The flagship in PreSonus’ new generation of USB 2.0 audio/MIDI interfaces, the AudioBox 1818VSL takes hardware/software integration to the next level and delivers a combination of features, audio quality, and value that is unprecedented in this product category.
Using your computer CPU and PreSonus Virtual StudioLive™ (VSL) software, AudioBox VSL-series interfaces provide reverb and delay effects and the same Fat Channel compression, limiting, semi-parametric EQ, and high-pass filter, as the PreSonus StudioLive™ 16.0.2 digital mixer— all with inaudible latency.
It’s a great choice for project studios, performing bands, school music labs, and a wide variety of corporate installations and other contractor applications.
This is a pro product all the way, with high-end 24-bit, 96 kHz converters; Class A XMAX™ preamps; ADAT optical I/O; S/PDIF coaxial I/O; word-clock output; and MIDI I/O, housed in a heavy-duty, rack-mount metal chassis.
Furthermore, thanks to the power of VSL, the AudioBox 1818VSL includes a 26x8 software mixer. As a result, with just an AudioBox 1818VSL and your laptop or other computer, you can mix a studio session or live show featuring a full band—all while monitoring and recording with or without real-time effects!
And you can do it simply and easily, with no hardware mixer, no outboard effects rack, and minimal wiring, thanks to the tight integration between PreSonus hardware and software.
VSL provides you with two ways to look at your mix and to dial in FX settings: The Overview and Fat Channel tabs.
The Overview tab provides you with a complete graphical representation of your Virtual StudioLive mix environment. In the Overview, you’ll see the Fat Channel processors presented in compact versions called “microviews.”
The Fat Channel tab opens a detailed overview of the Fat Channel parameters for the currently selected channel. The Fat Channel tab can be opened either from its tab at the top of the VSL window or by simply double-clicking on any of the microviews in the Overview tab. On both tabs, each input channel and DAW return features a fader for accurate level adjustment. Unity gain (0 dB) is denoted by a “U.”
From either tab you can:
- Adjust levels for all analog and digital inputs, all eight playback streams, both effects buses, the main output level of the entire mix, and the output levels of each monitor mix.
- Adjust the panning for the analog and digital inputs and playback streams
- Adjust the send level for both the analog and digital inputs and playback streams to each FX bus
- Adjust the send level for each channel to outputs 3 and 4, 5 and 6, and 7 and 8
- Adjust the parameters for the FX preset on each FX bus
- Solo and mute each analog input and playback stream
- Meter the inputs and outputs
What’s so great about effects and processing on monitors?
Tracking without hearing effects and signal processing is like playing a video game with your eyes closed. Musicians rely on aural cues when performing, and their performance can vary depending on what they hear in their monitors.
Adding just the right amount of compression, EQ, and reverb can make a huge difference in their ability to hear themselves clearly and to experience their performance as if it occurred in a natural space rather than in the artificial sonic environment of the studio. The result is a better performance and ultimately a better recording.
Each channel and DAW return in AudioBox VSL software can be processed with the Fat Channel section, which includes a separate compressor, limiter, and downward expander that were modeled after the classic, analog PreSonus ACP88. They deliver the advantages of programmable digital processors but they sound very much like analog. You also get a high-pass filter with -6 dB/octave slope and a variable cutoff frequency (18 Hz to 1.3 kHz) and phase reverse.
The Fat Channel’s 3-band quasi-parametric EQ has a high/low Q switch on the mid band and switchable shelving on the low and high bands. Each EQ band can be individually switched on/off.
You can monitor and record with or without Fat Channel processing.
Time-based effects such as delay and reverb are delivered by two stereo effects processors, which are assigned to dedicated effects buses and come with 30 user-editable factory presets. The reverbs are so rich and detailed that you feel like you’re there. Delays are precise. Slap echo sounds like old-skool tape effects.
Overcoming the Latency Problem
You have plenty of effects plug-ins for your DAW, but processing audio with a DAW takes more time than you might think. True, we’re talking milliseconds, but it’s long enough that if you put DAW effects in your monitors, you’ll either hear the original sound slightly before the processed signal, or play a note on your instrument and have to wait a moment to hear the result of your action. Both of which are very disorienting.
Fortunately, our engineering wizards have dramatically reduced processing delay in the AudioBox VSL series. The result: dynamics processing, EQ, reverb, and effects that feel real, with no audible delay.
In the audio world, “latency” is another word for “delay.” It’s the time it takes for the sound from the front-of-house speakers at an outdoor festival to reach you on your picnic blanket. Or the time it takes for your finger to strike a piano key, for the key to move the hammer, for the hammer to strike the string, and for the sound to reach your ear. An extreme example is the time between a lightning strike and the time you hear the thunder.
