A History Of Antelope Audio Interfaces And Clocks
Antelope was the first to create an ultra-stable Rubidium Atomic Clock for the pro audio market, adapting a technology normally reserved for when extremely precise synchronization is paramount (i.e. GPS satellites and television broadcasting). And the unique triple-sampling-rate Trinity Master Clock has become the backbone of hundreds of recording studios and post-production facilities around the world.
In 2013, a particularly ambitious Antelope Audio product would change the scope of the company, the Orion32 AD/DA converter/interface. Featuring 32 analog inputs and 32 analog outputs of premium-grade conversion packed into a 1U chassis for under $3000, there was nothing else on the market with a comparable combination of cost, quality, and capacity. Even more unexpectedly, all of these available channels could be streamed down a standard USB 2.0 connection with very low latency, which was made possible by using a custom-built, high-speed USB controller chip within the interface itself.
The immediate success of the Orion32 led to the rapid development of more Antelope Audio interfaces, such as the Orion Studio (2015), Zen Tour (2016), and Goliath (2016). Meanwhile, Antelope continued to further improve on the Orion32 itself, adding dedicated monitor outputs and Thunderbolt connectivity with the Orion32+ (2015) and bringing improved AD/DA conversion and direct Pro Tools HD compatibility to the Digilink-enabled Orion32 HD (2017), another breakthrough cost-per-channel product in its category. More on all of these interfaces in just one minute...
Pushing Processing Power Forward With FPGA Chips
During this period, a new trend emerged in the audio interface market. DSP chips had been utilized for decades in computer add-in cards and Pro Tools systems in order to augment the audio processing power of CPUs, which were relatively weak by today’s standards and needed the help.
Putting these chips inside audio interfaces achieved some unique benefits like real-time tracking with near-zero latency while monitoring with plugins. Regardless of a session’s buffer size setting, you were now able to overdub tracks while your computer was running a full session seamlessly. And costs had begun to come down to a point that even amateur home recordists could enjoy the benefits of a DSP-powered recording system without needing an expensive and powerful tower computer loaded with processing cards.
To compensate for a relative lack of individual power per DSP chip, multiple DSP chips must be utilized. And although algorithmic approximations of analog circuitry have certainly come quite a long way since the very first digital “plug-ins,” was there really no alternative available?
To this end, the Antelope Audio team set forth developing a hardware-based effects library for its own audio interfaces using a different type of chip - the Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). Unlike the traditional DSP microprocessors, FPGAs consist of a programmable array of logic blocks, with their functionality defined and “wired together” using a Hardware Description Language (HDL) rather than a more widely-known computer code such as C/C++.
It’s a lot like designing a virtual circuit board onto a chip and therefore perfect for emulating the characteristics of real analog hardware! Processes are able to split up and take place in parallel on different places across the chip, just like electrons flowing through networks of wires, tubes, and transformers, with virtually no latency. Plus, when optimized correctly, a single FPGA chip could be made to run many instances of very high-quality audio processing.
So what happens when you bring together DSP and FPGA chips in an audio interface? Magic.
Antelope Audio Synergy Core Interfaces
In 2019, Antelope Audio introduced the world to Synergy Core technology, which brought together the best of both worlds and put FPGA and DSP chips into the same interfaces. Just as DSP chips were originally used to augment the processing power of a computer’s CPU, Synergy Core uses multiple DSP chips to augment the power of its FPGA processors.
The FPGA acts as the conductor, assigning audio to and from the DSP chips as needed, where they are free to process audio in ways that would be tricky for the FPGA to handle on its own. This creative engineering solution breaks open the barriers of what will be possible for the Antelope Audio effects library in the years to come. There are already 15 Synergy Core-powered plugins, including creative modulation-based effects like Flanger and Tremolo and third party collaborations like Auto-Tune Synergy.
Let's take a look at the interfaces that make up Antelope Audio's Synergy Core lineup and learn what makes each one distinct in its own way.
