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There are A LOT of options when it comes to USB audio interfaces. But as music grows so should the ability to build upon the hardware, not having to get various devices to interact in a method of linking that would make Doc Brown cringe. PreSonus has unleashed their Studio 192 USB audio interface, which on its own is great. But, paired with their DigiMax DP88 8-channel mic pre add-on, it offers up an expansion of tracks without any hassle.
Think of the Studio 192 as the brains of the operation. It connects to the computer via USB 3.0, with mic/instrument combo inputs on the front, and 6 mic/line combo inputs on the back. For headphone or monitoring outputs, the outs on the front are for headphones, while the eight on the rear are lines outs. You also get two dedicated rear-panel main left/right outputs with level control, muting, and mono summing for control room monitoring. This gives the ability to really control the monitoring for individual musicians during a session, where the drummer doesn’t want to hear the guitars, or just the bass, while the guitarist doesn’t want to hear the bass at all, for example. A built in Talkback mic makes for easy communication during a session without any external gear! In all, it makes for a comfortable listening session for everyone involved. Inside the Studio 192 is a DSP processor that allows relief from the DAW, handling a share of the monitoring, as well as its processing, which in return, helps eliminating latency during tracking.
PreSonus also offers up their UC Surface software to really dig in and control the overall settings within the Studio 192, and can run on OSX, iOS for iPad, Windows, as well as Windows tablets. Running the “control” of the session through this is intuitive, and unlocks a lot of features in the 192. Effects routing, monitor configurations, as well as saving templates or “scenes” for sessions are all controlled through this method.
What really makes a great interface are the mic preamps. PreSonus has their XMAX Preamps that utilize a higher voltage class, a design that offers up more headroom, better clarity and overall sound quality. [Editor’s note – these analog preamps are recallable, so you can save their values in scenes and remote control them from UC Surface and Studio One.] Combined with this hardware is their Fat Channel processing, which handles filtering, compression/limiting, parametric EQ, and noise gate on each input. All these settings and variations can be saved and recalled for future sessions.
So pairing the Studio 192 and DigiMax DP88 brings you a total of 16 analog inputs and also expands to 18 analog outputs; think of the DigiMax DP88 as an intelligent extension of the Studio 192, with (8) of their XMAX preamps available, and connected with the UC makes for an amazingly expandable package. Note that the DP88 preamps, like the Studio 192 preamps, are recallable and can be remote controlled from UC Surface and/or from Studio One. Depending on the sample rates and settings, up to (2) DP88’s can be connected for 24 inputs (at 44.1 and 48 kHz) and 26 outputs. An ADAT lightpipe makes everything seamless and easy to connect to one another. Note also that the first 8 DP88 channels also can have Fat Channel processing when connected to a Studio 192. The processing is in the S192, not the DP88, so this only works with a DP88 connected to a Studio 192.
A copy of Studio One Artist is included with Studio 192, which is nice, and the whole package comes in at $899 – the DigiMax DP88 at $699, so buying both together might be out of range of a few budgets, at least to start, but it’s a proposition that will pay off in expanded mic pres and recording capabilities. Starting off with the Studio 192, and adding the DP88 and other items at a later date is a path that we envision a lot of home studio users taking. Thankfully, together it is a complete package that won’t require a lot of other external gear once you’re done setting it all up.
Individually and collectively, great features, excellent monitoring options, near zero latency.
Individually, none. As a complete package, slightly expensive.
$899 (Studio 192) and $699 (DigiMax DP88)