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Antelope Zen Studio - thoughts and comparisons

I just got my hands on an Antelope Zen Studio today..

Cool unit.. very easy to use.. I'll be comparing it to a M audio Profire 2626 and Behringer Ada 8200 through an ancient RME digiset that was sold by Steinberg back in the day.

So far.. I've just had a chance to listen to some speaker test songs and I'm shocked that the difference in D/A between the Ada 8200 and Zen Studio is the same...

I didn't do a test tone.. just level matched as close as I could.. I had to set the output of the Zen to minus 19.. and the Rme to minus .5 To get things as even as possible.. will do a test tone tonight..

I'll also record some drums with all 3 units to see what's up with them..

So far I hear a big difference between the Profire 2626 and the RME/Behringer but none between the Zen and Rme/Behringer D/A wise.... I'm kinda shocked..

More tests are needed..

Any songs suggestions to listen to that would be good for comparisons showing depth and clarity?


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Chris Perra Thu, 09/08/2016 - 11:26

I haven't had a chance to use the internal preamps yet as I've been using my standalones.. When I get the firewire card for the Profire.. I'll do a run with the stock preamps.

It just takes awhile to get levels..Doing it by yourself it's time consuming.. With my stand alones it's just unplug from one and plug into another..

The levels are close enough that I just volume up or down in the daw..

The Zen is pretty cool... I like it..

For mixes.. I have a Jam hub.. So I take 8 outs and run it into that and people make their own mix. You can also use the adats to run outs if you need. If you're doing 96k only have the outs though.. Cubase has a Control room that If I figured out how it works can do cue mixes.. to be sent wherever you want..

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Chris Perra Wed, 09/28/2016 - 14:25

Ok,. So.. I did a bigger.. better test.. that was much more organized.. And I even added the profire.. at 44.1

I couldn't get the sample rate to change for the profire.... lots of problems with windows 10..

I did each sample rate run in the same project..and matched the volumes once set across the board.. No eq comp etc..
Only 8 mics ..

Motu Zen Behri and Profire at 44.1
Motu Zen and Behri at 48
Zen and Motu at 96

Things are very close.. too close... Personally I like the Motu the best.. When I get a chance I'll mp3 them and upload them but for now here's the 16 bit renders at 44.1.

I wish we could upload small waves here.. they are only 15 megs each..

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audiokid Thu, 09/08/2016 - 21:17

I too have thought about the Zen. The demo's I heard sound excellent. I'm looking forward to listening to these when I return off the road.

Chris Perra, post: 441093, member: 48232 wrote: One thing I don't like about the Zen is how hot it runs.. It's toasty...

That being said, keep in mind, heat can mean failure in time. Or, inconsistencies between the channels after some time. Op amps will do that. Maybe @Boswell can elaborate or confirm any of this? I had an issue years back even with 8 channels and hearing inconsistencies.

But this is only speculation for the Zen and a warning to myself, passing it on to others who may be aware of heat and to make sure you keep things cool as possible.
I've read most converters having more than 8 channels in a single rack unit tend to get hot. 8 seems to be the cap. Which may be why the higher end brands seem to stay at 8 channels per single rack. Prism puts 2 space for their 8 channel ADDA/pre combo.

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Chris Perra Thu, 09/08/2016 - 22:55

B seems a little quieter.. I'm going to try and get them more matched tomorrow..It's tricky.. They are 3 different performances.. 2 of which are the same input level wise and one is different.. I also phase aligned them so they will be slightly different in that way as well.

It's certainly not a scientific example.. But to me preamp and conversion wise.. and starting sample rate wise for the 96k with a unit that is 3 grand Cad. vs.. 250 each for the Behringer converters and around 1000 for the Rme digiset and pci card.. There should be a clear winner..

Is there anything anyone wants with individual files to be able to look at in detail?

I can upload the individual files if wanted..

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Chris Perra Tue, 09/20/2016 - 02:43

I have a Dsub to xlr cable.. just plugged in the xlrs.. and turned the level for the line in channels all the way up.. them turned the gain up a bit more in the daw.. Clean.. works fine... Drums are one thing.. I imagine you'll need a preamp for something quieter..

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audiokid Fri, 09/09/2016 - 13:37

pcrecord, post: 441138, member: 46460 wrote: With my earbuds on my laptop, I like the A and C better. They sound fuller..
I'll listen to them in the studio tomorrow ;)

This was my first thoughts as well but B also seemed to be more forward and tighter. Hard to really choose from these. A seems to be the most lost.
Nice playing.(y)

I would much prefer one crash hit 10 sec or less with the tail as long as you could get it. Do it to all three and I would study how it stayed in phase and also how the converters dealt with it all.
That's how I judge converters.

To add, All I need is 2 bars looping.

example: I stick each example (snare, kick, tom's etc...) one after the other, on the same channel in my DAW and (compare them on the same timeline). Its much easier to adjust volumes and focus one thing at a time. Meaning, I don't clutter the timeline with all the drums. I break it down to individual parts , put A, B, C on the same timeline and study how they perform.

Snare A, B, C, loop. Snare A, B, C, loop. Snare A, B, C, loop. Snare A, B, C, loop.

Tom A, B, C, loop, Tom A, B, C, loop, Tom A, B, C, loop
and so on.

I firmly believe we loose the ability to judge something after a few secs. Even having to pause to switch a channel is distracting. This is why I loop a few bars and keep them all on the same channel in my DAW.
I even do this when Null testing.
Works well for me.

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Chris Perra Tue, 09/20/2016 - 04:32

Ok. So here's The built in pres of the Behringer and Zen Studio matched a s evenly as I could.. On the other ones previous there was some buss compression.. this one is just a limiter and an apogee dither set to low..

Here's the waves at 16 bit 44.1

Built in A

Built in B

Attached files

Built in A.mp3 (4.9 MB)  Built in B.mp3 (4.8 MB) 

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Chris Perra Tue, 09/20/2016 - 11:14

These tests make me wonder about gear.. I don't think there's a perfect way to test stuff like this with a live performance..
Even splitting the signal will make things sound slightly different.. I suppose playing back a physical piano with mechanical automation would be the best way..

Both of these setups are to me completely useable.. different, but everything is... Neither is so bad you can't use it.. or wouldn't want to.. Which is what the Behringer stuff is supposed to be.. The Zen does do all the sample rates.. and it's feature set is impressive for 1 rack space.. I'm renting the Zen.. thinking about buying it.. But so far can't see why I'd need to..

In the previous stand alone preamp tests...

A was the Zen tracked at 96
B was the Zen tracked at 44.1
C was the Behringer at 44.1

I'm wondering if it was my mixing that made the difference.. The Zen should be noticeably better.. I don't see it with that test or the built in preamp tests.

I can upload the raw files to my FTP if someone wants to analyze them and check stuff out for themselves..

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Chris Perra Tue, 09/20/2016 - 12:28

So.. I the interest of doing this a thorough as possible.. I redid some takes.. The previous all had Uad Oceanway room sims on individual channels. Each drum had a different ratio of room vs source sound to simulate being in a real room.

These are all dry.. In the interest of seeing if the plug in was coloring things... Once again hard to get exact levels.. Once again I can upload the raw tracks if wanted..




Attached files

A no room.mp3 (6.8 MB)  B no room.mp3 (5.6 MB)  C no room.mp3 (6.9 MB)