[New Module] nw2s::io Balanced line transceiver

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scottwilson
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[New Module] nw2s::io Balanced line transceiver

Post by scottwilson » Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:25 am

Now available for order!

http://nw2s.net/product/nw2s-io/

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I've had a lot going on these days, with finishing up 1.0 version of the firmware and doing my best to support those of you actively working on the 'b, but I did manage a little time to work on this.

It will be different in that I won't offer a kit. It will be almost 100% SMT and I'll be having it assembled by robots as much as possible.

It's still in the prototyping and tuning stages, but it's far enough along to know that it will work, and I certainly need something in my studio like this.

Image

For far too long, your modular has lived in its own world. Crazy signal levels, Unbalanced connections, Odd cables, Disconnected sleeves? Or is that ring? Or should it be grounded? The nw2s::io lets your modular integrate with your studio just as if it were another well-behaved piece of rack gear.

The nw2s::io is electronically balanced using precision THAT Balanced Drivers and Receivers. It is designed with SMT components and stacked PCBs, resulting in an extremely high-density module.

Record directly to your DAW at optimal levels

Even with a padded DI, the signal coming from your modular can be too hot for the internal circuitry of the DI or the mic-pre. When padded enough, you're attenuating it down to mic levels just so it can be re-amped to balanced studio levels.

The nw2s::io has enough headroom to directly convert your high-voltage modular audio signals (over 22V peak to peak) to line level +4dBu balanced signal that can be reliably routed through your studio so that your modular can be treated just as any other pro audio device.

Record Rich Patches with a Minimum of Hardware

With 8 channels per 10hp module, you will reduce the need to pre-mix signals before recording, giving more flexibility at mix-time.

Integrate pro audio gear into your patches

Reverbs, delays, dynamics, EQ, distortion, anything else you can think of. Integrate your +4dBu studio gear into your patches with no special cabling or compromising unbalanced cables.

Treat your modular as a hardware insert for your DAW

Process audio with your DAW just as you would any other external effects processor. Along with a MIDI to clock converter, you can even get tempo synchronized processing, all at studio levels with balanced cabling.

Interface CV with your DAW

The nw2s::io is DC coupled, so you can integrate Silent Way into your studio without the need for special cables that defeat the noise-cancelling properties of balanced interfaces.
Last edited by scottwilson on Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:03 am, edited 3 times in total.

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dadek
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Post by dadek » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:36 pm

one for me please! :guinness:
really great.

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Post by L.C.O. » Tue Jun 24, 2014 8:53 am

When this is out: I am getting one.
Very cool

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Post by suboptimal » Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:48 am

This would radically improve the way my studio is wired. I'll be keeping an eye on this. I suppose my question is how gain staging is managed - I've never used a DB25 connection, and the cost of those cables alone is going to make this a bit of a stretch for me . . .but man, the advantages are probably worth it!

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Post by scottwilson » Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:40 pm

Yeah, the most affordable way to get the cabling is either Pro-Co from one of the online retailers or custom from Redco for some US-made ones. They are not that expensive when you start doing the math. Mainly depends on how far you need to run them.

And yes, it's a bit selfish on my part for studio wiring purposes. I hate having to have so many DIs and to not have a permanent wiring solution. It seems like by the time I'm ready to record, I have to find cables, find DIs, figure out how I'm going to use the only 4 DIs I have, and by then I get demotivated cause all I wanted to do was hit record. This will make it so I can just have 8 in and 8 out wired permanently to my DAW interface and not worry about it again.

I was a bit surprised to find there were no true-balanced options available. Yes, most folks can just go straight in with an unbalanced cable or disconnected ring and never have an issue, but as I'm primarily an engineer, it's one of those things that I'm just not comfortable with. When it comes time to mixdown or record and something is wrong, the time spent dealing with it is just not worth the shortcut.

As to gain staging, the goal is simplicity and avoiding compromising the precision built into the balancing circuit. This means setting up the gain with as little in the way as possible, with as low a noise floor as possible, and as little chance of clipping as possible. At this point, I'm getting close to settling on -6dB from modular to DB-25 and either 0dB or +6dB going the other way. The problem going back into modular is primarily the 12V rail limitation. Have to play with the prototypes some more.

s

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Post by lintfresh » Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:04 am

Scott, this is great. I've been looking for something like this forever.

