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  #1  
Old 08-01-2013, 07:40 AM
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Default Audio snakes?...

Hello all,

I stumbled upon this in a youtube video while I was browsing on organizing my little studio: they referred to this sort of device that basically sends all of the connected microphones' data through 1 cable, with the possibility however to recuperate these as separate tracks for recording, which seems quite interesting: anyone familiar with these? This may seem a ridiculous question, for which I apologize but I am only a beginner when it comes to PA, but could I connect this "snake" to a simple 2 XLR input audio interface, instead of connecting the mics 1 by 1 to a bigger (and more expensive) interfase?
Thanks in advance :-)

Video link: at about 0:45
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-KsTAl9nyg
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:15 AM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Yep - that's what they are all right.

However, snakes make alot more sense when you have more inputs to plug into. Usually starting at 4. I have a couple of 8-channel snakes and it makes life easier on stage. All the mic cables would plug into one end of the snake (usually positioned center stage), and then the snake cable goes to the mixer. Very handy. I don't think you'd need one for just two inputs though - unless you want to buy a snake with your eye towards expansion.
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:23 AM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Snakes are most useful when you're running more a few channels long distances. In a typical studio, you might have a wall box (which equates to the same idea) between a control room and a live room but if you're using a mixed control and live environment, there's little point in using a snake and it will prove expensive - especially if you're just dealing with a 2-input interface.

The really cool thing is the stage boxes with an ADC in them, running a Cat5 cable to a desk. They're a fantastic idea but also fantastically expensive.
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:24 AM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Thank you for the reply! I am currently working on my little studio (already have the drums, haha...) and well, my brother and I have been saving for quite some time to invest in some quality gear. I would probably start out with buying 2 quality overheads, bass drum and snare mics, to have a decent sound, but I do plan on expanding it, and potentially running quite a few more microphones. I am aware that audio interfaces usually run 4-8 microphone inputs, and that may well work; however, I thought it might be a good idea to run my microphones into the snake, which would go into a ______ ? I'm guessing interphase/laptop/mixer? That's the part I can't get my head around, and that's where the snake may be a good investment, but I can't seem to find helpful (and understandable) information online. I'm looking into the snake mostly for recording purposes, so I'd probably ditch the mixer for now.
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:31 AM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Ok.

The easiest control path is Microphone -> Interface Preamp (via XLR) -> Digital Transfer Protocol (USB/FireWire, etc.) -> Laptop -> Monitoring.

You don't need a mixer. A snake is just a way of managing your XLR connections. A snake is essentially a bundle of lots of XLR leads put together and managed with a nice box on the end.
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:39 AM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
The easiest control path is Microphone -> Interface Preamp (via XLR) -> Digital Transfer Protocol (USB/FireWire, etc.) -> Laptop -> Monitoring.

You don't need a mixer. A snake is just a way of managing your XLR connections. A snake is essentially a bundle of lots of XLR leads put together and managed with a nice box on the end.
Understood. :-) So, I gather that the more efficient/ less restraining option would be to opt for one of those 8 microphone input interfaces? That is what I was considering at first, however, this "snake" thingy popped up and since I didn't quite have a grasp of its use, I figured I'd ask. :-) Would it be possible to, lets say, expand on the number of microphone inputs? So, say I buy a 4 microphone input interface, could I expand on it later with other connectable devices, or do you recommend that I obtain the larger interface once and for all?
Thank you for the great help, much appreciated :-)
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Old 08-01-2013, 03:27 PM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Get the larger interface - it'll be cheaper in the long run.

Some interfaces can do what's known as 'daisy chaining' - wherein you can link two together for a total of double the inputs but starting with an 8-in is a solid choice for drum recording. For a lot of drum recording, 8 inputs is more than enough. Start with overheads, then add a bass drum microphone and then a snare mic. Toms are your last priority and getting a good overhead sound is really the key. I do most of my recordings with just a pair of overheads (sometimes just one) and a bass drum microphone. If you're clever, you can actually record an four-piece band with 8 inputs, provided that you know what you're doing and don't want too many options. The most I've ever used simultaneously is 15 but I was recording a choir with accompanying instruments. I've recorded Orchestras with 4 with acceptable results. Make sure that any interface you buy has 'phantom power' (also called +48v), otherwise condenser mics won't work with it.

The mic placement is the most critical factor when it comes to recording, everything else is secondary (outside of technical faults, like broken leads). Learn the different overhead techniques first (there are several, Glyns, XY, AB, Blumlein, M/S, etc.) and that will give you the best foundation from which to continue - suggest learning AB (spaced), XY and Glyns first of all. M/S is specialist, as is Blumlein and rely on particular microphone specifications. I use mainly XY and M/S but the more tools you have in the box, the better you can decide what is appropriate.

You're going to want a decent pair of condenser microphones for your overheads. I would recommend a pair of large-diaphragm condensers that you can use on a lot of different instruments.

