Old 11-15-2011, 06:47 AM   #1
swiftoid
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Default Cheap Multi-Input Recording

Hi everyone. This is a bit of a strange question. I'm after a cheap way of recording 4 or more inputs into their own tracks. Sound quality doesn't matter at all.

Basically, as part of the clock/watch repair business I work for, we repair the chiming mechanism on clocks. But to check it's working properly you have to remember to listen to the clock every 15 minutes to hear the chimes. It's easy to forget or to miss one clock out when you are testing multiple clocks at once.

What I thought would be very helpful, would be to mic up each clock with a cheap clip mic and record the input (as low quality mp3 or something) of each. Then when I want to check they are working, I could just look at the waveforms in reaper and see a visual/audio log of them all over the day and spot any missing/not working ones.

The problem is, multi-input sound cards are expensive. I wondered if anyone has come across any cheap multi-input cards, or ways of daisy-chaining (via software) the cheap £5 cards you can get on ebay. It really does need to be one-clock-per-channel so I check them properly, rather than mixing them all down to one channel.

Any ideas?
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:39 AM   #2
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Or maybe I should rephrase. How do you go about recording from multiple hardware sources in reaper?
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:04 AM   #3
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How about four cheapest-of-the-cheap usb mics?

Reaper sees all the audio devices installed,doesn't it?
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:09 AM   #4
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i assume that you are on windows but if you are on mac you can use the aggregate device that permit to see more audio device as one device
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:19 AM   #5
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Tascam 16 channels are VERY cheap, think it is he US1600. USB 2.0 and cheap. Pres suck, but they work.
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:28 AM   #6
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How about this:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Delta44/
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:59 AM   #7
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Thanks for the suggestions. To be honest though, as it's just an experiment we're not willing to spend much on it. I've spotted loads of two-channel audio interfaces on ebay for about £1.50 which would be perfect if they could be used several at once. But I think I remember reading somewhere that reaper can only handle one piece of hardware at a time. Is that true? Any way round it?

I'm not at all worried about sync or latency. All it has to do is record accurate to about 1 minute in an hour ;-)
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Old 11-15-2011, 10:06 AM   #8
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I think Asio4all can handle multiple interfaces at the same time. Not sure though.
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Old 11-15-2011, 10:22 AM   #9
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Ah, that's a thought. As far as I can tell, it does. I'll have to give it a shot when the cards arrive.
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Old 11-15-2011, 05:10 PM   #10
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What about setting them to known offsets from the correct time and recording with one mic?

eg (T = right time)
Clock A set to T. Chimes on 0mins, 15mins, 30mins etc
Clock B set to T-3. Chimes on 3mins, 18mins, 33mins etc
Clock C set to T-6. Chimes on 6mins, 21mins, 36mins etc
etc

You could do 5 per channel with 3 minute offsets, more with smaller ones.
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Old 11-15-2011, 05:55 PM   #11
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Humm, why not just use one mic and start each clock sequence 2 or 3 minutes apart. Also distance each watch a little further from the mic that would probably give you a little different response and smaller wave form.

Just a thought.

Edit: Heh heh, I didn't see the captains post, sorry about that.
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Old 11-16-2011, 02:10 AM   #12
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It's a good idea in principal, but we test these clocks in the same room where we work. Can you imagine trying to concentrate in that environment, having the same tune repeated every minute or so? I'd end up in the looney house inside a week ;-) it's bad fnough every 15 mins lol.
Also, we're regulating the time keeping of the clocks at the same time as checking the chimes, and while it would be possible with careful notation to still do it with them all a few minutes +/- the right time, in practice it would make it much more difficult, especially as you could no longer check them all at a glance.

Thanks for the suggestion though, I appreciate it.

Jamie
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Old 11-16-2011, 04:08 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swiftoid View Post
Thanks for the suggestions. To be honest though, as it's just an experiment we're not willing to spend much on it. I've spotted loads of two-channel audio interfaces on ebay for about £1.50 which would be perfect if they could be used several at once. But I think I remember reading somewhere that reaper can only handle one piece of hardware at a time. Is that true? Any way round it?

I'm not at all worried about sync or latency. All it has to do is record accurate to about 1 minute in an hour ;-)
I though that as long as the devices all appear in the list you can pick as many as you want - they just might not be in synch which, as you say, may not be a problem.

I can test it tonight - see if I can choose, for example my built in sound card and also a USB interface to record from and I'll let you know.
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Old 11-16-2011, 04:16 AM   #14
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Thanks. I did a partial test last night with asio4all, but while my pc seems to have 6 outputs, the only input is from my external sound card so I couldn't tell for sure. Pretty sure it will work though.

