Symphony I/O, Avid HD I/O, Aurora 16, & Clock Shoot outs
roostert
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#1
19th January 2011
Old 19th January 2011
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Symphony I/O, Avid HD I/O, Aurora 16, & Clock Shoot outs

It’s very seldom I have time to post here on the forum, and I’ve never done a “review”, but I’d like to share my observations from our (my assistant and I) converter/clock tests, just before Christmas. I’m not claiming these results to be scientific, and I’m certainly not getting into the “null” argument. Finally, I’m not going to post any files. I don’t have the permission of the artist/record label. These are only opinions, but hopefully they’ll be in enough detail that you’ll get a feel for what my experience yielded.

Over the course of a couple of days we were able to spend about 20 hours “shooting out” 3 different converters and 2 different clocks + internal clocks as well. The primary goal of these “shootouts” was to determine what my next “most bang for the buck” step was going to be at my mix room. I’ve been considering getting a large format console. My tests revealed a lot of things…..some surprises, some not so surprising results.

A little about my setup. I mix with a hybrid approach. Lots of outboard analog gear, hardware inserted into pro-tools. I mix with an HD 3 rig. Without getting too detailed, my setup is extremely complex with many, many busses, routing/combining, parallel compression….you name it. I will share that my final “chain” first goes to a Great River MAQ-2NV, then to a Requisite L2M MKIII, followed by a Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor. All of the outboard gear I use is of that quality as well.

Mike at Vintage King was kind enough to allow me to have (and audition) the Antelope 10M / Trinity Clock combo, along with sending me the new Apogee Symphony I/O (2-8 in/8 out cards) and the new Avid HD I/O 16. I already had in my possession the Lynx Aurora 16, and a Big Ben clock at my disposal.

For some time now, I’ve felt I’ve been missing the “depth” I used to achieve when I’d mix on a big desk, and I’ve been wondering if it might be the “conversion chain” that I’ve been using. When you work a lot of inserts like I do, that next round of conversion really does make a significant difference. Not only has everything been originally tracked with converters, but it then goes out and back again (individually on many tracks). So, bad or even adequate conversion can alter the “punch” and “depth” of my mixes. I’m not even gonna get into a “Sound Blaster is as good as” debate….These are my observations only.

The test: The 1st day, I took a mix (that I’m proud of), that had been mixed on my rig at my studio. I kept my inserts to 16 I/O’s only so that I could compare apples to apples, so to speak. The mix was printed 12 different times using all 3 converters…..Apogee Symphony, Avid HD I/O, Lynx Aurora 16, and clock combinations of Internal, External Big Ben, External Antelope Trinity, and External Antelope Trinity w/Atomic 10M. All converters were calibrated to -18 so there was absolutely no level change at all. All outboard remained the same, and all fader automation stayed the same. The only difference was converter/clocks.

The 2nd day, we went to Oceanway B in Nashville. The room has a heavily modded Neve VR (one of the only VR’s I truly love working on)….and I might mention, one of the best staffed and well run studios in Nashville. We took the same mix in pro tools and broke out the sub-mixes and summed them/printed them back to pro-tools. Then, we took all tracks out individually onto the desk and re-created the sub-groups/routing (using tones to align everything) and printed the mix yet once again. Both of these “console versions” were done with the studio’s 192’s with Internal, then Big Ben, then Antelope-Trinity/10M combinations, so, once again I had 3 versions of each mix. Finally, I broke out everything from Pro-Tools and did a full “console mix”, using everything at my disposal the studio had to offer, along with my racks of gear as well. Again, the 3 clock combinations were used to print 3 more mix versions….so I left Oceanway with 9 more prints of the mix…..I wanted to do this final “console version” based on “feel”…..I wasn’t trying to be scientific, I was just wanting to know if I really needed to make a console jump at this point, mix on a large console at a place like Oceanway, or if I could achieve what I was hearing in my head at my studio.

We spend around 30 days a year at Oceanway tracking. I’m very familiar with their control room sound. I have a pair of Barefoot MM27’s and small mix-cubes that come in along with my cartage of outboard gear.

