presonus_digimaxfs_r.. - Audiolog
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presonus_digimaxfs_r.. - Audiolog

ECHNOLOGYFIELD FIELD TESTTESTB Y J A S O N S C O T T A LEXAND ERPreSonus DigiMax FSEight Mic Preamps with Conversion and Flexible RoutingIt’s been six years since PreSonuslaunched its popular DigiMax line, andnearly four years since the DigiMax lastreceived a facelift in the DigiMax LT andDigiMax 96K models. Building on manyof the LT’s technical aspects, the DigiMaxFS is the latest in the line aimed directlyat project studios needing lots of highqualitymicrophone preamps and simplecross-platform interconnectivity and routingflexibility. The DigiMax FS is an 8-channelClass-A microphone and instrumentpreamplifier with ADAT optical and 96kHzdual SMUX input and output conversion asits primary selling feature.your interface or digital mixer, but with nocompatible gear to make use of them. Itsback panel is absolutely loaded with I/O,featuring SMUX-configured ADAT input andoutput (dual sets of multiplexed optical portsfor up to eight channels of 88.2 or 96 kHz),BNC word clock connectors and 24 analogconnectors arranged into three sections—allof which are simultaneously usable.The first section groups eight balanced¼-inch TRS DAC outputs that are directlysourced from the ADAT input. Thisconveniently converts ADAT opticalsignals to analog outputs, ideal for sendingadditional monitor mixes or alt sends from aclock, which are indicated by red and bluebacklighting, respectively.CLEAN AND VERSATILEThe business end of the DigiMax FS soundsfantastic. Its preamps are capable of hugegain boosts while remaining neutral to thesignal, and deliver an uncompromising, cleanand expensive sound that is truly impressive,especially for this price range. Even when Ipushed them really hard on distant miking,they produced an uncolored and consistentsound that I’d classify with some of the besttransformerless designs out there.I recorded tracks using a Røde Classic IIMEET THE FSThe control panel of this robustly constructed1U box reveals that all inputs are up front,which might not be the best solution foreveryone but, as we’ll discover later, thereasoning behind this design decision wasa good one. The inputs are Neutrik Comboconnectors comprising balanced XLR and¼-inch TRS hi-Z instrument inputs onchannels 1 and 2, while inputs 3 through 8offer mic or balanced line-level inputs. Alleight microphone inputs include selectable48-volt phantom power (in groups of four)and individual preamp gain control. Input ismeasured only by red “clip” indicators. Theline-lump power adapter features a lock-nutfor ensuring that no loud pops will resultfrom accidental pulls to the power cord.ALL ABOUT THE I/OWhat really sets the DigiMax FS apart fromthe pack is its penchant for expanding on theoften-underused, or completely sedentary,ADAT ports of our project studio equipment.If you’re like most home recordists, youprobably find yourself maxing out the analoginputs of your audio interface on a regularbasis, wishing it had more—and bettersoundingpreamps, too! Similarly, you’velikely cursed the fact that you see a perfectlygood set of ADAT Lightpipe receptacles on2 MIX, March 2007 • www.mixonline.comdigital mixer or DAW whose analog outs arealready maxed. The next section has eightTRS direct analog outputs, giving you theoption of sending line-level outputs straightfrom the preamps to a console or backupdevice during mixing or live recording. Thethird group comprises eight TRS connectorsthat are configured as insert points foreach input on the DigiMax FS—a very coolfeature. Returns 1 and 2 also act as the linelevelinputs for channels 1 and 2. You candaisy-chain unlimited DigiMax FS units, anda 75-ohm Terminate switch allows you toterminate the word clock signal on the finalunit. Now you understand why the bulkyCombo inputs are placed up front.GOT THE JITTERS?The DigiMax FS is the first to feature PreSonus’new JetPLL jitter-reduction technology.Developed by TC Electronics, it uses a widerange and variety of frequencies and noiseshaping to remove nearly all audio-band jitterwith the aim of providing superior converterperformance, plus fast-locking and tightsynchronization. The Internal Clock selectoron the far right of the front panel allowsyou to set the DigiMax FS as the word-clockmaster at various sample rates (44.1, 48, 88.2and 96 kHz), while External Sync togglesbetween ADAT/slave sync and BNC wordand compared the PreSonus unit with severalstand-alone and audio interface preampsranging