In part 4 of this multi part review Julian gives his thoughts on the AX32:
This is a complex piece of hardware designed for professional use and as such it won't appeal to everyone. If you want a conventional audio interface with a USB or Thunderbolt connection to a computer then there are plenty of high end solutions but this isn't really what the AX32 is designed for. The AX32 is an example of what happens if you prioritise quality over budget - if you pay quite a lot, you get quite a lot!
Quality And Performance
It is of faultless quality in terms of design and construction, it offers DSD and DXD operation and the sampling frequency extends to 384kHz. It has very high quality, lovely sounding mic preamps - 70dB of clean gain, 32 channels in this configuration! The preamps are controllable over midi from a compatible control surface (S6, D Control) in the same way as the Digidesign Pre peripheral and while I didn't explore it in this review the AX32 offers monitor control via Eucon 3 from an S6 if the optional Pro | Mon monitor control is installed.
I/O Option Cards
The AX32 offers potentially huge IO in many digital and analogue formats:
- Analogue Line in and Out
- Mic preamp cards
- Madi on BNC
- Madi on SPF optical
- AES/EBU on Dsub and XLR
- Non Dante RJ45 Ethernet for control
- Dual Digilink connectors (dual primary or primary/expansion)
- Word clock in on BNC
- Embedded audio vis SDI
Clocking is of the highest qulaity via an extremely low jitter digital PLL master clock. The converter system functions as a (potentially very large) recallable patchbay (up to 384x384 channels) all controlled by the DADman Software.
In an HDX system the AX32 would be an ultimate centrepiece to a studio handling any kind of work, the channel count and potential to recall complex routing offers features beyond the capabilities of Avid HD IOs.
Of particular interest to me is the Dante functionality, which makes the system accessible to Dante networks and via Dante Virtual Soundcard. The AX32 supports AES67 - while most Dante equipment can support AES67 at present most doesn't.
The Modular construction offers the potential to grow the system as needs change. Premium quality carries a premium price but when priced against other hardware of similar quality the AX32 represents good value.
Summary - What I Think Of The DAD AX32
So what do I think of it?
Well I think this is a lesson in what happens if you prioritize quality over budget just because you get what you pay for and in this case if you pay quite a lot you get quite a lot. The quality is faultless.
It goes down it goes into the bat frequencies in terms of it's Nyquist digital performance. DST and DXD. is extremely unusual actually. But that's because it's not particularly easy to do and the DAD AX32 does exceptionally well.
What else do I think? Well the preamps are amazing. The preamps over 70db have fantastic gain, putting this up against my 1073 it sounds different but it sounds as good. It's faster but it's still got some kind of like guts to it and really very purposeful preamps that I'd be overjoyed to use on anything on as a record.
Other things are the huge I/O available. If you need to connect many sources together then you can do it with this, and with the option of being able to daisy chaining multiple units together, you can build a pretty limitless system as far as I can see.
It's the highest quality clocking being a digital PLL it's as good as any master clock you choose to buy I'm sure. The DAD AX32 has a huge recallable cross point matrix switcher digital patch bay. If you have complex and changing rooting requirements this handle it no problem.
On the subject of the DADMAN software I'm reassured by software that doesn't look too pretty, just because if they're spending their time not on making it look photo realistic they probably spend more time making sure it works properly.
For Pro Tools HDX users this is just the most awesome centrepiece to any studio handling any kind of work. Without HDX the DAD AX32 is hugely flexible as long as latency isn't your highest priority. I combined the DAD AX32 with the Dante Virtual Soundcard and in this setup it is not ideal for tracking, but that's not really its intended purpose.
For any kind of editing workflow it just amazing and for in terms of control and control of large signals and some kind of broadcast environment it would be amazing.
The DAD AX32 is completely uncompromising both in terms of its capabilities and its price. As I said at the top of this section you get what you pay for and if you pay enough you get an awful lot.
I love it absolutely love it but it has got to go back. It's certainly more expensive than I can afford to keep and when I priced up exactly how much this was worth I closed the curtains and locked the door... and I'm not joking!