Monday, September 13, 2010

Presonus StudioLive Review - Part 2: Positives

A console that's touted as a roadworthy product should be reliable. It should sound good and have good noise rejection. Unfortunately, in today's world, the difference between toys and professional equipment is not always obvious - even by looking at brand names. So it's worth mentioning that the StudioLive has done well so far in all these respects. I'm not what you'd call a "road warrior", gigging every weekend. I keep my console in a road case. It has traveled with me in my car or trailer six or seven times in the last year. I've had the lid off of the case several more times for various uses and I have not had any reliability issues. I've used it in challenging electrical environments where other equipment hums and buzzes and it has rejected noise faithfully. I've not done any serious testing with regards to sound quality, but I've been satisfied with the way it sounds in every situation I've used it, from folk and bluegrass to punk and metal. I should note that I've used it much more as a live console than a recording board. I can't say I've ever used the StudioLive in an environment where studio-quality preamps were needed.

As I mentioned the best feature of the StudioLive is its channel processing capabilities. It provides an unheard of set of features for a board at this price point. Each channel includes an adjustable high-pass filter, full dynamics processing (compressor, expander/limiter, gate), and 4-band parametric EQ. The EQ is "almost" fully parametric, meaning the low and high bands are switchable between shelf and notch filters and the two mid bands are switchable between low and high Q. I'm not particularly fond of the use of the channel meters as knob level indicators for these features, but it works. You get used to seeing it that way and the Universal Control software provides an alternative means of viewing and editing these parameters. 

The "other best feature" of the board is the ability to flexibly route almost anything to  and from the computer for recording. I've found the firewire interface to be clean and reliable. There are some issues with connectivity that I'll expand on later, but once everything is hooked up and running I am able to record all 16 channels to my Macbook Pro faithfully without dropouts. This works while running Logic Pro 8 and the Presonus Universal Control software simultaneously. 

There are a lot of other positive notes about this console. One thing I'm particularly fond of is the flexible and accessible metering options (though see my earlier caveat about input levels and metering),  I like the fact that you can easily switch between input, output, and gain reduction meters with the touch of a button. I also like the feel of the faders. They sit on a slightly flatter plane than the Fat Channel controls and that layout seems more ergonomic to me. The channels have plenty of space between them with nice long-throw faders. The faders have a very smooth travel and are not sticky at all. I like the fact that the headphone jack is located in front of the fader board so the cable stays out of the way. The Universal Control software was updated after I bought my console and I've found it to be a good experience to work with. Another nice touch is the adjustable sensitivity for the stereo and mono main outputs. This makes it easier to match up the StudioLive to various kinds of processing equipment. All of these little things add up to a console that is very usable and has gotten me through some tough mixing assignments.

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