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ASK the Doctor


91.John: Using my Layla24 the best way? 12/20/01 
92.Bob: 2 ADATs, a mixer and an SR-16 drum machine? 1/27/02 
93.Chris: Recording my acoustic guitar better? 2/10/02 
94.Mike: 4-track dumps to CoolEditPro not syncing right? 2/20/02 
95.JohnH: I want to master my own recording? 2/21/02 
96.Bruce: How do I make a "thin" singer sound better? 3/6/02 
97.Marco: Sync Cubase and an ADAT without using one track for SMPTE? 3/7/02 
98.Tom: How do mixer busses work? 3/24/02 
99.Mark: How do I send effects to one track, not the whole mix? 3/28/02 
100.Andru: Syncing my Tascam388, a Layla24 and Samplitude2496? 4/4/02

91. John: Using my Layla24 the best way?

I own a Layla24 and I'm trying to decide what kind of preamp to invest in. What are most people running into the Layla24? Does your input signal come from the 1/4 inch inputs or the optical in? I'd like to be able to record with 5 or 6 mics at one time.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear John,

There is no "what are most people doing". 5 or 6 mics at a time will require 5 or 6 preamps or a mixer with at least 6 preamps. The output of the mic preamps would go into the analog Layla inputs. If you buy a device with an optical output, you can plug that into the Layla optical input

John responds:

Thanks for the reply. It's a home studio and I want to record Guitar, Bass, Keys, Vocals and possibly live drums. I like the Idea of the Mackie 1604 and I guess this would be entirely analog. Like you say, out of the 8 preamp/board channels into the Layla24 1/4inch inputs then back from the layla24 1/4inch outs to the 8 mackie inserts.

If I go digital I guess the 8 ins and the 8 outs would not be used here? The entire mix would flow thru the one optical in? Even though you may be running 5 different mics thru a digital mixer there is only one optical in. The Layla24 still separates the lines? I'm still confused... I still don't know when the S/PDIF in and out insted of the optical in and out on the Layla24 would apply or be used. Any idea? I have a Dell sys with 770XTP, 384meg, 40gig.

the doctor responds:

The Mackie 1604 VLZ would be a good match, not the smaller 1202.

..."Like you say, out of the 8 preamp/board channels into the Layla24 1/4inch inputs then back from the layla24 1/4inch outs to the 8 mackie inserts."

A typo, I hope because this is exactly wrong. Inserts on the mixer are not for playback outputs from the Layla. Signal chain should be:

1. mics/instruments --> mackie channel inputs 1-8

2. MACKIE OUT TO LAYLA OPTION(A): channel direct outs (De-assign channel from mix buss and subgroups) --> Layla analog inputs
MACKIE OUT TO LAYLA OPTION(B): assign channels to sub groups 1,2,3 or 4 (De-assign channel from mix buss)--> subgroups output --> Layla analog inputs
MACKIE OUT TO LAYLA OPTION(C): channel effects send (De-assign channel from mix buss and subgroups) --> Layla analog inputs

3. Layla analog OUTputs --> mackie channel inputs 9-16 assign to mix buss only

4. mix buss output --> monitor amp/speakers

This config allows you to listen through the Layla outputs. The optical input on the Layla24 is for the ADAT lightpipe which can pass 8 discrete channels at a time. If you had an ADAT recorder, you could record on all 8 tracks and send all 8 digitally into the Layla in 1 pass. The S/PDIF is a stereo digital connection for connecting to a S/PDIF equipped DAT player/recorder or S/PDIF equipped outboard CD player/recorder.

I would get more RAM because its so cheap right now AND another seperate hard drive to record your audio files onto. You will need a CD-RW to backup all the audio files too. You're going to have some fun.

92. Bob: 2 ADATs, a mixer and an SR-16 drum machine?

Five years ago we recorded in a 24 track adat studio. Recently I purchased two of those adats and a Alesis32 board. I watched the engineer use them but I am learning about recording as each day goes by. Three questions involving the SR16 drum machine.

