Ask Mike August 2010

August 1, 2010
Mikes_RackFor your playback duties with Mariah Carey, are you still touring with the two G5 Macs, multiple MOTU HD192 interfaces, and the 72 x 24 Clair Brothers audio switcher? I’m considering just carrying laptops on tour. What do you think? —Steve

Hi Steve, I get this question about once a year, and recently, I’ve made some pretty drastic changes. I just did a tour with Mariah using two redundant rigs, each based on a 17" MacBook Pro. If eight outputs are enough, it’s a great system. Here are the particulars.








UltraLiteAudio interface: I really like the MOTU UltraLite Mk.3 Hybrid. If you need more than ten analog outs, you can daisy-chain up to four of them over FireWire, but I’d never go higher than two.




press_gt050q_frontHard drive: I use Glyph 050Q 7,200rpm drives. I used to recommend G-Tech hard drives, but had issues with them after Hitachi bought the company. I’m also looking at going to solid-state drives soon. SSDs are much faster for playback and have no moving parts. The only issue is that if they fail, you can’t recover the data.




SIIG_FW800FireWire card:My newer 17" MacBook Pros only have one FireWire port, so I got SIIG dual-port FW800 ExpressCards. I use the SIIG card for the UltraLites and the MacBook Pro’s FW800 port for the audio drive. In the newest MacBook Pro family, only the 17" models have the Express slot; the 15" ones don’t.







sw8Switchers: To switch between rigs, I recommend the Radial SW8. It’s rock solid, and all the audio engineers I work with love the sound. If the primary rig fails, it can auto-switch by constantly looking for a test tone on a separate input on the SW8. If the tone drops out on the A-system, it switches. I prefer to switch to the B-system manually, but I’m still glad this feature is there.


dp7boxkDAW: Digital Performer 5.11 on the A-system and 7.1 on the B-system. For the next tour, I’ll move both systems to 7.1, which was really solid. I love Logic and Pro Tools for one song at a time, but for what I do, I need as many as 100 “chunks” (songs in DP-speak) in one file, because Mariah likes to change up the show, and I need lots of options at my fingertips without loading a new project. DP’s chunks functionality does the trick.

--Mike McKnight tours with Mariah Carey and is our resident guru. Email your questions about touring, technology, or music biz issues to, and you just may see Mike respond to your question in Keyboard magazine!

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