You may know the work of Igor Levin from his Aardvark convertors that created a buzz in the early days of computer-based recording. His Antelope Audio company has likewise become known for its attention to minimising clock jitter with ‘atomic clock type’ technology. However, it is an analogue unit that Antelope has brought to the table with Satori, and that is digitally controlled analogue. Satori is designed primarily to offer the facilities you would expect from a console centre section: volume control; monitor and source selection; talkback; summing; and four headphone amplifiers to boot.
Satori is a term used by Japanese Buddhists to refer to enlightenment — perhaps Antelope hopes we will reach an epiphany when using this unit. The packaging, as with other Antelope products, is rather lavish and the front panel of the unit has a silky feel. On the left we have a metal power button that has a green LED halo and the way this slowly glows on and off with the soft power on and off certainly conveys a sense of quality. To the right we have the source selection, eight circular plastic buttons that illuminate orange when active, and as with most switching on the unit we hear the platinum relays click into action when pressed. The legending is clear, printed in black text on the metal front panel. The buttons select from the eight stereo inputs but are overridden by the Sum button that sits to their right. This summing button is smaller and illuminates in green when pressed. The result is to monitor the summed output of stereo inputs 5 to 8 allowing four stereo pairs to be summed.
This brings us to the machined aluminium centre knob with its surrounding ring of orange LEDs. It seems that early demonstration models of the unit were equipped with a different lighting system, as with Antelope Zen interface, that creates a solid arc of light. However since this is a stepped system, discrete display of trim does seem more appropriate. Consequently I found it easy to recall my favourite volume positions manually as needed by just turning the knob.
Next, and to the right, we have a cluster of three small buttons that latch and illuminate yellow. Mono, Dim (-20dB) and M/S. Mono sets the currently selected monitor output to mono, using the last selected mono option from the software control panel. Mono status is not saved for individual monitor pairs so you cannot have a pair always set to mono and switch back to stereo on other pairs. When in Mono mode M/S can be engaged giving either summed mono or the side component. This status does recall, so you can flip in and out of Mono mode with ease. This would be more obvious if labelled more distinctly, perhaps if it was illuminated in Side mode and was labelled Side.
Adjacent to this we have a Talkback button and mic mounted behind the panel. This signal can be distributed to selected headphone outs via the software control panel. The talkback button is small but seems durable, also glowing green when engaged. The monitors are selected via the four buttons to the right of this, these illuminate in green when selected one at a time. Finally there are two headphone sockets with indicator LEDs.
The rear panel has IEC power that automatically accommodates 95-245 Volt supplies and a USB Type B socket to connect to your computer; a cable is supplied. The input sources are accessed as one XLR pair, three pairs of TRS sockets and the final four stereo pairs on a D-Sub. These channels are passed directly to the D-Sub marked CH5-8 Thru and summed to a TRS stereo pair labelled Sum situated with the other outputs. Four stereo outputs for the monitors are provided, one pair on XLR and three as TRS and a talkback dynamic mic input also on TRS. We also see a pair of stereo headphone outputs that are controlled from the software and a balanced LFE output for your sub that mirrors the monitored signal. Unfortunately this doesn’t allow for different levels or mute with different monitor selections.
Antelope Audio Satori Software Interface
The central rotary control feels great — turn to change volume in stepped increments or trim levels of the individual inputs and outputs by holding the source or monitor selection button in question and rotating the encoder. The LED ring shows trim as an arc starting at the top to display gain or cut. Pressing the encoder cycles through the front panel headphone output levels, indicated by the white LED above each socket. I found my DT 150s wanted a little more volume until I discovered the unit shipped with the headphones set at -30dB in the software. Holding the knob for a half second or so will mute the output in question. I tripped up on this a couple of times when familiarising myself with the unit as there is no visible display change when mute is engaged.
The Satori can be connected to Mac or PC for advanced use and level monitoring. The free downloadable software echoes the look of the unit but offers USB talkback mic connectivity, HPF, several mono modes, headphone source control, summing output volume fader, firmware updates and five preset slots. The software needs a little improvement, turning up rotary controls can take many sweeps of the trackpad or mouse and double-clicking reduces rotary controlled levels to their minimum value, with no quick way of returning to the previous volume level. However, the software and hardware worked well together in real-life recording and mix sessions.
Antelope claims a headroom of 132dB (and a THD+ N of 127dB) for Satori and cite the use of highly transparent relay attenuators to maintain signal integrity, and 0.05dB platinum relays to maintain accurate volume control and stereo balance. I found the unit to be transparent and obviously accurate to recall calibrated levels, hopefully it will remain as effective as it ages as Antelope suggests. Being a stepped system fast volume changes may result in chopping audio a little but overall the system functioned, sounded and felt great and I did not hear any degradation in my signal chain when patching directly. You could imagine the Satori at home in a deluxe project studio or in a control surface-based commercial studio. The summing facility offered too few inputs for my purposes but it did sound nice and it will suit many applications.
There are a number of competing product types to the Satori in the guise of summing mixers and monitor controllers and some include 5.1 options. However, the Satori hits its own niche, it is deliberately beautiful in design, offers some useful features, and employs stepped attenuation that delivers a great improvement over my own ageing console master pots in terms of imaging alone. This is in essence a centre section for the digital studio era.