DM 4800 and External Word Clock for better sound?


Well-Known Member
Mar 29, 2013
Gear owned
DM 4800

Has anyone tried connecting the DM 4800 (by itself) to a word clock and did this improve the overall sound quality of the mixer?
And - everytime you reference that article, I feel compelled to repeat this:

"There’s a widespread notion that adding a high-quality master clock to a digital system will somehow magically improve its overall performance. While that might possibly have been the case in the very early days of semi-pro digital converters where, frankly, some of the internal digital clock designs were pretty ropey, it certainly isn’t the case today. As I’ve explained above — and will prove below — today’s converter designs generally work best on their own internal clocks.."

I rest your case. :)

No less an authority than George Massenburg ran his own tests on this subject and came to the same conclusion.

A dedicated clock that costs more than a DM3200 will actually degrade the performance of a DM3200. Fancy that.
I know this subject is very controversial.
My experience tells me that using the onboard clock is better.
I've had a few external clocks for different situations.
If you are running a network of devices that require clocking, then by all means, try a great external clock box to unite them all.
But... if you are using the DM for recording and playback, the internal clock will sound better. (my opinion)
The recording part seems to be the most tied to the sound.
I've A/B'd recordings done with internal vs. external clocking and in the case of the DM, the Internal sounds better to me.
Very subjective, but true for me.
FWIW....2cents at least...
I bought a Lucid GenX192 several years ago to answer all those same questions I had at the time. I did several tests, with the DM slaved to the GenX and not, both playback and recording, and there was practically no difference. No extra clarity, no change in imaging, and no magic "unveiling" of a fancy new sound. After reading the info from George Massenburg, I really felt there was no reason to slave to the GenX. And, I became convinced that the device doing the A/D conversion (my 3200 in this case) should be the master clock. But, I keep the clock in my rig to distribute the DM's word clock to other digital devices, so it still has its use. But, I do try to keep all conversion done within the DM. There you go.
I think those explanations of practical experience say it all. If you have a 'digitally robust' studio - ie - a sizeable battery of devices needing central, rock solid clocking, an external clock is probably a good idea. But - in most other scenarios, the DM's clock is going to be the best option. And why not? It's essentially state of the art; the converters are nothing to sneeze at.

This topic is similar to the 'old school' notion that CDs - and by extention - digital audio are 'cold,' 'brittle,' 'thin,' That was true - in 1990 - before major advances in algorithms, converters, software and techniques. And yet, the urban legends from those early times tend to 'stick,' - they get repeated and become 'fact. Worse, these concepts are fertile ground for audio manufacturers seeking more 'audiophools' to enhance their bank accounts.

Caveat. Emptor. :)

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HAHA...put me down as 1 "audiophool".
I read somewhere once that all audio interconnects need to be aligned parallel to the earths N-S magnetic lines of flux to reach their full potential.
'Full Potential?' Well I guess my studio's potential is compromised by 45 degrees because it faces west. :)

Now - here's something I bet would stump the person making that claim: Ask him how he derives the EXACT location of the magnetic lines, what he uses for reference, and what the BIG problem with this theory is. He if he can't answer that last question specifically, then I would pronounce his concept DOA. :)

captdan said:
'Full Potential?' Well I guess my studio's potential is compromised by 45 degrees because it faces west. :)
You mean 90 degrees? That's the worst case scenario! You should really do something about it.

My studio isn't doing well either. It's heading ENE and magnetic declination at my location is 8 deg E. So ... my 'magnetic potential compromise number' is something like 60 degrees. EEK!
I think west-facing would put you 90deg out!! Think of all the tiny electrions being sucked towards the North as they are forced to travel West.
Studio location would have to take magnetic variation into account, of course, as aligning with true north defeats the purpose.
AHA! You presumed I was EXACTLY west facing. In fact I'm about 45 degrees WESTWARD of 'True' North. :)

You're right; magnetic and true are two different things. So much, in fact, that - in some places on Earth - the variation moves 400 miles in ANY direction. And this occurs continually, and over several years.

