Behringer ADA8000Some of you out there may own and use an audio interface that features an optical ADAT input. If you haven’t used it yet you might be wondering what it’s for and how best to take advantage of it. Today I want to briefly go over how great this option is and how to practically use it in your studio.

Do You Lightpipe?

It has a few names, but many audio interfaces include a digital connection called ADAT or lightpipe. Like it sounds, this fiber optic technology can stream up to 8 channels of stable 44.1 or 48 khz 24 bit digital audio between audio hardware. Why is this helpful? Imagine being able to add 8 additional mic pres to your rig with a single cable connection. Simple, clean, and affordable

Many audio interfaces come with this connection on the back. It may be labeled ADAT or Optical in, but it’s all the same. Your total available I/O usually takes this connection into the equation so if you think you’re missing some of the advertised inputs this is probably where they are hiding.

Expanding Your Horizons

Smart as they are, pro audio companies have been manufacturing multi-channel preamps featuring an ADAT connection specifically to be used in conjunction with your lightpipe enabled interface. Popular examples are the M-Audio Octane, Focusrite OctoPre, and the whole line of DigiMax pres from Presonus. Simply hook up your mics to one of these multi-channel pres, connect it to your interface via an optical cable, and BAM! 8 more channels of rock n’ roll bliss with no fuss!

One of the most obvious applications of this is for recording drums. Many interfaces come with only a handful of pres on them, but if you need more than you built in options you can add 8 more with a single cable. In fact that’s how I track drums all the time. My Digi 002 comes with 4 mic pres built in, which is fine in most situations. But when I want to do 8 to 12 channels of drums I simply plug in my trusty Behringer ADA8000 (another great option, and for under $200!) and I’m ready to go. In fact this is the exact setup I used up in this video when tracking a band the other week. And the fact that it’s only a 1U rack space, I’ve got a totally portable studio with 12 mic pres. Nice!

Something To Consider

If you happen to be in the market for an audio interface and plan on recording drums or doing high track count live recording, look for an ADAT (lightpipe) enabled interface. Even if you don’t have the money (or need) to drop on one of the units mentioned above, at least you’ll have the option for expansion.