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The “two-channel + preamps” segment of the audio interface market is a popular one, with offerings out there from virtually every major manufacturer. This is perfectly understandable when we acknowledge the size of the market: from solo podcasters and content creators to musicians and producers. Everyone needs a small but capable interface at some point in their lives! So, what does an interface need to do to stand out from a very crowded field? Today, we’ll talk about the Zen Go Synergy core and showcase how Antelope managed to deliver an “endgame” interface.

Let’s start with a quick glance at the features and basic specs, then move onto an in-depth analysis of the core aspects and applications for the Zen Go Synergy Core.
  • 24-bit/192kHz bus-powered audio interface for Mac and PC
  • Thunderbolt or USB-C models available
  • Total of 4 inputs (2 digital + 2 analog) and 8 outputs (2 digital + 6 analog)
  • Two combo XLR/TRS inputs for microphones, instruments and line signals
  • Analog stereo monitor output via balanced TRS and unbalanced RCA
  • Stereo digital input and output via SPDIF
  • Two headphone outputs with dedicated signal paths
  • Best-in-class converters powered by Antelope’s proprietary AFC clocking technology
  • Drivers developed by Antelope (Class-Compliant mode also available)
  • Synergy Core for latency-free monitoring with effects

Preamps capable of handling practically any mic

The Zen Go Synergy Core packs two studio-grade microphone preamplifiers that can make the best of any source: they do justice to the most expensive condensers and easily feed the hungriest of dynamics (such as the ever-popular Shure SM7B) with a whopping 65 dB of gain - there’s no need for mic “boosters” of any sort. Thanks to their premium signal path with a discrete transistor topology, the preamps are linear and transparent all the way through, with a DSP-powered option for analog saturation if you do want to add some “color”.

Don’t let impedance impede you

Thanks to an effective electronics design, dealing with high-impedance devices will never be a problem with the Zen Go Synergy Core. The XLR/TRS combo inputs are equipped with a Hi-Z mode that can take on all electric instruments regardless of how hot their output is - even electric guitars with active pick-ups or acoustic instruments with piezo mics will be properly handled without any unwanted distortion.

Recording with confidence

The Synergy Core platform provides latency-free effects for recording and mixing, and it’s a well-established fact that latency-free monitoring gives performers a meaningful confidence boost when recording. The interface ships with 37 Synergy Core-powered effects that are driven by the powerful FPGA chips inside it. This includes analog-modeled equalizers, compressors, guitar amps, guitar cabinets, a gate, an expander, a reverb and two preamp emulations - (click here for the full list). This (pretty comprehensive if you ask us!) “starter pack” can be later expanded with over fifty additional effects that can be purchased from the Antelope Software Store.

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Synergy Core FX provides studio-grade processors for monitoring with real-time effects, and up to 32 effects can be simultaneously loaded (depending on the setup).

Top-notch monitoring

Antelope's legendary digital conversion also finds its way to the Zen Go Synergy Core with proprietary 4th generation ‘Acoustically Focused Clocking’ (AFC) technology, which powers the AD/DA converters on the unit. In real terms, they are as ‘pristine’ as it gets, with 127dB of headroom and insanely low noise and THD figures, making this interface an excellent option for those doing precision mixing or even mastering, be it with headphones or big speakers.

Room to expand

The SPDIF input and output located on the back panel can be used in a number of ways: connecting equipment such as digital recorders, expanding the I/O count with an external converter, or maybe inserting digital gear for signal processing when mixing or mastering - just to name a few possibilities. Some guitar gear has digital I/O, so guitarists could, for example, take full advantage of an SPDIF connection to add to the versatility of the rig.

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Hands-on control

The top panel provides control for the core functions and also a great deal of information, with detailed level metering for inputs and outputs on a high-quality 1.7” IPS screen that can be easily seen regardless of the angle or lighting conditions. Users can also set the gain for the inputs and level for the main output and headphones through the provided buttons, allowing for instant control without the need to access the control software on a computer.

In the real world

Despite presenting a rather focused and concise feature-set, the number of possible applications for the Zen Go Synergy Core is huge. Here are just a few ideas:

Vocals and instruments recording: You can't go wrong with these preamps and instrument inputs - they are on par with the best in terms of pure sound quality and we can have even more power & flexibility when we bring the Synergy Core into the fold. Use the two headphone outputs to provide the singer or musician with a DSP-enhanced monitor “comfort” mix with effects while also listening to the ‘raw’ recording yourself to ensure that the take is a perfect one.

Podcast and content creation: As we’ve said above, the preamps are perfect for capturing voices so that your message is heard as clearly as possible, and with the Synergy Core FX we can enhance it at the source with EQ & compression, which basically eliminates the need for post-processing or mixing. Since we have two mic pres and two headphone outs, hosting a live interview with quality personal monitoring is also, quite literally, on the table.

Live streaming: For those working in live streaming, a handy “loopback” function is also available, allowing users to route audio from sources like a browser or a DAW output from their computer to the most popular streaming and communication apps such as OBS, Zoom, Skype and many others.

Remote recording and production: thanks to its small footprint, light weight (only 700 grams) and also the fact that it is a bus-powered device, the Zen Go Synergy Core is a perfect audio interface for an ultra compact mobile recording rig or or producing on the move while outside the studio.

Mixing and mastering: Antelope’s superb digital-to-analog conversion comes to the fore here, and as we’ve said already the crystal-clear sound quality is perfect for those doing computer-centric “in the box” mixing and mastering. Thanks to powerful DSP, it can also offload processing from the computer’s CPU with afx2daw (sold separately) which allows users to use the Synergy Core effects as plug-ins in their DAW of choice.

Production studio centerpiece: The image below takes advantage of basically everything the Zen Go Synergy Core has to offer: a condenser mic on input 2, electric guitar with optional DSP-powered amp and cab simulations on input 1, Kemper Profiling Amp on the SPDIF I/O for post-processing/digital reamping, studio monitors on balanced TRS stereo output and two headphones connected for personal monitoring when recording.

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Recording guitars: If you’re a guitarist, there are a few options in play here. If a direct box is available users can split the guitar signal in order to record one ‘dry’ and send the split to an amplifier with a mic'd-up cabinet as pictured below. This way a dry signal is kept for future reference, re-amping, processing with plug-ins or maybe just to be blended with the amplified recording in a mix. Needless to say that we can also use two mics on the amp if that possibility is on the table - if shaking the building is an option, then by all means go for it - the excellent preamps and converters on the Zen Go Synergy Core are there for you!

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For plugging in a guitar directly, Synergy Core FX provides high quality amp and cab simulations with the Shred Guitar Amps and Shred Guitar Cabinets FX bundles, which are included with the Zen Go Synergy Core. These two bundles bring eleven amplifiers and twelve speaker cabinets - and users can mix and match amp heads with cabs to shape their own tones. Importantly, a tuner is also included.

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The combination of Synergy Core-powered amps, Hi-Z instrument inputs and a pristine signal path with superb analog-to-digital converters makes the Zen Go Synergy Core perfect for tracking guitars.

Zen Go For it!

The Zen Go Synergy Core is now available in both USB and Thunderbolt variants for $549 and $649 respectively. Don’t have a DAW yet? Antelope has your back - the Zen Go Synergy Core ships with a license for Bitwig Studio Lite, so you can start producing straight away.

For more information and to buy, please visit the Antelope Audio website to purchase directly or to find a dealer near you.