The Presonus StudioLive 24.4.2 and 16.4.2 have already established themselves as popular products for both home and studio use. With this kind of momentum behind them, Presonus cleverly decided that the next step was to release a scaled down version that would be more friendly on the piggy bank and more suited to people that simply don’t need all the channels of the original versions. In this blog post I fired up the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 and found out exactly what it could do…
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – WHAT IS IT?
The Presouns StudioLive 16.0.2 is a 12 channel Firewire desk, offering a total of 16 inputs (8 mono channels plus 4 stereo channels). As well as Line level inputs, each channel also features one of Presonus’ XMAX preamps (exactly the same technology that is featured on the larger StudioLive desks), meaning that you can actually run up to 12 microphones at once through this thing! In fact, there is a cheeky way to run a thirteenth microphone as well, but I shall reveal this little secret a little later on in my review… :P
As well as giving you a simple interface to control your mix, the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 also features two dedicated effects busses, two onboard effects processors and the awesome Presonus Fat Channel. This essentially gives you a simple way to apply filtering, compression, EQ, etc, to individual channels of the StudioLive, in order to further sculpt your (live or studio) mix. I will go into all this and more in a lot more detail within this blog, so stick with me…
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – UNBOXING
So, what goodies can I find in the box? Well, apart from the mixer itself, I also got two 1.8m Firewire cables (6-pin-to-six-pin and 6-pin-to-9-pin), a standard IEC power cable, a few CDs (containing the bundled software), a manual and of course some essential polystyrene!
My first impressions of the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 were all very good. I loved the colour scheme, it had a nice weight to it (just over 9kg), making it feel sturdy whilst still being easy to carry, it had a fantastic ergonomic design (that tilted the upper section of the mixer at a steeper gradient to the lower half, making everything easy to see and access) and the dials, faders and especially those rubber buttons all felt like the real deal!
Initial fondle over, it was time to plug everything in and begin the real tests…
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – GETTING STARTED
Step 1. The included disks were inserted and all programs were installed. Nothing really to write home about here, as it will be completely straightforward for anyone that has ever installed anything before!
Step 2. The Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 was connected to my Mac via the included 6-pin-to-9-pin Firewire cable.
Step 3. The computer and then the StudioLive were turned on.
You don’t actually have to use the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 with a computer if you don’t want to, but I may as well test out this functionality as I have one available!
So, I’m essentially just going to have a play around with this thing and let you know what I think! Here I go!
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – CONNECTING MICS/INSTRUMENTS
The obvious place to start is by hooking up some microphones and instruments and just jumping straight in! So that is what I did! I connected an SE Electronics SE2200A to the first channel (for vocals), a Shure SM57 to the second channel to record my acoustic guitar, and the stereo output from my Access Virus synthesiser to the line inputs on the stereo 13/14 channel.
It’s worth noting that unfortunately the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 doesn’t feature any dedicated Guitar/Instrument inputs, so if you want to record such an instrument, you will either have to mic up an amp, or use a DI. It’s not a huge problem, but it is a minor moan.
Anyway, it was extremely simple to get up and running with the StudioLive 16.0.2. All I had to do was to connect a pair of powered speakers to the main outputs, adjust the main level and the levels for each channel and I was pretty much away! Of course, I also had to enable Phantom Power on channel 1 (as I was using a condenser mic here), but this was also very simple – all I had to do was to press the ‘Select’ button on the first channel and then activate the ‘48V’ button. Done!
In terms of sound quality, everything sounded very impressive. I was pleasantly surprised that this thing had 13 of those quality XMAX preamps (12 on the main channels and one on the talkback channel), which gave me some excellent flexible routing/recording options.
I found that the XMAX preamps, with their 65dB of clean gain, were very well suited to both the vocal and acoustic guitar purposes for which I was using them. They added some slight colouration to the sound, but it was very subtle and it worked in my favour for these types of recordings. Although I didn’t test an electric guitar through the XMAX preamps, I imagine that they will also work very well with this type of signal.
To make a recording of these signals was also a very straightforward. I simply had to configure the StudioLive mixer as I would an audio interface (within my computer) and then I could separate each instrument onto a different track within my DAW by selecting the relevant inputs for each tracks within the software itself.
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – FAT CHANNEL!
The Fat Channel is the main feature that sets a StudioLive mixer apart from other products on the market. It essentially allows you to apply a whole host of processing to individual channels, as well as providing you with visual feedback on other aspects of the mixer.
