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  #1  
Old 11-27-2020, 11:18 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

[Could only post first part of six - waiting for mods to approve the rest of my responses.]
Hopefully this is a good area to get some feedback. I've probably spent more than 40+ hours the past few weeks scrubbing through all relevant threads across this and all other major sites regarding the pros and cons, woes and victories, concerning various Pro Tools setups over the past 12 weeks (as depicted in forums).

Personally, I always avoided Pro Tools for my own work. I didn't really know it well, other than a friend who used M-Powered in 2004, which at the time, looked to me like a joke compared to Cubase or Samplitude or pretty much anything else. (I did know that the "real" Pro Tools was the DSP solution and cost big bucks, but I had no way of getting into that, so I didn't even bother learning about it.)

With the spread of YouTube and the Internet's informational resources, I've seen Pro Tools in use in videos. I still resisted it, since forums are filled with people who say they are so happy they got away from it and from Avid, etc. So, instead, I bounce between Cubase, Studio One, Ableton, and have even tried others to see where they're at.

However, the last couple of years, I keep getting the bug to learn more about it. So, I've been diving in deep via video courses that the Ultimate trial version. (tried the "First" version first, uninstalled immediately, thought "yep, still a joke" - but then for some reason searched the next day about it and realized, like M-Powered, it's a completely different version from the "real" Pro Tools)

Via the Ultimate trial, I've been impressed that so many useful commands are represented as single keypresses. I never was one to take the time to customize Cubase's key commands other than a select few. So, for example, I didn't even know the concept of "trim clip start/end to cursor", or of having a separate edit cursor from the play head (which I assume allows editing while looping playback, right?).

The other thing is, I sort of appreciate the fact that so many folks in forums show up even in recent years with HD systems from 2004-2009, and only NOW are thinking of upgrading, and some still don't! That kind of longevity is what I need.

For example, I have recently shunned Apple for the SECOND time in the past several years due to their constant upgrading of hardware, OS lockout (such as inability to rollback to an older OS from before your computer was built - good luck all M1 beta testers!), ridiculously bad keyboard designs (why they took a very good to excellent keyboard from 2014 and earlier just to save 1 mm beats me - I am pretty sure Steve Jobs would have fired Joney for that!), poor cooling and basically false advertising in the CPU capacity (no wonder the M1 is so fast - the Intel chips always ran at no more than 70% of their ideal performance!), lack of upgradeability - you get the idea.

Likewise, I feel like Cubase and Studio One are in a permanent sibling rivalry. Cubase had just started to get easy to access again in 9.0 and 9.5, but now they add too many features without making them easy to assimilate visually. Studio One is sort of the same. And while I wouldn't mind using Studio One all the time (very useful in its chord track implementation and things like that), I hate its mixer and the way it just looks, while the Cubase one is pretty good.

Last edited by rockafella; 11-28-2020 at 12:02 AM.
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  #2  
Old 11-27-2020, 11:21 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

So here I am - Pro Tools seems to have a nice, unchanging (for the most part) interface, the mixer design "just works". I haven't gotten deep enough into using it though to see if niceties that are lacking (such as how Studio One lets you just assign one or more tracks to a new bus, and automatically that bus will get assigned to wherever those racks were going, etc., or you can drag and drop it) will deter me from admiring what I've seen so far in my trial.

My use case is for my home studio. I am not really a pro, not yet anyway. I might like to try to make it a profession. Maybe not.

The funny thing is, I currently have two banks of 32 inputs via the StudioLive III mixer and rack units. They can't be used together, but technically, I have up to 64 inputs. I use them for different synths and keyboards, etc. Very little live mic/guitar tracking. I like the concept of having everything plugged in and ready to play and jam (even with DAW closed), OR to just record. I realize it would be way more cost-efficient to just use a patch bay or mixer to select 8 or 16 inputs at a time, but the StudioLives are a nice cheap way to get a lot of inputs!

