These days, built-in DSP has become something of an expectation when it comes to higher-end audio interfaces. Antelope Audio, in particular, has earned a reputation over the years as being one of the more eminent companies who have embarked on this front.
A somewhat recent addition from Antelope Audio is none other than the Orion Studio Synergy Core. In this review, I’ll be taking a closer look at the unit to see whether or not it deserves your attention.
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Final verdict on the Orion Studio Synergy Core
The Orion Studio Synergy Core is a stellar audio interface boasting up to 32 channels, 12 bright preamps, a hefty amount of DSP capabilities, and a bundle of 51 plugins.
While this might not necessarily be the right interface for everybody, I have no doubt that anybody who owns this unit will get their money’s worth from it.
What I like
- High recording quality.
- Great preamps.
- High connectivity.
- Stellar DSP performance.
What I don’t like
- Price. But despite the high price point, the unit has a solid cost-to-value ratio.
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I/O and controls
This unit offers support for Thunderbolt 3 (or Thunderbolt 2 with an adapter), as well as USB 2.0. While using USB offers you 24 audio channels to and from your computer, using Thunderbolt provides 32.
The Synergy Core boasts 12 preamp inputs, two headphone outs, 16 line outs, two unbalanced monitor outs, S/PDIF and ADAT connectivity, two insert points, and two dedicated re-amping outputs. Interestingly enough, there is also a talkback mic built into the front panel.
As far as specs are concerned, the interface is capable of up to 24-bit/192 kHz resolution, the mic preamps have a dynamic range of -121dB, the A/D converters are listed at 124 dB, and D/A converters at 128 dB.
When it comes to DSP, the unit utilizes two of Antelope Audio’s FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chips as well as six DSP processors. This means that for each of the 32 channels you have at your disposal (assuming you’re connected via Thunderbolt), you’re capable of eight effects slots for each.
Now, while on paper that translates to some insane sessions with 256 effects firing all at once, there are some limitations at play. Some plugins can only be utilized a certain amount of times, such as certain compressors or EQs. There isn’t quite enough information regarding how the processing is being allocated, but it is important to be aware of this.
Otherwise, you can imagine how capable the Orion Studio Synergy Core actually is. The recording quality is top-notch and there is more than enough connectivity at your disposal to do some serious tracking.
The unit has a max sampling rate of 192kHz and 24-bit resolution. This along with the 12 preamps (which are awesome), grant you the ability to record incredibly transparent and accurate recordings. Not much more to add here, this thing is something of a beast.
As I already mentioned, the mic preamps have a dynamic range of -121 dB, which is great. The preamps themselves are quite bright and can help any sound source pop out of the mix.
The sound is somewhat akin to Focusrite’s Air mode often featured on Focusrite Scarlett interfaces, not the same but a close comparison. Overall, I was very happy with the performance here.
For the amount of connectivity that this interface has to offer, it’s ideal for any studio recording task, whether the studio be at your home or a local cathedral.
The in-unit I/O, ADAT and S/PDIF capabilities, as well the DSP effects, make the Orion Studio Synergy Core an extremely worthwhile investment which in turn can open up the possibilities of your recording setup.
Even though the Orion Studio Synergy Core is a rack-mount unit, it is certainly capable of being employed in a mobile setup, particularly for situations in need of a high channel count.
The USB connectivity also makes it flexible in terms of working with laptops and portable rigs.
From what I can tell, the 12-pound unit looks and feels incredibly robust and durable. While I wouldn’t advise intentionally dropping an interface that’s worth $2.5k, the Orion Studio Synergy Core would most likely take the fall like a champ.
Otherwise, the design is user-friendly enough and easy to operate. I have no qualms here.
The Orion Studio Synergy Core comes with a library of 51 studio plugins, all of which are modeled after Antelope Audio’s original hardware.
Again, I have no complaints on this front. All of the plugins are great and unique. I have no doubt that they’ll provide any user with far more freedom than they might otherwise expect.
Compared to other audio interfaces
While this is no doubt the best audio interface for the right user, here are a few alternatives to compare against the Orion Studio Synergy Core.
Orion Studio Synergy Core vs Universal Audio Apollo x8
Close in price as well as connectivity, the Apollo x8 is a solid contender to look at alongside the Orion. That being said, the Orion offers slightly more flexibility in terms of I/O as well as the more extensive software bundle that comes with it. It’s also slightly cheaper!
Orion Studio Synergy Core vs Steinberg AXR4T
In favor of the Steinberg, which offers almost as much connectivity and DSP capabilities as the Orion for a lower price point, is that the max sampling rate is a tad higher at 32-bit/384 kHz. Not that you’ll truly hear a difference, but you might!
Who is the Orion Studio Synergy Core audio interface best suited for?
The Orion Studio Synergy Core is best suited for professional audio engineers and recording artists looking to upgrade and enhance their recording setup. This unit offers a huge amount of versatility and freedom to record amazing sounding music.Buy Orion Studio Synergy Core at: AmazonGuitar Center
You can also watch this video by my colleague Fabio, where he puts the Antelope Audio Orion Studio Synergy Core audio interface to the test.