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  • PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 • 16-Channel Mixer and DAW Interface

    A Digital Mixer and FireWire DAW Controller for Live Performance and Recording

    $1,499.95 MSRP, $1,299.95 street

    www.presonus.com




    PreSonus sure is on a roll these days. They have had a spate of major releases in the different arenas of mixers, interfaces, and software, while also managing to provide multiple offerings within those categories. For example, at the Summer NAMM show, PreSonus unveiled three new interfaces, the AudioBox series, and presaged the imminent 2.0 launch of their still fairly new DAW, Studio One. As well, they added to their already-successful digital mixer line.

    One of PreSonus’s strengths is the way their products all benefit from their brethren’s technological innovations. For example, best practices in the company’s interfaces wind up in the front ends of their mixers, and software developments in their DAWs inform the sophisticated and evolved utilities for their hardware.

    This integration is evident in the new [COLOR="blue"]StudioLive 16.0.2 ([COLOR="teal"]$1,499.95 MSRP, $1,299.95 street), a FireWire 16-analog input mixer that PreSonus introduced at the show as the “baby of the digital mixer line.” But this baby sports some mighty grown-up specs.

    PreSonus’ twin talents of software and hardware design are evident in the 16.0.2. It functions equally well as a live 16-channel mixer, a recording board, and a front-end device with multi-track capture and editing capabilities, owing to its integration with the software that drives it, Universal Control and PreSonus Capture. The unit also ships with a lite version of PreSonus’s DAW, Studio One Artist. One of the 16.0.2’s greatest strengths is the way it integrates DAW-playback and live performance. This makes it perfect for anyone who employs pre-recorded tracks in their show, from click tracks to Ableton Live sequences to audio and MIDI tracks. As a testament to how fully evolved the 16.0.2 is from its inception, an iPad app called StudioLive Remote is also available, allowing you to control the mixer wirelessly.

    Note: As with all Pro Reviews, we encourage you to get specs and detailed product descriptions from the manufacturer’s website (http://www.presonus.com) or from your favorite retailer (such as Musician’s Friend). We also encourage you to download the manual, graciously provided by PreSonus for free, found here. What we’ll do in the following pages is to explore the 16.0.2 the way the reviewer experiences it—in real time (or nearly so), with space in between the forum posts for questions, and “getting a word in edgewise.” (Please keep in mind, posts must be strictly on-topic.)

    The 16.0.2 is not just a mixer, but an entire software-hardware approach, and it’s worth it to take a moment and go over the various pieces that comprise that system. So before we discuss the functions and workflow of the StudioLive 16.0.2 in a session, let’s take a look at the individual components included in the package.
    Jon Chappell
    Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
    Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

  • #2
    What’s in the Box

    The 16.0.2 is a 16-analog input mixer sporting 17 physical faders: 12 for channel inputs (8 mono, 4 stereo), 4 buses, and 1 L/R stereo master. The 12 channels are outfitted with PreSonus’s new XMAX Class-A solid-state mic preamps and have individual phantom power switches.

    The top and the bottom of the channel section looks fairly normal, with faders on the bottom and trim controls on top. In between is where you see PreSonus’s innovative approach. There are several switches, but only one multi-function rotary control. This is the result of the 16.0.2’s Fat Channel, which basically appropriates the entire front-panel real estate to display the parameters and functions of a single channel. We’ll get to the Fat Channel in a moment.

    Jon Chappell
    Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
    Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

    Comment


    • #3
      Robust and Compact

      Two things I observed right away when unpacking the 16.0.2: 1) how substantial (i.e., heavy) it is, with a robust, heavy-duty quality to it; and 2) how condensed and un-huge it is. If you told me I was receiving a 16-analog input mixer with 17 faders, I never would have guessed it could be just slightly wider than my 15" MacBook Pro.

      If you plan to move around with the 16.0.2—even if it’s just from the basement rehearsal room to an upstairs bedroom for recording—you’ll appreciate its compact footprint.

      Jon Chappell
      Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
      Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

      Comment


      • #4
        All Aglow

        The front panel uses color-coding quite well, allowing you to quickly and easily group functions together with your eye. The switches, metering, and displays are multi-colored as well—in addition to being quite bright—and are perfect for reading in a room with subdued lighting.

        For fun, I took a photo with the lights dimmed. Check out how the switches glow!

        Jon Chappell
        Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
        Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

        Comment


        • #5
          Around Back

          You’ll notice from the angle of the opening photo that the 16.0.2 rises toward the back. This provides a nice bit of room for the back-panel jack bay, as shown below.

          Note the talkback mic connection at the far left: It also has an XMAX preamp, a level control, and selectable phantom power. Pretty good for a talkback mic!

          The Main Outputs have both XLR and balanced TRS connections, which output in parallel to each other and to the Mono Output. The [COLOR="blue"]Mono Output (with its own Level control) is handy for theater and worship applications where you might want to feed a mono-summed signal of the mix to an offstage location, such as a green room or choir loft.