To access the Fat Channel settings for each channel of the StudioLive 16.0.2, you simply need to hit the ‘Select’ button above the relevant channel, which should light up a rather nice blue colour! The number of the selected channel should also then be displayed in the digital screen towards the bottom-right of the Fat Channel. You can change your channel selection at any time by pressing the ‘Select’ button of another channel and you should also see the LED strips within the Fat Channel change with your selections if you have programmed varying settings across each.
Ok, so the Fat Channel uses the LED strips to display the settings for the selected channel. This can be for something as simple as showing the pan position to something a lot more complex.
Towards the left of the Fat Channel is the High Pass filter. To activate the filter, simply select the ‘On’ button and then use the associated dial to set the filters cut-off point. You can gain a visual representation of how the filter is working by tracking the LED strip as it moves up and down along the printed label at the left hand side, from 24Hz to 1kHz.
In exactly the same way, the Fat Channel also offers a Gate (with a Threshold control), a Compressor/Limiter (with Threshold, Ratio, Response and Gain controls, plus an ‘Auto’ mode), and 3-band EQ (Low, Mid and High) with cutoff Frequency and Gain controls. The low and high bands also come with optional ‘Shelf’ modes and the mid-band has a toggle to set the resonance between narrow (Hi-Q) and wide.
It’s sometimes difficult to get over how simple a process is in writing, but let me assure you that this really was a doddle and just as importantly, it all sounded great! My favourite part of the Fat Channel was definitely the compressor, which I found to be very versatile. I could either use it subtly to help a track sit better in the mix, or I could go crazy and compress something into oblivion until it distorted and sounded completely unrecognisable! Nice! The EQs were also excellent and could be used to sculpt individual elements of a mix to near perfection – in fact, the resolution of the EQ was a lot finer than the LED meter suggested, which thankfully eliminated any sudden jumps in timbre as I turned the dial.
The main thing that struck me with the Fat Channel was how well it was suited to live mixing situations, from the excellent visual feedback that it gives you with those LED metres, to its uncomplicated operation. Whilst I would probably prefer to use a more detailed software EQ plug-in in the studio (due to the lack of fine Q-controls on the StudioLive), for live purposes I wouldn't want my mixer cluttered with fiddly little controls that aren’t going to make a huge difference to the overall mix in a loud, boomy club. For me, this mixer is designed perfectly for getting your live mix sounding just right with the minimum amount of fuss and without any complications. Top marks here and I would definitely make frequent use of the built-in processing, both in the studio (to take the burden off my CPU) and in live situations.
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – MULTIFUNCTION BUTTONS
The Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 comes with a number of Multifunction buttons (situated above the ‘Select’ buttons) that are labelled with the corresponding channel’s number. The function of these buttons are controlled by the three buttons on the left-hand side of the mixer; Firewire, Solo and Mute. The function of the Solo and Mute buttons should be obvious, but the Firewire mode may be a little more mysterious. To clear up any confusion, by setting a channel to ‘Firewire mode’, you are essentially arming it to route audio from your computer and bypass any instrument or microphone that is hooked up to that channel. This is extremely handy for playing backing tracks, for assigning a stereo track to play interval music between sets and for mix-down peurposes using the controls of the StudioLive, etc.
On a further design note, the multifunction buttons also illuminate different colours depending on the mode that you are in, making it extremely easy to see what you are controlling, even in a dark club.
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – GRAPHIC EQ
The Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 also provides you with a 31-band graphic EQ on the main outputs, which is an excellent feature for quickly and accurately dealing with any unwanted acoustic artefacts both in the studio and in a live situation. To access the graphic EQ, simply press the ‘GEQ’ button towards the top-left of the mixer and the Fat Channel instantly becomes your Graphic EQ. You can scroll through the bands using the unit’s Value controls (as it only has the capability to display 12 bands at a time) and you can make edits to each channel using the Fat Channel's dials. The only small annoyance is that the Fat Channel does not include relevant frequency labels for the individual bands of the graphic EQ, but then again, you should be using your ears and not your eyes anyway!
A very handy feature of the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 is that you can store Graphic EQ settings in memory, which is extremely useful if you perform at a handful of regular venues, as you can find the optimum settings once and then just instantly recall them in future.
