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Audio Interface + Laptop = Mixer

November 1st, 2012
sound, vsl1818, music, tech, contra

My spirit folio mixer does a pretty good job but there are various things I want my mixer to be able to do that it can't handle. A bigger mixer would do most of what I want, but with modern computers there's less and less reason to do complex computations in analog hardware. All I really need is a box with some amplifying inputs that send tracks from the mic to the laptop and some outputs that let me send mixes back out again. Then any sort of complex eq, compression, or other effects can happen in software on the laptop. So I got one:

It's a Presonus AudioBox VSL1818, with eight usable [1] inputs and eight usable outputs. It attaches to my laptop with USB. You set initial (preamp) gains on the box and then everything else you do on the laptop.

Upsides:

Downsides:

After I've used it for a dance or two I'll have more of an idea how much I like it. I'll definitely still bring along the analog board at first!

Update 2012-11-02: There appears to be no way to name channels. Why would they leave that out? Putting tape on my computer is going to look silly.


[1] "Usable" as in, "usable by me in situations I expect to be in". So the digital IO might be great for some people but I only care about the analog XLR and TRS (1/4") ports on the front and back.

[2] I had a terrible time last night trying to update my dad's ipad from iOS 4.2 to something more recent that would run the remote software. After syncing it and making a fresh backup the install process took forever, after which the ipad had lost all it's apps and media. Restoring from backup didn't work because it crashed, stuck on 95% done and "2 minutes left". And after the crash it no longer seemed to know about the backup. It's now running 5.1.1 but doesn't have anything it used to have installed. Argh.

[3] Phantom power is 48V, mic signals are millivolts. Momentary disconnects as cables shift can make a brief disconnect-connect, which can result in the phantom power being very briefly interpreted as a signal. Cable problems that would be inaudible under normal use can become loud crackles with phantom power. Which is why I like my current system of bringing a couple adapter boxes that provide phantom power only to instruments that need it.

[4] Though I've only had it about two years.

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