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Review: PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 Compact Digital Console

The 16.0.2 is an easy-to-use, truly useful and affordably priced mix/recording system for both live and studio applications.

The StudioLive 16.0.2 is an smallformat digital console that stays true to the quality audio performance and fully integrated software of its bigger brothers, the StudioLive 24.4.2 and 16.4.2 [the latter of which was reviewed by PAR in April 2010: —Ed.]

PreSonus 16.0.2

Taking up less than two square feet, the 16.0.2 offers a compact, user-friendly mixing solution for audio engineers on the go or smaller music venues needing both sophisticated sound reinforcement and music capture/production capabilities. It’s also great for contractors due to its remote-control features.


The 16.0.2 provides 16 channels — eight mono, four stereo; 12 of them (1-8, 9, 11, 13 and 15) are equipped with Class-A XMAX preamps. The channel inputs are as follows: mono channels 1-8, 9 and 11 (the left side of the stereo pairs 9/10 and 11/12) have both XLR and quarter-inch balanced inputs; channels 10 and 12 have quarterinch balanced inputs only; channels 13 and 15 (the left side of stereo pairs 13/14 and 15/16) have XLR, quarter-inch balanced and RCA unbalanced inputs Channels 14 and 16 have quarter-inch balanced and RCA unbalanced inputs.

Feature-wise, PreSonus’ Fat Channel is the golden ticket of the 16.0.2; each individual channel, when selected, has one of its own, complete with a gate, compressor, three-band semi-parametric EQ, limiter, high-pass filter. Phase reverse and phantom power are available on the channel inputs; stereo channels access the Fat Channel as stereo pairs. The Fat Channel is engaged by pressing the Select button on the desired channel, prominently located at the top of each fader (except for FX A and B, where there are no faders). When mixing on the fly, it’s absolutely necessary to have this quick access to dynamic signal processing. The workflow and logic of Fat Channel gives engineers the ease and quickness needed to troubleshoot and execute a command, where some digital consoles leave you buried in layers and pages to find your way back out (often too late in live applications).

The 16.0.2 has four aux busses with pre/post-fader sends and quarter-inch balanced input jacks for every channel, which gives the console the near-immediate familiarity of an analog board. It also provides two internal FX busses for delay and reverb effects. In all, the board provides over 130 options for signal processing. The two, 32-bit floating-point stereo DSP effects channels are loaded up with reverbs and delays, including useful controls such as a tap tempo control and parameter adjustments. FX assign, digital out, pan, and copy/load/save buttons; talkback, solo bus and headphone sections; and a 31-band graphic equalizer for the mains complete the work surface controls.

The StudioLive 16.0.2 as reviewed at Winston-Salem NC’s Underground Theatre, part of the city’s Community Arts Cafe.

Ergonomically, the 16.0.2 has a lot of buttons for a small mixer, yet the plethora is really what makes it so user-friendly, especially for users with only a few hours experience on a digital board. At first glance, it can be somewhat overwhelming until the operator gets in the StudioLive groove. Once familiar with it, the minimal layering of pages is what makes this board a great choice for so many jobs.

The 16.0.2 can simultaneously handle multitrack recording as well as live mixing. Equipped with a 16×16 FireWire interface, PreSonus includes the cables and software needed to record straight from the board to a laptop. This PreSonus software — Capture (multitracking application) and Studio One Artist (DAW) — provides the tools for multitrack recording and playback through the 16.0.2; it will also work with any DAW that supports ASIO or Core Audio, including Pro Tools 9 and later. Once the software is installed (which literally takes only minutes), this simple system is ready to record.

Also included with the software is Virtual StudioLive (VSL); it works over FireWire to control the board via laptop, iPad, or the like, effectively serving as a virtual mixer. VSL also interacts with the wireless StudioLive Remote; SL Remote for iPad is a free download from the Apple App Store. [At Winter NAMM 2012, PreSonus is slated to announce shipment of QMix for iPhone/iPod touch, “which will provide wireless control of the auxes and users can assign permissions for each ‘iDevice.’ So, each band member could control just their own aux mix.” — Ed.]

MIDI features abound in the 16.0.2, unique to this smaller StudioLive desk (the larger models do not offer MIDI). Users may MIDI control main level output, scene change, effects assign, and effects level via the hardware MIDI I/O. This I/O also acts as a regular computer MIDI interface, so a MIDI control surface, synth, keyboard controller, etc., can be attached to the 16.0.2.

