Life Saver.jpeg

Graham over at posted a video about how to use your ADAT input on your audio interface. If you haven’t seen it yet. Go over there, watch it, then come back here.

Graham does a fantastic job of explaining this oftentimes confused topic. ADAT is a fantastic way to add an additional 8 microphone inputs to your system. (Also, if you aren’t subscribed to Graham’s site, you need to…seriously.)

ADAT Warning

While using ADAT is a killer way to expand your current rig (whether you own a 002, 003, Presonus Firestudio, etc.). However, whenever you start adding digital devices to your rig, you’re adding another level of complexity.

No, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t add and ADAT preamp to your rig. (It can be a fantastic way to record drums.) BUT there’s one thing that could happen if you’re not careful. And it causes major headaches.

It happened to me a few years ago, and it happened to a friend of mine recently. More on that in a second.

Quick Clocking Overview

I’m not going to bore you with all the details of clocking digital devices. You simply need to know the basics so you don’t end up with jumbled digital mess.

All digital devices work at a particular “speed.” This is known as the “sample rate.” When you start connecting digital devices together (using digital connections like ADAT, AES, S/PDIF, etc.), they all need to be running at the same sample rate, or you’ll have issues.

As Graham mentioned in his video, once he connected the ADAT device to his 002, he made sure both devices are set to the same sample rate (I do everything at 44.1 kHz). Simple, right?

Another tip about digital devices – only one device can be the “master.” All the others need to be the “slave.”

Screen shot 2010-12-01 at 12.26.43 PM.png

In Graham’s example, either the 002 or the Behringer unit needs to be the master. There are two ways to sync up digital devices: through the digital signal itself (ADAT, AES, S/PDIF all allow for this) OR through a BNC wordclock connection. Since the 002 doesn’t have a wordclock connector, Graham has to clock the 002 to the Behringer through the ADAT cable.

Graham shows us how to do this in his video.

When Things Go Wrong

So far, we’re good. The 002 is clocking off of the Behringer via ADAT. They’re both set to the same sample rate (44.1 kHz). All is well in the world.

Where things can go wrong is if you accidentally change the sample rate of the ADAT device.

Let’s say Graham accidentally changed the Behringer’s sample rate to 48 kHz and recorded a song through the 002 into Pro Tools (which was still set to 44.1 kHz).

Everything will sound fine while recording, but let’s say Graham fixes it the next day. Now both units are at 44.1 kHz again.

When he goes to play back the tracks, they’re going to sound SLOWER than the original recording. Why? Because the audio was technically captured at 48 kHz (at the Behringer converters) and the 002 is playing them back at 44.1 kHz.

As you can imagine, this is no good at all. The song will be slower AND almost a half-step lower in pitch.

There’s no easy way to fix this. It involves importing audio into new sessions and trying to trick Pro Tools into thinking they’re at different sample rates. I won’t get into that today. Suffice it to say this is a tremendous source of frustration.

Usually you just have to re-record everything, which really stinks.

The moral of the story? Always make sure ALL of your devices are set to the same sample rate BEFORE you start recording. Make this a part of your routine before every session. It will save you much frustration…and will potentially keep you from throwing your computer out the window. 🙂

[Photo by xlibber]

  • Hans Liljebladh

    I´m using JAMVOX ( ) with Audacity in a windows environment.
    I´m told that my “intermittent spark-noises” is supposed to origin from a faulty clock (master/slave) setting.
    I don’t find much option under “Tools”, “Preferences”…
    – Any ideas about where else I can find these settings ?

  • slartybartfastq

    i am recently starting to look seriously at ADAT for expanding my interfaces, can anyone give any advice to the question: is ADAT input / output universal or do the interfaces that i am connecting need to share compatibility ? ie if i have some nice older units with ADAT outputs can i use these to connect in to my Current updated studio interfaces such as my focusrite ADAT inputs etc. if i match the sample rates on both of these units. ? any tips and help greatly appreciated. many thanks

    • As long as the specs match up you should be fine. That said, sometimes there are devices that an optical connection to transfer SPDIF instead of ADAT. (2-ch vs 8-ch)

      • slartybartfastq

        thanks joe. 2 channel SPDIF would be last resort as for post production and mixing purpose’s i would want to try to get every channel multi tracked in to the DAW, so ADAT seems the best option. however do you know if SPDIF can do up to 96k as all my kit has it but i have never used it. 🙂

  • Victor Cajiao

    Maybe an already answer question but here it goes. I have a FW Apogee Emseble that has ADAT (optical) in and out, and I would like to use it to expand the Preamps on the Focusrite 18i8 which has a optical input. As long as I have the sample rate and clocks set to the same on both machines 44.1K will I be OK? Thanks for your great website

    • Sorry this is a very product-specific question. I don’t own either so I can’t answer. yOu’ll have to check with the manufacturers and see if the Ensemble will allow you to route the preamps directly to the ADAT outputs.

  • Raymond

    Hello there! This maybe a dumb question, but apart of using a 75ohm or BNC cable is there another way to sync?

    • You can sync over ADAT and S/PDIF themselves. The audio signal also carries a clock signal, but you need to connect both input and output for that to work.

  • Joe

    I have never had this happen to me (yet), but it is because I have become very diligent about sample rates and clock speed after I saw Van Halen really mess it up at a concert. For those of you not familiar with what happened with VH, here is a link to a video you should check out. Not so much to mock the band, but rather to see and hear what happens when something is played back at the incorrect sample rate.

    And if the link doesn’t work, just go to You Tube and search Van Halen Screw Up.

    Great, and very important post Joe, and thanks for all of the other great articles and tips you have given in the past.

    • Wow. That is simply AWFUL. Great example, Joe. Thanks!

  • david.c

    so would this cause pops and clicks or latency as well?

  • Stian Sylta

    This happened to me a few years ago. A friend was tracking the vocals for a heavy metal band after i had spent a week recording the band. Next time i returned everybody was mad and arguing because the song was slow and low…
    Took us a while to figure it out but we were able to import the audio and convert it back. Just lucky that time. Now I’ve gone back to 24/44.1 so it hasnt happened again. But it is scary stuff

  • I consider myself.Warned. 🙂

  • Great follow up Joe. You’re the man.

  • If you do end up with a file that your program reads with the wrong sample rate, the free program audacity might be of help. You can set the sample rate that you want the file to be read as, and then save or export the file with the right settings.

    I’ve frequently encountered this issue with Final Cut Pro, and Audacity handles this one simple fix faster than either Sound Track Pro or Logic. I’m guessing from this article that it also handles it better than Pro Tools.