New System Thoughts and Hardware Advice

BTW: this modifications give me XLR outputs and inputs instead of TRS, which is great. I’ve also added PAD switches on 4 inputs that dont have gain knobs…

Yes - I’ve always filtered it down to interfaces that have balanced TRS outputs that I can then convert to XLR on the front (initially via a patch lead, but it’s looking more like a soldering job now :slight_smile: )

@adderoo - I was thinking of Komplete simply because I own it. I needed an unweighted controller and the Session Horns Pro plugin. At the time, they had a tempting deal to get the lot so I did. Haven’t used it all that much. Currently looking at the Arturia 88 for a live controller, so that’ll give some more options to get going.

@FantomXR I think I’ve caught up with your projects now and it’s all very interesting. Glad to see that somebody is doing something similar (all in one build), and the fact that you’re streets ahead of me has paved the way a bit! Also found your FB and website, so there’s a few more places to plunder for ideas

I’ve held off the hardware purchase whilst I think about the power supply points raised in this (and wait for pay day). Think I’m going to up it to 400/450 watts to give me the headroom. That would put the UPS project on hold for now. However, that opens up changing the processor to the i5 9600K, which is actually cheaper and takes the speed from 3.1 to 3.6. It ups the TDP from 65 to 95w, but the cooler is rated to 125, and I wouldn’t overclock it.

I’m also considering the audio interface - I’d initially thought of going simple, with just a pair of stereo outs (as it’s what I’m used to). However, looking at some of the things you guys do here with multi ins and outs, I might grow out of that quickly…

I think 6 is a pretty good number of outputs, 8 if you’d like to use a stereo pair as headphones.
I saw you mention Trillian, that probably means you’ll play bass. If you play that mono, add two stereo keyboard feeds (or one keyboard and one backing track) and a mono click you’re already at six.

Personally I also run my mic through and sometimes an electric guitar (mono). Once you get the options and ideas, it gets addictive :slight_smile:

Considering all the effort and money you’re putting into this solution, I would definitely recommend going to a higher tier with the soundcard. An RME Fireface UC(X) or something like that would make this a killer system with really low latency and great stability. Not to mention TotalMix, their internal mixing app, is yet to be beaten in flexibility and ease of use.

Hi - thanks for that.

I mentioned Trillian because I own it for putting together scratch tracks - hadn’t really thought of how I’d use it live, but there are times when I’ve gone out with a drummer and a bass/piano keyboard split.

I’d initially thought of mixing my own mic / keys out a stereo pair and sending back - now all this has got me thinking! I’d not looked at the Fireface before - think I’d assumed it would be pure firewire. I was tempted with the PCIe cards, but the lack of physical controls put me off.

The project was originally to serve as a replacement for a stage piano - quick and easy to set up and use. With my initial 2U design I’m running out of panel space for extra I/O. What I might do though is open up the possibility of using the rear panel, or put a breakout interface on the front.

Early days - I’m waiting for a payout to get the PC hardware ordered and set up. I’ve spent the weekend looking into Protocase to see whether their software could yield a good system. Having the costs fairly hidden though suggests it might be expensive (but looks good).

Again, lots to think about, and thank you…

Scroll down for pic(s)

Just thought I’d update on this project - it was being funded by gigs, and lockdown stopped that. When I picked it up again, I almost started from scratch. A prototype is virtually finished, and I’ve got plans for v2…

  • 2U Rack with 2x1U punched front panels customised
  • All connections on the front
  • 15V DC Power adapter
  • Internal DC UPS providing about 30 minutes of backup power (in case of power trip, no unclean reboot)
  • NUC i5 motherboard with 16GB RAM, 1TB NVMe, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth. Options for 2nd M.2 drive, external SSD drive, 2 more USB ports
  • Motu M2 audio interface, wired internally
  • 4 port CAT snake built onto the front (currently separate to rest of system)
  • All internal connections duplicated on the front panel with d-type black metal connectors.
  • Power output socket to power active monitor speaker (thinking of dropping this in v2)

It’s running Windows 10 pro & Cantabile Performer and I’m just setting up bindings for a Keylab mkii. The stage display is a touchscreen that runs off a single USB-C cable. The keyboard/mouse if needed is a Logitech wireless keyboard with touchpad - the dongle takes up 1 USB socket. Was going to go for a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse, but that wouldn’t be available at BIOS.

I’ve stress tested the system over many hours, and it does not get excessively hot. I’ve left it on for days in Cantabile, having a play when I walk by and it seems rock solid.

I opted for a NUC board in the end. There were a lot of ideal SBC boards out there, but only available in bulk. I changed my mind on the PSU and went for a small fanless 120W Meanwell supply. As 90% of my gigging involves sending a mic and keys l/r XLR cables to a desk, and a monitor return XLR I built a 4 port snake into the front. There is another end that plugs into the desk, meaning I just run a single ethernet cable for my signal. The snake is currently separate to the PC, and the output from the audio interface is manually patched externally. This still gives regular balanced outputs on the front, plus the ability to feed a regular keyboard down the snake (as a backup if the PC packs up). With v2 I’m planning on internally patching the audio interface to the CAT socket and dropping 2 front panel connectors, instead having 2 balanced jack sockets that can either receive an external source and pass down the CAT lead (input mode) or output the audio interface (output mode).

Long story short, it’s a PC that fits in a rack bag, place it vertically on the floor next to keys, plug monitor in (USB-C cable), plug keys in (USB cable), plug mains in (kettle lead), plug into the desk (CAT cable) and you’re away.

Desk end of snake (note, XLRs yet to be soldered on)