So, I am in a quandary - Pro Tools Ultimate standalone (non-HD) is 32 inputs max, with not even a way to pay a license/tax to Avid to get more. (I still don't get why they don't just charge for this, like for voice "packs".) HD Native via Thunderbolt core would only double that to 64.
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  #3  
Old 11-27-2020, 11:22 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

I probably only use around 40 right now, but I'd like the ability to get more.

So then I looked at the HDX cards. On one hand, they seem old-fashioned. On the other, they fit in with my new mentality of finding a setup that WORKS, and works well, and DOESN'T get updated so often, and even just unplug so to speak, like many old HD setups still do. (i.e., minimally update Windows, keep the plugin versions locked, and treat it like a giant studio in a box/digital mixer/turnkey system)

I've spent so much time upgrading, buying more plugins, switching DAWs, etc., that I feel like my free time for music is spent on these sorts of not-so-productive activities for 50% of the time!

Now, I realize HDX is overkill, and at first, I thought, it doesn't make sense - the cost of multiple MTRX interfaces would be way too high. Even used 16x16 analogs would add up to quite a bit for 64 channels, but at least they would have the delay compensation for recording external overdubs or hardware inserts.

But then I realized, the old 192s probably sound just as good, especially if externally clocked, and those are much less expensive... even LESS expensive, and just as good as the HDIO, are the digital blue boxes... StudioLive only works via AVB or USB, BUT, I recently discovered that the current MOTU interfaces will work with AVB and now work with PreSonus, and the 112d interface, in particular, has approximately 48 (perhaps a few more) digital outputs, 128 AVB inputs, AND 128 inputs to the computer over Thunderbolt. So, I could use other DAWs via low-latency Thunderbolt direct. And then, if I really want 64 (or rather, 48 to start) channels to Pro Tools via HDX, I could also take the digital outputs from the MOTU 112d and patch them into a whole bunch of blue digital HD boxes!
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Old 11-27-2020, 11:22 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

The only caveat there is the StudioLives run at 44.1 or 48 kHz only - I know the grey digital IOs will do Sample Rate Conversion on the digital ins right in the box, which was another nice find. I am not sure that the blue boxes do though - so then I would have to decide whether to spend more on used grey digital IOs (16x16 each) or limit myself to 48 kHz (which is what I usually use now, but thinking of going back to 96 kHz for even lower latency) and use the cheaper, older blue digital IO boxes.

So that is a whole box of fun yet difficult decisions right there!

Compounding that - I realized that, using the MOTU, or any non-HD interface (and even some HD interfaces), Pro Tools will NOT sample-align the recording to automatically compensate for delay, right? So, I would still probably include an analog HDIO 16x16x16 in the mix to have some good converters for doing hardware inserts or mic recording, via external preamps. I know the delay offset can be calculated, but I don't want to have to re-calculate this every time the sample rate or buffer size changes. And I think it can only be set in milliseconds, not samples, so it's not as accurate as it could be?

I would just get a brand new MTRX Studio and be done with it, but then I've read that it also does NOT record align (automatic delay compensation of the converter) either, so it's basically like using any non-Avid interface! Not to mention, it would be slow for any other DAW software, since then it would use the Dante virtual soundcard, right, which I've read is 10 ms+ of latency right there.
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  #5  
Old 11-27-2020, 11:23 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

So THEN the other option is, of course, just get a third party conversion that is perhaps less expensive than the MTRX Studio, and hopefully one that matches the converter latencies (like Lynx does). The Orion Goliath looked interesting, but I was so glad I did not get sold on an Orion 32 by Sweetwater years ago... my guts told me it was a spotty company, I felt like they came up with new products way too frequently, and it seems I was right (lots of issues for people in the seven years since, and Sweetwater no longer sells them).

I do have a Lynx Hilo now, so I like Lynx - but I read that the Aurora converters are so-so. The new ones are perhaps better, but expensive as well for 64 channels.

