Expand Your Inputs With ADAT

| Tips

Behringer ADA8000Some of you out there may own and use an audio interface that features an optical ADAT input. If you haven’t used it yet you might be wondering what it’s for and how best to take advantage of it. Today I want to briefly go over how great this option is and how to practically use it in your studio.

Do You Lightpipe?

It has a few names, but many audio interfaces include a digital connection called ADAT or lightpipe. Like it sounds, this fiber optic technology can stream up to 8 channels of stable 44.1 or 48 khz 24 bit digital audio between audio hardware. Why is this helpful? Imagine being able to add 8 additional mic pres to your rig with a single cable connection. Simple, clean, and affordable

Many audio interfaces come with this connection on the back. It may be labeled ADAT or Optical in, but it’s all the same. Your total available I/O usually takes this connection into the equation so if you think you’re missing some of the advertised inputs this is probably where they are hiding.

Expanding Your Horizons

Smart as they are, pro audio companies have been manufacturing multi-channel preamps featuring an ADAT connection specifically to be used in conjunction with your lightpipe enabled interface. Popular examples are the M-Audio Octane, Focusrite OctoPre, and the whole line of DigiMax pres from Presonus. Simply hook up your mics to one of these multi-channel pres, connect it to your interface via an optical cable, and BAM! 8 more channels of rock n’ roll bliss with no fuss!

One of the most obvious applications of this is for recording drums. Many interfaces come with only a handful of pres on them, but if you need more than you built in options you can add 8 more with a single cable. In fact that’s how I track drums all the time. My Digi 002 comes with 4 mic pres built in, which is fine in most situations. But when I want to do 8 to 12 channels of drums I simply plug in my trusty Behringer ADA8000 (another great option, and for under $200!) and I’m ready to go. In fact this is the exact setup I used up in this video when tracking a band the other week. And the fact that it’s only a 1U rack space, I’ve got a totally portable studio with 12 mic pres. Nice!

Something To Consider

If you happen to be in the market for an audio interface and plan on recording drums or doing high track count live recording, look for an ADAT (lightpipe) enabled interface. Even if you don’t have the money (or need) to drop on one of the units mentioned above, at least you’ll have the option for expansion.


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49 Responses to “Expand Your Inputs With ADAT”

  1. joe

    thanks for the info esp. the behringer ada 8000.just bought a zoom r16 mainly for its portability(beats lugging a 24 channel mixing board and an adat to friends houses) i thought it might be possible to transfer adat tapes to pro tools with it via flash drive.i never could get” alesis edit”(came with light pipe) to work even had a windows 98 computer built for it. no luck.i wonder if the card has drivers for windows xp the software will not work with windows xp at any rate
    your post gives me a reasonable alternative to my zoom r16 as i would rather use a light pipe and the price of behringer is acceptable beats the 600.00 average from other companies.

      • Joe

        Hey Gram, I hope your day is going well. I’ve recently purchased the Focusrite Safire Pro 40 and it has the adat I/O. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to hook it to my Mackie D8B with 2 Adat cards totaling 16 ADAT I/O. How would I expand? Would I need to purchase an additional interface with ADAT?

  2. Jay Bradshaw

    I have been using an actual ADAT unit via the optical (lightpipe) interface, but have had brief audio loss on those recorded tracks. Has anyone else encountered this, and is there fix for this problem? (Yes, I set the clock to ‘optical’).

  3. aaron

    People seem to misunderstand what a ADAT interface does for them. It provides 8 tracks up to 24 bit digital audio in real time. This is different than a USB computer interface that can transfer large wave files between two hard drives more quickly. And a few of the all-in-one multitrack machines have ADAT interface, but usually newer ones have USB only. However the ADAT interface is what you want if you want to talk in real time and record all 8 tracks live at once to say a ADAT digital mixer, and also a Behringer ADAT ADA8000 8 microphone interface, and or if you want more live inputs for your laptop/computer DAW recording software. Although the Behringer BCA2000 is discontinued, you can still find it used and it has ADAT optical in/out, plus gives you 2 seperate 32 channel MIDI outputs, also has 2 mic pre-amps(and 48 volt phantom power) and 2 analog inputs, and one for guitar input. Together with a Behringer ADA8000 and or a real ADAT machine you then will have many live track options for recording anything into a laptop/computer DAW. You can also use ADAT sound card interfaces such as E-MU 1212m PCI and PCI-E, Frontier Designs PCI cards, and many others for your desktop computer ADAT connections. Some can be found used on eBay and Craigslist. Now ADAT is both definately a cheap way to go and convenient to get 8 tracks or more of high quality audio in real time, live at once recording with an easy to use optical cable.

