AudioBox VSL-Series Interfaces

By Dan Ferrisi

When it comes to PreSonus Audio Electronics, the Baton Rouge LA-based company specializing in the design and manufacture of audio-recording software, hardware and related accessories, we have come to expect a consistently high level of innovation. Last year’s introduction of PreSonus’ new AudioBox VSL-series interfaces, a series that comprises the AudioBox 22VSL, AudioBox 44VSL and AudioBox 1818VSL, definitely did not disappoint, raising the bar to a new level for audio interfaces. The Retailer reached out to Rick Naqvi, PreSonus’ Vice President, Sales, to get more information about the interfaces and what makes them revolutionary.

Speaking of the conception phase, Naqvi explained, “PreSonus has long been known for FireWire recording interfaces, but, until this year, we only had one USB interface in our line: the AudioBox USB. With many customers using PCs that didn’t have FireWire ports built in, we wanted to create a line of USB interfaces that would not only be compatible, but would also raise the bar in terms of value for the price.” To underscore the aforenoted value proposition, users get a compact, rack-mountable USB 2.0 interface with tightly integrated software—PreSonus Virtual StudioLive (VSL)—that provides the dynamics processing and EQ of a StudioLive-series mixer with latency so low that you can record and monitor with effects in real time.

AudioBox VSL-Series Interfaces

AudioBox VSL-Series Interfaces

Naqvi elaborated on PreSonus’ desire to leverage some of the technology in the StudioLive family of mixers for its line of USB interfaces. “On the new AudioBox VSL family, we gave the customer a special version of VSL that includes a software mixer and the Fat Channel processors from the StudioLive 16.0.2 mixer: a compressor, limiter, gate, high-pass filter and three-band semi-parametric EQ on every channel,” he said. “You can record with these processors, as well as use them on your monitors. We also provided two stereo effects processors with time-based effects—reverbs and delays—on dedicated buses.” He continued, “These effects are just for monitoring; they greatly improve the sound in the headphones when you are recording vocals, for example. And, we were able to do it with very low latency of about 4ms, which is why you can monitor with effects in real time.”

Before zooming in on the models and their individual offerings, we will examine their feature-set commonalities. All three AudioBox VSL interfaces have the same XMAX preamps found in PreSonus’ StudioLive family of mixers and FireStudio-series interfaces. According to Naqvi, “This design is a Class-A, high-voltage design that has high headroom and a lot lower noise floor than competing preamps in or near its price class have.” They also have new-generation converters that can record at up to 96kHz. Additionally, all three models come with MIDI I/O; like all PreSonus interfaces, they are bundled with Studio One Artist 2 for Mac and PC. Studio One Artist features unlimited recording tracks and plug-in instantiations, and it comes with 29 different effects plug-ins and 6GB of samples, loops and other content.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the interfaces in turn. The AudioBox 22VSL is a two-input, two-output interface with mic/instrument inputs and MIDI I/O. It is very small in size (just 1/3U), is bus powered and, according to Naqvi, “has the same great-sounding XMAX mic preamps and the same VSL software as the other AudioBox VSL-series interfaces do.” He described it as a perfect interface for the musician who just needs a couple of inputs. “And it’s built like a small tank, so it’s very roadworthy,” he added.
The AudioBox 44VSL, the middle child of the family, has two mic/instrument inputs, two mic/line inputs and four line outputs. “So,” Naqvi remarked, “it’s great for someone who wants to record two musicians at the same time or needs multiple outputs or line inputs, say, for a keyboard.” Because of the built-in effects and the ability to record and play back from a computer, the AudioBox 44VSL would also work well in a live situation where you have a couple of musicians who have tracks playing back from a computer, and who want to play along.

Finally, we turn to the AudioBox 1818VSL, which, with 18 simultaneous inputs and outputs, is the biggest in the family: two mic/instrument inputs, six mic/line ins, eight-channel ADAT I/O, stereo S/PDIF, eight line outputs, plus MIDI I/O and word-clock output. With eight analog inputs, it can accommodate several musicians recording at the same time. Since it has multiple analog outputs, you can use a multichannel headphone amp, such as the HP60, to send headphone mixes to several musicians at the same time. “And in March,” began Naqvi, “we announced StudioLive Remote 1818VSL for iPad, which will let you control the AudioBox 1818VSL wirelessly, just like our current SL Remote does for StudioLive mixers.”

So, then, whom is PreSonus targeting as key users of its VSL-series interfaces? “The lines between studio and live applications are being blurred,” explained Naqvi. “Musicians need tools that help them record, as well as perform. The AudioBox VSL family is aimed at musicians who want to create their music in their personal studios and then use the same interface to perform live, especially since so many musicians have incorporated a laptop into their live performance in order to play with prerecorded tracks and use virtual instruments.” He continued, “Because they feature state-of-the-art effects and low-latency monitoring, the AudioBox VSL interfaces are perfect for these types of customers. These interfaces are also great for making podcasts, mixing and recording events that don’t require a lot of inputs, and mobile recording. So, they can be good choices for churches, corporate boardrooms and various small-scale contractor installations, as well as for individual musicians.”

PreSonus has a network of more than 1,000 U.S. dealers, and all the major dealers in the country are stocking the interfaces, helping ensure the rollout’s success. The reviews have been glowing and, Naqvi added, “In just a few months, the AudioBox 22VSL has shown up on the Top 10 bestselling recording interfaces list according to MI SalesTrak.”

The AudioBox 1818VSL is $629 MSRP, whereas the AudioBox 44VSL is $379 and the AudioBox 22VSL is $249.

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