Review: Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) AX Centre 

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine


Review: Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) AX Centre 

DAD AX Centre
Words by Andy Lloyd-Russell

Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) AX Centre | CDA Pro AV | RRP $6769

It’s rare to feel like you’ve heard music for the first time again, but Digital Audio Denmark seem to have a knack for creating some of the pristine and transparent converters available. Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) have resided in the top-top-tier bracket of pro audio for many years, having introduced some of the world’s most esteemed AD-DA converters, found in some of the most distinguished recording studios, post production and broadcast facilities on the planet, not to mentioned used by elite engineers and producers. When you have the likes of George Massenburg or the late, great Al Schmitt or singing your praises, you must be doing something right!

Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) AX Centre

Not only highly regarded for their preamps and converters, DAD in more recent times have become a pioneer for digital audio solutions, with their current line of products each sporting Dante AoIP integration and connectivity as standard, not to mention the myriad of other digital audio protocols including MADI, AES/EBU and ADAT/SPDIF again, coming as standard. 

Read all the latest product & music industry news here.

Their latest family of products dubbed Thunder | Core (having reviewed the Core 256 back in February) brings all of DAD’s digital connectivity plus Thunderbolt 3, opening up the realms of possibility for smaller studios and/or remote multitrack systems which don’t require HDX ports. Not only does the Thunder | Core family offer the convenience of Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, but an enormous 256 bidirectional channels over Thunderbolt 3 running at 48kHz or 96kHz, with the channel count being halved at 192kHz and halved again at 384kHz. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

The smallest and newest Thunder | Core member is the AX Centre audio interface, which I had the absolute pleasure of spending some time with in my studio recently. At its core the AX Centre is a 2×8 analogue audio interface over Thunderbolt 3, but with all of the aforementioned Thunderbolt 3 channel count, plus 256 bidirectional channels of Dante AoIP, MADI I/O (64 channels), ADAT I/O (16 channels), with the option to expand via two slots for any of the DAD I/O modules for more analogue or digital connectivity for a combination of pretty much any configuration imaginable. This makes the possible I/O total a whopping 984 channels, with AD/DA and D/D conversion supporting sample rates of 44.1kHz through to 384kHz as well as DSD. Add to this 512×64 channels of Pro | Mon Summing and Speaker 1024 channel EQ processing and routing and monitoring control via DADman software – you’re likely starting to get the picture of how incredibly powerful the AX Centre is. 

Connectivity and setup of the AX Centre is a pretty straight forward operation, being completely controlled remotely via the DADman software. Anybody remotely familiar with a cross point matrix should find DADman an absolute breeze, with routing signals from any connection to the AX Centre all too simple. Essentially a virtual patchbay, DADman offers a huge amount of power and flexibility, from setting up a simple main monitor and cue mix for monitoring both live and DAW sound sources through more complex setups such as sending and receiving audio from numerous DAW’s simultaneously, routing to of from Dante Virtual Soundcard or utilising the wealth of I/O and SPX speaker processing power for complex immersive Dolby Atmos and multichannel systems, making light work of rendering for immersive formats, which is exactly where the AX Centre feels at home. Having numerous digital I/O as standard makes connectivity to digitally enabled monitors, signal processors and alike that much easier also, alleviating the need for additional AD/DA conversion for an effortless and streamlined signal path and workflow.  

Aside from the standard connectivity of the AX Centre, integrating any of DAD’s optional I/O expansion cards enables users to quickly and easily expand and/or integrate into an existing setup. Even adding just one of the DAD analogue output card will enable a 7.1.4 immersive or Dolby Atmos setup, not to mention still having both headphone outputs available for checking binaural and/or fold down. 

Putting the AX Centre through its paces, I was genuinely floored. The lack of colouration or artefacts imprinted by its converters was absolutely remarkable, just pure and transparent joy.

AX Centre

I’d never heard my monitors in my studio like this before, and more to the point – the music coming out of them. It’s not often that you get to experience feeling like you’re hearing music for the first time again, and this was just that. The pristine clarity, remarkable definition and endless depth was astounding, and this was just the DA. I was excited to hear the DAD mic preamps, but I wasn’t expecting to experience what I did. Having heard a Coles 4038 countless times in a wealth of different applications and studio spaces, I felt like I was pretty accustomed to this microphone’s sound. The same for my acoustic guitar – which I’ve played and recorded with for years. Pairing both microphone and guitar and putting them through the DAD preamp was a whole other level of exciting. The front to back depth and definition was just breathtaking, with unparalleled detail and transparency of both the mic and guitar, it was truly something special. Like the DA, I’d never heard that microphone and that guitar sound like this before. Put simply, DAD’s preamp and AD/DA converters are unequivocally world class.

Having been guilty of leaning towards preamps and pro audio gear with a bit more inherent vibe and colourful character over those that present as more transparent and neutral, having spent time with the AX Centre, I’m more than happy, dare I say delighted to eat my own words. The level of depth, clarity and definition was like nothing I’ve experienced before. The AX Centre is certainly an investment in your sound but without doubt worth every cent. You get exactly what you pay for here, which is one of the most impressive audio interfaces on the market. Simple.

For local Digital Audio Denmark (DAD) enquiries, visit CDA Pro AV.