Author Topic: Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface  (Read 349 times)

Crepuscule

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Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface
« on: July 25, 2014, 09:48:59 AM »
As you may know, I'm building a ''middleweight'' ambient recording home studio. I've been undecided since the beginning (about a year and a half ago), which interface to pick up, so I've been buying everything else, leaving the interface to the end.

First I was looking into a all in one solution, the Yamaha 01V96i, because of the tactile feel.
Then I was thinking that it would be better to focus on the conversion instead of a full kit, investing later in a Mackie MCU pro DAW controller.

Then I was interested in the RME Fireface UFX, the drivers are rock solid they say, but unfortunately it only has 12 inputs, to expand it I would had to buy another AD/DA converter and plug it by adat. So the price would be like the Antelope Orion or more...

As you may know, I own several digital and analog synths, 10 by now.

So I bought a lot of Mogami cables and a TRS patchbay and I've been doing some ambient recording tests using my synths with my 6 track Zoom H6. I'm so happy with the results, that I can't wait any longer for a proper audio interface.

So...

I went back again to the Antelope Zen Studio, now that should be properly reviewed.
I've noticed besides the 12 inputs on the box, it has an additional 8 inputs by DSUB 25 connector, making a total of 20 inputs, perfect for my current array of synths, with no additional cost of another adat converter.

What you think of this kit:

Zen Studio

Mogami Gold Multicore TRS <> DSub 25 (Plugged into my TRS Patchbay)

http://www.musicstore.com/pt_PT/PTE/Mogami-Gold-Series-Multicore-3m-/-TRS-DSub-25/art-REC0010413-000#FullDetails

RME Raydat

http://www.thomann.de/pt/rme_hdspe_raydat.htm

What do you think of the Orion 32?

Would it be a better investment? An alternative kit involving the Orion 32 maybe?

Then the Midas M32 is around the corner for 3K + euros, arghhh! :)

Thanks!
« Last Edit: July 25, 2014, 04:00:18 PM by Crossing_The_Threshold »

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

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Re: Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2014, 03:23:08 PM »
First of all, there is nothing middle weight about the Zen Studio or The Orion 32. Both units are full on professional grade.

Yes there are more expensive converters from Prism, Lynx and Apogee (which too be fair is my personal favorite), as well as really upper end pieces by Burl, Benchmark, Lavry and such, but the difference in quality gets pretty narrow once you hit any of these levels, IE over $2,000.

I have reviewed, tested and used most everything in the above list and more, with the exception of Burl and at this stage it becomes becomes a matter of taste as the sonic differences in units is in the 10-15% range, usually less. Most people I have had in my studio cannot tell the difference in side by side tests of the Lynx Aurora, Antelope Orion (or Zen) and an Apogee Symphony I/O. I hear nuance, air, sweetness and depth differences but again they are very slight and I am listening on a very expensive monitor set up.

Now between the Zen Studio and the Orion 32, the conversion is the same sonically. The choice comes down to inputs, cost and if you want/need 12 really nice mic pres.

If you do not ever see yourself needing 32 channels then I would go with the Zen. If you don't need 12 mic pres or plan on getting a selection of differnt outboard units then the Orion may be better. Also the Orion has 32 channels in, and 32 channels out. The Zen Studio has 20 analog inputs and 10 out.

Other factors are that the Orion is made to be a studio piece that lives in a rack. The Zen Studio is designed to be portable and cannot be rack mounted.

Anyway whichever one you pick it will be amazing for you! Best of luck!!!

Paul
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Crepuscule

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Re: Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2014, 03:44:46 PM »
Thanks Paul!

Yeah you are right about the definition, it's all pro, but I was thinking high end above 5k mark, when I said ''middle weight'' :)

I've lost interest on the Zen Studio because a lot of users are reporting all sorts of problems @ gearslutz...

So back to where I started...

« Last Edit: July 25, 2014, 03:47:16 PM by Crossing_The_Threshold »

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

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Re: Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2014, 04:53:43 PM »
Are you Mac or PC ?

I have been using a Zen Studio for about 2 weeks on a Mac with no problems.

What problem are folks specifically complaining about?
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Crepuscule

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Re: Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2014, 05:31:37 AM »
I'm PC.

The problems range from half-assed buggy software, to no sound, clicks and noises during recording, non functional DB 25 outputs, overheating, non-recognition by usb port and the list goes on.

I don't like the general attitude of Antelope at the forum, when people report the problems they always throw marketing BS or presumable success stories in the mix.

The original person reviewing the Antelope, who is also from gearslutz staff, received a non-functional Audio Zen, then he was telling that the fault was from the parcel delivery company and some posts later he changed the story to ''I had a beta unit for testing''.

I dunno, my impression after some threads is that Antelope seems a shady company. Now they are releasing some audiophile clocks for 5k. Again I have trouble trusting audiophile companies, especially when they release ''esoteric'' audiophile stuff.

