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electronic MUSICIAN

PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2

February 22, 2012

Talking ’bout my . . . i-i-i-i-integration

$1,499.95 MSRP

PreSonus’ philosophy here goes beyond using a mixer for both studio and live applications. The StudioLive 16.0.2 is one element of a cleverlydesigned system that encompasses both hardware and software.

In fact, the 16.0.2 is really about StudioLive, not “studio” and “live,” because of the way it bridges DAWs and live performance. It includes Capture software for streaming audio through the FireWire interface to your computer’s DAW (laptop live recording, anyone?) as well as Virtual StudioLive software that treats the 16.0.2 more like a computer peripheral. But if you just want to use the 16.0.2 as a standalone mixer, it’s more than happy to oblige.

What’s more, PreSonus has stolen liberally from itself. The mixer includes the excellent Class A XMAX preamps originally introduced in the company’s audio interfaces, as well as the “Fat Channel”—a landmark feature in their original, larger StudioLive consoles. It also has something the other mixers don’t have, and that also emphasizes the system aspect: a MIDI input.

The Mixer StudioLive has eight mono inputs and four stereo ins (12 faders), although they all have mic inputs with individuallyswitchable phantom power. There’s also a talkback mic input with trim (but you can’t record it, so it’s not another recordable input). Four additional faders control aux bus outs, and there’s a master fader. XLR outs include a mono out with trim and stereo outs, also with trim.

The 16.0.2 interface departs from the norm with its “Fat Channel,” which covers most of the top panel. This is a complete channel strip, with full hardware/ hands-on control, that includes highpass filter, gate, compressor, limiter, and three-band EQ—low and high are semi-parametric (no Q parameter) but also switchable to shelf, while the semi-parametric mid offers a choice of two Q settings. You can assign it to any channel for editing; another nice touch includes extensive use of color-coding for the switches so it’s easy to parse at a glance what’s going on.

The Fat Channel encoders can also change parameters for a 31-band graphic and sends to two different effects processors that are dedicated to ambience and delay effects.

The feel is substantial—the knobs don’t wobble, the buttons have a positive touch, and there’s a standard IEC AC cord receptacle instead of a wall wart. The 60mm faders aren’t as smooth as I’d like, but they do the job, and despite the unit’s extremely compact footprint, nothing feels squeezed.

The Software Virtual StudioLive is your window into the 16.0.2. It makes it easier to do some things, like show all bands of the 31-band EQ instead of showing different sections in the physical Fat Channel display, but it also displays thumbnail EQ curves and gain-reduction metering for the dynamics. An additional setup page, also accessible from the mixer itself, specifies which parameters will be exempt when recalling different Scenes. For example, you could choose to recall EQ and dynamics, but not fader settings should you need to make on-the-fly adjustments.

The Capture software could also be called “recording for dummies.” If you know how to plug in a FireWire cable and understand the meaning of “record,” you can stream 16 tracks into your computer as well as perform (very) limited editing, like deleting sections. This is not a DAW, by any means; it is really just for capturing audio to disk. If you want something more full-featured, the package includes Studio One Artist, a “downsized” version of Studio One Professional.

Final Mix It’s a given that mixers need to interface with DAWs these days, but it’s usually as a complementary pair, like with the other mixers/control surfaces in this roundup. StudioLive 16.0.2 does that, but you can also treat this mixer as a computer peripheral, or your computer as a StudioLive peripheral—as the FireWire interfacing is bi-directional, you can even insert plug-ins into your computer’s DAW and have them “inserted” in StudioLive. And even the peripheral can have a peripheral: You can control the Virtual StudioLive software with an iPad.

This is one slick mixer with multiple identities, but the most important aspect is that all of them are implemented extremely well.

More from this Roundup:

A New Mixer Paradigm
Focusrite Control 2802
Phonic Digital Console
SSL Nucleus
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