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Have solid preamps, need 24 ch of high quality conversion Audio Interfaces
Old 30th November 2014
  #1
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Have solid preamps, need 24 ch of high quality conversion

I have seen that this sort of thing has been discussed at length but almost an hour on the search page has left me still wanting to ask people's thoughts so here it goes:



The MoTU and RME stuff isn't cutting it for me anymore. I've collected a fair assortment of nice pre-ampage (Trident, API, old H&K, etc.) and my current setup of solid pre's leaves me wanting 16-24 channels of simultaneous A to D conversion of the finest quality to simply plug my preamps into.

Having recently sound tested an old Apogee 200 in my setup next to my 248Mk2 and RME, I was unfortunately apalled by my stuff - sounded dry and thin by comparison to the Apogee. It's clear to me now that I'm really not getting the most out of my pre's because of the analog to digital conversion.....



I've been looking at other audio interfaces and PCI cards a lot but I can't seem to narrow down what exactly I need and I can't find a lot of high-end stuff to test locally. I'm not sure what to do. Should I get an 8-channel interface to plug my pre;s into and then connect additional channels via ADAT? Or Should I just get a card for the PC with 24+ ins and wire them to a patch bay to plug my pre's directly into those?? Or is there a better idea that I haven't yet considered....?



Very curious about everyone's experience on the subject and what you guys would recommend.


Again, to simplify my question:


- I'm looking for 24 channels of simultaneous analog to digital, super high quality and transparent (at least 24 bit/48K preferably 88.2 on all channels)

- I'm looking to spend well under 10K......Heck, well under 5K if possible but I really want quality here so that my preamps will be as much a part of the finished sound as possible.

- For connectivity, I have empty PCI slots as well as firewire and USB 3.0 ports on my PC.It's fairly powerful at 8-core/4.0Ghz, 8 GB of RAM, solid video card, etc. I've had good luck with firewire as far as latency but I'm open to whatever is best.

- I primarily track and mix in Cubase 6 and 7.




Many, many thanks to all who can help.
Old 30th November 2014
  #2
Gear Nut
 

For many I/Os Antelope Orion is the best money/channel. It has good converters and even more than you need.
Symphony is very nice aswell! If that is not good enough you might want to look at burl mothership, merging horus or dad x32. These are probably the best converters for a higher Channel count - but will cost more than 5 k. Most will work with madi or dante. So PCIe card would work fine for Low latency.
Old 30th November 2014
  #3
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I will check the IZ ADA II with the classic 96 cards. With a RME Madi interface you have 24 AD/DA at 96kz. I tested this vs DAD. The DAD sounds very well but more analytical and the IZ more natural for me. I ended with the IZ and keepi in love.
Old 30th November 2014
  #4
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Yes check out the IZ Radar converters the ADAII system , if I had the cash to put into it I would get these guys for sure ! ADA II | iZ Technology
Old 30th November 2014
  #5
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Thanks so much for the responses guys. I am looking into each unit.
@ Bartolobartus - The Antelope Orion sounds like just exactly what I'm looking for. Price point is PERFECT for my budget (under 5) and all the very positive reviews that I'm reading are stressing "transparency" in the tone which is EXACTLY what I'm looking for as I want the color of my Pre's to shine through. And 32 channels is definitely more favorable than 24.

My only question on the unit is can it really track 32 simultaneous channels at 192K via USB? USB 2.0?? I'm not reading anything about it using 3.0 and I thought 2.0 capped out at like 16 channels at 192..... Perhaps I am misinformed??....
Old 30th November 2014
  #6
nms
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frozenleaddd View Post
Thanks so much for the responses guys. I am looking into each unit.
@ Bartolobartus - The Antelope Orion sounds like just exactly what I'm looking for. Price point is PERFECT for my budget (under 5) and all the very positive reviews that I'm reading are stressing "transparency" in the tone which is EXACTLY what I'm looking for as I want the color of my Pre's to shine through. And 32 channels is definitely more favorable than 24.

My only question on the unit is can it really track 32 simultaneous channels at 192K via USB? USB 2.0?? I'm not reading anything about it using 3.0 and I thought 2.0 capped out at like 16 channels at 192..... Perhaps I am misinformed??....
I certainly wouldn't bank on 32 channels running well at 192khz over usb. Are you on mac? Have TB?

To clarify, the Symphony is absolutely a higher level of component quality & design than the Orion. Symphony will pass audio with less artifacts.

