Cantabile - audio interface + mixing desk config for my EDM band?

In my 90s dance band, I have 2 keyboards, a “bass” keytar, and electronic drums all connected via MIDI USB into a laptop, playing VSTs in Cantabile.

The drums & synth VSTs are all “pre-mixed” in Cantabile, and every song is mixed to -14 LUFS. So as a minimum I could just give a stereo out to the mixing desk, for the sound engineer to tweak. But I may want to separate this into more sends (your advice is welcome!). I’ve had good and bad experiences with sound engineers, I’ll just leave that there!

I have a lead and two backing singers. I want the vocals to go direct into the desk, so that even if the laptop dies, the mics don’t stop working.

I want song specific delay and reverbs on all the vocals, using VST effects in Cantabile. To achieve this I think I need a separate send from the desk for each vocalist, into an audio interface, and then 3 more separate audio outputs back into the desk?

I use a self-created backing track (for the less interesting stuff), so I need an output for that into the desk.

I also have two click-tracks, one for the general band for count-ins and break-downs (where no drums play) and a second for the drummer that is a continuous click. So that’s two more outputs from the audio interface to the desk, and then into the appropriate monitors.

In summary, the audio interface will need:
3 mono mic ins (i.e. mono sends from the desk)
1 mono drummer click-track (1)
1 mono band click-track (1)
3 stereo vocal effects (6)
1 stereo out for the combined/pre-mixed live instruments + backing track (2)
(or separate: mono kick (1), stereo snare/clap (2), stereo other percussion (2), stereo global reverb (2), stereo synth bass (2), stereo synths (4), stereo backing track (2) = 13 outs)
So that’s between 10 and 21 outs, depending on which config I go for.

Assuming I go for the simple option, then I need an audio interface with 3 mic-ins and 10 outs.

Q1: Does the above make sense? Have I missed anything?
Q2: What audio interface should I go for?
Q3: What mixing desk should I go for?
Q4: Is there a way to connect the audio interface to the desk “digitally” (SPDIF maybe?) so that I don’t need physical cables for all the ins and outs?


I’ve had good luck with a Behringer x32 Rack (lots of those x32 vintage to look at). I’m leery of pushing that much (your list) through a single computer and Cantabile. Typically, in my situation, each sound generator (electronic drums, guitar sim, vocal mics, keys, Cantabile, sampler, etc.) go to the x32 and the x32 applies channel, buss, and house effects as needed. x32 is normally applying reverbs, delays, and compression (channel, buss, mains). If amp sim needs an abnormal effect (say Wah), sim has to apply internally then send to x32). This system does require analog cables to supply the x32.

Also, SysEx can be sent from Cantabile via midi 5pin to the x32 to change the mix for each Cantabile song (Faders, effects mix, delay times, etc.). x32 can be hooked to a WiFi router and anyone with RJ45 or WiFi can control their personal monitor. I think it has about 22 physical inputs and 16 physical outputs.

As to midi and usb IO, I’m using m-Audio midisport 2x2 and Lexicon Alphas. These are inexpensive, but I’ve never had a problem. Typical VST route is: Controller 5-pin to Midisport to Cantabile to Alpha to x32 then analog outs. Vocals, drums, non-VSTs go straight to x32. Everyone has a personal stereo mix in addition to House mains.

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Thanks easteelreath, for your insight.

I just found a product called a “microphone splitter”, that I wasn’t aware of.

So for each mic I could split one line into the desk (off-stage) and the other into the laptop audio interface (on-stage) to apply song/section-specific effects in Cantabile.

This would save having to run long vox effects send/return cables between the desk and the audio interface. The laptop will be on stage, and the desk could be some distance away, particularly at a large event.

I’ve been gigging with Cantabile for about 7 or 8 years now. Like easteelreath I would be careful of this approach unless you have a very powerful computer and rock solid interface. And a backup rig! Because if your laptop goes down but it’s supplying all effects and most of your sounds including drums, it’s a show stopper.

My bands use essentially the same approach he does… everything into the mixer, and we use the onboard mixer effects. FWIW I use a Presonus Quantum 2626 interface that’s 8x8, or 8x10 if you configure the Main outs. It’s Thunderbolt and extremely low latency of 3ms. I’m also leery of some sound guys but you will have to give them separate instrument outs at some point. I suggest it’s better to build that into your songs now rather than later. You can change Audio ports later in Tools/options/audio ports, and could even combine them all into 1 stereo feed by assigning them all to the same stereo pair.

For effects I guess one option would be to have Cantabile send a song change sysex to the mixer as he suggested. Each song would have it’s own snapshot on the mixer. Then on the mixer, use the aux sends to Cantabile for effects, and each mixer song would vary what’s getting sent from Aux. It really depends on how complicated your effects are.

But there are downsides to this. A few years ago I was in a band with backing tracks, and every song was perfectly mixed with the whole band (electronic drums) and saved as a separate snapshot on the mixer. Then a year later the lead vocalist got a new mic. Uh oh, time to go thru and copy/paste new EQ and volume into each and every song. So I abandoned that approach. Alternatively, you could have just one mixer setting for the whole show, one or two Aux sends pre-configured, and then have Cantabile send song-specific effects.

I’ve often considered doing more esoteric and time-sensitive vocal effects in Cantabile, especially for one of my bands where we have a click and backing tracks, so I can easily bring effects in at exactly the right moment. Still haven’t gotten to it… it’s easily possible, but is it really that important to the audience? That’s a very subjective scenario. And if the answer is yes, I’d spring for a dedicated, top notch sound guy instead.

Just my .02. But you raise some very good questions!


On the subject of having everything running rheough one laptop, vs maybe a laptop per person, ultimately if we’re using cantabile anywhere in the band then theres always going to be a reliance on a laptop somewhere. And if ANY of those laptops fail then its a show-stopper. Its a choice betwen 1 catastophic point of failure or 5. The consequence of any of them failing is that the show has to stop, and we reboot/swap the failed laptop. So to my mind the best thing to do is to have the simplest set up, one laptop, maybe with second on stand by.

I just finished loading my new laptop Lenovo V15 G4 IAH £500 and wired up about a dozen vsts and effects. Pressed all the keys at once and absolutely hammered it. I tracked it all in performance monitor and it was like a walk in the park.

So, i agree hardware is best for reliability. But then we’re in a cantabile forum where we’re already making that reliabilty sacrifice.

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That’s what I do, split the signal. One signal goes direct into the mixer, other goes into the interface for laptop processing. The laptop’s processed vocals are returned to the mixer and feed the main mix. The direct ones are used only for monitoring (one of our guys doesn’t like hearing the miniscule latency from the processed signal while singing), and I also use that original signal to generate some verb & delay on the mixer (instead of adding more processing to the laptop).
I have the ART S8 3-way (real happy with it):
but ART also has a simpler one like the Behringer you shared:

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With my main band I run everyone’s outputs into a Behringer XR18, and each player has a P16M personal monitor fed from the XR18’s networked monitor feeds. Cantabile controls everything that the XR18 does, including lifting up audience mic’s for the in-ears between songs.

I’d definitely suggest a look at the P16 system for monitoring, as it makes life easier for everyone involved. It works with the X32 as well.


Agree wholeheartedly on The_Elf’s comments. I had both the X32 and the X18 and used P16’s with both and there is no better way to monitor IMHO. Each band member gets to choose how they want their monitors to sound and levels of each. Plus, if you have a large band, you can string together up to 48 of these, and each person can still have total control without affecting the signal from the mixer.