Any significant amount of latency in a digital recording system can negatively impact a performer’s ability to play along to a click track or beat — making it sound like you’re performing in an echoing tunnel.
In practical terms, the amount of roundtrip latency you experience is determined by your audio interface’s A/D and D/A converters, its internal device buffer, its driver buffer, and the buffer setting you have selected in your DAW software (Mac) or Control Panel (Windows).
This is where AudioBox VSL-series interfaces enter the picture. This new series of interfaces takes advantage of recent technological discoveries and provides users with the ultimate monitor-mixing experience, without including expensive onboard DSP and the proportional cost increase to customers.
For a more detailed explanation of what latency is and how AudioBox VSL interfaces achieve ultra-low latency, enabling real-time monitoring with effects, read The Truth About Digital Audio Latency.
Record With or Without Processing
If you like what you hear, you can record with AudioBox VSL-series effects, too! These are the same high-quality StudioLive 16.0.2 Fat Channel dynamics processors and EQs that professional musicians, engineers, and producers record with every day.
The time-based effects are for monitoring only and can’t be recorded. Of course, most people add reverb and delay effects during editing and mixdown, rather than while tracking, in order to ensure that the effects on all tracks work together.
Great processors are a PreSonus tradition
We didn’t invent the first audio interface with effects. We simply did it better and for less money. Sure, some interface manufacturers that don’t normally make signal processors have added a compressor, EQ and a few effects to their interfaces.
But the AudioBox VSL series provides all that, plus a separate limiter, expander, and high-pass filter—and we’ve been making high-quality signal processors since 1995. The AudioBox VSL-series’ Virtual StudioLive (VSL)-based effects and Fat Channel processing have been extensively field-tested and proven popular by tens of thousands of StudioLive™-series mixer users, including many top professionals.
Of great importance, thanks to VSL’s drag-and-drop convenience, adding processing and creating and loading presets is easy. Pro-level processing and superior ease of use mean you’ll get better results and have more fun!
AudioBox VSL software features a browser window along the right side of the screen that functions similarly to the browser in PreSonus Studio One. From the VSL browser, you can see all of the scenes, Fat Channel presets, and FX presets that are saved on your computer. Create new settings from this window, and simply drag-and-drop a scene or preset to load it into the AudioBox 1818VSL.
A Scene is like a snapshot of your mix. It stores each Fat Channel parameter for every input and bus, as well as fader positions, the aux and effects mixes, FX bus settings, and channel mutes and solos. Creating a Scene requires simply dialing in a mix that you would like to use at a later date and saving it.
VSL also comes equipped with 50 Fat Channel presets that have been custom-designed by professional audio engineers. These presets can be altered, renamed, and overwritten; you can build your own nearly limitless custom library of channel-strip settings.
With 30 custom reverb and delay presets to get you started, dialing in just the right effect is easy. In addition to these presets, you can build your own, nearly limitless, custom effects library. The factory presets can be altered, renamed, and overwritten.
High-end sound in a versatile, roadworthy interface
Versatile and portable, the AudioBox 1818VSL offers 2 convenient front-panel mic/instrument combo inputs and 6 front-panel mic/line combo inputs, true 48V phantom power (switchable in 2 banks), and 8 line-level outputs.
ADAT Optical I/O provides 8 more channels of input and output (at 44.1 or 48 kHz; 4 channels at 88.1 or 96 kHz). S/PDIF coaxial digital I/O adds 2 more channels, bringing the total to 18 audio input channels and 18 output channels.
The ADAT Optical interface—commonly referred to as “Lightpipe”—was originally designed by Alesis for use with its revolutionary eight-channel ADAT digital tape recorders. The interface uses fiber-optic cable to transfer a high-speed serial bitstream carrying up to eight channels of 24-bit, 44.1 or 44.8 kHz digital audio between compatible devices.
ADAT Lightpipe employs a Toslink optical connector, which is the same connector used for S/PDIF optical transfers but the two datastreams are mutually incompatible. It always transfers at 24-bit resolution; for example, if a 16-bit signal is sent via Lightpipe, the first 16 bits carry the audio information and the remaining bits are a string of zeros.
The Lightpipe is “hot pluggable”; you don’t have to turn off the devices when plugging or unplugging the optical cable. However, you should turn down the master level because making and breaking optical connections creates a significant signal spike that can damage your speakers.
Transferring digital audio via Lightpipe is simple, and fiber-optic cables are not subject to electromagnetic and radio-frequency interference. Furthermore, you can use fairly long cable runs; a 16-foot optical cable is no problem.
However, it is important to protect your optical cables from sharp bends and turns, as the cables are relatively fragile and are almost impossible to repair without specialized tools. Don’t stand on optical cables or put heavy weight on them.
