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Lynx Hilo
4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 4 Reviews

AD/DA Converter with a twist

26th April 2012

Lynx Studio Technology Hilo with USB - Black by Emstar

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Lynx Hilo

Re-posted: I got it for mastering, read below...

Folks got mine Monday and starting using it yesterday. Someone asked about the software and if its easy to use...The internal software and touch screen are very intuitive AS LONG AS you understand what this box is. A quick read through the manual makes it a synch to operate. My set-up, if I keep it, will be this:

USB in
Line out to Dangerous Liaison (to all my analog toys)
Line in from Liaison (from my analog toys)
Monitor Out for, well, monitoring
Dedicated Headphone out for...

So I’m using it as a dual stereo D/A and a single Stereo A/D. There are a massive number of permutations you can have because every input can be routed to specific outputs so you can really create many many routing matrixes. Because of this flexibility, however, the user should take 10 minutes to understand what this box is capable of. It is NOT simply a stero D/A - A/D But once you "get it" the user interface is as simple as can be.

More importantly, I had a chance to listen to it at length having run it all day while I was out. First: WOW! The clarity is exceptional and absolutely transparent. The imaging is actually incredible. I was impressed during a brief listen yesterday but today I'm experiencing a much much broader stereo image with no ambiguity in the imaging, and no smearing across regions. I'll state this claim to the headphone amp as well. (Speaking of which, I have very little time on the headphone amp but do find it so far to be very impressive.) The sound is very three dimensional (which has been a minor complaint of the aurora) And possibly among my biggest cheer is that the sound is very un-clinical, which is the most common complaint of the benchmark and sometimes the Lavry.

This box has the same converter chip as the aurora but as we know, this does;t mean much. I spoke with Lynx rep who discussed the improvements in the analog path. I can't point to what makes the difference but this box is a meaningful step up from the aurora in terms of both depth and imaging.

My initial impression is that this may be the perfect DA/AD system for a mid level dedicated Mastering room. At the end of the day, it comes down to what your ears like and work well with so I'll never say that this is the one. However, for a system like mine, where you'v got a stereo pair out to the analog world where it will stay and be routed around by a mastering console or something like that, this box gives you the out/in to and from the DAW/Real World, a separate DA for monitoring and a dedicated reference quality headphone amp. Ummmm?

I bought it for the functionality and its expected use with the Dangerous Music Liaison. I've got a lot of listing to do before I make a final decision, but so far, its earning its pace in a new home.

p.s. I'm trying to keep me excitement down because I only have about 2 hours of listening and comparing, but I am really really impressed!!

p.s.s: Today using Focal Solo 6 and Seinhesier HD650 for the HP amp.

More to come....

18th November 2013

Lynx Studio Technology Hilo with USB - Black by musicandstuff

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Lynx Hilo

- What is it?

A 2 channel AD DA convertor of superb quality. Connects to computer via USB. Has a touch screen to control functions such as routing, sample rate etc. Highly flexible routing and connectivity. Expandable via 8 channels of ADAT I/O, 2 channels SPIDF I/O to 12 channels of I/O. Able to provide zero latency monitoring via the internal routing. Controlled via the touchscreen on the front

- Why did I buy?

I had been in the market for a quality 2 channel AD DA and with inbuilt monitor controller. I had previously owned a Presonus Firestudio, a Metric Halo ULN-2, and an Apogee Duet in my wee mix room but was looking for something a little more capable and flexible to fill this important role in my studio. I'd had a fair bit of experience with common studio convertors (Apogee, Avid, Lynx). I narrowed it down to..... an Apogee Symphony, a situation using Burl AD DA, RME, the Hilo.

The Hilo came in at the right price, was easily portable (an important factor), would connect to most computers with ease (USB), and the routing on it meant it would integrate well with a headphone system and another set of monitors. I had enjoyed my experience with Lynx Auroras in the past so had faith that it would be of a high quality.

- Ease of use?

All the internal functions and routing are a little complex. It has a small learning curve but what you can do with internal routing means it needs to be a bit complex. It connects with USB so is simple to get it running without using these routing capabilities. I have had it running with ADAT and SPIDF connected and got it working.

- What does it sound like?

Clear, detailed, even, balanced, smooth are words that spring to mind listening to it in action. Great soundstage. The monitor out is great. Exhibits the same clear quality of the lineouts. The headphone out is quiet and clear and detailed.

In my experience there is never a huge audible difference between different AD DA but it is still noticeable and therefore of importance. I will make my personal comparisons of gear I have done an A B comparison against the Hilo with.

