We get a few common questions about our modules so I decided to collect them in one spot.
nw2s::io & nw2s::o16
WHAT CABLES SHOULD I USE FOR MY INTERFACE/MIXER?
Getting the correct cables are very important to make sure that your module will connect properly to your specific interface or mixer. There are generally three types of connector formats that will work with the nw2s modules:
- DB-25 based patchbays and analog interfaces
- XLR based line mixers and interfaces
- TRS based patchbays, mixers, and interfaces
For you to decide which cable you need to purchase, you have to make sure you know which format your target device uses for line level connections. The nw2s interface modules all output audio at studio line levels which are typically +4dBu. Sometimes the choice is straightforward. An Avid HD IO uses DB-25 connectors only. A MOTU Ultralite uses 1/4" TRS only. Others, like a few different mixers use a mix of TRS and XLR. In these cases, it's important to consult your manual. While I like XLR connectors better, some of these mixers use the XLRs for mic level only and TRS for line level only. If you run your nw2s module through the mic pre inputs, you'll be adding about 60dB of unnecessary gain, bringing the noise floor up to an unbearable level.
You need to make sure that not only the device you're trying to interface is correct, but also that the DB-25 connector on the cable you purchase is correct. There are two analog audio formats and two digital audio formats (not to mention a number of other digital computer interfaces) in common use. Only one will work with the nw2s modules. You must ensure that you are purchasing only a Tascam format analog 8 channel cable. There are a number of these from Proco, Avid, and Mogami, but my favorite are Redco.
There are a few types of interfaces that will not work with the nw2s interface modules:
- TDIF based DB-25 interfaces
- AES digital based DB-25 interfaces
- XLR based mic pre inputs
- Printer ports
DO I NEED THE BALANCED OR UNBALANCED MODULE?
This is a question that can only be answered by you. I can try to give you enough information to make the best decision, but in the end, you will have to decide.
If your question is "Can most people get by with an unbalanced module?", then it's hard for me to say no to that. There are many cases when the unbalanced module is just fine.
However, the 'io and 'o16 modules were originally designed as balanced units in order to more reliably work in a studio environment. To oversimplify matters, balanced interfaces have the following benefits:
- Reduces noise due to cable interference
- Reduces noise due to grounding differences
- Minimizes issues driving long cables and complex loads
Additionally, the nw2s::io includes an important feature when routing audio from your studio gear into your modular. Built into the balanced receiver is a 6dB gain stage that will bring your studio levels a bit higher to match those of your modular. This is especially important if you wish to use your modular as a hardware insert, processing audio from your DAW.
DOES THE REAR CABLING OPTION DEFEAT THE FRONT CONNECTOR?
If you purchase the rear cabling option for the interface modules, then both the front and rear connections remain active.
WHY ARE THERE NO VOLUME POTS?
The nw2s::io and nw2s::o16 modules are fixed-gain as a pure design decision to minimize the circuitry the audio signal is passing through. For the modular to studio, your signal passes through only a 1% metal film resistor and a THAT balanced driver ID that uses a only high-quality poly capacitor in a compensation circuit.
Modular levels are typically not extremely dynamic - they are either +/- 5V or +/- 10V depending on what filters and VCAs are in use. This is basically a dynamic range of about 3dB. Even with some slightly richer amplitude modulation, you would have about 6 to 12dB of dynamic range. Given this limited range, a fixed resistor of the same type that is used in the rotary volume switches in mastering gear will sound better, cost less, take up less HP, and be simpler to operate. Some people may be worried about not hitting their A/D converter at it's absolute limit, but with today's 24-bit interfaces, this is generally nothing to worry about. Recording at -18 to -20dBFS still leaves greater than 95dB of dynamic range. If you consider your modular's noise floor is probably no better than -80 or -85dBFS, then you're in even better shape.
CAN I USE THIS WITH MY XYZ INTERFACE AND/OR MY LMNOP MIXER?
In general, as long as your interface has line-level analog inputs and/or outputs, then yes, you can use it.
None of our modules work with digital-only interfaces or with mic-level only mixers. For more help with interfacing, please see the first FAQ.
CAN AUDIO PASS BOTH DIRECTIONS?
The only interface modules that will allow for audio to be passed in either direction are the unbalanced nw2s::io and the nw2s::o16 kit which has been built with no active circuitry in it.
Note that the levels will be far from ideal as there is about a 12dB signal drop from studio to modular levels. If you are going to be running audio that direction, you really should use the balanced nw2s::io.
WHAT POWER SUPPLY DOES THIS THING NEED?
All of our modules will run on standard eurorack +/-12V. Many will run at up to +/-18V if you have an available power source. There are many benefits of running your audio mixer and interface modules at a higher voltage than your source modules,
The only interface module that requires any odd power is the nw2s::io. Since studio levels are boosted by 6dB when routed to the modular side, we wanted to give you a little extra headroom than the +/-12V rails provide, so we built an on-board hybrid switching/linear power supply that powers the module at +/-18V! While I wish I could run all of my pro-audio modules at that level as a matter of course, I could not expect everyone to run a separate power supply. The on-board DC-DC converter and linear regulator has the added benefit of almost completely isolating the nw2s::io from all of your other modules.
HOW MUCH CURRENT DOES THE IO/O16 MODULE CONSUME?
I don't publish specs on the module's current consumption simply because I personally believe that the numbers should reflect the worst case current consumption rather than an idealized average of what it might consume under some specific circumstance. Since there are no standards for this, then the playing field is not quite level, and consumers are possibly being mislead. Then weird things start to happen randomly and people jump to conclusions about this module or that.
Let's say that a best case idle current consumption is about 10mA as a rough guess.
For a worst case, let's calculate as a rough estimate how much we know might be used for the LEDs and signal transmission. There are 16 LEDs. Each can consume about 20mA at full brightness. Since I used super bright 1.3CD LEDs, I used 2kΩ resistors instead of the typical 220Ω. Let's put the max current at about 5mA per LED. That's about 80mA just for the LEDs if they were all on full-blast. Let's also assume a worst case for the balanced outputs is a 5V signal into a 600Ω transformer-based input. This is unlikely, but not impossible. That gives is about 10mA peak or 4mA RMS per channel for a total of 32mA for nw2s::io and 64mA for the nw2s::o16.
Add the LED current to the transmission current and factor in some inefficiencies. I'd estimate about 100 to 200mA at +/-12V. Depending on what load you're driving, what signal you're routing, and how loud it is.