The new Galaxy 32 Synergy Core 32-channel interface from Antelope Audio is something special. Advances in technology have made almost every converter on the market a viable option for professional studios. Of course, they all have a thing or two that makes them a little unique, but overall, everything within a certain price point sounds damn good these days.
It was time – perhaps long overdue. I had put off a major upgrade for one of my recording/mixing rigs as long as possible. My older Mac Pro tower and three loaded Avid HD 192s were a reliable setup for years. However, I got to the point most of us eventually do where I was simply unable to update software, use new plug-ins, etc. I mix using a hybrid setup, floating between a console or summing mixer, and I use a small to moderate amount of plug-ins. At the same time, I had been using the newest version of Pro Tools and the Cranborne Audio 500R8 500 Series chassis and interface [Tape Op #135] on a separate rig. For smaller mix projects, rough mixes, and demoing, this has been fantastic.
However, I wanted to be able to bring a hard drive home, sit by the fire after dinner, prep a mix, do session organization, and then be able to open that session at my studio. This was problematic with incompatible software versions, and session transfer from an older version of Pro Tools to the latest was a bit of a chore. After much research, I found myself enamored with the idea of Antelope’s new Galaxy 32 Synergy Core interface. It is a single rack space unit with 32 analog inputs and outputs, plus a fantastic complement of connectivity that includes Thunderbolt 3, 64-channels of Dante, 64-channels of MADI, as well as ADAT, S/PDIF, and two HDX ports with 64-channels of Pro Tools I/O. It also has one of the best interface clocks available, with word clock I/O, for connecting other converters to the Galaxy 32 Synergy Core. Whew. Did I mention you can use all this I/O simultaneously? Yeah. This interface gives you the flexibility to work in Pro Tools over HDX and another DAW application over Thunderbolt while using a total of up to 598 channels of I/O at the same time! Bonkers. It makes the unit incredibly flexible and useful in ways I may have not even considered.
The front panel has two small LCD screens that display a variety of metering options and a volume knob, used to either scroll through various menus or control the Galaxy 32 Synergy Core’s excellent sounding monitor section. A direct monitoring option is also available for no latency tracking.
One thing that sets this interface apart from many others is its unique software control panel.
At first, I must admit that I was a bit baffled and maybe intimidated when first installing the software and opening the control panel. I like to plug gear in and never think about it again. But after watching a bunch of videos, some trial and a bit of error on my part, and a couple of email exchanges with Antelope tech support, I started to get my head around the concept of this super flexible software patchbay. I also called my pal Riccardo Damian, a longtime Antelope user. I knew he’d have a more artistic and holistic explanation for this software. After a call or two to discuss getting my real-world signal flow to translate into the control panel, we got it all dialed in. It may be a slightly more complex setup than most because I mix with a lot of outboard gear, mix bus processing, and my Crane Song HEDD Quantum [Tape Op #129] for color before the mix prints back into Pro Tools. My physical patchbay was never an issue, but I was getting feedback loops, not hearing anything in some configurations, and a few other strange problems that were quickly resolved with a few simple drag and drop moves and a layman’s explanation of how Antelope’s control panel works. You can save different configurations for different setups, and once all physical connections are made on the device all routing can be done within the software. I work alone, so a “set it and forget it” approach works fine for me, but in a studio where multiple engineers had custom setup and routing preferences, they can all be stored and recalled easily. Yes, it is a tad overwhelming at first, but undoubtedly revolutionary once you get your head around it. Thanks, Riccardo!
The other thing worth mentioning is the Synergy Core processing onboard the Galaxy 32 Synergy Core. This section of the device offers six DSP and two FPGA processors to handle up to 128 simultaneous AFX (Antelope’s proprietary processing) plug-in instances without touching the computer’s CPU or memory. You do this all via the control panel, but Antelope will soon be introducing a plug-in that will set up the AFX plug-ins as instances within a DAW.
I found it a minor interruption in the workflow to move to the control panel from the DAW to instantiate a plug-in, but it was not that big a deal once I got the flow down. I’ll likely use more of their plug-ins when Antelope can provide the ability to do it right in my Pro Tools session.
I was shocked to see the array of AFX plug-ins and impressed by the sound of what I used. Since I am familiar with several of the hardware versions on which many of their plug-ins are based, I have to say I appreciated what I have used so far. The essence of each model was there, and I found them useful for many aspects of the mix.
In use, the Galaxy 32 Synergy Core is quite transparent. Everything was very clear, precise, and untouched. Mixes have come together with improved speed and confidence. The first mix I sent to a client came back with this reply: “Sounds amazing. Like, done amazing. Did you get this mastered?” What else do we want to hear from our clients? Subsequent mixes have also come together easily and quickly, with very few comments and nothing about balances, tones, relationships of instruments, or EQ choices.
I am spoiled with great monitors and an excellent sounding room, but the Galaxy 32 Synergy Core has made everything present in an honest and uncolored way. I feel confident that choices regarding levels, tone-shaping, and compression are the right ones.
To recap: pristine and transparent conversion, high-quality clocking, loads of connectivity (all available simultaneously), a drag and drop virtual patchbay, four onboard low-latency stereo mixers with 32 input channels each that can be split into individual cue mixes and sub-mixes (allowing one to adjust levels and panning while applying reverb and other effects), direct monitoring, custom presets, and insane amounts of onboard DSP processing power all in a single rack space unit. It can be painful to essentially chuck old hardware in the trash (I’m donating mine), but once I heard what I was missing, there was no going back. Fewer rack spaces, more power, and better sound with improved efficiency and workflow. It’s a no-brainer. I highly recommend the Galaxy 32 Synergy Core.