Hands-On Review:PreSonus FireStudio Tube

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By Brad Zell
PreSonus Director of Marketing

When I bought my first computer recording system, I spent all of my  money on the computer, interface, and software. I had a few microphones  and knew I needed to get a kick drum mic and a couple of condensers for  overheads in order to record drums. I quickly realized that I also  needed to buy at least eight microphone preamplifiers because the  interface had only two microphone preamplifiers on it. My options at the  time were the PreSonus DigiMax to connect via ADAT lightpipe to my  interface, a mixer with eight microphone preamplifiers on it, or a bunch  of boutique preamps that I couldn’t afford. I opted for the DigiMax and  it served me well although I had to spend some extra cheese that I  wasn’t really planning on.


Enter the FireStudio Tube


When we designed the FireStudio Tube the question was, “What do you need on a recording interface to record a  band without having to buy more preamps?” Let’s see. You need about ten  microphone preamps, and it would be nice if two of them were vacuum  tube-based. Also a couple of onboard analog limiters, and an additional  six balanced line inputs for keyboards, synths, drum machines, and  boutique microphone preamps. You need enough outputs for speakers and  headphone amplifiers and the ability to send multiple mixes to the  musicians. And this is exactly what we did. The FireStudio Tube has two high-headroom, Class A tube-based microphone/instrument  preamplifiers with analog limiter that we call “SuperChannels.” Eight  award-winning XMAX preamplifiers, six balanced line inputs, MIDI  input/output, four balanced multipurpose outputs, balanced main outputs,  and a headphone amplifier that goes to 11 give you all the connectivity  you could want.


Two SuperChannels


The SuperChannels on the FireStudio Tube are designed to be extremely flexible, delivering a wide range of  sounds from smooth, clean, and clear, to warm tube saturation, great for  use with all types of microphones and instruments. The tube  preamplifiers in the FireStudio Tube use a high gain, military-grade 12AX7 tube for maximum gain, low noise,  and high headroom. Neutrik combo connectors allow both XLR microphone  and Hi-Z instrument input. Controls include preamp gain and tube drive.  An 80Hz high-pass filter is also located on the front panel to remove  room rumble and unwanted low frequencies.


The FireStudio Tube’s limiter features the VCA-based, ultrafast RMS and peak detection  circuit used in the award-winning DigiMax 96K, delivering the most  musical limiting available. It is able to catch the fastest transients  eliminating the possibility of clipping during recording while  maintaining musicality. Controls for the limiter include Threshold and  Gain Make-up, as well as a Limiter In/Out button.

PreSonus Firestudio Tube
PreSonus Firestudio Tube

Eight XMAX Preamps


The PreSonus award-winning XMAX preamplifier is a custom-designed  circuit utilizing high voltage and high-current Class A topology.  PreSonus believes that the preamplifier is one of the key components in  the sonic quality of a recording. The job of a microphone preamplifier  is to boost microphone level signals to line level so that the signal  can be converted from analog to digital. This mic-to-line boost  generally requires a preamplification of over 400 times the voltage of  the original mic level signal. This preamplification stage is one of the  most important stages that the signal will go through before being  converted to digital, and is the reason a high-performance preamplifier  is critical in achieving great results. Therefore, all XMAX  preamplifiers are built with the same three elements:


High Voltage: The XMAX preamplifier runs on power  rails of 30V. Most off-the-shelf op amp-based designs run on power rails  of 10V to 18V. Higher voltage power rails deliver more headroom, deeper  lows, smoother highs, and an overall fuller sound.


Discrete: There are no op amps in our circuit; only  transistors, resistors, and capacitors. Op amps add noise, coloration,  and harshness to a signal. Discrete designs deliver ultralow noise and  transparency.


Class A: When a circuit is running in Class A mode,  the circuit is always in an “on” state operating at its optimal voltage  requirements. Class A mode has zero crossover distortion and delivers  purer, clearer, and more musical sonics than Class A/B designs which are  found in most op-amp circuits.


The net result of the XMAX preamp design is high headroom, low noise,  wide dynamic and frequency ranges, and most important, musicality and  transparency—smooth highs, solid and deep lows, and everything  in-between.


FireControl DSP Mixer/Router


The FireStudio Tube includes the FireControl mixer/router that delivers up to five  zero-latency custom monitor mixes easily and quickly; perfect for  sending multiple headphone mixes to various recording musicians.


Digital Converters and JetPLL Sync


As with all of our recording systems, the FireStudio Tube includes a complete suite of software featuring Steinberg’s Cubase LE 4  48-track recording and production software along with a number of  third-party plug-ins, loops, samples, and virtual instruments delivering  a complete music production solution.


We’re really proud of the FireStudio Tube.  It’s the perfect combination of analog I/O for the recording band or  project studio producer/engineer. You get eight great mic inputs, two  extremely hip tube preamps with analog limiter, and eight balanced line  inputs, all in one rackspace! If you need to record a drum kit, band,  choir, orchestra, etc., the FireStudio Tube is ready, willing, and able.


Features & Specs

  • 24-bit/96K FireWire (IEEE 1394)
  • 16 inputs/6 outputs simultaneous record/playback channels
  • 2 SuperChannels (tube mic/instrument preamplifiers with analog limiter)
  • 8 XMAX microphone preamplifiers
  • 6 balanced TRS line outputs
  • MIDI Input/Output
  • 16 x 8 FireControl DSP mixer/router
  • JetPLL Sync for amazing imaging and clarity
  • High performance A/D/A converters (114dB dynamic range)
  • Windows and Macintosh compatible (Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar, Digital Performer, and many others)
  • ProPak Software Suite including Cubase LE 4 audio production software