Synthax Audio UK speaks to Andrew Horsburgh, Lecturer in Media Technology at Southampton Solent University, about using the Ferrofish A16 MK-II for surround sound, spatial audio and VR.
Offering a broad range of media technology degrees that include audio engineering and broadcast systems engineering, Southampton Solent University is naturally home to a state-of-the-art media academy.
However, it’s the innovative research work conducted at Solent that prompted Synthax Audio UK to get in touch with Andrew Horsburgh, Senior Lecturer in Media Technology, about his use of the Ferrofish A16 MK-II multi-channel interface.
Andrew explains, "Here at Solent we're always looking to work with the latest technology – either in video or sound. In recent years the two have aligned, using virtual reality (VR) and high dynamic range visuals with Dolby Atmos, and we've recently built a new laboratory to help our students get a grasp of what's possible today in VR."
The design of the room required close collaboration between the audio- and visual-focused teams within the department, with Andrew outlining the room's sound system: "The room has been designed around immersive technologies – specifically VR and spatial audio."
“Previously we had two 5.1 rooms that catered for the surround sound aspect, but nothing that really tied into the larger channel counts and independent listening arrays that our research projects require."
The choice of a Ferrofish was easily made, Andrew says, "because of the high sample rates, the MADI interface, front-panel metering, and internal mixer. Going beyond eight analogue outputs that can be fed a clocked signal and have their outputs controlled as a group is absolutely essential. The Ferrofish gives us complete control over our inputs and outputs with ease.”
“The Ferrofish gives us complete control
over our inputs and outputs with ease.”
Ferrofish A32, A32 Dante & Pulse 16 AD/DA Converters
German manufacturer Ferrofish specialises in the production of compact and cost-effective AD/DA converters, designed to meet the needs of professional audio projects that require a high channel count. A popular choice for studio, broadcast and installations, Ferrofish have also continued to find success in the live music sector, with artists including Disclosure, Ellie Goulding, Olly Murs and One Direction, Lily Allen and Emeli Sandé all featuring Ferrofish as part of their touring rigs.
The range has also been extended in recent years to include the Ferrofish A32, which manages to pack even more channels into a single 1U housing, with 32 analogue inputs and 32 analogue outputs, plus both ADAT and MADI I/O. The digital connectivity options have also been further expanded with the release of the Ferrofish A32 Dante, which adds an additional set of I/O for the increasingly popular Dante format.
The Ferrofish A32 Dante is the company's latest high-channel AD/DA converter, and features analogue, ADAT, MADI and Dante I/O.
With Ferrofish continuing its ongoing research into cutting-edge audio technologies, the Ferrofish A16 MK-II was recently discontinued, in order to make way for the arrival of the new Ferrofish Pulse 16. Featuring the same silver-front panel of the Ferrofish A32, the Pulse 16 combines the updated specification and components of the A32 with the 16 in, 16 out design of the A16 MK-II. Other features include the newly updated informative TFT displays, with comprehensive full channel-metering for all inputs and outputs from the unit itself; an onboard contextual manual, quickly accessible at any time via the displays; 96 kHz operation for all channels via S/MUX; and remote control of the unit via MIDI. A version with MADI I/O is also currently in development, and should be available later this year.
Ferrofish recently introduced the Ferrofish Pulse 16, the new update to the Ferrofish A16 MK-II.
Mixing and routing with multiple outputs
Andrew explained the technical challenge of dealing with the outputs. "The newly installed system features 26 Genelec 8020 loudspeakers, and four accompanying subwoofers – with each output coming from the computer via a MADI stream.”
“Our subwoofers are fed on a separate matrix for flexibility and the Ferrofish allows us to both feed it signals and adjust the gains digitally with no signal degradation. Spatial audio and the creation of auditory images requires the output hardware to be as transparent as possible. Without the Ferrofish, providing the results that we do would be much harder."
So, is managing so many loudspeakers and complex routing difficult? "Not at all! The students can save presets of calibrated values for their mixing projects, and I can save presets of installations and loudspeaker rig sizes. Recalling those make the rigging and de-rigging when we take our system out to demonstrations much easier."
"The reliability, build quality, ease of use, and most
importantly the sound quality – they’re all fantastic.”
"The reliability, build quality, ease of use, and most importantly the sound quality – they’re all fantastic. We'll certainly consider Ferrofish next time we expand our loudspeaker setup!"
Our thanks to Andrew Horsburgh and Southampton Solent University.