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Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

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Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby jodaki » Thu Sep 12, 2019 9:38 am

I need a new interface and am looking at this one.

Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3
- can anyone think of any reason that might not be a great idea?

It is also available asa slightly different model - the 32+ Gen 3 which has:

- thunderbolt and AfX (use the antelope plugins from my DAW).

whereas the the 32HD Gen 3 has:
- insane converter performance but only USB3. cant use Afx (afx requires TB).

Any thoughts about which to go for?

thanks.
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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby CS70 » Thu Sep 12, 2019 4:56 pm

Your post made me look at the specs.. 124 dB of A/D converter dynamic range aren't too shabby :-)

As of bandwidth, TB vs USB is irrelevant for audio.

As of latency Thunderbolt has an overall advantage on the minimum latency you can achieve, as it writes/read data directly on the PCIe bus. But in practice a bespoke USB controller, built in a device designed to do one thing (i.e. transfer channels of audio) will live in a very controlled situation, be thoroughly tested and therefore work fine so long the pc on the other side has enough grunt.

So I wouldn't worry.

EDIT: didn't see the bit about AFX. That definitely is a good temptation for going to the TB side, but in the end is only a matter of needs and budget that only you can know.
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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby jodaki » Fri Sep 13, 2019 11:33 pm

Thanks CS70, that helps regarding latency.

Apparently AFX doesn't work on the 32+ yet. Antelope might bring it in eventually (as per Sam Inglis's review of this unit - https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/antelope-audio-orion-32-plus-generation3).

Your observation about the dynamic range is the heart of my question though.

This is the spec of the 32+ Gen3

D/A Monitor Converter:
    Dynamic Range: 129 dB
    THD + N: -108 dB

A/D Converter:
    Dynamic Range: 121 dB
    THD + N: -112 dB

D/A Converters:
    Dynamic Range: 120 dB
    THD + N: -107 dB

And this is the spec of the HD Gen 3

D/A Monitor Converter:
    Dynamic Range: 136 dB
    THD + N: -120 dB

A/D Converter:
    Dynamic Range: 124 dB
    THD + N: -112 dB

D/A Converters:
    Dynamic Range: 129 dB
    THD + N: -120 dB

The converter performance of the HD unit is pretty impressive. However the A/D is only 3db better than the 32+ (with both at -112 for THD). Pretty much all my recordings are via mics, and most stems/mixes end up via outboard at some point.

Other than converter performance the only difference is in the connectors: the HD has digilink and USB 3, whereas the 32+ has thunderbolt 2 and USB 2.

I dont use pro tools so the digilink is useless to me.

So, the question is: would you go for some really impressive converters but interface via USB3 or go for the 32+ with pretty good but not stellar converters and interface via thunderbolt?

Re; AFX. currently I do all my outboard processing via the I/O plugin or just bussing it out and back in. I imagine this would work more or less equally well during mixing whether over TB or USB. If not then that would be a factor for me.

In terms of cost: well a thunderbolt cable long enough for my installation (a corning optical thunderbolt) will cost an extra £200. The HD unit is £900 more expensive than the 32+, so effectively there is £700 difference. Cost is not the most important factor though.

I dont want bandwidth performance that I regret down the line (USB vs TB). Conversely I dont want to get converter performance I regret. There isnt much between the A/D but the HD monitor out at 136db is utterly phenomenal and probably quite audibly better.

If only I had £7k I could obviate this dilemma by getting the goliath - with thunderbolt and the HD converters :)

Any thoughts are really appreciated because I have to make a decision this weekend....
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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby James Perrett » Fri Sep 13, 2019 11:38 pm

jodaki wrote:Any thoughts are really appreciated because I have to make a decision this weekend....

I'd like to see some independent tests before I believed those numbers - they look too good to be true to me.
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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby jodaki » Fri Sep 13, 2019 11:52 pm

I'd like to see some independent tests before I believed those numbers - they look too good to be true to me.

