Antelope Audio Eclipse 384 - Audio Media International

Antelope Audio Eclipse 384

Antelope Audio Eclipse 384
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STEPHEN BENNETT decides this is
one beast he’d like to keep in its
cage – he’s not letting it go…

When you’re workingin an ultracritical
listening situation, such as a
mastering studio or high-end mixing facility,
you’re likely to want to use specialised high
quality dedicated analogue and digital converters when
making crucial artistic decisions. Working in this way allows
you to run the software and interface of your choice, but
to specify the part of the system that moves the audio to
and from the digital domain to provide the best conversion
possible. Of course what constitutes ‘best’ in this context
could fill a book, but it’s unarguable that equipment that
pays attention to digital clocking, power supplies, and high
quality components will always outperform inexpensive off
the shelf converters and PSUs – and if you’re going for the
best, you’ll be looking at a device like the one under review
here, the Antelope Eclipse 384.

In The Box

Unlike many of the specialised equipment in this area,
the Eclipse 384 is rather more than just a digital converter.
It also sports a flexible monitor section, USB audio
interface, sophisticated headphone amplification, and
a central clocking system alongside its digital duties.
It’s a weighty 8Kg 2-unit high 19-inch rack unit with an
elegant front panel dominated by a large OLED display
that shows the state of the various system parameters,
alongside a 32 segment bar graph monitor that can
display the levels of any of the device’s inputs and outputs.
There’s a stepped main monitor level control that makes it
easy to reproduce exact settings – an essential feature in
a mastering environment where volume level consistency
is paramount. Under this control are the Mute and Mono
buttons, and a Dim control that lowers the output level
with a preset attenuation.

Two wide impedance range headphone jacks lie
under the headphone level control – the output of which
handled all of the phones I threw at it whatever the
impedance, and always provided enough gain. Five preset
buttons, which allow you to save favourite settings and
the initially mysterious ‘Antelope’ button completes the
front panel controls.

The overall feel of the Eclipse 384 is one of quality –
the buttons feel secure and respond with an internal click
when activated, and the rotary controls are reproducible
and sturdy in action.

Compared to the stylish and uncluttered front panel,
the rear is packed to the brim with connectors. Power is via
a standard IEC mains plug and sits alongside connections
for word clock outputs on BNC connectors, quarter-inch
TRS footswitch connector, AES/EBU, S/PDIF and Toslink
‘de-jittered outputs, along with the complementary
digital inputs. Two AES/EBU outputs provide a signal
from the D/A converter and are used in tandem when
the unit is clocked at 384kHz – its maximum sample rate.
Balanced analogue inputs on XLR and TRS connectors are
provided along with two quarter-inch TRS insert points
that allow you to patch in a processor just before the
A/D conversion. There are three stereo pairs of balanced
monitor outputs along with a balanced output for a
sub woofer. A quarter-inch jack provides an input for
a talkback microphone, while CUE HP outputs for cue
mix listening are provided on balanced stereo quarterinch
sockets. A USB 2 socket provides an interface to a
computer, and finally there’s also a facility for the device
to accept an Atomic clock input (such as the Antelope
10M) – which has to be the sexiest clocking system so
far developed!

Antelope Technology

The Eclipse 384, as its name suggests, features A/D and
D/A converters with a maximum sample rate of 384 kHz
clocked by two independent 64-bit DSP ‘Trinity-level
clocks’, and the dynamic range of conversion is better than
120dB. An oven controlled oscillator means that stability
won’t be affected by temperature fluctuations, as the
circuitry will always be sitting above, and thus unaffected
by, changes in ambient temperature.

What this means in practice is that you have a high
stability and accurate clocking system that supports
digital conversion with a wide dynamic range – which is
exactly what you want when converting those digital bits
into to listenable audio and vice versa.

There are separate power supplies on separate circuit
boards for the analogue and digital sections of the Eclipse
384, which Antelope claims ‘virtually eliminate digital
crosstalk.’

