Metric Halo's ULN-8 and LIO-8 are first class Audio-Interfaces and the heart of my DAW. ULN-8 and LIO-8 are technical twins, but the LIO-8 comes without Mic-Pre's, however, it can be retrofitted with two boards (2x 4 Mic-Preamps) and becomes identical to the ULN-8. My LIO-8 has 4 Mic-Preamps. The two PCBs can be installed very easily.
Phantastic Mic preamps, two integrated DI inputs, excellent AD-DA conversion, internal 80 bit processing, hardware and software superbly designed, stable. A headphone amplifier that makes HiFi enthusiasts cheer.
These units seem at first glance large and expensive, but, on closer examination, they are small and extremely inexpensive! They can replace hardware that, in comparable quality, would be more than 10x as expensive and would need to be transported in heavy flight cases.
The included software "MIOConsole3d" allows all imaginable configurations: MS circuit, parallel mix, summing, any bus structures, IO or inserts for external hardware - even cascading of up to 8 MH interfaces is provided. The "key" console parameters are externally controllable via MIDI or Eucon protocol.
The software contains a wide range of fine plug-ins (EQ, Compressor, Limiter, Gate, Delay, Reverb, Transient Designer etc.), some of them including excellent presets. Live, Editing or Mastering setups can easily be saved and recalled.
Two very crucial points: due to the very close 80bit processing (in Assembler) in their own processors, the plug-ins neither feel like plug-ins, nor do they sound like plug-ins. I believe this simply cannot be achieved at AU or VST level. It also saves a tremendous amount of computer resources. The whole system delivers a quality in which I could also work exclusively and very happily.
To me, the plug-ins - EQs, Compressor, Limiter, Reverb, etc. - appear to be so good that I expect any of the hardware processor parallels to be more expensive than the LIO-8 or ULN-8. that I assume that each one of the corresponding hardware processor parallels, would be more expensive than LIO-8 or ULN-8 - and the same can be said about the headphone amplifier.
The EQs' band characteristics also include an RIAA curve that turns the LIO and ULN inputs into excellent phono inputs.
The "Session" window is a powerful recording window - with many features / options. More than 100 tracks can be recorded simultaneously. Therefore, a host software is only necessary during editing. The further developments of the MH software are convincing all over the line.
Unique - and especially interesting for sound engineers and electronic musicians is the "Graph Layer": Here you can build whole studio processors using Building Blocks. The Building Blocks are e.g. Summing, Adding, Delays, LFOs, Filters... The gray boxes can be opened with a double click and then act like a plug-in window - here you can set the parameters of the Building-Block... An incredible toolbox! These interfaces are a fully-featured studio - including Summing and Monitor Controller. Metric Halo does not simply build "audio interfaces". Soundwise there is no critique, just a never ending astonishment.
The hardware also stands out with special features: In order to place the many connectors of ULN-8 and LIO-8 on one U, most audio IO's are designed as D-Sub25 interconnections. This means that multicores, breakout cables, patchbays or stageboxes will be required.
The ULN-8 comes with 34 analog inputs or outputs (plus headphones, DIs and ch 1-2 TRS out) and 8 AES I/O. Mic IN and Line IN have their dedicated inputs - you can set whether Mic or Line should be active for the channel from the Console software. Next to the inputs is a "Balanced Send" output, which can be used for signal splitting - e.g. for a live/stage mix. Here the signals are sent out latency-free behind the preamp - before the AD conversion. However, the highlight is that it also features a "Mic S/R" mode (S/R=Send/Return) - i.e. an analog insert. With this setting the "Mic In" serves as input, the "Balanced Send" as "Send" and the "Line In" as "Return".
Another special design features the "Edge Buss" - which accepts the "EdgeCards". With an " EdgeCard " (featuring SPDIF, AES or Dante) the number of digital IOs can be extended significantly. One EdgeCard also offers 1x SPDIF and 1x MIDI I/O. These cards increase the flexibility even more, especially on the road. EdgeCards can be easily exchanged without any tools.
The truly insane point about this company is that they release the technical enhancements - including the conversion from Firewire to Ethernet - rather than in new audio interfaces, but as an upgrade (in PCB forms) that can be implemented by yourself - and that' available for all Metric Halo interfaces EVER built - including the 20 year old MIO 2882!
With this picture I try to illustrate how the flexibility of the interfaces shows in everyday life. While the interface is completely wired in the studio ( to all inputs and outputs), I need a different wiring for " live" - I don't take all devices with me. So when I take the interface out, I just disconnect all the plugs - and reconnect them when I get back. Almost like a Dock.
When I go to play with the Buchla, I only need 2x output to the amp - using the two TRS outs for that. The line signals come through a Sub-d wire and, if I also need microphones, I also have a breakout cable for that.