Anyway I should have done my homework before considering the Audio Zen.

I could order and be lucky, but I don't know, the general feeling around them is unreliability.

Source:

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/931887-antelope-zen-hands.html




Ekstasis

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Re: Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2014, 11:28:32 AM »
I'm PC.

The problems range from half-assed buggy software, to no sound, clicks and noises during recording, non functional DB 25 outputs, overheating, non-recognition by usb port and the list goes on.

I don't like the general attitude of Antelope at the forum, when people report the problems they always throw marketing BS or presumable success stories in the mix.

The original person reviewing the Antelope, who is also from gearslutz staff, received a non-functional Audio Zen, then he was telling that the fault was from the parcel delivery company and some posts later he changed the story to ''I had a beta unit for testing''.

I dunno, my impression after some threads is that Antelope seems a shady company. Now they are releasing some audiophile clocks for 5k. Again I have trouble trusting audiophile companies, especially when they release ''esoteric'' audiophile stuff.

Anyway I should have done my homework before considering the Audio Zen.

I could order and be lucky, but I don't know, the general feeling around them is unreliability.

Source:

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/931887-antelope-zen-hands.html


As you probably are familiar with I am an Antelope Eclipse user.
I can't really comment on the Audio Zen, but what I can comment about it has a very good sound quality for its price and
you also get a lot of I/O and also DSP processing.  I can't really comment on the drivers or software about the Audio Zen, but I would never consider using USB for DAW use, so the drivers are not hyper critical I use USB mosty for playback only when I am not using the DAW.

Well I can only agree about your observations regarding their attitude and PR people.  Also their support have had varying quality , I have got a few incorrect answers from them which I also exposed on a forum, which then I got corrected, but since then I think they are irritated with me they do no longer answer my support tickets, I have had some problems that sometimes the power button does not work I have to unplug the power cable, it happens not often but they did not come up with a solution for it.
The software for the Eclipse is quite minimalistic it gives much to ask for, but it gets the job done, a few bugs.. but it seem the Eclipse drivers are not their priority now..I sent them an email a few days ago about windows 9 support no answer yet.. the release are not so many months away.

Regarding PR, the PR for Audio Zen is very different from their other products I think cause it is based for the more budget market... these consumers are easier to fool so they use all PR tricks necessary

So my experience with Antelope is mixed, I was very happy with the support sometimes but some people especially in the chat are not good.. email support is better..but to a certain point,some of the problems where left unsolved cause they had no idea.
They where nice until I did quote them on a forum where they did give me incorrect information regarding Audio Zen such as it has the same clock and monitor controlled as Eclipse  (relay-controlled with stepped precision attenuator ) but for a fraction of the price, it would have been an insult to current Eclipse owners. Yeah so yeah I do not like their PR methods, regarding their clocks it seem more like some kind of esoteric art indeed they do not tell  much secrets about it besides controlled jitter is used to create "positive" and controlled jitter which modify the audio waves in a positive and controller manner to give a more analogue sound, I have tried my Eclipse/Trinity clock with other clocks I have in my studio, my RME clock and my Eventide H8000FW clock, the  Trintiy clock gives an extremly dramatic difference so yeah..very important part for sure...
It is not just a clock it an acoustic focused clock using jitter to manipulate the audio, which is a quite radicial concept which no one use since jitter is regarded as the biggest evil in audio in general..Antelope are the only company who use jitter intentionally to manipulate the audio in a positive manner. .

Regarding your set up it is quite complex decision, but the Audio Zen would be a good starting point I think, if you do not need the prees you could maybe consider the Orion, it is more highly regarded, it has from what I know a better clock it has more I/Os you could complete the monitor controller seciton with Drawmer MC2.1 which is on par with Dangerous Audio Source minus the DAC functioanlity . I do not remeber if you bought the Source already ? I think I recall you did in that case I would buy the Orion 32, you can probably find it used too..
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 01:24:04 PM by Ekstasis »

Crepuscule

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Re: Best bang for the buck ''middleweight'' audio interface
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2014, 01:30:11 PM »
Thanks for your input my friend.

Yes, the Orion is highly regarded and their custom usb chip seems to deliver the promises of 32 channels in/out.

Indeed, I have purchased the Dangerous Source, but i'm currently using it with another workstation with my Neumann KH120 monitors. I use it mostly to listen other artists tracks in flac format, while I do my daytime job.

I've narrowed it to these options:

Monitors:

Neumann KH310, I was inclined first to Adam A77X, but I was so impressed with my little KH120, that their 3 way system must be awesome.

Interface:

1. Orion + Another Dangerous Music Source

2. SSL Alpha-Link MADI AX + RME Madi PCIE + Dangerous Music Source.

3. Midas M32.