Audio / Hands-on Review

Introduction to a New Brand at B&H: Ferrofish


It is always exciting whenever a new company adds its product line to B&H’s expansive catalog. It is especially exciting whenever a company is able to offer a customer professional tools at lower prices than were previously obtainable, so that the technology may be enjoyed by more end users worldwide. Not long ago, MADI―the Audio Engineering Society standard that stands for Multichannel Audio Digital Interface―was one such technology.  

To this effect, B&H is pleased to offer the technology of Ferrofish, a relatively young German-based manufacturer of Analog-to-Digital/Digital-to-Analog Converters, as well as organ sound synthesizers that emulate the controls and feel of playing a Hammond organ.

Founded by former Creamware Hardware engineer Juergen Kindermann, Ferrofish provides a rather remarkable value proposition in that the company offers implementations of both MADI and ADAT digital standards in its converters, at attractive prices, for configuring expandable live and studio recording systems. The key is that Ferrofish is able to hit a new price per channel of conversion without compromising on the build or sound quality of the device. In this article, we will take a quick look at the company’s three products in greater detail and see how they can contribute to your setup. 

A16 AD/DA Converter with ADAT

The first of Ferrofish’s two converters is a 1 rack-unit (1RU) rackmountable Analog to Digital and Digital to Analog over ADAT device. It allows you to add 16 back-panel balanced analog ¼" TRS I/O with up to 24-bit 192 kHz audio resolution, using its internal 32-bit, high-performance ARM processor. Each ¼" TRS port can be individually configured between +4 dBu and -10 dBu reference levels. The unit also includes two ADAT I/O for an additional 16 digital channels. The converter can be controlled over MIDI with the back panel MIDI IN, MIDI OUT, and MIDI THRU ports for connectivity into your system. For clocking to an external master clock, the back panel includes BNC word clock I/O. 

The front panel of the converter features dual color TFT screens and a four-push-button menu system for metering and setting levels in 0.5 dB increments, adjusting sample rates between 32 and 192 kHz, setting the internal or external clock source, locking the system from unauthorized changes, managing presets, and controlling the converter’s routing matrix. The device is also capable of sample multiplexing (commonly referred to as S/MUX), wherein multiple digital audio channels of a lower sample rate are combined to transmit fewer channels of audio at a higher sample rate. 

A16 MKII AD/DA Converter with ADAT and MADI

The second converter in the Ferrofish product line is the A16 MK II, which features the same technology as the A16 but also adds two optical MADI ports with conversion through 24-bit AKM chips. The MK II supports MADI-X, which enables up to 64 channels of digital audio at standard sample rates to be configured in blocks of 16 channels (1-16, 17-32, 33-48, and 49-64), either by the end user or according to the converter’s menu of presets.    

The MADI ports also offer MIDI over MADI for controlling the converter. Multiple MKII converters can be cascaded together via MADI to further increase channel counts in your system. The digital audio stream can be carried up to 2 kilometers (approximately 1.2 miles) via an optical digital snake.     

Neither the A16 nor the A16 MKII feature FireWire or USB interfaces for connecting to a computer. Instead, they are designed to expand the channel count of ADAT- and MADI-compatible audio interfaces such as the RME Fireface 802, Fireface UFX, HDSP 9652, or HDSPe RayDAT card (in the case of ADAT) and RME MadiFace USB, MADIface XT, HDSP MADI, hDSPe MADI, or HDSPe MADI FX cards at a cost of approximately $81.19 per analog channel.

B4000+ Authentic Organ Sounds Module

The third product offering from Ferrofish is a bit different from the previous two. The B4000+ is a portable stand-alone digital synthesizer module that is designed to emulate a Hammond organ, complete with nine draw bars for classic control. The synthesizer leverages the processing power of an ARM Cortex M3, as well as Sharc DSP processors, to generate an extensive range of realistic organ sounds.     

The back panel of the module features ¼" inputs for headphones, audio in, audio out, a switch, and a pedal. Two MIDI input ports, A and B, allow you to connect up to two of your favorite MIDI-capable keyboards; a USB-type B port enables the synthesizer module to function as a MIDI interface with your host computer. 

The control panel of the synthesizer features six dials for selecting presets and controlling parameters such as percussion, tone, sound, rotor, and bass/horn. The unit also includes a set of onboard effects including compression, reverb, chorus, and rotary. A TFT color display provides visual feedback.

What makes the unit especially fun to play, beyond its ability to create such a wide range of organ sounds, is the feel and playability of the nine draw bars. Traditionally trained organists will feel right at home, no matter what style they play.