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MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:32 pm

I currently use a Fireface 800 and a Creamware A16 Ultra to provide me with 26 line inputs to my DAW.

I need to expand my I/O, so one of the options I'm looking at is MADI.

I particularly want to use an RME interface for the last link to the computer, because I do not want to lose TotalMix.

I have managed to scrape up three additional Creamware A16 interfaces, which I like for their standard jack inputs, and 1U form.

What I was thinking of buying was:
RME HDSPe MADI FX
RME ADI-648 (pity about the lack of front headphone output)

This would enable me easily replace my 1u Fireface in my rack with the ADI-648 and also make use of my existing and spare Creamware A16 interfaces to give me 64 line inputs.

Another option, rather than the ADI-648, would be the SSL MADI AX, but I don't know:

Would the AX connect to the HDSPe with some sort of 'standard MADI' cable?
How many channels would the AX actually give me (I work at 44.1kHz)?
Would the AX let me use all of its analogue I/O *and* the ADAT inputs simultaneously?

The multi-pin connectors of the AX would mean I'd have to find looms to connect to my jack-only patchbays, but it would make things considerably neater at the back of my racks. Anything I should know on this aspect?

Or should I begin to look at Dante? No RME/TotalMix option there, though... :(

Any guidance gratefully accepted. :thumbup:
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby forumuser840717 » Thu Mar 15, 2018 11:43 pm

The Elf wrote:....

What I was thinking of buying was:
RME HDSPe MADI FX
RME ADI-648 (pity about the lack of front headphone output)

The MADI FX has a stereo analogue line output on TRS jack which can directly drive headphones to a more than adequate level if thats important to you - just extend it to an easily accessible panel/box somewhere. Or, if you have a headphone amp with an AES/EBU input you could run the AES i/o from the MADI FX (on a 9 pin DSub on the back) to a suitable cable or breakout panel and use that for monitoring. (The AES i/o has patch points on the MADI FX routing matrix in TotalMix and can function as two extra i/o channels (the headphone outputs also appear in the matrix as two more routable output channels).)

Or, if a front panel headphone socket is important to you, there's always the MADIface XT which has three MADI i/o, a headphone output, a couple of mic/line inputs and a couple of XLR outputs (separate from the headphone outputs) and plugs to a computer on USB3 or PCI Express so is easy to grab from the studio and run with a laptop for those away from base recordings. It runs with TotalMix and has a little screen and the means to set it up and run it from the front panel. It can also funtion as a very basic monitor controller.

This would enable me easily replace my 1u Fireface in my rack with the ADI-648 and also make use of my existing and spare Creamware A16 interfaces to give me 64 line inputs.

Assuming you have four of the Creamware boxes then yes. With multiple i/o boxes linking to the ADI-648, for simplicity, some kind of central clocking might be an idea.

Would the AX connect to the HDSPe with some sort of 'standard MADI' cable?
How many channels would the AX actually give me (I work at 44.1kHz)?
Would the AX let me use all of its analogue I/O *and* the ADAT inputs simultaneously?

Yes. The MADI-FX has three MADI i/o, two on optical connectors (SC) and one on co-axial (BNC) connectors. Iirr the SSL boxes have optical only but they're the standard SC type so in theory they'll connect happily to the optical connector of the RME (or any other MADI box with optical connectors). (Said with the caveat that I don't use SSL MADI kit after several really rubbish experiences of trying to make their MADI cards work with MADI kit from other makers, including RME!)

On an AX you get 48 channels in and out: 24 analogue (on DSub) and 24 ADAT Lightpipe. (I can't remember whether or not the headphone output is a separate extra pair of outputs with it's own DACs (to give 26 analogue outs) .)

Yes. All the i/o and conversion works simultaneously.

The multi-pin connectors of the AX would mean I'd have to find looms to connect to my jack-only patchbays, but it would make things considerably neater at the back of my racks. Anything I should know on this aspect?


No more so than any other interface with analogue i/o on DSubs. You get quicker connection per 8 channels and neater cabling in the back of your rack but at the expense of needing to get your connections to and from DSub. Swings and roundabouts.

As i/o counts rise and manufacturers pack more functionality into ever smaller spaces, needing some kind of connection density higher than XLRs/jacks seems inevitable. It's not a bad thing, just different.

Or should I begin to look at Dante? No RME/TotalMix option there, though... :(

I guess that depends how important to you is TotalMix and how much kit you want to change from your present setup.
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby James Perrett » Thu Mar 15, 2018 11:55 pm

The Elf wrote:The multi-pin connectors of the AX would mean I'd have to find looms to connect to my jack-only patchbays, but it would make things considerably neater at the back of my racks. Anything I should know on this aspect?

