TC ELECTRONIC STUDIO KONNEKT 48
Is this the most comprehensive Firewire interface the world has ever seen?
Text: Brad Watts
Behold the latest in Firewire audio interfaces from TC Electronic! The Studio Konnekt 48 is the company’s top-shelf Firewire audio interface, which manages to pack a truckload of features into a single rack unit device. Like many of the newer generation audio interfaces, TC also includes a remote control unit with talkback and speaker selection, eliminating the need for separate master controllers. Like other interfaces in the ‘Konnekt’ range, the Studio Konnekt 48 is endowed with onboard DSP for live processing. And as a one-stop unit for a raft of recording scenarios, the Studio Konnekt 48 is one of the more capable interfaces available today.
As mentioned, the unit is a 1RU device, and somehow TC has managed to fit virtually everything it knows into this space! The Studio Konnekt 48 isn’t bus powered, so it’s probably best left out of the ‘remote’ and ‘portable’ interface categories, but it certainly doesn’t waste any real estate, au contraire, and carting it around is a breeze.
FRONT TO BACK
Four mic/instrument preamps adorn the front panel of the Studio Konnekt 48, each with its own hardware 20dB pad switch and gain control knob. Inputs are of the Neutrik Combo variety and 48V phantom power is global across all four preamps. Maximum mic gain is a respectable 62dB and offers a clean, unadulterated amplification stage. To that end, TC Electronic is one of the few manufacturers with the decency to publish its specifications – it’s worth checking out its website for the nitty gritty: www.tcelectronic.com/media/Studio_Konnekt_tech_spec.pdf
Two headphone outputs run alongside the preamps, each with their own volume control and send bus (channels 3-4 and 11-12 respectively). To the right of these are rudimentary meters for each of the analogue outputs and indicators for valid sync sources. The only remaining control on the front panel is a master output attenuator, which is accompanied by a ‘valid’ LED. The purpose of this LED is to let you know that the master level control on the front panel correlates with master level setting on the remote control unit – more on the remote after we’ve scrutinised the I/O on the rear panel.
Around the back of the Studio Konnekt 48 are eight balanced 1/4-inch jack outputs, plus another eight inputs that are additional to the four mic/instrument inputs on the front panel. All the line inputs can be configured as –10dBu or +4dB levels in pairs. Outputs are marked as to their surround designations (for multi-channel systems up to 7.1) while a further pair of XLR outputs provides main stereo outputs. Following across from these are MIDI In and Out ports, then four TOSlink optical connectors configurable as either S/PDIF digital I/O or ADAT optical with S/MUX 96k capability. Inserting a digital effects processor across one of the TOSlink loops is TC’s serving suggestion, in which case the supplied Assimilator plug-in will take care of any delays introduced by your digital outboard – it’s the same plug-in as supplied with the Digital Konnekt x32 reviewed last issue and does its job seamlessly.
Following the optical ports are coaxial S/PDIF ports, wordclock I/O and two Firewire ports. The recommendation is that the second port be used for connecting further interfaces from the Konnekt series and not for connecting a hard drive. Drives are best connecting via another bus rather than competing with your interface for bandwidth. All up you can squeeze a total of 22 inputs (two are spared for output from the DAW software) and 18 outputs from the Studio Konnekt 48 when you utilise all the digital I/O and an eight-channel ADAT converter. On its lonesome, the unit will give you 12 inputs (four of those blessed with mic preamps), and 10 outputs, two of which are used for monitoring, and all of them, incidentally, remain available up to 96k. At higher sample rates than that, the input channel count stoops to a somewhat irregular 15 inputs. I’m hoping someone at TC can talk me through that little caveat at some stage, as TC doesn’t actually claim this unit to be capable of 176 or 192k, although I did successfully record with it at 192k. Admittedly, the supplied native plug-ins did give up when I set Logic to 176k.
