As part of the Pro Tools Expert team we get to try a lot of different gear. Some of it we send back once we have reviewed it, so we wish we could keep but funds do not allow and some we pay for and keep (this is my personal weakness). We also get questions like this one below from Stefan Schaflitzel from Germany.
Hi PTE team, I'm preparing for a recording job with a huge band (about 13 people) and the band want to record live. I was looking around for an audio interface with 32 Mic Pres and was surprised how few the options there are.
I'm actually using Pro Tools 12 (non-HD) on a 2011 iMac i7 with an Apogee Quartet which I'm quite happy with, but I don't want to go the "Pro Tools Aggregate" route and add multiple interfaces from different brands because I don't trust the clocking and stability with such a setup.
My first choice was to daisy chain the new UA Apollo 8P but four interfaces with about 13.000€ are WAY over budget. So for now, I have found three Options: Presonus StudioLive RM32AI; Mackie DL32R or MOTU Stage B-16 (with only 16 Ins). The Presonus and Mackie products are in fact live rack mixers with integrated audio interface. The MOTU seems to be a USB/AVB audio interface.
My question: do you think the audio quality of the mic inputs on those kind of products are good enough to obtain high quality studio recordings? I think James is using the Mackie for his band and Russ has experience with the Presonus. Any thoughts on this? Do you know any alternatives in the 2000-4000 Euro price range?
Ahhh my favourite subjects gear and live bands. I am going to offer 3 different options here.
The first is the Mackie DL32R (which I have). The amazing thing about this unit is as you say is it has 32 mic pres. Now a 13 piece band could be just 13 mics but if there are drums and percussion instruments involved then you could be looking at needing all of those 32 channels. The DL32R uses Mackie's Onyx style mic pres and to my ears these sound very useable. In my "function band" world of live recording the Onyx pres sound fantastic. I would not go as far as to say they were silky smooth or flat but they don't feel like they colour the sound. They are totally usable and I have had great results.
The other major bonus of the DL32R is that you don't need a computer or DAW linked up to the mixer to record. All you need to do is hook up an external USB (2.0 or 3.0) drive to the Drive port on the back of the unit and in the iPad software hit multi-track record. You then get files on the drive that correspond with the input numbers on the channels. I have used this many many times and if it really easy way to get a show recorded very easily. No extra cables or computers unless you want to then of course you can hook up your Mac or PC... Easy. One thing to be aware of though is that the Mackie DL32R only records at 44.1KHz and 48KHz, so if you want higher sample rates this isn't for you.
The other system I use is to hook my MacBook Pro up (via USB or Firewire) to my Behringer X32 Digital mixer. For about £2000 you are getting a lot of bang for your buck. The pre-amps are designed by Midas who know a thing or two about live consoles and the internal signal processing is designed my Klark-Technik. Both big names in the live sound world. The X32 is a bigger unit so if space is an issue (which it always is) you might not want to go this route but don't disregard it out because it has the word Behringer on the box. This is a serious console with serious recording and mixing ability. Stefan does not say in his email if he is having to provide monitoring for the recording? If so, the X32 will be the answer and the hands on control and the fact that you have a desk to operate will make things move much faster. Again the X32 like the Mackie is 44.1KHz or 48KHz only.
Antelope Orion 32+
The final (and most expensive) option would be to look at 2 units by Antelope. Take a look at the Orion 32+ and pair this with the Antelope MP32 again giving you 32 mic pres in a 3U space. Now this is a jump up in the food chain, these are serious units. The Class A mic pres in the MP32 sound amazing. they are very flat and smooth for classical music if you wanted them to be. If you are worried about the sound quality of the recording then this is the way to go. This system will also allow you to record at up to 192KHz and the clocking on these is amazing. But like all things in life you get what you pay for.
Hopefully this article has helped Stefan and any of you out there who are also looking to do some live band recording. If you have any other ideas on gear I have missed them please add your comments below.