Soundcraft Si consoles

(Anotherashworth) #1

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…
http://manual.ardour.org/signal-routing/Patchbay/

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.

(Niels) #2

A bit late to reply to this, but: One should also consider the Qu series from Allen&Heath. I use a Qu16 regularly and I do live recordings mainly with its built-in recorder to a 32GB USB stick. Plus, it offers 24ch I/O on USB which is not too hard to use. (The only caveat is: ch. 1-18 on the USB recorder are the same as 1-18 und the USB audio interface, there is only one common routing.)

If you aren’t exactly short of cash, it might be worth checking out the new SQ series bei A&H. The SQ-5 offers an incredible amount of bang for the buck and a 32ch audio interface. (It can record only 16ch to USB, though).

Anyways, thanks to the original post, I regularly use a Soundcraft Impact and I always have wondered how to use it to record into my Laptop (running kxStudio 16.04 with Ardour, of course).

(Don Estabrook) #3

@mashworth Thanks very much for the detailed information! I recently started working with an Si Performer 3, which I believe runs the same software as the Expressions. I’m considering the purchase of one of the digital I/O cards as well, and I had wondered if there would be any hope of getting it to work with Linux. And as you’ve discovered, the manual is a tad short on details in some places. So this is very helpful indeed. :slight_smile: I have a Firewire interface available on the computer side (PCI card) so I’m potentially interested in how your friend makes out with the Multi-Digital card.

(Anotherashworth) #4

The Si Performer looks very nice. I’m drooling. Have you considered getting a mini stagebox 32 and an ethernet snake? In that situation the MADI-USB card is a better choice. I’m going to try out that combination this week. I will have to remap fader layers on the console to add the extra input channels. I expect that Ardour will still see them as channel numbers 1-32.

I don’t believe that Soundcraft has their own proprietary DAW. I think Ardour would be a nice companion. Behringer probably sells a lot more X32s. Perhaps someone who has one can start a thread on how to set that up? More people should find out about this tool.

(Don Estabrook) #5

In fact we’re planning to buy a Mini Stagebox 32 in the next few months, hopefully. The Performer has two option card slots, so that could give a little more flexibility with recording/other interfaces. It appears (although this is another area the manual seems confusing) that one of the slots has in/out capacity of 64/64 and the other is 64/56, but only 32 of those outputs are patchable, apparently. Looks as though the Mini SB 32 uses 32/16 and USB can support 32/32 (is this USB 2.0?) so in this case nothing’s lost using the MADI/USB card in either slot.

(Anotherashworth) #6

I tested the mini stagebox 32 today and remapped 28 channels to fader layers A and B on my console which has 14 input slots per layer. I remapped the direct outs to USB channels 33-60 and created an Ardour session with 32 tracks. I didn’t see any conflicts.

I’m puzzled by the toggle switch on the stagebox that says 56ch/64ch. I left it in the 64ch position. The 8 return output channels didn’t seem to consume any of the 32 MADI input channels or interfere with the USB channels.

Today I noticed that there is a Behringer X32 topic already with a lot of posts. I should have guessed.

(Bazsound) #7

ive used the experssions a few times and while it was an easy desk to use (once setup) from the point of someone with little digital experience i didnt find it that great a desk for the cost of it. However it did sound find, it did what you asked and the effects sounded very good.

the eq i found required doing alot more than you would think you had to do as if it wasnt doing much, quite a few engineers ive talked to say the same thing.

for the money id probably rather have an x32 or if a little more money is availible the m32. Patching is mutch easier and simpler and even though things are done in blocks of 8 there are ways round it.

Im not sure what everyones problem is with the x32. Truth be told it works and it works well at an incredible pricepoint.

anyway this isnt an x32 topic.

Thanks for the detailed information this will be of great help if i come across another si expression and need to record.

(Anotherashworth) #8

I was ready to buy an x32 but someone I know had to return his twice for broken faders. Have you had any problems?

(Xherbie) #9

I own a x32 and used it the last 2 years without any problems for many gigs and recording projects. In my opinion a very, very good mixer for that money. Behringer released the x AIR XR 18 (http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/XR18.aspx) which could be an alternative to the x32.

(Bazsound) #10

x32 is good mixer for money, the si expression is outdated and over priced .

behringer has made a hell of alot of the x32 so you are bound to quite a few reports of issues .

ive had touring bands come in with x32’s that have no issues.

if you have a bit of an extra budget you could go for the m32.

(Anotherashworth) #11

I agree that the x32 family provides more features at retail prices. I stumbled upon an inventory clearance sale and bought my Soundcraft at a big discount. The hardware and layout are very good but I realize that physical controls on digital mixers are actually a user interface to a computer program that runs DSP chips.

Touch screens are cheaper than hardware and I expect them to become the dominant control surface in the future. I haven’t used one yet that feels reliable all the time. Until then you’ll have to pry the fader from my cold, dead hands.

(Paul Davis) #12

mashworth: don’t assume that digital mixers use DSP chips. The current versions of stock CPUs are entirely capable of handling the DSP requirements for contemporary mixers. Several companies do precisely this (and even run Linux internally).

(J Rigg) #13
I'm puzzled by the toggle switch on the stagebox that says 56ch/64ch. I left it in the 64ch position.
The original MADI spec allowed for 56 channels. The 2003 revision of AES10 increased that to 64. That's at sample rates up to 48kHz - at higher rates fewer channels are available.
(J Rigg) #14
Touch screens are cheaper than hardware and I expect them to become the dominant control surface in the future.
I don't see touch screens becoming the standard control interface for live mixers any time soon. The need to keep fingers on several physical controls simultaneously while watching what is happening on stage rules them out IMO.
(Don Estabrook) #15

mashworth: I’m curious, now that a few months have passed, did your friend meet with any success with the Multi Digital card? I’m potentially interested in the Firewire interface (true, it doesn’t seem very well supported any more, but I have a 2-port PCI FW card that I’m currently using with a Focusrite Saffire), although at this point my main question is whether the USB interface in the Multi Digital card behaves the same as the one in the MADI/USB card.

I’m about to buy a Mini Stagebox 32, and either the MADI/USB or Multi Digital card. The Si Performer models have 2 option card slots, and the stage box comes with a MADI card, so the Multi Digital card could be an option for me. I’m still leaning toward the MADI/USB card though, partly because of your report that it works, and partly because it would leave a slot open for something else in the future. Oh, and it’s cheaper too. :slight_smile:

(Info) #16

Hi,

Slightly OT, but I play in a band with regular weekend gigs and we have our own PA but occasionally hire a sound contractor for larger gigs, they recently went to those Mackie boards with iPads and even with giving the benefit of the doubt to allow for a bit of a learning curve after a few different shows I couldn’t agree with mashworth (and others) more about faders vs. touch screens. Simple problems like monitor mixes that could be a addressed in seconds with a hardware fader or auxiliary knob can drag on for several minutes while screen page after screen page is flipped through on the iPad…

iPads are great to record the show or post to your fans on Social Media… as a control surface not so much IMHO. Technology improves many things, but certainly not everything :wink:

(Seablade) #17

@GMaq

Depends on how it is used, but I need to come back to this later, I just got home from a nice 2.5+ week trip and am a bit tired.

   Seablade