Most of us live in a world surrounded by digital converters. They’re everywhere – in digital consoles, DAWs, MDMs, DASH decks, DATs and in digital outboard toys of every variety. To be sure, the role of the A/D converter has much to do with shaping the sound of the all-digital studio, especially when audio is converted once and stays in the digital domain until playback in a movie theater, broadcast chain or consumer’s home as direct download, MiniDisc, CD or DVD. Fortunately for the pro audio industry, converter quality continues to improve, with high fidelity, wider bandwidth and better resolution, while prices for digital gear either remain stable or drop earthward.
In many cases, an investment in a set of new outboard converters can extend the life of older gear, and in the case of computer-based systems, new converters and a software upgrade may be all that’s required to enter the era of high-performance, 24-bit/96kHz production. And, sometimes, an outboard device – e.g., a digital reverb, digital console or one of the popular workstation front ends, such as the SeaSound Solo or the Event EZbus – can perform analog/digital (and/or digital/analog) conversion chores in place of a dedicated outboard converter set. A recent trend is to build an A/D converter into mic preamps, vocal processors and the like, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll examine what’s new in top-of-the-line dedicated converters from various manufacturers, listed alphabetically. Should you require more information about these products, a Web address is included with each entry.
ADC DA4030NVision is now a part of ADC (www.nvision1.com) and is incorporating its technology within the ADC product line. Designed for use in the NVision 4000 Series frame, the DA4030 is a 24-bit, 4-channel AES A/D converter card that contains two independent converters, so 16 high-quality converters fit in two rackspaces. Features include 28kHz to 96kHz sampling rates (with support for off-speed sampling), redundant digital outputs in AES/EBU format, input level adjustment from +12 dBu to +24 dBu in 1dB increments, 128x oversampling, and user-configurable jumpers for selection of analog input termination and FSD operating level.
Alesis AI-3Originally designed as a single-rackspace front end for the ADAT Edit card, the AI-3 from Alesis (www.alesis.com) is an 8-channel, A/D/A set using the ADAT Lightpipe optical protocol. Features include eight analog inputs and outputs (balanced 11/44-inch TRS), 24-bit/128x oversampling digital converters, selectable +4dBu/-10dBV operation and a patching function for routing the signal though the AI-3 to any Lightpipe-equipped device or ADAT in the chain. Retail is $499.
Apogee AD-8000SEOver the past few years, Apogee (www.apogeedigital.com) has continued to upgrade and enhance its TEC Award-winning AD-8000 8-channel A/D converter with a variety of accessory cards and options. The newest addition is the AD-8000SE, a Special Edition featuring an upgraded analog board using specially selected components for improved sound quality. Standard features of the AD-8000 line include: 24-bit converters; Apogee Soft Limit[R] on each channel; Apogee UV22[R] encoding on every channel for translating the 24-bit signal to 20 or 16 bits; multimode LED metering; switchable DC Offset removal; balanced or unbalanced inputs; AES/EBU and co-ax S/PDIF out; and optional ADAT/Pro Tools/Tascam TDIF interfacing. The AD-8000SE is $7,995, and existing AD-8000s can be upgraded. An optional DAC8-SE enhanced D/A card is $1,595.
Audio Service D.A.I.S.A versatile converter system, the Digital Audio Interconnection System (D.A.I.S.) from Audio Service (www.audio-service.com) is an external cardcage that accepts 14 single- or five double-height YGDAI (Yamaha 02R format) cards. This allows the user to configure any desired combination of A/D, D/A, format conversion, routing and I/O (AES/ADAT/TDIF/Yamaha Y2) possibilities using standard Yamaha-compatible cards, with master clocking and a 72×72 stereo router matrix controlled via a simple Windows program.
ART DI/ONew from Applied Research and Technology (www.artroch.com), Model 110 DI/O 24-bit A/D/A converter offers sampling rates up to 96 kHz. Its 12AX7 vacuum tube-based analog circuit has a variable “tube character” control for warming up existing tracks. Features include coaxial S/PDIF digital I/O, switchable 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96kHz sampling rates and 11/44-inch stereo analog ins/outs. Retail is $249.