My sound cards haven't arrived yet, but as I only have one clock on test just now, I'm conducting my first field test with the pc's inbuilt sound card. It's going really well.

The way I have it set up, I have a lapel mic sat inside the clock case, which means there is quite good insulation from outside sounds to start with. Then I've set up a noise gate on the input FX with a sizeable RMS to cut out the sound of the clock ticking. Apart from the odd loud noise form the workshop (i.e. hammering), it seems to cut out just about everything else (such as talking and general work sounds) and only record the chimes, which makes it very easy to spot them going off on the waveform.

So, so far, success! Yay!
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Old 11-16-2011, 04:40 AM   #15
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Quick question. In the back of my mind I'm sure there was a way to playback from a different part of the project while still recording. But I may be thinking back to my samplitude days. Any ideas on how to do this?

It would mean I could check if a clock had chimed correctly without having to interrupt the recording and try to start it in the correct place again.
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Old 11-16-2011, 04:41 AM   #16
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Some interface manufacturers allow more than one of their cards to work with their driver software (I'm particularly thinking of M-audio here, but I remember more. Sometimes two cards from the same manufacturer, esp identical cards) will spell trouble as the driver can't tell them apart...

Good luck and hope it works...


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Old 11-16-2011, 05:36 AM   #17
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Hmm, had a thought. Perhaps I could write a reascript to automatically start and stop the recording on every quarter-hour period. That way it would be even easier to see if the clocks where working.

I have experience programming in php, but the reascript api is only available for perl and python. If I get some time I'll try to muddle my way through and see what I can come up with. Anyone made any similar scripts?
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Old 11-16-2011, 11:12 AM   #18
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Are you looking for completely absent chimes or different chimes/skipped chimes within a sequence?
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Old 11-16-2011, 11:16 AM   #19
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Normally it will be checking for absent chimes, but sometimes we'll want to be able to listen back to check they chimed the right sequence too.
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Old 11-16-2011, 11:33 AM   #20
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How many intervals of 15 minutes do the tests last for?

edit: omg, that was a painfully geeky way of asking "how long do you check them".
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Old 11-16-2011, 01:05 PM   #21
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Depends. If we spot errors it could run for days, if not it could be just one day. Depends on the type of clock. We always regulate them at least one full designed run-length (in other words how long they are supposed to last on one wind), but I wouldn't necessarily have to keep an ear on the chimes for all that time, just the start and end of a run if the clock is behaving.

If I were to make the script I would probably make it record 2 minutes either side of the quarter marks (For example, 3:13-3:17) to make sure the chimes are caught, as sometimes the clocks start to drift (before they are regulated). I'd also add a marker with the current time every quarter of a real hour (3:00,3:15,3:30,3:45 etc.) so I could tell what sequence it should be playing. Then I'd leave a one minute gap in the project before the next recording clip to make the divisions clearly visible. So it would go, 4 minute clip, 1 minute gap, 4 minute clip, 1 minute gap etc. with the markers falling at 2 minutes, 7 minutes etc.

I must get around to reading the docs for reascript and brush up on my python syntax, I'm too used to php.
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Old 11-16-2011, 03:17 PM   #22
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Have you tried the SWS marker actions. I am not sure how time accurate they are but it might be something to look into if you have not already.

http://www.standingwaterstudios.com/markeractions.php


It would be nice to have a feature that lets Reaper work with your computer's clock so you can set a record timer, or sync smpte to the computers clock.

If you have access to two interfaces, try to use them both at the same time, but I think without documentation saying that it will work, it could be real hit or mis.
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Old 11-16-2011, 04:44 PM   #23
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What I was thinking about was a JS plugin that could give a big red graphical alert and/or audio alert when one of the chime periods was chime free and/or some other form of representation of good and bad ones. It would seem to add the most automation into/reduce the most labour from the process.

Using it to output MIDI and MIDI Learning some associated custom actions, you could get it to record when needed and colour the possible bad parts after a recorded period has stopped so again it's much more obvious on a glance.

The only issue would be the actual time, as zappsunzorn points out. You could get round this with a button(s) on the GUI to press when on the hour (etc).

Of course an extension or VST with access to system time and custom actions would be more elegant.

Here's another nosy question.... how do you go around knowing whether a timepiece is running fast or slow? Are there gadgets to do this?
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:36 AM   #24
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When the interfaces arrive, I'll just have to see. They're only £1.25 with postage each anyway.

The JS plugin does sound interesting, but are you saying the JS can't access system time? But of a bummer.

I think I know what you're about to suggest as to regulating.. It already crossed my mind ;-) we have a standalone machine for timing watches, which basically is just a microcomputer and a special clamp mic. It's very handy and can tell us a great deal about a watch, not just its time keeping. It's amazing really what it can tell purely by listening to a watch.

