Antelope had already mentioned in a very confident statement that they were going to release a “game-changing” interface at NAMM 2017. Last night, more information was released, and the anticipated interface has been revealed as the Orion32 HD, a Pro Tools HD-equipped 64-channel interface with USB3 for Native use with any other DAW. Not quite what we expected, but certainly impressive.
Antelope and Avid Pro Tools HD
Last year saw Avid release Pro Tools HD software as a separate product. Pro Tools HD users no longer need to purchase a piece of Avid hardware in order to own the license for the professional software. To accompany the separation of the software license and Avid’s own hardware, Avid also released the Digilink license. This is an additional license required if you intend on using Avid’s HDX and HD Native cards, or the HD Thunderbolt Native platform with an interface such as this new Orion32 HD.
Whilst this is great news for users, be aware that you will need to include the cost of this license if you decide upon a third party Digilink interface. Many are speculating that Avid are moving away from hardware and playing to their strength with software widely known in the industry. That’s potentially a good thing for users, and the release of this Orion32 HD is an exciting alternative. (Note the Avid MTRX hasn’t surfaced yet.)
As well as the Digilink connections, the Orion 32 HD will be USB3-equipped. Antelope stress that this new Orion interface is their best yet, in terms of audio quality and DSP power, which will be suitable for any DAW. On the rear there are D-Sub connections for 32 analogue line inputs, 32 line outputs, MADI, ADAT and SPDIF. That’s a lot of high-quality connections in a 1U unit, more than we’ve seen from any other manufacturer before. What’s really impressive however, is that the unit doesn’t use fans to keep cool, making it completely silent.
Competition from Apogee and Focusrite
The competition is beginning to build and it is interesting to see what the manufacturers are offering. Last year Focusrite and Apogee released new Pro Tools HD ready interfaces and went about the modern interface in very different ways. Most interesting was Focusrite’s Red 4Pre and Red 8Pre, which again are 1U boxes that offer a significant channel count. However, they were the first firm to add AoIP via Dante to their Digilink-enabled interfaces. With AoIP becoming so powerful in the world of pro audio today, it’s a shame Antelope haven’t yet participated.
The Orion32 HD however, is clearly a more traditional studio style interface offering greater analogue I/O. If you want 32 channels in a 1U rack space with Dante connectivity, then Forrofish’s new A32 Dante will also see it’s debut at NAMM. This latest development from Antelope does raise the question however, have Ferrofish done enough to stay in the game?
One area which we have clearly seen Antelope putting a lot of research and development is their DSP technology. For example, we recently saw them release a range of classic hardware emulations as plug-ins for their platform. I’m really pleased to see Antelope flying the flag for external DSP processing, while other manufacturers shy away from it because there’s a belief that modern computers are powerful enough to host everything.
I personally don’t think this is quite true, and the other benefit of systems like these is real-time processing for use while tracking. Subtle processing on the way in seems to be a dying art form in engineering today. In the video below, the voice-over says this new unit offers the “most realtime processors of any interface solution available”. Now the attention turns to UAD to see what a future solution from them might look like, cough cough!
Pricing information hasn’t been made clear yet, but the existing Orion32+ is around 2,600 GBP. Currently the only other modern interfaces with Digilink connectivity for Pro Tools, are from the likes of Apogee and Focusrite. It’s hard to make a direct comparison because their specifications differ so much and each achieve a slightly different goal. However, this is the first one we’ve seen offering this level of channel count in such a small 1U unit, with the bonus of on-board DSP processing. If it sounds as good as it should with an Antelope badge, plus they can offer it for less than 3K GBP, then this could be one to watch out for. For more details, see Antelope’s Orion32 HD news story.
Here is Antelope’s promotional video about the new Orion32 HD coming at this years NAMM show. Seen here from Antelope Audio’s YouTube channel: