The IOS is KILLER!!!
I run Pro Tools 11HD with a Waves IOS, and Pro Tools HD Native PCIe with HD I/O 16x16 and a 192 16x8.
I also run Logic Pro X, DSP Quattro, Final Cut Pro X, and Live sound.
The IOS covers a lot of bases for me; I/O, DSP, improvements to Monitoring, and my workflow and functionality in general; it's also a great integration between studio and live.
My system performs better, but more importantly -- working with the SoundGrid Network in conjunction with Pro Tools HD has actually inspired better performances and mixes.
Real world application:
Right out the box you'll be up and running in no time. So, while I had been running with a PCIe HD Native Card, now that I've worked with Waves hardware, I am switching my entire rig over and parting ways with my Avid gear.
For me, this is great. I am impressed with what my Mac Pro 5,1 Hex 3.33 with 32GB RAM will handle, but I have had some larger sessions (Songs) that got close to being capped out. With the IOS I'm not even close! HUGE sessions with HUNDREDS of plugins, and my Mac Pro is still sitting there trucking along at 10%, and I can still track into the session without any dropouts or buffer issues, and monitor with plugins, all at super low latency !!!
My workflow is substantially improved as I no longer have to be cautious of playback buffers, and I can track into a session at any time without any workarounds whatsoever. So, I can start recording directly into session templates with loads of plugins, without having to worry about buffer and latency conflicts inherent to native systems.
Set and forget your playback engine buffer. No need to fiddle around. You can track into a hefty session late in the game, without buffer concern, no matter how crazy heavy it is on plugs (so long as they are in SoundGrid DSP mode via StudioRack), and track with virtually zero latency.
Sound Grid Studio and eMotion Mixer:
I strongly suggest reading the manual and putting focus into understanding the routing and mixer as much as possible in order to configure everything to best suite your needs. There is more than one way to skin the cat here.
SoundGrid Studio automatically maps your I/O to a standard 1 to 1 fashion so you are up and running immediately, but it is also fully customizable to fit whatever workflow and routing you can dream up – and then some...
For personal monitoring, eMotion Mixer can provide you with custom headphone mixes in super low latency.... It can operate independent of the Pro Tools mixer and playback buffer, and the IOS allows you to input monitor at 1.5ms at 96KHz. The StudioRack plugin component can be set to Auto and automatically handle these input monitoring modes, keeping the workflow in the DAW seamless. When you enter record mode in Pro Tools, audio is split as it enters the IOS. One split feeds eMotion and SoundGrid Studio for monitoring or other routing, while the other feeds your DAW for recording, thereby skipping the round trip through the DAW mixer. Think of this as a splitter. In Auto mode, Hit record and StudioRack switches to Input and you get a signal for monitoring that skips the DAW Mixer. Exit record, and the track automatically goes back to normal/playback. For monitoring effects, eMotion offers insertion of up to 8 plugins per channel, so setting up effects for you talent monitoring is easy, and the setups can be saved (and set to default), so you really only need to do this once.
So, in Record mode, the Studio Rack Sends (which feed the Aux's/Groups in eMOTION) are enabled, and the talent gets a direct feed from the IOS input with whatever plugs I instantiate in eMOTION ST.
Playback mode for monitoring in headphone cues, I use sends from the DAW to feed eMOTION ST input channels.
The channel and aux/group outputs are set routed to feed our personal monitor systems (Hear Technologies).
The switch takes place automatically, and the talent gets headphone feeds from either source without me having to do anything.
Because I am routed this way, I can use the eMOTION channel faders to match levels between playback and record, so there is no discrepency in the levels I am feeding the talent.
This has been a very fast and efficient workflow for me, and my clients love that they can get better headphone feeds with near limitless plugin setups now.
There is also less time involved in configuring session or monitoring changes in the event of overdubs late in a session.
A novel could be written on everything you can do with SoundGrid Studio and the eMotion Mixer routing and configuration, so I'm going to move on...
