Featured PreSonus Studio 192 Mobile by Funkybot
The Studio 192 Mobile is the little sibling of Presonus’ larger Studio 192 audio interface. These interfaces are USB 3.0 and include a healthy amount of i/o, XMAX preamps, and built-in DSP effects for zero latency monitoring of inputs (with the option to print the effects if so desired).
What interested me in the Studio 192 Mobile was that it seemed like a considerable step up in terms of conversion, preamps, and i/o from most mobile interfaces, which generally seem aimed more at the beginner market. At the very least, I wanted converters and preamps that I could use on the go and without feeling like I was making compromises in sound quality. In addition, the idea of having built-in DSP with zero-latency monitoring was certainly an intriguing prospect. Lastly, as a longtime Studio One (S1) user, the integration prospects were certainly appealing.
On paper, the Studio 192 Mobile certainly checks off a lot of boxes. So how does it do in practice?
First Impressions: Unpacking and Setup
Having never seen the Studio 192 Mobile in person before, the first thing that struck me about the unit was it’s size. This is a mobile interface, but it’s 12.5” x 7.5” x 1.75” which only makes it 6.5” smaller (but 2” deeper) than the 1RU Studio 192. In short: it’s big for a mobile interface, which ironically, could limit its mobility by making it awkward to transport.
Now, the hardware itself feels nice. The Studio 192 Mobile sports an all metal body, with three metal knobs on the front panel. The anodized aluminum looks great, with very nicely contrasting blue and gray. The knob movements are smooth with just the right amount of resistance. There are two mic preamps on the front of the unit, with a single rotary knob and a few buttons that you use to control gain and phantom power. There’s a very clear LED telling you which preamp is currently selected and the gain. Over to the right, are LED meters showing you the gain for each of the four inputs (the 2 preamps on the front and 2 additional inputs on the rear). Off to the right of that are the main out meters, along with the large master volume knob (as someone coming from an RME Fireface 800 as my desktop PC interface - having a hardware master volume knob right on the interface is nice). Lastly, the front sports a ¼” headphone output, with a level knob directly above it.
The rear of the unit includes two additional inputs, a main output, with 2 additional pairs of outputs. You’ve got wordclock in and out, SPDIF in and out, and 2 ADAT ins and outs (offering 16 additional channels at 44.1 or 48khz, and 8 at 88.2 or 96khz). There’s no MIDI input, so they’re assuming your MIDI devices are all USB and you’ve got an open port on your laptop. However, if I were to use the Studio 192 on my laptop with a mouse and an iLok, I’d be entirely out of USB ports to add any MIDI devices to, which would require the use of a hub so an old-school MIDI input would’ve been nice and a USB hub would’ve been better.
There’s not much in the box terms of documentation or media. You’ve got a basic Quick Start Guide and some instructions on how to get up and running. You’re instructed to create a Presonus account (if you don’t already have one), register the device, and begin downloading the drivers, documentation, and complimentary software package. I’m a little old school in that I appreciate paper manuals, but I understand the need to balance costs (while saving trees) and doing more digitally these days.
Plugging in the USB cable was a little disappointing in that this unit cannot be bus powered. Like the size, this inability to run the Studio 192 Mobile off of the USB bus limits its functionality as a mobile interface, particularly in situations where an electrical outlet may not be readily available. I’d even be willing to accept reduced functionality if I could run this off the USB bus, but unfortunately, the external power supply is a requirement for use.
Once I plugged in the power supply, I went to register the device with Presonus and download the software. The registration process was fairly straightforward and the next step in getting the unit up and running was downloading the Universal Control software. Upon installation, you’re presented with a list of drivers to install based on a variety of Presonus interfaces, so you can either install them all or select the Studio 192 option (note: there’s no specific driver for the Mobile variant). I setup the Studio 192 Mobile on my both a laptop and a desktop, and each time, Windows needed a restart before the device was available in Studio One, but there was no “restart required” message following the install. Not a big deal, but if a restart of the PC is required, Presonus should give users a heads up.
Additionally, the Studio 192 Mobile comes with a license for Studio One Artist, along with a cross-section of third-party plugins, which were comprised of offerings from Eventide (910 Harmonizer & 2016 Stereo Room), Plugin Alliance (bx_opto, SPL Attacker, Maag Audio EQ2), Lexicon (MPXi Reverb) and Arturia (Analog Lab Lite). This is all in addition to the stock Studio One plugins and the on-board Fat Channel DSP. There’s definitely enough here for a beginner to get up and running and even some plugins which might be a nice addition to larger plugin libraries.
First thing I did was fire up Studio One and setup the Studio 192 Mobile. The Studio One console has an option to allow you to control [certain Presonus] audio devices via the Console. Once you enable this setting, you’ll see options to the phantom power, preamp gain, and polarity directly from the Studio One console without having to go into the Universal Control software at all.
You’ll also see a Presonus Fat Channel plugin added to the top of each audio input (including the first 8 ADAT inputs). The Fat Channel is a channel strip offering a HP filter, Gate, Compressor, EQ, and Limiter. What’s nice about the Studio 192 Mobile is that you can monitor (or print in real-time) the Fat Channel directly off the built-in DSP for zero latency monitoring of your inputs. In Studio One, you can also add a linked or unlinked version of each Fat Channel to your insert slot for seamless punch-ins.
