Avid have been busy adding features to Pro Tools over the past couple of years, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen any new hardware from them. During that time we’ve seen the I/O hardware playing field change as AD/DA Converters have taken another leap in quality/affordability and Audio-Over-IP has started to really take shape and consolidate around the Dante standard from Audinate.
Now Avid is back in the hardware game with a very well specified, pristine sounding I/O with sophisticated internal routing and IP connectivity. Meet the Avid Pro Tools | MTRX. MTRX was originally designed by NPI and launched as the DAD AX32. It’s a configurable interface that has already found a home with high-end mix and mastering engineers and Vintage King Audio clients like Alan Meyerson, Craig Bauer, Warner Brothers and Mick Guzauski. This new version has been rebranded and updated with a smart black finish, and a simplified menu of user-installable optional upgrades.
DAD has long been known for some of the most open and transparent sounding converters on the market. Mix engineer and record producer Craig Bauer, known for his work with Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, was an early adopter of this technology.
“I gathered a number of high-end converters together for the shootout. Simply stated, the AX32's (MTRX) converters just sounded best. Hands down," Bauer states. "Perhaps it can be best described by what I didn't hear when comparing it to other converters. The top end in other converters sounded grainy, fuzzy or lacked definition. The low-frequency response of other boxes had noticeable deficiencies in one area or another in comparison. The AX32's stereo imaging was superior. The choice became real simple, real quick. It's just an incredibly good sounding, no compromise converter all the way around.”
Monitor Control And Routing
One of the main concerns that a lot of studios had with the Avid S6 was that the only option for monitor control, cuemix and talkback, was the analog-only, MIDI-controlled, Avid X-mon, originally designed for use with the ICON consoles. While it’s not a terrible sounding monitor controller, it isn’t that reliable or flexible, and doesn’t fit in with a lot of studios all-digital or multi-daw workflow needs.
Two products, the one we are discussing here, the Avid Pro Tools MTRX, and also the Trinnov D-Mon (which includes acoustics optimization but less sophisticated routing), have now addressed this monitoring concern. MTRX includes Pro | Mon, which allows the I/O to also behave as a EuCon-controlled monitor controller. It is especially well suited when complicated routing, direct connection to Pro Tools and multiple DAW signal flow is required.
“The Pro | Mon software allows the unit to provide complete monitoring facilities directly from the S6. Outside of the obvious convenience of controlling all the monitor functions directly from the surface, it eliminates one of the weakest links in any modern studio environment... that being an analog "outboard" studio monitor controller," Bauer says. "Since all of the volume in the monitoring with the DAD is handled digitally, the final output isn’t subject to the pitfalls of analog pots.”
MTRX can be used for anything from mono, through stereo or surround, to immersive monitoring, and can handle fold down, cue mixes, summing and talkback. The DADman software has a matrix capacity of 1500x1500 internal digital connections and allows routing, splitting and patching of audio within the device and to the outside world.
Audio Over IP - Dante
MTRX has built-in ethernet connectors for EuCon and DADman control, but with the addition of a $500 Audinate daughter board you can also add 64 channels of Dante I/O. This is a great way to connect your DAW to the growing amount of audio equipment which supports audio over IP and Dante. Put simply, it allows you to send and receive audio from any device on the same network that supports the protocol, whether it’s another computer running virtual instruments, a remote mic pre, a stem recorder, a console or live mixer, or any number of other devices. This is particularly attractive to multi-room facilities, performance spaces and schools.
The base model MTRX comes pre-loaded with the following digital connections:
- Two 32-channel DigiLink Mini connectors 64 channels total for direct connection to Pro Tools HDX or HD Native cards
- Coaxial MADI interface with 64 I/O channels via BNC connectors
- Eight AES pairs 16 mono via two D25 connectors
- Dual Power Supplies for redundancy
- Word Clock/video black burst (VBB) I/O via BNC connectors; AES11 input
- DADman software to configure and route signals, and control the Pro | Mon 2 monitor section
- 8 Line AD Card - Adds eight channels of line-level analog inputs.
- 2 Mic/Line AD Card - Adds two channels of analog inputs and mic preamps with relay-based gain circuit - for talkback and/or tracking.
- 8 Mic/Line AD Card - Adds eight channels of analog inputs and mic preamps with relay-based gain circuit.
- 8 DA Card - Adds eight channels of line-level analog outputs with an output level control.
- 8 AES3 I/O Card - Adds eight line AES3 inputs and outputs (16 channels), with built-in sample rate conversion.
- Dual SDI/HD/3G Card - Adds 2 x 16 channels of SDI/HD/3G connections (embed/de-embed) with built-in sample rate conversion.
- 64-Channel IP Audio Dante Module - Adds up to 64 channels of low-latency digital audio using Dante (64 channels at 44.1 kHz or 16 channels at 192 kHz).
- Dual MADI I/O Card - Adds 128 channels of MADI inputs and outputs through two optical SFP ports.
- MADI Module for Base Unit - Adds an additional one or two 64-channel I/O coaxial or optical MADI module to the chassis.
- SPQ Card - Adds 1,024 filters across 128 channels per card for bass management and EQ
Avid's latest option for the MTRX is the SPQ Speaker Processing Card. This module adds a tremendous amount of DSP that allows you to manage bass, EQ, and cue signals directly within the MTRX. The SPQ gives you 1,024 filters across 128 channels per card (up to 16 filters per channel). Using DADman and Pro Mon software, you can save and recall configurations from stereo to immersive audio, including Dolby Atmos. Audio professionals now have even more control over their speaker processing and management with the MTRX solution.
Who’s It For?
MTRX will find homes in studios for a variety of reasons. For tracking, mixing and mastering studios the top-notch conversion and mic pres will probably be the main attraction. For post facilities, and composers with multi-computer and DAW workflows, the sophisticated routing, connectivity and monitoring options will be very welcome and save time and money. And for schools, multi-room facilities and performance venues, the Dante audio-over IP support and direct connection to Pro Tools will open up possibilities to make better use of space and resources.