Recording with a Soundcraft Si requires an option card. There are two: Multi-Digital card and MADI-USB card. This post applies to the MADI-USB card. At the end I’ll explain why I chose it. This is a long discussion but hopefully it will help you avoid the pitfall and frustration that hit me.
Make sure to download the user guide for your console and MADI-USB card from Soundcraft’s website. Update your firmware if needed. v1.6 or above is required for the Expression series.
Boot the console and connect the USB port on the card to your computer. You may want to create a new “SHOW” on the console touch screen before making changes.
Select a channel and then “INPUTS” on the touch screen. Scroll down to direct out and select one of the MADI-USB channels. The console User Guide will tell you how to do this.
MADI-USB User Guide - read this sentence on page 9 carefully…
“The card is sent out of the factory in a standard configuration that allows for 32 channels of Stagebox connectivity and 32 channels of USB recording located on channels 1-32 and 33-64 respectively.”
This means that USB outputs will be located on 33-64 unless you change the card’s dip switches to a custom configuration.
Page 12 has conflicting information…
“The audio to be recorded is typically sent via the ‘direct outputs’ on the source channels, for example: Channel 1-32 on the console would be sent to Direct out ‘MADI-USB Combo Card 1-32’ and then to DAW channels 1-32 as illustrated in the table below.”
This does NOT work with the standard configuration of the card. To send direct channel ouputs to the USB channels you need to patch 1-33, 2-34 etc. This will still show up in the Ardour patching window channels 1-32 as you would expect.
The playback instructions on page 13 are also confusing. You should not map MADI-USB output back to channel inputs 1-1. That will send them to the MADI channels. The console mapping from USB to channel would be the reverse of what you did with direct outs: 33-1, 34-2 etc.
You may want this to mixdown on the console but it will shut off the XLR inputs to those channels and it’s a pain to reconfigure back. I have not investigated whether you can make this kind of change and save it in a scene that you can toggle on/off. I’ll check when I have time.
If you just want to play the stereo mix from Ardour back through your console you can map the Ardour main LR output bus back to a stereo input channel on the console. That will leave the rest of your inputs available for recording. There are two places you need to map: in Ardour and on your console.
First make sure that the card is connected to your computer. Then start Jack, or let Ardour start it, and select the Soundcraft device. In Ardour open the Window menu and select Audio Connections.
This will open a mapping window that looks similar to this but has more channels…
The Master L,R out is located on the Sources side under Ardour Busses. The output device (USB channels) are located on the Destinations side under Hardware. Map the L and R outputs to a pair of USB channels that you have not assigned to tracks.
On the console you need to remap a pair of input channels (or 1 stereo channel) to a pair USB channels. I use a stereo channel that is normally mapped to a pair of 1/4 inch jacks on the back of the console. I can control my playback volume with just one fader.
On my console, Si Expression 1, stereo inputs begin at channels 23 and 24. I would map USB 55->23 and 56->24 to use the first stereo slot. Remember that USB has a 32 channel offset. The default input mappings for all the consoles is listed on page 32 of the user guide. You can change that by remapping the Fader layers but that’s another subject.
If anyone who reads this has a Multi-Digital card you might consider posting your recipe. A friend of mine has one but has not gotten it to work yet. He would like some help.
I recommend MADI-USB over the Multi-Digital. The Multi-Digital has firewire but no MADI and costs $100 more. All laptops have USB ports but it’s very difficult to find firewire on anything but a Macbook. Even there, it’s likely to dissappear eventually in favor of USB-3.
When I bought my card a couple of months ago I could only find one source in the US who had them in stock: fullcompass.com. That may have changed by now.