Focusrite 18i20 Revision One

Focusrite 18i20 Release One

As an avid user and lover of the Focusrite mic preamps I recently found my preamp had a broken button for the +48V phantom supply.  As one part of the button had broken off I tried to find the missing part and try a quick fix. Since I had to open the unit I’ll share some thoughts.

The 18i20 uses Cirrus Logic CS4272 114 dB, 24-Bit, 192 kHz Stereo Codec A/D DACs, JRC4565 (New Japanese Radio Company) and HEF4053 triple single pole double throw analogue switches.

Although I paid way over market RRP for the unit they were in scarce local supply when ordered so I wasn’t too surprised. As a DAC it’s absolutely incredible and although giving spec lower than some of the others giving a more optimistic SNR there is absolutely no audible noise.  I use Eltax Millenium 500 speakers in the sound system as the main drivers along with some cheap arsed Sansui’s and although the Eltax speakers are supposedly entry level and bass heavy I have not found this to be the case. As a rule this website is not critical of other products, we aren’t a Phile Critics Zine Zone, the Eltax 500s perform very well on higher powered amplifiers. I also use RCF Ayra 8 monitors for mixing.  The Focusrite – Behringer NU6000 mix makes for good listening and although the Golden Eared fraternity may cringe I think the match is pretty good. The Eltax btw handle an input power of about 400W admirably with absolutely no audible distortion.

XMOS - USB, AVB, I2C, TDM, S/PDIF, DSD and ADAT
XMOS – USB, AVB, I2C, TDM, S/PDIF, DSD and ADAT

The first revision 18i20 may not have the newer GUI of the newer version, neither the latency but it doesn’t really make a difference in the grand scheme of things. But you should be able to pick up the older version now quite cheaply which makes it a very attractive purchase. I have read a lot about out of box failures etc but if you are on the lookout for an 8 input mixer I cannot think of one thing which is against the Focusrite.  Oh, I wish they had used alloy knobs and buttons, plastic doesn’t do this product justice. Let ist cost more, this is a beautiful product.

Focusrite 18i20 1st Edition top cover removed
Focusrite 18i20 1st Edition top cover removed

As far as DACs go, I cannot fault the unit. I don’t particularly like the mixing software, more to get the hang of  the I/O but it’s not a difficult learning curve. I believe Numero Dos (and no, not the “gonna have a number two” kind) has what I would term more efficient software, shorter and more understandable mixing software.

If you are planning to purchase a digital mixer in the near future to do recording/mixing through USB, give it a try. All of the models are similar except of course for the amount of available channels.

More info coming up in a future column.

The MicroKorg and other Best Selling Synth

Korg M1 - By Deepsonic, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66234414

Best selling synthesisers of all time

Just in case you may have the MicroKorg don’t be too surprised to know that it may just be one of the best selling synthesisers of all time.  Without having the data from any manufacturer readers may not be entirely convinced but considering that they have been manufactured since 2002 reflects the popularity of this model series.

The pure versatility that digital or DSP driven synths brought to the market ensured a very quick surge in sales especially in the home and garage band amateur and pro space. Having purchased a CZ1000 in the mid 80s whilst in Yokohama it became more a showpiece until a musician friend showed me the full potential. Sadly it was stolen about two years later, possibly as a result of its popularity. 😈  Continue reading “The MicroKorg and other Best Selling Synth”

More about DACs – the A/D Converter

M-Audio Fast Track Duo

The A/D Converter – pushing vinyl to digital

The common and garden DAC can be picked up cheaply at most electronic stores, ready to run straight from your CD player through optical (Toslink) or coax and used to drive your analogue only system.

Although these little units are cheap by comparison to high end products being portable they can be used in most cases where a device does not have an analogue output so you really don’t have to trash your vintage equipment.

Going higher end there are literally hundreds of different brands to choose from, most having bidirectional data lines through USB which allows one to input binary and output analogue or vice versa through ADAT (Toslink) usually.

Behringer U-Phoria UMC20
Behringer U-Phoria UMC20 – Audio Mart and Sound Select

For anyone wishing to record vinyl to their computer one would need a RIAA spec preamplifier. For tape or cassette deck the line outputs would suffice but in most cases non-professional decks would need further amplification. Why? Continue reading “More about DACs – the A/D Converter”

Vintage Audio Vs Modern Technology

Is vintage audio better than modern releases?  (post 2000)

This reminds me of the first argument I had regarding the merits of mechanical VU meters over LED.