More Than Just An Ungulate

As intimated earlier, the Eclipse 384 however goes
further than just digital conversion. It also acts as a
high quality stereo USB interface for your computer
and features a flexible monitoring system – which is a
pretty unusual addition, as most high-end converters
of this type assume you’ll be using a desk and/or other
interfaces or monitor controller for these purposes.
The supplied Eclipse 384 software allows to you select and
name inputs and outputs, clocking options and sample
rates and conversion.

A/D and D/A conversion is also set up from
the software. It runs under OS X or Windows and
is really easy to use –a simple download from the
Antelope site and I was up and running in no time.

Once set through the Software Control Panel
and stored in the five presets, the user always
can recall the favourite setting using only the
front panel of the device. The aforementioned
Antelope button activates a menu system that is
then navigated using the ‘1’ and ‘2’ preset buttons,
and which allows you to set meter display, inputs
and outputs, sample rates, and clock set-ups.
Again it’s a simple system that’s intuitive and easy
to use.

The preset buttons also have a dual function
– they can be used to adjust various system wide
parameters such as calibration, USB modes, a
system reset, and device information. Speaking
of the USB connection, the Eclipse 384 sports
a custom USB chip allowing the unit to stream
data at 480Mbs – which is how it’s able to handle
sample rates up to 384KHz using the humble
USB socket.

Monitoring

The software control really comes into its
own when you are setting
up the monitoring and cue
mix section of the Eclipse 384.
Connected audio monitors can
be named and have their output
levels preset to match levels
when switching to compare
mixes. You can choose between
balanced and unbalanced
signals, and between ‘consumer’
and professional’ signal levels –
and the unit also has useful
programmable oscillator
that can be used for gain matching duties.
Signals can be monitored in mono or with phase
inversion tapped in and cue mixes can be sent to
the rear panel outputs – you can also route the
talkback mic and oscillator to the cue mix just
like on a proper console. The talkback mic’s status
can be controlled using the aforementioned
footswitch input and you can choose whether
monitor or cue mix signals are sent to the front
panel headphone outputs.

The Preferences section of the software allows
you to set Dim levels, sub woofer crossover
frequencies, dual clock mode, LED brightness,
and the footswitch functions.

Out On The Veldt

I dropped the Eclipse 384
into the studio in place of
my usual RME Fireface and
Metric Halo ULN-2 interfaces,
and auditioned various mixes
through a pair of ATC SCM
50 and PMC TB-2 monitors.
I usually work at 44.1kHz, but
for the purpose of this review
decided to
compare the
units at several
different
samplerates.
Even in my reasonably treated
studio, the Antelope was audibly
superior to the RME – though
using it as first a clock and then
as a D/A converter improved
things no end.

The comparison with
Metric Halo box was less
clear-cut. In some ways the ULN-2 is similar in
functional concept to the Eclipse, but has two
high-quality microphone pre-amplifiers in
place of the Antelope box’s higher sample rate,
and superior clocking and digital conversion
facilities. After several listening sessions I
felt that the Eclipse 384 just had the edge – especially at the higher sample rates, and
I’d be happy to use the unit as the centrepiece of my
mastering studio.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to like in this box – you could easily
spend more on a separate similar quality D/A
and A/D converter, master clock, and a monitor
controller – which, incidentally,
doesn’t add or subtract from
the audio passing through
it, unlike some I’ve used in the
past. Having all these various
facilities in a single, easy to use,
box with reproducible settings
is a tempting package and I can
see a lot of mastering engineers
especially being drawn to the
Eclipse 384 – especially as you
can also throw in your favourite
mastering processors via the
insert points.

Conversion doesn’t get much more stable
and accurate – and the added advantage of
having the audio interface and monitor section
means that it’s going to be more useful in more
situations than most stand alone converters.
This is one beast you aren’t going to want
to set free once you have it in captivity.

INFORMATION

GB5,995.00 (inc.VAT)

Antelope Audio

+44 (0) 208 133 8355

www.antelopeaudio.com

THE REVIEWER

STEPHEN BENNETT has been
involved in music production
for over 25 years. Now based in
Norwich he splits his time between
writing books and articles on
music technology, running his
own Chaos studios and working in
the Electroacoustic Studios in the
School of Music at the University of
East Anglia. He’s also a filmmaker
with several music videos and
short films to his credit. www.
stephenjamesbennett.co.uk

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