Symphony II might be a choice - but I read people have woes with that too! I could do the other idea there also - 8 or 16 analog ins and outs, then a boatload of digital ins/outs, fed by the MOTU 112d, acting as a converter for the AVB from the StudioLive.
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  #6  
Old 11-27-2020, 11:23 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

Now to top all of this pain and misery off - after I research the HDX cards for the fourth or fifth round (being worried that something new will come out) - I saw the updates that it seems they abandoned increasing voice count to 384 per card, and it will always be 256! Then on top of that, I have now read that the fan kicks on only at full speed, so they're very loud. Then the enclosures I would need for my Thunderbolt laptop would also add noise. So then I'd have to run a 60 foot, $500 optical Thunderbolt cable, which seems to flake out after 6-18 months (judging from B&H Photo product reviews), PLUS a bunch of super-long Digilink cables, just to run the HDX cards in a closet/machine room!

And for HDX, this is all on top of my previous indecision about it - reading here and there that some people stood up for it from 2012 until even this year in these same forums and others; whereas others burned the image of HDX whenever they can, saying HD Native is the only sane way.

I kind of agree on native being more powerful than ever. On the other hand, I like the idea of NEVER having to worry about being able to punch in on a very developed song idea/mix with no latency! (albeit limited to AAX DSP plugins) I know I could just use a regular interface's direct monitoring/onboard DSP effects - but the idea of having the plugins all in Pro Tools directly just jives with me. I hate the use of RME's TotalMix, for example. Wastes my time and I feel like I am relearning it every time. (not to mention the 0dB full scale blast that I, like so many others before me, suffered when I was first testing it out and hit the "default"/reset profile button!) Maybe MOTU's CueMix is better (it looks better!). But it just seems cool for some reason (retro in a way? lol!) to have the HDX DSP on tap.

But then, even if I am in a mood of thinking "yeah, HDX is the way!" - I read the threads where people say that the latency can be higher in HDX than at 64 sample buffer native settings, due to the fact that crossing the DSP barrier to Native CPU and back, each time there is DSP plugin followed by a Native plugin, sounds very worrying! Not to mention that more voices get taken up for those "mixer patch points" being added.

If anyone actually reads all this, you deserve a (virtual) beer/coffee! :)

So then, what are my questions - I guess I am just looking for some fresh thoughts on:

-- going HD Native vs HDX;
-- forgetting HD and just using the Ultimate license with a regular Thunderbolt interface (such as the MOTU 112d, carrying my StudioLive mixers from AVB to Thunderbolt - but being limited to 32 inputs);
-- whether HDX cards would run cooler and quieter if I just build/buy a tower PC rather than using my laptop via breakout box (I've thought about it - my laptop is plenty fast though - six core i9 Alienware with good cooling);
-- whether I am being too nostalgic/optimistic on Pro Tools overall, and maybe all these features that seem "new" to me really are already in Cubase/Studio One/etc., and I should just make the time to learn the shortcuts/assign them;
-- thoughts on going "all in" now with HDX and HD interfaces, or starting slow, such as just licensing software, continuing to use limited inputs for now (limited to 32 anyway), or getting just HD Native for now (but I hate the idea of spending $1,000 for the dongle/converter box - and then $300 for the Digilink license if I start off with used interfaces - doesn't seem any other way though if MTRX Studio truly doesn't sync the hardware inserts/analog takes automatically - there is no interface they sell new that I would want, in that case).

The paradoxical thing is - I thought that pursuing the learning of Pro Tools would help save me time from using other DAWs at all and focusing - but with these years of forum threads I've read, it's been a very deep exploration effort. And, oddly enough, after all that - one of the best options seems to be to "avoid Pro Tools", hehe - no other DAW has these ridiculously low limits - and other DAWs simply ping the outboard hardware insert or loopback in realtime to calculate to-the-sample accurate syncing of recorded tracks, no matter WHAT interface someone uses - so maybe I am just punishing myself thinking of diving in so deep as to get one, maybe two, HDX cards, just to solve issues that shouldn't even be there to begin with in a $2,600 list price software license for PT Ultimate.

