How and when do I use outboard effects with computer recording?

by Tommy Hall
(Gordon Ga.)

I have 3 rack boxes full of effects from reverbs to delays to compressors and graphic EQs to maximizers to high and low pass filters and vocoders. I recently got my PC upgraded with 1 gig of ram, two hard drives, an 80GB and a 250GB, running Sonar XL1 using an M-Audio Delta 44 sound card. I also have an M-Audio Solo firewire card but I'm not using it yet and sending all my signals through a Mackie 24X4 mixer. Being a singer/songwriter drummer and keyboard player who has always used a Tascam DA-38 I am really enjoying PC recording.

I guess my question is how do I implement any of my outboard effects into the recording process since Sonar has some great plug in effects. My DA-38 still works fine as does my Yamaha 8 track mini disk recorder. I have a great home studio set up, a great drum kit and drum machine, and plenty of recording space for the musicians. I love Gospel music and that's the music I've been blessed to write lyrically, traditional, contemporary, modern, etc. One of the most gratifying experiences in my life is when a pen or pencil comes to life in my hand and creates words that can ecourage me as well as someone else who might be in a moment or time of despair to let them know it'll be all over in the morning just hang on in there, PEACE!!!

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Aug 18, 2011
Outboard effects usage
by: Lee from

Hi Tommy,

It sounds like you have a lot of nice gear. I never had the luxury of outboard effects, so I depended on software ones.

Here's what advice I can give. Your M-Audio Delta 44 interface has 4 channels of input and 4 channels of output. In order for an outboard effects processor to work with PC software, it must have an input and an output; the output from the computer (interface) connects to the input of the effects processor, and the input of the computer (interface) connects to the output of the effects processor. The problem comes when you only have 4 channels. Chances are, you are using 2 for playback. Maybe not; if the Delta has an additional headphone out. That leaves 2 channels for processing, which is one stereo track.

You could do the tracks, one or two at a time, by plugging the inputs/outputs into the correct effects processor, and playing the original track and recording the input from the processor. You then have the track with the effects added.

Obviously, this method will take time, and may not be the nicest way. In order to do it faster, however, you need more channels of i/o for your computer. You could investigate the MOTU 828mk3. It offers 28 channels of input, 8 of which are analog 1/4" connectors, which you'll need for your effects.

Another option is investing in some high quality digital plugin effects, such as those offered by Waves in the Gold Bundle. I personally use Waves plugins, and use them all the time - they are high quality, and very powerful.

Hope this helps; if you have more questions just hit up below.


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