A final RJ-45 (Cat-5) port connects to the small desktop remote control unit. This is the same form factor as the controller from the TC Electronic/Dynaudio Air series digital speaker systems, only this unit sports a spherical knob. The outer edge of the encoder is surrounded with LEDs to mark the level setting, with a push down on the knob putting the output level into Dim mode. TC refers to the remote as the Studio Kontrol – I’d imagine the Germanic misspelling helps with their patent and trademarking regime [there might be a squabble in court with Native Instruments! – Ed.].
There’s a swag of features accessible via the remote. You can adjust the mic preamp output levels (or mute them entirely), Inputs 1, 2, the S/PDIF input and channels 5/6 and 7/8. Three sets of monitors can be accessed via the Studio Konnekt 48 and these can be switched from the remote. Monitoring tomfoolery doesn’t stop there either. The TC NEAR software allows bass management for any sub cabinets you might have connected, along with any main monitors – high-pass filtering for the main monitors and levels and crossover point for the sub. Monitoring sends can even be delayed down to 0.1ms increments. Governing the sub setup from the TC NEAR software would allow you to use a single sub cabinet, shared between three sets of main monitors, or drive quite a refined surround setup, or both. It’s extremely smart, and unique to the Studio Konnekt 48.
And the features keep coming. From the remote you can instigate talkback (the talkback mic is situated in the remote unit). Talkback will latch ‘on’ with a quick push of the button, or with an extended hold on the button, disengage when you release it. There’s even a dedicated button to minimise and reopen the TC NEAR control panel software. Then you can instigate the built-in tuner, whereupon the LED surround on the remote becomes the tuning display. In fact, the more I investigated this interface the more I found myself exclaiming ‘neat’, and ‘cool’! Yes, I talk to myself from time to time, and this unit kept me quite chatty.
The Studio Konnekt 48 is also endowed with a healthy portion of digital signal processing of its own. These effects processors come in the form of two EQ and compression channels, and a very decent-sounding reverb processor. These are editable via the TC NEAR control panel. The GUI is another TC Electronic patent and is referred to as ‘MINT’ or Meta Intuitive Navigation Technology. It’s yet another acronym for ‘an intuitive user interface that uses icons instead of parameter lists’. The effects are quick to adjust using the MINT interface, allowing you to quickly take advantage of the effective EQ, compression and de-essing algorithms, but more importantly, the lovely reverb. This is apparently a clone of the reverb found in the TC Electronic R4000, a unit I’ve used extensively, I can vouch for its sound wholeheartedly. TC is one of the big players in the reverb world and the ‘Fabric R’ reverb algorithms in the Studio Konnekt 48 uphold that legacy. In short, it sounds great – the Plate being my particular fave. The onboard DSP also acts as a 24-in/eight-out digital mixer, with – wait for it – 48-bit double precision sum buses and 56-bit internal processing. That is to say, it shouldn’t do a bad job of summing a lot of your external sound sources, or mash your audio into a 32-bit floating-point mess.
The onboard effects are primarily aimed at processing input signals, when you’d like to directly monitor signals as you record – a touch of reverb on vocals when tracking, for example. That said, TC also provides VST and Audio Unit versions of the compression and EQ processors, along with a rather nice filtering plug-in, ResFilter, and the Assimilator, an EQ ‘fingerprint’ process for capturing one EQ and applying the resultant curve to another sound source – not a bad package, considering these effects are all derived from TC’s long history of professional DSP products.
WHEN WILL IT END?
Lately I’ve been wondering if the world needs yet another Firewire audio interface, but TC Electronic has really laid down the gauntlet to the other manufacturers – in fact, the entire ‘Konnekt’ range looks to up the ante in the audio interface arms-race. As I mentioned, I was initially surprised with the versatility of the unit, and then continued to be bowled over by the extras that continued popping up. This is a very powerful box, and one that could fill many of your recording requirements for some time. If you’re in the market, definitely add the Studio Konnekt 48 to your inquiry list.