USB and MADI, Together At Last

Universal Serial Bus meets Multichannel Audio Digital Interface in Digico Solutions’ new UB>MADI device. The MADI protocol has been around since 1991. It gained prominence as digital audio began to be the norm and came to the forefront with sophisticated digital sound consoles as a way to connect a control surface to an engine. We love MADI because of its high channel-count per line capabilities and its ability to be sent over co-axial or fiber-optic cables at great lengths (up to 3,000 meters, they tell me).

Digico Solutions has been using MADI as the connection protocol between their DigiRacks, SD-Racks and assorted siblings and their control surfaces. In the realm of pro-audio, it has worked well and become standard. However, if you ever wanted to, say, connect a computer to a MADI system, you needed a PCI card, a computer that still has PCI card slots, and a lot of patience.

Digico’s new UB>MADI is a small, simple looking box that encompasses some amazing feats. USB 2.0 on one end and two BNC MADI connections on the other (In and Out), the interface is fully hot-pluggable and bus-powered. Inside is a ‘highly-tuned’ USB processor and driver that provides ‘industry-leading’ low latencies over USB 2.0. Because it looks to USB’s clock, jitter or synching with your system is never an issue.

There are drivers for both Windows and Intel-based Macintosh computers, impressive for a fairly Windows-centric company. With their drivers installed, you can plug the UB>MADI into your computer and be ready to record up to FORTY-EIGHT (that’s 48) channels of digital audio in a few moments. It’s really pretty amazing. Digico does wisely note that for successful recording of 48 tracks at 24-bits, you’ll need a fast and un-fragmented hard drive or solid state drive.

So this is all cool, but why might you want to do this? Recording: Your little laptop is now a 48-track hard disk recorder. Playback: Your little laptop can now play 48 discrete tracks of audio (granted you need a way convert it to analog eventually).

Put it all together and I can imagine adding one of these to my next rental and using it for a private rehearsal. I could link my laptop into the MADI network and then record all the channels of incoming audio in my musical. And then, when I’m doing notes, I could cue up my file and playback all 48 channels, right into the sound console and my engineer could work on the mix, as if everyone was playing and singing for real. Aside from that idea being really cool, it really has some pretty amazing real-world potential.

The UB>MADI should be available sometime very soon. More than just a cool little interface, I think it makes MADI much more user-friendly and relevant to what we do.

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