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DiGiGrid IOX - Expansion Audio Interface Reviews

5.0 stars based on 2 customer reviews
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  • from NC September 29, 2016

    The best

    I'm impressed by work the DigiGrid IOX this is powerful tool.

  • from Redmond, WA May 12, 2015Music Background:
    Musician/Studio Owner (Tape -> ADAT -> PT (1998))

    IOX a great recording room box

    The Bottom line:
    I love the IOX! The IOX is pretty much a perfect recording room interface (IMO of course) because it sounds great (excellent converters, very good preamps) has four independent software assignable headphone feeds and 6 line outs. All of this in a silent, one rack space box that only needs an Ethernet cable back to your computer (or SoundGrid server and then to your computer). I could see hanging on to a favorite channel or two of analog mic pre, EQ and compression for their particular sounds but with this thing and all the plugins available - you don’t have to.

    I have a two room setup with 60 foot runs between them (a live room and a large mix room). For many years I have run 24 channels of custom built Mogami snakes between them
    (16 in 8 out) . With the IOX I could have 12 input and 6 output channels in the live room (all I really need) and just one Ethernet cable. Adding a second IOX and doubling the I/O is just a simple short Ethernet cable from the first IOX to the second. Even changing things around is no issue. Compare that to 1 or 2 days of taking everything apart and putting it all back together today to make a major change.

    The full layout of my space has the live room - lets put the IOX in there - Ethernet to a storage closet 35 feet away - DLS in there as just a SoundGrid server - Ethernet to the mix station (50 feet away) where I could easily place a second IOX (to be replaced by an IOC when released). Done! Note: I have been using the DigiGrid system since December 2014 and the main thing I can say is that it works like its supposed to.

    The System:
    For those of you who are not well acquainted with the SoundGrid system:
    SoundGrid is the name of the technology created by Waves for routing audio over Ethernet. DigiGrid is the name of the joint partnership between Waves and DigiCo to manufacture the DigiGrid I/O boxes. Though not required, to run all the low latency features of this system and to do CPU offloading of plugins requires a SoundGrid Server. These servers use standard Intel CPUs and are Linux based devices designed for doing all the real time SoundGrid processing.

    The IOX is a SoundGrid Interface (no integral SoundGrid Server) with a two port Network switch for expanding the system. Besides the SoundGrid components the IOX also includes 12 analog line inputs with Mic preamps and A/D plus 6 line outputs and four headphone outputs (with associated D/A).

    Sound Tests
    Most of what I do is focused on solo Finger-style acoustic guitar, Vocal oriented singer songwriter material with small groups and Jazz. My first set of tests were done using a spaced pair of mics on the acoustic (Lawson L47 and Gefell M300) into an NPNG dual mic preamp whose output was split to the IOX (zero gain on the preamps) and an AVID 16X16 I/O (connected to SoundGrid via a DLI). To my ears there was no significant difference between the conversion on the AVID and the IOX. I repeated this test with Male vocals a little later using a Flea 47 into a GTQ2 preamp that was then split to the AVID I//O and the IOX. Again, no significant difference.

    I continued testing by focusing on the IOX preamps versus the outboard ones. In these tests I split the microphone feed to the IOX and the other preamp (no EQ or FX). These were then fed to IOX input channels. For the M300 I used a separate phantom power box.

    With solo finger-style acoustic I heard a small difference in both NPNG and John Hardy M1 versus the IOX preamps. The NPNG followed to a lesser degree by the JH have a small increase in brightness, note separation and clarity in the higher melody notes. We are talking a 5% change that you have to A/B to hear but its there. Once I went to strummed Singer Songwriter style the difference in the guitar sound was much smaller. I was hard pressed to hear it at all. The NPNG and John Hardy were just a little brighter but nothing that would be any issue in the final mix.

    With male vocals I heard no significant difference between the GTQ2 preamp to the IOX or AVID converters - just like in the Acoustic Guitar recordings. What I didn’t expect was that I also heard no significant difference between GTQ2 and IOX preamps. My thoughts are that the voicing of the IOX preamps is just a little more in the GTQ2 vein as opposed to the ultra clean that NPNG is known for .

    To me the IOX preamps are very good but the boutique ones have a particular sound that some may find compelling enough to invest in. Regardless, I am confident that any of these will make a great recording. For comparison, the NPNG Dual Mic Preamp costs $2600 and the John Hardy M1 dual is ~$1900 with dual output transformers. The IOX sells on Sweetwater for $2244.

    In all of these tests I have no doubt that others will find differences that I did not. Whether these are significant is always in the users opinion. For me and what I believe to be the overwhelming majority of users out there, the preamps and converters of the IOX (and IOS) are excellent sounding and will make great recordings.

    Odds and Ends:
    The four programmable headphone outputs sounded great and I loved being able to quickly assign anything I want to them in software. No need for a separate box, patch bay and all the associated wiring.

    Although you can run a studio with just the IOX, to access all the low latency features and host CPU plugin offloading requires a SoundGrid Server. This can be as simple as a adding a SoundGrid Server One ($1400 list), SoundGrid Extreme ($2490 list), a DLS or even an IOS. To me, not having a server is to miss out on many of SoundGrids best features for recording musicians and studios.

    I measured the Analog in to Analog out latency using an Oscilloscope and function generator in SoundGrid mode with a DigiGrid DLS as the SoundGrid server. These were seen to be 1.7ms/2.8ms (96kHz/44.1kHz). These are independent of the DAW buffer and are as good or better than AVID HD Native at the lowest buffer setting in Pro Tools 11
    (1.7ms/3.4ms (96kHz 64Buffer)/(44.1kHz 32 Buffer)).

    Same as the first line - I love the IOX!

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