A/D/A converter upgrades - Apollo 16, Rosetta 800, AD-16x?

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

Post Reply
User avatar
timpratt
audio school
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 11:05 pm
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

A/D/A converter upgrades - Apollo 16, Rosetta 800, AD-16x?

Post by timpratt » Wed May 27, 2015 4:18 pm

For tracking and mostly mixing, I currently use an older Apogee FireWire Ensemble with a Presonus Digimax FS via ADAT, those feed a patchbay normalled to a Folcrom for OTB mixing. Also use a Rosetta 200 via SPDIF from the Ensemble for ITB monitoring. This allows me to hear my ITB mix on Dangerous ST input 1, and my OTB mix on input 2. All is clocked with an older Lucid GenX6 for 44/48Khz mixes, and clocked internally from the Ensemble for 88/96Khz material.

I am thinking the best thing to do is pick up a used Apollo 16 and sell the Ensemble and Digimax FS, and keep the Rosetta 200 to use via the Apollo's AES I/Os. This also allows me to use all my UAD plugs I haven't been able to since my UAD-1 PCIe card doesn't work with my MacMini (I am considering selling the Mini as well, but that's another upcoming post).

The other options I'm considering are to snag a used Rosetta 800 to replace the Digimax FS (which I mostly just use for conversion rather than the preamps), and then upgrade my word clock as well... maybe a used BLA MicroClock MKII.

Third option, get a pair of used Apogee AD-16x / DA-16x. I believe this option would require me to get the X-Symphony cards as well (if they didn't come with the units), or the X-FireWire cards. If I do the first, then I'd probably spring for an older Mac Pro 8-core or 6-core and get a used PCIe Symphony 64 card. More money, but a stable and proven system, and the AD-16 gear uses the C777 word clocks of the Big Ben. The other option would be the Apogee ThunderBridge and keep using my current MacMini.


The first option seems to make the most sense, and in the long run use the newest hardware. I have learned though, the newest is not the best, and often times tried and true is the tortoise in the race. I've used Apogee AD series, Rosetta series, and the Ensemble converters for a long time in studios I have freelanced in, and they have always sounded to my liking. I have not used nor heard UAs converters (excpet for their old UA 2192 which I REALLY liked), but have heard good things. I am not sure how their internal word clock is on the Apollo gear either, but again, have heard good things. The current thinking out there is also that one internal WC used with 16ch of A/D/A will be "better" than using two separate pieces of 8ch hardware, clocked off of an external clock (ie Big Ben, BLA Micro, etc). At least, I have read some articles that seem to point that out as a possibility.

Keep in mind that this is for an 'almost breaking even' studio... so stating that I get the newest Apollo or newest Ensemble probably isn't in the cards. Not unless I sell some gear off prior to purchasing new gear, but then I might not be able to work in the mean time, so selling old gear after the purchase of new gear is the best option.

Any input would be great to have, thanks TOMB members!


-Tim
Tim Pratt
hypnotone.com

kslight
moves faders with mind
Posts: 2690
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:40 pm

Post by kslight » Wed May 27, 2015 8:52 pm

It'd probably be helpful to know what your goal is with changing your gear around?

From a purely converter based perspective, all of the proposed moves look like they wouldn't be a huge, if at all significant upgrade. I didn't think the Ensemble is far removed from the ADX series, for example. If you want to use UAD plugins then some form of Apollo would make sense, but unless you needed something not specified I don't see much gain in the other choices, especially if budget is concerned, I'm not sure fussing over the clocks and existing conversion is going to improve much relative to the cash dropped. IMHO

User avatar
roscoenyc
george martin
Posts: 1374
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 5:56 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by roscoenyc » Thu May 28, 2015 5:32 am

UA and Apogee both recently upgraded their convertors. Wouldn't you want to get the best ones you could?

Dot
pushin' record
Posts: 272
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2003 4:44 am
Location: NY

Post by Dot » Fri May 29, 2015 12:21 am

kslight wrote:It'd probably be helpful to know what your goal is with changing your gear around?
What he said. What kinds of projects are being worked on at your studio?

Are you getting bottlenecked at the interface/connections part, or is this a sonics issue at this point?

Do you possibly have a recording that represents the studio?
Dan Richards
Pro Studio Reviews

User avatar
timpratt
audio school
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 11:05 pm
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Post by timpratt » Mon Jun 08, 2015 5:04 pm

My goal is always to monetarily get the best bang for my buck, but I'm also always doing my best not to compromise quality, as I try my best to capture bands and artists as best as possible. Most of that is experience, technique, and knowledge of the engineer, but every little bit extra helps. A poor worker blames his tools, but a good worker with the right tools gets the job done faster and easier, which equates to happier and hopefully return clientele.

