Backstory here is that I used to play around with MIDI hardware and so on in the 90s, and I’m now trying to get my kids set up to muck around with music production. We have a couple of pieces of kit (a Volca Beats, a miniKorg and a couple of other wee devices) and a Reason 9.5 licence and we are working off a laptop. Budgets, as usual, are not large…

Basically I’d like to know the most sensible way to combine these while using the actual audio output of the devices alongside the DAW and any software instruments it is providing – rather than simply record the devices into the DAW, if that makes sense? So, I’d like the devices to be sequenced and playing ‘live’ alongside the DAW output? (And I guess, recorded into the DAW ultimately)

Back in my day, there would not have been much choice – some kind of mixer to combine the laptop audio output with the devices with the laptop using MIDI to drive everything – and an external recorder of some sort. Nowadays, I reckon there are a few more options. Here are a couple of questions for anyone patient enough to answer any..

– Am I right in thinking I could get a little, maybe 3-input breakout audio card (focusrite etc?) that will provide MIDI out to the devices while also capturing the device audio and piping it back into the DAW? And then effectively use the DAW as a mixer/recorder? Is latency likely to be a killer here? Is this just stupid?

– Can you use USB to pipe audio these days? Presumably USB-C for bandwidth – and does this handle audio and control signals (so no MIDI needed, or else the MIDI is sent over USB?). And for this approach we’d need a USB-C card or port to handle everything – again driven by and mixed in the DAW?

– Am I better just looking at a small external mixer – as in my old skool suggestion? I have seen the odd little device that seems to combine a mixer with audio capture and a breakout interface (some yamaha thing but can’t find it now..)

Am I totally missing a simple option here? (apart from record the devices onto audio track and just sequence them alongside software instruments in the DAW)

Many thanks for any suggestions or pointers to tutorials – I haven’t found much directly relevant to the above – most online articles seem to assume you either want to vlog or be the next Ed Sheeran..

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