Focusrite X2P : A Dante Gateway Drug?

focusrite x2p

IBC 2017 saw the launch of Focusrite’s new product: Ecstacy.  Sorry – X2P.   Charming and adorable: the Focusrite X2P is a compact 2 x 2 interface with dual Mic Preamps and stereo line/headphone outs.  All presented in their reassuringly attractive brushed red metal.  Nice, right?

focusrite x2p

Ostensibly the Focusrite X2P could be seen simply as an extension to the RedNet range, a step further from the AM2 stereo output interface.  Certainly it’s now the easiest and least expensive introduction to RedNet I/O.  Here at Resurface we think there’s much more to this product than meets the eye.  A wolf in sheep’s clothing – It’s a gateway drug.

As much as it’s preaching to the Dante-converted choir, the X2P is one of the best reasons yet to consider going down the AOIP route in the first place.

Rather than starting with the finer points of your DAW rig or RedNet setup and working outwards, the X2P flips the argument 180 degrees: Why not start with your premises, your business needs, and work back from there?

The question becomes ‘”Where might it be useful to be able to put a mic or an output, and does that place have a network socket?”

Most working studios and facilities can come up with a handful of examples. The likelhood is that the absence of plumbed-in tie lines has always put the sword to that thought process.  Thus the benefits of that flexibility never materialise.

There will be other customers contemplating whether the new wave of Audio-Over-IP technology is right for them.  Or at least right for them just yet.  The option of doing nothing is ever-present.  Particularly when the concept of implementing an AOIP setup often feels like a wholesale and complex switch from one – familiar – technology to another.  The other being altogether more mysterious.

Perhaps ‘gateway drug’ is too strong:  In X2P we have a toe-in-the-water, albeit a pedicured one.  A dainty dante doorway, which will ship complete (according to our Focusrite contacts) with a bundled copy of Dante Virtual Soundcard . Assuming nothing other than bog standard Cat5e or Cat6 network infrastructure is already in place, then with the software installed and the X2P connected, you’re in the club.  A paid-up citizen of the world of AOIP.

focusrite x2p

What you’ll have is access to a pair of Focusrite Evolution mic pre’s (or line ins) and a stereo analogue output, plus cans with a clever ‘more me’ mix.  Where you’ll have them is up to you.

A couple of smart design touches mean that A) The unit can be tabletop or screwed onto a mic stand thread and B) If the talent on the business end of the Mic can’t be trusted – the main controls of the mic pre (phantom power, gain level etc) can be ‘locked-out’ and adjusted only remotely by the audio engineer.  As well as passing audio and remote control data over IP the X2P can also take its power over the same ethernet cable from a PoE switch or injector, removing another historic obstacle to physical placement.

Now that the benefits are manifest, a strange thing happens: The job of converting everything else to AOIP suddenly becomes a lot less daunting.  From here on in it’s plug & play.  Rather than the Focusrite X2P being an extension to the range, the range is a logical expansion of the X2P way of working.

Prompting the question:  What if all our I/O could be handled this way?