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8 Channel Firewire Preamp with Analog Limiters Under $1000 ? Audio Interfaces
Old 7th September 2009
Gear nut
Nityananda_SCSM's Avatar

Thread Starter
8 Channel Firewire Preamp with Analog Limiters Under $1000 ?

Hello everyone. Love the forum, though I rarely post.
I'm hoping to get some advice/experiences on a preamp/firewire interface.

I want an 8+ channel Firewire Interface / Preamp with built-in limiters that is under $1000.

The only one that I have found at all is the Presonus Firestudio Tube, which has 8 XMAX preamps and two "Superchannel" tube preamps with built-in analag limiters. This seems great except that the Firestudio Tube has no digital I/O!! No ADAT, No SPDIF, etc. Only analog I/O and a MIDI-in. I have some (non-essential) digital I/O needs so this is not ideal.
Also, I don't know:
- If the Firestudio Tube has a "real" tube preamp or a "semi-tube" preamp, and what the quality of this preamp is.
- If the analog limiter is any good and if it is situated in the signal chain properly (before the A/D conversion, etc.)

My other option was buying a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 or Presonus Firestudio and then buying some (under $250) external limiters to feed into them. They would have to be kind of small though, not a full rack size. I need a pretty portable rig. I really only need 1 or 2 channels of limiter. I am kind of attracted to the "tube" offering of the Firestudio tube though, and I don't know (and would love to know) if you will lose some quality by running an external compressor/limiter preamp into a 1/4" input on the back of a Focusrite as opposed to the built-in limiter/preamp in the Firestudio Tube.

So if you know of any other 8 channel Preamps with 1 or 2 limiters built in to them under $1000 or if you can recommend which option is better (Firestudio tube or Saffire Pro 40 with external limiters) I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for your help!

BTW The Focusrite Pro 40 has realized a new firmware which allows the unit to operate in stand-alone mode, in case anybody wants to know.
Old 8th September 2009
Gear nut
Nityananda_SCSM's Avatar

Thread Starter
Maybe a stereo limiter run into the Saffire Pro 40 would be a better choice? Anybody?
Old 9th September 2009
Gear Addict
dudeitsree's Avatar
I agree... I'm not a huge fan of that Presonus stuff although it not unusable I just thing the Focusrite would be better quality.
Old 9th September 2009
As I understand the manual The Firestudio Tube gives you 8 solid state Class A discrete mic inputs plus 2 tube Class A mic inputs with limiters plus 6 line only input channels. That's a lot of analog inputs (16 total). The only thing that bothers me about it is that it only has 6 outputs - for my purposes (use with a full console) I would need as may outputs as inputs.

Still, for the money it's a hell of a deal.

There appear to be several very vocal Presonus haters on this site, but IMHO they're FOS. Maybe they used an entry level Presonus product and mistakenly applied their experience there to the entire line, which is not at all valid - the entry level Presonus devices have a totally different design, including mic preamp, from the more expensive units.

I don't know about the particular Focusrite you refer to but I have heard that the newer, less expensive Focusrite gear doesn't come close to living up to the rep established when Rupert Neve was still with the company, which he has NOT been for some time......
Old 9th September 2009
Gear nut
Nityananda_SCSM's Avatar

Thread Starter
Well, I don't need the analog outputs for what I am doing. I'm mostly just recording everyone into my laptop as mobile studio. I was a little worried about it not having RCA-IN but can't I just put a RCA-to-1/4" convert plug on each RCA connector I want in and then plug them into the line-ins?

I imagine that the tube preamps in the Presonus Firestudio Tube are not great quality, since the high end tube pres go for about the same price as the whole package. But I still am hoping they will be usefully good (better than standard Class A solid state.) The main thing I want is a limiter, and I would rather it be an all-in-one package for portability's sake. By the time I buy a Saffire Pro 40 / Firestudio / M-Audio Profire 2626/ Motu 828mk3, etc PLUS a decent external limiter I will be at the same price easily as the Firestudio Tube, and with a less portable package.

So that is why I am innocently hoping that Presonus has their act together on this unit, although if any of you have horrible depressing experiences you wish to use to burst my bubble I'm prepared to accept that.

I wouldn't mind hearing good user experience either ..
Old 13th September 2009
Gear nut
Nityananda_SCSM's Avatar

Thread Starter
I need 8 XLR channels with analog limiters. I could go with the RME option, and that would probably be the best way to go. But, two Fireface 800's =$1450 street x 2 = $2900 for 8 channels.

At that point I could buy the Presonus Studiolive 16.4.2 digital mixer with 16 channels all limited and a whole mixing console. $2000 street. Pretty good deal but more than I want to spend, more than I need, and bigger than I want.

The only interface I found was the MOTU 896mk3, which has analog limiters on all 8 channels plus some other goodies. It looks like a good option, but it is kind of expensive, more than I need, bigger than I want (2U rack), and potentially mediocre quality preamps. (Still researching those.) Still, at $995 street it is good option, and many people seem to like it.

Also an option is a cheap ADAT recorder (TC Electronic Konnekt Live or something cheaper) combined with either the Presonus Digimax 96k or the Focusrite Octopre. This gets a little pricey though and large, but it's also a good option. What's the cheapest quality small ADAT recorder/firewire interface you know of?