Note that Lightpipe ports emit a red light beam. The beam is harmless. However, it’s important to keep the optical ports clean, so cover them with the small plastic plugs that come with your unit when the ports are not connected to cables.
The AudioBox 1818VSL’s sound is pure PreSonus, with the same high-headroom, Class A solid-state XMAX preamps found in our StudioLive mixers and high-quality, 24-bit, 96 kHz converters with 114 dB dynamic range for clear, clean audio.
At PreSonus, we know that the mic preamplifier is a key component in the sonic quality of a recording. Many other companies that offer mobile recording interfaces add the cheapest possible microphone preamplifier as an afterthought. In contrast, the AudioBox 1818VSL includes custom-designed, high-voltage, discrete, XMAX Class A microphone preamplifiers that are suitable for use with all types of microphones.
The job of a microphone preamplifier in an audio interface is to boost a microphone-level signal to line level before conversion to the digital domain. A good preamp boosts the level to almost 400 times that of the original signal, making the preamp one of the most important stages in an interface. A cheap, off-the-shelf, op-amp-type mic preamp delivers thin, noisy, harsh results. But with XMAX preamps, the sonic quality is limited only by what microphone you plug into it.
XMAX preamplifiers are built with three key elements:
- High Voltage. The XMAX preamplifier runs on power rails of 30V. Most off-the-shelf, op-amp-based designs run on power rails of 10V to 18V. Higher-voltage power rails deliver more headroom, deeper lows, smoother highs, and a richer overall sound.
- Discrete components—not op-amps. We only use genuine transistors, resistors, and capacitors. Op-amps add noise, coloration, and harshness to a signal. Our discrete design delivers ultra-low noise and transparency.
- Class A. Class A circuits have no crossover distortion and deliver purer, clearer, and more musical results than the Class AB designs that are found in many preamps.
The net result of the XMAX preamp design is high headroom, low noise, wide dynamic range, extended frequency response, and—most important—musicality and transparency, with smooth highs, solid deep lows, and everything in between.
The AudioBox 1818VSL also boasts PreSonus’ legendary 120 mW headphone output, which is loud enough to explode the oysters in a Po’-Boy sandwich. (Be careful with your level control!)
Built for the rigors of the road
Pause and ponder this for a moment: a great-sounding 18x18 interface with a computer-based mixer and full complement of dynamics processing and EQ, with reverb and delay effects on dedicated buses, plus MIDI and word clock, all in a single rackspace! And there’s more.
The flexibility and power of software
VSL enables you to easily manage the processing and mixing from your Mac® or Windows® PC and provides editor/librarian functions, making it simple to create and use a library of presets. To get you started, we’ve included the same library of more than 50 Fat Channel presets that comes with StudioLive mixers. These presets were created by professional musicians and engineers and let you instantly set up dynamics processing and EQ for vocals, guitar, and much more.
Seamlessly integrated with the included Studio One® Artist DAW and VSL, the AudioBox 1818VSL interface works with virtually all Mac and Windows audio-recording software.
Wireless remote control offers new possibilities!
With PreSonus AB1818VSL Remote, you can control all features of AudioBox 1818VSL software (except Solo and Channel Link) wirelessly from an Apple iPad®. The app provides multiple views of the key AudioBox VSL mixer and processing controls. And it’s a free download from the Apple App Store!
Because the AudioBox 1818VSL has a built-in 26 x 18 mixer, it can be seriously considered as a live mixer for small groups. With AB1818VSL Remote, you can stash the AudioBox 1818VSL and a USB-connected Mac or PC backstage or at the side of the stage and control the system from anywhere in the house.
AB1818VSL Remote’s Overview screen displays the most-used parameters, such as channel levels, mutes, panning, EQ curves, and more, for multiple channels at once.
As with AudioBox VSL software for Mac and Windows, the Fat Channel processors are displayed as microviews; tap a microview to zoom in on the Fat Channel processing, then navigate between the processors with the flick of a fingertip.
Adjust mix send levels, control the reverbs and delays—with AB1818VSL Remote for iPad, the power of AudioBox VSL software is literally at your fingertips.
For more details about AB1818VSL Remote, click here.
A complete professional system at a stunningly low price
Clearly the AudioBox 1818VSL is much more than a next-generation USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface. With eight analog inputs and outputs; ADAT optical and S/PDIF digital input and outputs; real-time, a wealth of low-latency processing and effects; word-clock output; rock-solid construction; software mixing; wireless remote control from an iPad; and high-end audio quality, it’s a game changer.
Yet it’s available for a price you have to see to believe. So head over to your PreSonus dealer and check out the AudioBox 1818VSL—the affordable professional recording and mixing system that can take you to the next level.