Most all of my studio profit goes back into the studio as upgrades. Other areas of the studio are running like well oiled machines, so no reason to change them. Interfaces/converters seem to be an area I wouldn't mind getting upgraded for both tracking and mix down (either stereo D/A of ITB mix to outboard/tape machine, or summing 16ch D/A to Folcrom). I've really enjoyed using my Digimax FS, but in tracking and playback versus the Apogee Ensemble, you can hear the differences in sound. I guess it's just quality. Pres on the Ensemble are a bit more open, and conversion is a tiny bit more 'dull' sounding on the Presonus. Also, when using outboard mic pres, I think the Apogee converters sound a bit nicer. I've used both the mic/line inputs on the Presonus, as well as going straight into the Returns on the inserts and bypassing the pres... still seems to be a difference in the converter quality. It's not night and day, and matters little on all out rock, but it's there, and can really be heard on vocalists and acoustic instruments. I can also hear slight differences in conversion when monitoring at low volume levels. For these reasons, I am looking at upgrading. Am I chasing a rabbit down a hole on this one? I don't think so from what my ears tell me, but what do you think?

After reading everyone's replies to my original post, I've reconsidered a bit, and am now up in the air, looking at a used Audient ASP008 to do away with the Presonus (gets me better ADAT conversion in and out of the Ensemble Firewire & 8 EXCELLENT clean and clear mic pres + 8 line inputs + 2 DIs), or back to getting an Apollo 16 (gets me a simplified all in one setup, just converters, no pres, but I have 16ch of outboard pres, and I get to use my UAD plugins that I paid so much for back in the hey day of the UAD-1e.

Any thoughts on which way I should go? They are two totally different routes:

A used Audient just hooks into my Ensemble, and gets both great conversion and 8channles of really nice clean pres (separate line inputs as well) which I think would be nice to use in studio with ribbons and tube mics. The only question I have with this option, is that of clocking. How much sampling quality is compromised by running as slave clocked to the Ensemble, or to my Lucid WC vs 16ch running off of an internal WC as in the Apollo? Does it even really matter?

A used Apollo 16 Quad (with T-bolt option) costs about twice as much as the Audient, is just conversion, has dedicated monitoring out, runs Thunderbolt or Firewire 800, gets me my UAD plugins back, and can track in real time using the UAD plugins.

Seems like the real decision is quality outboard pres versus awesome DSP and plugins that can be run in real time. I have to say though, over the years, I am tired of getting burned by technology every two to five years, and I'm thinking that the Audient pres will continue to be used long after support/software/drivers for the UAD Apollo is dead.
Tim Pratt
hypnotone.com

User avatar
digitaldrummer
resurrected
Posts: 2317
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2005 9:51 pm
Location: Austin, Texas
Contact:

Post by digitaldrummer » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:38 pm

if it helps, I went with the Apollo 16 when I upgraded (from a BLA modded Digi 002 and RME ADI-8) and here's why I did it...

- it was a single unit with 16 channels of high quality A/D/A and FW connectivity
- it can do >48Khz sample rate (since no more ADAT between units)
- it works with Windows 7 (f**k Apogee and Metric Halo...)
- I have a bunch of 500 series pres and some other outboard gear
- I wanted to be able to create a near zero-latency monitor mix - the Uaudio software mixer is nice and you can even use plugins

I didn't really need the UAD plugins, but there are some nice ones so I use them occasionally. I have no complaints about the quality of the converters.

Mike
Mike
www.studiodrumtracks.com -- Drum tracks starting at $50!
www.doubledogrecording.com

User avatar
ott0bot
dead but not forgotten
Posts: 2023
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:54 pm
Location: Downtown Phoenix

Post by ott0bot » Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:39 pm

digitaldrummer wrote:if it helps, I went with the Apollo 16 when I upgraded (from a BLA modded Digi 002 and RME ADI-8) and here's why I did it...

- it was a single unit with 16 channels of high quality A/D/A and FW connectivity
- it can do >48Khz sample rate (since no more ADAT between units)
- it works with Windows 7 (f**k Apogee and Metric Halo...)
- I have a bunch of 500 series pres and some other outboard gear
- I wanted to be able to create a near zero-latency monitor mix - the Uaudio software mixer is nice and you can even use plugins

I didn't really need the UAD plugins, but there are some nice ones so I use them occasionally. I have no complaints about the quality of the converters.

Mike
Great summary. I did something similar.

I had an 003r and a Lynx Aurora 8 via adat, so I could track a full band. I used the Aurora via FireWire for a while, but I found it limiting. Having to use 2 outputs for monitoring, and 2-4 for headphones made it impossible to do real time summing mixes, and the headphone mixes had considerable latency even with the Aurora mixer. I understand that with that lightening bolt connection this has improved, but I found their mixer inadequate.

I sold off the Aurora and some other outboard for an Apollo 8 quad. First off, the A/D is considerably better than the 003r, and in par with the Aurora. The mixer is so handy, and being able to set up real time head phone mixes Roth no latency is rad. Having the UAD plugs is a bonus, but not a necessity, and the stock plugs are about all you need. I have a Presonus d8 or the 003r to add additional inputs and outputs as needed, when I need more inputs, but am ok with a lower sample & bit rate.