If it were me, I'd grab a Hilo for 2ch in & 4ch out of top shelf mastering grade conversion. Use this as your monitoring DAC, golden channels for tracking or capturing your console, or running an analog chain. Connect that via ADAT to the new Motu 16a which has both USB and TB to connect to your machine and will be externally clocked by the Hilo. You'd only get 18ch in with this config, but it'll be a huge upgrade. To save the time of explaining why I'm mentioning a Motu product just go here: RME, Mytek or Metric Halo between 2 X Retro Powerstrips and DAW?
Old 30th November 2014
  #7
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MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
Apogee Symphony...flexible configuration...can do 24in 8 out up to 24 X 24...or 32 X 32..32 X 16 Thunderbolt can be added when you upgrade.
Old 1st December 2014
  #8
Gear Nut
 

I dont own an Antelope orion, so i wasnt able to test myself. But i heard people saying it works. They seem to have developed their own usb driver. On this level its hard to say which Converter sounds better. They are all really nice and its more a matter of taste and what functionality you need.
Old 1st December 2014
  #9
Motu HD192 System. It's cheap cause they stopped making it and it sounds superb. 2 boxes and 1 card would work great for you.
Old 1st December 2014
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nms View Post
I certainly wouldn't bank on 32 channels running well at 192khz over usb. Are you on mac? Have TB?

To clarify, the Symphony is absolutely a higher level of component quality & design than the Orion. Symphony will pass audio with less artifacts.

If it were me, I'd grab a Hilo for 2ch in & 4ch out of top shelf mastering grade conversion. Use this as your monitoring DAC, golden channels for tracking or capturing your console, or running an analog chain. Connect that via ADAT to the new Motu 16a which has both USB and TB to connect to your machine and will be externally clocked by the Hilo. You'd only get 18ch in with this config, but it'll be a huge upgrade. To save the time of explaining why I'm mentioning a Motu product just go here: RME, Mytek or Metric Halo between 2 X Retro Powerstrips and DAW?

Thanks for this. That Hilo does seem to have a rep for sounding exceptionally nice. If I don't score one right away it is definitely on my wish list. (Hello Tax Return!)

I am on PC.....Thunderbolt upgrading seems like an option but I still have to research it's reliability if I were to go the PCI card route....(Firewire cards have issues unless they have the proper TI chip so I worry about a similar issue here. Also, all the TB PCI stuff I'm seeing seems to be advertised for video.....

Wish more stuff was firewire - USB 2.0 wtf!? I've had such good luck with firewire and such terrible luck with USB. Why not firewire and TB? ack.

Considering that they're apparently near-equal in quality and resolution, (-77db phase cancellation with the highly touted Symphony - DAMNNNN, that's crazy!) do you find the new Motu 16a and associated line to truly be that high of a value? You seem to know your stuff - and I know you said you hadn't tried it yourself - but have you heard any positive reviews from other pros? (Less technical, more subjective stuff?). If a thunder bolt PCI-upgrade will work then that sounds like a solid option in and of itself...

Also - the symphony looks very nice and is highly regarded. Though it poses the same Thunderbolt issue for me as the MoTU 16A....



Anyone have experience with syncing ThunderBolt cards with an audio interface on a PC?


Again, thanks everyone so much for your input. Please keep any and all suggestions coming. Many thanks!
Old 1st December 2014
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartolobartus View Post
I dont own an Antelope orion, so i wasnt able to test myself. But i heard people saying it works. They seem to have developed their own usb driver. On this level its hard to say which Converter sounds better. They are all really nice and its more a matter of taste and what functionality you need.
Interesting about the USB driver. I hear ya on the subjectivity/taste thing.

Tonally, the main thing I desire in the A/D is transparency - so the tone of my analog channels can shine thru.
Old 1st December 2014
  #12
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tekis's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrChick View Post
I will check the IZ ADA II with the classic 96 cards. With a RME Madi interface you have 24 AD/DA at 96kz. I tested this vs DAD. The DAD sounds very well but more analytical and the IZ more natural for me. I ended with the IZ and keepi in love.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ARIEL View Post
Yes check out the IZ Radar converters the ADAII system , if I had the cash to put into it I would get these guys for sure ! ADA II | iZ Technology
Yup, iZ are my personal favorites.
Old 1st December 2014
  #13
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To me it's hard to ignore old AD16X. I've heard many great sounding albums tracked via these and the second hand prices make them quite a bargain. I also like Lucid 88192, though it's 8in/8out in 2U so 3 of them will take some rack real estate.
Old 1st December 2014
  #14
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I've got a Black Lion Audio modded MOTU 24IO with latest 424PCIe card in the classified if you want to check it out.
Old 1st December 2014
  #15
nms
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rob61 View Post
I've got a Black Lion Audio modded MOTU 24IO with latest 424PCIe card in the classified if you want to check it out.
Those are worlds away from the build & component quality of the new units. Probably not what the OP is after.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frozenleaddd View Post
Thanks for this. That Hilo does seem to have a rep for sounding exceptionally nice.
You can pick them up around $2100 new.