There are also two DSP FX buses built into the Studio 192 Mobile (a Reverb and Delay respectively), but unfortunately, there’s no way to integrate these into Studio One outside of monitoring via the hardware itself. You can monitor with third-party (or even built-in) reverb via Studio One itself, just like you could via any other interface, but doing so means your reverb send will be subject to the round-trip latency of the interface. The ability to integrate these two DSP FX buses (similar to the Fat Channel) into Studio One itself would definitely have been a nice to have. In addition, there are no DSP amp sims or other effects like you’d see in something like [the much more expensive] Universal Audio Apollo Twin.
If you’re not a Studio One user, you’ll still have access to the Fat Channel and DSP Reverb/Delay, but you’ll be controlling them via the Universal Control software. You could even get DAW control of the preamps via MIDI, which is a nice to have for non-Studio One users. Another nice advantage to using the Universal Control software is the remote control. You can install the Presonus Universal Control software on a tablet or other portable device, and use it to remotely control your preamps, monitor mix, and (for S1 users) even Studio One itself.
If you were to connect a Presonus DP-88 to either the Studio 192 or Mobile variant, you’d be able to control the extra preamps via the Universal Control software as well. This “walled garden” approach certainly offers some very nice advantages for anyone willing to commit to Presonus’ various offerings.
Using a pair of AT-5045’s, the first task with the Studio 192 Mobile was an upright piano overdub I was looking to do on a song I’d been working on. In use, the preamps sounded very good and didn’t leave me wanting in that particular application. I’d describe these XMAX preamps as clear and crisp. The 60db of gain these preamps offer should be adequate for most applications and was enough to record some quieter vocals through a notoriously gain-hungry Shure SM7b in a pinch. The preamps performed well on a variety of sources and stayed out of the way. While they aren’t colorful, at no point did I feel like they were the weak link in the recording chain, so I was happy certainly happy with the sound of these.
“Clear and crisp” doesn’t just describe the preamps, the entire unit fits that description. Everything comes through as very neutral and I was very happy with the conversion. There are enough inputs and outputs and to integrate more colorful preamps if needed, and the potential for expandability via the ADAT ins and outs is certainly welcome. If looking for more inputs, I’d absolutely consider a DP-88 as a result of my generally positive experience with these preamps.
The last thing I want to touch upon is how well the interface performs as an ASIO interface. On my desktop, where I run an RME Fireface 800 as my primary interface, the Studio 192 Mobile had no trouble running with a 64 sample block-size, similar to my RME. CPU usage with VST instruments under these conditions seemed the same between both interfaces, so that was certainly a positive in favor of the Studio 192 Mobile.
Audio latency is heavily dependent on your monitoring setup. If you stick with hardware latency as described above, you’re dealing with zero latency monitoring with the option to use the on-board DSP. Using software monitoring in the Studio One, the audio roundtrip latency at 64 samples was 10.8ms/478 samples for the Studio 192 Mobile, compared to 7.5ms/333 samples for the RME. Is the 3ms additional latency a deal-breaker? No. By no means. The low-latency performance figures are almost a moot point on my particular use-case, as I’m looking for a laptop interface, and I’ve yet to find an interface that can go below 256 on my particular laptop anyway. Keep in mind, those are the audio roundtrip figures, instrument roundtrip latency was 5.87ms and equal to the RME.
In terms of stability, the Studio 192 Mobile didn’t present any stability issues on my laptop, but for some reason Studio One would hang upon exiting or changing buffer sizes using my desktop. This was running the most recent firmware/driver, and Studio One 3.5.1. I didn’t spend much time troubleshooting the issue since I really only plugged into my desktop to check out low latency performance, but there were definitely some bugs to get ironed out.
The Studio 192 Mobile offers a nice range of features beginning with good sound, two quality preamps, a lot of i/o, and onboard DSP effects for zero-latency monitoring of inputs. And while, I wouldn’t recommend that someone chose a DAW based on a specific interface, or chose a specific interface solely because of their DAW, the Studio 192 Mobile’s integration with Studio One is absolutely top-notch and another great selling point.
This interface would be great for someone looking to record a two channels great sounding audio at home or even in a hotel, with the potential for upgrading to more channels later on. However, if you were looking for a small Mobile interface that you could comfortably take with you on the go, or maybe even use in a remote setting, the Studio 192 Mobile’s comparatively large size and external PSU requirements may be a dealbreaker.
- Fantastic Studio One integration
- Built-in DSP effects great for zero latency monitoring
- Converters and preamps sound good
- Solid feel to the hardware
- Lots of audio i/o
- Large for a mobile interface
- Cannot be USB bus powered
- No MIDI connectivity
Sound Quality - 5/5: From the preamps to the converters, the Studio 192 Mobile sounds very good.
Ease of Use - 4/5: Universal Control software and interface are easy to operate, but the size and external power-supply requirements limit the mobility of this “mobile” interface.
Features - 5/5: On-board DSP and i/o expandability, along with remote control and integration to other Presonus products (particularly S1) are very attractive features.
Bang for Buck - 4/5: Price is on par with other similarly-spec’d smaller, but high-end mobile interfaces.