In this test James Ivey takes a look at the new Orion 32+ Gen 3 from Antelope Audio. After a quick look round the unit, James digs in with a session featuring new band the Studio Rats on a track called “What If the World Didn’t Turn”.
The Antelope Audio Orion32+
I can’t think of another pro audio brand that has been quite so prolific and productive in recent years as the team at Antelope Audio. It was only back in January of 2017 when they launched their Orion32HD and I felt like it was a unit designed with my workflow in mind. The new Orion32+ was announced at Winter NAMM in January 2019 so in just 2 years we are now on Gen (Generation) 3, now that’s what I call an upgrade rate.
All the Orion 32 range feature a similar I/O count and set up, it’s the connectivity to the computer that changes. This Orion32+ is the USB and Thunderbolt version. If there is an HD in the name this indicates the addition of Avid Mini Digilink port for connection to Pro Tools HD, HD Native and HDX cards.
We start on the right hand side with 32 channels of analogue line level I/O across 4 pairs of 25 pin D-Sub connectors with 121 dB of A/D conversion and 120 dB of D/A. Next we have 16 (2 sets) of ADAT optical I/O above the main USB and Thunderbolt connections. There is also a pair of MADI optical connections for up to 64 channels of I/O.
Then we find the mastering grade monitor outs over TRS 1/4 inch jack with 129 dB of dynamic range in the D/A conversion. These sound really good. It’s great to have dedicated monitor outs that can be controlled from the Antelope console panel software.
Next to these are the SPDIF I/O, Word-Clock outs, Word-clock In and Antelope 10M BNC connectors.
The Antelope Launcher is their one stop shop of a control system. When you start it, all the connected devices will show up, then you just start the control panel for the item you are using. No faffing with installing then re-installing different drivers for each piece of hardware. I had both the Orion32+ and my Orion32HD on the system at the same time and there was no conflict whatsoever. The Launcher also deals with any software or firmware upgrades so you can stay up to date really easily.
I am very experienced with Antelope interfaces. I think I have reviewed pretty much all of their recent units from the original Orion Studio right up to the Goliath HD. The Orion32+ is a chip off the old block, or should that be new block? It’s a great interface to use, once you set the I/O up to your particular requirements it just works. It never skipped a beat. I was using 32 channels of analogue I/O across my Audient ASP8024HE console as well as routing the MADI off to my Tascam DA-6400 hard disk recorder for a real time, tape like backup system. Nothing ever gets missed in a jam session when you have something rolling all the time.
In the video below you can see and hear about my experience working with the Antelope Audio Orion32+ Gen 3.
As audio engineers we are so lucky because the quality of most of the gear out there today is so good, but this can mean it can be very hard for one piece of kit to stand out above another. During the 2 weeks I have been running the Orion32+ via Thunderbolt on my Windows 10 workstation it has been flawless with next to no detectable latency even running at 128 or 256 samples buffer size. Take it down to 64 or 32 samples and it’s like the unit is not there.
Does it sound good? Well you tell me. The drums sound fat and powerful. The bass is round and punchy and the vocals and guitars sound clean, clear and in your face. What is not to love?
It’s so hard to say if an interface from brand X sounds better than brand Y, but I can tell you, it was a shock to my ears going back to my Orion32HD which is only just over 2 years old. The 32HD is good but there was something about the 32+ that just sounded nicer, cleaner and sweeter. Yes it could be the better specs of the converters but I think it is the accumulation of lots of little tweaks and refinements that have produced a truly great sounding interface. All I can say is, if this is what they have done to the USB and TB version of Orion32, I can’t wait to try the Orion32HD Gen 3 version. But for that, you will have to wait until a future testing session.
Prices for the Antelope Orion32+ start around $2595 USD and if you want to find out more check out the Antelope Audio website.