Simon Allen tests two of Prism Sound’s latest releases and finds them powerful, clean, and futureproof.
Whenever Prism Sound releases a new product it’s taken very seriously and recently, the company has launched a trio of interfaces to expand the well-known Orpheus family.
I was given the opportunity to try out two of these new interfaces – Lyra 2 and Titan – and having used an Orpheus before, I was keen to see how these units compared.
Lyra is the smallest unit Prism offers and has exactly the same look and feel as the Orpheus. Like Orpheus, it is 1U in height, but is only just over half a rack-slot in width. Even though it has optional ears for rack mounting it is clearly intended for desktop use in smaller facilities. Using the same front panel controls, alongside the colourful metering display and nameplate, Lyra looks like a shrunken Orpheus.
There are actually two versions of Lyra available, imaginatively named Lyra 1 and Lyra 2. Both use exactly the same converters, preamps, and clocking as their well-respected big brother, Orpheus. The primary goal with Lyra’s release is to provide the same high level of A-D/D-A conversion and clean Prism mic preamps in a more affordable and accessible unit.
The most significant change, opening up new markets for Lyra, is the USB interface. This can be connected to either a USB 2.0 socket, or USB 3.0. Neither Lyra 1 nor 2 can be bus powered however, and both contain their own power supply.
The differences between Lyra 1 and Lyra 2 are simply their I/O capabilities and consequently their pricing points. Lyra 1 appropriately offers one electronically controlled mic preamp with XLR phantom mic connectivity or jack instrument input, one stereo pair line inputs and one stereo pair line outputs. Lyra 2, however, gives you two mic preamps with two instrument inputs, a stereo pair of line inputs and two stereo pairs of line outputs.
Both versions also have digital connectivity with an optical TOSLINK stereo connection. Lyra 2 takes this one step further with the optical port also capable of ADAT. Additionally there are SPDIF connections, which give you AES connectivity via a supplied XLR converter. Lyra 2 also comes equipped with an AVB Ethernet port, which is unavailable via the current version of software but clearly Prism has developments in progress. The only other connections, found only on Lyra 2, are wordclock BNC connections for external syncing and making best usage of the famous CleverClox DPLL clock, lifted straight from Orpheus.
A slight change to the physical layout of the inputs on Lyra compared to Orpheus however, is that they have done away with the combined XLR and TRS connections so that you are able to have multiple devices connected permanently to your interface, which then just electronically switch, rather than always messing around with cables.
Titan, which is in many respects an updated Orpheus, is the first interface to receive a facelift. Still retaining the classic format and layout of Orpheus, the new lacquer finish on Titan is simply stunning. You get an instant impression that this is a refinement of Orpheus the moment you look at it with its sparkly champagne finish. Titan is also the same size as Orpheus taking up just 1U in a 19in rack.
Titan’s I/O is very similar to Orpheus, offering eight analogue line inputs and outputs with four of the inputs doubling up with Prism’s excellent mic pres. Two of the inputs also offer separate instrument inputs accessed from the front panel. Full digital I/O is available as found on Lyra 2 including that interesting AVB port for future firmware developments.
So I’ve mentioned that Lyra units have USB connectivity, but this is the new selling point for Titan too, as it is now also hooked-up via USB. It has been possible for Prism to move away from the security of FireWire as used on Orpheus thanks to its new ARM processor core.
This is a huge development, as the market is now much wider with USB being both more readily available and hopefully futureproof. Couple this with the control software able to run on both Windows and Mac across a huge range of operating systems and not many of us will find it hard to get set-up. I certainly didn’t, in fact I can’t report any running or set-up issues, provided I was using a computer with the correct specification.
The next most significant development with Titan is its new MDIO expansion slot. Here, users can optionally specify an expansion card, of which, I believe, we could see many more variants available, but currently they offer only a Pro Tools HDX expansion card or eight-way AES card. This is a really neat way for Pro Tools users to incorporate the Prism interface on the host side, within the DAW.
Prism has also responded to feedback regarding the Orpheus product on a few notable points, which apply to both Lyra and Titan. Firstly, there is now a -20dB pad on the mic preamps, as users of Orpheus found the mic pres to be very sensitive and therefore it was difficult when working with loud sources. The headphone output amplifiers have been given some more power to boost performance. The main volume encoder knob, which can be programmed to control any of the outputs, now supports the push switch movement to activate the relative output mute.
The control software, which accesses its own internal digital low-latency mixer, now includes the ADAT channels in the mixers capabilities. As with Orpheus, in addition to configuration settings and gain control of mic preamps via the control software, users can also create separate mixes from any of the inputs (including the DAW) to any output (including the headphones), for low-latency tracking and overdubbing.
Let’s be clear: these are two great new solutions for interfacing, with some refinement upon what is already a highly respected product. But why buy Prism when, let’s be honest, there are so many others to choose from and these carry a heavy price tag? The answer is audible.
Any DAW or system will only ever be as good as its clock source and then consequently its A-D/D-A converters. These are the two primary considerations that make up the backbone of quality in any modern studio. Prism built its name with, what many consider to be, unsurpassed clocking and A-D/D-A converters, which the Orpheus reputation carries. Lyra and Titan have exactly the same clocks and converters and you can hear it. I carried out a listening test against my preferred mixing facility, Woodbury Studios’ Lynx I/O, which I rate highly. I was not surprised when I enjoyed the result, as they were very close and if there was any difference, the Prism interfaces were just slightly less coloured and more natural. Importantly, I could not tell any difference between Titan and its little brother, Lyra.
The Prism interfaces carry other digital benefits, which shouldn’t be overlooked in any professional environment. Prism has some of the best results when it comes to sampling and interface jitter. These interfaces can even handle external jittery clocks with ultra-fast lock-up and regeneration clocking. Other powerful uses are sample rate conversion and noise shaping on any digital output. Therefore, within a 96kHz session, for example, you can provide a 44.1kHz output with high-quality bit depth reductions. All this, and the latency for these interfaces is remarkably low.
Sound is a journey. Each step in an analogue chain for example, has an impact on the sound and this is also the case when entering and leaving the digital domain. Therefore, your choice of converters and clock source should never be overlooked as we all strive for transparent, true representation. Prism’s tried and tested pedigree converters are now here, beautifully managed, from within these more accessible solutions.
I also believe that interfaces should be something that once in place, should never interfere with workflow and both the Lyra and Titan do exactly that. They’re easy to set up and will reliably keep your audio locked and synced. I love Prism’s ‘no fuss’ attitude, and praise these fan-less audio ‘rocks’ which are fit for any professional, but don’t expect to pick up these Rolls-Royce’s of interfaces for a bargain.
RRP: Lyra 2 - £1849 (ex VAT), Titan - £2995 (ex VAT)
Simon Allen is a full-time sound engineer and record producer. After a stint as senior engineer at City Studios in Cyprus where he headed up the new music studio, he can now mostly be found at Woodbury Studios in Hertfordshire.