Of all the PC-based workstations out there SADiE seems to have one of the best reputations for satisfied customers of their PCM systems. It is only natural for the company to move into the uppermost echelon of recording formats, DSD (Direct Stream Digital), porting over the editing interface that has been a favorite of many top mastering houses.
Product PointsApplications: Post production
Key Features: DSD recorder, editor, mastering editor; PCM A/D-D/A converters; DSD D/A converter; creates SACD cutting masters; DSD to PCM and PCM to DSD conversions; down conversion to standard 16-bit Red Book CD layer
Price: $16,000 for two channels, upgrade to eight-channel, $8,000
Contact: SADiE at 615-327-1140, Web Site
+ DSD and PCM capable
+ Familiar SADiE interface
+ Solid platform
+ Onboard DSD D/A converter
+ Front panel headphone jack and control
+ Interfaces with any outboard DSD or PCM converters
– Not all functions operational in DSD mode (at this time) stereo only
The Score: A solid, well-featuredDSD editing and mastering system.
In addition to being a mastering editor, this SADiE DAW is also a recorder and an authoring system capable of generating the actual Scarlet Book image file that becomes the cutting master for SACD. Only a stereo system was available at time of this writing but the SADiE folks tell me that a multichannel system is in the works and will be unveiled at the AES show in Los Angeles about the time you read this.
The SADiE Mastering Editor (starts at $16,000) is a dedicated rackmounted PC running Windows 2000 Professional. The hardware is configured with an 80 GB IDE hard drive and a SCSI AIT-2 tape drive for backup and restoration, capable of holding 50 GB of uncompressed and 100 GB of compressed data. A front panel 1/4-inch headphone jack with its associated level control makes for quick and easy monitoring (and it sounds good too).
Six BNC connectors (three in/three out) on the back of the unit provide for two channels of DSD in the SDIF3 format. PCM in and out in the SDIF2 format is available as well as AES/EBU on XLRs. Two chassis-mount 15-pin connectors attach to breakout cables for analog in/out and PCM in/out. The DSD SADiE does not have a built-in DSD A/D but does have a D/A onboard. Typically, outboard converters are used in such high-end applications but it is nice to see an onboard D/A for monitoring, and I will say that this D/A stacks up surprisingly well when compared with my EMM Labs DAC8 Mk IV reference converter. Both PCM A/D and D/A converters are included.
The user interface is a typical monitor, mouse and keyboard setup, with the most recent SADiE4 software look and feel. Many users are familiar with the SADiE interface and rave about it. I, for one, was not familiar with it and I feel like I have been missing something – it is fast and intuitive.
There are three main windows: the Playlist window with stereo tracks and EDL editing; the Mixer window with full automation of faders, pans and EQ and the Transport window. The number of EDL streams, transport control functions and tool bars are all customizable; most functions are hotkey assignable, and custom settings can be saved for individual users.
There are level meters that perform to the full Annex D & E metering standard for SACD, and the user can choose the layout and look of the meter components. The Annex standard is broken down into five bands per channel: DC (Direct Current), AF (Audio Frequency), MF (Mid-Frequency) HF (High-Frequency) and MP (Max Peak). The latter is the almighty when it comes to maximum level on SACD. It is possible that if you send a master for SACD replication to a plant with more than +3.1 Max Peak (the max standard) they will not author it.
The software includes a full project management system and audio file search function. A project manager enables work to be organized into projects that hold all audio and edit data, all of which can be backed up or restored in a single operation. Sound files and EDLs are password protected, while preview and file import functions are available from any connected drive or network connected drive.
The system has different editing functions designed specifically for SACD editing and mastering, CD pre-mastering, music and speech editing. Both the playlist and mixer support 50 levels of undo/redo with a user-definable auto save function.
Crossfades are one-step symmetric and same-track user-definable, with up to 20 crossfade shapes of any length all definable in automation with crossfade times limited only to the length of the source audio itself. Real-time mix functions include level, pan, a four-band parametric EQ and dynamics. All of these are pretty straight-forward, although I found the patching of the limiter a bit confusing. Audio files can be imported and exported in the DSD-IFF format, the same file format used by Philips and Sony.
The system was delivered to me with the dCS model 904 A/D converter and the 954 D/A converter, both capable of PCM up to 192 kHz 24-bit sampling and DSD. Interface to the SADiE was quick and easy with just six BNCs.
Unfortunately, I was unable to use the SADiE in an actual live session due to the deadline of this issue, but I was able to put it through some paces.
Using the dCS converters I fed a balanced analog signal from the EMM Labs D/A digitally connected to the Philips SACD 10PE player. Other than a slight coloration from the dCS converters, what you put in to the SADiE is what you get out. Those of you who have used the SADiE PCM workstations will love the DSD version mainly because it sounds like analog without the typical analog recorder noise and distortion problems.
Some of the functionalities of the PCM version of SADiE4 are not available with the DSD version. This is due to the fact that the DSP used in processing PCM cannot be ported over to the new 1-bit format. It took 20 years or more before PCM processing got to where it is today.
With DSD, it is a bit like starting over because all of the processing has to be reinvented using devices such as FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays). Eventually, dedicated chips will be available to provide specific functions now done with ordinary DSP in the PCM world.
I am delighted that a well-respected company like SADiE has jumped into the DSD movement. So often in pro audio the market has to be large enough to justify the R & D required to come up with a product like this. It’s refreshing to see a company make a product because it is simply better and I believe the market will come to be in time. I will be looking forward to checking out the multichannel version of the SADiE DSD Mastering Editor.
Philips SACD10-PE player; EMM Labs DAC8 D/A converter; EMM Labs Switchman monitor controller; Bel Canto eVo power amplifier; SLS S8R monitors; Grado HP-1 headphones.