Quote:
I am on PC.....Thunderbolt upgrading seems like an option but I still have to research it's reliability if I were to go the PCI card route....(Firewire cards have issues unless they have the proper TI chip so I worry about a similar issue here. Also, all the TB PCI stuff I'm seeing seems to be advertised for video..
The only company I know with a Thunderbolt interface that has windows drivers is Lynx. Motu are working on theirs but it won't be out til at least Feb I think. In order to run TB on Windows you need a new machine with Tb capability though, as there are no universal TB add in cards. I'm going to give Lynx a call to find out which motherboards they've actually tested it with. Suffice to say, MAC is ahead of PC with TB integration. Personally I'd avoid buying any FW devices, as it's been on its way out for a while now and doesn't compare with TB or PCIe for latency or bandwidth.

Quote:
Considering that they're apparently near-equal in quality and resolution, (-77db phase cancellation with the highly touted Symphony - DAMNNNN, that's crazy!) do you find the new Motu 16a and associated line to truly be that high of a value?
In all the converters I've tested I have never found 2 different units to test so similarly. I don't think it's a coincidence. I think they dissected a Symphony at one point and borrowed some ideas. In terms of value, considering the component quality, TB/USB/AVB connectivity and all the I/O I think the 16A & 1248 are hands down the best in the business. They also have new 24ai and 24ao units, but the 24ai has a lower spec ADC than found in the 1248 and 16A, so it's much better to grab a 16A and a 1248 to get 24 channels of their best AD conversion. The units connect to each other via Ethernet, which is very cool.

Motu have always been one of the best around for value, it's just that they focused on less expensive units that weren't interesting to those of us with higher standards.

Quote:
You seem to know your stuff - and I know you said you hadn't tried it yourself - but have you heard any positive reviews from other pros? (Less technical, more subjective stuff?).
Doug Williams picked up one and is really liking it. He ran an ADDA loop with the test files I sent him so that's what I've had to go over myself. I wouldn't hesitate in buying or recommending one, but the one thing I can't vouch for is clock performance. That's harder to test. I know the clocking is good, but I can't say if it's as good as the Symphony. If you have a nice high end clock source like the Hilo or another nice mastering unit to clock it with then that's even better. One could easily get on nicely with it by itself then add the benefits of a Hilo later.

Quote:
the symphony looks very nice and is highly regarded. Though it poses the same Thunderbolt issue for me as the MoTU 16A....
The only way you can run a Symphony on PC is to buy an RME PCIe card and run it via AES or ADAT. The fans can get noisy though on the higher channel count Symphony configs. 16ch I/O you might just get away with. Anything higher and you need it in a machine room for sure.


Quote:
Originally Posted by matucha View Post
To me it's hard to ignore old AD16X. I've heard many great sounding albums tracked via these and the second hand prices make them quite a bargain. I also like Lucid 88192, though it's 8in/8out in 2U so 3 of them will take some rack real estate.
The old 16X series were great! Much cleaner than the Lucid 88192.
Old 1st December 2014
  #16
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You don't mention what sample rate you record at.

Basically for high channel count at 44.1k or 48k sample rate an interface that connects to the converter(s) via ADAT cuts it (especially RME interfaces). Once you double the sample rate you get half the number of channels due to ADAT's protocal. If you want high channels count and high sample rate start looking at the MADI interfaces.

Are you also going to be doing remote recording? If so the stand alone hard disk recorder like the Radar units and the Alesis HD24XR (with or without the Jim Williams mod) can be a smart choice. In the studio, use the unit(s) for it's converters only plugged into your interface. On remote it's less to carry with just having the hard disk recorder itself though many will have two hard disk recorders for redundancy.

Given you are not using Pro Tools as a DAW app you will have more choices. Those that do use Pro Tools need to make sure about compatibility.

Sadly there has not been a good converter shoot out in which Engineers blindly sonically rate units for transparency or for colored units, best sound. There are a few large threads here concerning that subject but it will be a massive undertaking if done since basically you need to quickly compare a group of canidates to a live stereo monitered source. Your best bet is to make a short list of all options that meet your present and near future needs and look for actual user comments on those units concerning if the converter is more transparent or colored since you are looking for transparent.
Old 3rd December 2014
  #17
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So much useful information. Thanks everybody.