  4. Katherina

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is
    magnificent blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  5. michael

    Okay so im still a little confused. I understand that this adat is used to add more channels, but can it be used to connect an eq rack or compresdor rack? I want to start building a better home studio now and want to buy a compressor, but have no clue how, or even if it would be possible to connect it through my audiobox 1818vsl. I just have no clue where to start…

    • Graham


      If you have the AudioBox VSL then you already have EQ and compression on every channel via the DSP.

      • Lorenzo

        Hi Graham, interesting post…I’d like to expand my Digi002 ins and outs just to connect some hardware gear, do you think is possible to use a second Digi002 connected to the optical port?

  6. Michael

    So i want to do the opposite i guess. i want to start running more outputs from a motu 828x. I didnt get the memo about the motu 16a until i had already purchased the 828x. is it possible to run litepipe out to get more outputs. if so what types of products can expand your outputs with out me having to go out and get another $1000 interface.

      • Demijan

        I have an RME multiface and want to expand it but im really confused about what i actually need to buy.
        I want to get 8 more channels which I can use either as inputs, or as outputs when I want.
        All help welcome,thanks

  7. Drigo

    Hey, I’m trying to upgrade my studio and right now I have a MacBook Pro 10.6.8 with a Jorge nano pad2, oxygen 49 midi, and Tascam us1800. All connected via use hub into pro tools. I also have sitting around a Yamaha mg24/14fx and a behringer composer pro xl compressor.

    I saw your video on your studio tour and I love it.
    My question is, how would I expand with the gear I have… I can route my signal to the mixer and use that for monitoring but I cannot record it as multitrack. Only stereo left and right. I’ve been thinking going the Saffire route with two liquid 56 racks like yours. Problem is, how would u connect that? I understand adat. But would I be able to keep the equipment I have now or would I have to buy different equipment.

    Also, how do you run 3-4 mic pres or channel strips at the same time with your interfaces…

    Any help will be greatly appreciated!
    And as always I keep following your videos
    Thank u so much

    • Graham

      Hi Drigo,

      The Liquid Saffire would replace your Tascam. It would be Firewire into your computer and let you record up to 8 microphones at once, and is expandable from there via ADAT

      • Drigo

        Sounds good. I noticed you have the eleven rack as well, do you plug that in to the liquid or run it separately?

        Thanks for the reply

  8. Sam

    Hi Graham,

    I’ve really enjoyed your Pro Tools tutorials via Avid’s Youtube channel, great insight.
    I currently have an Onyx Blackbird hooked up to a studio rig at a school I work at. I was looking to extend the inputs to 16 for recording live drums using an older Onyx 800R, should this be pretty straight forward in terms of connecting through ADAT? It’s new territory for me.
    Many thanks.

  9. Tim

    The ADA8000 sounds great. However, how does it record drums without a compressor? I was recently referred to the Focusrite Octo pre mk2 dynamics compressor. But it is awfully pricey. I researched and came across this. This is one guy that won’t snub his nose at Behringer because in my setup I use the Behringer Mdx2200 composer pro dynamics processor and Behringer’s ultra-graph equalizer. I use Motu 2408mk2 24bit digital recorder with Digital Performer 3.0 software on a Mac. G-4 into a Mackie 1604VLZ Pro analog board. I have my board set-up inserts 1-8 as presets and 9-16 as playbacks. I’m not doing a firewire, at least, not to my knowledge. I want to eventually run my tracks into ADAT which is on my Motu. I can run 8 tracks ADAT with the Motu. So I thought not only that the Focusrite has ADAT optical ins and outs but that I would also get 8 extra inserts. From what I read this unit won’t do the 8 extra inserts. I can live with that. I just need to use it as a preamp compressor. Because I can do bussing the tracks with Digital Performer. Do you recommend this unit for me or what route should I take? Should I follow through and get the Focusrite?
    Since I’m going from digital to analog, I was told that I should be able to go back to digital recorded onto my tascam Cd-rw700 condensing the 8 ADAT tracks into stereo digital onto my Tascam. And finally be able to send off the CD to be mastered. Is this possible with the ADA8000 or the Focusrite?

    Much appreciation,
    Tim (poor musician haha struggling to learn engineering to be able to record a CD to send off to be mastered)

    • Graham

      Hi TIm – correct, the Behringer does not have compressors on it. But you can always add compression later on with plugins if you need to.

