The Prism Sound ADA-8 is a modular A/D-D/A converter and processor that is configurable for eight channels of simultaneous A/D and D/A conversion or for 16 channels in either direction. It supports sample rates up to 96 kHz and can also serve as a D/D format converter. The box is ideal for studio and location recording, stereo and surround mixing and mastering.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, post production
Key Features: Eight-Channel; 16, 20, 24-bit; 44.1 kHz – 96 kHz sample rate; Overkiller peak limiter; Super Noise Shaping; upgradable software; choice of digital or analog I/O
Contact: Prism Sound at 973-983-9577, Web Site.
The configurable 2RU ADA-8 has a long list of powerful features. The box features flexible digital interfacing options including AES3 (two-speed or two-wire), SDIF, Pro Tools 24/Mix and Pro Tools/HD. Since the digital I/Os are modular, Prism can add new interface standards as they are introduced. The DSD I/O module is equipped with SDIF-2, SDIF-3 and MAC-DSD interfaces. New DSP features include eight-channel PCM-to-DSD and DSD-to-PCM conversion (any PCM sample rate), plus eight-channel PCM sample-rate conversion. By fitting both of these I/O modules, Pro Tools can record and replay DSD audio, allowing SACD master recordings to be produced within Pro Tools. The newly released FireWire interconnect for Windows XP/Mac OS X allows I/O via a FireWire port.
The unit’s analog XLR inputs and outputs are electronically balanced, transformerless and galvanically isolated to ensure freedom from noise pick-up and crosstalk. The analog input and output sensitivity (and interchannel balance) are software-adjustable over the entire range with an impressive 0.05 dB resolution. The analog inputs have a 112 dB dynamic range. The THD+N is -105 dB (0.0004%) typical, RMS unweighted at -1.0 dB FS. The analog outputs have a 110 dB dynamic range, RMS unweighted, measured at -60 dB FS. The THD+N is -104 dB (0.0004%) typical, rms unweighted at -1.0 dB FS. Additionally, there is a TASCAM DA-88/iZ RADAR-compatible DB25 connector option available for the analog inputs and outputs.
The ADA-8’s Ultimate Prism Sound clock-stability and jitter rejection provide crystal clear imaging, with independent multiple PLLs for A/D and D/A paths. The Overkiller setting provides gentle limiting for analog inputs and assures no overs. It can be independently turned on and off on each channel.
The user interface provides fast access to all I/O and processing functions while continually displaying all settings. The eight-channel LED bargraph/status monitor can access any point in the A/D or D/A signal paths. Each path offers DSP processing and all of the signal processing functions can be carried out in the D/D mode, including conversion between different interface formats. The unit’s modular construction allows easy upgrading of all input and output cards (Including A/D, D/A, and DSP boards). The software is internet-upgradeable, loading from a computer’s serial port into FLASH memory inside the ADA-8.
The front panel of the ADA-8 contains four sections called panels. The Monitor Panel controls and displays all parameters of the two-channel Monitor. The Mimic Panel controls and displays all parameters of the routing and processing of the two eight-channel audio Paths through the ADA-8. The Meter Panel contains eight LED bargraphs which can be switched to meter either of the two eight-channel Paths, as well as a row of Channel Select buttons, which are used to apply controls to one or more selected channels, or to all eight channels using the “All” button.
The rear panel of the ADA-8 features two large module slots that provide housing for the analog I/O Modules. Two small Module Slots house the digital I/O Modules. The rear panel’s Utility Module, contains a variety of input and output connectors for reference sync, analog and digital monitor, and serial communications.
The ADA-8 has several processing options available. The four different Super-Noise-Shaping (SNS) curves give greatly-improved small-signal performance for limited word-lengths (such as CDs), and are completely compatible with existing D/A converter products. The MR-X processor is a word-mapper which allows flexible use of multiple 16-bit or 20-bit tracks for high-precision recording. For example, MR-X allows six 20-bit or four 24-bit, 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz, tracks to be stored on a standard DA-88 or ADAT tape. Alternatively, MR-X can record stereo 24-bit, 96 kHz on the same standard tape, without any data compression. The DRE (Dynamic Range Enhanced) function, retained from the AD-124 and AD-2, allows you to make 24-bit recordings on 16-bit recorders without sacrificing tracks.
