Merging Technologies Anubis

Audio recording interfaces for computer recording have come a long way in recent years, and Merging Technologies has been making strides with networked audio. Now, the original Horus and Hapi recording interfaces get a little help from Anubis. Networked over AES67/Ravenna, the Anubis becomes a controller for I/O on your Horus or Hapi. Or alone, it is a 4×4 analog I/O for use with your favorite DAW. Anubis included 2 mic preamps, 2 line/instrument inputs, 4 outputs, 2 stereo headphone amps powerful enough to drive demanding loads, and GPI/MIDI input/outputs. 3 Versions are available; Pro, Premium, and now SPS. The Pro version supports up to 192Khz SR, the Premium does DXD and DSD sample rates(352.8, 384, DSD 256), and the SPS version adds another Ethernet switch for redundant AoiP feeds, or direct connection to Horus or Hapi. All versions employ a 32 bit ADC and DAC.

Sonasax was hired to help create the Anubis casework. The extruded aluminum case measures 200x40x128 mm and feature a touch screen, soft touch buttons, and a Rotary knob for levels. Everything here is well weighted on the desktop, the buttons are all touch intensity adjustable, and the Volume knob allows for a smooth rotation with a tactile rubber grip.

Based upon a powerful FPGA, the input signal is converted, processed (polarity, mute, etc.) and routed. The routing is quite robust and can handle up 256 channels of audio on the AoIP network. When connected to a computer the Anubis achieves a round-trip latency of around 30 samples, not bad at all. To get you a whopping 139 dB of DR, a unique 32 bit A/D converters arangement is used for the inputs . By using a dual path topology Merging has created an input stage with the capability of capturing near theoretical 24 bit dynamic range! 2 pre amps and 2 A-to-D converters are used, then combined in DSP to achieve this benchmark dynamic range.

Anubis was designed with different missions in mind. The first (so far) is the “monitoring mission.” The focus of this setup is for listening to sources through monitors. a powerful EQ is also available for speaker correction. Beyond simple monitoring of sources, the routing afforded by this FPGA design allows users to create Q mixes from within the Anubis box. This allows a low latency headphone mix for musicians when overdubbing.

Sonically, I am very impressed with the quality of sound from the Anubis. The input section and microphone amplifier worked extremely well with my Schoeps CMC6 mk4. The transparency of the mic amps allowed the Schoeps microphone signature to be amplified with gobs of headroom and open transparent sound. You get the feeling the microphone’s true sonic signature is on display here. Some transparent microphone preamps can produce a sterile clean room type sound, but Anubis’ amps manage to keep the soul of the microphone signal from falling prey to any such folly.

The DAC has a resolute smoothness to the presentation, and several filters can be selected for preference. Currently, I have been using the Anubis with Pro Tools. I have done several voice recordings, sound design recordings, and used the Anubis for mixing and mastering projects. After using the AES 67 Ravenna network connection for Pro Tools, I am pleased to say I am happy with the reliability Merging Technologies has brought to the audio interface market.

The Merging Anubis is an absolute deal for the flexibility and sonic mastery. Join me as I build a fanless PC workstation for the Pyramix DAW from Merging Technologies. I will update this blog with notes from my Hi end PC build.

Happy Listening,

HIFIQC

Toslink Digital Audio & The Lifatec Silflex Optical Cable

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Lifatec Silflex glass optical cable

The transmission of digital audio signals has evolved and improved over the years, resulting in several standard formats for both consumers and professionals. When Sony and Phillips were creating the Red Book CD standard they also included an option for digital audio to be transported between components. While the S/PDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface) standard was created using coaxial cables (electrical voltages over copper) with RCA connectors, Toshiba proposed a novel solution. Optical light emitted from a red LED was used to create  binary pulses that distinguished digital 1’s and 0’s.

Toslink, or more accurately EIAJ optical, is the standard for using collimated light in the transmission of digital audio. Optical fibers are used as circular dielectric wave-guides that transport optical energy and information.

Early forms of this technology suffered from jitter (phase noise from inaccurate clocking) and data errors or drop outs from bandwidth-limited optical cables. Using digital audio chips with improved clocking and digital inputs aimed at reducing jitter is a good start, but to ensure those binary pulses of light reach your downstream component (i.e. DAC) without error requires a cable capable of delivering the full bandwidth spec of the Toslink standard.

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                                       Lifatec custom machined Toslink connectors

While I use AES digital connections in much of my professional audio work, Toslink optical interfaces are often the only available digital input/output for many consumer devices. Apple TV, Playstation, Roku, and most flat screen TV’s only provide optical outputs. With mixed results from Toslink cables made of plastic, I began researching Toslink cables made from glass fiber strands.

After some digging, I stumbled upon LiFaTeC® GmbH, and their North American partner Lifatec USA. The American firm specializes in using optical borosilicate fibers in lighting and sensing products for the medical market, and since 2000 Lifatec USA has been manufacturing glass Toslink cables in Elbridge New York – named the Silflex glass cables.

To achieve a bandwidth beyond the Toslink spec, Lifatec uses 470 glass fiber optic strands in the Silflex glass cables. These glass fibers are custom built specifically for audio data applications. Keeping these strands in place is a smooth outer jacket that encases the fine fibers called Optisilk. Before terminating the glass strands, the ends are bonded together and polished to a 1 micron optical finish (including the connector ferrule). Then, a custom machined Toslink connector that is both robust and lightweight ensures a tight connection without light leakage.

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Lifatec glass optical cable with mini Toslink connectors on one end (Apple Laptops)

For my testing, a 10 ft Lifatec Silflex cable was used to link digital audio sources with digital to analog converters. I used my Playstation and a Blu-Ray player’s optical output to send digital audio data to several DACs for testing. All of my DACs quickly locked to the incoming signals without a hiccup. Sonically, the sound of the Silflex glass cable was clear and transparent, imparting no sound of it’s own. The most important difference I found, when compared to other optical cables, was the tight fitting connector in the Lifatec cables. I used one optical cable where the manufacturer thought it was a good idea to machine a Toslink connector with an unnecessary amount of bulk, which added weight. This inferior connector (from a popular audiophile manufacturer) would easily fall out of the female Toslink socket, not so with the Lifatec cable.

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The custom machined Lifatec Toslink connector is both lightweight and tight fitting

After spending some time with these cables in my system, it became clear that the Lifatec cable was a well engineered product for optical audio transmission. Fine borosilicate fibers and smooth outer sleeving allow the cable to flex and fit around components with ease. The finely polished ends ensure a strong optical signal, and the robust/lightweight connectors prevent any light leakage. It is rare to find such a well thought out cable with quality in every part of the build. It’s even less common to find these high-end custom designs at real world prices. Without hesitation, it is my pleasure to recommend the Lifatec Silflex cable for all your optical audio connections.

Happy Listening!