Yeah, we like vintage stuff, especially with those big VU meters. Hell, I was looking at the specs of the Pioneer SX-1980 the other evening and thought  what a beast this must have been in the 1980s. At 270W this is certainly by no stretch of the imagination much in modern times thanks to PWM, Class D and mounted on a one inch square heatsink.

McIntosh_MA6800
McIntosh MA6800

en:McIntosh Labs MA6800 amplifier. *Source:  *Credit: [http://www.flickr.com/people/ux/ Akira Kamikura] *License: cc-by-2.0 {{cc-by-2.0}}

Continue reading “Vintage Audio Vs Modern Technology”

Electronic Circuits for Beginners

Electronic Circuits for Beginners - Prototyping

What to look for when starting out – Electronic circuits for beginners

What is the attraction behind electronics?  This is a sore topic in many South African circles chiefly because the architects of education are failing the academia, the principals and the teachers.  This in turn fails the learners, our future. This article, “Electronic Circuits for beginners” was written for grade 8 learners and in subsequent articles will hopefully add some value and direction to your schooling.  Education does not stop when you leave the classroom.

Electronic Circuits for Beginners - IoT
Electronic Circuits for Beginners – IoT – the spares box

Anybody whom loves reading should get a copy of the book “Elon Musk – How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our Future” by Ashlee Vance.  Musk has all the makings of not just a great scientist and entrepreneur but a great leader.  He is regarded somewhat as an opportunist. Ditto Bill Gates and the gone but never forgotten Steve Jobs.

Electronic circuits for beginners – making a career choice Continue reading “Electronic Circuits for Beginners”

Micro and Mini sound systems versus Dock

Logitech Bluetooth Receiver

The iPod Dock and Other Things

One of our readers,  13 year old Craig wants to know why we don’t do reviews, especially on docking stations.  Unfortunately as we don’t retail products and neither get support from resellers or manufacturers in this beautiful land of ours this can be pretty difficult unless we go out and buy the stuff ourselves.

Castle Knight 1
Castle Knight 1

What I can tell you is that over the years a common problem picked up is dirty or broken contacts in the dock which although replaceable does make it a weak link in the interface.  Line inputs are a better way to go but now that from Bluetooth 2.0 and up, wireless seems to be the cheaper and more practical way to go.   Docking stations are still popular but the home user wants more exciting permutations. Continue reading “Micro and Mini sound systems versus Dock”

A Lecture on IoT- where we are headed

The Internet of Things – better things to come still

We recently ran an article called “IoT – A cynics viewpoint of the Internet of Things“. The thing is it wasn’t that cynical.  Nowadays we have Cloud Services, simply put, running our applications on a rental server.   As luck would have it, both are a going to be a requirement, if not now, in the very near future.

IoT or The Internet of Things is a required training program I need to pass on to colleagues at work. Yes, my real job, the one that pays the bills.  Question is, where does one start? Continue reading “A Lecture on IoT- where we are headed”

Audiophile Class D – Part Two

Audiophile Class D – Part Two – Practical Examples

Just before we get started, Kenneth, a reader wants to know why if we claim to be “Analogians” why we keep on harping on Class D?  I think an explanation by way of clarification is necessary.

Kenneth, although the name of the website is a play on words, my name is Ian, we do understand the importance of digital electronics. Actually just as important and in many cases more so than analogue.  I do not think that a switching amplifier is indeed a digital device even if the PWM and switcher itself are controlled by DSP. The raw class D amplifier has a triangle waveform generator, a comparator and PWM.  If digital is all around bit-rate and 0s and 1s at a predefined 5V level then this is surely not digital.  Just as if a rail shifting amplifier can be made to switch to various voltage levels through a digitally controlled switch it does not necessarily make the amplifier a digital one.  What does seem to be the tendency is that switching amplifiers are being termed more “digital” now than ever and this is going to stick.  Possibly we do need to have a more inventive description however. 

Moving on…..

Practical examples of Class D Continue reading “Audiophile Class D – Part Two”

Applying Digital Electronics to Stomp Boxes

Simplifying matters with the Arduino Due – Digital Stomp Boxes

Stomp boxes have been with us for ages, giving Hendrix, Slash, Gilmour and Page their famous signatures.  Of course the older stomp boxes were tube and semiconductor devices, the diodes and transistors used being more often the Germanium type and even today the Ge semiconductor is a sought after  commodity for it’s own unique blend of sound.  Continue reading “Applying Digital Electronics to Stomp Boxes”