In order to send 40x CV (via SPDIF) to the Buchla, I use the EdgeCard, and the one with SPDIF and MIDI. The MIDI Out port lets me travel without MIDI interface and yet control my D-Loop or Yamaha TX81z (or both). I have gotten a somewhat lazy over the last few years. This interface prevents that from being noticed by others.
To point out that (still) the used purchase of a 2d MIO is not worth it in most cases, due to the 600.- for the upgrade (which you want to perform), I left my upgrade report from 2018, which highlights the difference between 2d and 3d:
Metric Halo 3d Upgrade (August 2018)
Metric Halo did it again! The 3d upgrade is finally here:
Improved clock (more transparent sound), significantly more DSP performance. Multiple interfaces can be connected via Ethernet (MH-Link, 128 channels @ 192k bidirectional). Therefor the upgrade comes with a new backplane, now without Firewire, but with Audio over Ethernet and USB-c. The maximum additional latency at 8 combined interface is 16 microseconds, that is 0.16 ms! Also new are the EdgeCards (far right) and the EdgeBus. Now the interfaces can be expanded, optionally with SPDIF, ADAT, AES, MADI (copper or optical) or MIDI.
With Metric Halo, you do not have to buy a new device every few years - you get a relatively cheap upgrade with a "few" pcbs, a new rear, etc. and you'll have all new achievements and the interface is up to date again! There is still the first, almost 20 year old interface - of course with the latest technology! Absolutely unique!
For me the upgrade - on the left are the two upgrade bags for my ULN-8 and LIO-8 - produces a huge weight reduction of the recording setup, because, instead of the heavy stagebox with 30m cable (about 40kg), can now the audio interface remain on stage (quasi as a stage box) and only a max. 100m long Ethernet Cat5e cable (about 3kg) still leads to the computer (for example, in the director's room or in the audience at the sound director). An absolutely crazy change - after all, the multicores were not only extremely heavy and bulky, but also expensive and associated with a lot of work (laying and connecting). Even with the small, mobile synth setup (see picture above) it will be easier because the "new order" (Thunderbolt3, Ethernet) also saves some cables here. The separation of Firewire is most welcome! I did not like Firewire 800 anymore (plugs!). You also somehow felt that it had not been loved for a long time..
For both maximized and minimized setups, the hardware savings resulting from the upgrade are truly significant. The improvement of the sound of the TB3 to Ethernet (not via USB!) is huge! It's immediately recognizable! The sound "lays" better - more like a large (analog) console. The visually different, new console software - now programmed in JUCE and matching the Mojave Dark Mode - is still in beta, but already functional.
I N S A N E. More and more hardware has to compete with this interface.
Other manufacturers release new interfaces - Metric Halo cares for customers with hardware upgrades! Fantastic! Chapeau!
Metric Halo Deutschland - mhlabs.de
Metric Halo also offers Spectra Foo, an analysis software that also makes these devices a first choice for audio engineers. Spectra Foo is used for analysis in the areas of mixing, mastering, acoustic analysis, live audio and electronics. Most people will be happy with the standard version of the software, but there is also a complete version that can also be used to calibrate auditoriums and much more.
SpectraFoo Complete includes a high-resolution Multitone, Multi-Noise, Sweep and Burst Signal Generator that operates in real time and is capable of writing the signal to a capture or to an AIFF or SDII file. The interfacing to the signal generator is numeric, which makes it very precise.
- high-resolution, distortion-free 24-bit signal generation
- Up to 9 simultaneous sine sweeps
- Generation of Pink and White Noise
- Burst generation
- FFT synchronized sine wave generation
- Direct generation to audio I/O, captures and files
Balanced - Unbalanced Converters
Often DI boxes are sufficient, but often not. Especially with modular synthesizers, DI boxes (or simply plugging the unbalanced connector into the balanced jack) give unsatisfactory results. This is also due to the rather unusual outputs of +12dB with around 1k (1000 ohms) impedance. After trying all sorts of things, including expensive output modules with transformers, the Sonifex devices were so clearly superior that I bought several of them over time. I started with the small (2-4 channel) devices, but meanwhile I switched to the big versions (19 inch, 8 channels).
Pictured are the Sonifex RB-BL4 (top), a bi-directional converter (4x bal. IN to unbal. OUT and 4x unbal. IN to bal. OUT) and the Sonifex RB-UL4 (bottom), an 8x (4x Stereo) balancer (8x unbal. IN to bal. OUT). For 2x unbal. Out I prefer to abuse the headphone out of ULN-8 or LIO-8 and save me a device, since the headphone out's impedance is not a problem. Therefore, in the synth setup the RB-UL4 is now firmly integrated. To have the IO's outside, unfortunately, the completely overpriced rack ears are needed.
Not only that these devices can handle up to +28dB input - the sound is electronically converted and the output is below 50 ohms. The converters in the audio interface are happy because otherwise they would have to work against the "infinite resistance". The output volumes are trimmed with headless screws - so set and forget.
Oh yes - Sonifex is "Broadcast Quality".