Rational Acoustics

Rich Frembes
August 3rd, 2011, 05:21 PM
The Roland OctaCapture is proving to be very effective piece o' kit. Its feature set, rugged build quality, and ease of use make it ideal computer interface for multi-microphone measurement setups. Its origins and (ridiculously) low price point betray its MI heritage however. This led me to wonder, "how good does it sound anyway?" Is it musically accurate enough to make critical listening (not measurement) decisions with? I finally made time yesterday to find out.

Equipment list:
2x Fulcrum Acoustic RM25 Reference Monitors
2x Crown I-Tech 12000HD amplifiers (operated at 96 kHz SR)
1x California Audio Labs ICON mk II CD player w/ Power Boss upgrade
1x Audio Research LS3 preamplifier
1x Roland Octa-Capture
1x Bunch o' fancy cables
2x Ears

My sonic reference was the AR preamp, a remnant of my old hi-fi days. No remote control, no tone controls, 3x the money of the OctaCapture (in 1993 dollars) and absolutely fabulous sounding. Its sort of like BMW stripping the radio, AC, and other creature comforts out an M3 to make it faster, and charging you $20k more for the effort to boot.

I carefully matched the levels of the AR and the OctaCapture and sat back for a listen.

The verdict? Well...there's not much to talk about. Yes, the AR had slightly more authority in the bottom end. Yes, the AR's soundstaging was ever-so-slightly wider and deeper. Yes, the AR's resolution of reverberant tails was marginally better. But here's the key: you had to listen very attentively and very carefully in a relatively quiet room to hear the differences. In every practical sense the Roland OctaCapture sounds fabulous.

I played around a bit the various sample rates available and heard few if any differences. Frankly I didn't expect much on this front given the 16 bit / 44.1 kHz CD source. It would be interesting to listen to a high quality mic / musician at the different sample rates one day.

In sum, I will very confidently use the OctaCapture in the field as both a measurement and listening tool. Highly recommended.

Rich Frembes
Fulcrum Acoustic