Antelope Audio Discrete 4 Pro Synergy Core
The successor to the popular Discrete 4 Synergy Core, Antelope’s Discrete 4 Pro Synergy Core audio interface expands upon the original design with a number of new features and workflow enhancements. Building on the sonic heritage of its predecessor, the Discrete 8 Pro Synergy Core features Antelope’s latest generation AD/DA converters with up to 130 dB of dynamic range, as well as the company’s renowned 64-bit AFC clocking technology.
The Discrete 4 Pro Synergy Core offers impressive connectivity with up to 14 x 20 I/O simultaneously, including four Discreet 6-transistor preamps and four DC-coupled line outputs. When it comes to DSP, the Discrete 4 Pro Synergy Core supports up to 16 AFX channel strips—four times the amount of the Discrete 4 Synergy Core! Best of all, it comes bundled with an impressive collection of 37 Synergy Core effects modeled after rare analog outboard gear. Additionally, the Discrete 4 Pro Synergy Core offers a host of QOL improvements, including expanded routing capabilities, Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and adaptive on-screen metering.
Antelope Audio Discrete 8 Pro Synergy Core
The Discrete 8 Pro Synergy Core Thunderbolt 3/USB 2 interface takes the basic formula of the Discrete 4 and gives it an impressive boost. Still here are the 37 vintage-modeled effects, onboard processing power of one FPGA and two DSP chips, and pristine conversion, but we get a beefed up I/O count, which will be beneficial for medium to bigger sized studios. This interface is equipped with eight mic preamps (two on the front, six more in the back) and in total features 26 inputs and 32 outputs, including two dedicated ReAmp outputs.
Antelope Audio Orion Studio Synergy Core
Orion Studio Synergy Core is a Thunderbolt 3 and USB 2 interface that packs a powerful punch of horsepower with two FPGA chips and six DSP chips. This processing power will come in handy, as the Orion Studio Synergy Core comes with a huge bundle of 50 FX, including an incredible range of mic pres, compressors, EQs and more.
In terms of I/O, the interface features 12 discrete microphone preamps that employ ultra-linear components for more realistic detail and micro-dynamics. All preamps offer Antelope Audio's Direct-In technology which hard-bypasses the preamp circuitry thus raising dynamic range and lowering total harmonic distortion.
The interface has a dedicated monitor DAC with 130dB, providing wider soundstage and increased headroom for critical listening. You can also connect to other analog and digital gear in your studio via DB25, S/PDIF and ADAT connections. In total, the Orion Studio Synergy Core offers 30 simultaneous inputs x 22 simultaneous outputs.
Antelope Audio Zen Tour Synergy Core
The Zen Tour was originally introduced in 2016 and offered music creators, bands and performing artists access to an incredible portable interface with a high impact I/O count. The new Zen Tour Synergy Core finds itself utilizing the same form factor, but with a huge bump in processing power via Antelope's new Synergy Core technology. The interface now includes four DSP and two FPGA audio engine processors for applying the 36 included effects during recording and mixing at near-zero latency.
The upgraded version of the Zen Tour is a Thunderbolt 3 and USB 2.0 interface that features the same fantastic D/A monitor conversion as the Orion Studio Synergy Core and 18 x 26 total I/O. There are four instrument/line ins on the front of the interface, four mic pres found on the back, eight line outs, 1 stereo monitor out, two stereo headphone outs, and two reamp outs. The four discrete ultra-linear microphone preamps offer 65 dB of gain and are extremely transparent, perfect for capturing audio.
Antelope Audio Zen Go Synergy Core
Antelope Audio's Zen Go is the smallest Synergy Core interface yet! The USB-C-powered 4x8 desktop interface is designed for portable use while still delivering elite-level sound. It features all of the hallmarks of the Synergy Core series including class-leading AD/DA conversion, clocking technology and premium mic pres. The Zen Go also features two discrete ultra-linear preamps with 65 dB of gain and switchable mic, line and Hi-Z modes. It is digitally expandable over S/PDIF and includes analog monitor outputs over RCA, a stereo output over TRS and two stereo headphone outputs with separate controls.
As of August 2022, Zen Go is also available in a Thunderbolt 3 compatible model.
