Monday, June 04, 2007

Hello MOTU

The recording project hit a nasty technical hitch a few weeks ago which made life pretty uncomfortable.

The situation was this: we had two hard-disk recorders (Alesis HD24XRs) capable of recording a total of 24 channels at 24-bit 96kHz and we need more than 50 channels per song. We get around this by copying the recorded channels onto our server (Dell PowerEdge 2950), play back the channels from the computer (using Cubase 4), whilst recording more onto the hard-disk recorders. Sounds easy, right?

Yes, with the right equipment.

Except we weren't using the right equipment, and we didn't know it.

Let me elaborate.

The real trick is in synchronising the playback with the recording. At first we were using a Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 I/O as the sound interface linked to the pc by firewire, and to the Alesises (?plural?) by MIDI. The Saffire was slaved to the house clock (Apogee Big Ben) by BNC. Cubase would stall intermittently when we hit the 'Play' button, returning control to the console several minutes after hitting the 'Stop' button. There was a lot of MIDI activity, during the interminable wait. Quite frustrating to be twiddling thumbs more than recording timbales.

Salvation: Mark of the Unicorn. Hallelujah!

I called up Bobby, our man at Music Technology and he recommended the MOTU 828 mkII USB. We got it in, partially on the basis that it had an ADAT synch, installed and configured it (a process that took a few days), and it's been working beautifully ever since. The only minor hitch was that the Big Ben would not recognise it as being terminated via the BNC, so we went with the RCA connectors instead.

With a company name like 'Mark Of The Unicorn', you gotta be pretty confident in your stuff; and they don't disappoint. The software for the product is well written and timely. I can't say the same about Focusrite.

We have a Focusrite Liquid Channel, which is an exceptional product; and it was on that basis (and lack of unfavourable reviews) that I pursued the Saffire and the Saffire Pro. It proved to be a costly error.

So in the final analysis, if you want to synch a PC running Cubase 4 to Alesis HDD recorders, consider the MOTU. I've relegated the Saffire Pro to my live rig.

You live and learn.

Yeo Loo Yen

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