I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations on mixers that a) do multi-tracking and b) have a designated USB channel. I work with a bunch of podcasters and we do a lot of Skype interviews but would like to have more flexibility in cleaning them up. Additional considerations are cost, size, and simplicity. Right now, we typically use a Behringer U-Phoria 404 in-studio and a Behringer XR18 during live events. Posting this in this forum since we exclusively use Audacity on Macs.
I work with a bunch of podcasters and we do a lot of Skype interviews but would like to have more flexibility in cleaning them up.
Describe a large shoot/show. How many people and where are they? The less you nail this down, the more expensive the mixer and system gets.
This was an engineering test I shot with two computers and a relatively simple sound mixer.
It’s a test. Nobody’s awarding production contracts to either of us. The music was just to see if I could do it. Denise sounds like she’s on the sofa behind me, doesn’t she? She’s a Skype feed from three time zones away.
We are ringers. We’re both broadcast professionals and we’re both wearing headphones and using good quality microphones in quiet rooms.
The computer on the right is The Skype Machine and that’s all it does. That’s how I got around the problem of Skype taking over the machine and messing with the settings. In short, I let it. I made up a “Mix Minus” in the sound mixer and sent that to Denise instead of the local microphone. In English, that means I sent everything to Denise But Her Own Microphone. She hears me and the music but not herself. No echo cancellation distortion.
Had I wanted to, I would have recorded her “clean” and me “clean” and done all the music and mixing in post production. The goal of this test was to see how much of this I could pull off in one pass. Yes, production sucked, I got the timings all off, but the voice qualities are excellent. The computer on the left is simply recording the sound mixer “straight.” That leaves playback on the left computer free and that’s where I played the music.
I know this hard to visualize and I swear I have a graphic around somewhere.
Everybody I know insists you can do all these jobs on one computer and I’m insisting you can’t reliably because Skype and Audacity do not get along on one machine. You can get Unicorn Recordings where someone gets this to work right at home on one machine. They publish how well it works and then nobody else can make it work.
I’m not insisting you can’t make it work on one machine, but it’s not a button push or two. You will need sound routing software so the sound pathways don’t conflict with each other. Basic computers only have Record and Playback. Full Stop. If you count your production pathways, you have minimum of four, and you need independent control of all of them.
Describe your shows.
If everyone is a Skype connection, I think you can get Skype to record the composite and send it to you later. You can do that with a Skype license, a smartphone and earbuds. That’s it.
That’s your field shoot if you’re not already doing that.
I don’t have a recommendation for you, but most “USB mixers” send the stereo mix to the USB port so they don’t work for multi-track recording. But, there are mixers that work both as multi-channel recording interfaces as well as like an analog mixer.
most “USB mixers” send the stereo mix to the USB port so they don’t work for multi-track recording.
Aren’t there multi-track USB mixers? With the two-computer technique, the mixer “show,” however many channels it is, is straight-simple. No reversing channels or odd routing. If Audacity can recognize six channels from the USB mixer, then that’s as many independent channels you can record.
Skype from New Jersey,
If you know a way to do all that with one computer, tell us how and I’ll stand over here and watch.
Please note that unless you get lucky, three people in the same room will bleed into each other and will be very difficult to adjust. The Skype feed should be a snap.
A word on Mix-Minus. Even my simple mixer has FX Send with its own socket. Normally, you would send this channel or microphone to a special effects unit to add, for example, echo or something. That’s the connection you send to your Skype computer instead of the computer’s built-in microphone. Then you pop the mixer FX Send open on all the mixer channels except the Skype voice.
Thanks for your detailed response. I’ve been a fan of your responses from afar for a while now.
Here is the current set-up for when we do Skype recordings:
– We have five SM7Bs that are plugged into Cloudlifter pre-amps, and those then individually feed through XLRs into our Mackie ProFx12v2 mixer.
– We plug the mixer into a single MacBook Pro. We simultaneously feed the inputs into Audacity and Skype.
– In Skype, we set the input and output settings to the mixer (as opposed to the computer, or Audacity directly/indirectly through a Soundflower-type setup).
- In Audacity, we similarly set the input and output to the mixer.
- We turn up the USB input level on the mixer (with “USB thru” pressed down), which allows the person on the other side of Skype to hear us, and for them to come into the mixer, and then to feed back out into Audacity in a mixed mono/stereo track.
This is all to say we already do a lot of Skype recordings –– typically at least one per week. I’m just looking for recommendations on a single mixer that will do what is already being done, except with the added benefit of multi-tracking. That would make it easier for us to do noise removal, minimize noise bleed for when we have multiple interviewers, and generally do a better job in editing. In terms of mixer size, we don’t more than six XLR inputs, and in terms of mixer cost, I’m trying to stay under $1k.
I’m familiar with the set-up you described, which involves two computers. I think that’s a little excessive for our purposes. If you think the answer could be simply simultaneously plugging in another mixer/the equivalent, having the Skype channel go through there, and then plugging that output as its own channel into the original mixer that does multi-tracking, that would be a very clever way of making it work. However, if it is possible, I would prefer to get a single mixer.
One mixer I’ve been looking at is the Tascam US 16x08. Does anybody have experience with these and know (a) if it’s any good and (b) if it can actually do multi-tracked Skype recordings? Aside from quality concerns, I’m also a bit nervous about its software complexity as most of our podcasters are not master engineers, but if it can do the trick –– and do it well –– I’m open to it.
Very much open to other mixer recommendations as well.