One issue: I'm still on FireWire, and I cannot use an external hard drive with FireWire and the apollo at the same time due to the FireWire buffer, but that in an issue with my iMac not the unit itself.

In the future when I upgrade my computer I can daisy chain another Apollo 8 via lightening bolt and still use the additional monitoring and headphone outs. Plus have 4 more unison preamps, which I find pretty useable on most sources.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you are you going to use a DAW, then get the interface that has the best digital software so you can use it to the fullest potential. The UAD stuff blows most others out of the water as far as feature see and ease of use, not to mention they are continuously updating it with significant new features.

One other item of note, I don't think you can use UAD 1 plug ins with the Apollo, just UAD 2. Check their website to confirm.

norton
buyin' a studio
Posts: 839
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 4:42 pm
Location: minneapolis

Post by norton » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:14 am

The most beautiful development in the past few years is the huge improvement to ad/da. Cheap two channel bedroom interfaces start off in a better place than most pro interfaces of the earlier digital days.

Which means there are much bigger fish to fry than your ad/da. Mic placement monitors and the acoustics of your space are all far more influential to what you are hearing than any decent ad/da.

I've had apogee, BLA modded digi, rme, metric halo, yamaha, motu and sound devices ad/da. With today's options id say focus on life span and compatibility.

Apogee, avid and other many other interfaces routinely stop supporting their interfaces after a time. RME and MOTU and metric halo all have great histories of keeping their entire fleet of products compatible with new drivers etc.

mrc
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 620
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2003 5:07 pm
Location: Dead Center, Bible Belt, USA

Post by mrc » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:17 pm

I run a RME RayDat on my live PC, and unfortunately, they let me down with no drivers past XP for my original hammer fall 96/52. That's a fail to me. I can't speak to other brands.

User avatar
timpratt
audio school
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 11:05 pm
Location: Sacramento, CA
Contact:

Post by timpratt » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:01 pm

The more and more I look at what is out there and the variety of options, the more appealing the Apollo 16 looks to me. I have enough variety of various outboard mic pres (plus a SC Ghost 24), and am still looking at picking up something nice like the Audient or Midas 8ch units for under a grand used, or save up and get the Focusrite ISA 8ch unit. I have the ISA Two, and really like it's pres. Not having to deal with ADAT/SMUX interfaces seems like a bonus with the Apollo 16, as well as just using the units internal word clock to run all 16ch. When the need arises, I could just use the Apollo internal WC out to my Rosetta 200 when I need 18ch. I also really like the MADI integration, so down the way, I can pick up a second Apollo (and maybe another Folcrom) and hook it up as well. At that point, I'll probably look into getting a Big Ben, Lucid x192, Rosendahl, or some other WC to tie it all together nicely.

Thank you everyone for your input and feedback. This has all been most helpful!
Tim Pratt
hypnotone.com

User avatar
terryb
pushin' record
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:31 pm
Location: portland

Post by terryb » Sat Jun 20, 2015 10:39 am

I'd recommend you look into the new Motu AVB line. I just scored a 16A for my home studio because it had the same features I wanted an RME UFX for, but at about half the price. There are alos folks out there claiming the conversion is on par with apogee symphony. I wouldn't know about that, but I am very happy with the sonics and functionality of my new interface

User avatar
Randyman...
takin' a dinner break
Posts: 184
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:30 pm

Post by Randyman... » Sat Jun 20, 2015 2:39 pm

Need to address this statement :) :
mrc wrote:I run a RME RayDat on my live PC, and unfortunately, they let me down with no drivers past XP for my original hammer fall 96/52. That's a fail to me. I can't speak to other brands.
You can run the DIGI9652 under W7-32 Bit no problem. Just can't go to 64-Bit W7 with that 15 year old PCI card. I wouldn't consider that a fail by any means. How are those millions of AGP Video Cards from 1999 working under W7/W8? ;) (hint - they aren't!).

FWIW - The DIGI9652 (no Totalmix FPGA) is over 15 years old! I'm not aware of too many 15+ year old PCI PC peripherals that work with W7/W8 - but I'm sure there are some edge cases out there. Your card will gladly run under W7-32...

The slightly newer PCI HDSP9652 (with Totalmix FPGA) is supported through W8.1 64-Bit and beyond. Still a PCI card - so not much relevance in today's PCIe reality...

I'm a HUGE RME fanboy, and even the first PCI Multiface I acquired used about 10 years ago is still running like a champ in W8.1. You can bet your PCIe RayDat will be supported for another decade or more with all the latest OS's!

I'm a fan of separate interfaces and standalone AD/DA conversion so I went the MADI route - but I would not hesitate to run any modern interface as-is for smaller channel counts. The MOTU AVB stuff does look enticing - but I'm an RME fanboy for the interface side, bar none :)

:cool:
Randy V.
Audio-Dude / Musician / PC Guru / Crazy Guy

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 116 guests