:tu:

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Post by L.C.O. » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:36 am

scottwilson wrote: [...] I hate having to have so many DIs and to not have a permanent wiring solution. It seems like by the time I'm ready to record, I have to find cables, find DIs, figure out how I'm going to use the only 4 DIs I have, and by then I get demotivated cause all I wanted to do was hit record. This will make it so I can just have 8 in and 8 out wired permanently to my DAW interface and not worry about it again. [...]
This is so true. I will only add to it, that the thought of just recording the whole thing as a single two (or one!) channel piece never sits well with me. I know that there will always be things that need editing, balancing, adjustments etc.

I suppose there is a value in that, and perhaps an encouragement to perform live, but I think this module, will make it possible to "have it both ways".Looking forward to it!

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Post by akrylik » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:32 am

I have a DB25 to 8 x TRS snake cable that I bought to use with an ES-1 but then ended up never using. Would that work with this?

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Post by scottwilson » Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:53 pm

Yes, that's exactly what this would work with. DB-25 to TRS or DB-25 to XLRM/XLRF, DB-25 to DB25... DB-25 to patch bay? DB-25 to punch block!

I got the *ahem* acrylic panel prototype in to test the layout and I think it's a good fit. I was worried they'd be a little tight next to the DB-25s, but in practice, as long as you put it on the lower right of your rack, it's not in the way at all.

Also been rethinking the circuit a little bit. In order for the THAT chips to run optimally, they will require +/- 18V rails. +/- 12V rails are just too much of a compromise in that the unbal->bal is limited to about 20dBu and the bal->unbal is limited to less than 14dBu. Far from the 24dBu that is the standard full-scale audio level for most converters.

Doing a proper 18V rail off of 12V will mean that most of the circuit will be power supply, but really, the power supply is probably the most important design aspect of a module like this.

Setting them up this way will allow me to configure them as 0dB overall gain (+6dB/-6dB) and you'll be able to record -10 to +10 control voltage or up to +24dBu audio - really any signal your module will be able to generate, without a problem.

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Post by akrylik » Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:42 pm

If you are going to go through the trouble of deriving +/-18V from the eurorack supply then maybe its better as a standalone box with its own wall wart?

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Post by scottwilson » Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:25 pm

Most standard wall warts will still only give you a single positive voltage - which would need the exact same circuitry to get +/- rails.

Add the expense of an enclosure and that it's no longer integrated into your system, and it's hard to justify.

Also consider the scale: 16 channels of IO needs a little less than 60mA at 20V rails. A reasonably efficient DC-DC converter will require about 150mA of +12V to supply that conversion. Some reverse voltage protection, a few well-placed capacitors, a couple of regulators, maybe an inductor or two for good measure, and we're still talking about something that can easily fit behind a 10HP panel. I think it will be pretty tidy.

s

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Post by thresholdpeople » Thu Jul 03, 2014 12:31 am

Nice! Looking forward to this module. Contemplating 3U of i/o modules just for this reason has been a drag.

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Post by ignatius » Thu Jul 03, 2014 12:51 am

:yay: :yay: :yay: :yay:

yes please.

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Post by Fractaltctrl » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:47 pm

Ohh man this is much needed!
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Post by ignatius » Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:08 pm

any news?

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Post by scottwilson » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:54 am

Got your earlier email, but my response must've gotten lost. I'll get back you you today. Wanted to get the 1.0 firmware out for the 'b and now that 's in the can, I'm back on this full-time.

I'll be pricing out prototyping shops this week - just finishing a couple of PCB tweaks before sending it out. (SMT pin header libraries are a lot harder to find than they should be!)

Thanks for the interest!

s

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Post by Ya-Neck » Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:01 am

Man I love this invention of yours!
This is such a need in modular synthesis!
Thanks and keep up the good work! Can't wait to get my hand on this one!

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Post by scottwilson » Thu Jul 24, 2014 7:08 pm

Making some progress. Managed to fit 8 channels of balanced receivers, 8 channels of balanced transmitters, 6 channels of LED drivers, and a +/- 18V rail power supply. This thing is dense for 10HP.

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Post by ignatius » Thu Jul 24, 2014 7:15 pm

wicked!

that's a dandy.

didn't get your email though. can PM me here for starters and will see what the email hang up is asap.

can't wait for this thing. so handy.

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Post by HIMA » Sat Aug 30, 2014 10:06 am

I think it's exactly what i'm looking for. But i'm not sure i understand it correctly. I'm about to get all noob...