Thanks for listening!
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  #7  
Old 11-28-2020, 05:20 AM
musicman691 musicman691 is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

The first thing I would take into account on which version of PT to get is what computer will you be running on and do you mind having an extension box to hold HDX cards? I can only speak to the Mac world but right now there's only one Mac that will take internal HDX cards and that's a 4 to 5 figure new Cheesegrater. But will you need HDX cards? The answer to that ties into the power of your computer. Vicious circle I know.


I don't know if Avid is still selling HD Native cards or not. HD Native cards like non-HD PT depends on your computer's power.


You don't need an HDX or HD Native card to run PT Ultimate. What Ultimate will get you is some really great automation things as well as other goodies like being able to use more than 32 I/O. But you should have found that out in your research.


As to the Mac keyboard I agree. There's at least one company that's selling the old-style full travel keyboard in both a clicky and non-clicky variation. Check out this site: https://matias.ca/products/ Their keyboards have n-key rollover which I find is a problem in the current Mac keyboards - type to fast and you get mondo typos. Look for the Tactile Pro models. Of course there are other third party keyboards out there with full travel keys that will work on a Mac but they may not have the Mac-specific symbols.
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  #8  
Old 11-28-2020, 01:26 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

Thanks for your response! I apologize again for these really long responses of mine... if nothing else, maybe it will help someone else on their own journey, as I have done so much research and thinking on how to make my setup work and the best way to get into Pro Tools Ultimate. (just writing this all out knowing that someone might read it has helped me organize my thoughts too - so thanks again for reading) [Oh, I just realized - the moderators never approved the 2nd through 6th parts of my original message - doh! So you didn't have all my extra info to go off of. sorry about that - it wouldn't let me post the original as I think there is a length limit per message.]

[QUOTE=musicman691;2585388]The first thing I would take into account on which version of PT to get is what computer will you be running on and do you mind having an extension box to hold HDX cards? I can only speak to the Mac world but right now there's only one Mac that will take internal HDX cards and that's a 4 to 5 figure new Cheesegrater. But will you need HDX cards? The answer to that ties into the power of your computer. Vicious circle I know.[QUOTE]

I am back on PC now - I didn't set up my signature, but it was buried in my long message - I am using an Alienware 17 R5 right now, 32 GB RAM, i9 6 core running at 4.2 ghz. I don't mind changing up to a PC desktop that I build myself, or maybe a used HP workstation that Avid recommends, if it makes the HDX cards run cooler. I did speak to Sonnet, and they are releasing a new, three card enclosure that SHOULD work with HDX this time around and on TB3, so that will be interesting to see how it pans out.

But yeah - basically, most of the time, at least in other DAWs - I have plenty of power thus far. Just want to be "sure" I never have to increase that buffer size. Plus, I've been bouncing all VI tracks before getting too heavy into mixing - which I think is a good practice overall, but, it wouldn't hurt to really also be able to mix without having to do that.

[QUOTE=musicman691;2585388]
I don't know if Avid is still selling HD Native cards or not. HD Native cards like non-HD PT depends on your computer's power.
[QUOTE]

Right, it's the Thunderbolt Core external HD interface only nowadays. (which is overpriced, I feel - if I could nab a used one for half the new price, that might not be so bad)

[QUOTE=musicman691;2585388]
You don't need an HDX or HD Native card to run PT Ultimate. What Ultimate will get you is some really great automation things as well as other goodies like being able to use more than 32 I/O. But you should have found that out in your research.
[QUOTE]

Well, right - but if only Avid would increase or allow "purchase" of more than 32 I/O in the native (non-HD) version! (Ultimate alone does NOT allow you to go over 32 I/O - the Avid site doesn't say this, but many forums and Pro-Tools-Expert.com posts say this, and I just confirmed someone saying this in a thread earlier this year - unless they JUST changed it recently? That would be awesome!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by musicman691 View Post
As to the Mac keyboard I agree. There's at least one company that's selling the old-style full travel keyboard in both a clicky and non-clicky variation. Check out this site: https://matias.ca/products/ Their keyboards have n-key rollover which I find is a problem in the current Mac keyboards - type to fast and you get mondo typos. Look for the Tactile Pro models. Of course there are other third party keyboards out there with full travel keys that will work on a Mac but they may not have the Mac-specific symbols.
That's funny, I was always a stickler on n-key rollover on my PC keyboards - never thought that it could be the issue that I too get mondo typos on my Macbook Pro 16! I just assume it was me fumbling the keys due to them being so low-travel.