          Stereo channels 13/14 and 15/16 have RCA jacks in addition to XLR and 1/4". Nice!

          Jon Chappell
          Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
          Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Software Integration — A Major Component

            Also inside the box are two FireWire cables (6-pin-to-6-pin and 6-pin-to-4-pin, for direct connection to Mac laptops), a hard-copy quick-start manual, a power cord, and three discs (in two packages) for the software. The three discs include the following:

            Disc 1
            • Universal Control with VSL, Drivers
            • Full manual in pdf form

            Disc 2
            • PreSonus Capture (the recording/editing software for multi-track recording and basic editing).
            • 16, 24, 32-track demo recordings

            Disc 3
            • Studio One Artist (a lite version of PreSonus’s full-featured DAW, Studio One)
            • Demos and Tutorials (including videos and songs)
            • Reference manuals (pdf)
            • Sound Sets (supporting audio and virtual instrument files for Studio One)
            • 3rd Party (demo programs from Toontrack and Native Instruments)
            • Jambalaya recipe (PreSonus are proud natives of Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

            Here’s a photo showing everything in the box that’s not the mixer. Note that in addition to the manual, cables, and discs, there is a PreSonus sticker and two adhesive-backed padded foam strips, which you can place on the bottom of the 16.0.2.


            Jon Chappell
            Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
            Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Universal Control with VSL

              Because the computer-based software is a huge benefit in operating the 16.0.2 (and because showing the physical disc doesn’t do it justice), following are descriptions and screen shots of the software included on the discs.


              Universal Control is the software utility that allows you to control the mixer from the computer. Of course, communication is bi-directional, so any changes made with a physical mixer control (switch, knob, or fader) are reflected on the computer screen, and vice-versa.

              Universal Control has four tabs: Overview, FatChannel, GEG (graphic EQ), and Setup. Overview (shown below) looks most like a traditional mixer. You see the expected sections for (proceeding bottom to top) faders, channel-monitor switches (Mute, Solo, Select—part of the Fat Channel operation, described below), effects and aux bus levels (the horizontal bar graphs), EQ and dynamics, Gain (the horizontal meter just above the Gate display), and switches for phantom power, FireWire Input select, Phase Reverse, and Post DSP select. The color of a switch on the screen corresponds with its physical mixer counterpart. This shot shows the Overview of the mixer.





              There are a few things to note here. The three stacked graphic displays (just below the horizontal level meter) show Gate, Comp (compressor), and EQ. Look for a moment at a detail shot of the Gate, Comp, EQ displays (immediately below).

              (Note: screen shot altered with shading/brightening effect to highlight graphic displays.)



              Look carefully here and you’ll see whether an effect is active or bypassed (e.g., Channe1 1’s Gate is active; Channel 2’s is inactive), and the shape of the envelope. EQ curves are shown when engaged for a specific channel (see Channels 3–10).

              If you activate a Gate, you see the results of the gain reduction in the meter to the left of the channel fader. Referring back to the screen shot at the top of this post, note the dramatic gain reduction for Channels 1, 4, and 7. Similarly, these meters show the gain reduction applied by the Compressor as the signal rises and crosses the threshold setting. DAW users are used to seeing this, but remember, this is monitoring your physical mixer!

              The group of four bar graphs (1–4) just below the EQ display shows the levels of the four Aux buses. Below that are two level controls (A, B) for the internal DSP effects buses. When mixing “in the box,” having two internal effects buses is a real plus. More on the effects later.
              Jon Chappell
              Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
              Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

              Comment


              • #8
                Let’s Get Fat, Y'all!

                The second tab in the Universal Control shows PreSonus’s unique and innovative Fat Channel. The basic idea is that when you Select a channel, that channel’s parameters take over the entire front panel. They get “fat” and throw their weight around, hogging a huge portion of the available interface—which is a good thing!

                We’ll explore the Fat Channel in a separate section, but this shows you that you can craft individual channels using either the computer or the mixer.

                Jon Chappell
                Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Graphic EQ

                  Click the third tab from the left, and you’ll invoke a 31-band GEQ. Again, you can do this on the front panel, but the advantage of using Universal Control is that you can see all 31 bands simultaneously. (On the mixer, you have to view the sliders in sections.)

                  Jon Chappell
                  Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                  Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Setup

                    The fourth and final tab on the Universal Control utility is a Setup screen. The left side controls which parameters can be excluded when recalling Scenes. (You can even password protect your settings using the Lock Out feature.) The right side is for setting MIDI parameters. If you plan to do a lot of Scene Recall, you’ll be using the Setup screen to get the best of both worlds: preserving session-specific, on-the-fly adjustments while importing pre-programmed scenes and templates.