My personal mix room was designed professionally and then fine tuned using Smaart analysis along with final “ear” tweaks. It has MM27’s and mix-cubes as well. I know my room very, very well.

I’d already decided in my mind (as unfair as that my sound) that the VR mix was going to be my favorite. ☺ Wasn’t sure what the clocks would do, but felt they would make a difference. I was pretty sure the Apogee’s would be my favorite converters, and I was looking for every way possible to not want to like the expensive Antelope Clock combination. Well I was wrong, and I was right.

After comparing a total of 21 different combinations of the same mix, we came to a final choice of Avid HD I/O in combination with the Antelope Trinity/10M combination, Hybrid mix at my studio.

We felt the Avid had a clarity and depth that the other 2 boxes didn’t quite have as much of. The Lynx box has very flat frequency response, but next to the Avid, it felt a little flatter and lifeless. The Symphony box had an interesting color to it, but in comparison to the Avid, felt a little “spongey”…some people refer to this as “warmth”….to us it lacked a little of that “mid-range punch” compared to the Avid. Adding the Big Ben made subtle changes to each box, but nothing that got us jumping up and down. However, when we added the Antelope clock combination, the Lynx box jumped to life! (clocked with synchrolock off) However, it still didn’t have the depth of the Avid. When the Avid was clocked to the Antelope, the low end just became absolutely rock solid, and suddenly the reverb tails and delays were amazing. I can honestly say that my second choice was the Lynx box with the Antelope clock combination, followed in 3rd place by the Apogee. All definitely benefited from the added Antelope clock. The Avid without the clock was very similar to the Lynx clocked to the Antelope. Adding the clock to the Avid set it over the top for us. I might add that the vocals somewhat “jumped” out of the Avid mixes. This may be bad for certain genres, but I primarily mix modern country, and the vocal is ultra-important. Finally, I’m not Apogee bashing here at all. I could see where the “softer” qualities of the box would work well with some engineer’s approaches to recording and mixing. I tend to go for a more “separated” sound with lots of clarity and detail. My mixes aren’t “gooey” and “smeared” together, which is another cool approach, just not my style. The apogee added too much color (low mid-range….which seems to be an Apogee filter kind-of thing) for my taste…over multiple channels it tends to get a little weighty. If I were comparing the 3 converters to a large-format console, the Apogee is kind of like a non-modified Neve VR….a little boxey, but musical. The Lynx Aurora is like a Neotek…..clean and accurate, but lacking some personality. The Avid is like a modern API legacy/1608…accurate frequency response, but in your face punchy mid-range and very musical, for rock/pop.

Finally, the mix that was done on the console was great as well. The punch I yield out of my drums, most specifically, is always great on that VR. However, if I had to give the differences between console and Hybrid, I’d have to say that the new converter/clock combination made a 10% improvement, while mixing on the Neve yielded maybe a 5% improvement. (I wish I would’ve had 56 outs from each of the converter brands to take it a step further, but I didn’t). These are not improvements to be scoffed at in any way. I believe that once you’ve reached a certain “plateau” in mixing, any baby step is significant. Keep in mind, these tests were done primarily for mixing inserts…not tracking or overdubbing as most would use them for. Also, we chose shooting out these 3 boxes because of their availability/ reliability/ cost. Certainly, there are other great converters to try that may beat out what we heard, however, at this point, I’m quite happy with the decision to move into the Avid/Antelope combination.

I might add one other point. After we’d been extensively listening, I called my wife to over to the studio to have her give a listen. She’s not a “mixer” but she’s been in the business for 20 years as an artist/writer, and she’s always been my last “listen” before the record label / producer hear a final…she’s very good at pointing out my flaws….mix-wise. We didn’t tell her what she was listening for. Just asked her to pick her favorite out of each group and then we narrowed it down from there…..she quickly narrowed her choice down to the Avid HD I/O w/ Antelope combination….the same combo that my assistant and I had picked without telling her a thing! Of course when she found out how much her choice was gonna cost me, she wanted to re-listen! ☺

My last thought is on the clock. I really wanted to not like the Antelope combination. After we heard the difference it was making, we tried disconnecting the 10M in hopes of saving $5000.00. Well, I’m here to tell ya, if you’re gonna go that deep, go ahead and get the 10M….it makes a difference.

