Regular readers will be aware that Antelope Audio has been rolling out a new range of its converters which include HDX connectivity. The Goliath HD could be considered one of Antelope’s flagship models, this unit aims to cram as much connectivity as possible into a rack unit whilst maintaining high-end sound.
The Goliath HD does not fall short of its name. The front panel is full of controls and sockets. Firstly, two transformer ReAmp outputs for guitar amplifiers and four high impedance guitar inputs. These inputs each have very nicely machined black aluminium knobs on rotary controllers to set gain, and multi-coloured LEDs to show signal level. The front panel sockets are recessed into the brushed metal, dark grey faceplate, and the general finish is rather high-end.
The Goliath HD sports an impressive colour touchscreen with what appears to be capacitive touch technology and extensive control options. Annoyingly, when mounted close to horizontally in the rack area of a mixing desk it can be a little difficult to read some of the text whilst seated at the desk. Not a major concern as these functions are rarely adjusted on screen, a firmware update could simply change the font colour. Usefully, when any of the gain encoders are adjusted the screen automatically jumps to display the relevant detail page for the output or preamp in question. Presets can be saved and recalled via the screen or control software along with other functionality such as sync mode and connectivity options.
To the right of the screen there are 16 encoders, again with the black knobs and multi-coloured LEDs. These control the 16 mic/line inputs on the rear of the unit, Antelope cite these as having 124dB dynamic range. When adjusted the encoders click a little louder than some of the other Antelope products, for instance the Satori. However they do feel sturdy and have press functionality to cycle between Mic and Line levels, plus high impedance inputs for rear panel sockets 1-4. Conveniently each mode stores its gain settings independently. Any of the inputs or outputs can be muted quickly by simply tapping the speaker icon that appears on screen, this was useful for sending talkback to specific cue outputs only, during a session.
Finally we have the main encoder and the talkback microphone. The recessed microphone gives a decent quality talkback, but if you choose to mount the unit in a machine room you can assign another input for the Talkback and control it remotely. A column of green LEDs below this indicates to which of the outputs the main encoder is assigned. A larger knob is employed for this controller, with a surrounding LED ring. Beneath this we have the usual Mono, Antelope and Mute buttons as seen on many of the Antelope products. The headphone outputs are nice and loud and of course can be split to feed four mono headphone sends.
In the heat of a session the Goliath HD is simple to use. The level LEDs above each of the gain controls give you a good indication of what’s coming into the unit but simply tapping the screen will let you pick from a menu showing the meter bridge of all of the input and output sets.
The rear of the Goliath HD contains so many outputs it’s difficult to find space between them. As with the other Antelope HD products, there is a USB 3.0 interface, a Thunderbolt 2 and two HDX connection ports. It’s worth noting again that the HDX ports operate independently of the USB or Thunderbolt connection to the host, so could be connected to separate machines simultaneously. This offers opportunity for transmitting multi-channel audio between computers live, dual redundant recording systems — and many more options. However, the control software will only operate if the unit is connected via USB or Thunderbolt to a computer on your network.
Across the bottom of the rear panel are the 16 XLR/TRS Combi inputs with high impedance options on the first four inputs. Analogue inputs 17-32 are present on DB25 connectors. There are 32 balanced analogue outputs on four DB25 connectors — which have 129dB dynamic range — an improvement on the previous model.
Digital I/O is extensive with two MADI ports, four AES/EBU I/O, 16 channels in and 16 channels out of ADAT Lightpipe, SPDIF I/O and 2 Word Clock outs, one Word Clock in and a 10M input for an Antelope Master Clock. Monitor outputs on TRS offer 132dB dynamic range and sound great, plus there is even a pair of assignable insert points on TRS sockets.
In practical use what does all this mean? The preamps are very nice with 65dB of gain and THD+N of only -112 dB. They hold up well if driven too hot with medium levels of clipping, despite the obviously small footprint (and presumably surface-mount components) they give a very professional sounding result. Recording a rock band or a small group on the 16 included microphone inputs was a fairly simple task, and the included control software allowed for easily creating several monitor mixes with FPGA zero-latency dynamics, EQ and reverb.
One useful feature is the eight high impedance inputs and ReAmp outputs which allowed for several splits to be taken from the guitarist’s pedal chains. The FPGA amp simulation offers a great solution for live tracking with no spill. ReAmping can of course be completed later if desired. The amp simulation (developed with Overloud) is actually a lot better than the built-in presets suggest, and can sound quite natural with some tweaking.
As always the antelope AFX FPGA effects come completely free and now include several new vintage effects models. The SMT 100A and Grove Hill Audio Liverpool are particularly nice additions to the compression family. It’s worth remembering that these AFX processors have to be patched in with the control software routing window and external sends in your DAW if you wish to use them for mixing. This is not a plug-in style solution, but the flexibility is almost limitless, you can parallel print multiple different versions of processed or unprocessed audio very easily and save effects configurations with your session files. The workflow is similar to working in an analogue studio, but much easier. Even though I have access to many of the original units, the consistency and flexibility of the AFX often left me reaching for the digital version.
The Goliath HD is definitely aimed at the top end of the market at £6135, but could certainly hold up in terms of sound quality to the other high-end converters on the market. Of course, trying to find another interface with this kind of connectivity and quality of free outboard digital effects would be difficult. The fact that Antelope have managed to cram all of this into a silent 2U rack is quite frankly staggering. If you have the budget and the inclination to purchase a new high-end converter, Antelope Goliath HD is certainly worth testing.