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Choosing the right interface is often a daunting task, as there’s so much to look at with all the options available. Antelope has decided to settle the score with a “silver bullet”, good for all situations interface: enter the Antelope Orion Studio Synergy Core.

The definition of endgame

First let’s have a close look at the Orion Studio Synergy Core hardware and what it offers. It packs a lot inside a gorgeous machined aluminum chassis. Starting with channel count: this is a 30x42 channel interface with a sizable selection of inputs and outputs distributed across a variety of analog and digital connections, which are then organized via Software Control Panel. The interface supports a total of 32 channels over Thunderbolt and 24 over USB.

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On the analog side, it has a total of 12 analog combo XLR/TRS inputs with discrete-transistor microphone preamps on all of them. These represent the culmination of years of thorough research and provide the perfect match for any sort of signal, be it line-level synthesizers and mixers, high-impedance instrument outputs such as electric guitars or any type of microphone, providing ample gain that will satisfy even the hungriest - and the preamps will also fit like a glove for Antelope’s Edge & Verge modeling condenser microphones. No need for mic pres? No worries, as the interface has a “Direct In” feature that allows for the preamps to be entirely bypassed, taking the incoming line signals straight to the analog-to-digital conversion stage with zero coloration. Want to insert a compressor, EQ or other processors in the recording path? There are two insert points available on preamp channels number 1 and 2, so you can do that without having to use the routing software. Recording lots of guitars? You’re totally covered with four high-impedance (Hi-Z) inputs on the front panel, and if you fancy using some real amps post recording there are two outputs designed specifically with reamping in mind, providing the adequate gain and impedance settings to send signal to any guitar amp.

Speaking of analog outputs, the Orion Studio Synergy Core has a lot to offer. Sixteen balanced outputs on two DB-25 connectors, plus two independent sets of TRS balanced line outputs for monitors in the back panel that can either work in parallel or in A/B mode, and lastly, there are two independent headphones outputs in the front panel. All these outputs can receive signals from many different sources or mixes thanks to the routing matrix available in the interface’s control software.

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All in all, these are some of the best analog inputs and output configurations one could ask for, equipped with the mastering-grade converters that Antelope are known for, powered by the brand’s proprietary Jitter Management Algorithm and 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking. It’s also worth noticing that all analog inputs and outputs are fully DC-coupled, allowing the interface to send and receive control-voltage (CV) signals, which makes it a perfect fit for those using modular synthesizers like Eurorack, Moog and Buchla etc.

As for the digital side, the Orion Studio Synergy Core features Wordclock input/output for receiving or sending clock signal, SPDIF input/output and two sets of optical input/output ports for up to 16 channels on ADAT with sample rates of up to 192kHz, with reduced ADAT channel counts on higher sample rates as expected. When it comes to interfacing with computers, this interface supports both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 2.0 on Mac or Windows, and it’s important to highlight that the channel counts vary depending on the choice of protocol, with up to 32 channels on Thunderbolt 3 (on a Type C port) and 24 channels over USB 2 (Type B port).

Although there are limitations on USB 2 such as less channels, more latency and no afx2daw support, supporting this protocol ensures compatibility with nearly all computers, so you’re never locked out of the box when using the Orion Studio Synergy Core with older machines. On Thunderbolt 3 you not only get more channels, but also afx2daw support and slightly less latency, so that’s definitely the preferred protocol for the interface as it provides maximum functionality.

Any signal anywhere

All signal management within the Orion Studio Synergy Core is handled by the Software Control Panel, a standalone app utilizing sleek 32-channel mixers and a flexible routing matrix. Quite literally, any combination of inputs can go to any output, giving the user total freedom to set up their rigs and mixes according to their needs. For easier recall, users can save their own presets and there are four independent mixers available that can be swapped by the touch of a button on the software itself or at the interface’s front panel.

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The mixers provide big volume faders and are presented with a familiar layout that should be easy to grasp, with the usual pan, volume, reverb send and Synergy Core inserts. Regarding effects, up to 8 Synergy Core effects per mono audio channel are available on 32 channel strips, which means up to 256 effects can be loaded per session configuration regardless of the sample rate, which makes the Orion Studio Synergy Core a powerful mixing solution for any studio or live sound task. The application also allows users to set the volume for the monitors and headphones, and also provides dim/mono/mute functionality for them. Here is where users can configure the talkback mic’s source and destination as well.

