DiGiGrid DiGiGrid DLS by ProPower
I have been using a DigiGrid DLS + DLI and AVID 16X16 i/o with Pro Tools 11HD for 4 months. The highlights for me are:
- Super Low Latency for tracking regardless of buffer size (1.2ms/96kHz)
- Lets me use my AVID i/o without HD or HD Native hardware
- Sends audio to and from computer with simple CAT6 (or Cat5E) Ethernet cabling
- Easy expandability using Ethernet cabling
- Easy effect chains by using presets in StudioRack
- Rock solid performance
SoundGrid is the name of the technology created by Waves for routing audio over Ethernet. DigiGrid is the name of the joint partnership between Waves and DigiCo to manufacture the DigiGrid I/O boxes. The DigiGrid DLS and DLI are SoundGrid Interfaces that connect any DigiLink enabled I/O to a SoundGrid network. DigiLink is the format that connects to all older Digidesign and early AVID I/O. With a passive adapter cable you can also connect to Mini DigiLink which is the standard for the newer AVID I/O. Several third party vendors over the years have released DigiLink add on cards for their I/O including Apogee and Lynx to name a couple. With the DLS/DLI all of these can now be used with a SoundGrid system.
All of the I/O through the SoundGrid System is configured using SoundGrid Studio. This accomplishes mapping the available I/O from SoundGrid to Core Audio in a MAC (or ASIO in a PC). It took a bit of time to really get familiar with SoundGrid Studio but once I did I set things up so that in my normal workflow (one part at a time) I never leave the Pro Tools window when recording. PT enforces a 32 channel limit with third party drivers regardless of the software being regular PT or PTHD. Regardless, one can simply take the same hardware setup and by using Cubase 8 Pro or Logic Pro X have up to 128 simultaneous I/O with SoundGrid. One could also have several SoundGrid Studio Session Files to map particular sets of more than 32 inputs to the 32 allowed in ProTools.
I find the process of using this system very easy. To record a part I put StudioRack on a track, put it in SoundGrid mode, toggle the Auto switch to ON, select the inputs to match the track I am working on and configure the effects I want. Once that is set up I hit record in Pro Tools and do a take. To hear it back I just push Play in Pro Tools and the track automatically goes to playback mode (thanks to the Auto button in StudioRack) and I hear it with all effects in place. Hit Record in Pro Tools and I am back in record mode to do more takes. WRT the effects - after a few takes of vocals or guitar I pretty much have a default effects chain so I save these as presets in StudioRack to shorten the process.
When using StudioRack in Record mode (labeled as Input mode in StudioRack) it defaults to muting the Pro Tools mixer (although it is recorded in Pro Tools just fine). This eliminates the problem of getting the low latency sound from SoundGrid mixed with the delayed sound from Pro Tools. Unfortunately this also mutes all the Sends in PT. So to get Reverb going for the Artist when recording takes one more step. The easiest way to do this is to put a Reverb in the StudioRack effects chain of the track (not my usual solution). A second method is to put a Waves Reverb in the Waves eMotionST mixer and feed it from one of the sends in StudioRack (easily done and only needs to be configured once). The sends in StudioRack are only active when a Track is in Record mode. So I usually put a Renn Reverb in the eMotionST mixer and in my PT session file. Then I set the send in StudioRack the same as the track. This lets me hear a no additional latency Reverb when recording and the same Reverb on playback. Things are going to get even better when the new Waves H-Reverb is released. But these are not the only ways. I can also configure a stereo StudioRack Send to an Aux Track in ProTools (via the eMotionST mixer) and then have the AUX track in PT routed to my main PT Reverb. In this configuration whatever Reverb is in my PT session (Lexicon Native PCM for instance) will be heard in Record and Playback. There will be a little extra delay on the Reverb in Record mode for this routing but for a Reverb this is like adding extra PreDelay. So as you can see - SoundGrid is super flexible and can adapt to many workflows.
I also typically set up a series of effects and leave them all in SoundGrid mode. This includes a few delays, some Kramer Tape instances and some Reverbs. Having these all in SoundGrid mode takes the FX processing off of my CPU. The result is super low latency (1.2ms/1.6ms 96kHz/44.1kHz) at an almost laughable CPU load - 10% usually for me (on a new Mac Pro Hex core).
In my first Studio setup I was only using a DLS + Avid I/O. Since I mostly record solo instruments and Voice featured Singer Songwriters it is important to keep both my mixing and recording rooms free of fan noise. The DLS (like my AVID i/o) has an internal fan. I measured the noise at 1 foot in front of it to be ~41dBA. For many this would be a non issue but for me I wanted this away from both the mics and the mix position. Luckily with this system relocating the DLS is just a CAT6 cable away. A 50 foot cable set me back $20 and I was - almost - done. It was tempting to just put the AVID I/O with it but for a few reasons I wanted this one near to my mix position. In my case I added a DigiGrid DLI to the mix room and coupled the AVID I/O with it. The DLI is a one rack space unit that enables the connection of up to four DigiLink I/Os but has no DSP - and for my uses also has no fan. So I daisy chained my computer to the DLI and then added a 50 foot CAT6 cable to the DLS. It is great to know that I can easily expand again anytime. My next thought is to add an IOX to the mix room (no fan) and put the AVID I/O with the DLS (now all fans are in the same place!). Then I can take the DLI up to my office and couple it with an AVID OMNI and access my whole studio from there!
The MAIN thing for me is that DLS + SoundGrid system allows me to continue working with industry standard AVID I/Os in Pro Tools or almost any other modern DAW with DSP power to enable recording at 1.2ms latency for any buffer setting. I also get super easy expandability via CAT6 (or Cat5E) cabling to add or move I/O anywhere in my facility (which is a house in my case :-). Lastly I also have no loss of performance or stability in Pro Tools 11 versus my HD Native setup that I was using before this.