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Hope this isn't a question that's been asked a thousand times before!

I've been press-ganged into building a new 'portable' studio for a non-profit community radio station. Unfortunately I've never built something like this from scratch before, and I'm not up-to-date on what modern DAWs are capable of in terms of low latency processing, or what the latest gear is.

In the course of researching I've become hopelessly confused! If anyone could give me a few pointers or even just confirmation that I'm not going insane, I'd be very grateful!

The general idea is to build a studio that can be constructed in one place and then moved to another place the following week. The studio must be able to be used live, with audio being streamed to HQ for broadcast, and for pre-recording shows, various elements of which will need to be edited later, the same as a regular multitrack (music) recording session. Budget is available to be spent on getting the job done, but for political reasons we can't be seen to be wasting money on failed experiments or equipment that doesn't work out, or indeed on paying somebody competent to sort all this out.

We already have:

  • A fast desktop PC (Haswell Core i7, plenty of memory, plenty of SSD storage)
  • Mics and sundry bits
  • The ability to stream audio remotely
  • The ability to set up a little 'room' for vaguely acceptable acoustics.

Inputs:

  • Up to 4 mics (the main being a condenser and requiring phantom power)
  • The potential for various external analogue sources to be added - CD players, turntables, etc
  • Assorted sound sources on the computer - principally music from radio automation software, but also audio from a web browser, Skype, etc

Here's what I think is the tricky (or perhaps impossible!) part:

  • I would like the mixing and audio processing to be handled by the computer.
  • I specifically don't want a rack of hardware compressors, EQ and signal processors, etc, that are bulky, liable to be tinkered with, and difficult to tear down and set up in a hurry.
  • I also don't want a regular mixer - I'd like some sort of control box with physical faders that control assigned faders in the DAW. Does something like this even exist outside of very high-end setups?
  • Some FX processing (compression, EQ, enhancements on the mics) needs to be applied before output to monitors and headphones (so that presenters can hear what their voices actually sound like and can fade down music accurately without feeling like they're fighting the compressor), so obviously this needs to be very low latency. After this point latency is relatively unimportant.

So, after all that, here are my questions:

  1. Is what I've described actually achievable?
  2. Would Reaper fit the bill as a DAW?
  3. What multichannel audio interface would you recommend, ideally with half-decent mic preamps, phantom power and as low latency as possible?
  4. As above, is there any such thing as a controller with physical faders that can be assigned to software faders in the DAW?
  5. Is what I actually need a bottle of scotch, a big manly cry and a good night's sleep?

Honestly, any help would be enormously appreciated.

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  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. I don't have a lot of experience with lots of different models, so maybe focusrite would be decent one to look at, and it's not too expensive.
  4. Behringer bcf2000 would be the cheapest way (behringer will soon release new controllers that might be suitable for you, called x-touch..google)...thou be careful, behringer stuff is not the most robust hardware. There are other options, like Mackie Control Universal controllers, or Icon Qcon.
  5. It's up to you :)
  • Great stuff! I'm not sure how I missed the controllers like the BCF2000 before! – Mr Lizard Feb 21 '15 at 2:21
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In theory this could work, but the biggest problem I see here is the latency of the audio processing. You won't be able to listen back in realtime, since most compressors/fx may add a slight delay.

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