Compared to presonus firestudio? Hilo sounded more detailed, smoother, more open, better soundstage. I didn't dislike the Presonus, but it did lack in comparison. Headphone out was miles better and quieter on Hilo

Apogee Rosetta? Again the Hilo a little more open and a little clearer, particularly the bass. The Rosetta had some kind of soft richness in it that was nice. Something harmonic and slightly thicker came through on the Rosetta. The Hilo felt a little more open and pristine. Both sounded nice and a bit different. I liked the imaging on the both about the same

Metric Halo ULN-2. Hilo was a bit smoother, both quite clear. ULN-2 maybe felt slightly more aggressive in mid / top end. Not heaps between them but liked the Hilo a little more. Slightly better imaging on the Hilo I felt. Headphone out on the Hilo a little better sounding and quieter

Burl B2. Burl added an attractive thick and rich quality, maybe a little softer but not blurred. Hilo a little clearer and slightly more detailed. Not much in it. It was price and simplicity that made the Hilo make a ton more sense than a Burl AD DA solution which I had liked the sound of

These are subtle things. Was not so much better or worse that I could notice it on small or less revealing speakers, but in my studio I liked the sound of the Hilo and felt it would be a long term purchase I had confidence in. It was audibly a nice clean and clear convertor. Sadly I didn't get to A B it against an Apogee Symphony which I had liked a lot when I trialled it, and the RME UFX which I also liked borrowed off a friend.

- Best things about it?

The routing and the touchscreen! Maybe check out a youtube video on these capabilities. It makes zero latency tracking with multiple mixes a breeze. And it is easy to do on the fly once you have the hang of it. Because each input can be routed to specific outputs at whatever volume you want you can create multiple routing matrixes. And you can save and shift between them easily which is nice! I have included a couple videos I found online to give context.

Mastering with Lynx Hilo - YouTube (go to about 6mins)
Lynx Hilo AD/DA Converter and Headphone Amplifier Overview - Sweetwater Sound - YouTube
Lynx Hilo A/D D/A Converter from AES 2011 - YouTube

It is lightweight and super portable. So nice to be able to just pick it up and head off to do some location stuff with a laptop. I like this aspect a lot

Sounds great

- Limitations? Issues?

Always be nice to have a couple more IO.... but it looks like they are bringing out a thunderbolt version / upgrade that will do this!

Maybe not as colourful and thick sounding as the Burl (which I liked the sound of a lot in my comparisons), but the Hilo sounds honest to the mixes I make. I just chuck a couple of Neve preamps in the OTB mix chain if I miss that slight thickness and musicality the Burl added. Maybe 75% of the time I don't do that at all as I bounce ITB to keep the integrity of the mix, and leave the mojo side to the mastering engineer.

Hard to think of any other issues I have with it?

- Build quality and price?

Well built, not super heavy but looks nice. Feels sturdy, nice finish, and doesn't look like the cut corners in its build. Has not suffered wear and tear after a year and a half of almost daily use.

Price seems good, fair for the quality and capability of it. Worth the $

- Would I buy again?

Yes. It is a big part of my day to day studio work. I love how it works and the results it has helped me get with the records I work on. I don't feel like I am missing out by not having a mega expensive conversion system as it has to make sense financially for my business. It is a great product designed smartly for people like me with small (mainly mix / production) studios, who primarily record only a few channels at a time, but need something great to mix and master with, and remain portable.

I also found this review which nails down the same experience I had with mine

Tape Op - the Creative Music Recording Magazine > Reviews > Gear > Hilo A/D D/A converter

Recommended, one of the few things in my studio I am super impressed with

  • 2
23rd October 2014

Lynx Studio Technology Hilo with USB - Black by Deleted User

Lynx Hilo

The Lynx HiLo is a good audio interface, but wasn't the right interface for me.
The internal routing matrix is one of the most convoluted things I've ever used... they should have revised that straight away, yet after years of being on the market it remains the same.

Also it is truly a mastering interface... simply not built as a tracking interface. For a producer like myself, I need something more flexible.

The sonics, well they are nice, do doubt, but it's complicated. I know people on this site and others who insist that the HiLo is one of the best conversion systems in existence, on par with Lavry Gold, etc. I find that hard to believe. The only thing it excels at and might be best in class at, is being extremely flat and uncolored. If you are having issues with your productions being too colored, maybe this interface is the cure you need. But at this point, with this constant development of plugins to make the computer sound less lifeless/flat and more vibrant/colored, I don't see how this applies. Fast & accurate is another thing. But I don't think the Lynx excels at that. If you record a lot of jazz and need fast & accurate, get a Mytek.

So, in conclusion, this was just not the right interface for me. I know a great mastering engineer who has a HiLo, but also has a Prism. The Prism gets used on every project, and the HiLo almost never gets used. He and I both came to the same conclusion that while Lynx has created a good box with good qualities, there are simply better options available.

I hope this helps!

PS: Lynx does have good tech support.

