Prism Sound Lyra 2 Review. The upgrade from the Lyra 1, the Lyra 2 is an excellent premium USB portable mastering quality audio interface with multiple digital and analogue inputs and outputs. It features unparalled refernce sound quality.
A gold standard of the audio (and post) production world, Prism Sound radiates unparalleled sound quality through a series of brilliant interfaces that are primarily designed for professionals. Although typically out of the price range of the average semi-professional, or indeed professional, recently Prism Sound introduced two highly portable ‘studio in a box’ little-sister interfaces to the multi-award winning Orpheus.
Dubbed the Lyra 1 and Lyra 2, Prism [Sound] did not want to sacrifice any of the Orpheus’ legendary quality on the input, output, clock, or at any stage at all, as the design goal was to create a groundbreaking yet competitive portable (smaller form factor) interface. Respectively the number of inputs and outputs was condensed and, apart from these seemingly minor tweaks, the difference between the Orpheus interface and both Lyra’s is that the Lyra relies on an USB 2.0 connection instead of the ageing FireWire technology as used within the aforementioned units architecture.
Which Lyra Is For Me and What’s The Difference?
As mentioned previously, the Lyra comes in two variants; the ‘Lyra 1’ and the ‘Lyra 2’. Now, besides the obvious monetary price difference, the physical difference between the two is simply the number and type of available inputs and outputs. With the ‘Lyra 1’ interface you will have two line inputs (return balanced or TRS jacks, instrument input, or line level input), two balanced outputs (to go to your monitor speakers or send channel), one XLR microphone preamplifier, one ADAT send of up to eight channels, and one ADAT return of up to eight channels. However, on the ‘Lyra 2’ you can enjoy more flexibility with two balanced line inputs (same as the ‘Lyra 1’), four balanced outputs (two more than the ‘Lyra 1’), two XLR microphone preamplifiers (one more than the ‘Lyra 1’), one ADAT send of up to eight channels (same as the ‘Lyra 1’), and one ADAT return of up to eight channels (same as the ‘Lyra 1’), one send S/PDIF (the ‘Lyra 1’ has none), one return S/PDIF (the ‘Lyra 1’ has none), four (soft-limiting) ‘Overkillers’, one WordClock BNC input (the ‘Lyra 1’ has none), one WordClock BNC output (the ‘Lyra 1’ has none), two quick access front panel instrument inputs (the Lyra 1 has only one), and finally an Ethernet controller input.
However, differences aside, both units will perform identically as the internal circuitry is essentially the same apart from one can physically do a lot more tasks than the other. Disappointingly it is rather important to note with the additional outputs on the Lyra 2, the software still does not allow the user to easily A/B two pairs of monitor speakers, so please bear this in mind.
If you are someone who only desires to have simple two-channel input and outputs, and only one microphone preamplifier, Prism Sound quality converters to boost an in-the-box setup then the ‘Lyra 1’ could be for you; especially if you are heavily involved in electronic music genres or need a reference setup. However, I would personally save up a little more money and purchase the ‘Lyra 2’. The ‘Lyra 2’s increased fidelity far exceeds that of the ‘Lyra 1’ and will be able to do almost everything that you can throw at it. In the eyes of a professional, the ‘Lyra 2’ is very much like a squashed ‘Orpheus’, but in a good way and easily is the best in its class.
Unboxing, Contents, and Build Quality:
Arriving at your door, the Lyra 2 is presented in a black-grey themed cardboard exterior with a plastic carry handle. This packaging is well thought out and sufficiently protects the Lyra in transit and additionally the sturdy construction design appears to be able to handle a number of day trips.
Inside the package is a CD containing Core Audio drivers for your Mac based system and ASIO or WDM drivers for Windows based systems, a 1.5m kettle lead, a pair of AES to S/PDIF connectors, the instruction manual, and, of course, the Lyra itself protected by a thick plastic sheath. Unfortunately there are no adapted one-unit rack ears present within the package to allow for the Lyra 2 to be rack mounted if the user wishes, but these can be purchased separately.
Overall the build quality of the Lyra is superb and comfortably matches the aesthetics of the larger Orpheus interface. Having been cut from the same cloth, the Lyra sports a tough light-grey exterior with a dominant protruding thick dark-grey faceplate that enables quick access to the static ¼” instrument inputs and the single ¼” headphone output. On closer analysis of the faceplate it appears to be appropriately designed and the inputs and outputs are seated well within the internal enclosure, in fact I have no doubt in my mind that these will ever become loose or ‘wobbly’. Additionally the inputs and outputs on the rear are just as well seated and utilise branded Neutrik connectors. To the right of the unit there is a single headphone output and is controlled by a potentiometer that feels smooth in the fingers with some degree of luxurious resistance coupled with a master volume control to the left that is larger in size, but does not quite have the same premium feel. When the Lyra is operational the master volume control offers a small click feedback in the fingers, which adds half a db of gain increase or reduction.