Because of this, if you were unlucky enough to have a studio in one of the most magnetically variable places on the planet, you'd have to build your studio on a platform that not only revolves - but moves anywhere within a 360 circle - and possibly - to the next STATE. :)

And that, my friends, is why theories like these are time wasting at best, and imbecilic - at WORST. :)

Thanks for the wealth of information, guys. Where would you rate the DM 4800 conversion? Is it better than an MBox Pro 3 or Apogee Ensemble?
The DM conversion is about as good as anything out there -up to and including - products in the $5000 range. As good as 'Lavery Gold?' Depends on what your reference source is. If you're a high end classical producer, spendy converters MIGHT be advantageous - depending on several other factors.

But - if you essentially do metal/rock/loud/pop - you can probably get away with an MBox, or for that matter, a Roland VS2480. That's because the signal will likely get stepped on by a battery of limiters, plugins and efx - rendering the final product bereft of dynamics and subtlety.

Final thought: repositioning a mike, altering the threshold/release on a compressor, or setting a small notch on an EQ will result in more dramatic audible differences than whatever insignificant effect conversion might have on the signal chain.


captdan said:
Final thought: repositioning a mike, altering the threshold/release on a compressor, or setting a small notch on an EQ will result in more dramatic audible differences than whatever insignificant effect conversion might have on the signal chain.



Exactly. How good are the converters in the DM series? Way better than the ones Roger Nichols use to record "The Nightfly."
Yep. We've got $1/2 million dollah boards (or they certainly would've been in 1997 :))

Slight digression but it's relevant:

I've participated in several blind audio tests - comparing DAW to analog tape; preamp 'shoot outs.' There was even one example where the challenge was to pick out a 16/44.1 recording from a bunch of 24 bit examples.

Now, I think I've got pretty good ears, and some decent experience under my belt. But, I've gotta tellya, NONE of those tests were easy. I BARELY managed to discern a ProTools clip from 24 track tape recording done through a Neve console; preferred a cheapo pre amp instead of one costing 4 times as much; and completely missed the 16/44.1 example. More interesting: the various other contestants didn't fare much better.

When expectation (and justification) is taken out of the equation, it's pretty interesting what happens in these scenarios. Which is why I always say:


That's Deep and does help my decision making. It sounds like I can focus more on getting a decent preamp for vocals and call it a day. I do have another question if you don't mind me asking. In the case of mixing Virtual instruments on the DM 4800 and then sending them mix back to the DAW. Will there be any conversion involved? I'm just curious how things work inside the DM 4800 (i.e. DAW Instruments> firewire card> DM digital>faders>DM analog in> Processing> DM analog out> DM digital>Firewire card) ?
If you stay in the digital domain, there's no conversion whatsoever. Simply put, if your DAW and DM are digitally connected (firewire, ADAT/TDIF/SPDIF), and you're not sending the entire signal outboard to an analog target (compressor/preamp/efx), then what goes in - comes out.

Exactly right. Think of it this way:

There are two doors on your recording system (DM, computer, software, etc.). One is the In door (all the analog inputs on your console), and one is the Out door (various outputs to speakers, headphones, etc). These doors are for immigrants and émigrés, and to pass through them requires a passport (I.e., an A/D or D/A converter).

But sounds that are born inside the borders of your system (VI's, loops, etc) don't need a passport. They're native.

I just got the "Light Bulb effect". Now I get it. So, when I mix and add internal effects on the DM 4800, even though I can hear the mix through the DA (monitors) the mix is not even touching the converters, unless I use an external "something" that forces the board to use the analog side. If this is the case, this is what I wanted. NOW! Here's another question! Is there a sonic difference between using the DM 4800 strictly as a control surface (USB only) and digitally mixing inside the DAW vs Sending the mix to the DM 4800 (via firewire) and then back to the DAW (via firewire)?

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