Benchmark AD2408-96The AD2408-96 8-channel, 24-bit, 96kHz A/D converter from Benchmark (www.benchmarkmedia.com) features 16, 20 or 24-bit recording; 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96kHz sampling (plus varispeed); 9-segment true digital metering and various settings for noise-shaped word length reduction. All analog connectors are balanced XLR, and several available motherboards offer a choice of digital interface connectors – AES3-1992 XLR (110 ohm), AES3id-SMPTE-276M BNC (75 ohm) and optical, with more coming soon. Retail ranges from $4,695 to $4,995.
dB Technologies dB-4496Distributed by Audio Intervisual Design, the expandable dB-4496 system frame from dB Technologies (www.dbtechno.com) can be ordered with a variety of plug-in modules, the newest of which is the M-AD824, a 2-channel, 96kHz, 24-bit A/D converter. The multichannel system supports 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96kHz sampling frequencies and a choice of 2, 4, 6 or 8 channels. Other modules for this self-contained single- or double-wire conversion system include the M-DA824 (2-channel D/A module) and the M-AD824, M-DD1-2 and M-DD2-1 (single/double and double/single-wire AES translator).
dCS 904Distributed in the U.S. by Independent Audio (www.independentaudio.com), dCS offers three ADCs covering all standard PCM sample rates from 32 kHz to 192 kHz, with output word lengths of up to 24-bits; all are hardware/software upgradeable for new formats or rates. The top-of-the-line dCS 904 features 2.822MHz Sony DSD format capability (AES/EBU 4-wire), along with dual and quad AES/EBU outs, SDIF-2 and SDIF-3 outputs, four anti-aliasing filters for each sampling rate, three noise shaping choices, remote control via Windows software and the ability to output DSD reformatted in pseudo-AES3 format, using the unit’s four AES digital outputs for storing DSD data on any PCM digital audio recorder that can store eight tracks of 16-bit/44.1kHz data, such as the Genex GX-8000, Alesis M20 or Tascam DA-88. Retail is $7,335.
Digidesign 888|24 I/OOriginally designed as a front end for Digidesign (www.digidesign.com) Pro Tools systems, the 888|24 I/O offers eight channels of 24-bit/48kHz A/D and D/A conversion and can also be used as a stand-alone converter set for non-Pro Tools applications. Multiple 888|24 I/Os can be combined for up to 72 channels (software dependent) of discrete analog or digital I/O. All analog interfacing is via balanced XLRs with recessed level matching trim pots; digital I/O is 2-channel AES or S/PDIF, or multichannel direct to Pro Tools cards; ADAT Lightpipe interfacing is optional. Retail is $3,695.
Euphonix AD-26+2As part of the development of its TEC Award-winning System 5 digital console, Euphonix (www.euphonix.com) created a versatile series of outboard multichannel A/D and D/A converters, which can be used with nearly any type of digital gear. Each unit in the series has 26 channels (24 channels plus a stereo pair) of 24-bit/96kHz conversion in a two-rackspace chassis, and units include analog-to-AES/EBU (the AD-26+2), analog-to-MADI, AES/EBU-to-MADI and the reverse of each, along with an AES/EBU digital-to-digital converter. Standard on the AD-26+2 are XLR balanced inputs; input level trims; stereo AES/EBU and S/PDIF outputs; multichannel AES/EBU outs on 12 XLRs and three DB-25 (Yamaha 02R/Sony PCM-800 pinout) ports; 24-bit, oversampled, noise-shaped sigma-delta conversion; and dithered or noise-shaped conversion to 20 or 16-bits on each of the 24 AES/EBU outputs.
Genex GXA8Unveiled at AES Los Angeles, the GXA8 A/D converter from Genex (distributed by HHB, www.hhbusa.com) is a stand-alone unit offering eight channels of 24- bit/192 kHz. (A companion D/A is also available.) Outputs are available in a variety of digital audio formats, with AES3 fitted as standard, supporting four channels of 24-bit/192 kHz in dual-wire mode, or eight channels of 24-bit/96 kHz in single-wire mode. An optional AES expansion card provides eight channels of 24-bit/192 kHz in dual-wire mode, with cards also available to support eight channels of SDIF-2, ADAT and TDIF outputs; IEEE 1394 is planned for the future. Another option offers operation in Direct Stream Digital (DSD) mode, converting eight channels of analog audio into the 2.8224MHz digital bit stream, which forms the basis of the Sony Super Audio CD format. Retail is $4,220.
Graham-Patten AvenueAvenue from Graham-Patten Systems (www.graham-patten.com) is a versatile cardcage that houses a wide array of audio and video processing cards, including analog and video D/As, video A/D/As, AES/EBU word clock generator, and 4-channel audio A/D and D/A cards. The Model 6010 is a 4-channel, 20-bit audio A/D converter with four balanced line inputs (with gain trims on each) and two AES3id outputs (four copies of each). Parameters can be locally or remotely controlled.
