PreSonus StudioLive AR12 USB Mixer Review

PreSonus StudioLive AR12 angle view

Performer Magazine takes a look at the analog goodness of the PreSonus StudioLive AR12 USB mixer.

PROS:

heavy-duty build quality, great mic pres, Bluetooth, no direct-box needed for guitar/bass.

CONS:

none.

PRICE:

$499

Ah, the StudioLive series. We’ve tested out some of the boards in the StudioLive range before, and the new PreSonus StudioLive AR12 USB mixer follows suit nicely (at a ridiculously affordable price point). One thing to note is that the AR series is analog (with digital recording and fx), whereas all other StudioLive mixers up till now have been digital. [Read our in-depth look at the PreSonus StudioLive AI series devlopment]

Let’s start with build quality. A beefy machine, we were pleasantly surprised with just how much mass the AR12 has. But construction aside, the mixer is laid out in a very familiar way, so newbies and pros alike will have no trouble navigating the channel strips, ins/outs and fx section. Look, PreSonus isn’t out to re-invent the wheel, they’re out to make the best wheel possible.

PreSonus StudioLive AR12

PreSonus StudioLive AR12

Some handy features we like on this new board induce high-impedance ins on channels 1 and 2 for guitar/bass applications. No direct boxes needed (we wish more mixers at this price point had this option). There’s Bluetooth connectivity built right in, and pairing your mobile device is a breeze so you can stream backing tracks (or “hey, listen to this while you wait for us to set up” tracks), plus you’ve got access to an on-board SD card slot, which enables you to instantly capture a live performance (or rehearsal, jam sessions, etc.) in stereo. We’ve been advocating instant live recordings for your fans for years, and at this price point, we were surprised to find such an easy-to-use feature allowing you to do so front-and-center, with its own transport controls, no less!

Which brings us to one of the main benefits of investing in the StudioLive series. As the name suggests, you can use these boards both live on-stage or as the centerpiece of your DAW setup. The AR12 features a built-in USB 2.0 interface. Going straight from the board to Studio One on your computer is seamless, and you can send all tracks out to the DAW later for additional processing and tweaking (aka, fixing mistakes so no one will notice).

Really, it’s the versatility of the board that we love so much. For under $500, you’ve got a more-than-capable live compact mixer with all the I/O most bands will need, stunningly good mic preamps, fairly usable digital fx (we weren’t super keen on the built-in chorus, but some of the reverbs were surprisingly effective), a multi-track front end for your DAW, flexible monitoring options, quality knobs and faders (PreSonus does make a darn smooth fader, I must admit) and an EQ section that we found had a much better response than the Yamaha MG12XU we recently tested out, especially for cutting/boosting mid-range frequencies.

All in, there’s really no room for complaints. Everything works as it should, you get some extra features usually found on pricier boards, and the mic pres can’t be beat at this price point (trust us, we’ve tested a lot of mixers in this range, and there’s an extra clarity to the PreSonus channels that we’ve become accustomed to).

For stage and studio, we definitely recommend giving the PreSonus StudioLive AR12 a look.

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