Before doing these tests, I read much commentary about how “clocks don’t change the sound”….converters do / don’t matter…..I say, to each his own. But in my opinion, they do make a difference! Don’t take my word for it. Take the time to do the tests yourself. Listen with your ears first. After reading many, many posts here on Gearslutz, I was fairly certain that the Avid box would not be that great, and, that clocks wouldn’t make a difference. Well, in both instances I was shocked and amazed. YMMV
#2
19th January 2011
Old 19th January 2011
  #2
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Thank you for taking the time to post your experiences. We went from Lynx to the new Avid 16 i/o. Very impressed.
#3
19th January 2011
Old 19th January 2011
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Symphony I/O, Avid HD I/O, Aurora 16, & Clock Shoot outs

wow!!! Great post... I wish I could hear the results!!!
#4
19th January 2011
Old 19th January 2011
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Symphony I/O, Avid HD I/O, Aurora 16, & Clock Shoot outs

Again great post! I wonder, is there a clock alternative to the Antelope 10M, as I'm not sure I would want an atomic clock with Rubidium in my studio... even though Rubidium is supposedly safe...
#5
19th January 2011
Old 19th January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeumannCollecta View Post
Again great post! I wonder, is there a clock alternative to the Antelope 10M, as I'm not sure I would want an atomic clock with Rubidium in my studio... even though Rubidium is supposedly safe...
The 10M is only the reference standard. You still need another compatible Antelope clock (Trinity or OCX etc) to get word clock.


Thanks for posting this... I never thought much of the original 192 converters but i will give the HD I/O a look for my next PT converter purchase

Also, if you don't want to pay the $6k for the Antelope 10M box... You can build your own:

http://www.thinksrs.com/products/PRS10.htm
#6
19th January 2011
Old 19th January 2011
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Thanks for the review !

When I tested the new avid I/O against my
trusty Prism ADA 8 XR
I was surprised to find out
it´s even a touch better.

The Antelope investment is huge
and the avid certainly is good enough for me in years to come.

Finally high end conversion has become affordable !
roostert
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#7
19th January 2011
Old 19th January 2011
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It was an interesting experience...to me and my assistant. I've never been an Avid/Digidesign hater, however, posts and opinions can sway one's mind for sure. I moved away from the original 192's because at the time I liked the Aurora's better (sonically), and their price point/features were perfect for me. Still feel the same about the Aurora. Just felt like I've improved my situation even more.
#8
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
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I´m curious if - as a consequence of your shootout you will continue
to book the studio or mix everything at your place with the new setup ?
roostert
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#9
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaman View Post
I´m curious if - as a consequence of your shootout you will continue
to book the studio or mix everything at your place with the new setup ?
Not sure what you're getting at? I do most of the mixes for my current work at my place, so I don't anticipate that changing. However, I still continue to work in other mix rooms, depending on clients needs. If I'm not working at my place, my racks move with me.....so, that would include clock and converters.

Did that answer your question?
#10
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
  #10
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What about the Aurora-Big ben combination?

Great post !!
#11
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
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Nice post!

I have our "Clash of the converters", an Apogee Symphony, HDI/O and Lynx Aurora set up side by side in our demo room here at RSPE here in Universal City, Los Angeles.

The purpose of the test is to allow a listener to compare an original analog source to the same material after it has passed through each of the converters and Pro Tools HD.

They are all clocking off an Antelope (as this is a converter test not a clocking test so we wanted to give them all the same 3-rd party clock source).
There is a passive Coleman audio switch which allows the listener to switch between the source, and the path through Pro Tools and each of the converters (and a couple of doubled up decoy outputs too just to make the test double blind)....

All the audio cables are the same, power sources and cables are the same.

If you'd like to come listen to the test, and vote for your favorite, give drop me an email at RSPE - we'd love as many people as possible to come listen and share their opinions.

