Some producers will have the desire to upgrade their gear sooner or later. Maybe they need more channels or want a different mic preamp.
Such reasons turn them to acquire more high-end interfaces, including ADAT.
The first thing you’re probably asking is, “what is ADAT?”
ADAT stands for Alesis digital audio tape.
ADAT is a magnetic tape format. It’s used for recording eight digital audio tracks at the same time. As to where the data is stored, it is stored in VHS cassette tapes.
Before the wave of digital audio workstations and affordable audio interfaces, music production wasn’t as accessible back then as it is now.
Music equipment at the time was heavy, took up a lot of space, and, unfortunately, was expensive.
Putting up a home studio was the equivalent of buying a house. So as you can see, only a few people could pull this off.
This is why the ADAT was such an important milestone at the time and even up to now. While not the first digital multitrack recording tool, it was one of the first that everyone could afford.
The barrier of entry slowly started decreasing as anyone could now pick up music production and slowly build their own home studio.
It has been around since 1992 and has greatly benefited many home recording studios. It’s also a reasonably priced digital multitrack that allows you to record 8 audio tracks.
But as you can see, ADAT is less prevalent in home studio setups. This is mostly due to the simple setup of most audio interfaces being more than enough for many bedroom musicians.
That being said, you can still add ADAT to audio interfaces due to an audio format still being used today.
ADAT Lightpipe is a protocol present in ADAT to send audio over to different ADAT systems. This is done through a Toslink connector, and the audio is digital.
This makes it possible to connect ADAT to your audio interface. You no longer need to buy another audio interface if your reason is to increase the track number.
You will need to do three things: connect, sync, and route.
Using the Toslink, connect the ADAT of the external device to the optical input of your audio interface.
You will need both devices to have the same sample rate, so ensure that the external device’s settings are similar to the audio interface. Set the sample rate at around 44.1kHz.
Then, set the clock settings to ensure that all the devices receive the signal from the same master device.
Route the signal in your DAW, then assign the input of your DAW to the corresponding ADAT input.
So now that you are familiar with the history and functions of ADAT, will this have any effect on the audio quality of my recordings?
After all, modern interfaces have improved in quality and are much cheaper compared to ADATs today. So even if you can connect it to your audio interface, is there any other benefit to getting one besides more I/Os?
As mentioned, this piece of technology has done wonders for many home musicians in the past as well as today.
So what are the notable advantages ADAT can provide to your setup?
As you have guessed, the first main advantage is multiple I/Os. You might reach a point where you will need more I/Os in your current rig.
This could be because you have a drum kit you want to record. Or you want to try recording live takes of a band simultaneously. Whatever the case, having more I/Os can come in handy.
You might wonder, “Can’t I buy an audio interface with more I/Os?” You can, but this presents an alternative wherein you can still use your current audio interface.
Even if it has limited I/Os, modern audio interfaces (especially those from reputable brands) have great quality and last a long time. It would be a waste to give it up if it still works.
Adding I/Os through ADAT allows you to keep your current interface while adding more I/Os for more instruments.
Having more I/Os is great and all, but what about the quality of the sound? Will that have any effect?
In terms of quality, some ADATs come with preamps. The quality of the preamp might be different from that of the audio interface.
Suppose the ADAT you purchase is more expensive than the audio interface. In that case, the quality might be better due to the increase in quality.
You can also improve the quality by setting the sample rate to 96kHz. However, you will only be limited to using half the number of I/Os to get the best quality out of the ADAT.
In most cases, you’ll only get to use four of the eight I/Os, but the quality of the four I/Os will be better.
However, it is still recommended to set it to 44.1kHz for a consistent sample rate and less prone to crashes in the DAW.
You can get quality out of the eight I/Os if the ADAT you purchase is of good quality. So double-check on the different ADAT machines that give the best quality.
Most modern audio interfaces can connect to ADAT.
Still, it is best to look up audio interfaces with a Toslink connection before making the assumption.
Another benefit apart from recording drums is recording an ensemble. This includes recording a brass section or a string section and wanting to have isolated tracks for each segment.
This is less dependent on the amount of ADAT inputs in your audio interface and more on the sample rate.
While there are audio interfaces that have two ADAT inputs, what is more important is the sample rate it can handle. 44.1kHZ can house up to eight extra I/Os, so this is the unofficial maximum number of I/Os you can add.
Even after it was created, ADAT has still found its footing in modern music production. Thanks to the protocol it has, it can still be used to connect itself to audio interfaces and provide more inputs and outputs for music producers.
Hooking up an ADAT is a good way to upgrade when looking for a way to expand your current setup.
Once you’re done with producing your music, you can also try out event technology to facilitate any music events you might plan to organize!