I know, they are phenomenal! Sadly though I dont have an AES17 test suite and I dont think antelope would be willing to send me a couple of units for comparison. But Im sure at least one person around here would be able to verify those figures :)

Actually, looking back at Sam Inglis' review, he accepted Antelope's figures for the 32+. I dont know if he smelt anything fishy about the HD performance claims as he didn't review that unit.
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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Sep 14, 2019 6:22 pm

I reviewed the Antelope Eclipse 384 a while back, and it performed extremely well...

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/antelope-audio-eclipse-384

... But my AES17 measurements, although very impressive, were well short of Antelope's claimed dynamic range figures. I've no idea what measurement technique Antelope use to arrive at the extraordinary dynamic range figures they publish, but it certainly isn't AES17!
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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Sep 15, 2019 1:25 pm

I think it's also fair to say that comparing two converter boxes by specs alone is not a good way to choose between them.

In theory this approach should mean that the one with the 'best' spec will sound better, but often in the final analysis other factors may make you decide on one over the other - perhaps a subtle difference of feature set, or ease of use.

But ultimately, if you've got a well-treated room with exemplary monitoring, one or other box will simply sound 'better' or simply more 'neutral/balanced/revealing' to you.

In my opinion, that's the one to go for ;)


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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:02 pm

I totally agree Martin. The specs can serve as a guide and highlight any obvious weaknesses, but the margins are now so small that features and price tend to be the more relevant deciding factors, to be honest. And also, different manufacturers measure in different ways, so direct comparisons are often impossible.

I always measure and quote the A-weighted AES17 dynamic range in my reviews because I've found this figure tallies reasonably closely with my own listening scores. It's not always perfect match and there have been some odd anomalies now and again, but it's proven to be a pretty good guide overall.

The point is that to score a good AES17 figure the designer has to have paid considerable attention to all aspects of the design, so it's not just which A-D chip they've used, it's also things like power supply noise, clock noise and jitter, PCB layout and grounding planes, the analogue input/output stage design, and so on and so forth. Any cut corners really do show in a tumbling of the figures.

The lowest AES17 score of all the converters I've tested to date (which us around 40 devices) is 103dB (A-wtd), and that came -- not surprisingly -- from the Behringer ADA8200 (which I should point out is significantly better than the original ADA8000!). But although it's not a great score, the performance per £/$/€ is still pretty impressive... you won't find anything better for the price, that much is guaranteed!

However, the majority of mid-budget converters, whether in interfaces or standalone, are scoring around the 116-119dB mark, and that list includes products from the likes of Burl, Antelope, Audient, Focusrite, Crookwood, Prism, UAD, etc.

Pushing up above that are notable products from companies like Cranborne, Apogee, Benchmark, Focusrite's higher-end products, Grace Design, Lynx, Merging, Lavry and RME with figures typically in the 120-126dB area -- which is where the current state of the art resides.

But as you can see, we're talking only maybe 6-12dB difference in performance terms but often £1000 or more in terms of product prices -- this really is the world of diminishing returns. And is the rest of the recording/repro chain really up to revealing the subtle differences between converters with 118 or 123dB dynamic ranges?

In other words, there are almost always far better and more effective places to invest money in the signal chain/room than the converter since even a reasonable interface these days will outperform almost everything else the typical project studio uses. It's miles away from being the weak link... unless it's the ADA8200, in which case the difference might be more audible more easily... ;-) but even then it's still way better than the gear I cut my teeth on in the 1970s and 80s!

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Re: Quick poll: Antelope Orion 32HD Gen 3

Postby jodaki » Mon Sep 16, 2019 2:55 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I reviewed the Antelope Eclipse 384 a while back, and it performed extremely well...

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/antelope-audio-eclipse-384

... But my AES17 measurements, although very impressive, were well short of Antelope's claimed dynamic range figures. I've no idea what measurement technique Antelope use to arrive at the extraordinary dynamic range figures they publish, but it certainly isn't AES17!

Ive been in touch with antelope this morning and the support chap went off to do some research. He came back to me just now assuring me that the 32+ and 32hd gen 3 models were tested to AES17. Perhaps they have changed their testing procedures.

Anyway, advice above all noted, so now Ive gone for a more expensive monitoring controller I will save some money on the HD and get the 32+
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