Massive effect options with and without a DAW

The Orion Studio Synergy Core features heavy-duty DSP powered by two proprietary FPGA chips and six ARM-based processors to provide a large number of latency-free effects for both recording monitoring and mixing. The unit ships with 51 free Synergy Core FX processors including equalizers, compressors, guitar amps, gate, de-esser, reverb and much more - see the full list here.

These are not generic, tasteless stock effects: they are high-quality processors, many of them modeled after classic studio equipment, and that list includes official preamp emulations from the likes of Gyraf and BAE. Also included is the Auto-Tune Synergy for real-time pitch correction, which was built exclusively for the Synergy Core platform in partnership with Antares to take full advantage of the interface’s DSP capabilities. Users can further expand their sonic palette with the many options available from Antelope’s Software Store, including discounted bundles with curated selections for many specific purposes are available, along with individual effects that can be purchased a la carte as well.

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When it comes to mixing, afx2daw is Antelope’s platform for bridging the gap between the interface and the DAWs, serving as a plug-in interface for the Synerg Core FX. It works as a regular AAX, AU or VST plug-in for Mac and Windows that acts like a virtual rack to house up to eight effects powered by the interface, thus not taking anything away from your computer’s CPU. The Orion Studio Synergy Core can load up to 256 effects distributed across the afx2daw plug-in racks, which helps to carry some of that heavy load required for mixes with large channel counts.

The core for any setup

As an interface with so much connectivity options, the Orion Studio Synergy Core can be used in a huge number scenarios, here are some of them:
  • Production studio centerpiece: Record with total quality and confidence while monitoring with real-time effects, mix with afx2daw, and deliver high quality mastering done with some of the most pristine converters that money can buy. The multi-purpose nature of the Orion Studio Synergy Core makes it a perfect pick for the modern studio that needs to take care of all production stages, from recording the first ideas to delivering the final product.
  • Multi-room recording studio: the quintessential role for an interface of this caliber, with twelve analog inputs with premium mic preamps onboard plus the digital ports to expand that number to thirty total inputs. There’s little that can’t be recorded with that input count, so you are all set to capture nearly all musical projects with the utmost quality, from bands to orchestras or anything that comes to mind, and provide performers with the monitoring they deserve. The Orion Studio Synergy Core also features a handy talkback mic in the front panel so everyone is communicating appropriately between rooms.
  • Hybrid ITB-Analog mixing and mastering: Plentiful inputs and outputs with top-notch conversion to hook up lots of outboard analog gear for mix and mastering, and since the mic preamps on the inputs can be bypassed, you’re sure to get the pure signal without any coloration. The DB25 outputs should help in keeping things tidy, the digital ports can also be used for expanding the I/O count and to feed external monitor controllers, and afx2daw is always there to help with those large mixes.
  • Dolby-Atmos mixing: the Orion Studio Synergy Core can feed all speaker configurations required for immersive audio production, with its twenty high quality analog outputs and flexible routing there’s no shortage of options when it comes to setting up monitors. The afx2daw may also come in handy here as users can ease the load on the studio computer by using the DSP-powered effects and leave the interface do some of the lifting for those big mixes with high plug-in counts.
  • Modular synth control central: as mentioned earlier, the DC-coupled analog inputs and outputs makes the Orion Studio Synergy Core a great choice for those using modular synthesizers. The interface can act as a coordinating hub that receives and sends control-voltage (CV) signals to trigger, control or modulate their Eurorack rigs and use its modules to do the same for their software instruments, allowing for seamless integration between hardware and software. The twelve analog inputs plus the digital options will also enable recording synths in all their glory, capturing every little nuance of those filter sweeps and oscillator drifts, and the Synergy Core FX can provide the effects to spice up live performances as well.
  • Going computer-less: the Orion Studio Synergy Core features a standalone mode with recallable settings that can be accessed from the front panel. Users can also control a number of functions through the center encoder and programmable buttons. The standalone mode allows the interface to be used as a mixer or converter, which should be handy for stage duties, remote recording, band rehearsals, jams and much more.
  • Bands going all DIY: The interface provides the infrastructure needed not only for “everyone in the room” recording, but also for jams and rehearsals. Pair it with a multi-channel headphones amp and feed it with the plentiful analog outputs so all musicians and singers get their own custom monitoring feed. The powerful DSP and afx2daw should help when mixing even when using older computers.

The Orion Studio Synergy Core is now available for $3295 (MSRP) on dealers worldwide - click here to find one near you. The afx2daw plug-in is available for $199 on the Antelope website.

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