Metric Halo ULN-8 and LIO-8 are amazing audio interfaces, high class and the heart of my DAW. ULN-8 and LIO-8 are technical twins, the LIO-8 comes without Mic-Pre's and +DSP license. It can be fully retrofitted and is then identical to the ULN-8. My Lio-8 has 4 mic preamps. For cascaded interfaces it is sufficient if only one device has the +DSP license.
Fantastic microphone preamplifiers, two integrated DI inputs, reference class AD-DA conversion, internal 80 bit processing, hard- and software excellently designed, stable. A headphone amplifier that lets hifi freaks jubilate. These devices appear big and expensive at first sight, but on closer inspection they are small and extremely affordable! They replace hardware that, in comparable quality, would be more than 10 times more expensive and would have to be transported in heavy flightcases.
The included software "MIO Console" allows all conceivable configurations: monitoring, MS circuit, analog summation, arbitrary bus structures and cascading of several interfaces are possible. The most important parameters are externally controllable. It can record more than 100 tracks at the same time. A host software is therefore only necessary with the the editing.
The +DSP license includes a wealth of fine Plug-Ins (EQ, Compressor, Limiter, Gate, Delay, Reverb, Transient-Designer etc.), partly with good Presets. Live, editing, or Mastering setups are easy to store and retrieve. Two very important points: the Plug-Ins do not feel like Plug-Ins, nor do they sound like that! The interfaces have their own processors, which conserves the computer resources.
My favorite, the MIO-Strip, is also available without +DSP license. It contains a Gate, Compressor and a six-band EQ and has a quality with which one could actually work exclusively. Even after years, I can only praise and praise the Metric Halo overall concept.
Special ideas can be implemented at the "graph level": full studio-processors can be built with the "Building Blocks". Building Blocks are e.g. Summer, Adder, Delay, LFO, Filter ... An incredible toolbox! These interfaces are a complete studio - including summation and monitor controller. Soundwise there is no critics, but a never-ending surprise and pleasure.
With SpectraFoo, Metric Halo also offers an analysis software that makes these devices a first choice for sound engineers. For the majority, the standard version of the software should suffice - but there is also a full version with which also halls can be measured and more.
My now 13-year experience with this company and its products - represented in Germany outstanding by Anne Goerth and Stefan Bahr - is without comparison - and these audio interfaces are genuinely rich!
Because ULN-8 and LIO-8 are equipped with many connectors, they are designed as D-Sub25 connectors. This means that multicores and breakout cables or stageboxes are needed.
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.
M A D N E S S. 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 website
At Apple, there was the same time switching to Thunderbolt3 (with USB-c plug), more powerful processors and faster DDR4 Ram. Since this also involves a change of periphery, I have written something in more detail about it: Macs 2018. Basically I'd like to warn about the (hot) 6 core i7 and i9 models with T2. The devices with 4 core i5 seem to be less problematic, but the problem is not out of this world - better a pre-2018 or pre-T2 Mac, if you just want to work with it. There are too many individual problems when working with audio!
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".