The ADC16 has been designed simply to move audio between the analog and digital domains while maintaining its quality. It offers 16 channels of A to D conversion and can generate 24-bit audio at sample rates up to 192 kHz, via a variety of interfaces and protocols. The ADC16 ($3,995) incorporates Benchmark’s UltraLockDDS clock technology. This system drags the jitter distortion to at least 135 dB below the audio level, and thus well below audibility.
The rear panel sports 16 channels of transformerless, balanced analog inputs via two D-Sub Tascam connectors, 16 channels of AES digital I/O (again on two D-Subs), 16 channels of S/PDIF digital outs on eight RCA jacks, and eight optical digital outs, which can be configured in various ways. Between these lie the 16 input trim pots. Two BNCs provide clocking facilities (Word Clock, Super Clock and AES). The optional DAW card allows the ADC16 to act somewhat as a “traditional” FireWire audio interface, providing 16 channels of bidirectional audio, so the DAW return path can be routed, via the digital audio outputs, to external D/A converters.
Sixteen horizontal multi-function LED meters take up most of the front panel, each with peak hold and scaling controls. Several of the LEDs also act as warning indicators—for example, if there are any clocking or sample rate issues.
As I already have 16 channels of analog inputs wired to D-Sub connectors, hooking up the ADC16 to my studio was relatively easy. Close listening at 44.1 kHz revealed the ADC16 a competent performer, the digital conversion easily on a par with my Metric Halo and Apogee units and audibly superior to the low-cost interface I threw in as a reference. As I took the sample rate higher, differences between the analog conversions of the various units became more obvious, though at this level of quality, it’s hard to choose which is “best.”
During the review period, the ADC16 performed flawlessly. I almost forgot that I had the ADC16 patched into my system over the review period, which is possibly the most flattering thing you can say about a unit designed to be transparent in use.