  10. Philip

    Hi Graham

    Can I connect an audio interface with ADAT out to a second interface’s ADAT in to have more inputs?

    Nice blog!


    • Graham

      It depends – some interfaces can work in “stand alone” mode and do just like you suggested. Consult your manual.

  11. Luis

    Hi i have a mixer (spirit studio) and a focusrite scarlete 18i20, i just want to conect the mixer pre in the focusrite adat, have some cable to do this or i need a hardware like, ada8000 or octapre

  12. Dominic

    Hi there – so if I use an adat input can I choose which unit will do the conversion. So for example I have a rme babyface I want to expand and I’m happy with its convertors – could I buy the behringher and use it only for the inputs with all conversions done within the rme ? Thank you !

    • Gregg

      Hello Graham, Tracking from interface with adat output at 24 bit to adat tape into lightpipe on adat machine do I get 24 bit written to tape bypassing the 18 bit conversion on the adat inputs?
      Thanks for the tips!

  13. JAZZ

    Hey Graham! Thanks for the articles. I have being following your advices and tips!

    Was wondering will paring a lower quality ADAT input device with audio interface with higher quality preamps affect the recordings? Does this have to do with quality of the A/D conversion ?

    I won’t be tracking with the extra inputs, instead the option of additional instrument inputs in my DAW so I can sequence & make ideas on the fly with hardware synth concurrent.

    Any ideas on this?

    • JAZZ

      I would also like to setup aux sends to external hardware FX then back into my audio interface. But the audio interface I’m eyeing essentially only has 2 instrument / min inputs and 2 balanced audio outputs….

    • Graham

      Your ADAT input device will be doing the conversion so that will be the quality threshold. By the time it hits your interfaces, it’s already digital.

  14. Ronny Mathew

    Hi Graham,

    Recently, i bought Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 and i would like to expand its inputs by using ADAT. Will behringer ADA 8200 preamplifier sync’s without any hassle? Or is there another suggestions. Waiting for your support. Please advise.


  15. Mason

    I have a weird question maybe? I have a apollo twin with ADAT and I am trying to light pipe it with my Digi003 which has ADAT in and out? My question is would it be possible to do that since they are technically interfaces, or would I need a 8channel mic pre instead of the Digi?

    • Graham

      Unless the 003 can work in a standalone mode you’ll need to get an 8 channel mic pre for the ADAT inputs of your Apollo Twin.

  16. Jim

    The ADA8000 sounds great. The op amps are the same as in a mackie I owned an ADA8000 , ran it into an EMU 1212 ( excellent match ) very clean and uncolored ,But there is an issue with them that is imperative. The Toridoral transformer over heats and burns ( IE studio Fires ) It happened to me. I contacted Behringer multiple times on the issue and they cut off communication, so I scoured the forums. As I recall it has something to do with the caps on the 5 volt rails being insufficient . I did find a blog of a guy in New York that came up with a work around using an external power supply, therefore bypassing the transformer all together. He is a renound musician ( Sax Player ) and studio tech. He loves the ADA8000 and uses 3 of them in his studio. All being modified but still keeps them isolated from his other gear ( Once Bitten ) Speaking from experience I would say be cautious with it. there not worth losing everything for $ 220.00

  17. gmoe


    thanks for the article! can you please confirm if i can use the opt in on my saffire 24 as input, I have a system where I am using my line in 12 and 34 for my turntables with an phono riaa preamp. Previously I used line in 12 to record mixes (signal from my a&h xone22 mixer record out *rca) but now I dont have free input line in to record. Can I use the opt in with rca to opt in cable(?) or will I need some kind of converter between? thanks!!

  18. Gus

    Hi Graham,

    if i connect the ada8200 to apollo twin beside to get 8 more imputs, will also get more outputs?

    • Graham

      I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure you can only use it as either inputs or outputs.

  19. Struggling Constently

    Oh so confused… So i have a zed 24 channel mixer and i just want to record multiple channels at once or even 1 at a time but i cant seem to set it up correctly… Main problems cant hear the metronome while i record and when i do record a track can hear the first track like the guitar while recording the vocals



  1.  Optimize Pro Tools: Setting Your Clock Source | The Recording Revolution
  2.  Mixing Drums | The Recording Revolution
  3.  My Portable Studio In Full Force | The Recording Revolution
  4.  The Hidden Gem Of Affordable Studio Gear | The Recording Revolution
  5.  How To Use Your ADAT Input [Video] | The Recording Revolution
  6.  Audio Engineering Criteria 1& 2 | Fli's Music Blog

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