New Black Lion Audio A/D Converter

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dynomike
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Post by dynomike » Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:11 am

subatomic pieces wrote:
dynomike wrote:
qball wrote:I only wish they would include SMUX optical I/O.
why? its only 2 channels.
I guess if you're using an interface that only has ADAT optical as a digital i/o, and no spdif or aes i/o, this would be handy.
i guess i have never seen such an interface. everything from motu, rme, even m-audio has sp/dif at least...
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Post by puffpastry » Fri Jan 11, 2008 2:15 pm

I only wish they would include SMUX optical I/O.
Serial multiplexing (s/mux) is too expensive to include on a two-channel
converter, especially since the technology to transmit up to 192kHz data rates via SPDIF and AES is widely available and inexpensive to implement. 96k s/mux requires that each data line be split up into two separate channels, depending upon what sample rate you want to be able to transmit, and then mixed together into a single line.

I'm half tempted to send a demo A/D to someone on this board just to show what it's capable of, but the demo units we've sent out to people in the past have a bad habit of never coming back to us.

For those of you that are expressing reservation...I say wait for awhile until you start to hear or read some user reviews; I don't think it will take long because the first production run is already sold out. The feedback we've gotten from the studios that have beta tested the A/D has been overwhelmingly positive. These studios were chosen based on the fact that they were used to using expensive converters and knew exactly what to listen for.

Matt
Black Lion Audio

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Post by qball » Fri Jan 11, 2008 3:51 pm

subatomic pieces wrote:
dynomike wrote:
qball wrote:I only wish they would include SMUX optical I/O.
why? its only 2 channels.
I guess if you're using an interface that only has ADAT optical as a digital i/o, and no spdif or aes i/o, this would be handy.
Actually, I'm using a Presonus FireStudio which has ADAT optical in addition to the analog inputs. I'd like to be able to utilize the optical inputs for more tracks, so why not go with a high quality signal? Yeah, I could just use the SPIF, but why stop at just 2 channels of such high quality?

Anyway, I uess my point is moot according to the recent BLA reply. :cry:
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Post by puffpastry » Fri Jan 11, 2008 5:01 pm

Anyway, I uess my point is moot according to the recent BLA reply.
For two channels, s/mux would be overkill. We want to do some four and eight channel expansion units, and at that point we would use s/mux.

Here's how it works:

When analog audio is converted into digital, it actually exists as three separate signals, known as I2S. The I2S format was invented by Philips as a means of transmitting digital audio signals between semiconductors within a given piece of audio equipment. The three signals are bit clock, word clock and data. Sometimes these are given different names by various manufacturers, and sometimes the data is justified to one of the two channels (left-justified or right-justified) but the premise is always the same.

Now, imagine for a second that we need to transfer the digital data from one piece of equipment to another. It would be cumbersome and noisy to transmit all three signals separately, plus you would run the risk of introducing timing problems, since all three of these signals need to be synchronized with each other. Sony and Philips came up with SPDIF as a solution to solve the problem of transmitting two channels of audio (left and right) along with the bit clock and the word clock down one single wire. SPDIF has its weak points, but at least it makes sure that all of the data gets to its destination with a minimum of noise while still maintaining important timing relationships.

But what about transmitting more than two channels? Alesis created and marketed the ADAT format as a means for sending as many as eight channels of data plus bit clock and word clock down a single wire. To my knowledge the information of how this is done is still proprietary to Alesis, but the technology used for mixing the information together is pretty old--it dates back to the early days of computer science (the 1940's, if memory serves me correctly).

S/mux is a variation on ADAT. Since ADAT has bandwidth limitations (you can only transmit 48kHz sampling rates), the solution is to split each channel of data into two lines. In the audio world we call this bit-splitting, although like ADAT the technology to do it is pretty old. If we split a 96kHz data line into two equal and opposite 48kHz data lines and then mix it together with bit and word clocks, it becomes possible to transmit the signal down a single wire. But since we're using two lines for each single data signal, our transmit capability is reduced to four channels instead of eight.

Matt
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Post by tomberdude » Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:35 am

wow, well posted.

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Post by dynomike » Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:17 am

http://www.blacklionaudio.com/micro_adc.html

Where's the word clock I/O and option to sync to an external clock? That pretty much crosses this off my list of A/D candidates, unless there's something I'm not getting...

Also, though I don't mind TRS connections... I really do mind having them on the front panel. Messy! I'd like to believe it sounds so good that its still a good deal, but these are important factors too.

-Mike
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Post by qball » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:05 pm

dynomike wrote:http://www.blacklionaudio.com/micro_adc.html

Where's the word clock I/O and option to sync to an external clock? That pretty much crosses this off my list of A/D candidates, unless there's something I'm not getting...

Also, though I don't mind TRS connections... I really do mind having them on the front panel. Messy! I'd like to believe it sounds so good that its still a good deal, but these are important factors too.

-Mike
And it looks like a BNC-type connector for S/PDIF output. That eliminates it for my needs as well. :cry:
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Post by GooberNumber9 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:31 pm

dynomike wrote:Where's the word clock I/O and option to sync to an external clock? That pretty much crosses this off my list of A/D candidates, unless there's something I'm not getting...
I'm going to guess that they consider the internal clock good enough that the jitter introduced by a clock input would make the use of an external clock counter-productive. I've seen that written about the Alesis HD24 XR boards even though they do have a clock input.

