Just how much audio I/O for your computer can you cram into a single rackspace? If you’re Antelope Audio, the answer is 32 inputs and 32 outputs with the groundbreaking new Orion 32 audio interface for Mac and PC! Not only that, but the Orion 32 also manages to include full metering for all 64 of those connections on the front panel, and it has a full-fledged MADI port and an additional 16 channels of ADAT optical I/O around back. Despite all this, the Orion only consumes 15 watts of power, so heat isn’t an issue. This means that you can pack it into a rack with other gear, keeping your studio or remote recording rig manageable.
The Orion includes Antelope’s 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking with an Atomic Input and an oven-controlled crystal oscillator for stability and optimum performance. There are four extra word clock connections for distributing clock to your other gear. Here’s the really big news: you can achieve 32 channels of 192kHz/24-bit audio to and from your computer using Antelope’s proprietary driver software and custom USB chip. Read that again — that sort of performance is unheard of using USB! Antelope is setting a new standard for USB performance, size versus I/O ratio, and price per channel here, folks. Call me a nerd, but I think that’s exciting stuff!
In use, the Orion is a breeze. Plug it in, install the software, and start working. The desktop application for Mac and Windows is easy to navigate, yet it allows pretty much any input format to be routed to any output format, sent to/from the computer, to be monitored — it’s a versatile console app that allows you to configure a variety of I/O routings. You can even set up five presets for easy recall of your most-used Orion routings — one for tracking, one for mixing through a summing box, one for surround monitoring, and so on. The same application also provides a mixer for latency-free monitoring when you are tracking.
I tested the Orion 32 with a wide range of programs running on my Mac: Avid Pro Tools 10, PreSonus Studio One, MOTU Digital Performer, Propellerhead Reason, Steinberg Wavelab and Cubase, Ableton Live, and more. In each case, the Orion was rock solid. BONUS: the Orion 32 is also iOS compatible — yes, you can use it as a multichannel interface for your iPad running Auria, Multitrack DAW, Cubasis, or other audio apps!
I’m impressed with the support that Antelope Audio is providing for the Orion. In the time that I have had the unit in my rig, the company has released several driver and software updates, each moving the performance of the unit forward. I like seeing this sort of support and responsiveness from a company when I’m investing in the gear they make — it bodes well for long-term future support.
So, we’ve established that Orion packs a ton of punch into a single rack, brings new level of performance to USB connectivity, and dramatically increases the price per I/O jack quotient. But the big question is, how does it sound? Can a box with this sort of value proposition and connectivity really deliver reference-level sound quality? In a word, absolutely! I found the Orion to sound (or not sound, depending on how you look at it) transparent and…perhaps “neutral” is a good word here. I mean that in a positive way; the Orion doesn’t hype the sound, yet it provides excellent detail and full-range tonality with natural dynamic response. I have no hesitation recommending this unit based on sound quality!
To sum up, Antelope Audio has done an amazing job with the Orion 32. It’s an ideal interface for those with heavy tracking needs, those who mix through summing boxes or analog mixers, and those who want to integrate hardware processors into a DAW-based rig. If you want maximum I/O bang for your buck and minimum space requirement per channel of I/O, combined with top-notch audio quality, you can’t beat the Antelope Audio Orion 32!