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Audient ORIA

Audio Interface & Monitor Controller By Phil Ward
Published July 2024

Audient ORIA

Audient bring immersive audio a little closer to home with a dedicated USB audio interface/monitor controller.

Time was, not long ago, when considering a DAW interface it was the number of Inputs that caught the eye: does it have enough mic inputs to record a band with a drum kit? Now though, it’s beginning to be the case that Outputs are king. It’s not about, ‘can I record a band’, it’s more about, ‘can I do an Atmos mix?’ (Other multi‑channel immersive formats are, of course, available.)

Philosophy

Up in the world of high‑end professional Thunderbolt, HDX and Dante‑connected interfaces, typical output count has long been more than sufficient for the 10 minimum required for Atmos monitoring (5.1.4 or 7.1.2), but down in the world of USB interfaces, where most of us reside, finding affordable hardware with enough outputs for Atmos, especially beyond 7.1.2 or 5.1.4, is a much bigger ask. And that’s where the subject of this review, the Audient ORIA, comes in. The ORIA is a relatively affordable USB DAW interface designed specifically for Atmos mix duties. ORIA provides 16 surround monitor outputs (both analogue and AES digital) along with two independent stereo outputs and two stereo headphone outputs. In fact, the ORIA is so far away from a traditional USB interface and incorporates so many functions and facilities aimed at the mix, rather than the recording business of an interface, Audient cover it in the Monitor Controllers section of their website.

A good reason for this is that, while it can function as a traditional interface (which, for what it’s worth, is how I think it will most commonly be used), it can also work in combination with another interface in a monitor control mode. In this mode, the ORIA is connected via ADAT to an existing interface to provide up to 20 monitor outputs (and two headphone outputs) with all its monitor control functionality. If you’re particularly wedded to using an existing interface, this is a perfectly practical option, but it seems to me that a better solution would be to use the ORIA as the DAW interface and then connect its ADAT input to a mic preamp/DAC ADAT output, or even an interface working in standalone mode. My Focusrite interface, for example, can be configured to function as a standalone mic preamp with an ADAT output, and that’s what I’d use if I needed some more ORIA inputs.

Functionality

I’ll begin by describing what the ORIA presents on its 1U rackmount front panel. Going from let to right, things kick off with a couple of combi XLR/Jack sockets that offer mic/line‑level inputs. Alongside the input sockets are four configuration push‑buttons that enable selection of 48V phantom power, input level and instrument impedance/sensitivity, independently for each input. Pressing one of the input selection buttons brings up its settings in the ORIA display, which coincidentally is the next feature along on the front panel. The display is both unusually generous in size for a 1U interface and usefully informative. The display reconfigures to show the information relevant to whatever is being adjusted (either from the front‑panel controls or the associated ORIA macOS or Windows control app that I’ll get to in a moment). To the right of the display is a large‑ish rotary controller that, like the display, reconfigures depending on what’s being adjusted or configured. Its default action is volume control of the ORIA surround outputs (by which I mean the 16 ‘Atmos’ outputs) but if, for example, one of the two headphone outputs is selected, the rotary encoder switches to control that output’s volume. Pushing and holding the encoder provides access to a settings menu with items and parameters selected by encoder rotation and confirmed through the push‑button action. One small frustration I found with the encoder is that if the ORIA is placed directly on a desk rather than in a rack, it is a little too generous in its diameter to operate comfortably — the bottom edge comes too close to the desk surface. Maybe I just have thick fingers? The solution was simply to raise the ORIA up off the desk a little (which also coincidentally provided me with a convenient ‘store and forget’ slot underneath. Perfect for desk‑cluttering paperwork...).

Audient ORIA front panel.

To the right of the rotary encoder is a square array of four configuration push‑buttons. The top‑left button is labelled Volume and it both selects volume control mode on the rotary encoder and provides a press‑and‑hold mute/unmute function. Alongside the Volume button is the Profile button. One major facility provided by the ORIA is the ability to import Sonarworks SoundID Reference For Multichannel speaker/room optimisation data. I’ll describe how ORIA/Sonarworks integration works later in the review, but the action of the front‑panel Profile button is to enable the selection of preset ORIA profiles that can include uploaded Sonarworks SoundID (or native ORIA EQ) data and ORIA output configurations. An example of the value of profiles arose pretty much straight away on installing the ORIA in my studio. My 5.1.4 Atmos monitoring comprises nine Dynaudio BM5 MkIIIs and one Dynaudio 18S subwoofer, while my stereo monitoring is via a pair of Neumann KH 150s. The Dynaudio Atmos system is optimised for the room using Sonarworks SoundID Reference For Multichannel, but the Neumann monitors are optimised using Neumann’s MA 1 system, with optimisation parameters uploaded to the monitors. So switching from Atmos to stereo monitoring required the ORIA Sonarworks SoundID optimisation to be disabled, otherwise it would be applied to the Neumann monitors. ORIA profiles handled this perfectly. A press of the ORIA Profile button switched between the Atmos profile, including the Sonarworks optimisation, and a ‘Stereo Flat’ profile, while at the same time switching the ORIA output from multichannel to stereo. It was so neat I kept...

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