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The Presonus StudioLive range of digital desks is in it's second iteration. The new AI range brings much tighter integration with iOS devices, the computer and addition Active Integration enabled Presonus gear.
We're looking at the StudioLive 32.4.2 AI - it's also available in 24.4.2 and 16.4.2 versions.
Lets get a couple of things straight first - yes it's a digital desk and no, it doesnt have moving faders. What? I hear you say - well Presonus have chosen to go for more investment in the other stuff - this desk has Burr-Brown A/D convertors, a cut above your usual Cirrus Logic models found in a lot of digital gear. This considerably adds to the cost - but I must say there is a wider, more punchy sound to this desk.
With 32 mic/line inputs, a pair of stereo Aux returns and a tape input it's possible to hook up 38 total inputs to the board, each of the channels can also be flipped to be fed from the included Firewire 800 card which is 48x34. This card is a replacable expansion card - hoping to see some more options soon such as audio networking.
In operation, the console is very much set up as an analog one with one fader per physical channel, no layers or fader flips. Operationally it uses the Presonus Fat Channel which runs across the centre of the board and applies to the selected channel, using the meters as a way of indicating the value of each of the parameters -would have liked to see a mode which displayed the current value on the LCD too for finer control.
Each channel has:
an XMAX Mic preamp, Line input, and insert point plus:
HPF, Gate/Expander, Compressor, Limiter and 4 band individually switchable EQ
This applies to every channel, each of the four busses, each of the 12 Aux sends plus the four built-in FX send and returns.
It's pretty straightforward to use and once you get used to watching the main meters for Gain Reduction it's all plain sailing. It also sounds good - my test session of live drums and bass came in via FireWire returns and had a certain something - there is an edge to the quality of the sound.
It's Fat You Know
Fat Channels can be saved, recalled copied and pasted with ease indeed you can even transfer the settings from the mixer to the included Capture software - which makes discrete recording of each channel simple as you like. Integration with Capture also allows for Virtual Soundcheck, playback last nights recordings into the channels while the band do interviews, or more likely sleep off a hangover eh?
This is where things get pretty interesting. Included with the StudioLive is a wifi dongle which connects up to your wireless network - apparently - i couldn't get it to work with my BT Business Hub, so instead used the ethernet port on the expansion card. Using the (free) iOS appI can now connect to the StudioLive and control every aspect of it, apart from settings and saving patches. or if I like, limit the permissions of each iOS device to only a dedicated Aux mix - making it ideal for self-generating monitor mixes. It's not a totally unique feature, but it's elegantly and efficiently implemented here.
I can also access each of the 31-band Graphic EQs - one for each Aux, and one for the Master Outs. Additionally there's the option to delay the subgroup outputs for delay clusters or other required time compensation.
Additionally, you can integrate other Presonus products such as their StudioLive Active Integration PA speaker range which can tuning themselves to a room with the use of the Room Control App and a measurement mic. Capture This
With the Presonus Capture 2.0 application hooked up, you can record the gig, save the Mixer state which includes all the Fat Channel settings, fader levels, mutes, pans and Aux and buss settings and bring that directly into Studio One - Presonus' DAW (Not inlcuded). This means the session will be prety much ready to go as you have it live for addition work and mix down - maybe you'll even publish it to Nimbit (also owned by Presonus) for sale to your fans. it's an elegant workflow and even lets you tweak Fat Channel settings to be saved back to the board if you wish - neat.
Four on board digital effects, ABCD. A and B are generally speaking the reverbs, with Ambience, Room, Plate and Halls - minimal editing options, just Decay, Pre-delay and Early Reflection Level. Generally and FX C and D are delays, mono, stereo, filter delay and ping-pong.
Not the widest of choices but they are okay. Would like to have seen some more sophisticated options.
One For The Road
So, it's quite clear that primarilly, the StudioLive range is designed for live use, the simple , analogue-style workflow together with the integration with the Capture process makes it very appealing for those who want a simple life. Not quite so suited to the studio unless you have a lot of gear hardwired and just want to record one for one stuff - it could certainly work there.
The downside is perhaps that with all this analog analogy, it's strange that there's no audio networking included - the multicore required for a 32 channel, 12 aux desk is chunky to say the least, so you'd need to budget for that if you were touring. However for installations, it makes more sense. Presonus do say that there are expansion cards "on the way" for Dante and other CAT5 solutions so there's certainly hope. But to my mind, it's about the workflow and the sound, both of which feature pretty heavilly on the plus side for the StudioLive range. Granted, you are paying a premium (especially outside the US) when compared to the Behringer X32 (see our review), but if you have the budget then you should try one.
Available in 32, 24 and 16 channel configurations, the 32.4.2 AI £3299, $3999, €3699
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Compact, desktop, analog, semi-modular - whats not to like?