1) I understand somewhat about the datasync2 although I did acquire a syncman midiman. One better or easier than the other, 2) Without a sequencer will the sr16 play with the sync tone alone i.e. just writing the drums on the machine itself as it is being slaved without bringing in a computer, 3) Will either of these two units synchronize more than one adat because of that 9 pin connector and how would that hook up?

I had thought about getting a DAW which already incorporates all this midi and sync or should I stay with this?

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Bob,

If you plug the sync jack out of 1 ADAT into the sync jack in of the other one, they will work together and stay locked. The 1st ADAT will be the Master and you will use the play, rewind, forward and stop buttons on it to get around. The 2nd ADAT is called the Slave. It chases the Master ADAT. You arm the tracks you want to record on each ADAT.

I think the datasync2 reads the ADAT sync jack and outputs MidiTimeCode(MTC). If the datasync2 puts out MidiStart commands and/or MidiSongPositionPointer, then you go to the midi Setup buttons on the sr16 and set it to external. When the ADAT starts and reaches the code start point you put in the datasync2, the sr16 should start and play its pattern or song that you've programmed.

My guess is the datasync2 goes after the first ADAT. It has an ADAT sync in and ADAT sync out on it. The ADATs daisy chain together, from 1 9-pin Sync Out to the next ADAT 9-pin Sync In, so you can theoretically hook up as many ADATs as you want.

Getting a DAW is another whole can of worms. I'd stay with this for now and get your recording chops together. You can always go digital but you better have deep pockets, it can get expensive very quickly. Read my Recording Handbook and the PC recording section.

93. Chris: Recording my acoustic guitar better?

hi doc. i hope you can help... i am recording with a new BOSS BR-8 digital 8track. the problem i am having is...when i put the music into my computer, then onto a cd, i am hearing this ringing noise throughout the recording. it seems that my high notes are ringing too much on the guitar. (an ovation celebrity)

i am micing and using the line out of my guitar-runing it into a mixing board, then into the br-8. i've tried lowering the highs and removing the effects used in the br8 (like reverb & doubling) which all seems to help a litle, but not fully. my process is this...record guitar through a mic-through a blue tube-into mixer, along with a line straight from the guitar, then into the br-8. from the br8 to my imac using sound edit 16. from there i save it as a sound designerII file and burn it onto a cd using toast.

so, i need to know:
1. how to mic & EQ an acoustic-electric guitar, and get a warm sound.
2. how to get it into the computer and have it be loud enough, and clear.
3. any step by step suggestions that you have for my dilemma.
please, i hope you can help. i greatly appreciate it.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Chris,

The recorded sound can only be as good as the instrument being recorded and the technique of the player. Either you're hearing exactly what your guitar playing sounds like... or something in the signal chain is altering it. And there's a lot of places for that to happen.

Are you recording the mic and line output onto separate tracks? what kind of mic? where do you place it (aim it) at the guitar? What kind of mixer? Are the strings new? What kind of room are you in for the recording?

In general, the line output from the guitar is going to be a lot thinner than the mic. In this kind of situation, I like to record the mic and line out on separate tracks for more control in the mix. I usually use more of the mic sound for the fullness and the line output for the top end.

Compression usually helps acoustic guitars a lot as well. You have to be careful with compression though, because it'll bring up everything, including the noise floor and/or sloppy technique. I like to use a condenser mic and I generally position it about 10" from the 12th fret aiming towards the soundhole. This avoids the boominess coming out of the soundhole but gives a nice round tone.

The actual part you're playing also changes things. If its harmonics, then closer and more in front of the mic might be better. If its a heavy strumming part, then back away a bit from the mic. Listen back and make sure there were no unintended ringing strings or harmonic overtones going on. You can't fix that later!

94. Mike: 4-track dumps to CoolEditPro not syncing right?

I got a problem maybe you can help with. I've been dumping tracks off 4-track tapes into Cool Edit Pro, hoping to sync them up later in multi-track mode. With some tunes I get everything synched perfectly at the beginning of the track, but gradually they become out of sync even though they are in still in perfect pitch. What's the problem here? Is it a bitrate problem?