Chris B
Sales and Marketing Manager
RSPE Audio Solutions, Los Angeles
818 509 5876 - http://www.rspe.com/chrisb
#12
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
  #12
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Post #1 pretty much sums up why I sold our 3 Aurora's the day after getting an Avid I/O to try out.
roostert
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#13
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lorudess View Post
What about the Aurora-Big ben combination?

Great post !!
Well, like I said in my post....just one man's opinion.....

There was a slight difference in the bottom end "tightness" to me with the Big Ben...but I'll be honest, nothing major...very subjective. Now, if you were running more than 1 aurora, that is where you might really be able to tell (synchrolok off on the Aurora of course)....however, that was not part of this test.

Gotta say it again. I was very, very skeptical about a "clock" really changing the sound. The Atomic combo really enlightened my skepticism. YMMV
roostert
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#14
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by protoolsusers View Post
Nice post!

I have our "Clash of the converters", an Apogee Symphony, HDI/O and Lynx Aurora set up side by side in our demo room here at RSPE here in Universal City, Los Angeles.

The purpose of the test is to allow a listener to compare an original analog source to the same material after it has passed through each of the converters and Pro Tools HD.

They are all clocking off an Antelope (as this is a converter test not a clocking test so we wanted to give them all the same 3-rd party clock source).
There is a passive Coleman audio switch which allows the listener to switch between the source, and the path through Pro Tools and each of the converters (and a couple of doubled up decoy outputs too just to make the test double blind)....

All the audio cables are the same, power sources and cables are the same.

If you'd like to come listen to the test, and vote for your favorite, give drop me an email at RSPE - we'd love as many people as possible to come listen and share their opinions.

Chris B
Sales and Marketing Manager
RSPE Audio Solutions, Los Angeles
818 509 5876 - Chris Bolitho
Chris,

Just food for thought. Where I really notice "converters" is when you start stacking and/or re-converting the signal(s). Hence the way my "shootout" was done. I think with a mono, or even stereo source, the ability to hear a difference is going to be way more subtle. However, the fact that you have given your customers a way to at least "double-blind" is fantastic!
#15
21st January 2011
Old 21st January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roostert View Post
Chris,

Just food for thought. Where I really notice "converters" is when you start stacking and/or re-converting the signal(s).
Very true.... you have me thinking about setting up a "multiple passes" test.... hmmm.....
#16
21st January 2011
Old 21st January 2011
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Thanks roostert! Enjoyed the post quite a lot...
Any reason not to include BURL?

theother
#17
21st January 2011
Old 21st January 2011
  #17
theother
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thanks for the report!

very interesting!

I'm using the Symphony I/O with Antelope Atomic+Trinity and I'm very happy.

Gave up on Pro Tools HD a few months ago and use Cubase 6 now for everything so Avid I/O was no option.
#18
21st January 2011
Old 21st January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by work2do View Post
Thank you for taking the time to post your experiences. We went from Lynx to the new Avid 16 i/o. Very impressed.
thumbsup
#19
21st January 2011
Old 21st January 2011
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I actually got the chance to go to RSPE and go through Chris's shootout about a month ago...

I was surprised that even with the 2 track material, the differences were both distinguishable and repeatable between the units... meaning that once you figured out how they matched up across one song, i think most of us would be able to pick them out across another song with a reasonably high accuracy. The lynx sounded a bit hyped in the high end, everything through the apogee just sounded great, and the avid seemed to have just a little more weight in the lower mids, which is the area I personally struggle with the most to get right...

While i have (and love) the apogee x series at my place, i left feeling that if i had to get a new PT rig, i'd probably end up going with the AVID unit, which really surprised me. Having said that, I don't think the differences between the 3 would be the "make or break" factor for any recording that I'd ever be doing.

On a side note, Chris is probably the best salesman i've ever had to work with... the RSPE guys really know their gear. It's worth it to go down and kick the tires for yourself if you're in the LA area.

mB
#20
21st January 2011
Old 21st January 2011
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Thanks for sharing the info !!
roostert
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#21
21st January 2011
Old 21st January 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by claend View Post
Thanks roostert! Enjoyed the post quite a lot...
Any reason not to include BURL?

