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RME MADIface XT  USB 3.0 AUDIO INTERFACE Simon Tillbrook walks us through RME’s new powerful, yet unassuming audio interface.

I HAVE come to rely on RME over a good period of time now, and have always been impressed by its offerings, so my expectations are always high when something from its stable arrives for me to take a look at. Over the past few days I

have been making use of a new unit from RME audio that on first glance would give you no indication of the power and versatility it offers. The MADIface XT appears to be a simple, half-rack USB interface box, but a good look around the back tells you the real story (and you don’t have to look far into the existing RME range to see where this development has come from). The RME HDSPe MADI

card is a PCI Express card using the Hammerfall DSP technology and RME’s TotalMix FX software to produce an incredibly powerful MADI audio distribution set-up. This, of course, relies on using a desktop computer to house and run the system, but RME has now developed portable computer interfacing to allow this powerful routing package to be truly portable.

FEATURES The MADIface XT is an audio interface that provides 196 inputs and 198 outputs with computer connection options for PCI Express and USB 3.0. I will run through the connections in detail in a moment, but it is worth pointing out that RME has developed the first real USB 3.0 interface here. The front panel of the RME MADIface XT has two Neutrik combination sockets providing two balanced analogue inputs, each with three LEDs to indicate the presence of phantom power, audio signal, and audio

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clipping (there are corresponding balanced XLR analogue outputs on the rear). There’s also a headphone

amplifier output that can be used as unbalanced analogue outputs three and four. The headphone socket sits beside a full-colour display with four function selection buttons and two rotary encoders with push button functionality (more on these later). It is the rear of the MADIface XT where things start to get interesting. Alongside the two analogue outputs are word clock BNC input and output, a mini-DIN connector for external remote, and an AES/MIDI D-Sub connector that delivers through the supplied breakout cable via XLR and 5-pin DIN connections. Below these are the series of

sockets that will be the reason the RME MADIface XT will be of interest to potential users. There are three sets of MADI input and output sockets. Numbers 1 and 2 deliver via optical MADI ports, and number 3 via standard MADI coaxial connector ports. Each is capable of delivering 64 channels both in and out, giving a total of 192 bidirectional digital channels. To be able to achieve this

you need connection to your computer with significant bandwidth, so next to the MADI ports is the USB 3.0 socket (which is USB 2.0 compatible, but significantly reduces the channel count) and does not support bus power. As well as USB 3.0 there is a PCI Express connection compatible with Molex E-PCIe cables. It is also possible to use a PCIe- to-Thunderbolt converter box too (not supplied).


RME has chosen to focus on quality of interfacing here.

PCIe and the bespoke USB 3.0 chipset deliver the best possible latency and CPU loading figures with the stability we have come to expect with the desktop set-up. The

MADIface XT supports sample rates from

32kHz to 192kHz/24bit, and eight latency/buffer settings. These are 0.7, 1.5, 3, 6, 12, 23, 46 and 93ms.

The four function selection

buttons along with the rotary encoders allow for total standalone operation without any need for a host computer. The colour display is wonderfully clear and displays selected functions with a great deal of detail. The functions selections

that are available start at the top with Mic/Gain. Here we can use the rotary encoders to adjust and, when pushed, select the options for the two inputs. The Meters show the mix

screen where you can adjust the routing and the mixing between channels of audio. If you are connected to a host computer those routing/mixing functions will only be available to you through the connected computer.

Channel gives you access to all the inputs and outputs using rotary encoder 1 for input, and 2 for output. You can change settings, low cut, parametric EQ, compressor/ expander, and auto level. Finally, setup/reverb allows for adjustment of a comprehensive set of parameters for the in-built reverb/echo processor.

TOTALMIX FX The RME MADIface XT really can be used standalone

“The MADIface XT appears to be a simple, half-rack USB interface box, but a good

look around the back tells you the real story.”

Simon Tillbrook

with such a great display and function set, but when connected to a host computer and utilising RME’s TotalMix FX software, you really can get incredible visual feedback on the settings and configurations you have put in place. With the Matrix view in

TotalMix FX I could easily create multiple independent MADI monitoring streams for the same input source, all independently controllable. I created a series of submixes (you can create up to 99) for different monitoring purposes, and I had no issues with


• World’s first USB 3.0 audio interface • Powerful MADI routing supporting 196 input and 198 output channels

• Two analogue mic/line preamp inputs (XLR/TRS) with four analogue outputs

• TotalMix software offering more in-depth visual feedback

latency in any of the configurations I tried.

CONCLUSION The RME MADIface XT is quite a package. This small innocent looking box hides the most comprehensive MADI routing/mixing system in a completely portable solution. Standalone you can get

everything you need from the RME MADIface XT, but combined with the TotalMix FX software you can quickly and independently create and store complex configurations effortlessly. This is not a cheap portable MADI routing system; RME has taken the route of producing a quality option, and the MADIface XT is all the better for it.

THE REVIEWER Simon Tilbrook is a freelance sound designer/ engineer, and training designer working principally with US clients on music, movies, and games.

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