So far, my hot-rodded PT|LE system has brought lots of compliments and, most importantly, more than paid for itself. Naturally, I was eager to evaluate RME's latest 8-channel converter: the ADI-8 QS.
The RME ADI-8 QS is a step up in functionality, and in price, from the DS; the QS replaces the DS's TDIF multi-pin with AES/EBU. In addition, for about $1k more than the DS, the QS's basic features include eight channels of servo-balanced, isolated A/D and D/A conversion with less than 12 samples (.25 mS at 48K) of latency; up to four analog reference levels (-10 to + 20); 8-channel operation at single, double or quad speed up to 192 kHz; two ADAT optical I/O for eight channels up to 96 kHz; word clock I/O; MIDI I/O; digital input/output trim of 6 dB per I/O; analog and/or digital limiting; optional MADI I/O with delay compensation; hardware remote for store and recall of volume; and full remote control via either MIDI, MADI, or Windows PC. A Mac interface has been mentioned, but no firm release date has been set.
For your studio, this robust feature set could be the perfect fit, overkill, or may allow you to do things you hadn't thought of doing before. For example, in single-speed mode, you can output two identical 8-track digital streams via the ADAT main and Aux ports for a 7.1 monitor mix. Input and output levels can be changed globally or individually by accessing the setup menu. If you aren't a fan of mixing in the box and prefer to mix from your DAW through an analog console, multiple QS chassis can be linked for more channels, or the 64-channel MADI option may be employed.
The analog limiter can be pushed to achieve as much as 20 dB of gain reduction. The unit then behaves more like an effects box and A/D-D/A converter. I found no parameter adjustments for the analog limiter, but the digital limiter offers four ratio curves from 1.5-1 to 5-1 for denser audio.
Superclock is not supported, but RME's SteadyClock purports to surpass Superclock performance and selectable 75-Ohm input termination is a handy feature. The clocking circuit also acts as a re-shaper, and RME suggests throughput of clock signals to devices in series rather than using T-connectors at the input.
Finally, signal level metering has been expanded in comparison to the DS; the QS shows eight LEDs per input and output channel. Meters can be set to peak hold or auto reset after three seconds. Red peak flashers illuminate at -.2 dBFS. To set up, since I use the ADI-8 DS for A/D conversion in front of my Digi 003R, all I had to do was move the TRS plugs and Lightpipe from DS inputs to QS inputs. All of my audio projects end up on either CD or DVD. As such, 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz/24-bit files work for my needs. I compared 44.1 kHz/24-bit recordings made with the same mic, preamp, and delicate finger-style acoustic guitar through both the DS and QS converters and found their sound was virtually identical.
The RME analog and digital gainreduction circuits do noticeably squeeze the audio. I don't think I'd use them for tracking unless very lightly. I think these features are better suited for sessions when ultimate density and loudness is the goal.
The translated-from-German manual is sometimes paradoxical. The vocabulary is frequently above that of standard American English, but sometimes the lack of understanding of our syntax and grammar are apparent and obscure the content. One more pass through an editor for whom English is not a second language would make the manual as spoton as the device itself.
The RME ADI-8 QS is a hard-working, good-sounding, flexible box that can extend the capabilities of any studio at any level and even grow with it. Keeping the MADI card as an option is a very good idea; it keeps the unit's price down for those who will never need it.
Ty Ford has been writing for Pro Audio Review since its first issue. www.tyford.com