What is the best MADI unit for syncing? Are the USB MADI units any good or should I be looking at the rack units. I'm not familiar with the madi stuff at all to be honest. I guess I'm real behind here on the current tech.

There's a local selling an Apogee AD16X in good shape. I really enjoyed the sound of the Apogee 200, I'm assuming the tech is very similar (same era, brand, etc.). My question: is there a way to reliability get all 16 channels at 88.2Khz into my PC? and how?
Old 3rd December 2014
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nms View Post
Yes, if it has adat then pickup an RME RayDat card. I'd rather go with a Motu 16a though for the reasons I mentioned.
I see what you mean. The 16a does sound like the most versatile and cost effective unit mentioned - and ideal since it allows for channel expansion - I guess I just don't fully understand how I'm going to get all 16 channels into the PC properly at 88.2 without thunderbolt. Isn't USB 2.0 gonna chug/lag or pull from my system resources significantly at 16ch x 88.2? Or should I buy a PCI card of some sort to plug it into?


FTR guys: 88.2Khz Is ideal for me. I'm not worried about going higher right now but I'm really dying to get at least 16 ch at 88.2khz and I need a reliable connection of course.
Old 3rd December 2014
  #19
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Have you considered the Focusrite Rednet options? What about MADI conversion options like those from Burl, SSL or SPL?

A couple of 16 channel Lynx Auroras?

Beyond that, for PC, you could look at Merging, DAD or Prism if you want to go crazy.

Last edited by zigziglar; 3rd December 2014 at 06:19 AM.. Reason: .
Old 3rd December 2014
  #20
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frozenleaddd View Post
Thanks so much for the responses guys. I am looking into each unit.
@ Bartolobartus - The Antelope Orion sounds like just exactly what I'm looking for. Price point is PERFECT for my budget (under 5) and all the very positive reviews that I'm reading are stressing "transparency" in the tone which is EXACTLY what I'm looking for as I want the color of my Pre's to shine through. And 32 channels is definitely more favorable than 24.

My only question on the unit is can it really track 32 simultaneous channels at 192K via USB? USB 2.0?? I'm not reading anything about it using 3.0 and I thought 2.0 capped out at like 16 channels at 192..... Perhaps I am misinformed??....
It will do 24 channels I/O at 192k, I don't have 32 channels hooked up, so I can't say about that, but it may top out at 24. Its still a pretty great unit.
Old 3rd December 2014
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nms View Post
You'll be fine doing 16 channels over USB at 88.2khz. That said, since the 16a has USB & TB, you'll be able to switch to TB later when it comes time to replace your computer. TB hasn't really landed yet for PC. X99 machines are on the market, but the compatible TB add-in-cards are scarce.
For sure. After looking at prices, the 16A seems like the best bet. The Orion unit looks killer and gets some rave reviews but it's about double the price. That 16A is so affordable I may just have to take the plunge, buy one and see how it goes.

I've had pretty fair luck with Motu's custo service despite hearing some negative stuff from folks online. So I have high hopes.



Now I'm REALLY curious - when do you guys see TB becoming a thing for PC? Could we see add-in PCI Thunderbolt cards for studio-reliable audio performance on PC's as early as mid 2015?
Old 3rd December 2014
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frozenleaddd View Post
The Orion unit looks killer and gets some rave reviews but it's about double the price.
Yes, but TWICE the channels (32 instead of 16). I'm sure either unit would be good, but I did learn long ago, NEVER buy on future promises. Only buy for what you can do now.

Just as the Orion had a bit of driver development to refine during the first year, I'm sure MOTU will go through the same especially on the PC platform.
Old 3rd December 2014
  #23
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Nail down what sample rate you will be recording at and number of channels I/O needed otherwise some of the options people list can be just chasing your tail since you are talking about high track counts.

USB will work with a single interface unit, when using multiple units it gets messy or just won't work period. Even with a single unit after X amount of channels USB can choke (see the Orion thread as an example).

There are solid multiple ADAT interface card setups that will give you high track counts AT 44.1k or 48K sample rate (as stated above, once you go higher with the sample rate you cut the track count in half). Examples: three RME 9652 PCI cards for 72 channels of ADAT or two RME Raydat PCIe cards for 64 channels of ADAT.

Both MADI PCI and PCIe card will allow multiple cards at high sample rate and high track counts but will cost you.