Finally, what would a digital board be if it were unable to recall or store presets and settings? Not adequate. So, the 16.0.2 can simply recall stored information in scenes; save individual channel settings; and copy information between channels. Users may choose which settings to save and restore, and in any combination; for example, the semi-parametric EQ setting could be restored while the compressor and fader position is not.

In Use

I installed the PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 at the Underground Theatre in Winston- Salem, NC, at the Community Arts Café, an intimate performing arts venue where artists of all kinds can present a showcase, hold an album release event, screen film shorts or movies, hold poetry slams, etc. A variety of organizations regularly present shows here, including the Piedmont Jazz Alliance, Nashville Songwriters Association International, Fiddle & Bow Society, Cinema Pub, Comedy Pot Luck, Press 53, the East Coast Songwriters Conference, as well as my own production company, SoundLizzard.

16.0.2’s rear panel I/O

Some of the finest regional, national and international performers have graced this stage, so I felt it was both an appropriate and duly demanding environment to audition the promising features of the 16.0.2. The venue requires the sound to be clean and intimate; it demands a flexible, modern and reliable board that is also user-friendly. So, the requirements are numerous and a lot to expect from a small, affordable digital mixer.

Upon first installing the board, there was some hesitation from the resident groups to use it over the older analog board that had been there. However, it didn’t take long for curiosity to get the better of them, and they began testing the waters to find the StudioLive functional for their purposes. Though the 16.0.2’s 12 dedicated mic inputs initially seemed a bit limiting for some at the Underground, the number of inputs proved to be more than sufficient in practice.

For install, the Underground’s existing 16-channel snake was ready to use; balanced mains left and right as well as monitor outputs were provided, the latter of which is used to feed a “half stack” of main mix-augmenting speakers in an area of the room where the main mix doesn’t quite reach. The 16.0.2 also allowed additional control over independent channel mutes, phantom power selection and outputs (previously restricted by the normal house mixer).

StudioLive’s software bundle that ships with the 16.0.2 was fairly easy to install, and the board connects simply via FireWire 400 cable to a computer to record enabled independent channels. When recording live shows, I typically run Pro Tools via MacBook Pro and a Digi 002 Rack, so I was a little unsure of how stable this system would be for its first gig: an “active” live mix while multitracking an entire three-hour show at the Underground.

After restarting my computer, I was up and running in no time. I have to admit, it was great to be able to record all separate tracks with minimal recording gear. I did have an initial roadblock: I selected my external hard drive as the record drive, since newer MacBook Pros only have one FireWire 800; the board wanted to be connected directly to the laptop. So, I was forced to record straight to my laptop, which I was pretty uneasy about. However, I had no problems with it at all. [According to PreSonus, an external drive could have been used. “The mixer has two FireWire 400 ports, so users can connect the mixer to the computer via one port and attach a hard drive to the other.” Further, PreSonus does provide a FW800 to FW400 cable. — Ed.]

On December 22, I ran sound for acts ARGUS with Small Town Gossip at the Underground Theatre and recorded eight tracks to my laptop. At the end of the day, the recording went as smooth as one could have hoped for and the minimal setup time, to me, was incredible. Most importantly, I was pleased with my recorded results. Another artist that SoundLizzard works with (Joe Next Door) used the 16.0.2 to record its show, too. “It was very easy to record from it,” offered Zoo of Joe Next Door. “Minutes of setup are all it took to be rolling.”


I recently met an engineer working in Los Angeles and, in our conversation he brought up a new piece of gear he was stoked about. At first, he didn’t tell me what it was, but mentioned how it fed his need for a live mixing board he could also transport easily for mobile remote recording. Once he said it was the 16.0.2, we immediately began to trade our thoughts on its great functionality and price.

The low learning curve makes the 16.0.2 a great tool for a venue that has many different individuals in the engineering hot seat, especially for those that may not be familiar with digital consoles. Jim Tedder, the owner of the Community Arts Café and Underground Theatre, was so pleased with the board he does not want to be without it. We are now looking into making it a permanent resident of the venue, as it perfectly facilitates the goal of offering live recordings as a package to its visiting artists. I recommend the 16.0.2 as an easy-to-use, versatile board that is truly useful for both live and studio applications, priced affordably at $1,300 street.

Price: $1,599.95 MSRP
Contact: PreSonus |

Liz May is a producer/engineer, scoring artist and owner of SoundLizzard Productions, LLC.