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Overcoming the limitations of a USB mixer

PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:36 am
by Benn Roe
My band is looking to record some rough demos to use as aids for doing vocal arrangements and detail-polishing. They don't need to be release quality, just clear enough that we can hear each instrument. A friend gave me an old Yamaha MW12CX USB mixing interface, which I've been trying to work out, only to discover that it only outputs one overall stereo signal, not each track individually. This is apparently common for USB mixers. How do you all recommend we go about recording, given these limitations (and given our relatively small practice space)?

These are the options I've considered so far.

1) Effectively do all the mixing up front, and then just track live. This seems to be the intended use of this interface. Otherwise, what's the point of having more than two tracks? This means no punch-ins or mistake-fixing, and mixing up front is super awkward. Plus, there will obviously be notable bleed between mics.

2) Plug guitars and bass in to the board directly but not arm those tracks to record, and only properly record the drums to start, subsequently tracking everything else separately. This has the major downside of assuming that the rest of us can play the songs while only being able to hear drums, but will obviously lead to an ultimately clearer sounding demo if we can make it work.

3) Do the first method to generate a scratch track, then have everyone track separately while listening to that. This deals with the problems of the aforementioned methods, but leaves our drummer in the awkward position of having to play drums to a track, which is hard because drums are loud even with headphones on. Even though the track will have her on it already, I imagine it'll be tough to hear and replay simultaneously.

Am I missing anything? I imagine the second method would make the most sense if we had some sort of headphone amp with multiple ouputs we could use, but I imagine those are expensive and I'm not really sure what to look for. Any thoughts?

Re: Overcoming the limitations of a USB mixer

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:17 am
by boneslygrifter
You can get a 4-channel headphone amp for about $50, maybe cheaper if you get lucky. I have one from Sterling I use from time to time.

for my money, I'd pan the drums left and the guitars/bass right, bleed be damned. But the third method would probably have the best end-product. I always play drums along to tracks with headphones on and never have any issues with volume.

Re: Overcoming the limitations of a USB mixer

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:16 pm
by Benn Roe
I'll have to look into that headphone amp. Thanks!

Re: Overcoming the limitations of a USB mixer

PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:53 pm
by coldbrightsunlight
method 2 or 3 is how I'd do it for absolute best recording quality.

But doing method 1 with a few test mixes to make it ok should be perfectly good. My old band tracked pretty decent sounding recordings with a 4 track that way. Sure there's bleed, but if you try a couple of short tests to get the levels right it can really sound quite good if things are mic'd ok. Bleed doesn't really matter unless you're planning to do significant post processing, which it doesn't sound like you are.