I have a ton of outboard gear I want to run through the modular, reverbs, delays, drum machines etc. and i'm on the verge of buying a patchbay to make my life a bit easier. But till now I've been overdriving line gear signals running through my desk and then bringing them into the modular with 1/4 to 3.5 mm cables. Or using a PTG to raise levels. That obviously sucked.

In my future set-up, I'd imagined to buy multiple Gozinta's to pump signals coming from the patchbay. But if i understand, I'm not sure i do, this module would make this unnecessary? It would, for example, take the space's reverb signal from the patchbay (TRS) in to the module (DB25) and have it's levels elevated to modular? Else i'm just integrating a very quiet signal and still need to pump it with the Gozinta...

once again, excuse what i'm sure is a stupid question. But enquiring minds want to know.

edit: all this talk of 12V vs 18V rails is going over my head. Could a uZeus power this?
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Post by CF3 » Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:17 pm

I'm super excited for this. FINALLY a legit I/O set up for Euro (that's more than stereo!). Eagerly awaiting pricing and a release date. :hyper: DB25 is perfect for keeping it nice and neat. :party:

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Post by ignatius » Sun Aug 31, 2014 12:25 pm

i have space in the case and two snakes at the ready :)

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Post by scottwilson » Sun Aug 31, 2014 8:35 pm

@HIMA: I don't think those are silly questions at all - it's a bit confusing if you're not used to thinking about levels, but in reality, it's pretty basic as long as you know what standards everyone is speaking and take the time to work out how they interact with each other.

This module is made to be powered from a +/- 12V rail. The chips I'm using require a +/- 18V power supply for optimal headroom. I'm using the same ICs that are in countless pro-audio consoles, summing mixers, DACs, and ADCs. Most of these aren't limited by an existing power rail as we are in the eurorack world.

I'm fulfilling the voltage requirement using an on-board DC-DC power supply. I'm waiting on a production prototype of the SMT circuit to make sure that the theoretical noise performance will carry through into practice. Knock on wood.

Bottom line, yes, the uZeus will be able to power it.

As to the gain staging, I was first considering an overall unity gain model which would optimize headroom for the chips, but makes the input signal a bit low, as you are describing. As such, I'm pretty sure I will be settling with a +6dB input gain (from balanced to unbalanced) as well as a +6dB output gain with an optional pad on the output that can be used to tame the signals a bit if you expect your levels to be much more than 10V p-p or if you have particularly sensitive outboard gear without input gain knobs.

I'll provide a few more details and some specific examples once I confirm the production run and get some units in that don't look like glorified breadboards. Looking forward to it. Working all these details out in my head is a bit stressful - I'm ready for the assembled SMT boards to arrive!

-s

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Post by HIMA » Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:14 am

Thanks for clearing this up. +6db gain isn't much. The extra +6 will help a ton. Is more possible? I like the fact that Gozinta has jumpers for each channel to configure gain to 12, 24, or 36dB.
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Post by scottwilson » Mon Sep 01, 2014 9:54 am

This is primarily meant to be an interface - balanced to unbalanced and back. It's designed to be as simple as possible with a pristine signal path. At this point, the only thing in the signal path is just the 1246 or 1646 IC (input vs output). Adding more gain circuitry, particularly adjustable gain would increase the cost and compromise the signal path for the whole device rather than only those channels that need it.

If you have something that's particularly low level that you need to interface, you'll still need to provide some gain - either in the modular realm or prior to patching into the modular. The Gozinta is a great looking module that seems like would be great to have a couple on hand for when the need arises. Hopefully, of the things you're interfacing, you wouldn't need one for each channel.

6dB gain is actually just about right for the difference between pro audio and modular audio. I'm assuming that +4dBu is the nominal voltage level for balanced pro audio and 10V p-p is the nominal voltage level for modular signals. (Note: nominal = ideal compromise between headroom and noise floor)

Here's an example: you have a 0VU (+4dBu) signal coming from your console, sampler, synth, or effects processor. You're going to want that to end up being about 10V p-p. 6dB of gain gets us close without needing any extra circuitry.

Code: Select all

4dBu + 6dB = 10dbU = 6.9V p-p
So if you have something that needs 12, 24 or 36 dB of gain, you're talking about something that's probably 150mV to a volt peak to peak which would be about -24dBu.

Hope that helps clarify a bit more.

Scott

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