from budget to high-end models,and I was particularly impressed with theDigiMax FS’ transparent highs, and itsdynamic and present midrange. It produceda generally fuller and bigger sound than I wasused to hearing from pre’s in its price range.Its excellent transient response resultedin some of the most spacious soundingstereo recordings I’ve captured, and its twoinstrument DI’s were equally sweet on guitarand electric bass, again revealing a lovely lowmidrangegusto that I’d normally miss withmy interface pre’s costing less than $1,000,which brings up a good point: Because muchof your typical audio interface’s cost is in itsconverters and not necessarily in its pre’s, youjust may find that the DigiMax FS improvesupon the sound of your more expensiveinterface when used as a front end.Like its predecessors, the DigiMax FSworks well with DAWs because its analogand digital outputs are active simultaneously.I was able to monitor the analog outputs withzero latency while recording digitally. Withno real metering to speak of on the DigiMaxFS, you must on the meters within yourDAW. Similarly, the unit’s lack of discretephase buttons means DAW users will needto perform inversions in software. Curiously,

FIELD TESTthe manual skips around discussing the gainsection in any detail, but I’m happy to reportthat due to the unit’s excessive headroom, it’smore than happy with hot signals, so the lackof input padding isn’t missed.PLAYS NICE WITH OTHERSOn the technical end, the DigiMax FS’ ADATbridging allowed me to finally turn myDigidesign 96 I/O (which comes standardwith only eight ADAT optical inputs andoutputs) into the 16-channel audio interfacethat it truly is. Using a pair of Toslink Lightpipecables, I created bi-directional communicationbetween the DigiMax FS and my 96 I/Ousing the 96 I/O’s eight channels of ADAToptical I/O (the 96 I/O doesn’t support theSMUX configuration) and set the DigiMax FSto be the master clock for the system at 44.1kHz. This allowed me to feed eight additionalchannels to Pro Tools and simultaneouslyreceive eight channels digitally, with the FSconverting them through its DAC outputs.This allowed for more physical aux sends inmy PT rig, as well as for luxurious sundrytasks, such as supplying stems to tape decks,submix components to headphone stations,outputs for surround monitoring and more,without having to tie up valuable Digidesigninterface channels. I could quickly configurethis setup in Pro Tools’ Hardware Setup andbusing pages, and then enjoy a plethora ofnew routing options. And, remind me again,this convenience is all from a preamp?I also tried slaving the DigiMax FS tomy Apogee AD-16X, which does supportSMUX, and once again, synchronizationwas brilliantly fast and robust. Thanks toPreSonus’ JetPLL technology, the DigiMaxFS ensures that any incoming digital sourceshares its jitter spec, regardless of whichunit serves as the master clock. Aftersubjective tests between the much pricier96 I/O, Apogee’s acclaimed Big Ben C777chip within the AD-16X and the JetPLLtechnology, I feel confident that the DigiMaxFS’ clocking abilities compare favorably.Having the ability to insert an external EQor compressor after the preamp but beforethe A/D converter is such a huge boon tothe DigiMax FS, it cannot be overstated. Theconverters sound on par with my Digidesignunit and, arguably, even my beloved Apogee.I honestly don’t know what kind of magicPreSonus is pulling off here.SOMETHING TO CHEW ONDigimax FS is a multitalented powerhouse.As an expansion device, it serves many coolfunctions, including the ability to add highdefinitionsample rates and extremely highqualityclocking to older interfaces or digitalmixers, or to act as a stand-alone ADAT/SMUX-to-analog converter. Since so manyinterfaces feature only one or two micinputs, it’s also a great and inexpensive wayof adding the immediacy of always-activemicrophones to a compact recording setup.I became greedy and wished for discreteAES/EBU or S/PDIF on each channel forsome very esoteric purposes in my setup,but I’m assuming that customers who buythis product will be interested mainly inits ADAT provisions, and won’t miss thosefeatures at all.Bottom line: The DigiMax FS provideseight transparent sounding mic pre’s, animpressive audio spec at any price range,first-rate construction, highly flexible routingoptions and rock-solid clocking. Purity inthe project studio just got more affordable.Price: $799.PreSonus, 800/750-0323, Scott Alexander is a producer/mixer/remixer in Ottawa, Ontario.4 MIX, March 2007 •

