Hardware for real-time audio feed from a DJ controller to TouchDesigner

I’ve been looking all over the place and still not quite sure what is the right approach to getting a high quality audio output from a DJ controller as an audio input on a machine running TD. I’ve read it’s possible with an audio interface but I have bought some relatively cheap one and had no success (the signal was very noisy, perhaps because of unbalanced cables).

There must be some VJs out there that stand next to a DJ and take audio from their setup to drive visuals via Touch. How do you guys do it? Which hardware do you recommend? How close it is to real-time? And is the audio quality any good (meaning it’s good enough to send it through some audio analysis tools and pick up kicks, snares, etc.)?

What audio interface did you try? That’s the move, a hardware interface taking a mono or stereo signal from the DJ. If your signal isn’t good, its either poor gain staging, badcables, or a poor A/D conversion from the box. I use UA Apollo for everything, it isn’t cheap but you can’t get much better.

Well, that’s probably the answer right there.

I bought Behringer UFO202, simply because I had no understanding of the differencies between cheap and expensive hardware, I guess. It’s trash, as you can imagine, and I’m not even sure what that thing is meant for.

Speaking of UA Apollo, could you elaborate a bit more? What makes it stand out more than others? I imagine that’s a professional piece of hardware, although what I did not anticipate is that these little boxes can go for so much. On the other hand, if that’s what it takes I might be willing to invest, just want to hear more from your perspective, as a user. Any quick pros/cons?

Apollo might be overkill if you’re not doing audio heavy stuff otherwise, but what sets it apart is onboard DSP for processing the signal, and an extensive virtual mixing environment, which i feel like is the lowest latency possible way to get audio between devices, both internal and external to your computer.

While on a Mac with coreAudio this isn’t an issue, on a PC, virtual interfaces are required to route audio around due to the fact that windows ASIO locks a device to an application. This means that if you wanted to get audio from a stream, the web, Ableton etc. in or out of TD, you need a virtual routing solution.

While there are lots of them out there, some free, with their own pros and cons (Voicemeeter, loopBeAudio, VB-Audio virtual cable etc.), The apollo’s interface and routing options are really strong, and maybe the placebo of it costing so much makes me trust it more, but its outperformed everything else I’ve tried and I haven’t been lazy in this dept.

If you don’t need to route audio around your system, there’s no reason a cheaper interface couldn’t get the job done. People seem to like the entry level FocusRites ok, and even your behringer should get the job done if your settings/gainstaging is good

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Factoring in PC wonkiness, it is almost cheaper (if you get paid to do this) to get a Mac Mini (if you will have access to a monitor) or a Mac Book to route audio around.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have checked FocusRite as well and they look very similar, at least on paper, so I think I’ll give it a go. Like I said, I’m not going to be doing any kind of audio processing mid-way through so just grabbing a high-quality feed is enough for what I’m planning to do.

I’m not sure where you’re getting the noise from, have used that audio interface in the past and didn’t have issues like that (although I would much rather be using something in at least the 100 dollar range).

You said you’re right next to the DJ so this probably isn’t the issue, but if you’re running unbalanced audio farther than 10 to 15 feet you might consider getting a DI box to convert it to balanced (and a balanced audio interface of course)

Personally I use focusrite interfaces for this, but there’s no reason other brands shouldn’t work well.

Perhaps I was doing something wrong outside the hardware setup, although I’ve tried everything. Usually, if you have the right drivers, you should be able to simply select correct audio device in and you would get audio feed as a chop, right? Are you connecting audio interface with a simple line cable to your laptop, or is there an alternative? Also, does it matter if the cables running from DJ controller to audio interface are XLR / audio jacks?

Usually my setup is the DJ audio to a DI box to the Mic level ins on my audio interface, but I’m usually a good distance away from the Dj setup. If I was closer I might just run unbalanced or balanced line level signal directly to my audio interface, depending on what the DJ mixer had available.

And yes, this comes in as an Audio Device In Chop.

Have you attempted plugging other sources into your audio interface to see if the noise goes away? Like from a headphone jack to the RCA in’s for example? Depending on what the noise sounds like it could be a few different things, a ground loop, a bad cable, interference.

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I can highly recommend RME audio interfaces for Windows systems. Their drivers are rock solid and TotalMix gives you a ton of flexibility in routing audio in/out of TD. I use it all the time and have had no issues.

Have you attempted plugging other sources into your audio interface to see if the noise goes away?

Yes, I’ve tried plugging my amp and there was still plenty of noise. The thing costs around 15-20 Eur so I’m not sure it can even produce high-quality output. But perhaps it was a mix of all the other things you mention too.

I can highly recommend RME audio interfaces for Windows systems.

I can see they have good products, however once again it’s a little bit out of my price range. Looking at Focusrites right now, they seem to go for around 100 Eur new or ~40-50 Eur used which I don’t mind spending at all.

I also realised that grabbing 1 XLR output from DJ mixer is plenty enough as I’m usually combining any stereo channels for further processing in TD anyways. And Focusrite Solo is a perfect example of such gear. I might look into DI box if it becomes necessary but would definitely like to test out the setup without one.