I've been using the IOS for live production. Waves MultiRack SoundGrid lets me insert into analog consoles, insert into some digital consoles, and I can also stab directly into loads of digital consoled with the Waves cards. Alternatively, MultiRack Native allows me to also plug directly into lots of digital consoles direcltly as well! This allows me to run my Waves Plugins for Live Production, as well as use Tracks Live to record shows, as well as run Virtual Soundchecks and be really dialed for the band before they ever set foot on stage!
Along with the IOS, my plan is to add a pair of IOX's so I will have 32 I/O, which will also allow me to use them as a stage box, and my snake will then be nothing more than a single Cat5e/6 cable !!!! No more pulling hundreds of pounds of copper hundreds of feet to FOH or Monitors. Goodbye Quarter Pack. My back loves this.
One thing I have been doing with a smaller channel count group, is running their entire show into and out of eMOTION mixer, track for track, with individual channels feeding FOH post effects but Pre Fade. Then, I am feeding talent custom monitor mixes from within eMOTION. This is killer, as we have the show really dialed, so our sound follows us from gig to gig, right from where we patch in on stage. It couldn't be any quicker and easier. This also allows us to maintain their sound, even if we are not running FOH for the show. It also makes the techs job easier.
For small gigs where we bring their PA, we are also running PA from the same rig, and mix the show from eMOTION. This is a VERY flexible solution I had not even considered prior to working with the IOS! Now all we need is a touch screen, or iPad app!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A very cool feature.... CHANNEL STRIPs can be shared between StudioRack (DAW), eMOTION, and MultiRack.
This is AMAZINGLY useful, as I have used Tracks Live to record shows. Then, I took those back to the studio, mixed them to get everything super dialed from in a studio setting, then saved each channels StudioRack settings, and imported them into both eMOTION and MultiRack. VERY VERY VERY COOL! This is a huge convenience and a huge time saver. It improved the quality of shows having had the opportunity to use the same plugins both live and in the studio, and to work with the same source material from a real show, in a controlled environment, save my channel settings, and then return those settings back to the live production environment.
These are incredibly flexible systems. There isn't anything I've been able to think of that I couldn't do with it.
The DSP (and I/O) Powerhouse:
The IOS offers up to 64 voices for DSP. A Mono instantiation of StudioRack is 1 voice. A Stereo instantiation of StudioRack is 2 voices. Each instantiation has 8 plugin slots. So, 64 Mono instantiatons equals up to 512 plugins to be hosted via DSP (256 Stereo). Sessions with DSP instantiations are fully compatible for systems without SoundGrid hardware. StudioRack automatically handles this, and runs in Local mode without a server.
Note Regarding Pro Tools: Pro Tools limits 3rd Party interfaces to 32 Channels I/O.... So, while the SoundGrid network works to it's full capability of up to 128 channels in other DAWs, in Pro Tools it is limited to 32 I/O (However, the server still retains it's 64 voices for DSP)... More than 32 can be connected, but only 32 can be active and seen at a time. This can be configured and changed in SoundGrid Studio, and can be saved as presets for fast and easy recall. (Again, this is a limitation of Pro Tools... So, a user could run more channels of I/O in other DAWs)
Just a Cat5e/6 cable away.... I can now easily and cost effectively add Converters, Remote Controlled Mic Pre's, Custom Mixed Headphone Distribution with Effects, and more DSP with just a single cable (DiGiGrid Hardware).
The system can easily and cost effectively grow with me as needed. I can also easily take my rig with me with a laptop. I can also easily integrate into live rigs.
Pro's & Con's:
Pro's: Easy initial set up. Super low latency! (1.5ms at 96KHz). Set and forget your playback engine buffer. Up to 512 plugin instantiations via DSP. Greater routing flexibility than within the DAW itself. Use multiple DAWs, other applications, or computers, simultaneousy and also seamlessly route between them. Use your plugins in live production in an extremely stable environment and in a very portable system (with either eMOTION, or MultiRack).
Con's?: Complex routing capabilities can take some time to get your head around fully. Fan in the IOS will remind you of the fans in the Avid HD I/O or 192, so be prepared for that.