Brad Watts test-drives this new USB 3.0 offering from the US manufacturer to see what all the fuss is about…
I’m generally a fan of PreSonus’ audio offerings. I keep a set of the company’s preamps on hand – the now-discontinued DigiMax FS, simply because I like the XMAX preamps. It’s true PreSonus leans towards the budget end of the audio world with equipment punching well above its weight in terms of reproduction and capture, but this is exactly the PreSonus ethos: top-shelf results made affordable.
This philosophy continues with the Studio 192 recording system. The Studio 192 will cater to sample rates of 192kHz via the analogue inputs, and the unit can be expanded using S/MUX-enabled ADAT optical connections. I/O amounts to 26 inputs and 32 outs, and the unit achieves this via USB 3.0.
All in one
Nowadays, it seems standard practice to incorporate control room-style monitoring into most interfaces. The Studio 192 offers such features, including the ability to switch between three sets of monitors. Additional speakers must be connected via the eight balanced TRS output jacks. These can also be used for monitor mixes, alongside the dedicated TRS main monitor outputs. The front panel provides a large main output level control pot, and a single gain level control flanked by left/right buttons. These scroll through the eight preamp inputs. A ninth ‘C’ setting adjusts gain for the built-in talkback mic. The internal mic can be forfeited for a standard mic connected via any of the mic preamps. The preamp levels and individual 48V power for each mic pre can be set from within your DAW using MIDI controller information.
Hands on the wheel
Four backlit buttons address 48V power to each preamp input, along with talkback, mono monitoring and output dimming/muting. The dim/mute button provides dual operations. Off to the right are two headphone outputs with individual volume control pots. To the left of the front panel are the first two XLR mic inputs. Being combo connectors these can accept high impedance signals from guitars.Out the back are the remaining six XLR mic inputs, eight TRS balanced outputs, BNC wordclock in and out, coaxial S/PDIF I/O, the four ADAT ports and the USB 3.0 connector.
Drive by wire
Supplied alongside the Studio 192 is a software control panel and mixer. Dubbed ‘UC Surface’, the software is also available as a free iPad application or as a touch-responsive app for Windows 8 and Windows 10 touchscreen computers. Like most mixer control panels, UC Surface is designed for configuring multiple mixes via the Studio 192’s additional outputs. Up to eight separate stereo mixes can be configured. This is rudimentary to any native DSP-based interface, and historically has been supplied to provide direct monitoring from the interface, thus avoiding the round trip time-lag associated with native-based DAW applications.
The UC Surface software gives access to the 192’s DSP. The first 16 inputs of the 192 offer PreSonus’ ‘Fat Channel’ processing. This DSP includes phase reverse, a gate, a compressor, output limiter, a full parametric four-band equaliser and high-pass filter. This can be ‘printed’ to your DAW by flicking each channel to post-send. There are also two master effects: a reverb processor with nine algorithms, along with delay effects providing mono, stereo, filtered and ping-pong delays. If your DAW of choice is PreSonus’ Studio One, this is accessible via the DAW itself. PreSonus provides Studio One Artist with the Studio 192, so you can kick off from square one with the Studio 192 package.
The Fat Channel is a hybrid plug-in that runs on both Studio One for playback and the Studio 192 DSP for recording and monitoring. So when you’re recording, you’re using up to 16 instances of the plug-in on the S192 DSP; when you play back, the system seamlessly switches to running up to 16 instances of the plug-in in Studio One. The sound is identical because the plug-ins are identical, just running on different processors.
It’s difficult to fault modern audio interface fidelity, and the Studio 192 won’t disappoint on this front. PreSonus has utilised a Burr-Brown chipset for audio conversion. The dynamic range of both the A-D and D-A processing is 118dB (A-weighted) – comparable with interfaces costing four times the price. THD+N figures don’t stack up nearly as well, however. At <0.005 across all I/O, this doesn’t come close to the <0.000X figures touted by the big boys in analogue conversion, such as the flagship Apogee devices, RME and Prism Sounds of this world. As things stand, the Studio 192 competes favourably with units such as the Apogee Ensemble and the UAD Apollo units.
In order to take the Studio 192 through a bit of an audition I recorded a number of live drum kit takes. Initially I kicked off with my variation of a Glyn Johns-style micing method with a couple of ribbon mics on overheads. Everything tracked perfectly at 44.1kHz and 88.2kHz. Then I indulged myself by going through and micing up additional sections of the kit – hats, kick in, snare bottom, toms and a room mic (another ribbon) – covering it with nine mics. Having my PreSonus DigiMax FS on hand allowed me to open an additional eight mic inputs, and again, tracking proceeded happily at both 44.1 and 88.2kHz – all via good old USB. Suffice to mention, the onboard DSP came in handy for this task, with the gate processing proving invaluable.
Would I own one? Yes indeedy sir, I would. Not only does the unit sound very good, it’s expandable to 24 inputs. Should you find yourself in this market, the Studio 192 has a lot on offer at an exceptional price.
- Ultra low latency, 24-bit, 192kHz USB 3.0 audio interface
- 8 XMAX remote controllable mic preamps
- Fat Channel processing on every analogue input and the first ADAT inputs
- Total integration with Studio One; comes bundled with Studio One Artist
- ‘Flawless’ analogue signal path with 118dB digital conversion