Harrison Digital ConverterThe Digital Converter from Harrison (www.harrisonconsoles.com) provides up to 448 channels of analog/digital signal conversion with MADI interfacing housed in a twelve-rackspace enclosure. Each unit houses eight dedicated converter cards that can be mixed within the system to create custom configurations with 28 AES pairs or 56 balanced analog signals per card with built-in sample rate conversion on the AES receiver card. Audio interfacing is via 25-pin D-type connectors.
Lucid AD 9624Lucid (www.lucidaudio.com) offers dedicated A/D converter sets in stereo versions (with AES/EBU and S/PDIF outputs), as well as 8-channel A/D/A converters equipped with Sonic Solutions SonicSystem or ADAT Lightpipe interfacing. All offer up to 24-bit resolution with 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz sampling rates. The half-rackspace stereo AD 9624 features balanced XLR analog inputs; outputs are simultaneously routed to AES/EBU and S/PDIF (coaxial and optical TosLink) ports, and a noise shaping function is available when creating 16-bit masters. The AD 9624 is $899; a rack-mounting tray and a companion DA 9624 D/A converter are optional.
M-Audio Delta 1010The Delta 1010 from M-Audio – the digital audio arm of Midiman (www.midiman.com) – is intended as a workstation front end and even includes a PCI interface card, although the unit can be used as a stand-alone 8-in/8-out, A/D/A converter with Lightpipe interfacing with the addition of an optional 1010Ai adapter. Features include support for all bit widths and sampling rates up to 24-bit/96 kHz, and individually switchable +4/-10 operation. Retail is $999.95.
Mark of the Unicorn 1296Intended as a 24-bit/96kHz front end to MOTU’s (www.motu.com) 2408 workstation, the 1296 is a rackmount A/D/A set featuring 12 analog inputs and outputs on +4dB balanced XLRs. Digital I/O includes an AES/EBU pair with built-in sample rate conversion, while multichannel digital I/O is handled via MOTU’s proprietary Audio Wire format. Price is $1,795.
Mytek 8X96 ADCThe 8X96 from Mytek (www.mytekdigital.com) is an 8-channel, 24-bit/96kHz A/D set priced at $2,795. The two-rackspace 8X96 ADC is equipped with AES/EBU digital outputs as standard, but is available with optional plug-in interfaces for direct connection to ADAT Lightpipe, Tascam TDIF, Digidesign Pro Tools, Sonic Solutions, SADiE and other popular digital audio formats. A matching 8-channel 8X96 DAC is also $2,795.
Pacific Microsonics Model TwoThe Model Two HDCD Processor from Pacific Microsonics (www.hdcd.com) offers multiple functions in one unit, including A/D and D/A conversion at 16, 20 or 24-bits and 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192 kHz; along with upsampling/downsampling; bit rate reduction; and, of course, both HDCD-format and standard AES/EBU conversions. Multiple units can be locked for surround sound production, and user-operating configurations can be stored as presets, allowing instant setup. Software updates can be downloaded using a built-in RS232 serial data port.
Panasonic AD96Incorporating recent generation 24-bit/96kHz delta-sigma converters with 128-times oversampling is the AD96 8-channel A/D converter from Panasonic (www.panasonic.com). The AD96 features single-wire (and optional dual-wire) AES mode connections and built-in ADAT Lightpipe port for connecting to MDMs and DAWs. An optional TDIF interface with a 24-bit/96kHz, 4-channel mode for use with 24-bit DTRS-compatible devices is available, as is the AD96M, a similar model that incorporates eight high-quality mic preamps based on Ramsa’s patented “padless,” low-noise/high-output circuitry. The AD96 is $2,195; the AD96M is $2,495.
Prism Sound ADA-8Initially offered in 8-channel A/D/A configuration with AES I/O, the ADA-8 from Prism (www.prismsound.com) is a modular, multichannel digital processor. In addition to 24-bit/96kHz conversion, features include premium-quality, 8-channel synchronous sampling rate conversion and SNS noise shaping. Options include a direct Pro Tools interface, additional AES I/O card for 2-wire on all channels and a 24-bit TDIF interface. Retail is $8,250.
SEK’D ADDA 2496 DSPThe ADDA 2496 DSP from SEK’D (www.sekd.com) is a 2-channel, rackmount A/D/A converter set that features 24-bit/96kHz resolution, balanced analog I/O, with AES/EBU and S/PDIF (optical and co-ax) outputs. Retail is $5,200.