Redmere (networking) is very expensive and the jury is still out regarding latency for studio use (nobody has chimed back in those threads with ACTUAL round trip measured latency figures).
Old 4th December 2014
  #24
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The issue is the budget, really. I would personally try to avoid USB if PCI-e is an option. An RME ADAT or MADI card and dedicated converters of the respective format would be my preference. The problem is you'll burn a grand or two on the PCI-e card and be left with only 3k for converters, which won't be enough unless you get two Madisons or Ferrofish ... Upping the budget closer to the 10k mark, you've gota few more options. Still, Burl and DAD are out of the question - Burl being cheaper, I think. Although you'd need 6 AD modules on top of the Mothership, so around $11000k :/
Old 4th December 2014
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nms View Post
I'm not sure how the Ferrofish are, but I've heard from a few people so far who weren't impressed with the sound of the Madisons. As for PCIe cards, there's no way I'd spend $1800 on a PCIe MADI card. RayDat makes more sense for sure especially if you can grab one used. I'd rather just use USB til TB is fully running on PC though.
I haven't heard the new Ferrofish. It will be interesting how the Madison sounds once I get it back from BLA, given they identified notable room for improvement.

ADAT is certainly a much cheaper platform to start off in, for sure. That being said, just like you and your Hilo, I'm obsessed with the performance (sans conversion) of the MADI FX. I assume the Raydat wouldn't be far behind though.

NMS, what's your view on the best dedicated MADI converters at the moment? Am I missing any? Ferrofish, Madison, SSL variants, Aurora, Burl, DAD, Merging ... There seems to be a gap in the market between the Madison/Ferrofish and the Burl/DAD ...
Old 4th December 2014
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nms View Post
The RayDat and MADI FX are both RME PCIe cards, so I don't believe there's any performance gain with the MADI over the RayDat. Just connectivity perks and I/O count.

None of those converters you mentioned interest me though. A Motu 1248/16a or Symphony clocked off my Hilo are really all I care about for conversion at this point. Maybe the merging stuff is great, but people tend to automatically assume high prices equal a superior product so who knows really. I haven't tested one. I'm undecided as to whether I'll grab a 1248 or just pick up another Hilo, but won't be bothering with that for a few months. I'm looking to pick up a Vertigo VSC-2 or Foote compressor next, which are much more interesting!
Yeah fair enough. I'd be happy with those setups too. I will eventually add a mastering converter like the Hilo (probably just get the Hilo TBH) and clock the Madisons off it.

It just seems like there's a big window of opportunity for dedicated MADI/ADAT converters in the 2k-5k area. Main reason I went for the Madisons was curiosity haha I have heard some of SPLs analogue gear and they definitely have that side of things well under control. Hopefully the Black Lion mods will add some extra transparency and resolution. Time shall tell.
Old 4th December 2014
  #27
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Well if you look at it from a budget angle, this proven combo makes a lot of sense to get to high channel I/O counts using 44.1k or 48k sample rate (which most of us still use), and is especially useful when doing Hybrid with an analog mixer. Used Alesis HD24XR, 24 converter channels (around $1200 used price in US), teamed up with a used RME 9652 PCI card interface, 24 channels ADAT (around $300 used price in US). You can use up to three of these combos together (three RME 9652 cards in a computer) giving you 72 channels I/O for little money relatively - $4.5k total. There is plenty of ink here on this combo using the search function for your research. Basically many find the stock HD24XR converter decent but you can send the unit(s) off to Jim Williams for his mod which in his words makes them sound better than Radar quality. The RME interface is one of the best proven ones out there delivering very low latency at full load with one of the best software mixers too. As for the limitation of using a PCI card for the interface, you can still find PCI card slots on new motherboards for use with the latest CPU's (hint: the Asus Z97-C which has 3 PCI slots and will use the Intel 4790K CPU - around a $1k do it yourself computer build). You also get to use the HD24XR as a stand alone recorder for remotes for free.

The negative to this combo is due to the ADAT protocal, once you go to higher sample rates you cut the channel I/O in half.
Old 4th December 2014
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zigziglar View Post

NMS, what's your view on the best dedicated MADI converters at the moment? Am I missing any? .
YES...the gorilla in the room is Direct Out

DirectOut - Home
Old 4th December 2014
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MIKEHARRIS View Post
YES...the gorilla in the room is Direct Out

DirectOut - Home
Never heard of them! Looks good though. Splitting is ingenious!

Do you have one? I'm looking at the andiamo2 ... How does the conversion quality compare? I see these are intended for broadcast, which you'd assume means benchmark transparency, but what about stereo image and what not?
Old 13th December 2014
  #30
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RME RayDat and RME 9652...what's the difference? they seem quite similar minus the price. Must be missing something...

It's looking like i'm going to end up going PCI. Me and USB are having more issues with each other day by day.
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