I'm more confused about the BNC connector labelled "S/PDIF". While I wouldn't die of shock to see an S/PDIF input in the world on BNC instead of RCA, I'd like to know how many users in their targetted market do they think will have their S/PDIF in on BNC connectors. Maybe it comes with a BNC to RCA adapter. Maybe the photo is actually a prototype and shipping model with have RCA.

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Post by dynomike » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:41 pm

GooberNumber9 wrote:
dynomike wrote:Where's the word clock I/O and option to sync to an external clock? That pretty much crosses this off my list of A/D candidates, unless there's something I'm not getting...
I'm going to guess that they consider the internal clock good enough that the jitter introduced by a clock input would make the use of an external clock counter-productive. I've seen that written about the Alesis HD24 XR boards even though they do have a clock input.
I'm sure that's what it is. At least include a wordclock OUT then instead of that sp/dif bnc thing.. and what are all their microclock customers going to do!
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Post by GooberNumber9 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:51 pm

dynomike wrote:and what are all their microclock customers going to do!
This was at the top of my mind. Basically, you can't use both the Micro Clock and the Micro ADC in the same setup, as far as I can tell. Unless there's something really clever about that "S/PDIF" interface that makes it double as a W/C input (again maybe with a converter cable for use as an S/PDIF output) and then you have to use the AES output if you're clocking off the Micro Clock, which would suck for me since I have no AES inputs anywhere.

That being said, I kinda feel like a chicken with its head cut off running around and probably Matt will be posting here any day now explaining it all.

Todd Wilcox

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Post by calaverasgrandes » Thu Jan 24, 2008 3:43 pm

I am highly interested in the "sparrow" as well. But the lack of wordclock in/out is problematic for me. Maybe the Spdif BNC is supposed to function as WC for the AES? nice if you have AES. But I just have Spdif and WC. I have tried syncing to the incoming audio stream and it never seems to work very well unless I am only using the incoming audio. EG: not recording another 4 tracks simultaneosly.
c'mon for $700 give us a WC out at least.
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Post by puffpastry » Thu Jan 24, 2008 3:52 pm

Wow, you guys are a pretty tough crowd to please!:)
Where's the word clock I/O and option to sync to an external clock?
We didn't include word out for a couple of reasons. There are many systems that won't let you sync to both wordclock and an incoming spdif signal at the same time. You're often forced to pick one or the other. The biggest reason, though, is there was simply no feasible way for me to route a quality word clock signal to an output.

We didn't include word clock in because it requires extra logic circuitry to manage the incoming clock and sync it with the data. Logic circuitry would have added extra noise, and this was something we were trying to avoid. We wanted to keep it as simple and clean sounding as we possibly could, and keeping the design minimal allows us to do that. Aside from that, it has the exact same internal clock that we designed into the Micro Clock.

I knew that people would be frustrated by having the inputs on the front, but I designed it that way because it was the shortest possible signal path.
And it looks like a BNC-type connector for S/PDIF output.
BNC SPDIF is common on many high-end converter systems (including the Benchmark ADC-1) for several reasons . Not only is it a more physically durable form of connectivity than RCA, it also offers a larger surface area for grounding. For people who are using plain old RCA-based SPDIF, we include a BNC to RCA adapter. Or we can manufacture a SPDIF cable for you that has BNC on one end and RCA on the other.

Ultimately, our intention was to design an inexpensive A/D that would provide the best possible signal quality. We think that once people get an opportunity to use it that they'll forgive the lack of certain features.

Matt
Black Lion Audio

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Post by dynomike » Thu Jan 24, 2008 3:58 pm

puffpastry wrote:Ultimately, our intention was to design an inexpensive A/D that would provide the best possible signal quality. We think that once people get an opportunity to use it that they'll forgive the lack of certain features.

Matt
Black Lion Audio
But how *can* we even use it, even in a very simple setup like DAW, Digital Mixer, stereo AD converter, stereo DA converter. All of these things need to be on the same clock... bnc wordclock cables are the safest way to do this..

How will you clock your DA?

-Mike
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Post by Archmart » Thu Jan 24, 2008 4:17 pm

Hey Hey!

Matt, this looks very cool and quite tempting for a guy like me with 10 good channels of Pres but only 8 good converters in my Rosetta.

If I understand correctly, and this may help clarify some of the questions here, with this and my Apogee Rosetta 800 connected to my Digi 002R, yours by a BNC to RCA Coax cable and the Rosetta by Toslink (Lightpipe), I can choose to clock from either one (or internal, God forbid, without your mod :) and by virtue of both Toslink and S/pdif carrying the clock signal along with the digital audio, all components will be clocked by my chosen source, which, if your claims are true, would probably be your superior new unit. Is that right?

Oh... and aren't BNC and RCA virtually interchangeable? Either one can be put on a coax cable (a wire down the center with a shield around it) and carry digital (or line level for that matter) audio. Adapters are easy to come by.

I do agree, by the way, that it would be nice to have all the connections on the back. But I imagine you've got good reasons for it.

Nice work.

Thanks,
Archmart

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Post by hautacam » Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:48 pm

This looks awesome and is more or less exactly what I was looking for in a 2 channel converter.

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