That said, I'll never go Mac again - the only Mac I've ever had that worked out well was my 2004 17". Then that video card burnt out in 2010, and they said I was too late for the free extended replacement (which of course, they didn't exactly e-mail all customers about, like a vehicle service recall would do). I had the tower right before that, then within a year, they discontinued Power PC! So, lost a good chunk of change selling that so soon. Put up with the slow performance of two MacBook Retinas from 2012 and 2014. Had a Macbook 12 work fine for 2 years, then the USB C/charging port literally burnt out and computer went dead. (to their credit, they did replace it uner AppleCare - BUT it took them 3-4 MONTHS to do so, because they were "waiting on parts" that never came)

Went back to PC completely, then gave Mac one more chance for this MacBook Pro 16 which I am now selling, believing all the hype that they "fixed it" - in some ways they did (bigger screen again, slightly more usable keyboard, and CPU doesn't just straight up throttle down to half speed right away) - but the CPU still doesn't get anywhere near its performance... for example, my 2018 Alienware has the 6-core CPU - the MB Pro has the top spec 8 core at the highest boost possible - yet, in Studio One anyway, the PC can still run a good chunk more simultaneous instances of a guitar amp plugin! (even with two less cores)

The other thing about Macs that is annoying - it is very difficult, or even impossible, to get a good quality "real" mouse (like any sort of gaming mouse with high DPI, and which doesn't require software "acceleration" to make it move large distances) to work as expected - one has to use SteerMouse or any other add-ons to try to remove the default acceleration curve (but then it resets, etc., and still isn't the same, and then it might mess up the touchpad response). Whereas on PC, I can set up my mouse or trackball to respond so well, that I even wonder if using more keyboard shortcuts will save any time.

Plus the whole M1 thing now - kind of surprised me they bothered introducing the 16" Macbook with the Intel and didn't just wait for the M1!

Other things I learned in my most recent Mac ownership - you can never re-install an older Mac OS version than the date your computer was made! And I believe if you don't go in and download/purchase the current OS version, and a new one comes out and gets installed, you can't roll back either (or it's harder to do).

So, I don't think I'll ever be going back to Mac - they're worse than Windows now in terms of changing things when they want with no option to customize (getting harder and harder for third party tools to mimic the original Spaces functionality, for example), and breaking things with their annual updates. At least with Windows Pro, you can completely shut off updates for half a year or more with no nagging, AND even then, force it to stay one or two major release cycles behind the current version. Someone in an Ableton thread said it best - on their Mac, they can only run Live 9 or higher - whereas on their current PC, they can still run Live 4 or even earlier, if they want! Whereas Mac is trying to be more "throw-away" by the year with both the hardware and now the OS itself.

Oh, plus the fact that they removed the internal data port on the motherboard - so even if some other part of the computer bricks, you cannot recover the data from the onboard SSD! I mean, that's just insanity. Of course one should back up frequently... but to completely block any chance of recovering data, short of desoldering the SSD chips and somehow re-assembling them? If that's "Genius"... :)

Anyway, sorry for that rant - I feel it's my "duty" to share my findings, since I've spent so much time and money on Macs in general, and given Apple so many "second chances" as it were. I do realize if I never used their laptops, and only their various desktop units, it's possible I'd never have any faults with them!

Back on topic - I wouldn't mind getting HDX, IF Avid would simply allow that to ALSO work as an HD Native card for times when I want to not have the overhead of the DSP mixer, etc. But from what I've read, to do that - you've basically got to buy both the HDX card and the Native card.