Product ReviewsTapeOp Magazine, January/February 2007DigiMAX FSBy Andy HongWhen this unit arrived in my studio, my first assumption was that it was a "remix" ofthe DigiMAX 96 or LT, both of which are fine units and sound pretty good, especiallyfor their price. But honestly, they're kinda boring. Eight preamps feeding eight A!Dconverters to Lightpipe—clean sound, affordable, boring. I didn't expect much morefrom the FS. Boy was I wrong!First of all, I was immediately impressed by the FS's sound. Not only do the micpreamps sound natural and clear, with better low-end extension, cleaner highs, andless upper-midrange "friction" than what you might expect from other affordable micpreamps (we're talking less than $100 per channel here), but whatever PreSonus didwith the converters, they got it right. For example, at 96 kHz, I preferred the soundof the PreSonus DACs over those in my Pro Tools HD 192 I/O—and it wasn't just aminor difference—whether I clocked internally or externally with the latestDrawmer and Lucid clocks.Oh wait, did I say Digital to Analog Converters? Yup. The FS ain't just a mic preamp.In fact, if you've got a recorder, mixer, computer, or whatever with ADAT OpticalI/O, the FS might be the perfect companion. Here's the scoop:You get eight channels of discrete Class A mic preamps. And yes, after the sound ofthe unit impressed me, I just had to open up the box and look inside. Turns out thateach Neutrik Combo input connector has an army of individual surface-mountcomponents (along with normal-sized capacitors) behind it. There are a bunch of33079 quad op amps too, but these are for... the inserts, direct outs, and DACs!What a package this thing is!So imagine hooking up the FS to your rig. You get the eight preamps, two of whichcan operate as instrument DIs and the rest as line inputs. You get eight direct outs—PreSonus Audio Electronics | 7257 Florida Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA 70806T 225.216.7887 F 225.926.8347 |

PreSonusDIOIMAX FSMore than just an 8-channel mic preamp, PreSonus' newDigiMax FS offers a whole new way of getting sound inand out of your DAW. Mark Gousins gets connected...DIGIMAX FSManufacturerPreSonusPrice t589Contact Source Distribution020 8962 5080Web www.plesonus.comith most audiointedaces beingequipped with justtwo or eight micpreamps, manymusicians are faced with a limit as tothe number of instruments they canrecord at any one time. In truth, even asimple drum kit recording requires morethan eight channels (especially if youplan to use room mics and so on), sohaving access to an additional set ofpreamps can be highly desirable.Recognising this problem,manufacturers such as PreSonus,Focusrite and Mackie have alldeveloped 8-channel mic preampsspecifically tailored for the DAW market,often using an integral or optional ADAToptical output as a means of connectingto an existing audio interface.DigiMax FS follows in. the footstepsof PreSonus' previous DAW-expandingpreamp: the DigiMax LT - a productfeaturing the same solid build qualitywe've come to expect from PreSonus,**********with the additional bonus of a pricethat made it accessible to many semiprorecording enthusiasts. The DigiMaxFS continues the original concept ofthe DigiMax LT (including inseds andintegral ADAT interfacing), but alsoexpands on the DigiMax LT in respectto 96kHz sample resolution (courtesyof ADAT SMUX connections), DACOutputs, and a patented JetPLL jitterreductiontechnology. Despite all theserefinements, however, the DigiMax FSstill manages to retailess than 8600.Max headroomIn most cases, the DigiMax FS willconnect with your existing audiointerface via the ADAT Lightpipelocking either the DigiMax FS to yourinterface, or clocking the rest of thesystem to the DigiMax FS' word clock.Front-panel controls (plus the provisionof BNC word clock sync connectors atthe rear) make this easy to set up,enabling the DigiMax FS to fii into anydigital production environment.The eight Neutrik combo inputsare accessible from the front panel,facilitating quick and easy access tothe preamps should inspiration strike(permanent installation would entaildraping cables to the front of the rack,which might be a little unsightly).Usefully, the first two inputs acceptinstrument-level input, enabling you tosimultaneously input a bass and guitarvia a Dl box, for example. Phantompower is also available across inputs1-4 and 5-8 via the two illuminatedfront-panel switches.Grab the micIt's immediately apparent that the ClassA mic preamps in the