You would plug the microphones straight into the interface using XLR cables, set up your computer so that the interface is your primary sound device, then open DAW software (such as Logic, Reaper, Cubase, etc.) and select which inputs you want onto which software track. Then you can adjust the gain on the mic preamps (built into your interface, usually controlled on the front) and get a healthy signal.

You can add a mixer into the chain before the interface and use the preamps on the desk but this is certainly not necessary and means that you'll have twice the number of XLR leads. All of the mixing you need is on the DAW software.

Which software are you considering?
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Old 08-01-2013, 06:57 PM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

In a nutshell, get a snake if you want to make sure your floor space is uncluttered, you need to manage more than 4-6 mic cables, our you have an issue with how far your mixer and or recording station is from the instruments. We bought a 100 foot 16 channel snake that also has 4 returns for our rehearsal space.

The rest of this post is a long description of how we have our space set up and with what types of gear. My answer to your snake question is above but if you’re interested read on. I am waiting to catch an airplane and had a little time on my hands so I thought I would describe our rehearsal and recording rig. Please forgive the long post.

Our mixer (old Tascam 2400) and digital recorder (Zoom R16) are on the other end of the room. The room is 28' x 36'. With the snake set on the stage( 24’ wide by 8’ deep), it is about 32-36 feet away from the mixing board. We got a 100 foot snake because running it off to the side walls, across and back over to the mixer in the rear center of the room is more like about 68-70 feet including getting up to the height of the mixer stand.
It is a wonderful convenience but if we were running only 2-4 mic cables, we wouldn't bother.

On my drum kit, I am using 7 mics. BD, SN, two toms, pencil condenser for the ride, another condenser for my hats and a large diaphragm condenser as a single overhead. Four vocal mics and three mics for 2 guitar cabs and 1 bass cab. So that's another 7 mics. That leaves us with two more inputs for guests. We run our monitor return out of the board directly to 4 daisy-chained wedges. The guys say they can hear themselves sing and they can find the sweet spot between their amps and the wedges so they can hear themselves well. I can't tell.. ..well not when it gets loud.

The primary purpose of our space is to be able record rehearsals so we can all listen back and improve. We are also (slowly) recording select songs as we polish them up so that we have a bunch of songs recorded as best as we have yet to play them. Mostly for posterity, to one day be able to play the recordings and say this is what we played and what we sounded like. None of us are doing this to make a living or even attempt to sell records.

One monitor return back to the snake comes to me and through an old Mackie 4 channel mixer that I do two things with. I am the one who tweeks and manages our recording scenario so I like to have a monitor mix back out from the R16 recorder so I can listen and tweek if Tom, our sound guy, is not around.

We have an old Onkyo Pig 1600W amp running 2 pairs of PA speakers each side daisy-chained. A Crown 1200 powers the sub-woofer and a Crown 1000 runs my Buttkicker(s). A single ddrum trigger on the bass drum goes to an inexpensive (bottom of the line, ha ha) Simmons drum module that sits next to my 4 channel mixer and I send an 808 type bass drum sample to the BK transducer mounted under my throne for bass drum monitoring. Heaven!

The room sound is fantastic because of the size and the hard wood floors and vaulted ceiling. The monitor mix for everyone is pretty good. I am in heaven with my monitor mix because I am running a well leveled and EQd mix from the mixer to the recorder which gets tweeked a little before it leaves the board (some EQ but mostly panning). A single large condenser mic positioned near the mixer captures the overall room sound from the board position and goes directly into the R16 digital recorder; tweeked again on the R16 for a well-balanced sound. Combine that with feeling my bass drum through my whole body and I always feel like I am “on-point”.

We keep a small line rack cabinet on the stage for my Crown amp. It also has an effect rack unit on there that has some compression, gating (currently not need or utilized) and most importantly a limiter on it so I can wear my in-ears from time to time and not risk blowing out my ear drums. So my monitor mix goes through that effect rack and out to my headphones or in-ears. I have a splitter from my little Mackie so that one of our guitar players who like to sometimes wear his in-ears can do so without needing his own little patch mixer.

The Onkyo amp that runs the PA speakers has an effects rack unit on it as well that we add mostly reverb and chorus too to help out our vocals. We’re getting older and don’t sing as well as we used to so we need a little help :-)

The Crown amp that powers the monitors doesn’t have any effects on it so the monitor mix from the wedges is more subtle with very little carry over reverb and chorus from the PA speakers picked up by the mics.

The Crown that powers the sub-woofer is adequate but the woofer itself is sort of lame. I think we need a bigger one. Everybody else but me likes it but I think it muddies everything up. I think I might try gating it a bit to see if that helps. I only have a couple of years of experience with sound reinforcement and recording techniques and there is so much to learn.

When we do longer (all weekend) recording sessions, we sometimes hook the R16 up to a desktop computer running Cubase. I am learning to do more work on the front end and mixing and mastering become a little easier afterwards.

