The new Avid Pro Tools interfaces are here…and we love them

After keeping quiet for a long while, Avid have chosen to stake the reputation of their Digidesign merger on three new interfaces: the HD I/O, HD Omni and HD MADI. Avid themselves seem fairly confident as they’ve decided to ditch the 96 and 96i I/Os, and all three of the new releases require Pro Tools 8.1. But are they any good?

The HD I/O

At a glance, the HD I/O looks like a pretty basic revamp of the Digidesign 192. It’s a 2U expandable audio interface that connects to a Pro Tools HD core system. It uses the same modular chassis as the old 192, which comprises of the same four slots and can be loaded with the same four analogue or digital modules.

However, from there on in things get more interesting. There are more configuration options than with the 192 – the HD I/O is available in three standard configurations: 8x8x8 (which includes 8 analogue inputs, 8 analogue outputs and 8 channels of digital I/O, be they ADAT, AES/EBU or TDIF), plus one free slot; 16 channels of analogue I/O; and finally 16 channels of digital I/O.

The more astute Pro Tools users will notice that the 8x8x8 is the same configuration as the original 192. However, that unit didn’t allow for removal of the digital board and addition of extra analogue inputs and outputs – it was an either/or scenario, meaning that you could only have 8 analogue ins and 16 analogue outs or vice versa on one interface, but needed two interfaces to get 16 channels of analogue in both directions. Thankfully, the HD I/O has put paid to that. The result? A much more streamlined and less frustrating system.

Also new to this interface is SMUX capability over ADAT, which finally puts an end to the 48KHz sample rate cap you encountered when working over an ADAT connection with the 192. There’s also the first appearance of something Avid are calling ‘Curv’, which is basically a soft limiter on the analogue inputs to prevent clipping, and realtime sample rate conversion, which helps maintain signal quality even when recording at lower sample rates.

The HD OMNI

A  brand new format, the HD OMNI is a 1U interface that offers 2 digitally controlled mic preamps, 4 line inputs, 8 analogue outputs, ADAT (with SMUX), AES/EBU, control room cue monitoring and an on-board 14×26 mixer.

That list is impressive, but what’s really interesting about this unit is that it potentially paves the way for an interim platform to sit between Pro Tools HD and Pro Tools LE, by giving a degree of DSP mixing for zero latency monitoring in the interface, rather then using the HD cards.

The HD MADI

Finally, there is the HD MADI. A fairly simple unit, this provides 64 channels of MADI digital connectivity straight into Pro Tools HD.

This is huge news for live sound recordists and outside broadcast engineers who love the MADI protocol. Although SSL have been offering a MADI interface for the past 18 months, this is the first time Digidesign and Avid have released anything official, and the first time there has been a MADI designed specifically to work with Pro Tools.

While many of the specs for the SSL and Avid MADI I/Os are pretty similar, Avid does offer a couple of advantages – the most obvious being that it’s an Avid product, so you know from the get-go how it will interface with Pro Tools. Plus, if something should go wrong, you can always ask Avid’s tech crew to help you out, whereas the SSL MADI isn’t supported at all. It also boasts better connectivity, supporting either optical or normal co-axial copper cable connections, while the SSL is optical only.

Whether or not that’s enough to convince SSL users to make the switch remains to be seen, but the HD and OMNI I/Os are well worth a look.

For more info on any of Avid’s new releases, give me a call on 03332 409 306 or email audio@Jigsaw24.com.

Rob H
Rob H
Call us: 03332 409 306