The stereo monitor section is switchable between the A/D and D/A path, pre or post processing. The monitor function is equipped with Cut, Invert, Mono and Swap buttons, a volume control, and a front panel mounted headphone jack. The stereo monitor feeds a pair of line level analog outputs and the AES3 digital output, both on the rear of the unit. These outputs may be programmed to be fed pre- or post- the volume control.
The ADA-8’s front panel continuously shows the status of all of the major functions including a routing display with a clear indication of all stages of the signal path. Each function or stage has an “access” button that takes the menu display straight to the menu for that function. This results in instant access to any control. For per channel indications, an eight channel bargraph/status display can be assigned to the A/D or D/A path, pre or post processing. Meter assignment and modes can be switched with a single key. By using the Configuration Stores, a wide range of factory and user stores can be browsed and recalled.
The ADA-8 has several different digital I/O modules options available. The AES3/4XLR-F input module provides eight channels of digital input or four in two-wire mode. The AES3/4XLR-M output module provides eight channels of digital output or four in two-wire mode. The AES3/DB25 I/O module with external XLR “squid” provides eight I/O channels or four channels in two-wire mode. The FireWire expansion card provides the user with the option to interface via the popular FireWire port. Format conversion and processing is possible between any of these digital I/O modules. Split96 processing function provides two-wire AES I/O, but also works with any other I/O format to allow 88.2 kHz/96 kHz high-rate recording on 44.1/48 kHz recorders.
Prism Sound converters have always enjoyed a prestigious reputation in the music industry. My first introduction to their converters was several years ago at Master Mix, Nashville’s premier mastering facility. I was instantly amazed at their resolution, clarity and detail. It is no surprise that they have become the standard in high-resolution audio.
I initially put the ADA-8 to work recording a Neal McCoy concert in Longview, Texas. I was recording to Pro Tools/HD so I switched to the ProTools/HD configuration and it worked like a charm. In this mode, Pro Tools sees the Prism box as simply another 192 so the software operation does not change at all. I used three Digidesign 192’s along with the ADA-8 and had great results. Since it was a live recording situation I didn’t have a lot of time to compare various scenarios but I did leave with the impression that the ADA-8 sounded amazing and I was equally impressed with its ease of integration into the Pro Tools realm since this is often not an easy task to accomplish by a third-party manufacturer.
Back in the studio I was able to do some critical comparison between the Prism and other converters and even with my high expectations, I was still surprised. I listened to a mix in Pro Tools through the Prism ADA-8 converters, the Digidesign 192 converters and the iZ RADAR Nyquest converters and found the Prism converters to sound the best. The Prism ADA-8 had more definition in the low and high frequencies then the RADAR or the Digidesign 192 boxes, there was also more depth to the ADA-8. I felt like I could hear further into the mix, e.g. reverb trails did not disappear as quickly and there was more clarity to instruments that sit very low in the mix.
To put the box to use in a studio tracking situation, I added the ADA-8 to a Pro Tools/HD rig equipped with three 192s while tracking Hot Action Cop for Lava/Atlantic Records at Ocean Way. I was once again impressed with its performance and its ease of integration into a Pro Tools system. I went on to experiment with both the dithering and sample rate conversion functions and in both instances had impressive results.
After working with the Prism ADA-8 over the past several weeks there is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the best sounding A/D and D/A boxes that I’ve heard. The boxes modular format is the perfect answer to today’s diversification. If you don’t need the D/A, you don’t have to buy them, you can have 16 channels of A/D instead. With the ADA-8 you only get the features that you need and you don’t have to spend money on features that you don’t, the choice is yours. The ADA-8 has a high price tag but there is no doubt that its worth every penny.