I highly recommend the Zoom R16. Bo Eder recommended it to me a long time ago and I have been very happy with that $400 purchase.

I am very satisfied with our live room sound and getting happier session by session with our recorded sound. It has been a true joy to play music in that space. I highly recommend putting in the effort to get your space the way you want it. It is very rewarding.
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Last edited by TTNW; 08-01-2013 at 07:10 PM.
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Old 08-01-2013, 07:00 PM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
Get the larger interface - it'll be cheaper in the long run.
My thoughts also :-) from what I gather, they go at around 300-450 $ right? I'd probably invest a little more if needed, just to get quality that will actually last longer, because I don't think I'll be upgrading the interface any time soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
The mic placement is the most critical factor when it comes to recording, everything else is secondary (outside of technical faults, like broken leads). Learn the different overhead techniques first (there are several, Glyns, XY, AB, Blumlein, M/S, etc.) and that will give you the best foundation from which to continue - suggest learning AB (spaced), XY and Glyns first of all. M/S is specialist, as is Blumlein and rely on particular microphone specifications. I use mainly XY and M/S but the more tools you have in the box, the better you can decide what is appropriate.
You're going to want a decent pair of condenser microphones for your overheads. I would recommend a pair of large-diaphragm condensers that you can use on a lot of different instruments.
Well, that's quite some terminology! I better start figuring out what these are. I think I've stumbled upon the XY and AB methods on youtube, but I'll look into them again.
Any suggestions for the condensers? I think I'll start of with 2 quality condensers, the interface, and build on that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
Which software are you considering?
I currently have Logic 9 running on my Mac, and I've used it a few times, but for really basic stuff, so I think I'll spend some time youtube-ing tutorials and the like.
Thanks for the help :-)
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Old 08-01-2013, 08:47 PM
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BacteriumFendYoke BacteriumFendYoke is offline
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

That's probably a reasonable kind of price range. USB interfaces are fine these days, FireWire is technically better (if newer Macs still have it) but in my experience, the differences are marginal at the consumer level. Once you have a decent interface, it should last you years. There aren't any sudden technological changes in the consumer market and if a new version of an interface comes out, the benefits are usually fairly marginal. I've had mine for five years and never considered upgrading it. More expensive interfaces will have better preamps and A/D conversion chips but these are only issues once you're working at a high level - most consumer interfaces in your price range are good enough. Presonus are a very popular manufacturer and for good reason.

AB and XY are the two most common setups. Glyn Johns is also quite popular these days, all of them are valid and have advantages and disadvantages.

What kind of budget are you looking at for the microphones? Around the 100 Pounds (I'm British) range, the SE Electronics X1s are a good buy and AKG C214s are a decent performer if your budget is higher. There are also decent microphones that are less expensive but I'm less in touch with where the value lies these days. Small-diaphragms can give you a little more top-end and are perfectly fine too. In the 'budget' category, the most consistently-picked choices seem to be AKG C1000s or Rode NT5s. Both are quite similar. If you're looking for an omnidirectional overhead (as opposed to cardioid - which most of them are), the best value I've ever come across are the Karma Audio 'Bullet' microphones. I have a pair of those. They're tiny but they're great - the only issue being that because they're omnidirectional, they're more susceptible to poor performance in a mediocre acoustic environment.
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Old 08-02-2013, 07:22 PM
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
That's probably a reasonable kind of price range. USB interfaces are fine these days, FireWire is technically better (if newer Macs still have it) but in my experience, the differences are marginal at the consumer level. Once you have a decent interface, it should last you years. I've had mine for five years and never considered upgrading it. Presonus are a very popular manufacturer and for good reason.
May I inquire, what interface do you recommend? Or, in any case, which is the one you are currently using?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
What kind of budget are you looking at for the microphones? Around the 100 Pounds (I'm British) range, the SE Electronics X1s are a good buy and AKG C214s are a decent performer if your budget is higher.
Considering that, as I mentioned, I won't be considering upgrading this gear and that I have the savings available, I'd rather bite the bullet and go a little more expensive, if it would mean not having to sell them off shortly, and having to invest more money. So, I guess I could spend 200$ (130 or so pounds) on each mic, give of take. I was considering what you suggested, insofar as acquiring first a pair of quality condenser microphones, then a bass drum mic, and then a snare drum mic. I've got it pretty much figured out for the snare and kick, but there seems to be such a large array of overhead microphones available that I am quite frankly a little lost.

(Sorry for not replying to your post TTNW, I'm still working on understanding all of it, given my lack of expertise as far as the terminology related to PA gear goes :-) )
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Old 08-02-2013, 07:29 PM
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BacteriumFendYoke BacteriumFendYoke is offline
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Default Re: Audio snakes?...

In terms of interfaces, I would be looking at a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (USB or Firewire - your choice) very seriously.

My interface is a Line 6 Toneport UX 8. They don't make them any more. If I had to buy a new one around the same price, it would be the Focusrite.

There are others but I'm out of the game at the moment!
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