Hands-On Review:FireStudio Recording Interfaces


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Which FireStudio is right for you?

By Brad Zell
PreSonus Director of Marketing

Yamaha E Series Keyboards

Since shipping its first recording interface in 2002, PreSonus has offered many recording solutions to meet the unique needs of our customers. Currently PreSonus offers four products in its FireStudio family: FireStudio, FireStudio Project, FireStudio Tube, and FireStudio LightPipe. At first blush, all the FireStudios may seem similar and I often hear from people asking me about their differences when trying to decide which is right for them.

What’s the same?

Let me start with the common features and characteristics that all FireStudio’s share. All FireStudios are 24-bit/96K professional-grade FireWire recording interfaces compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. All FireStudios (except the FireStudio LightPipe) come with Cubase LE 4 recording software as well as a variety of plug-ins and virtual instruments so that you get a complete recording system right out of the box. All FireStudios employ the same FireWire chipset and ultrahigh-quality AD/DA converters with JetPLL jitter elimination technology. JetPLL virtually eliminates digital jitter, delivering tighter synchronization with your computer and giving your recordings more clarity and an ultrawide stereo image. Using the same high-quality converters and chipset ensures rock-solid stability and sterling sonic performance as a standard in all FireStudio products. Finally, all the microphone preamplifiers used on the FireStudios, (except the two SuperChannels on the FireStudio Tube) are PreSonus’ award-winning Class A XMAX preamplifiers, great for all types of microphones and instruments.

 

Now let’s go through each product in the family to distinguish the differences and hopefully help you hone in on the FireStudio that’s right for you.

FireStudio

The FireStudio 26x26 interface is the FireStudio family flagship combining eight XMAX microphone preamplifiers, 16 channels of ADAT input/output, S/PDIF input/output, MIDI input/output, and word clock input/output for a total of 26 simultaneous record/playback channels. Unique to the FireStudio is the optional Monitor Station Remote (MSR) providing stereo and surround speaker switching, input source switching, talkback, and two additional headphone outputs. The FireStudio also features the most advanced zero-latency matrix mixer/routing software in the family, called the Control Console. The Control Console allows creation of up to nine stereo mixes as well as routing of any input to any output.

 

The FireStudio is the perfect solution for recording bands or groups of musicians performing in the studio simultaneously. When recording a band, each musician wants a different headphone mix. The singer wants more vocals, the bass player wants more bass. With the FireStudio you can record up to 26 simultaneous inputs and send up to nine customized headphone mixes to the musicians in the band. When used with the MSR which is sold separately, you can use its talkback feature to easily communicate with the musicians.

 

PreSonus FireStudio family
PreSonus FireStudio family

FireStudio Project

The FireStudio Project is an upgraded version of the award-winning FirePod/FP10. It features 10 simultaneous inputs and outputs with eight XMAX Class A preamplifiers, along with S/PDIF and MIDI input/outputs. The FireStudio Project has been enhanced with new FireControl monitor mixing software that allows you to create up to five stereo mixes instead of the single monitor mix available on the FirePod/FP10. The FireStudio Project also has higher quality AD/DA converters and the improved JetPLL synchronization for better clarity and stereo imaging than the FirePod/FP10. It’s perfect for the budget-minded band, musician, or engineer, who, from time to time, need to record a full drum kit or track up to eight microphones at once.

FireStudio Tube

The FireStudio Tube is distinguished by the two SuperChannels on its front panel as well as the highest analog channel count of any interface in its class. The SuperChannels are Class A tube microphone and instrument preamplifiers with variable analog limiters using VCA-based, ultrafast Dual Domain RMS and a peak-detection circuit used in the award-winning DigiMax 96K, making them highly musical. The limiters are located after the preamplifier in the signal path and BEFORE the analog-to-digital converter. This allows you to maintain high-resolution recording levels without clipping, keeping the vocals up front, the kick and snare consistent, and the bass solid and punchy. In addition to the 10 mic preamps, there are six balanced line inputs for line level devices (keyboards, drum machines, etc.) for a total of 16 analog inputs, allowing you to record without need of external preamps or converters. The FireStudio Tube is perfect for a band, producer, or engineer who prefers recording musicians playing together to maintain the feel and vibe of the song and maintain the interaction and synergy of the band.

FireStudio LightPipe

The FireStudio LightPipe offers the highest channel count of all of the FireStudios—32 inputs and 32 outputs! The FireStudio LightPipe is completely digital and all inputs and outputs are handled using optical ADAT lightpipe. The most common way to set up the FireStudio LightPipe is to connect up to four DigiMax FS or DigiMax D8 microphone preamplifiers with ADAT output to the FireStudio LightPipe, making 32 microphone preamplifiers available. The FireStudio LightPipe used with four DigiMaxs is perfect for live band recording as all components can be housed in a 6U rack. Just roll up to the gig, connect the direct outputs from the mixing board to your system, and hit Record.