Since computers have become so prevalent in recording studios, there is an increasing need for high-quality microphone preamps and analog to digital converters. While there are some small and medium format consoles that have excellent microphone preamps and A/D converters, many leave something to be desired. This explains the proliferation of multichannel, outboard preamp/converters in today’s market. A pioneer in this class of gear has been PreSonus Electronics of Baton Rouge, La. It is my belief that PreSonus is one of the best-kept secrets in our trade. It manufactures superb dynamics processors and mic preamps at very reasonable prices. One of the most recent additions to the lineup is the DigiMax LT, a multichannel preamp/converter with digital outputs.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, location recording
Key Features: Eight channel; A/D converter; 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz sample rates; preamplifier
Contact: PreSonus Electronics at 800-750-0323, Web Site.
+ Great sounding
+ Flexible with essentials
– No analog monitor outputs
The Score: An essential piece of gear for studio/remote recording in which quality preamps are needed. It sounds great and is very affordable.
The DigiMax LT is derived from the original DigiMax, which was released in 2000. Like the original DigiMax, the LT is one rack space with eight channels. Each channel features a low noise, wide gain, dual-servo mic preamp, phantom power, a 20 dB pad, Neutrik combo input connectors (XLR and 1/4-inch balanced), a 1/4-inch unbalanced insert point, a tricolor LED signal indicator and a gain control. The unit also has a sample rate selector (32 kHz, 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz), an external clock switch (bypassing the manual rate selection), an ADAT lightpipe optical output, and word clock in/out connectors (BNC). One thing the LT does not have is dedicated analog outputs. However, the inserts can be used as such by modifying TRS cables. This would, of course, eliminate the possibility of using dynamics processing while recording incoming signals.
When the original DigiMax came out, it had a sample rate of 48 kHz. Recently, PreSonus unveiled the next generation of the DigiMax, upping the sample rate to 96 kHz while adding a variety of digital I/O, instrument inputs, onboard limiting and more.
What about the people who already had eight channels of dynamics, 48 kHz DAWs or MDMs and who do not need a whole range of digital outputs? To fill the void, PreSonus created the LT, which sells for just $999.
While I certainly could see using the DigiMax LT in the field, my evaluation consisted exclusively of studio work. I recently had the opportunity to work with an awesome female vocalist from Indonesia named Shakila. She has had successful major label releases in Indonesia and consequently, she has excellent microphone technique. Acoustically, her voice is dynamic with a smooth, full bass, modest midrange and a beautiful high end that is not harsh at all. I put her in front of a Lawson L47 microphone, which ran into the DigiMax LT and into a PC.
I often consider the language that manufacturers use in their promo material to be somewhat overblown. In PreSonus’ case I would consider it conservative. The materials refer to these dual-servo, electronically balanced mic preamps as pristine and they are exactly that. Shakila’s voice sparkled with a brilliant high end that rivaled preamps that cost much more than this unit does (and it has eight channels!). On a ballad, I had her get very close to the pop screen for a little proximity effect. The vocal sound through the DigiMax LT was a lesson in detail – it yielded a recording that sounds like she is whispering right in your ear. During more powerful moments, I inserted a little compression via the LT’s insert point. Again, the unit did a superb job capturing all the power and nuance of her performances.
Later, I used the LT on drums with a local band with whom I am doing an album project. The drummer is a very dynamic hard hitter. I needed several channels of compression so I simply patched in my PreSonus ACP88 eight-channel comp/limiter and I had a great little eight-channel front-end rig. Sound quality and affordability aside, it is quite an accomplishment to have eight channels of preamps, A/D and full-featured compression in just three rack spaces. Again, the sounds created were excellent and rivaled many I have recorded in the past. The kick drum sounded tight and thunderous, the toms were robust and punchy, and the cymbals were crystal clear.
One thing the LT lacks is an analog output for zero-latency monitoring. As mentioned earlier, you can use the insert points as monitor outputs but you lose the possibility of dynamics processing while recording. However, with today’s computers, latency has become less of an issue than it was just several years ago.
While some imitators have begun to appear in the marketplace, the PreSonus DigiMax LT is the real deal. This American-made beauty is a fantastic sounding multichannel mic preamp and an A/D converter. And, with eight line inputs, it can also serve as just a converter. It has most of the features that are essential to producing great multi-track recordings with a computer or MDM and it is very reasonably priced. PreSonus has hit another home run. Next batter please.
Lawson L47, Audio-Technica AE2500, 23HE, 25HE, ATM35, 4051, AKG D 112 microphones; MOTU 2408 interface; Pentium III PC; Alesis XT20 ADAT recorder; Spirit Digital 328 console; dbx 1066, PreSonus ACP88 processors; Mackie HR824 monitors.