I've mentioned a number of times that I find the sound of the 192 I/O for Pro Tools HD disappointing. For what it costs, the fact that it comes with eight mediocre channels of analog I/O is kinda ridiculous. Sure it comes with eight additional channels of digital I/O, with a maximum of sixteen channels if you switch the built-in lightpipe to ADAT optical mode. And for even more money, you can add option cards to give you eight more channels of analog or digital I/O. But the most you can have active is sixteen channels. That's why I was so excited when SSL shipped me an XLogic Delta-Link MADI HD. 64 channels of digital I/O for PT HD from a single, 1RU-height box. (64 channels at 44.1/48 kHz, 32 at 88.2/96 kHz, and 16 at 192 kHz.) With a latency of one sample out, two samples in. For less than the cost of a 192 I/O. If you have MADI connectivity in your studio, this is an absolute slam dunk.
I installed the Delta-Link in my Isobox above my rackmounted Mac and connected a duplex fiber-optic cable between it and my MADI-equipped Sony DMX-R100 console. Already the dollar signs were flipping in my cartoon eyes. The 33 ft fiber optic cable cost me less than $50; imagine the cost of a 64-channel AES/EBU snake (32 stereo feeds in each direction) and what a pain it would've been to pull that through conduit. The regular PT HD interface cables from the HD cards plugged into the back of the Delta-Link. And then I daisy-chained my RME ADI-658 MADI/ADAT router to the Delta-Link, affording me digital connectivity to my TASCAM MX-2424 24-track recorder (Tape Op #22) and my Apogee Rosetta 800 (Tape Op #40). I could now use the converters on any of these devices with PT HD-about 96 channels of converters at PT's disposal. And with virtually zero-latency, I was free to route up to 56 channels in each direction between PT and my console (the DMX-R100 only supports 56-channel MADI, not 64-channel)-very cool for me because I prefer to mix on my console, and I use its built-in dynamics and EQ extensively.
Admittedly, setup of all this wasn't easy-as-pie. I had to configure the Delta-Link for "special" mode to be able to hang two MADI devices off of it. The manual explains this well, but due to the lack of any buttons on the front-panel, you control the Delta-Link by setting the Output Trim buttons in PT's Hardware Setup window. Yes, you read this right, and it is a little weird, but at least this is an elegant kludge, considering no drivers or special software need to be installed. But what the manual doesn't explicitly state is that you have to use the Internal clock setting in PT despite the fact that you're clocking the Delta-Link via its external WC input. This requirement took me a while to figure out, and it was only after studying the screenshots in the manual that I realized this was the case. But once the Delta-Link was set up, there was nothing really to tweak.
Okay, so you have PT HD but you don't have MADI? Well, a number of vendors (including RME as mentioned above) have MADI solutions. But if you want to stay in the family, look into SSL's Alpha-Link range of MADI converters that cover analog, AES/EBU, and ADAT conversion. Hang one or more of these suckers off the Delta-Link with low-cost fiber, and you too can have a bajillion channels of PT I/O in whatever format you like! ($3595 MSRP; www.solid-state-logic.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.