April 3, 2007

Prism Orpheus v. Apogee Rosetta 800 = Fatality...

by Chris Randall

Prism Sound, makers of ludicrously high-end A/D/A, are releasing a converter for the Rest Of Us. Assuming The Rest Of Us are sleeping on mattresses full of money, and for whatever reason find the Rosetta 800 to be something we can't get along with.

Product details here, but in a nutshell, it's an 8 I/O FW interface with four mic pres and some nice monitoring features. This is basically a much higher end iteration of the Apogee Ensemble feature set, only not OSX-centric. Of course, for the price (?2500 is the going rumor) you could buy two Ensembles, so there's that. But for a single rack space 8 I/O with four mic pres, FW, and ADAT I/O, this is going to be as good as you're gonna get. Costs about the same as a Rosetta 800 if you bought four mic pres to go with it, so the price is in line.

From the provided materials, and assuming it has the same quality as all other Prism converters, this might be the way to go for the top-flight home studio. (Or a small commercial room, post room, or jingle factory.) My way of thinking is thus: life is far too short to spend any time worrying whether your audio I/O is up to snuff. You might as well just start at the top of the market, which is de facto snuff.

EDIT: Actually, in thinking about it, this unit does have some problems. Like: S/PDIF? Yuck. I don't care about the lack of S/MUX ADAT, but the sort of person that would buy this unit (e.g. me) has top-end kit already, and S/PDIF is not in that equation. If I was Prism, I'd get rid of the entire existing digital section, and make it a card that could be either DSUB AES or ADAT S/MUX (since people rarely need both.) But I'm not Prism, so it's just left to ponder.



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Apr.03.2007 @ 12:21 PM
I was wondering when I'd see mention of this online, as there are already print ads in some of the mags.
To my knowledge, aside from the R.M.E stuff, this is probably the only portable interface of this caliber that isn't Mac only (unless apogee and metric halo have noticed that PC's have firewire too.). This thing racked up with a Soundfield setup sounds like a pretty sweet field system to me.

Apr.03.2007 @ 1:05 PM
I certainly agree about the digital (Does it even have WC i/o? It better for that cash, scandalous if it doesn't). I'd like to see versions which either are just 4 i/o w/pres or alternatively doesn't bother to give you pres, just 8 line ins. These Prism pres are probably squeaky clean, but aren't a known quantity.
Regarding Metric Halo - that is a very savvy small shop whose stated mission is to be future-proof. If Cupertino was hit by an asteroid tomorrow, I bet the Buchalter Bros. wouldn't miss a beat. Even ex-physics PhDs have to put food on the table and plan for the future. Their ULN-2 is the brain of my mobile production rig, controlling all digital and analog i/o, so of course I'm biased.

Apr.03.2007 @ 2:22 PM
I got to mess with an earlier version of an MIO unit belonging to an acquaintance and really liked it. I just don't get this Apple only thing. It reminds me a little to much of the attitude in the graphic design community that you have to use a Mac. There's a nice interview with the brothers in the latest TapeOp, too.
The Orpheus does have wordclock. Also a M/S matrix on each pair of mic-pres.

Apr.03.2007 @ 5:32 PM

Given the tenor of some of your previous comments, I kind of thought you had something against using firewire for audio. Is there a reason this is an exception? Does it also have aes/ebu outputs?


Apr.03.2007 @ 5:47 PM
That's a lot of bank for something without at least one pair of AES I/O. And what's up with the lack of smux on the ADAT I/O? I thought that was pretty much standard these days. I'm also not sure that folks purchasing a Prism converter are really going to be buying it for the preamps. So leave the preamps out and lower the cost a bit. I was hoping this could be my dream converter but alas it's not. Maybe if companies stopped focusing on fancy front panels and pretty lights they could deliver a product with more bang for the buck. Custom machined front panels easily add $100 in materials cost if not more.

I'm still looking for a converter that with 8 ins and 8 outs that can map two channels to AES while the other six go to s/mux ADAT I/O. The Apogee AD-8000 would fit the bill if it wasn't Apogee.....


Apr.03.2007 @ 6:53 PM
It costs a hundred bucks just to get a flat chunk of aluminum cut to size with a half dozen holes bored straight through. The box/display is probably a fair chunk of the asking price.

Apr.03.2007 @ 7:43 PM
penzoil washington
Prism pres aren't on anyone's shopping list, because as far as I know they've never done them till this (could be wrong). It seems to me that if someone isn't picky about their pre's they'd probably choose a much cheaper solution like a presonus or focusrite. in this price bracket, you'd think people would want to choose their own pre's. If I were in the market for a mobile or 8 channel solution, for a few dollars more I would get a Cranesong Spider which is asskicking kit.

Meanwhile I'm very happy with 24 channels of SSL ADDA for $2800.


Apr.03.2007 @ 10:41 PM
Prism Sound/Maselec pre's are on lot's of peoples' shopping lists, just not in the same category as say an API or a Neve. Think Grace designs, or Earthworks. Squeaky clean, and transparent. Given the addition of the M/S matrices on the preamp pairs and the fact that the converters are the same chips as the Dream ADA, I'd say Metric Halo is actually going to have some competition in the Classical and location recording market.
Selling it to the rest of the pro-audio market is probably just icing.

Apr.03.2007 @ 11:19 PM
Chris Randall
I agree with noisegeek. Nobody questions Prism's ability to make a quality A/D/A, that's for sure. I can't possibly see how they'd make a mic pre that was anything but pristine perfect. For location recording, I would have a hard time coming up with a better rig than this one rack-space unit and a MacBook Pro, personally.

Viz. FireWire interfaces in general, space_monkey has a good memory. Mea culpa: the words "IN MY EXPERIENCE" that front the next statement are important.

In my experience, Firewire audio interfaces are easily out-performed in stability, latency, and general robustness by PCI-based solutions. Since not only do I do a ton of music work, but I also develop audio software, the audio interface is the very last thing in the chain that I want to be having any problem with. So I feel that the extra expense of a PCI or PCIe solution, with an AES/EBU based converter, is justified in my case. That isn't to say that one can't make a perfectly good album with a MOTU 896. I know, because I made over a dozen with mine before I sold it. (Whether the albums were perfectly good or not is subjective, of course. I think they were.)

Now, I would get mild sampleframe sync issues when I cranked the 896 all the way down, and the lowest input to output latency total I could get was just a shade under 16ms. This is, of course, due in large part to hitting the speed limit at which a Firewire cable can push data. With my Lynx AES16, my input to output total latency is 2.98 ms, which is actually faster than the Rosetta 200 can convert from analog to digital and back again. Add another 4.12 ms for that, and my total latency currently is 7.10 ms, from mic pre, through the DAW, to speakers. This is well within the "I can't tell" 15ms range for monitoring during live recording.

(Some people, usually guitarists, say they can hear/feel under 15ms of latency. Guitarists are usually full of shit anyways, so what's one thing, more or less? I've yet to record a guitarist that had timing worth a shit to begin with, even to tape in an analog studio, so I beg to differ. With the possible exception of Reeves Gabrels. He had excellent timing.)

Anyways, that is my personal experience, and different computers will have different Firewire throughput abilities, so the numbers are soft. But Firewire interfaces always have all kinds of bells and whistles for real time monitoring, and you generally need them. I monitor right through my DAW, with no fuss nor muss to be had.



Apr.04.2007 @ 11:00 AM
penzoil washington
I also prefer PCI although latency is a non issue in an OTB setting - just another use for the nasty analog desk.

If I were doing mobile classical recording, I'd still spring for the Spider.


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