What I actually do is this: I pan 1 track left and another track right, then record into Cool Edit @ 44100, 16-bit Stereo. I do the same with the other two remaining tracks. Then I bring them into multi-track mode, zoom in real close, and try to line them up - most times unsuccessfully. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Mike,

The way to fix the problem is get a soundcard that has at least 4 inputs so you can dump the tracks all at the same time. Thats the only way to avoid your present problem. You might get away with it for a 30 second spot, but a 4:00 minute song, forget about it.

Try the Terratec EWS88 MT (8 analog ins/outs, 2 dig in/out)$399, M AudioSport Quattro(4 analog ins/outs)$259,C-Port DSP2000 (8 analog ins/outs, 2 dig in/out)$449,Echo Layla (8 analog ins/outs, 2 dig in/out)$799... there's others, these prices are all out of the latest catalog.

95. JohnH: I want to master my own recording?

I'm considering getting into mastering since I did all the recording for my own project. I need to know where to begin. I want to get this project broadcast or radio ready and duplicated. I mixed down to a DAT machine. Now what? what do I purchase as far as software? I have a gateway computer; 660 mHz, 20 gig hard drive, Intel Pentium processor, DVD, CD-R and CD-RW drive, 128+ rams (?) and a 56k modem.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear JohnH,

Get the latest EQ magazine (vol.13 issue 2). "The Mastering Myth" is the cover story. Lots of good info in there. Mastering software will give you multi-band Compressors, EQ and limiting to play with.

My 2 cents is if you're going to try and master, get good speakers. Bi-amped 2 way speakers are reasonably priced now and you'll need accuracy to do a good job. The other thing is have some cds handy that have the sound you're after and A-B your mastering against them to keep your perspective.

Some good speakers would be the Mackie HR-824(around $1400 a pair), the Event PS-8's (about $800 a pair), Alesis M1 (about $500 a pair) and Behringer B2031 (about $400 a pair). Try,, or

96. Bruce: How do I make a "thin" singer sound better?

I’ve got a situation where the singer has decent pitch and great melodies but the voice lacks the depth of some of the more powerful singers. Do you know of a good way to enhance a vocal that is lacking in this “bottom end” and increase the depth of the vocal track?

I got 3 mikes SM58, Rhode NT1, C3000B (which is what I normally use).

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Bruce,

You might want to try the SM58 actually, put up a pop filter and get him right on top of the mic. The proximity effect will bring out any low end he's got. You could also put up the NT1 or the C3000B beside the SM58 but a couple of inches back. That'll keep the high end intact and you may be able to add a bit of it together with the SM58 later when you mix. Print them on separate tracks, then you can see how the blend might help.

Another trick is double tracking and using a bit of the 2nd vocal underneath the first to warm it up. Most singers can't listen to previous takes and execute doubles, even though they always want to hear some of the take they're singing with. They'll almost always sing a bit out of tune to hear what they're doing. Keep the first take low in the cans.

My trick is to not let them hear the old vocal at all. Most of the time I come across 2 types of singers. If they are the type of singer who simply can't repeat anything, then you're screwed. But I've found a lot of singers actually sing the same lines the same way everytime, so I record 2 passes, say the first verses back to back and listen to that. Then I go in and record the bits that need fixing. I send the singer a pre-mix of only the track they are doing, but I monitor both tracks together in the control room. I can hear right away what lines are right in and what lines need to be tweaked.

You could also thicken his voice up with some harmonizer very slightly detuned and tucked up under his voice in the mix. What kind of song it is and the production will tell you how far you can go with any of these techniques.

97. Marco: Sync Cubase and an ADAT without using one track for SMPTE?

I wonder if it is possible to sync my adat to cubase without occupying one adat track with a smpte track. I have the feeling that I could do it if I buy the BRC remote control for my adat. But I am not sure about it. Can you please tell me if I am wrong? PS: hope my english is not too bad; I apologize ... ehm, well, I am italian.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Marco,

Yes. You need a "DATAsync2" made by JLCooper. It connects to the ADAT sync port and outputs MIDI time code, SMPTE and Song Position pointer. It also allows you to use MMC(midi machine control) from your sequencer to arm tracks on the ADAT.

