Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R

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Over the weekend one of the Noisegate crew was out and about helping record the debut EP of local Melbourne indie/psych band B!and and we were lucky enough to get up close and hands on with some of the gear being used in the session.

This is how the recording session played out…

We’ll Do It Live

The band laid down four tracks over a couple of days and these were tracked live whenever possible. Scratch tracks were laid down first with the whole band playing live  (with the drummer ((and other members when required)) being fed a click track for easy comping later on) and then the of course some overdubs. Apart from some juicy mic choices such a couple of AKG D112MKII’s being used for kick in, floor tom and bass cab, a Sennheiser 441 on vocals, guitars and a sneaky, secret spot on the drums and a Rode K2 for vocals, guitars and as a mono room mic, there were a couple of integral pieces of gear used to run the recording session. The Soundcraft Ui24R was chosen for its 32/32 USB recording interface and its insane input and output count, allowing the whole band to be tracked live with monitoring and headphone send flexibility. The Tascam MH-8 was the headphone amplifier of choice, sporting multiple inputs and outputs and way more than enough guts to send the band members clear, punchy headphone mixes. Such a relief for a loud band tracking in one room.

Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R
Tascam MH-8 Headphone Amplifier
Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R
Soundcraft Ui24R Digital Mixer/Recording Interface
Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R
Sennheiser 441: Used for Guitar

An often over looked piece of gear in recording studios, portable recording rigs and not to mention live situations where a band is using in ear monitoring is a solid, reliable headphone amp. It is an invaluable piece of equipment, as many of us have probably experienced a less than desirable headphone mix when recording or playing live, with either not enough headroom to get a loud enough feed or dodgy equipment that’s falling apart. “Just give the headphone jack a wiggle” has become an all too common phrase heard by musicians when battling unreliable gear for their headphone mixes.

The 1U sized MH-8 proved to be very solidly built with clearly laid out front and back panels. Having several options for input connections at both pro and consumer line levels available via XLR, 1/4” and RCA connectors and 8 stereo left and right 1/4” direct inputs was a treat. On the front panel multiple switches for inputs, (including direct and mono options) presented themselves on each of the 8 channels, making individual headphone selections quick and easy. Although not the cheapest headphone amp available on the market today, you definitely get what you pay for. This is a really well-engineered, rugged and reliable unit, as you’d expect from Tascam. There were absolutely no complaints from the band in regards to not being able to hear themselves properly, their mixes not being loud enough or anything cutting in and out, phew, sweet relief!

Workflow, Workflow, Qorkflow

Having the MH-8 paired up with the Ui24R seemed to be quite the match. The MH-8 was simply connected to, turned on, turned up and left to do its thing. Exactly what you want from a headphone amp. The Ui was of equal no fuss and reliability. The sound quality of the preamps on this mixer and results achieved were pretty astounding, especially given the very affordable price. Headroom for days! As for using the Ui’s stable HTML5 based GUI on the laptop, creating individual headphone mixes were a breeze. Its multitude of aux’s plus two headphone amps can be patched and routed in multiple different ways from simple to more complex setups. To create headphone mixes for the band then simply flick back to Logic made for an incredibly fast and reliable workflow without tying your brain up in signal flowing knots.

Soundcraft Ui24R HTML5 Based GUI 

Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R
Aux Send Screen
Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R
Gain Screen
Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R
Input Patching Screen
Live in the Studio: With the Tascam MH-8 and Soundcraft Ui24R
USB Patching Screen

The main engineer/producer of the session hadn’t used the Soundcraft Ui’s GUI before but due its intuitive layout picked it up without any hassles and was really digging its ease of use. “It’s a mixer on a webpage!” were the words exclaimed with enthusiasm over the course of the weekend. Being able to set and control your gain structure, monitoring mix levels, individual headphone sends and add in any extra tasty DSP such as EQ, compression or effects (yep, the Ui has a full complement of onboard processing from DBX, Lexicon and Digitech) for some creative vibe worked seamlessly. Although most audio interfaces include some sort of software control over these integral parts of a recording session, the Ui’s well laid out interface made for quick setups and any changes needed throughout the two days. To then jump over to the Logic session to hit record made so much sense. Keeping things simple like this allowed Logic to be used more like a tape machine and let the Ui do the heavy lifting.

After a lengthy couple of days recording, because let’s face it, no recording session is exactly a half day affair, both band and engineers were happy but exhausted. Luckily pack up was quick and painless. Although not transported in the one case for this session, the MH-8 and the Ui24R only take up 5U worth of rack space between the two of them, making for a very compact, portable rig. With everybody stoked with the results from a smooth and hassle-free couple of days recording, it’s a big thumbs up for the Tascam MH-8 and the Soundcraft Ui24R. Two very well-crafted pieces of kit that complement each other well, both in recording and live environments.   We can only hope to see these two solid pieces of audio gear being teamed up together more often.

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