Sponsored by Ferrofish USA, AppSys ProAudio & Synthax Inc.

Format conversion is an often-overlooked yet crucial element of audio engineering, but with so many communication protocols - all with distinct specifications and connectivity requirements - it can quickly become a headache - or worse, grind an entire project to a halt. When working with pro audio we deal with these interconnect issues daily, and fortunately the tech is at a place where our lives are made easy (for the most part!) thanks to the fast-paced development of multi-format capable audio interfaces, but when it comes to bigger, more complex setups where vast channel counts and extreme reliability are non-negotiable, centralised solutions may be required. In this article we’ll explore how the Appsys and Ferrofish products can seamlessly assist in any situation where format or protocol conversions are required, be it recording, broadcasting or simple monitoring, with a focus on the Appsys MVR-64 Mutiverter and on the Ferrofish High-Density range. We’ll start with analog-to-digital conversion with the Ferrofish A32 and Pulse converter lines and then move on to current digital formats and setups with the MVR-64 Mutiverter, including the latest breakthroughs on network audio.


The Ferrofish High-Density Family

It all begins with the analog sound, so that’s where we’ll start. Comprised of the A32 and Pulse product lines, Ferrofish’s High-Density converters are true end-to-end solutions, taking audio signals all the way from analog to digital and across networks or vice-versa, from digital and networks to classic analog outputs.

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The A32 and A32 Dante are the flagship models, boasting 32x32 channels of analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog (AD/DA) conversion, along with MADI, ADAT and Dante capabilities as well. The A32s can operate with sample rates up to 192kHz, delivering pristine quality conversion at all stages. On the analog side, any input or output can be set to its own sensitivity level directly on the front panel, ranging from -8 dBu up to +20 dBu in 1dB increments. Analog inputs and outputs are conveniently provided on industry-standard D-Sub25 connectors (RME/TASCAM pin-format) placed in the back panel alongside the extensive array of digital connections: ADAT, Dante, MADI, MIDI, and Wordclock. That’s a lot to take in, so let’s break it down:
  • ADAT/Toslink: Four pairs of Input/Output, for a total of 32x32 channels at 48kHz. Also delivers SPDIF I/O on port four.
  • Dante (A32 Dante only): Two RJ-45 ports for CAT5/CAT6 Ethernet cables. Dante Port Redundancy is available, with the second port running as a backup, in case of errors.
  • MADI: Optical (multimode fibre connector) and coaxial ports (BNC) with delay compensation support that can run in 64- or 56-channel mode. The coaxial BNC ports provide redundancy to the optical MADI I/O, allowing for cable lengths up to one hundred meters.
  • MIDI I/O: Input and Output (9-pin) for remote control or MIDI-over-MADI.
  • Wordclock I/O: Provided on BNC input and output ports. The A32s can act as clock generators and are equipped with high-precision internal clocks. Master or Slave operation modes can be set on the front panel.
A USB Type-B port is also provided for firmware updates (FPGA-flash), plugin installation and remote control from a Mac or Windows host computer. The computer remote control software provides comprehensive control, signal routing and can also deliver up to seven submixes. The A32s can freely route or split all inputs and outputs (128x128 on the A32 and 192x192 on the A32 Dante), organized in blocks of 8 channels each on its internal routing matrix.

For ultimate reliability, the A32s are equipped with a redundant power supply unit (PSU) through two ground-free coaxial DC connectors with secure screw-lock for extra safety. One PSU is included, and additional (or replacement) power supplies are available from any Ferrofish distributor at a sensible price.

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While the A32 is the flagship line, the Pulse line trims down on the features to provide a more conservative “bucks-per-channel” ratio, offering Ferrofish quality at a more affordable price. All three Pulse models (Pulse 16, 16DX & 16MX) provide 16x16 inputs/outputs of AD/DA conversion (powered by Cirrus Logic chips) on balanced TRS connectors, with selectable sensitivity settings to match both consumer and professional gear, from -8 dBu (consumer gear) up to +20 dBu (professional) in 1dB increments. On the digital side, the Pulse comes with three variants for ADAT, MADI and Dante support:
  • Pulse 16 - ADAT only. All Pulse models offer four pairs of ADAT ports that can deliver up to 16x16 I/O on sample rates up to 96kHz.
  • Pulse 16MX - ADAT & MADI. MADI can deliver up to 64 inputs and outputs, including 32 channels of ADAT to/from MADI at 48 kHz.
  • Pulse 16DX with Dante, MADI & ADAT. Dante can deliver up to 64 inputs and outputs. Two network ports are available, enabling redundant operation.
Wordclock I/O (BNC coaxial) and MIDI I/O (9-pin) are present on all Pulse models, and they can either receive clocking from external units or send them from its high-precision internal clock. Remote control is available on MIDI, MIDI-over-MADI and Dante Network. Dante and MADI audio streams can also be used to send and receive embedded MIDI messages. The Pulse line also offers an internal routing matrix with up to 176x176 I/O (Pulse 16DX) in blocks of 8 channels where channels can be duplicated or freely routed from point to point.

Ferrofish also offers a “CV version” of all Pulse models, which will serve DC voltage on the analog outputs so control voltages (CV) can be generated from a software or plugin in a DAW and interface with a modular system, making the Pulse line a very enticing solution for those looking for a way to integrate modular synthesizers into their setups - besides the CV-enabled analog outputs, those sixteen inputs will come in handy when simultaneously capturing multiple sources (with excellent sound quality!)

