[ardour-users] 16-24 track simultaneous recording - HW recommendations?

Dan Tepper dan at wintaper.com
Mon Jan 2 09:45:15 PST 2006

I'm doing exactly the same thing.

I'm using an RME HDSP-9652 (pci internal). When I built the system A/D
rack units were too expensive, so I went with REM 2 AE-8I expansion
cards for a total of 16 unbalanced inputs (around $480 for the 16 analog
ins) I've recently added an M-Audio Octane to take the system to 24
tracks. No problems whatsoever with synch. I plan on updating the A/D
cards to rack units when prices fall a bit more - but frankly in a live
recording situation, the differences between expensive converters is not
as apparent as it is in the studio.

For pre-amps I use a Soundcraft FX-16 console -- this is a great little
board that has 16 very good mic-pres and direct outs on each channel to
feed the RME card. I've even fed extra monitor mixes and done PA on a
Stick using aux sends while doing live recording. Since I have 24 inputs
to record but only 16 channel inputs - I usually return the additional
(up to) tracks back on the 4 stereo returns (just for monitoring anyway).

I'm using a Rapco 24 channel split snake. I don't use transformers
unless I need them - good ones are quite expensive and cheap ones really
kill the sound. I find if i draw power from the same outlet/phase as the
house system, 95% of the time there will be no ground loops or buzz.
Carry a beefy 100ft extension cord so you can get power from the
house/monitor consoles and you should be fine.

My computer is rather beefy - I'm using a Dell Poweredge 2600 server -
dual 2.0GHz xeons, 2.5GB ram. I have five 73GB Ultra 320 drives in it -
one for the boot/system and the other four in a RAID 0 configuration
driven by an Adaptec 2200S scsi raid card. The system weighs a ton
(90lbs) and I'm planning on picking up a guitar amp case to transport
it. To be safe - I always remove the hard drives before trasporting and
I carry the drives in a separate carrier design to transport swappable
drives. The vid card sux in the server - but i only use it while
capturing a show. In my home studio the server goes in another room and
i run ardour via a remote x-session across a 1GB switch. this works
fanatastic and means I can leave ther server at runlevel 3.

One thing that is very important in recording 20+ tracks live is using
the low-latency kernels. Even with all the hardware above - and running
on a very lean system - i still had occassional xrun problems until i
got the low-latency kernel patches working. Right now I am running
kernel which I built explicitely for audio - including Ingo
Molnar's Realtime Kernel PreEmption patches. It took a bit of tinkering
to get the patch working - butwhat a difference!. Most people use the
CCRMA kernels to avoid this - however in my case the prebuilt CCRMA
kernels didn't run properly so i rolled my own. FYI - if you can get the
"egde" kernels working in CCRMA it is worth the effort as this kernel is
much better than their middle-of-the-road optimized kernel.

Dan Tepper


Justin M. Streiner wrote:

>I'm looking to make the move from purpose-built DAWs (Korg, Tascam, etc) 
>to a computer-based solution to provide more mixing/mastering flexibility 
>and a more sane interface to the machine-level guts when it comes to file 
>manipulation, import/export/etc.
>That said, I need to be able to support recording a minimum of 16 tracks 
>simultaneously (24 preferred, or have the ability to expand to 24 later) 
>at 48 or 96 kHz.  The primary use for this would be to record live shows.
>It looks like hardware either from RME would provide good base for this.
>M-Audio also makes some nice hardware, but since the inputs and outputs 
>are often combined into the same breakout box/cable, I'd end up paying for 
>a lot of functionality that I wouldn't need in the foreseeable future, 
>i.e. the outputs.  The fact that the Delta 1010 has a rackmountable 
>breakout box is nice though.
>Since the primary purpose would be to record live shows, I need to be able 
>to handle the appropriate inputs, typically an n x 3-pin XLR-m split from 
>the stage snake or a parallel split from FOH in a similar configuration. 
>RME makes a breakout cable that includes a mix of XLR-f and XLR-m 
>connectors, but in this case, I would need all 3-pin XLR-f inputs.
>I'd like to keep the number of converter cables between the computer and 
>my XLR input points bays to a minimum.
>If you've built something similar, what hardware did you use to handle the 
>audio interfaces?
>Also, if I'm approaching this from the wrong angle, feel free to let me 
>know that too :-)
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>ardour-users at lists.ardour.org

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