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this is my first question here on this Q&A, so great that it exists - I've been avid user so far for other subjects.

I have a project in mind where I want to reuse old PCs to make music. There would be one "better" one as the master, running bitwig or ableton, and then several older "satellites" (even RaspPis maybe) which would be running different software instruments, experimental stuff (pd, supercollider) etc. One such older PC runs Windows with NI's Komplete2, which I haven't upgraded because I now use mostly linux and don't want to upgrade the whole stack on that machine, but want to still take advantage of all those synths there.

My question is about what setup is appropriate to hook all these machines together. I know I can just send all Analog Out of these PCs to a mixer/audio interface.

But:

  • I currently I only have a 2 channel-in audio interface (Focusrite Scarlett 2i4), so I'd have to either upgrade to more inputs and/or buy a mixer
  • I wonder if there is any digital interface/connection with which I could hook up the PCs to the central one, instead of converting Analog to Digital and back all the way

I intend to go live with the setup, so this criteria is important, but will be mostly experimenting at home first.

What do people suggest? Thanks!

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    It's unclear what your goal is. "Go live" tells me that you just need the audio output from each of these devices. But the fact that you want to bus everything to one device might indicate that you want to record it all? Otherwise what is the point of bussing them (digitally) to a single device only to output it again for live use? In other words the "appropriate setup" is entirely conditional on the use case. – user37496 Feb 20 '18 at 23:13
  • @user37496 I can hear experience from your response. I agree. In fact, live and home-recording usually are different. So then I probably will want to target two different setups - one for home, and one for live. As I'd start at home first, and actually don't know if I'll be live ever here, I'd say the home setup has priority, and I'd figure the live setup when it's needed. Thanks. – faboolous Feb 20 '18 at 23:33
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    What I meant is that you should edit your question to make your goal more clear. "Hook all these machines together" doesn't tell us much about what you actually aim to do. For instance people may be wondering things like is the purpose to record synths from one machine to another? (in which case one solution would be to record them on the same machine and transfer the files) Or do you just need the live combined audio output from all? (get a mixer) Do all machines need to play at the same time? (if not you could simply plug in one at a time to record). – user37496 Feb 21 '18 at 4:24
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    I have not done this myself, so I can only recommend lines of research but you might look for "midi over lan" virtual devices such as rtpMIDI or ipMIDI etc. I don't know which one(s) are open standards. Presumably, you'd set the satellite virtual devices to listen on a port for MIDI commands to process. – Yorik Feb 21 '18 at 17:34
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One computer will run the master sequencer, controlling the others over MIDI. Each computer will need a MIDI input, and an audio interface (a 'soundcard', an onboard equivalent or a USB audio interface). They may all have a digital output option, in which case you can feed them all to a digital mixer. Or you can feed analogue to an analogue mixer. Or you could feed them all back to a multi-channel audio interface on the main computer.

Think long and hard whether all these satellite computers are contributing sounds that couldn't be duplicated by a single, powerful DAW program.And think even longer and harder before 'going live' with such a complicated and fragile setup. You DO know that most of that equipment on stage with Kraftwerk was just window dressing, don't you?

  • I do know. The main reason to do this is to put older computer to use. The trick will be to have the main PC always stable, so whatever happens to the other ones, doesn't crash my performance. Currently thinking about something like the Presonus AR16 USB multitrack mixer/recorder, where all satellites are connected to via analog, but I can record everything multitrack digitally :) thanks! – faboolous Feb 21 '18 at 20:41

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