I've had to dip my toe in the water of DB25 looms and I'm fairly positive about them - especially as they're under 20 quid from CPC for something that will work fine to go to a patchbay.
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:06 am

James Perrett wrote:
The Elf wrote:The multi-pin connectors of the AX would mean I'd have to find looms to connect to my jack-only patchbays, but it would make things considerably neater at the back of my racks. Anything I should know on this aspect?
I've had to dip my toe in the water of DB25 looms and I'm fairly positive about them - especially as they're under 20 quid from CPC for something that will work fine to go to a patchbay.
I'm searching on CPC and getting nothing like. Can please place a link for me?
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby forumuser840717 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:14 am

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Re: MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:34 am

forumuser840717 wrote:Male XLR-DSub25
Female XLR-DSub25
Ah, I would need balanced jacks.


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Re: MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:41 am

I looked at the MADIFace XT, but it’s a strange size. I prefer standard width rack kit.


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Re: MADI confusion

Postby forumuser840717 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:52 am

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Re: MADI confusion

Postby forumuser840717 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:53 am

The Elf wrote:I looked at the MADIFace XT, but it’s a strange size. I prefer standard width rack kit.

RME do make a set of optional extra wide "rack ears" for it to mount in a standard width rack.

Second one down here.

They also do a rack tray to mount two half width units side by side (further down the same page).
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby ef37a » Fri Mar 16, 2018 8:23 am

forumuser840717 wrote:Jacks-DSub

Wow! I couldn't buy the bits to make that for that money and even though I prided myself on my cable making skills, I doubt I could do quite as good a job as that appears to be.

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Re: MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 9:40 am

forumuser840717 wrote:
The Elf wrote:I looked at the MADIFace XT, but it’s a strange size. I prefer standard width rack kit.
RME do make a set of optional extra wide "rack ears" for it to mount in a standard width rack.

Second one down here.
Hmmm... I did look at the MADI XT for a while, but I discounted it pretty quickly for its non-racking form, and not seeing easy connections for MIDI, AES, SPDIF and wordclock. I also hate external PSUs and the thought of trying to find space for one in the back of the rack is dismaying. But you're right - it would be a suitable solution in many ways.

Those rack ears would sort out the form factor issue I have with it, although they are a bit of a dog's dinner! It never ceases to bemuse me that we came up with standard 19-inch rack mounting donkey's year ago, yet manufacturers seem intent on creating their own 'solutions' - more so now than ever!
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 9:40 am

ef37a wrote:
forumuser840717 wrote:Jacks-DSub
Wow! I couldn't buy the bits to make that for that money and even though I prided myself on my cable making skills, I doubt I could do quite as good a job as that appears to be.
+1!
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby ef37a » Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:13 am

There have been "dog's dinners" and kludges to the 19" rack system for at least the 20 years I have known them Mr E!
The IT hardware Co' I worked for made a range of different sizes* and I fitted (aka 'cobbled') routers to rack shelves. "They" don't seem to be able to make up their minds whether to use M6 or M5 screws? The yanks use 10AF iirc?

Just a thought? If you HAVE to have an adaptor why not make one 2/3thrds the space and punch it out as a mini-patch bay?

*I am surprised they haven't found the HR market? Some of their small rack cabinets would be ideal for the projjy jockey and would probably get past the 'Distaff eye' with little trouble?

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Re: MADI confusion

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:41 am

What sort of budget do you have available?

How many analogue IO do you actually need, and is that figure likely to grow? (Btw, I'm also curious why you need them all — you're surely not recording 64 channels of audio at once? Is it just so you can leave gear permanently hooked up instead of patching, or are you perhaps moving away from just the music side of things? ).

Just how important is Totalmix to you (I use it, I like it, and years ago it was out on its own... but while I'd still trust RME drivers over any others, it has to be said that many other companies offer decent routing software now).

I get the feeling that you're almost trying to bodge a system together based on units you already happen to have. If that's the case, your best bet might simply be to buy a second RME FF800 — they can be had second hand for £5-700 — which would double your I/O count instantly. (I can't recall if you can configure Totalmix to treat the two units as one, though, so you may need eg to link the SPDIF ports, if they're free, to send cues from one to the other...)

In the longer term, either a MADI- or ethernet-based system looks like it might do what you want. (MOTU's AVB stuff looks like it could fit the bill very nicely, though I've not tried it yet).
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:40 am

If I can do the whole thing for 5000 quid I'll be happy. If it takes more for a prime solution I can find it.

I'm not really trying to use stuff I already have for the sake of it. It's just that the A16s are a neat 1u 16-channel solution. If I could find a 64 analogue-to-MADI in one box I'd take it, but I haven't seen one. ADAT seems to be the best bet. Or is it? Now someone will send me a link! Grin!

Keyboards and modules alone I'm up to 80 incoming signals - that's without outboard effects/processors. The reason I want so much I/O is so I can make all my gear simultaneously monitorable. I also want everything in my racks and out of the way.