                    Jon Chappell
                    Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                    Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Capture Software

                      PreSonus not only includes a copy of their DAW (Studio One, described below), but another capture/edit piece of software that has a learning curve with a slope of zero or dead flat. In other words, it's dirt simple.

                      Capture allows board operators and band members who don’t want to fuss a simple and impediment-free way to instantly record their 16-track performances. All channels are automatically routed to software tracks. You simply arm the tracks, hit record, and go. If you’ve ever operated a cassette deck or an old-school telephone answering machine, you can work Capture.

                      Capture works flawlessly out of the box, letting your record 16 tracks instantly, while you take time to interface your 16.0.2 with a full-featured DAW (whether that’s Studio One or something else).





                      In addition to a straight-up capturing interface, Capture allows for some basic editing. You can zoom into a user-defined area and perform a deletion. This is handy for the “housekeeping” tasks of trimming the dead air that surrounds the music on the front and back ends of the recording. Knowing you can do this in a jiffy means you don’t have to worry about hitting the record button just before the downbeat. Hit the Record button as early as you like, then go back to preparing for the session to start. When the song ends, you can close down open mics, fade the master, etc., and hit Stop when you get around to it. A quick session with the eraser and scissors tools will trim the ragged edges of your file so that they're neat and tight.




                      In the screen above, Tracks 1 and 3 have been split (indicated by the dark vertical lines) using the scissors tool from the tool palette above. Tracks 1 and 2 have adjacent regions selected (light blue highlight) for imminent processing (erasure, deletion, etc.).
                      Jon Chappell
                      Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                      Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        StudioLive Remote for the iPad

                        Unfortunately, an iPad is not included in the box along with the 16.0.2, the cables, and the software. But if you already own one (or will acquire one), you will very soon (PreSonus says September 2011) be able to operate Universal Control wirelessly, using the iPad app StudioLive Remote. You still need a computer hooked up to the 16.0.2 via a FireWire cable, but you can then run all the functions from your iPad.

                        This would be very useful for sound engineers looking to control the 16.0.2 while walking around the venue, or for giving control to performers (both onstage and in the studio) or anyone else who’s not behind, or within easy reach of, the board.



                        [COLOR="red"][[COLOR="red"]Edit: A previous version of this post stated the 16.0.2 version of StudioLive Remote was already available. When it is, we'll post a notice here. -JC[COLOR="red"]]
                        Jon Chappell
                        Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                        Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The Skinny on the Fat Channel

                          Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the 16.0.2—and what represents the most radical departure from the traditional mixer paradigm—is PreSonus’s Fat Channel. This feature affects the actual design and control layout of the board, as Fat Channel obviates the need for many dedicated knobs covering the entire channel section of the board.

                          Here’s how it works: By pressing any of the 17 Select switches (one for every fader on the board) you transform the entire board into one wide—or “fat,” in PreSonus’s lingo— channel strip. The key parameters, including EQ and dynamics processing, are spread out, using the LED meters to display their parameter values. Here’s a schematic (taken from the manual) that shows the signal chain of each channel:






                          Now look at a rendering of the main section of the mixer, also from the manual:



                          You see the modules in the signal chain represented on the board, with the appropriate number of faders assigned to the modules parameters. For example, the Compressor takes four meters (“Channel” numbers 3–6) for indicating Threshold, Ratio, Response, and Gain.

                          The EQ section needs six meters (“Channels” 7–16) to represent both Frequency and Gain across three bands, Low, Mid, and High. Two additional switches below each band control On/Bypass and Shelf (On/Off). With Shelf off, the EQ functions as a narrow-band parametric EQ.

                          Fat Channel has more implications than just setting up individual channels, too.
                          Jon Chappell
                          Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                          Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Fat Channel Continued

                            Here’s a summary of all the functions under the Fat Channel’s domain:

                            • Add dynamics processing and EQ to every input and output
                            • Create sends and effects mixes for all four analog Aux
                            • sends and both internal effects buses
                            • Engage phantom power for each mic preamp
                            • Meter inputs, Aux and Main outputs, and gain reduction for all 16 channels
                            • Copy, save, and load Fat Channel and GEQ presets
                            • Recall your fader position for stored mixes


                            Not Just Input Channels, Either!
                            The Fat Channel is available for every input and output on the 16.0.2, but what you may have noticed from the list above is that the Fat Channel applies to buses and effects, too. So though it’s called “Fat Channel,” it also works on buses. Here’s a table, copied from the manual, that shows the Fat Channel’s extended reach beyond just channels.

                            Jon Chappell
                            Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                            Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hi Jon:

                              Unlike the talkback mic inputs on the 16.4.2 and 24.4.2 which are XMAX preamps (and recordable), the talkback mic preamp on the 16.0.2 not an XMAX circuit (and not recordable). In all 3 mixer models, phantom power is always on, so don't use your favorite ribbon mic to talk to the band

                              Wesley Smith
                              Product Planner
                              PreSonus Audio Electronics

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