What you see (and hear!) is what you get

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The High-Density family of products are all beautifully equipped with informative front panels that include TFT displays for accurate level metering of the analog inputs and outputs, along with two encoders for level setting and menu navigation. Matching their channel count, the A32 line comes with four displays, while the Pulse line comes with two displays.

The front panel on all A32 and Pulse models also provides a handy stereo headphone output for monitoring incoming and outgoing signals through an additional stereo DAC, and on the A32 models this output can be set to monitor one of the seven available submixes. On all models the front panel controls can be locked with a PIN number for operational safety, which is handy when gear needs to be left unattended.

The Appsys MVR-64 Multiverter

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With the Ferrofish gear we have established the basics of signal conversion, covering the analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog aspects, so now with the Appsys MVR-64 Multiverter we’ll dive deep into the all-digital realm. A de-facto “universal” digital format converter, the Multiverter can interface between basically all current digital audio protocols, including ADAT, AES50, MADI, Dante/AES67 and SPDIF/AES3. Think of the MVR-64 as your language translator for digital signals, where you feed in a format and it will translate that to any other formats of your choice. Here’s what it offers in terms of connectivity:
  • ADAT/Toslink Optical (8x for ADAT or SPDIF/AES3)
  • MADI optical
  • MADI coaxial
  • MADI-TP (max 2 ports)
  • AES50 (max 2 ports)
  • Dante/AES67 (2 ports with redundancy/integrated switch)
  • Optional sample rate converter
  • MIDI Remote control with the choice of MIDI over MADI, USB, RS485, AES50 Aux Data Channel or Network
The Multiverter can work with 64x64 channels on each of its “interfaces” (such as ADAT, MADI, Dante and so forth) with routing and splitting of all signals between those interfaces. All format conversions are done with extremely low latency. Asynchronous sample rate conversion is provided via an optional plug-in module. It’s also an excellent clocking device, as any incoming signal can serve as a clock source, or users can use the provided high-quality internal clock to send clock to other peripherals.

The Multiverter is fully remote-controllable via web, telnet or USB (you can run a Live Demo of the remote control by clicking here), so users can set up their routing configuration remotely when the unit is out of reach, which is extremely handy on occasions where hardware positioning is compromised or when space is limited. For personal monitoring purposes, the Multiverter comes with an integrated headphone amp that enables the operator to listen to any incoming or outgoing signal. It also features a signal generator for quick channel testing, debugging and calibration.

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Future-proofing is also ensured on the Multiverter, as it features an extension port for future interfaces and break-out boxes. Appsys is also constantly adding more protocols, with Waves Soundgrid, AVB and AES3 compatibility currently in the works for a future update. When it comes to power, Appsys cuts no corners and equips the Multiverter with a triple-redundant power supply, which is also highly efficient and allows it to be used on remote or off-grid locations with a standard professional camera battery pack (via 4-pin XLR plug).

Applications

As devices that are first and foremost converters, both the Ferrofish and Appsys will masterfully do just that, but they’re also devices that can be used for signal distribution or replication through different formats due to their extensive connectivity and routing capabilities - with a Ferrofish A32 or Pulser and a Appsys Multiverter in hand, one can literally connect to virtually any cable out there and capture what’s coming through it with total fidelity. They also provide a superb way to integrate legacy equipment such as older playback systems, recorders or effects units to current systems with the best available quality. Needless to say they’re also excellent choices for any audio recording or monitoring jobs that require high channel counts and redundancy, including live sound systems, broadcast studios or stations, houses of worship, remote recording rigs and music recording or rehearsal studios with multiple rooms.

Interfacing with computers for multitrack recording

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When it comes to interfacing with a computer for recording, we can’t think of a more appropriate solution than the RME Fireface UFX+, which has all the I/O you need to act as a centrepiece for recording and monitoring in studio or live sound environments. The UFX+ is a perfect match with the Ferrofish and Appsys converters that greatly expands the input/output counts and also sets you up with a system that surely meets almost any digital connectivity requirements.

There are many possible configuration permutations when you look at the entire RME, Appsys and Ferrofish catalogues, so here are a few suggested combinations to have a glimpse at what’s possible:
  • RME UFX+ and Ferrofish A32/Pulse: A setup that will offer at least 24x24 analog inputs and outputs with a single Pulse unit or up to 72x72 with two A32s. This is a great combo to integrate an analog console or outboard hardware in studios, and also a superb remote recording rig.
  • RME UFX+, Ferrofish A32/Pulse and Appsys Multiverter: A true flagship system and a powerful combination that can handle any signal conversion, routing or distribution task with ease, providing a highly flexible solution for recording or production facilities with multiple rooms.
  • RME MADIface or RME Digiface and Ferrofish A32/Pulse: Choose your digital format of choice (MADI or Dante) and let Ferrofish take care of the analog side for a high-quality, economical compact setup with up to 64x64 analog inputs and outputs.
For more information on the Ferrofish A32 and Pulse converters, visit:
https://ferrofish-usa.com/

To learn more about the Appsys Multiverter, visit:
https://appsys.ch/en/