DigiMdx FS arearguably superior to those found in themajority of audio interfaces (with thepossible exception of Mackie's Onyx400). What's more, the gain pots feelsturdy, with the clip light providingsome indication of levels before the& fftuffiK*ffituffi ffiffiY ffitr $ffipffiY &ffiffiffiffiYpffiY ffiWK*Wffiffi ffigffiY*ffiffiW$ffiffiffifYffi*ffi ffiffigK ffiffiffiffi Yffiffi ffiffiffiWffiY*Y*ffifficonnectors. This enables the DigiMaxFS to integrate with a wide variety ofaudio inierfaces (including Digidesign's002, MOTU's 828 mkll, and RME cards)although, of course, not all intedacesand audio cards feature ADATconnections as standard. With theLightpipe connection established, thenext point to consider is clocking -signal reaches your DAW. However, youwon't find additional extras such aspads, bass rolloff or phase inversion,which are features that often appeal tothose who like to get their recordings'right'from the source. We also noticedthat the DigiMax FS has slightly lessgain than some of the other preamps inour studio - something that you might66 November 2006 MusicTech unenznr

need to take into consideration if youintend to use the DigiMax FS fordelicate recording tasks.The additional inputs and outputsat the rear of the DigiMax FS are a realbonus for DAW users wanting toimprove connectivity within their studio.The inserts, for example, enable you tocustomise the recording path withhardware compressors and EQs - afeature that is often omitted from theinput path on a lot of audio interfaces.Also, by including a Lightpipe In pod.the DigiMax FS offers an extra eightanalogue outputs from your DAW,enabling you to run more channels to anexternal console, for example. With theDirect Outputs, you can also use theDigiMax FS as a conventional preampwithout the need for digital inter.facing.The conversion quality of the unitfeels surprisingly good given iis price,and it's clearly helped by the JetpLLjitter-reduction system. Given theapparent quality of the system, wewould have no qualms running theDigiMax FS as the master word clockdevice with an existing audio interfaceand DAW clocked to it. Equally, theDigiMax FS feels just as comfodableslaved to an existing digital setup,clocked either from the ADAT Lightpipeor the BNC connectors, which can alsobe terminated (if the DigiMax FS is onthe end of a daisy-chained word clockpath) to stabilise the integrity of theworld clock signal.To the MaxThe DigiMax FS is not the only8-channel preamp on the market at themoment, but it stands out thanks to itsconnectivity options. So, while otherpreamps provide more in the way offeatures such as bass rolloff, pads,phase inveders and so on, the DigiMaxFS puts it eggs fairly and squarely inthe 'inputs and outputs' basket. WithADAT connections as standard (sothere's no need to buy an optionalcard), inseds, DAC Outputs and DirectOutputs, there's no reason why theDigiMax FS can'i integrate seamlesslyinto a wide range of studio setups.Most importantly, though, theDigiMax FX delivers excellent sonicresults in one of the most crucial padsof the recording chain, with solid anddependable performance from thepreamps, conversion and clocking. So,if your existing audio interface isn,tmaking use of a Lightpipe connectionand you feel that your setup neeos afew more inputs and outputs, it's wellwodh giving the DigiMax FX someserious consideration. EmMeasuring UpMackie's Onyx 800 (t1,174) illustrates the additional features youcould enjoy by doubling your ouflay. lt has everything you,ll find 0nthe DigiMax FS - including ADAT interfacing and flexible word clockconfigurations - but it also features an impressive number ofcontrols on each of its preamps. What's more, you also get bassrolloff, phase invert and variable-impedance options (enabling yout0 explore a range of subile tonal variations with your microphones,alongside the abilig to decode an M-S signal. Another model toconsider is Focusrite's Platinum 0ctopre (t749), which featurescompression and limiting on all channels, although ADATinterfacing is available only as an optional upgrade (1149).l:rli,r:,::METHOD SPOTlf you want to makeuse of the oigiMaxFS' highest resolutionsample frequency -96kHz - you'll need todouble your Lightpipeconnections. witheach Lightpipecarrying fourchannels of digitalconnectivity. Atstandard samplerates (44.1 kHz or48kHz, tor example),the full eightchannels are carriedby the first ADATLightpipe connector.BUY THIS PRODUCT AT WWW.MUSICTECHMAG.CO.UIUSTORE

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