21st February 2015

Lynx Studio Technology Hilo with USB - Black by Ichabod

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Lynx Hilo

I just started putting the Lynx Hilo through its paces. WOW.

The Lynx Hilo is a modest-sized device, but it is capable of complex routing whilst pushing extremely high audio quality at all times. The interfaces has a touch screen up front that is about the size of a Samsung phone. You can use this screen to meter your input / output, change conversion settings, and control your monitors, headphones, input levels.

In recording, the Lynx sounds classy, like-able, and, simply, phenomenal. You pay for the sound quality, and you get it. In playback, the story is similar. You'll enjoy your own audio and the audio of others like you never have before.

The Lynx Hilo has 2 Line-in channels of conversion in the back panel, but it also has digital inputs that expand the recording channels considerably whilst maintaining a pretty high 96khz in expanded scenarios. In short, you can live on it as your daily bread for home composer projects, and if you need to track a band you can take advantage of the broad array of digital in that could let you track a full band efficiently.

Too Complicated? I don't think so:
By the time you're looking at product like this, you'd better know how to read a manual. If not, then you may as well close up shop. It is true that the features and flow on the Lynx are not as "quick" as a Duet or Apollo. But the Lynx is designed to handle both tracking and mastering at the highest level. None of the "no brainer" interfaces will do this for you. RME's control system is similarly deep, but I've found that instruction manual and control system to be annoying. On the other hand, with Lynx and I've found everything I was looking for little by little, just going through the manual step by step as always. In short, if you take your time and understand basic mixers, it's not that hard.

The most important feature of the Hilo is the sound. From your first playback it shows you just why major studios use high end converters, and leaves you with a sense of pride in your work that you haven't had before. Just as important, it makes your music much more distributable, because the audio quality is so darn likeable. Combine this device with great technique, serviceable microphones, and a knock out premp set up - and you've got yourself a rock solid recording system. Take advantage of that gorgeous output conversion, and you'll be mastering yourself as well. Frankly, I'm grateful for the existence of this product. I am currently running one in my mix/mastering studio - but now I can't live without one at home, so I'm going to sell a microphone to buy a second one!

Sound Quality: Top notch. 5 Stars.

Ease of Use: Considering what it can do, Lynx make it as easy as possible, and no other company could have made it so doable. 5 Stars.

Features: 5 Stars.

Bang for Buck: Try 2 channels of similar quality Burl for $4,000, or save $1,500 and achieve more channels with more routing and more monitoring control. 5 Stars.

Congratulations to Lynx for their integrity amongst a market full of pretenders. Great, great job, and many thanks.

  • 4
11th March 2021

Lynx Studio Technology Hilo with USB - Black by Slug1

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Lynx Hilo

This is my desert island piece. It is the center of my audio universe. Not knowing when I bought it what it would be, but I'm so happy I discovered it early and was divinely led to it. I can't explain it any other way.

Features/Ease of Use
I put these two categories together because for Hilo they are one and the same.
The features are what tie into its ease of use. As far as I know, I don't know if there is anything quite like it feature wise as a dedicated conversion devise. Even if the conversion was only ok, the routing along would be worth the price of admission. Its essentially an analog digital patchbay, so you can connect a number of different analog and digital devices to Hilo and route audio in different ways to and from Hilo. It has three DA converters (monitor, headphone, and analog out), and one AD. It also has 8-channels of ADAT, stereo AES and stereo SDPIF on toslink and coax. Interestingly, for AES/SPDIF, only one digital input can be used at a time. This really hasn't limited me, but I guess if someone had two different ADs and wanted to capture both at the same time, it would be limited there. But it has its own AD, so you can still receive two independent signals at once if you need to. The touchscreen is just awesome for me and is at the heart of how I work from the standpoint of mastering. Its so easy to route things. For me the coolest feature from a mastering standpoint, is the ability to monitor the unprocessed DAW file or the analog chain (coming back in through the digital input or the internal AD) by just hitting the USB to monitor the DAW file, or hitting the Digital In (external AD) or hitting Analog In (internal AD). This lets you compare the original DAW file to the analog processed file in an unobrusive way. And its a smooth transition so you can just go between the two. You can also trim the Digital In (external AD) or Analog In (internal AD) with a fader on the touch screen so you can match the levels with the unprocessed DAW file. Its just an amazing device for mastering.

Other great features include the ability to select input and output levels for the line out and line in, in 2db steps. It allows for simple calibration. Also, the DAC can send a 24db signal if you like sending out a hot signal to a chain to saturate something. Some DACs either use internal jumpers or have set in/out levels. This just adds to the versatility of Hilo. It also has a great selection of metering options including linear digital, VU, and spectograph. Lots of options. It also has an amazing Sample Rate Converter so if you have digital gear you can run it at a higher sample rate and then real time sample rate convert back down once it gets to Hilo.

