Cymatic has an exciting new product for you in the Hauptwerk community who want to multi-channel. It's called the LP-16.
The LP-16 was originally designed for gigging musicians to be able to bring along multi-track back tracks to a show without having to bring a computer rig and the software to the gig. So, it's sleek, portable and, most importantly for Hauptwerk users, it has 16 channels of analog outputs that you can use for a 16 channel Hauptwerk system.
The best part is that the MSRP on the LP-16 is $599USD and a street price of $499USD. Compare that to a Presonus 1818VSL street price tag or a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 both with $499USD street price tags. With the LP-16, you get 6-8 more output channels for the same money.
Why? Oh Why?
Generally, in life, you get what you pay for. So, on the surface, it might seem that you're getting 1/2 the quality because the cost per channel for the LP-16 is significantly less than for other devices in the same category. However, it pays to look a bit deeper in this case.
It's not hard to argue that devices like the 1818VSL, Saffire Pro 40, Audiofire8 (popular but out of production), Octa-Capture, M-Track Eight, and the 828 mk3, are all in a similar class of audio converter. They share similar price points, they're aimed at a similar market, similar features and specs. Granted, some have bells and whistles that the others don't have and that accounts for some of the price variance.
Some similarities between all of these units are:
All of them have pre-amps
All of them have loads of buttons, knobs display panels, bar graph indicators
All of them have audio input processing
All of these features are great and useful in the context of a home recording studio. However, Hauptwerk instruments don't use audio inputs. They only use outputs.
Until now, the devices that had both inputs and outputs were all we had to choose from for Hauptwerk. It meant that you were paying for a lot of features and capacity that you would never use. Now you can get an affordably priced audio output interface which only focuses on audio outputs. This is the LP-16
So What, Exactly, Does It Have?
For the purposes of Hauptwerk, the LP-16 has:
16 x 1/4" analog outputs (unbalanced)
1 x 14" headphone output jack with front mounted volume control
MIDI in jack
MIDI out jack
USB 2.0 connection to your computer
Top-mounted LCD screen to monitor line out volume levels
Playback 16 tracks at 24-bit, 44.1/48kHz
Compatible Mac OS x 10.8+ or PC Win XP+
One great thing about this interface is that the headphone output (L+R) are assignable separately from the 16 1/4" outputs. Basically, you have 18 assignable output channels. So, all 16 of those 1/4" outputs can have unique audio signals coming from them and you can still have a headphone output on top of that. You don't have to sacrifice 2 of the channels as a bounce down pair that is then mirrored out the headphone output like you would have to do on many other interfaces.
I realize that the reason you'd be looking at the LP-16 would be primarily for it's audio outputs. I have to say though, it looks and feels well built; especially for home use. Take that for what it's worth.
Not The New Kids On The Block
Cymatic may be a new name to you. It is, indeed, a new name to the market. However, their partner company is Archwave who is not new to this market. They have been making the innards that are used by many of the other audio interface companies for quite some time.
It's Like I'm Herding Caveats
If you have wandered into this post from outside the Hauptwerk community, you'll notice that I left a lot of features out of this review. There are tons of features for standalone playback and USB file management on-the-go. There's also an 1/8" stereo line in so that you can play back audio from an analogue source through the LP-16. However, these features matter not to the Hauptwerk user.
Note that the highest audio resolution for output is 24-bit 48kHz. So, if you need more than that, you'll have to look elsewhere for your audio conversion.
Also note that the 16 1/4" outputs are TS (unbalanced) instead of TRS (balanced) outputs.
This is one major difference between the aforementioned devices and the LP-16. What this means is that you will want to use shielded cables to go from the LP-16 to your amplifiers. This will protect the audio signals from noise and interference from other audio and electrical cables that might be in the path of your cable. It also means that your amplifier(s) will need to be relatively close to the LP-16 to prevent signal loss. None of these are show stopping items. They're just something to be conscious of when you're setting everything up.
So, if you're looking for an inexpensive way to get your multi-channelled Hauptwerk instrument running, this is definitely worth a look. In fact, it's a bit of a no-brainer. It certainly compares favourably to a lot of the prosumer interfaces that many Hauptwerk users use and are perfectly happy with.