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Hammerfall DSP PCMCIA System
(Click for a close-up)

A real revolution in mobile recording is introduced with the new Hammerfall DSP series. The system consists of a PCMCIA type II card as computer interface and various I/O boxes optimized for different applications, offering several analog, digital and MIDI I/Os.

For some time now, laptops have become powerful enough for even ambitious harddisk recording thanks to high computing power and powerful hard drives. Up to now, a powerful interface was missing though. USB is neither offering the necessary bandwidth, nor the desired compatibility. Available PCMCIA solutions at the moment are nearly always designed as 16 bit PC Card and therefore only make use of the ISA bus. RME's unique Hammerfall DSP on the other hand has a CardBus interface and thus offers full PCI power (up to 133 MByte/s).

In order to demonstrate the power of this notebook card, RME has in the first place realized a highly extended version of the PCI card Project Hammerfall (DIGI9652). The I/O box of the Hammerfall DSP system called Multiface has 3 ADAT optical I/Os, ADAT-Sync In, S/PDIF I/O and word clock I/O like its predecessor. On top, there are 2 MIDI I/Os and a separate analog line out. All this can be used on usual notebooks with the same 'zero cpu load' and low latency (down to 1.5 ms with ASIO) as on a desktop PC!

The Hammerfall DSP technology also contains several revolutionary innovations. All I/O boxes contain a hardware mixer in TotalMix technology. Any input can be routed and mixed to any output. On top, every input and output can also be mixed to the analog output (submix). Internally, the mixer works with 45 bit wordlength. For level alterations there are 65536 steps that allow for a virtually continuous change between 6 dB gain and maximum attenuation. In unity gain setting, the mixer is even bit-transparent and can pass the input signal unaltered. The Multiface processes up to 806 channels in quasi real-time, which corresponds to the computing power of a Motorola DSP at 100 MHz.

TotalMix not only leads to perfect and complete ASIO direct monitoring, but is also useful without ASIO. Thanks to a proprietary mixer surface, submix and Zero Latency Monitoring can be used with all audio applications. An external mixer thus becomes unnecessary in many cases.

Hammerfall DSP even goes one step further and implements RME's DIGICheck in hardware. This means: level metering of 54 channels at the same time with a minimum CPU load, because the data for display is already calculated in the hardware. The hardware catches both peak and RMS values. With these features, you have a unique multichannel level meter in broadcast quality worth several thousands of Dollars virtually at no cost. In addition, the level meter is integrated into the mixer surface, thus making setting and control easier.

Multiface has 2 MIDI I/Os, corresponding to 32 channels. Thanks to direct PCI bus connection, perfect timing at minimum CPU load is guaranteed.

Because Hammerfall DSP is based on the existing Hammerfall series, RME is able to deliver fully developed and powerful drivers right from the start for Windows 98, 2000 and MacOS. The new hardware concept also includes the possibility for hardware updates via software. Improvements and extensions of the hardware are thus possible without any problem, safety for the future (WDM, ASIO 3.0) included. Besides, the whole system is hot-swappable. Card and I/O box can be connected or disconnected at any time without having to re-boot the computer.

The connection between CardBus card and I/O box is established using ordinary firewire cable, while a proprietary bus protocol is being used. The supplied cable is 4.5 m (14 ft.) long, a cable length up to 10 m (33 ft.) has been successfully tested.

Hammerfall DSP will be shipped March 2001. Further I/O boxes will follow during the second quarter: Anaface offers 8 analog inputs and outputs, S/PDIF, ADAT and MIDI. Proface offers digital I/Os in AES/EBU format. Portaface is the professional broadcast solution, with 2 microphone inputs, phantom powering, Limiter, S/PDIF I/O and analog monitor output.

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