The problem is, while we could use it for getting an instantaneous reading from a click ( say the average time keeping over 1 minute), because of the way clocks work it wouldn't be all that helpful. The goal of all clock makers it to have an escapement and pendulum (or other time source) be completely unaffected by outside conditions (such as temperature, pressure, humidity, motion etc.). But the fact is that most escapements on clocks are quite heavily effected by the amount of power available to run them. Most clocks use wound springs to drive them, which means that the amount of power available each day can be quite different day to day. At the start of the week it will have lots of power, at the end, not much.

Anyway, clock making lesson over, what it boils down to is that to regulate a clock, you need to do so over its entire run cycle (normally a week), and get it to keep good average time. The best way to do it is just by checking what time the clock says it is compared to the actual time and making an adjustment at the end of the week (or if it's plainly widely out tweaking it a bit mid week). So while an instantaneous reading would be handy for getting it in the ball park, it wouldn't be much use other than that. Shame really.

Anyway, as it happens I'm not too well today and I'm off work at home. If I'm feeling any better later on I might give my reascript idea a whirl. We'll see, my heads very fuzzy.
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:33 AM   #25
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Yeah, JS can't access system time but can time things accurate to whatever the sample rate is. It was worth a thought.

Thanks for the lesson too, it's interesting stuff. Get well soon!
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Old 11-18-2011, 06:07 AM   #26
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Ok, started work on my reascript only to discover that reascript has almost no usable documentation and that it doesn't work on recent versions of python. I'm getting the trouble described here: http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=78791

I'd downgrade python and just push ahead if it weren't for the feeling I'd just be banging my head against the wall trying to guess what parameters functions expect. What's the point of an API without documentation?
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Old 11-19-2011, 02:17 AM   #27
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Thanks. I did a partial test last night with asio4all, but while my pc seems to have 6 outputs, the only input is from my external sound card so I couldn't tell for sure. Pretty sure it will work though.
Yes it will work, I combined multiple USB "interfaces" this way. Though I'm still not sure about the implications of different clocks ... though cheap cards will use the USB bus as common clock anyway so this is not a problem.

OT: This solution is even usable for "real" recordings if "higher" quality USB interfaces are used, like those Audio/Video Grabber devices you can get for <$10. So you can get 4 channels for $20, 8 channels for $40, etc .. though I only used this method (while in a clutch) with 4 channels and it worked. So @OP you should do fine with ASIO4ALL.
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Old 11-19-2011, 02:19 AM   #28
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What's the point of an API without documentation?
Documentation takes time. So a lot of developers take the short cut to provide the API but no documentation. After all an API without documentation is better than no API, right?
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Old 11-19-2011, 04:27 AM   #29
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Yeah, my cards arrived yesterday. I had two plugged in at the same time and got them to play ball with asio4all. Haven't tried all four yet.

It's true what you say about documentation, I think I was just surprised as it's not the standard of work I've come to know from the cockos devs. When I'm programming and make a set of functions for use around a website, I put in-line documentation about them in the code like most programmers do. I suspect cockos probably do the same thing. Even if they just copied and pasted that into the wiki it would be helpful. :-)

Oh well. I suppose they'll get around to it some day. ;-)
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Old 11-20-2011, 06:13 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swiftoid View Post
Hi everyone. This is a bit of a strange question. I'm after a cheap way of recording 4 or more inputs into their own tracks. Sound quality doesn't matter at all.

Basically, as part of the clock/watch repair business I work for, we repair the chiming mechanism on clocks. But to check it's working properly you have to remember to listen to the clock every 15 minutes to hear the chimes. It's easy to forget or to miss one clock out when you are testing multiple clocks at once.

What I thought would be very helpful, would be to mic up each clock with a cheap clip mic and record the input (as low quality mp3 or something) of each. Then when I want to check they are working, I could just look at the waveforms in reaper and see a visual/audio log of them all over the day and spot any missing/not working ones.

The problem is, multi-input sound cards are expensive. I wondered if anyone has come across any cheap multi-input cards, or ways of daisy-chaining (via software) the cheap £5 cards you can get on ebay. It really does need to be one-clock-per-channel so I check them properly, rather than mixing them all down to one channel.

Any ideas?
Have you checked these out: http://www.ambery.com/usbsocawivi7.html
only $15 and you can Mic each chime. Enjoy and don't mind me chiming in hahah
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Old 11-21-2011, 03:06 AM   #31
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Yeah, that's basically the ones I got, only mine are even cheaper (and have less buttons) :-)
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