Well, the Multi-channel Burl was un-available for auditioning.

I had one other criteria...

In addition, if I'm correct in my remembrance, the Burl uses transformers on all the I/O's. I already track on large format consoles (primarily Neve's) and get my "color" from the chains at the studios I track at. Also, I have lot's o' analog gear used in my "in the box" mixing. Experience tells me the Burl will definitely have a "color" or "signature" sound.....Nothing wrong with this, just wasn't what I was looking for.

I'm sure it's an amazing box, and in fact, if I was recording straight to DAW using only a few select pres, it would be a big consideration in my world...but, I'm not.
#22
22nd January 2011
Old 22nd January 2011
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Avid HD I/O with Cubase ?

Can I use the HD I/O also with Cubase (PC) ? If yes, how do I interface the convertor with my computer ? PCIe card ?
#23
22nd January 2011
Old 22nd January 2011
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Yes you can use the Avid I/o with Cubase but you would also need the Avid Native PCIe card
#24
23rd January 2011
Old 23rd January 2011
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Also goes to show what a great quality/price ratio the Aurore has! thumbsup
#25
23rd January 2011
Old 23rd January 2011
  #25
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Anyone heard Atomic/Trinity clock with Mytek 192x8 or UA 2192 ?

Is it more than 10 % sonic upgrade?
#26
24th January 2011
Old 24th January 2011
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I'm curious if anyone here (including you) has listened to the Grimm Audio CC-1 vs the Antelope....I'd be curious to hear what y'all think.

Grimm Audio

-Danny
roostert
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#27
24th January 2011
Old 24th January 2011
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I'm not sure if that question was directed at me....

If it was, no, I haven't. I needed a clock that if at all possible was capable of outputting more than 2 different sample rates. The Trinity handles 3. The Grimm, if I'm correct, only handles 2, so unfortunately it was not even an option. If I was going to get a clock at all, I was gonna move to a unit with 3 different sample rate outputs.....

Why 3 different sample rate outputs....
1. DAW clock (variable sample rates from different sessions)
2. Room Tuning Hardware EQ clock (always set to 96 Khz)
3. HEDD 192 and Tascam DV-RA1000 (generally set to 192Khz)

If I got a new clock, I wanted to be able to clock all of these.

I'm sure the Grimm is a fantastic clock, from everything that I've read, but, didn't quite have all the "bells and whistles".
#28
24th January 2011
Old 24th January 2011
  #28
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Have you had a chance to listen to the SSL Alphalink stuff? I went from Lynx to that and added the BLA clock which I am very happy with. Antelope is just out of the range for me but would love to know what I'm missing if it is indeed far and beyond the BLA stuff.

Are you tracking through CLASP? Chris is a friend of mine and I'm down there a bit, perhaps I could have a listen... Sounds like you have a great rig there.

-ashley
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#29
25th January 2011
Old 25th January 2011
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bassman View Post
Have you had a chance to listen to the SSL Alphalink stuff? I went from Lynx to that and added the BLA clock which I am very happy with. Antelope is just out of the range for me but would love to know what I'm missing if it is indeed far and beyond the BLA stuff.

Are you tracking through CLASP? Chris is a friend of mine and I'm down there a bit, perhaps I could have a listen... Sounds like you have a great rig there.

-ashley
Didn't try SSL Alphalink. Pro Tools HD here. I haven't researched, but I was under the impression that Alphalink has no direct connection to HD?

Have yet to try CLASP. Would love to! I have my reservations about it (not a discussion for this thread), but would love to give it a go.

Can't answer a comparison with BLA.

Your welcome to give me a shout anytime you're in town (pm me). Unless I'm tracking, I'm almost always at my place.

-Matt
#30
25th January 2011
Old 25th January 2011
  #30
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Y'know, I thought you were right about no direct link to HD, BUT:

Solid State Logic | Post & Film

That's their MADI interface that does have an HD card. Its an option.

I'll get with ya on the CLASP. I might be able to set something up for you to hear.

-ashley
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