Prism Sound Orpheus by creative.control
The Prism Sound Orpheus is a 1U 19", firewire interface, offering a wealth of features. Prism Sound, based in Cambridge, UK, have a reputation of offering very high end analogue to digital and digital to analogue conversion and their units are used in some of the worlds biggest studios.
The Orpheus is an all in one solution for any smaller studio as it effectively replaces the functionality and need of a mixing desk when tracking, offering near zero latency monitoring, headphone amps and monitor control, as long as you have some monitors you can easily hook it up to your DAW and start making serious music.
The Orpheus is a goldmine of functionality, it's main selling point being the 8 channels of high end AD-DA conversion, but it also has MIDI I/O, headphone amps and a global volume control (for use with main monitors).
The first four channels have mic preamps before the conversion, these are very usable and are great for all round tracking. I use them specifically for toms and overheads when recording drums, I've also found they work well for vocals.
The only drawback with the preamps is they start at +10db of gain, so for some sources you need external microphone pads (like the Shure AS15) or you can start running into clipping very quickly.
Each preamp has a phantom power switch (48 volts), High Pass Filter (rolling off anything below 80hz), phase reverse and "overkillers" (Prism's proprietary limiter, stopping any clipping/overs occuring), the 3rd and 4th preamps also have an "MS matrix" for mid side mic'ing techniques.
The remaining 4 channels of conversion also have "overkillers", which are handy when tracking particularly hot sources, although I've found them to very slightly degrade high end frequencies on some sources (vocals in particular).
The unit also hosts 2 jack inputs for the first 2 channels which automatically switch over to being instrument inputs, so you can plug in keyboards, bass guitars etc.
The Orpheus also accepts incoming digital signals from another converter, by way of 2 SPDIF or AES and 8 channels of optical (lightpipe). The Orpheus also allows you to output digital signals and you can send the Analogue signals to the digital outputs.
The unit's functions are controlled via the extensive control panel software, with virtual faders for all analogue and the two SPDIF/AES digital I/O, (it does not offer faders for the optical I/O, but does have meters for incoming levels).
The Control Panel software is very in depth, offering lots of different "tabs" for input control and each set of outputs (AO 1+2, AO 3+4 etc) and headphone outputs, so you can be very flexible when setting up monitor mixes etc. The software can be a little confusing at times, but after using it for a few sessions it becomes second nature.
As you can expect from Prism Sound's prestigious reputation, the sound of this unit is excellent. The conversion is very clean, with an extremely low noise floor and wide dynamic range.
The headphone amps are great for mixing, although don't have much in the way of volume for tracking. I use one output for monitoring in the control room and take the other output and hook it up to another headphone amp for more volume for tracking in the live room.
You can daisy chain multiple Orpheus units together for further channels.
On a separate note, I'd like to mention that Prism Sound's customer service is excellent! I had a couple of minor problems with my unit, but they were solved over a telephone conversation with Prism, who answered immediately and were very supportive.
To summarise, this is a high end solution to anyone building a small or mid sized studio, although it may seem an expensive unit at first glace it offers incredible value for money given it's functionality and quality. It's basically a studio in a box!