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – AUX CHANNELS
To the left of the Fat Channel, the StudioLive 16.0.2 features four buttons labelled AUX1, AUX2, AUX3 and AUX4. Pressing one of these buttons triggers the Fat Channel to display the levels of each channel for that Aux channel, which is a fantastic time-saving device! In an AUX mode, the dials within the Fat Channel correspond to the normal channel that they are in line with, so it is easy to visualise how each Aux channel is set up using the LED meters (e.g. how much of each channel is sent to each Aux channel). Setting up separate monitor mixes really doesn’t get much easier than this.
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – EFFECTS
Assigning effects to specific channels of the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 works in a similar way to the Auxes. You simply press the FXA or FXB button (again, to the left of the Fat Channel) and then you can use the dials within the Fat Channel to send proportions of the clean signal to the effects bus. The StudioLive 16.0.2 comes with 50 delay and reverb effects, all of which have a pleasing (and most importantly, a useful) sound.
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – TALKBACK
The Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 comes with a latched ‘Talk’ button and the talkback signal can either be sent to the Aux 1-2 or Aux 3-4 channels. It also comes with intelligent monitor dimming, meaning that only selected channels are dimmed when talkback is active.
The talkback channel doesn’t come with a built-in mic, but it does feature an ultra-clean XMAX preamp (which is accessible via your computer). This presents both advantages and disadvantages. On the downside, you have to use (and most possibly purchase) an additional microphone to make use of the Talkback channel. However, because you can access the talkback channel on your computer, this means that the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 actually has an additional emergency channel, which can be used to capture an extra channel of pristine audio if needed!
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – FADERS
The StudioLive’s faders have a great feel to them. They have an excellent resistance, which makes them a treat to work with – a good deal better than some other high-end mixers that I have previously used! I was also pleasantly surprised at their smooth response, despite being smaller (60mm) than the faders featured on the other mixers in the StudioLive range (100mm). Whilst I would still much prefer the extra 4cm of resolution offered by the longer faders, these are probably the best 60mm faders that I have ever used (no sudden jumps in level!), so you won’t be disappointed.
The only real inconvenience with the faders is that they are not motorised. This means that if you save a snapshot of your settings (using the ‘Store’ button) and then recall them at a later point in time (using the ‘Recall’ button), the faders will not move to mirror the current settings. It then becomes a little more tedious as you have to do this all manually. Having said that, to add motorised faders to this unit would increase the price significantly and I think that PreSonus deal with this lack of functionality in about the most straight-forward and logical way possible.
When you recall settings, the StudioLive 16.0.2 automatically switches into Fader Locate mode. In this mode, the LED meters in the Fat Channel display the associated channel fader’s offset from the saved position. So, for example, if the fader’s physical position is lower/less than the saved position, the LED meter illuminates a certain number of LEDs below the centre point. As you then move the fader upwards and closer to the saved position, the number of illuminated LEDs decreases until you reach the centre point, which indicates that the current fader position is the same as the saved position. You have to do this for all 12 channels of the StudioLive 16.0.2, but in all honesty it is very quick and easy to do - it probably sounds a lot more ominous than it really is! Just one warning... if you exit Fader Locate mode before you have adjusted all the channel faders, then the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 will just function according to the physical positions of the faders, so this is a process that you have to go through if you want to accurately recall settings.
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 16.0.2 – SUMMARY
There is a lot more that I could say about the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2, but I think that I have covered the main points and if there is anything that I have not covered and you want to know, then feel free to leave a comment and ask.
The Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 is a product that I would highly recommend to anyone that is looking for a mixer for both live and studio purposes. In fact, I would say that this mixer is best suited to live applications due to it’s fantastic ease of use (with no deep menus to scroll through) and lack of motorised faders, but for a multi-purpose unit, it is also ideal as it allows you record audio to your laptop and then mix it down all from a single interface.
In summary, this is a product that offers high quality sound, an excellent build (no cheap plastic buttons!), fantastic ease of use and excellent flexibility. Plus, as I have already mentioned, there is a lot more that this unit offers (e.g. software, MIDI connections, a mono-output for a sub, backlit screen, etc) that I have not gone into in any detail, so if you have any more questions, just ask! :)
If you are a live sound engineer, then you will find the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 an extremely powerful, flexible and straightforward companion (it's one of the easiest live desks that I've ever used!) Plus, if you want the option to take it back to the studio with you for recording purposes and for the built-in effects, then your day just got a whole lot better!
For more information on the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 or to buy one, click the link below:
Also check out the official Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2 video below to whet your appetite!