TBH a very cost-effective and rack-friendly solution may simply be a few more Rane SM82s (I have two at the moment) - I can always patch around them for recording. It's dirty, but it would work!

I'm firm about TotalMix - I don't want to have to work without it.

The two Fireface option is a realistic one (and where I started, TBH), but you can't cross-feed between two interfaces (not a massive deal, but still...) and I was hoping to find a more future-proofed solution. That's when Dante started to look good, but if RME don't support it I'll wait for a while and see what happens...
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:50 am

How about a couple of (1U) Ferrofish A32 interfaces feeding into an RME HDSPe MADI card?

64 channels analogue in and out of the computer, with full totalmix control and just 2U of rack space.

http://www.synthax.co.uk/latest/2015/09 ... converter/

http://www.rme-audio.de/en/products/hdspe_madi.php

(... and you can hook up some ADAT gear if you need to as well).

The RME card will set you back around £1400, and the Ferrofish about £1600 each, so the total would be £under £5k, including all the fibres and breakout cables.

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Re: MADI confusion

Postby The Elf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:57 am

Now THAT is looking very good indeed! 8-) 8-) 8-)
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:25 pm

:thumbup: :D

The Ferrofish boxes are excellent.

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/ferrofish-a32

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Re: MADI confusion

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:51 pm

If I were going down that road, I'd personally opt for the MADIface XT over the cards... partly for the on-board converters/preamps/headphone out (it doubles up as a handy interface for a laptop) and partly because I'd want a system to last a long time... and I can see USB3 being better supported than card slots on computers in the future). It's not much more and would still come in on budget I think... though I note the earlier comments about PSU, form factor etc. so YMMV.

Also worth mentioning is that in the UK the distributor for RME and Ferrofish is one and the same — you might be able to negotiate for a package deal and save yourself shopping around. I'd think about selling the A16s one at a time if you want to get the best price too ;)
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Re: MADI confusion

Postby forumuser840717 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 2:07 pm

If you want to stick with an internal card, don't need the full triple MADI facilities of the FX card and could get by with a single MADI i/o, there's a cheaper single stream MADI card in the HDSPe-MADI. It still has the headphone out, 2 MIDI i/o and wordclock i/o but adds the option of adding an LTC i/o sub card for those days when you need timecode.

For even cheaper MADI interfacing there's the MADIface Pro which is a desktop thing like a Babyface but with a single MADI i/o, 1 MIDI i/o and 4 analogue i/o and headphone output plus some hardware buttons and stuff linking to the computer on USB2 or 3.

And at the most basic level, there's the MADIface USB wich is just optical or co-axial MADI to USB2 in a box about the size of a cigarette packet.

Or, for more facilities, the Fireface UFX+ has a single MADI i/o (on optical or coaxial) though the BNCs do double duty as Wordclock i/o so aren't available for MADI if you're using them for WC), plus 4 mic/line/instrument inputs, 8 balanced line inputs on TRS and outputs (2xXLR & 6xTRS), 2 headphone (or unbalanced line) outputs on the front panel with individual level controls, 2 channels of AES/EBU in and out (on XLRs), 2 ADAT i/o (or1 ADAT and 1 SPDIF optical). And two MIDI ports on the back.

All i/o is available in TotalMix, which also gives full remote control of the mic preamps and routing of pretty much anything to anything.

It has an internal PSU, is a proper 1U rack size and has the rather useful DURec recording function that lets it capture up to about 76 channels (maybe 80) to a USB hard drive or memory stick (assuming you have a fast enough stick and it's quite fussy) plugged in to the USB port on the front panel. Very handy as a backup recorder on mobile jobs.

One other nifty trick is that if you put RME Octamic XTC mic preamps (which have MADI i/o) on the front end of the UFX+, feeding it via MADI, you get full remote control of the Octamic XTCs over the MADI line.

It talks to the computer over USB3 (or Thunderbolt and you can add RME's ARC USB remote to help use it as a monitor controller and add extra buttons to simplify access to other functions. And RME's new networked version of TotalMix allows control over over Ethernet/wi-fi using TotalMix Remote (currently in public beta).

Add a couple of the 32 channel Ferrofish analogue/MADI i/o boxes Hugh mentioned and you should have something quite flexible. Particularly as the UFX+ TotalMix will let you get at and freely route around all the UFX+ analogue and digital i/o on the same mixer as the MADI stream, giving access to 94i/o in one place. (If you use an HDSPe-MADI FX or MADIface XT you have you get 192in/194 out or 196in/198 out respectively but with fewer options on interface formats and less analogue i/o.) If you run multiple RME interfaces/cards, you can contol them via TotalMix but not route or mix between physical cards/interfaces.
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