Bill, absolutely, I love to talk shop, especially the A/V / lighting / controllers end of our industry.
Indeed I'm using a Firestudio Lightpipe. It was going to be the Presonus kit or the M-Audio ProFire Lightbridge. I've used M-Audio's gear in the past and it's usually pretty good (though some of their drivers have sucked, badly). From what I could figure, the M-Audio product might have actually worked better for me. I *think* their software would have allowed me to route 1 input to multiple outputs, in essence a matrix switcher, but unfortunately it seems like every tech in that company has their head up their ass and couldn't (or rather, wasn't willing to) find out.
I went with the PreSonus for a few reasons; Their techs are awesome, answering every question I threw their way. They were willing to send out a demo unit to test with (M-Audio literally laughed at me when asked for a demo). Rackable out of the box, no dicking with custom panels or slapping it on a tray. The last nice feature was an assload of blinking LED's. Who doesn't like blinking LED's? The PreSonus has 131 of them Seriously though, it's nice to be able to monitor a channel at a glance.
For D/A & A/D, I was originally looking at some gear from Apogee, but the cost was just absolutely rediculous, over 3k per bank of 8 channels EACH WAY. I put off researching DAC solutions and starting looking into EQ's, I actually almost wrote off the whole project due to the cost of the DAC's, but anyhow... I really only looked at DBX and Alesis as those are the two that I'm most in love with for EQ'ing. Then I came across my golden ticket as it were, the Alesis DEQ-830. Basically, it's an 8 channel, 30 band digital EQ that fits in only 1 (!!!) RU. I noticed it happened to sport a ADAT I/O and 8 analog TRS I/O's, quickly downloading the manual, I confirmed it does A to D and D to A conversion. So, out of the Firestudio with a single optical into the DEQ830 gets me 8 analog, EQ'd outputs which then feed the power amps. (Though some of the channels run into crossovers and compressors, depending on where it's going).
Last year I started off with a single DEQ-830 to test with. I didn't have much test time before the season got started so I kept most of the previous sources in place (Denon dual tape wells and dual well CD decks). I figured if the sound was going to go down, I would rather 8 channels go out than the entire house. It worked well with only a few (not major) glitches. I'm going to expand it to 4 DEQ830's this year giving me 32 channels and finally get rid of the flakey CD decks and the takes-for-hell-and-ever-to-dub tape decks.
It's nice to be able to click a single icon on the desktop and the sound comes up. I'm using Ableton Live as the DAC source and while it works, it has a very steep learning curve, at least to use it how I want. The way you have to build the playlists per channel is incredibly time consuming and not perfect. You have to set forward points and loops based off of musical time (bars, notes, etc) rather than just based off of linear time. I'm looking for a better way to playback the tracks but so far, I haven't come across anything. Since the software has to support an ASIO driver, it's a little more difficult to find a software package.
In addition to the DEQ-830's this year, I'll be upgrading our front of house rig, new compressors, a wireless mic setup for providing announcements to the line, a QSC PLX 3602 (big power!) and I'm thinking right now a pair of JBL JRX 125 tops with some flavor of an 18 or dual 18 sub box. This will go hand in hand with a fully automated and chorographed DMX lightshow utilizing a number of Chauvet COLORado's on the front of the haunt. It should be pretty sweet, I'm excited to get started with it, though not looking forward to the hours since I can really only do it at night.
It's a shame they haven't done a new rev on the 8Traxx, it's such a nice piece of kit, the limitations really bother me though. I want 192k at minimum, per channel. For the cost and the limitations, it's very hard to justify to me. You can buy eight, 8gb Nano's brandy new for significantly less than what an 8Traxx cost. Obviously you lose the triggered input capability, but for general house soundtracks... Again, not knocking the product, AMB makes some awesome gear, but it's certainly "Disney priced". Not including the cost of the computer, the Lightbridge / DEQ setup works out to $75 per channel of audio. Even with 8 channels last year, using FLAC encodes for the source files, the 4 year old Compaq (I think it's an Athlon of some variant) that I used for the DAC was only touching 10% of processing power. Another 24 channels shouldn't max it out (though, it will probably max out disk speed as FLAC's are rather high bitrates. I'll probably do a RAID stripe or something). I picked up a few dual Opteron server blades that will be the computing power for most of the haunt now to run ticketing, VoIP phone system / Trixbox, audio, DMX, etc etc.
Should be a great year for us technical wise
Operations Manager & Technical Director