Universal Audio’s long and distinctive record for building great analog products makes this foray into digital hardware rather noteworthy. True to UA’s reputation, this two-channel 2192 analog-to-digital converter (ADC), digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and master clock — referred to as a Master Digital Audio Interface — is an A-list piece of gear.
First and foremost, the 2192 is a combination ADC and DAC, supporting sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz. The 2192 provides an internal master clock that re-clocks incoming digital signals for jitter-free performance, although wordclock I/O and distro is fully supported (with two ins and four outs on BNCs) if you prefer that method.
The 2192 provides independent digital and analog signal routing (allowing pre- or post-converter confidence monitoring) and the analog path — Class A, transformerless, DC coupled, matched FETs, dual differential, no caps — may just be the truest feature of this unit. The 2192 offers ADAT Lightpipe I/O with S-MUX. The 2192 also provides transformer-coupled AES/EBU I/Os (on XLRs), with rates up to 192 kHz (with single or dual wire operation at 96 or 192 kHz). The 2192 also handles S/PDIF I/O up to 192 kHz with optional dual wire op. All this is conveniently complemented by real-time transcoding between digital formats.
The best thing about the 2192 is that it simply does everything as advertised. It transcoded perfectly, converting my incoming S/PDIF to AES/EBU output without a hiccup. It passed ADAT Lightpipe signals and handled the track-splitting of S-MUX without a hitch. I found the 2192 to be a great converter and a great clock that exudes a particularly warm analog front end: a front end absent of any anti-clipping features, but with the soft compression and saturation (UA calls it “bloom”) of a Class-A circuit approaching its limits.
On four recent pop projects, I played the client one of their songs alternately through the 2192s ADC, my DAW’s ADC (MOTU), and my Apogee Rosetta ADC, and then asked for their preference listening through a Mytek DAC. Three out of four clients chose the 2192 mix for reasons such as “fuller low end,” “really smooth mids” and “no hype.” Basically, I concur; the 2192 does have a stable and nuanced stereo image, great bass extension, a fine balance of roundness and detail in the lows, linearity through the mids and a generally sweet politeness up top. The one client who didn’t pick the 2192 cited his need for more high-mid guitar forwardness, more top-end bite: that Rosetta “200 and 8k emphasis,” as I hear it, being nicely present and punchy for his punky rock music.
One modern country music client and our mastering engineer and I compared the 2192’s AD conversion at 44.1 vs. 88.2; the higher rate had a particularly clean high end (sweetened, but not edgy) and the bottom end seemed less fat, less pillowy and leaner at 200 cycles. We chose the 88.2 mix for the release, noting its depth of imaging, cleaner low-end event detail and increased definition, even if it was thinner.
Based on an extensive Session Trial I did last year (December 2009’s PAR Session Trial: Two-Channel ADCs — proaudioreview. com/article/26252), my memory would place the 2192’s performance right up there with the top ADC units I evaluated from Lavry, Mytek Digital and Prism Sound. However, without the benefit of direct comparison, I’ll just say the 2192 sounds more like the smooth, classy, un-hyped accuracy of the Lavry rather than the stark transients, pronounced crispness and lean bottom end of the Mytek.
The only negative I can find in the 2192 is its metering; I wish the meters were bigger with more segmentation. And I must mention its price tag — $3,599 list/$2,999 street — demands what I feel is a substantial investment for the product category. However, if one considers the price of a pair of premium ADCs and DACs, the 2192’s quality of construction, high sample rate abilities, flexibilities of S-MUX and dual wire AES/EBU, signal transcoding and that sweet analog signal path, perhaps UA’s Master Digital Audio Interface is a justified bigger investment than many other pieces of digital recording gear.
Finally, I must note that I did not have the ability to run the 2192 at 192 kHz and the UA manual reports (via producer Elliot Mazer) that the sound quality equals that of world-class analog. Considering what I have heard of the 2192, I wouldn’t be surprised if that high hurdle has finally been cleared.
Price: $3,599 list
Contact: Universal Audio | 866-UAD-1176 | uaudio.com
Rob Tavaglione has owned and operated Catalyst Recording in Charlotte NC since 1995.
SECOND OPINION: Universal Audio 2192
by Rich Tozzoli
I’m not a fan of clichés. But sometimes, they must be used to get your point across.
When asked to do the second opinion of UA’s 2192 and run it at 192 kHz, I researched the unit online and found people used many such words: “open, “airy,” “analog,” “tight,” among others. After running the 2192 at 192 kHz with my Digidesign/Avid HD 192 I/O, I have to agree with all those clichés. It’s really just that simple.
Here’s how I hooked it up to my rig. Using two Monster Cable AES cables, I connected the 2192’s AES Digital Output A to the AES input 1-2 of my HD 192 I/O. The output of the 192 I/O then fed the AES Digital Input A of the 2192.
I ran an Earthworks QTC-1 mic into a Grace m103 preamplifier, and that output fed the Analog Line Input of the 2192. Clocking the system using my Pro Tools internal clock, I set the 2192’s Clock to AES/SPDIF, the Sample Rate to 192 kHz, the DAC Source Select (for the Analog Output) to AES/SPDIF In and the Digital Output to ADC. The green light on the front of the 2192 lit up telling me we were locked. So I was using it as an A/D converter from my preamp to feed Pro Tools at 192 kHz and then monitoring the post-Pro Tools analog signal back through it.
Note that on the 2192, AES Digital I/O “A” is used when running Single wire mode at 24-bit 176.4 or 192 kHz. When running Dual Wire mode, AES Digital I/O “B” receives/transmits the right channel of the stream.
Sitting down with a Guild F512 12-string, I put the headphones on and was sucked into the guitar. I was floored by the truthfulness of all the clichés — and then some. No reverb, no EQ, no compression: just pure tone. I felt like I could hear into the guitar and the sound blew me away. Sure, part of it was simply recording at 192 kHz, but the front-end conversion of the 2192 was stellar. I recorded some shakers with sharp transients, voices, hand drums and bass, and it was everything I expected: pristine and crystal-clear.
To test it alone, I also disconnected the Pro Tools rig and connected a mixer/headphones to the analog outputs of the 2192 to hear my 192 kHz mic signal direct (after reclocking the unit to Internal and choosing ADC as the Analog Output). Again, it was simply inspirational. I came away from it with a well-deserved respect of the 2192. My excitement about the sound was only tempered by knowing that most people won’t hear what we can create at this sample rate; hearing this is simply a different experience.
Rich Tozzoli is a composer, engineer/mixer, and the software editor for PAR.