Its better to use the ADAT as the master with this setup so Cubase will chase the MTC and jump to where you start the ADAT from. It only costs around $200 and thats a lot cheaper than a BRC. Go to and check it out.

98. Tom: How do mixer busses work?

Hi there. I've just progressed from using a 4T Yamaha MT3X recorder, to using an 8T Fostex 454 mixer and Fostex R8 reel to reel. This business of setting the "bus" switches when recording a track, is confusing me! I want to record an instrument by itself, while replaying some other tracks, and half the time I'm finding that the already-recorded tracks are being re-recorded onto the new track, along with the instrument I'm supposed to be recording!

It's all to do with the "busses", but I can't quite work out the rules of how it all works! (There are 4 busses on this machine). How do I assign new tracks to a bus, while playing back other tracks, without the other tracks getting re-recorded, please? Thank you for your help. Tom.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Tom,

There are 4 busses AND a mix(L/R) buss. The r8 tape inputs are fed from the mixer buss outputs, the r8 tape outputs are fed to open channels on the Fostex mixer and assigned to the mix(L/R) buss, the Fostex mixer mix(L/R) buss feeds your monitor amp/speakers.

all signals that you want to send to the r8 are "de-assigned" from the mix(L/R) buss, AND assigned to the buss(es) of your choice.

The tape outputs (returns) are assigned to the mix(L/R) buss, which you're listening to.

As you overdub, make sure the already recorded tracks are de-assigned from any busses, and are assigned to the mix(L/R) buss, so you can hear them without them going back to tape again. Only the new tracks to be recorded should be assigned to busses.

99. Mark: How do I send effects to one track, not the whole mix?

Thanks for your incredible site. Quick question ... I have a Fostex 454 board (eight channel) and a Fostex R8 reel to reel. I want to run effects to specific tracks only, not the entire mix. I don't have a manual for my board, so I need help figuring this out. Thanks a ton. Mark

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Mark,

The board should have 1 or 2 effects loops available. It would be a knob(s) in each channel strip called "effects" or "effects send". This controls how much of the signal on that channel strip is being sent to the effect. You need to set this properly so it won't overload the input of the effects box, unless you want it to distort!

If it has a "pre" and a "post" switch, that means PRE, the fader level has no effect on how much signal goes out to the effect, its going all the time(the famous faraway sound getting closer uses this trick... set the fader off, reverb effects to PRE, effects return up, and you'll only hear the reverb, then start to bring the channel fader up and fade out the effects return and the sound seems to get closer) and POST, the fader controls what gets out so if the fader goes up, more level goes out the effects send and vice versa.

The effect box itself plugs into an "effects send" jack and an "effects return" jack, these may be mono or stereo, probably located in the master in/out section on the back of the mixer. On the master control/ level section of the mixer, there's probably an effects return knob (maybe effects return 1 and effects return 2). This controls the level of the output of the effects box.

You want your effects box output to be set to all effects (100%). This way, the channel strip sets the source signal level, then you set the level of the effect with the master effects return knob. Only channel strips with the effects send turned on will send to that effect. ie, you want reverb on vocals on channels 1234 only, turn those sends up... keep the effects sends on channels 5678 OFF!

100. Andru: Syncing my Tascam388, a Layla24 and Samplitude2496?

Good doctor... I've recorded for a number of years on a variety of open-reel machines. My current favorite is the Tascam 388 (great quality and affordable tape). I generally run all the tracks into the computer through a Layla (by Echo) and do the final mixes through Samplitude 2496.

Here's the question: what do I need in order to synch the tape with Samplitude (affordably). Can I basically run an adapter through the word-clock to track 8 on the tape, and slave Samplitude off of that, or is it more complicated?

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Andru,

The way to do it is with SMPTE on track 8 of the 388, and a "SMPTE to MTC" converter box ( The converter box reads the SMPTE off of the 388 track 8 and outputs MTC(midi time code) to the PC. Configure Samplitude to be the MTC slave and it will chase the 388.

Word clock is for syncing digital devices, not analog devices, the 388 wouldn't know what to do with a word clock signal. Read my Recording Handbook about using SMPTE for syncing tape machines for more details.
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