As I said before, I recently bought a Mackie 1604 mixer and added it to my Pro Tools workstation. I came up with what I consider to be the ultimate layout for the mixer. Obviously everyone has their own needs and their own gear so this won’t work for all. But it might give you a few ideas of how you can improve your own audio monitoring.
1/2 (Open) 3/4 Video Deck Out 5/6 DAT Out 7/8 (Open) 9-16 Pro Tools Out 1-8
1 Computer 2 Ipod 3 Laptop 4 DVD
Main L/R Sub1/2 LS/RS Sub3/4 C/LFE
1-6 Pro Tools In 1-6
1/2 Pro Tools In 7/8 3/4 Video Deck In 5/6 DAT In
In VCR Out Out VCR In
There are a few key ideas behind this layout. The first is the use of Inputs 9-16 for the Pro Tools. This came straight from the 1604 manual itself. It has a layout for an 8-channel multi-track recorder that does the same thing. Typical post-production sound thought is to put your Pro Tools on 1-8 since it’s the single most important piece of gear. However, by moving it down to 9-16, it opens up the Direct Outs 1-8. These take the signal coming in on Inputs 1-8 and pass them out, post-fader, through the Direct Outs. This way you can send those into your Pro Tools and not use up your sub-outs.
The second key idea is Aux Returns and Aux Sends as additional Ins and Outs. Often these are thought of as paths to send signals for effects processing that then returning them to mixer. A channel insert will run an effect on a single channel like a compressor on a microphone. But an Aux Send and Return can be used to add reverb to many channels at once.
That’s all very cool for working with a band but not very useful for a digital audio workstation. So forget it. The Aux Returns are 4 additional stereo inputs. You can see that I used them to patch in my computers and what not. It’s mostly about listening to music. You can put anything you want here. It doesn’t have to be stereo. In some cases, especially Aux Return 1 and 2, they can be sent into a “record” path were they would go back into your Pro Tools. But for the most part use it for gear that you simple want to listen to on your speakers.
The Aux Sends give you 6 mono channels out to whatever you patch. They are accessed on the Input channels themselves. This is an easy way to do something like send a stereo pair from Pro Tools to be recorded on a DAT or a Video Deck. I also put Pro Tools itself on a pair of Sends. It’s for greater flexibility. I can’t see myself using it much but it would allow me to loop a sound out a Pro Tools through the board and back in. Maybe I wind up with some amazing analog reverb unit. It could be patched into a channel insert and sent right back into Pro Tools for recording. That’s the idea. As I said before about Direct Outs, it also frees up sub-outs.
You need the sub-outs for speakers. This is the third key idea. Typically I’ve set up 5.1 surround sound on mixers with 8 sub-out busses. Six for the speakers and 2 to go back into Pro Tools. But with this setup we’ve already handled all the paths back into to Pro Tools—and other gear for that matter. Put your left and right speakers on Main Out. Most other inputs like Aux Returns and Tape In all monitor by default on Main Out. Then use the four sub-outs for your 4 additional speakers, Left Surround–Right Surround and Center–Sub.
By using this setup I was able to extend the 1604 (16 ins, 4 sub-outs) to 22 Ins and 14 Outs. And I didn’t touch the Control Room Outs which could probably be used for something else. Plus I have 4 open Ins right on faders on my mixer.
Now if only my video path were so easy.