So now I am looking at the MOTU 896mk3 or a digital mixer/preamp/interface combo like the Presonus Studiolive 16.4.2. Does anybody know of a digital mixer/interface/preamp like the Studiolive that has 8 channels instead of 16?

If there was a half-size Presonus Studiolive (8 channels, half price) then that would be perfect.

The hunt continues...

Thanks for the input!

MOTU 896mk3 $995 street
TC Electronic Konnekt Live ($400) + Focusrite Octopre ($900) =$1300 street
Presonus Studiolive 16.4.2 $2000 street
Studiolive half-size type thing : ?
Another 8 channel preamp w/ limiters I haven't found:?
Old 18th September 2009
Gear maniac

Though I wouldn't be using it for live use, I'm right with you in your questions about these units. The bottom line I've arrived at, after about a week of searching, is that they came out as the economy was collapsing and very few people have bought them--the only user reviews I've found are from people who have never bought a preamp before at zzounds and are still learning how to use them.

Anyway, let me use this post as a bump and hopefully someone who owns one will chime in.
Old 18th September 2009
Gear nut
Nityananda_SCSM's Avatar

Thread Starter
By Jove I think I've got it!

I think I have (finally) made my decision. After quite a lot of phone calls, forum posts, review readings, and 8-Ball shakings, I've chosen my new semi-portable rig with analog limiters on every channel (that was the feature I've been searching for.)

1. Presonus Digimax 96K 8 channel preamp w/ limiters
Well liked preamp, recently discontinued. 8 excellent preamps, 8 analog quality limiters, 8 good AKM-made A/D converters, 8 channel ADAT-out (48khz only for 8 channels over ADAT)

2. Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP Firewire Interface
This compact, firewire-bus powered preamp/interface from Focusrite has two good preamps, 2 line-ins, 4 level meters, ADAT-in, zero latency DSP on board, TWO HEADPHONE JACKS, and finally, "VRM," Virtual Reference Monitoring technology.
Basically it's a quality, small, firewire interface for my Digimax with two headphone ports (a big plus for me.) The thing that sold it for me is the VRM, which I have yet to use, but I hear works pretty good. My reference monitors are in India (and aren't that great) and I am constantly traveling, so having a way to mix better with just headphones is extremely attractive to me. Plus can be standalone with new firmware.

Saffire Pro 24 DSP ($400 street) + Presonus Digimax 96K [Discontinued] ($1350 street) = $1750 street price
However, I bought my Digimax 96k used, they go for around $650 used, so $650ish + $400ish = $1050ish

I am pretty happy with this decision. This will yield great audio quality, with good limiters, with VRM dual-headphone monitoring, in a semi portable rig for $1000ish, maybe under if you find deals.

-Digimax 96K is heavy and has a big and heavy (like 5 pounds) external power supply, not super portable.
-It can also only send 48Khz over the 8 channel ADAT (Does anyone think this is important?), or 96Khz over the SPDIFS(who has 4 SPDIF-ins...?), and only one option or the other I think.
- The meters aren't great on the Digimax
-The Pro 24 DSP costs about as much as a Presonus Firestudio 26x26 with the mail in rebate they are having!

Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas to improve/change this setup are much appreciated!

For those of you still looking..

-The new Mackie Onyx "i" series looks great. The 820i has 8 inputs, Cirrus A/D converters, is a firewire interface, EQ, faders, etc for $500 street. They have 4 versions, looks cool.
-The Octopre is a cheaper alternative to the Digimax 96K, but I have read negative things about the compressor, and the audio quality probably loses to the Digimax.
-If you have the money RME is probably a good option
-You can always get a Firestudio or whatever with an outboard compressor like the Presonus ACP88 or a cheap Behringer equivilant, though this is too big for me. The possible problem with this is that you can still overload/distort the analog preamps before you send the signal to the limiters, so you'll get analog instead of digital clipping but it's still not ideal...
-The 896mk3 is a decent option, looks good in a lot of ways and apparently the preamps are "ok." The problem with this is that it can't be upgraded from Black Lion Audio (they are using new hard to modify parts) and so your stuck with the "eh" preamps. Plus it's pretty big and expensive itself (although only 12 pounds compared to the Digimax's 15!!)
-I've heard to stay away from the TC Konnekt stuff, good components but crappy drivers apparently.
-Oh and the Edirol FA-66 does NOT have ADAT, so that's not an option.

Should have my stuff next week, I will report back my happy problem-free adventures with it (hopefully.)

Thanks for everyone's help and input. BTW we can keep the thread going to discuss this general question/setup, it's not all about me!

Old 21st September 2009
Lives for gear
ears2thesky's Avatar
I'm getting great results with a Focusrite Liquid Saffire56 firewire interface with a Focusrire Platinum Octopre light-piped in @ 24/88.2k. The Octopre has limiters on all 8 channels. I could add a second Octopre for 16 channels of pres with limiters, but the sample rate would have to be 44.1k or 48k.
You could use any firewire interface with 2 ADAT ins for similar routing possibilities.

Last edited by ears2thesky; 21st September 2009 at 08:26 PM.. Reason: grammar
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