Prism Sound Lyra 2
Prism Sound has the rare accolade of being respected by pretty much one and all. Its uncompromising pursuit of quality does mean that its products are not the cheapest, however, so it has tended to be found only in the upper echelons of recording. The Lyra range is its most affordable yet but it uses much of the technology of its bigger and more expensive siblings, so is there a compromise?
The Lyra feels solid and beautifully built. The front panel sports two instrument inputs, a metering section, an assignable level control and a headphone output with dedicated level control. On the back are input XLRs for microphones, two line input 1/4-inch TRS jacks and four 1/4-inch TRS outputs.
In addition there is a USB port, two BNC sockets for wordclock in and out, two phono connectors for S/PDIF I/O and the ADAT lightpipe I/O sockets. Power is connected via an IEC mains connector so there is no external PSU to lose. There is also a pair of phono to XLR connectors so that the wired digital I/O can be used in AES format.
The Lyra can be used as a standalone unit but, as in most situations it will be hooked up to a computer, you need to install the included software as this opens up the full functionality of the unit. Firstly you have control of sample rate, sync sources, and so on, via a set of pull-down menus. Below these is the mixer section where you can access each section of the Lyra and create different balances for different outputs.
On the inputs page you have two analogue inputs where you can switch between Mic, Line and Instrument, switch phantom for mics, stick in a high-pass filter, switch the Overkiller circuit in and out and phase reverse. There is also a Stereo digital input and, if you have ADAT selected, eight ADAT inputs.
For each potential analogue or digital output you have a separate mixer that allows you to set up different balances to each potential output pair (ie analogue out 1&2, ADAT out 5&6 or the dedicated headphone out) - handy for setting up different monitor balances when recording but also great if you are running a live show from a laptop.
While the connection and mix possibilities are excellent, the sound is even better. In our test studio we have access to some very high-end interfaces already so we conducted a blind listening test with several colleagues. The results were unanimous. The Lyra came out on top for everyone.
The low-end is incredibly precise and full, the mids smooth and detailed and the highs are superb and vibrant. Stereo imaging is excellent but it's the depth of field that really wins you over. This writer spends a lot of time in mixes getting the acoustic spaces just right and the Lyra makes it easy to hear exactly what you are doing. From hard-edged Electro through to Classical, you hear every glorious detail.
The two microphone inputs also sound stunning. They are superbly transparent with wonderful transient response and the overkiller soft limiter which guarantees no overloads - any recording source will benefit from going through them. Just the pres alone would give plenty of other high-end units a run for their money.
If you are in the market for a truly professional quality, small format convertor with flexible monitoring options look no further. While there might be a couple of other units on the market which match it for sonic quality, nothing stands above it as a complete package. Highly recommended.