The AudioBox 44VSL is the second model in a new generation of PreSonus USB 2.0 audio/MIDI interfaces that take hardware/software integration to the logical next step.
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.
Furthermore, thanks to the power of VSL, the AudioBox 44VSL includes an 8x4 software mixer. As a result, with just an AudioBox 44VSL and your laptop or other computer running VSL, you can mix a studio session or a live show featuring, say, a guitar duo with vocals, a small band, a DJ rig with mixer and stereo synthesizer, or a panel discussion—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.
Virtual StudioLive software provides you with a complete graphical representation of your mix environment. Each input channel and DAW return features a fader for accurate level adjustment. Unity gain (0 dB) is denoted by a “U.”
From VSL you can:
- Adjust levels for both analog inputs, both playback streams, both effects buses, and the main output level of the entire mix
- Adjust the panning for both analog inputs and playback streams
- Adjust the send level for both analog inputs and playback streams to each FX bus
- Adjust the send level for each channel to outputs 3 and 4
- Adjust the parameters for the FX preset on each FX bus
- Solo and mute each analog input and playback stream
- Print the Fat Channel dynamics processing, for any of the analog inputs, to your recording
Above each channel and output bus, you’ll see the Fat Channel processors presented in compact versions called “microviews.” The Fat Channel Zoom feature opens a detailed overview of the Fat Channel parameters for the selected channel. To open the Fat Channel Zoom, simply double click on any of the microviews. This will open a zoomed view of that processor for that channel (e.g., if you double click on the Gate on Channel 2, the Fat Channel Zoom will open focused on Channel 2’s Gate).
To top it off, while the classic PreSonus AudioBox USB is a fine-sounding unit, the new AudioBox VSL series sounds even better, with 24-bit, 96 kHz recording and top-of-the-line PreSonus XMAX™ preamps. We’ll have more to say about the preamps shortly.
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 44VSL.
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 portable, roadworthy interface
Compact and rugged, the AudioBox 44VSL offers two convenient front-panel mic/instrument combo inputs and two mic/instrument combo inputs, global phantom power, and a total of six line-level outputs. It sports the same high-headroom, Class A XMAX preamps as the StudioLive mixers and has 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 44VSL 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 44VSL 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
PreSonus gear has a well-earned reputation for extreme roadworthiness, and the AudioBox 44VSL is no exception. It employs a heavy-duty steel case that is every bit as rugged as that of the smaller AudioBox 22VSL and original AudioBox USB.
Like its immediate predecessor, the AudioBox USB, and its sibling the AudioBox 22VSL, we designed the AudioBox 44VSL to excel as a mobile interface. We built it like a small tank, with an all-metal chassis and metal knobs, so it can take a serious pounding and remain completely reliable.
To prove the reliability of our AudioBox line, we famously stomped, kicked, and drove over an AudioBox USB with a full-size truck before using it to make a very nice recording of PreSonus Cajun All Stars lead singer and guitarist Chris LeBlanc performing “When the Levee Breaks.” We videotaped the proceedings so you could witness the tests and judge the results for yourself. The result is AudioBox USB: Built for the Road.
Now that’s what we call “roadworthy.” And the AudioBox 44VSL is every bit as tough.
Despite all of its controls, preamps, and I/O, somehow we managed to shoehorn the AudioBox 44VSL into a half-rackspace case that can be screw-mounted to a standard rack tray (not included).
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 44VSL interface works with virtually all Mac and Windows audio-recording software. And unlike most things nowadays, it’s very easy on your budget.
So get the next-generation USB 2.0 interface that gives you real-time, low-latency effects; both mic/line and mic/instrument inputs; rock-solid construction; software mixing; and high-end audio for low-end prices: AudioBox 44VSL!