Convenience wise, they make a rack kit for it, but I do sometimes wish they had packaged it in a 2U Rack configuration. They could have possibly added a separate nob for headphone and monitor out and made a wider touchscreen. Or maybe have two screens with one being for routing and sound configuration, and then another screen for metering. Then you could put it in a mastering rack and have it right in front of you.

To be honest, Hilo is the central brain to my set up and with the Dangerous Master and Dangerous Liaison, I feel like I have a great console for my set up with lots of control and versatility.

If the feature and ease of use is amazing, sound is astounding. And the funny thing is that the great thing about Hilo is that is doesn't really have a sound. Its super neutral and transparent. In many technical tests using Audio DiffMaker to test how true to source a converter is, the round trip between Hilo DA (line out) and back in to its AD (line in) is among the truest to the source compared to many converters out, including those that are 3, 4, 5 times as expensive. If you're looking for a converter that will play and record exactly what its fed, then Hilo should be a top your list. If you want a converter to make things sound better/different, Hilo is not for you. I have or have had a number of those. Not to go to deep into comparisons (other reviews have), for instance, on the DA side I have or have used Hilo, Prism Lyra 2, Benchmark DAC1, Dangerous Music D-Box, Avid HD IO, and Apogee Rosetta 2. In terms of transparent/neutral, particularly for monitoring, Hilo is undoubtedly atop this list. Now there are things like Prism Dream, Prism ADA8XR, Lavry Gold, Weiss, Forsell DACs, which are all 3-5 times as expensive in terms of DAC price, but Hilo will hold its own and a number of mastering engineers who have used these others still chose Hilo. Again, this will always be about taste. I am intrigued by the Crane Song Solaris, but I hear it makes things sound better and is a bit clinical in its presentation. They are a bit hard to find, but I am thinking of at least buying one just to hear it. If I don't like it, I'll return it. But its one that doesn't break the bank, but seems to have a lot of great reviews about its sound. Another one I've thought about is the relatively in expensive TASCAM DA3000, which I hear has a great DAC as well. Until then I'll stick with the neutral and transparent Hilo for monitoring DAC.

That brings me to another aspect of DAC, which is for transfer. I have used Hilo in that capacity as well, where I used the Line Out DAC, which has more chips in it and has slightly better specs than the monitoring out, to feed an analog console, and then use the monitoring DAC to feed my monitors. Its beautifully transparent in that capacity. The other great thing as mentioned above is that you can change output and input levels to push into your chain if that's what you fancy. Then trim down at the input do get back to unity. But, I tend to like a DAC that can add a bit of flavor to the analog chain, so I started using my Prism Lyra2 to feed my analog console. I go out of Hilo digitally and into Lyra2, and then Lyra2 analog outs to a Dangerous Master. The Lyra2 has the Prism 'sound', no pun intended, which has some nice distortion that does something really nice in the low end, and also has super detailed and pristine high mids and highs. Again, Hilo can be a great transfer DAC, but I like something with a little flavor for that purpose.

On the AD side, again, its super transparent. Its actually sort of boring to be honest. It captures and processes exactly what's sent into it without adding anything. Nothing but pure true clear representation of what's sent into it. I do qualify these statements with the following stipulation: as long as you feed it with a conservative level and don't clip it. Its an amazing AD as long as its fed a conservative level. It does not clip well. If you clip it even in the least amount, and the red clip light comes on, it farts horribly. Will not debate about the use or prohibition of clipping AD converters, but the Hilo AD does not clip well. So if you want to clip there are other options. If you work in a more conservative level, then no problem. Also, you can calibrate the AD to provide tons of headroom so you can still work in hot levels in the analog domain and not worry about clipping it.

I have used a number of other AD converters including Burl B2, Prism Lyra2, API A2D, Avid HD IO, Apogee Rosetta 200, and Dangerous AD+. These all have their own character, and that's probably the best way to differentiate these from Hilo. These all have character, except for probably the AD+. To date, its my favorite. I have compared to to Hilo and when fed a conservative level there is hardly a difference. But the AD+ has a cool sound when you push a db or two into it. I know I know, I'm a bad boy for doing that. But I don't do it all the time. But I want it available IF I feel clipping is better. So I now use the AD+ instead of Hilo AD. The Lyra is nice as well, and adds incredible dimension. But after getting AD+, I'm set for AD. And if I ever was in a situation where I have to live with only one thing, I would probably chose Hilo because the AD is amazing.

Overall Hilo is the centerpiece of my setup. Along with a computer/laptop, you can build around it. Start with laptop/computer, Hilo, and monitors and you can work in the box and have great monitoring and headphone amp. Want to add some outboard, Hilo has amazing DAAD to pitch and catch. Want to use another DAC for monitoring, send through one of the digital outputs. There are just so many amazing things about it. I highly recommend.


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