How you connect a bunch of loudspeakers to your computer
There are a lot of audio interfaces available with six, eight, or ten analog outputs. But when setting up a spatial sound system with 16, 24, or even more loudspeakers, the question is how to connect them to your DAW?
To start with, you’ll need an audio interface, or a sound card, which provides as many audio outputs as speaker you wish to connect to your computer. Let's have a look at some concrete suggestions.
In professional environments, MADI technology often is the number 1 choice for multichannel audio transmission. Or, in more complex audio-visual structures, digital audio networks such as Dante. While Dante is out of range in mid and low budget projects, often MADI is a useful and reliable technology, but still very critical cost-wise. We at TAUCHER have been constantly looking for the best price per channel solution, and we’d like to share what we found out.
As a reference point, you get 64 input and 64 output channels to your DAW with the RME MADI Face USB for 713 € (all prices in this article are excl. VAT). But in addition, you need a MADI-to-analog converter in order to connect your speakers. The cheapest converter we could find comes from D.O.Tec with the name Andiamo – 32 AD & DA channels cost 1.924 €. When setting up a system with 64 channels, the best price per channel is around 71 €, and a system with 32 channels is already at 82 €.
MOTU comes up with a 24 channel USB 2.0 audio interface. The 24 AO cost 882 €, and that is 37 € per channel. That’s less than the half the price compared to MADI. And you can combine up to 5 devices, which means more flexibility with up to 120 output channels.
Finally, we found the Allen & Heath ICE-16 with a price of 48 € per channel. It comes with 16 analog inputs and outputs, and provides the optional feature to play back 16 audio channels as a stand-alone solution without a host computer. If you only use 16 loudspeakers or less, then the ICE-16 is obviously the most cost-effective solution.
Do you use other workarounds to connect a bunch of speakers to your computer? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!