has very much grown to me. Got into it when computers were weak, offloading processing to DSP cards was a seller back then which isn’t the case anymore, at least not one of the outstanding selling points. Anyway, the longevity of support and their quality is what makes them feel like a hardware rack. Whatever very old project I open, many plugins aren’t supported anymore, were 32 bit only, sound different in later iterations or make any other kind of mess. The UAD stuff just appears as it should and sounds exactly as it did years ago. I appreciate that.

And, no, I don’t work for them :laughing:

Just to conclude this post, I have gone for a UAD Sattelite 2 Oct which i believe has eight processors and USB3 interface. Having never been down this route before, i must say i am impressed by the entire download process which threw one or two wobblies during installation but seems fairly stable now. The bundled package, although fairly basic, is good to get started and the deal includes an additional 4 plug-ins of your choice once registered with UAD.
I must say i was a tad nervous having to plug-in a network cable since for the last few years the machine has been deliberately off-line.
I was concerned my USB 3 ports would be out-of-date so checked ASUS website first only to find my board is fairly old and possibly unsupported as there was only a beta BIOS version available. Needless to say I decided NOT to upgrade and so far i think i,ve got away with it. Time will tell.
The entire suite of UDA plugins are pulled into Cubase and you are given a huge list of demo versions to play with for a 14 day period. These guys know exactly how to market their wares so I am off to play…

Congrats, from personal experience it’s a good decision!

At first the UAD route seems expensive, but there are many chances to pick up great plugins for a reasonable price :slight_smile: Demo and buy wisely and you’ll get away with a deluxe collection of great processors. Also check the UAD forums, a really nice community with a lot competent, friendly users/low bulls*** level!