Sonic Sense Sonic AK2K+Designed for location and portable stereo recording applications, the Sonic AK2K+ from Sonic Sense (www.sonicsense.com) is a compact (8x5x1.75-inch), 24-bit/96kHz analog-to-digital converter. Features include 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz sampling rates, balanced analog XLR inputs and multiple 16, 20 and 24-bit outputs on single- or dual-wire AES/EBU and S/PDIF. The unit can operate for nearly eight hours on a 12-volt/7.2 amp-hour battery, and a digital thru is provided for word-length reduction and format conversion. Retail is $1,795.
Sonifex Redbox RB-ADDAThe newest addition to the Redbox range from Sonifex, distributed in the U.S. by Independent Audio (www.independentaudio.com), the RB-ADDA is a stereo A/D/A pair housed in a one-rackspace chassis. Using 24-bit/96kHz capable devices, the RB-ADDA produces an AES/EBU or S/PDIF digital output from a stereo line-level, balanced XLR or unbalanced phono input. The unit also produces a stereo balanced XLR or unbalanced phono output from an incoming AES/EBU or S/PDIF source. The unit ships in January 2001 at a retail of $650.
Soundscape iBox 2Soundscape (www.soundscape-digital.com) is now shipping its iBox 2, a 2-channel A/D/A converter set with balanced XLR line and mic inputs and TDIF digital ports for interfacing with any gear having 8-channel TDIF-compatible connections. All converters are 24-bit and can operate at any sampling rate from 22.05 kHz to 48 kHz. Other features include phantom power on the mic inputs and a monitor headphone jack. Up to four iBox 2 units can be cascaded via TDIF for 8-channel operations. Retail is $549.
Steinberg Nuendo 8 I/OThe Nuendo 8 I/O from Steinberg (www.steinberg.net) is a rackmount, 8-channel, 44.1/48kHz, 24-bit A/D/A converter. Features include Intelligent Clock Control, SyncCheck, SyncAlign, and independent or linked operation of the A/D/As. Digital I/Os are ADAT Lightpipe and Tascam TDIF. An 02R-compatible Bit/Split/Combine feature records 24-bit data onto 16-bit machines. Nuendo 8 I/O offers a Digital Patchbay operation, which allows duplication and distribution of digital input signals. Retail is $1,999.
Stellavox AD8Following the success of its ST2 D/A converter, Swiss manufacturer Stellavox (www.stellavox.com) plans to offer the AD8, an 8-channel, 24-bit/96kHz A/D converter using four circuits of AD2 circuits with a common power supply and chassis. Both AES/EBU and Pro Tools-compatible outputs will be offered.
Swissonic AD 8The AD 8 from Swissonic (www.swis sonic.com) is an 8-channel, 24-bit/96kHz A/D converter with switchable mic/line inputs. Clocking can be internal or word clock. Several output formats are available via optional modules, including ADAT Lightpipe, AES/EBU and mLAN. Retail is $1,499.
Troisi Octal DC8-224ADCThe Octal DC8-224ADC from Troisi (www.troisi.com) is an 8-channel A/D converter in a single-rackspace package. The analog inputs are all balanced line XLRs, with front panel +4dB or -10dB input level trims. AES/EBU stereo digital outputs can be selected to operate at 16, 20 or 24-bit quantization at either standard resolution (44.1/48 kHz) or high resolution (88.2/96 kHz). Custom packages with S/PDIF (co-ax or optical) and DA-88 50-pin interfaces are also available. Retail is $3,920.
Weiss ADC1-MK2Distributed in the U.S. by GPrime (www.gprime.com), the 2-channel ADC1-Mk2 is based on the ADC1 but offers true 24-bit/96kHz performance, built-in redithering/soft clip/crossfade functions and remote control of all parameters. Besides its AES/EBU digital outputs, the ADC1-Mk2 also includes AES/EBU digital input for routing through its DSP functions. The unit uses a modular design where the A/D converters, input stages and (optional) microphone preamps are on plug-in circuits. All parameters are stored in a nonvolatile memory, with 20 sets of parameters retained for user recall as needed. Retail is $5,000.
Yamaha AD824Designed for use as a front end for the DME32 or 02R (but also useable with AES/EBU, ADAT or TDIF devices via optional output cards), the AD824 (www.yamaha.com) is an 8-channel A/D with remote-controllable mic/line amps and balanced analog insert points. This two-rackspace chassis features 44.1/48kHz, 24-bit precision. Retail is $1,899; a matching D/A unit is $1,299.