Hercules 16/12 FW: Affordable, Professional-Quality Multichannel Audio

Software Bundle

The software bundle that accompanies the 16/12 includes Cubase LE and Ableton Live SE. Cubase LE is a slightly simplified (but quite usable) version of Steinberg's famous audio and MIDI sequencer. Ableton Live SE is an audio sequencer that works mainly with loops; as its name indicates, it is capable of real-time processing. Version 2 is a bit dated given that Version 4 is now out, but it will still please those who want to try their hand at live music. Note that you will need a fairly powerful computer with a lot of memory, however.

Functional but time-limited versions of Cakewalk Sonar 3 and Project 5 are also included.

Cubase LE, a "Lite" Version that nonetheless offers numerous possibilities, is a music production tool that will let you get you started with the 16/12 right away.

Live is both a production tool and a kind of virtual musical instrument that uses loops.

Under The Hood

The metal case of the 16/12 is very solidly built and not very easy to take apart - which is not a bad thing. Once open it reveals complex, very nicely built electronics, which are professional-looking in terms both of component choice and build quality. Most of the circuitry is on a big board that takes up the whole area of the rack. Two other boards are present, for some of the inputs/outputs on the rear panel and the front-panel controls. They're connected to the main board using brackets and connectors that give the unit very good rigidity.

Electronically, the main circuit is an Altera Acex EP1K50 PLD (Programmable Logic Device) - in other words, a proprietary solution. Analog/digital conversion is via six Analog Devices AD1871 24 bit/96 kHz stereo converters, providing the twelve channels. The typical dynamic range of this circuit is 105 dB. For digital/analog conversion Hercules used a Cirrus Logic CS4382, a well-known solution that offers eight 24 bit channels up to 192 kHz, with a typical dynamic range of 114 dB. The microphone preamps are based on the Texas Instruments BB INA163 circuit, a low-distortion, low-noise amplifier.

Three of the AD1871 converters for the inputs (at left) and the CS4382, which provides eight output channels (at right)

  • dr3tri
    Article does not tell whether this can do MIDI merge between it's two MIDI IN or not. Could you tell it in here, at comments section? Anyone?