My favorite multichannel preamp unit of all time is the Focusrite OctoPre Dynamic. With experience, I learned the true appeal of its preamps; they’re comparably clean and accurate for the price, plus its one-knob channel compressors can be mighty handy.
The 18-in/8-out Saffire PRO 26 ($349 street) shares these same mic/line amps—four of them, actually—sans compressors plus ADAT and S/PDIF digital I/O; a control section featuring monitor level knob with dim and mute buttons and dual front-panel headphone outputs/level controls; and impressive analog I/O options, all centered around FireWire connectivity to your DAW of choice. A-D/D-A conversion is 24-bit/96 kHz. Via Apple’s specific FireWire adapter (sold separately), the entire Saffire range is Thunderbolt-ready, too.
Channels 1 and 2 each feature a front-panel instrument input and 8 dB pad; each preamp features selectable 48V phantom power via 1-2 or 3-4 channel switches. Inputs 1-6 (5 and 6 being TRS line inputs only) each have a five-segment LED level meter, too. Six TRS line outputs allow for some nice channel routing options, too; for example, in review I used the PRO 26 live, recording the first four inputs and sending them along to my analog mixer for reinforcement.
Ergonomically, the compact (1U-ish) PRO 26 is well-laid out. Whether sitting between my studio monitors on my desk’s meter bridge, right over my MacBook Pro’s screen, or stuffed into my gigging messenger bag for some location recording, it’s user-friendly, lightweight (6.5 lbs.), and relatively sturdy.
Over the past two months, I’ve lived with the Saffire PRO 26 for all studio monitoring/listening and multitracking tasks with four or fewer microphones at a time. In most multitrack project production scenarios, four preamps are sufficient. Pair the PRO 26 with an OctoPre ($499 or $699 street, MkII and MkII Dynamic, respectively)—connected via ADAT I/O—for a surprisingly powerful 12-input recording rig at $850-$1,000, just add mics, monitors and headphones. It’s a product I have no reservations in recommending to anyone needing an affordable I/O device that seems to way outperform its price point.
Contact: Focusrite | focusrite.com