In my project studio I recently installed a 48 channel D&R Merlin and was looking for a way to interface my DAW with the console. After much research and experimenting I settled on the SSl Alpha Link I/O AX version. The Ax version incorporates 24 channels of ADAT optical as well as the primary MADI format.
As a stand alone unit the Alpha Link is simple and easy to configure. I had it plugged into my old RME card via the ADAT optical and up and running in no time. The sound was big and I immediately noticed a tighter bottom end in the mix I had been working on.
Where the alpha link really shines is when it is used with the SSL MX4 card. The MX4 opens up routing possibilities that I had dreamed of for years. The MX4 mixer allows you to create your own mixer with custom routing to fit your studio set up. Latency while tracking becomes a thing of the past routing the input directly back to the console for monitoring. I was able to create individual headphone mixes by adding stereo sends to the input channels. I could monitor through SSL EQ and compression with or without tracking the effect.
On one extreme metal project I used ssl compression and eq to track with great punchy results. On a traditional roots recording I used the buss compressor during mix down and brought out some quiet notes without any complaints from the fussy mandolin player.
The Alpha Link M4X combination has allowed me to integrate my analog console completely with my DAW.
The learning curve on the routing was a bit steep but after a few minutes conversation with tech support I had it sorted out and it made perfect sense.
So, I installed another one.
In my studio i am running a motu sytem(2408 mk3,2408 mk2,1224, pci-e 424). I am still on the motu because i like the dsp card to make latenz free headphone mixes. But the motu converters are not that good to run outboard with it. So i needed better ones. I checked a lot like presonus, rme ....They were all ok but not wow ;-) Then i had the chance to test the SSL alpha link. For me i found the missing link between my outboard and my daw. The converters sound absolute great, a lot of channels and easy to use. The menu is a little bit tricky but its ok. I think for the money the best converters you can get. I think about buying a second one sometimes ;-)
I demo'd the SSL in my studio for 2 weeks. Kept going back and forth between SSL and another super high end set of converters. Had a few mixers come over and did some critical listening. SSL was very transparent and my mixes have been the best I've ever done. I was afraid that the SSL wouldn't be very good given the low price. I was wrong. It is amazing. Highly recommended. The perfect combo would be RME raydat or RME Madi + SSL Alpha Link.
When I upgraded my converters from a digi002+focusrite saffire 26i/o the differences were huge. Despite it's relatively low price it's right up there with apogee and lynx in terms of conversion quality. 24i/o of AD/DA and 24 i/o of ADAT is more than enough for me. Well maybe another alpha link will be showing up for some more channels on the console. It's addictive!
The build quality is solid and the metering is pretty useful. The only thing that's less straight forward is the way you select the routing of the analog+digital inputs to the outputs using the output knob. This is explained pretty well in the manual so the saying rtfm is in it's place here