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I'd be interested to hear about the possibilities of recording more than 8 multiple channels simulaneously with a computer, the limitations involved and what is the state-of-the-art way to go. I am not interested in recording software, but only the audio interfaces and their connections to the computer.

I am aware of firewire audio interfaces and mixing consoles, but firewire seems to be going extinct, judging by the number of motherboards which still have a FW port and the number of FW audio interfaces on the market.

I've been searching for USB interfaces, but the number of channels seems to be limited to 8in 8out and there seem to be problems with duplex mode. Other USB interfaces use proprietary protocols (e.g Tascam). This concerns USB 2.0 interfaces. I have not yet seen any USB 3.0 interfaces

I've also seen thunderbolt interfaces, but they may be difficult to use on non-apple machines.

I am not even considering using multiple soundcards, because they will be difficult to sync and require a lot of extra gear (phantom power etc.)

In short:

  • Technology (FW, USB ...)?
  • Limitations (number of channles)?
  • proprietary protocol?
  • Linux comptabile?
  • cheap/expensive?

As a side note, I'd be interested in learning what the pros use. I cannot imagine that the eqipment I've seen so far is used in professional music production.

  • Pros - SSL The rest of us mere mortals, something like the MOTU – Tetsujin Dec 31 '14 at 11:06
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Your question is fairly broad, so I'll do my best to cover what I can in general terms.

Technology:

Firewire is indeed going extinct. It was a proprietary hunk of tech made by Apple and is being replaced by Thunderbolt. If you're looking for non-Apple, the only way to go is USB 2.0 currently. I've heard good things about the Roland M-16DX which would allow you to record 16 channels concurrently.

Limitations:

It all depends on what you're going to do with it. The M-16DX is a nice hunk of tech for a home studio, but might not be suitable depending on space, cost, number of channels, or features. If you're running a professional studio, you'll probably want something more along the lines of a Yamaha 01V. Really, the only limits are space & budget. Sweetwater would probably be the best place to go to find mixers & audio interfaces to suit your needs no matter what they might be.

Proprietary-ness:

I have not personally run into any issues with proprietary protocols on mixers. If you have an issue with Tascam, don't buy 'em. Really, the only proprietary issues I've ever come across in recording gear was "Firewire" and "Thunderbolt". Just keep an eye on what the ad says it supports and you should be golden. I have nothing but good things to say about Focusrite, if that helps.

Linux:

Heh. There is a very steep learning curve with audio production on Linux. There isn't a single notable company (that I know of) that is actively making software/hardware for Linux. First time I tried migrating over I was disheartened by the lack of decent audio software. Second time I got everything up and running (Ardour as my DAW), and even recorded a few things, but in the end I felt that I could do everything in a Windows environment with a lot less tinkering. In the end I feel Linux is far better suited for a hobbyist than a professional studio. If you were to insist on going this route, the Linux community tends to be very supportive and helpful. There's loads of information on what's compatible, what works, what doesn't, and sometimes even 'how to make something that doesn't work, work'.

Mildly related.

Cheap/Expensive:

Always remember: "You get what you pay for". A pair of studio monitors might have a good set of reviews, but if they're $50, don't expect Genelec-quality. I would personally expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 to get every essential bit for a home studio (including an okay-ish computer and four channel interface). If I wanted to outfit a professional studio in tech (so, not including soundproofing and building the actual space) I could easily see spending $20k.

  • About the number of channels: I do a lot of Midi stuff and I have 2 stereo devices plus an old DX7. With just a single microphone and a lonely guitar I end up with 7 channels. Is that an unusual style of recording? Or how come there are so many devices with less than 8 input channels. And oh BTW - my Phonic helixboard just blew its PSU. I felt this coming, which is why I asked this question in the first place. If it was more robust, the Phonic would suit all my needs. – Martin Drautzburg Jan 6 '15 at 23:05
  • I've certainly heard of more bizarre setups. I don't think yours is terribly outrageous. For channels: It's usually cheaper to grab an interface that only handles 2 to 4 channels than one that can get 8+. Moreover: for some setups, the space requirement is essential. I have a Scarlett 2i2 that works great for my purposes since I tend to record guitar & vocals as a sketch, and then elaborate with more tracks later. – zomgdavidbowie Jan 7 '15 at 13:33
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You can add a multichannel recording card to the desktop computer same way as the high end graphic cards are added (though PCI-Express interface). I know esi-audio MAYA44 XTe can record 4 channels at once and should cost about $200 with software. SSL MadiXtreme 64 can record 64 channels, much more than you need, but already expensive (about $900).

If you really need a laptop, RME HDSPe MADIface may work (64 channels). It uses ExpressCard slot that most of laptops have. It is, however, also an expensive solution ($1475 or about).

  • $200 gets you a Delta 1010LT. 8+2 in\out (x's up to 4) AFAIK, still (beware, this product's like 20yo) the cheapest way to get more than 4 analogue inputs into a computer. – Mazura Aug 4 '15 at 9:13

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