Antelope Audio Zen Q Synergy Core
The Zen Q from Antelope Audio bridges the gap between the Zen Tour and Zen Go. It's versatile with a more expansive I/O like the Zen Tour, yet still small enough to take anywhere like the Zen Go. It features the same professional sound quality and innovative effects as the other Synergy Core interfaces, with just the right amount of I/O. This 14x10 bus-powered Thunderbolt 3 interface will be the perfect workhorse for recording and mixing in the studio, at home or anywhere else you want to work. Additionally, Antelope Audio recently released the Zen Q USB, a USB-C-powered version of the original Zen Q audio interface.
Antelope Audio Galaxy 64 Synergy Core
Antelope Audio's Galaxy 64 Synergy Core interface is a first for the brand, as it marks their entry into the world of DANTE. The Galaxy 64 is a 2U rack space audio interface/converter that features 64 channels of analog in and analog out via DANTE, Thunderbolt 3, AES/EBU, HDX, and MADI.
Just like the aforementioned interfaces, the Galaxy 64 Synergy Core features a combo of DSP and FPGA processors. The interface's 12 DSP and two FPGA processors can handle extremely large sessions with hundreds of instances of effects, all while an additional FPGA chip processes the routing matrix and audio conversion.
No matter whether you are looking for a new interface solution in your studio, live venue, post-production facility, or any other audio hub, the Galaxy 64 Synergy offers the connectivity and conversion that your work requires.
Antelope Audio Galaxy 32 Synergy Core
The latest addition to the Synergy Core series is the Galaxy 32, an interface that builds on the success of the Orion 32. The Galaxy 32 is a 1U rackmount chassis featuring 32 channels of I/O, advanced connectivity (Dante/HDX/Thunderbolt 3) and onboard processing power. Antelope Audio’s conversion gets even better than previous models, offering mastering-grade A/D and D/A with a sky-high 130 dB of headroom.
Analog connections are made via banks of DB25 on the back, allowing users to patch 32 channels into each end. The Galaxy 32 also features some welcome additions including two word clock outputs, a second Dante redundancy port and the ability to operate the unit standalone without a computer. In short, the Antelope opens up worlds of flexibility for recording operations needing expansive I/O.
Antelope Audio FPGA-Powered Interfaces
Antelope Audio has continued its legacy of FPGA-powered interfaces with its most recent third-generation of upgraded releases. This consists of the Orion32+ | Gen 3, the Orion32 HD | Gen 3, and the Goliath HD | Gen 3. All of these interfaces feature significant under-the-hood changes to the underlying AD/DA conversion chips and circuitry, leading to superb measured specifications and sound quality when compared to their predecessors.
Antelope Audio Orion32+ | Gen 3
The Orion32+ | Gen 3 features 64 channels of I/O when using Thunderbolt and 32 channels over USB. The interface features elevated input and output levels (up to +24dBu) and improved specs with up to 129dB dynamic range on its monitor outputs. Let's not forget that the Orion 32+ | Gen 3 also can act as a world-class Master Clock with a pair of Word Clock outputs. It starts at a lower purchase price than the previous model and includes a small starter pack of six FPGA-powered effects.
Antelope Audio Orion32 HD | Gen 3
The Orion32 HD | Gen 3, offers 32 channels of USB connectivity, and as its name implies, offers 64 channels of HD, HDX, and HX connectivity with your Avid HD rig. The interface has impressive AD/DA conversion with 136dB of dynamic range and also features 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking technology and jitter management. When you purchase the interface, you'll get a huge library of FPGA-powered effects, including mic pres, compressors, EQs, and more.
Antelope Audio Goliath HD | Gen 3
Goliath HD | Gen 3, is an unbelievable interface for I/O count. The interface packs in 16 mic preamps, two analog inserts, eight instrument inputs, and 16 additional analog inputs with DB25 connectivity for a total of 38 inputs. On the digital side, it's possible to have 346 digital I/O channels in total with the Goliath HD | Gen 3. The interface also includes converters that provide 136 dB dynamic range, connectivity for USB, Thunderbolt 2, and HDX, in addition to Antelope Audio's atomic clock and 64-bit AFC jitter management algorithm. In total, the Goliath HD | Gen 3 comes with 69 FPGA-powered effects, plus an Antelope Audio Edge Duo LDC Modeling Microphone!