When I'm not wearing my Production Expert hat, one of the things I do in the audio world is Live Recording. My company, Location Recordings was set up purely to do this type of work. I love the challenge of having one chance to capture a moment in history. I was recently asked to both video and audio record a concert for the Nation Children's Choir of Great Britain at the Town Hall in Birmingham England. One of the biggest challenges with live recording out on location, is you are never quite sure what extra challenges are going to rear their heads during the course of the setup and recording. Yes, I agree, planning and knowing what is expected on the day is part of pre-event planning but the best-laid plans and all that, however, I never like being in a position where I have to say to a client, "No I can't do that". This article is the story of how we used the amazing Ferrofish A32 Dante AD/DA Converter in recording the 20th Anniversary Concert of the Nation Children's Choir of Great Britain.
The Ferrofish A32 Dante
Put simply, the A32 Dante by German manufacturer Ferrofish is a 1U rack 32x32 (Analogue and ADAT) and 64x64 (MADI and Dante) channel converter allowing conversion between analogue audio, ADAT Optical, MADI, in both TX and RX formats and Dante at up to 192kHz sample rates. But this thing has a lot more to it than that. It can clock and re-clock your digital clock signals so all your digital gear can be kept in perfect sync. It also has built-in mixers so you can sub-mix groups of channels to particular outputs or attenuate outputs to control levels going onto other systems.
Why Use A Converter?
As you can see for the image (right) of the Stage Recording rack we were using two different brands of mic preamp in the form of an Audient ASP880 and a Focusrite MP8R. This rack was connected to the main front of house recording system via Dante, which the ASP880 does not have, so the primary use for the A32 Dante was to convert 8 or 16 channels of ADAT optical output from the Audient mic pres into Dante for transmission to a Focusrite Red4 Pre at the recording station front of house.
Can You Just...
In the Post Production world the words "Can you just.." are normally followed by a string of almost impossible demands which are often followed by, "Oh and we need it now". When working live the "Now" bit is taken as a given. So when I was asked "can we mic up the Piano, Violin and Compere to go through the PA?" we had to come up with a solution quickly. We could double mic everything, but the performance was also being filmed and that would look ugly. As we had the A32 in the rack next to the side of the stage I asked the technical crew at the Birmingham town hall (who were excellent by the way) if they could take their feed from there? They agreed. I connected a 25pin D-Sub to the first batch of Analogue outs and then (with some telephone support from Rob at Synthax UK who distribute the A32) reconfigured the first 8 ADAT inputs to not only route to the Dante outputs but also to the 1st 8 Analogue outs.
You can see the A32 Dante routing screens in the image below.
The next trick the A32 Dante had up its electronic sleeve was the ability to audio interrogate each of the outputs via the built-in headphone amplifier (and socket on the front). This made it very easy to work out what was routed where and listen to the signal that was coming into and out of the A32. It is one thing to see a routing chart saying the signal is routed correctly, it is quite another to have the reassurance of hearing it.
In total, we recorded 20 channels for this project, 16 of which were routed via the Ferrofish A32 Dante. The unit never skipped a beat and the audio that went in came back out sounding just as good. With any piece of kit, there can be a learning curve to its menus and file structure, but I was very quickly able to navigate the menus and sub-menus to get the unit configured and clocked correctly with Dante being the master clock and the A32 passing Word-clock out via the rear BNC to the Audient ASP880 and ASP800.
In the past, I have used many different analogue splitters and converters with differing results, but the Ferrofish A32 Dante is a unit I will call on again. If you need audio conversion and signal spitting, this unit is worth a serious look. It's not cheap at £2165 excluding taxes but this is one I will be very sad to see leave the studio. I can see hundreds of uses for the A32 both live and in the studio. It sounds a lot like I am talking my self into keeping it doesn't it?