The PreSonus Eureka ($699) is a single-channel recording strip with a healthy set of professional features – so healthy, in fact, that knobs, buttons and indicators take up every available inch of space on the front panel.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, post production
Key Features: Mac, Windows; TDM, RTAS, MAS, Audio Units, VST; 48-bit internal processing; 96 kHz and 192 kHz sampling rates; compressor, equalizers, mastering plug-ins
Contact: Waves at 865-546-6115, Web Site.
PreSonus approached the Eureka with an eye towards competing with far more expensive units, both aesthetically and sonically. On most fronts, PreSonus succeeded admirably.
The front panel of the PreSonus Eureka recording channel is divided into four main sections: input, compressor, equalizer and output. These sections have many associated features to cover, so we’ll jump right in…
The front panel input section has three rotary controls: gain (ranges from +10 dB to +54 dB); impedance (rotary switch with 50, 150, 600, 1500 and 2500 ohm settings); and a Saturate control. The saturation circuit works by adjusting the drain current on the FET amplifier, and is intended to simulate the effects of tape saturation and tube “warmth.”
For source input, the Eureka offers a discrete Class A transformer-coupled microphone preamp (rear panel XLR), as well as a 1 Mohm instrument input (front panel 1/4-inch TS) and balanced line level input (rear-panel 1/4-inch TRS).
Additional controls in the input section include a line input selector, 48V phantom power switch, 20 dB pad, 80 Hz shelf and phase reverse. Three LEDs indicate input level.
The compressor section offers a full complement of controls. Besides the standard threshold, attack, release and ratio controls, Eureka provides variable gain make-up (-20 dB to +20 dB), variable high-pass side chain filter (10 Hz to 10 kHz), hard/soft knee selector and compressor circuit bypass controls.
The parametric equalizer section features three overlapping bands (20 Hz-300 Hz, 200 Hz – 3 kHz and 2 kHz – 20 kHz), each with 10 dB of cut/boost and adjustable Q (3 octaves to 2/3 octave). The two buttons in the EQ section are for circuit bypass and to configure the EQ section ahead of the compressor.
The final section is the master output, which has an output fader (-70 dB to +10 dB) and a button to switch the analog VU meter from monitoring the unit’s output to display compressor gain reduction.
In addition to the aforementioned mic and line input jacks, the rear panel has XLR and 1/4-inch TRS line out jacks, 1/4-inch TRS send and return (insert path) jacks.
The PreSonus Eureka features the typical microphone preamp/compressor/ equalizer configuration common to most channel strip units. What differentiates the Eureka from similar units in its price range is its uncommon attention to professional engineering needs.
Eureka answers with welcome features such as separate balanced send and return jacks (as opposed to the typical unbalanced Y cable insert configuration), a line in jack for using the compressor and/or equalizer as a standalone processor, a variable impedance mic pre and a compressor section that boasts more control features than that which are found on many dedicated compressor units.
In use in recording a range of vocalists and instruments, I found the Eureka quite pleasing sonically and straight forward in operation. On miked sources, the Eureka especially shined when used as a clean and simple recording path (i.e., with none of tonal circuitry engaged).
Here, the unit’s preamp produced an impressively clear and full signal, with none of the veil, brittleness or noise I have experienced in other budget channel strips and preamps. Even at high SPLs, the Eureka held its own, and offered headroom to spare. I would not hesitate to use the preamp right along side API, Focusrite or other solid state preamps.
The compressor section was useful for providing gentle dynamic control on the way to the recorder. It is fairly transparent sonically, and provides plenty of controls tailoring its response. I would have, however, liked to have had higher ratio settings available (as I later confirmed from the specifications in the manual, the ratio control, labeled 1-10 on the front panel, in fact maxes out at a 2:1 ratio).
I tend to avoid recording with EQ or other tone-altering circuits in general, and the saturation and EQ sections of the Eureka did nothing to persuade me to do otherwise. While it is nice to have the Eureka’s capable EQ when required, I time and again came to the conclusion that the Eureka performed at a much higher sonic level without the intrusion of its EQ or saturation circuits.
PreSonus deserves credit for producing a unit at this price that exudes that expensive preamp look and feel. The build quality is excellent; the knobs feel as solid as they come and are micro-detented for easy notation of settings.
I only had a few complaints with the Eureka, none of them fatal by any means. One annoyance was that the line cut into each knob to indicate position disappears from view when viewed at certain angles or when obscured by reflections off the knob’s shiny surface.
The three-LED input meter (-20 dB, 0 dB and Clip) seems to be the only place where PreSonus obviously skimped on the otherwise pro feature-laden Eureka. An option to switch the analog VU meter to monitor input level would be a welcome addition.
Although I didn’t use the EQ much, when I did I found the varying orientation of the controls for each the three EQ bands (imagine an upside-down triangle with “Gain” at the low point and Q and Frequency at the top, then a right side-up triangle with gain at the top and Q and Frequency below, and then another upside-down triangle…) was a disorienting and unnecessary impediment to workflow.
Overall, the Eureka’s stellar build quality, expansive feature set and high-quality microphone preamp make this channel strip stand out from the crowd.
Despite having several other (and far more expensive) preamps at my disposal, I found myself using the Eureka on many more occasions than I can rationalize as simply part of the review process.