Thanks again for your thoughts though. I am leaning towards just renting the software or getting the perpetual, and not worry about the 32 input limit, and then maybe in a few months if I am sure I like the user experience - add on then. At first, I thought that was a bad idea, since the Ultimate perpetual comes bundles with new interfaces - but I don't think any of their interfaces would make sense new. For example, the MTRX not even doing the automatic recording delay compensation... and no sense in buying HDIO boxes new anymore, with the prices they go for used... although I guess it does come close, since the $300 Digilink plus the Ultimate perpetual license, even at discounted rates, plus $2,000 minimum for HDIO 16x16 used comes out to almost the same...

I guess the kid in me still things "but, but - HDX is just cool!" - like the part about the mixing happening on the card... at first, I thought, that's genius, it's like having a digital mixing board in the card, and the computer is "command and control" only - but then the reality sinks in that the computer still is recording and streaming the actual audio, and any virtual instrument still has to run on the host CPU (and RAM), and then the shuttling back and forth of the audio between DSP and host and back to get out of the converter adding latency in and of itself... kind of "dream shattered" at that point. :)

I think another reason I like the idea of HDX is that I've been recently purchasing the HDX versions of plugins that I hadn't had before, anticipating I might be getting an HDX soon... so that's probably a few hundred $ or more extra (over the native-only versions) that is making me already feel "committed" to going HDX.

All that said, I just realized another route - I had discounted it because I was only looking at new prices, but I realized the HD MADI units are much more affordable used - and that would allow me to get 64 channels (at 48 kHz) via MADI from something like the MOTU 112d - and that can aggregate digital inputs from AES, ADAT, and AVB! (or heck, even from the computer or another computer, via USB or Thunderbolt) So now I am thinking getting a used HD Native card, an Ultimate subscription or perpetual, and the HD MADI would be a good way to started.
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  #9  
Old 11-28-2020, 04:10 PM
albee1952 albee1952 is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

More info please:
1-how many IO will you need at any given time?
2-Do you own any interface or mic preamps already, or are you building a system from scratch?
3-will you need to work in surround formats?
4-your budget?
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Last edited by albee1952; 11-28-2020 at 07:38 PM.
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Old 11-28-2020, 07:39 PM
rockafella rockafella is offline
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Default Re: Trouble deciding on ideal Pro Tools setup - non-HD, HD Native, HDX, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by albee1952 View Post
More info please:
1-how many IO will you need at any given time?
2-Do you own any interface or mic preamps already, or are you building a system from scratch?
3-will you need to work in surround formats?
Hi - it seems my messages are still in queue to be approved - that is why my original message didn't include all info, since I had to split it into several posts:

1. I am thinking 64 should be sufficient. I only use 40 now, and it's only because there's a lot of synths/drum machines, etc. I like to keep everything "live" vs. having to patch stuff in. Maybe someday a bit more than 64 would be nice, but 32 would probably be short. That is why it seems like software only doesn't make sense - then with the expense of HD Native Thunderbolt core, why not go to HDX - which I was glad to do - until I read all the downsides of HDX (hard voice limit, loud fans, and possibly higher latency based on how native plugins are used).

2. Yes, I have the two StudioLives I mentioned (but which didn't get posted yet), along with a Lynx Hilo, RME Babyface Pro, and for dedicated pre, just a Focusrite ISA One. I don't do much mic recording though. So I have 68 A/D converters and a bit more than that for D/A, including the two StudioLives' 32 channels each. This is why I am thinking using the HD MADI to a MOTU 112D (which will converge the StudioLives via AVB and my others via AES and ADAT) is my best bet for interfaces. but then I kind of pigeonhole myself into needing not one but two HDX cards just to have any other optional IO, since the MADI doesn't even have digital in (other than the MADI, of course). I.e., even if I never go above 64 channels - I'd need to either unplug the HD MADI, or hook up another card, to have the option, right... although I guess I can route whatever I want over the 64 channels of MADI from the MOTU, as well.

3. No surround for now. I guess it's always nice to have the option. (which is the appeal of HDX I suppose - at least once you're in that system, it does cost to add more, but it can be done - whereas Native's 32 in/out and track limits would become too small, right)

Thanks!
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