Prism Sound Lyra Software and Flexibility:
Connecting the Lyra to your chosen system is as easy as connecting the Type B USB cable to your USB 2.0 compliant socket on your computer. However, before we progress, we would like to highly recommend that instead of using a standard USB cable, that you invest in a premium cable to increase the potential performance (or bandwidth).
Possibly the biggest barrier to immediate access is the graphical user interface. If you are used to navigating the GUI of other well-known brands, you expect to see everything blatantly marked. However, the user interface of the Lyra seems a touch cumbersome and unrefined. Although after a few uses everything snaps into place and looses its mystery, in the beginning you may feel a little lost so we recommend spending the time on testing the full input/output capabilities including the S/PDIF and ADAT inputs and outputs (if possible). Noting this it is a simple procedure to switch between the S/PDIF and ADAT but, as expected, you cannot operate these in tandem so you have to select one or the other. Likewise changing the bit rate and sample rates is easy even if you should remember that these need to be matched. Having noted this and the fact that the Lyra allows 256x oversampling, the internal clock on the Lyra is so superb that, unless you have an external WordClock that runs into many thousands of pounds, you will want to have the Lyra set as the Master. As the Lyra is a portable interface I would struggle to see why you would need an external clock source because it is unlikely that you will be using it on huge projects if we note the I/O limitations or experience a lower jitter clock.
One amazing addition that Prism Sound have included within their interfaces are the Overkiller soft-limiters. Simply put, these can save lives and, on their own, add hundreds of pounds of value on top of the RRP. These limiters are easy to engage on the inputs with the simple press of the ‘ovk’ button within the GUI. When engaged or disengaged you will notice that the internal Overkiller circuitry is, in fact, discreet from the audible click emanating from inside the Lyra enclosure so Prism Sound have not just added extra hard-wired circuitry that can increase the noise floor. In use they are, as previously mentioned, soft in action until you are hitting the very top of their limit, when the squashing is very prominent. They do not add any significant noise to the input, but they can be comfortably used and especially useful when accidently straying up into the (lower) dB limit in one-time only live takes.
Finally, as we are discussing the finishing bells and whistles, it is worth mentioning that Prism Sound have included an onboard standard RIAA equalisation curve input that can be applied to inputs ‘1’ and ‘2’ by selecting the ‘RIAA’ button above the phantom power (‘48v’ button on the GUI). In use they are quite fantastic and exceptionally useful if connecting two unbalanced inputs from your turntable. Perhaps it would have been nice if the Lyra had a grounding post to eliminate issues here, but besides this the RIAA addition performs respectably even when up against expensive software vinyl correction facilities.
Microphone Preamplifier and Output Sound Quality:
Let us discuss the microphone preamplifiers buried deep within the Lyra, and let us begin by saying that these are the cream of the crop. Actually the preamplifiers used within the Lyra is the same as you would find on the older Orpheus interface and within the recently announced Titan. Their overall tonality is pristine and transparent, highly articulate on transient detailing, with a killer lifelike quality that breathes and captures the finer micro-detail nuances of spatial dimensions and instrument characteristics. The pre-amps used within the Lyra act as a workhorse where they merge with everything that you can throw at them, no matter what genre or effect you are targeting, and form a good, albeit glistening, table for the mixing process to bounce off. With this being said if you are wanting an audio interface with pre-amps that add character to a standard performance, or indeed a vintage vibe, then it is fair to say that the Lyra will bring you no solace. However you should feel liberated in the knowledge that you have a superb uncompromising stage for external pre-amps to be connected to.
Just like the pre-amps themselves, the output stages are stylistically similar. Pure, clean, crisp, cohesive, and transparent are primary descriptives that come to mind. As mentioned before, transients are highly articulate and, in comparison to the depth within the stereo field, the Lyra represents an extremely competent interface at replicating the initial input signal. There is no doubt that when you hook the Lyra into your system for the first time that you will be blown away with its performance, both at the extreme low end and the crystal clear highs. In use we have not noticed any crunchy distortion throughout the frequency spectrum and it is quite the opposite with a luscious smooth attack; you can certainly identify that this is an audio interface sent from the heavens.
Having thoroughly inspected the Lyra 2 from top to bottom we have been ever so impressed. Prism Sound has, yet again, claimed the ground with a highly portable ‘no holes barred’ interface that is nothing but exceptional even considering the rather high price tag. The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the spectacular Prism Sound Lyra 2 with a full five stars and, finally, the editors choice award.