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Review: Merging Hapi I/O & AD/DA Converter

Merging’s compact, flexible and affordable Hapi will be equally at home in the studio, a mobile facility or a fixed installation.

Named after the Greek god of the Nile, Hapi is the offspring of Horus—both according to Greek mythology and here, in Merging Technologies’ high-performance audio lineup. While the $2,495 Hapi shares many of the flagship Horus’s features, it is packaged in a smaller and more affordable, yet less expandable, package.

A truly beautiful ivory-white 1U enclosure, Hapi is a modular multi-channel microphone preamp and networked audio interface/converter. Like other Merging Swiss-made boxes, it is well constructed and exquisitely designed. The simple, understated front panel—including a data entry knob, OLED screen, headphone jack and backlit Merging logo that doubles as an on/off switch—looks as if it could’ve been designed at Apple under the watch of Mr. Jobs.

Like so many other new-breed converters, Hapi communicates with the computer via Ethernet-based connectivity, transporting audio via a single Cat5e or Cat6 cable utilizing Ravenna—an AES67-compatible layer 3 IP-based audio networking protocol—for communication. Ravenna provides up to 88 input and 90 output channels over a single cable to any other Ravenna-based devices on the network. Ravenna enables low-latency, low jitter rate audio transfer that incorporates synchronization information including Linear Time Code (LTC), Video reference and word clock. Maximum channel count and latency time varies depending on operating system and sample rate. I utilized the Hapi with Core Audio on OS X which allows 64-channels of audio with a minimum latency of 32 samples.

The modular Hapi works with Apple’s Core Audio and Steinberg’s ASIO 2.2 audio protocols. Hapi supports up to two of the Merging expansion modules that are interchangeable with Horus. Modules are either ‘standard’ (supporting sample rates up to 192 kHz) or ‘premium’ (DSD/DXD compatible) and have a wide range in price from just over $600 to nearly $2,300. The card options include AD8D/AD8DP 8-channel Mic/Line input cards; DA8/DA8P 8-channel analog output cards; ADA8 (standard version only) 8-channel mic/line input; 8-channel analog output card; MADM/MADS 64-channel single mode MADI I/O; or 128-channel multi-mode MADI I/O cards; and the PT64 card providing Pro Tools connectivity. The PT64 is the newest of the batch and, unfortunately, wasn’t yet available when I tested the unit; Pro Tools is my primary DAW and, since I have both HDX and Native systems, it would have been a perfect scenario to test the card (hopefully I can at some point in the near future). The unit I tested was equipped with a standard 8-channel Mic/Line input card and a standard 8-channel analog output card.

Configuring Hapi is surprisingly easy especially in comparison to other network-based audio systems I’ve encountered in the past; I found myself up and running in a relatively short amount of time. Its included software installs the MTDiscovery and Ravenna control applications as well as ASIO and Core Audio drivers. MTDiscovery locates and displays all of the connected Ravenna-compatible devices connected to the network. The Merging/Ravenna Easy Connect application allows connectivity and view of various Ravenna streams on the network. Once Hapi is on the network, it can be fully configured via web interface running on the CPU’s default web browser. The web interface allows every aspect of Hapi’s configuration to be adjusted and set. I had some reservations about using a web-based interface to operate Hapi but after just a few hours of use I was sold. Its benefit is that any network-connected device can be used for controlling other devices on the network. This includes the CPU running the DAW, a laptop, a tablet or even a phone.

After getting Hapi up and running, my first order of operation was to devote time to listening to familiar material through its converters. I listened to dozens of projects recorded at several different sample rates and the box sounded good in every instance. Hapi’s analog circuitry and D/A converters are what I would call “reference quality.”

Throughout my review period I utilized Hapi via Studio One, Mixbus and Pro Tools DAWs; it worked flawlessly in every instance providing stable performance, stunningly beautiful sound and extremely low latency. Its built-in microphone pre-amps work well and are extremely clean, neutral and quiet—reminiscent to me of Grace Design’s m802 mic preamps, which I have used extensively. Through either software or front panel operation, Hapi allows the user to control mic/line input selection, 48V phantom power, a -10dB pad, polarity inversion, and 80 Hz high-pass filter (at 12dB/oct.) activation. Input gain is variable from 0 to 66 dB in half-decibel increments.

I used Hapi to record a basic four-piece drum kit, and then to overdub bass, acoustic guitar and vocals. Results were fantastic. Its preamps sound so very good and, though they perform equally well with dynamic, condenser and ribbon mics, they are very neutral. When coloring sound was required, I utilized either microphones with more character or attained the desired character via plug-ins in the mix. Having mic preamps built into the I/O box is an extreme space saver; equipping Hapi with two mic/line input cards results in 16 analog inputs with mic preamps in a single rack space. Location recording companies will love the ability to place inputs next to the stage—keeping mic runs as short as possible—or connecting to the truck hundreds of feet away with a single Cat5e or Cat6 cable.

Merging’s compact, flexible and affordable Hapi will be equally at home in the studio, a mobile facility or a fixed installation. Utilizing a Ravenna audio network ensures low-latency performance as well as the ability to interface with other devices utilizing the same protocol. I would recommend Hapi to anyone in need of a world-class networkable interface providing ultra high-quality multichannel pre-amplification and AD/DA conversion.