Canadian Musician - May/June 2021 - Page 24

ROAD TEST Black Lion Audio Revolution 2x2 USB Interface

By Andrew Leyenhorst

While Black Lion Audio rose to prominence through their acclaimed mods to existing hardware , they have recently begun making a name for themselves with their own line of products ranging from mic preamps to compressors to clocking equipment . Now , they ’ ve taken yet another step towards establishing themselves as a mainstay in audio rigs the world over .

Black Lion released the Revolution 2x2 USB interface in February , breaking into the portable interface market with quite a thunderous roar . A small , bus-powered box , this new contender offers exceptional portability and staggering sonics that find it immediately competing with , and I daresay outclassing , established products that do the same job .
The Revolution 2x2 ’ s design is immediately impactful , with a bold , black stainless-steel chassis and a hefty , robust build . I was quite frankly surprised by the weight of the unit , but very pleased ; it looks and feels like a premium product .
The sleek unit boasts two XLR / TS combo inputs and a single 1 / 4-in . headphone jack on the front panel , and two balanced 1 / 4-in . TRS outputs as well as S / PDIF I / O with embedded clock signal on the back . + 48V phantom power is shared across the two inputs , and there is also an input select button present . Five analog encoders grace the unit , one for each preamp ; one for the headphone output ; one for the main outs ; and lastly , an Input / Playback balance for zerolatency input monitoring . Consistent with the overall feel of the build , the encoders have a nice weight to them and deliver a satisfying tactile feel . Accompanying the Input / Playback encoder is also a mono input summing button . Additionally , an eight-segment LED VU meter adorns the front face for real-time visual feedback .
As for as the interface ’ s audio architecture , the Revolution 2x2 supports up to 24-bit / 192kHz recording and playback via USB-C , and Black Lion has employed Vishay , Nichicon , and Wima capacitors throughout the entire circuit . They ’ ve also adapted the PG-I power filtering technology from their highly-regarded power conditioning units for this effort , delivering a ludicrously low signal-to-noise ratio , as well as incorporating what they call “ Macro-MMC ” technology from their clocking products . This interface also sets itself apart in the sense that power is filtered ed and decoupled in every stage of the circuit from the preamps to the clock , which is a rather uncommon practice .
In the box you ’ ll find the interface itself and an accompanying USB-C cable , as well as a handful of software goodies ; downloads for PreSonus Studio One Artist , iZotope Elements , the Brainworx _ bx mastering EQ plug-in , and the Lindell 6X500 preamp / passive EQ plug-in are available to Revolution 2x2 owners .
When put into action , the Revolution 2x2 more than vindicates the lengths Black Lion have gone to design the ideal small-format interface . Of course , the aforementioned sleek look , small profile , and the quality of the build contribute to the unit ’ s standing , but all of those factors ultimately ride on the back of the titan that is this interface ’ s sound .
The first thing I noticed when switching to the Revolution 2x2 from my Audient iD44 , was that there was no noticeable drop-off in digitalto-analog conversion when playing back audio or printing mixes . The Revolution 2x2 delivered the same depth , width , and openness as the iD44 , and ultimately proved to do the same with its analogto-digital conversion as well ; a strong statement by Black Lion given Audient ’ s phenomenal reputation for their interfaces and conversion .
The preamps on the Revolution 2x2 also proved to be impressive , easily handling a variety of sources and delivering excellent recordings at all dynamics ; I put it through its paces with vocals ranging from gentle croons to aggressive screams and growls , and was satisfied with the results . With 55 dB of gain , there ’ s plenty of headroom on tap and it ’ s very , very clean . When pushed to the brink , however , these preamps do offer some satisfying saturation ; I was especially impressed with the way they captured alto sax . I intentionally recorded hot in some instances , and even when pushed to saturation with high-SPL input , the horn ’ s nuances were not muddled or distorted , and
sounded full and open . The microphone I used for these tests was an Aston Origin condenser .
The Revolution 2x2 ’ s preamps also served direct electric guitar and bass recordings well , making full use of their 20Hz – 20kHz frequency response . These preamps are very accurate , and will capture every bit of crisp high end or warmth you throw at them . I also really liked how they handled a direct injection of synth , as switching from fat bass tones to shrill leads to deep , ambient pads emphasized different areas of the preamps ’ range and demonstrated their versatility .
The Input / Playback balance encoder is a very convenient means of input monitoring without latency , as it circumvents the need for software and makes it easy to intuitively blend your live performance with your DAW ’ s output . The headphone amp also sounds killer , as it should , considering that this is an extremely well-rounded package .
With the Revolution 2x2 , Black Lion Audio ’ s first foray into the audio interface conversation has yielded a triumphant return . While it sits at a slightly higher price point than its 2-in , 2-out competitors , it also punches at a much higher weight than the tag it carries . This is a smallformat interface that sets a new standard , and I ’ d be hard-pressed not to suggest it to those looking for a killer tool for home recording or to take on the road .
Andrew Leyenhorst is a Niagara-based producer , engineer , mixer , and consulting editor at Canadian Musician .