The Cranborne Audio 500ADAT is an 8-channel converter/expander for your current interface, with a built-in 500 Series rack, summing mixer, and monitor section that includes two separate headphone outputs. I have been using and enjoying the Cranborne 500R8 [Tape Op #135] and simply love it for the portability, sound, and simplicity – even though it does so much. The 500ADAT is an expansion unit that looks nearly identical to the 500R8 but with different features. It works seamlessly with the 500R8 but can also expand any interface that features ADAT input capability. A high-level features list includes an 8-channel high-performance A/D-D/A converter, master reference-quality internal clock, analog summing mixer, zero-latency artist mixer, two headphone outputs with independent blend and level controls, and a high-current 8-slot 500 Series rack. It is also compatible with Cranborne Audio’s C.A.S.T. system [#145] which enables integration with their other expanders, including snakes and headphone breakout boxes.

The rear panel features are as follows: eight XLR mic inputs with a TRS insert point for each channel, three stereo outputs, one stereo aux input, four C.A.S.T. inputs via CAT5, a C.A.S.T. connector for the 500R8, wordclock BNC I/O, clock settings for session sample rates up to 192 kHz, ADAT I/O, USB, and power connection. The front panel looks like many 500 Series racks, with eight slots, but adds two monitor controller sections with independent headphone outputs; volume and pan for each channel; a selector switch for C.A.S.T., analog, or ADAT; and a Chain switch that will link one 500 Series module to the next. Refer to the Cranborne website for in-depth technical and performance specifications.

I primarily use my Cranborne 500R8 for home and remote recording sessions. However, when I recently had a remote session that required more inputs than the 500R8 offers, I inquired about integrating the 500ADAT into my remote rig. Set up was quite simple. I loaded the 500ADAT with modules, connected the ADAT/optical cables from one unit to the other, selected the 500R8 in the audio set up menu of my laptop’s DAW, designated it as the output device, and I was rolling. Sean Karpowicz from Cranborne let me know that, with a firmware update, these units now can detect session sample rates automatically – if you are moving back and forth or switching sample rates frequently, this is a nice update. Not into firmware or convenience? You can adjust the sample rate via the small switches on the back of each unit instead.

Once I had the units linked and set up within Pro Tools, I had 16 inputs to work with between the 500R8 and 500ADAT, which was plenty for a live tracking session with a drum kit and single singer-songwriter. I didn’t need all 16 inputs, so I added a pair of RND compressors to two empty slots for some extra bus compression vibe when it came time to print some rough mixes.

One can, of course, route audio through individual channels on the 500R8 and 500ADAT as you would a console, and then sum the mix that way back into the DAW. If you prefer to keep it all in the box, select DAW as the output of all the tracks and do a bounce. Options! Also, adding the 500ADAT to my setup provided two more headphone/monitoring options, if needed. With the ability to use the C.A.S.T. breakout boxes for sending and receiving audio around the room (as far as 300 feet via a CAT5 cable), the Cranborne system becomes a very powerful and portable recording rig that can support a host of musicians’ monitoring needs.

I have recommended the Cranborne Audio gear to many friends, and I am still impressed by this unit’s build, sound quality, and convenience after heavy use. Having a variety of preamp options and processing modules available for a smallish laptop-based setup is a step up from the many “all in one solutions” available, and the ability to expand on a current audio interface’s capability is huge. Users of any ADAT-compatible interface that are looking to increase their inputs for tracking, bring their mixes out of the box for analog summing, get into the 500 Series modules game, or any of the other features the ADAT500 provides, will be more than happy with the sound, build, feature set, and customer service of a Cranborne Audio product.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More