Eight excellent preamps are just the beginning…
Review by Mike Metlay
In our April 2018 issue, I reviewed AudioFuse, the first Arturia offering in the audio interface category. It took a while—the prototype was shown at Winter NAMM 2015—but in the end, the AudioFuse was worth the wait. Breaking the mold of conventional interfaces, it provided a wide variety of useful connectivity in a sturdy and self-contained package, as portable as it was powerful.
Perhaps the biggest AudioFuse surprise was the quality of its DiscretePRO preamps; the impressive specs on paper were matched by a truly sweet sound. In fact, AudioFuse preamp quality exceeded that of far more well-established competitors. It’s remarkable that Arturia could set such a high bar on its first release, having never built a preamp before. While AudioFuse did take three years to make it out the door, patient insistence on the best seems to have paid off for Arturia.
At Winter NAMM 2019, Arturia showed preliminary designs for an entire family of AudioFuse interfaces for various applications. Most notably, the new AudioFuse units offer dual functionality. They are both audio interface and high-quality expander, adding additional preamps and channel count to an existing setup VIA ADAT I/O. The first one, the AudioFuse 8Pre, is now shipping. I put one of the first units in the US through its paces for a few weeks.
When the original AudioFuse was released, we heard from a fair number of studio owners and home recording musicians who wished that Arturia would make a rack unit with eight preamps rather than two, perhaps trading off some of that insane, go-anywhere connectivity for a more basic set of I/O options. The AudioFuse 8Pre pretty much nails that perfectly, with all the necessary features needed to make the entire package a well-rounded solution for small studios.
Past Featured Reviews
- NOVEMBER 2019: Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre
- OCTOBER 2019: Austrian Audio OC818 Multipattern Dual Output Condenser Microphone
- SEPTEMBER 2019: Dynaudio Core 59 High-End Professional Reference Monitor
- AUGUST 2019: Steinberg AXR4 Thunderbolt 2 Audio Interface
- JULY 2019: PSI Audio A17-M Studio Monitors
- JUNE 2019: Lynx Aurora (n)
- MAY 2019: Vanguard Audio Labs V4 and V44S
- APRIL 2019: Blue Ember
- MARCH 2019: Kii Audio THREE
- FEBRUARY 2019: Chandler Limited TG Microphone
- JANUARY 2019: ADAM Audio Studio Pro SP-5
As you might expect from the name, the centerpiece of the AudioFuse 8Pre is its eight DiscretePRO preamps. We’ll start with those, because they’re really what sell the box. The basic specs are impressive: dynamic range of 119dB, a whopping 73dB gain range (+3 to +76 dB), equivalent input noise better than –129dBu, and >104 dBA total harmonic distortion plus noise. The frequency response is ruler-flat: 20Hz to 20kHz, with less than ±0.07dB variance.
All this adds up to preamps that are perfectly happy with any, and I mean any, microphone—from the hottest condensers to the most finicky vintage ribbons and low output dynamics—and capable of providing gain at the outer reaches of its range without introducing a ton of noise.
As for the sound of these preamps, to this reviewer’s ears, they don’t have one. The DiscretePRO design appears to be very much in the ultra-clean camp, with truly impressive clarity on every mic I threw at it. These preamps are meant to get the job done and not leave you wishing that you had something better; just patch in an outside preamp if you want to add a specific color and vibe.
…and then some
These fabulous preamps are contained inside a very elegantly designed 1U rack enclosure with plenty of features for small studios. Each of the eight analog input channels has a front-panel control set that includes switches for 48v phantom power, phase reverse, and a 20dB pad, along with a seven-segment LED level meter and indicators for whether the preamp input is set for mic, line, or instrument. Channels 1 and 2 are provided with 1/4” inputs as well as balanced 1/4” send and return jacks for inserting outboard gear. The instrument level inputs are sweet-sounding, boasting a healthy 1.1MΩ input impedance that won’t mess with the tone of your electric guitar, and will avoid the ‘quack’ of piezoelectric pickups better than many other interfaces. All eight inputs have rear-panel TRS/XLR combo jacks, with 1 and 2 repeated on the front panel.
The front panel finishes off with a monitoring section that includes separate volume controls for the speaker and headphone outputs, selector buttons for sample rate and sync sources, and a button that toggles between USB and ADAT operating modes. A power on/off button features the Arturia logo.
On the back, the eight analog inputs are joined by eight TRS balanced analog outputs, a pair of TRS balanced speaker outs, dual ADAT I/O on optical Toslink, BNC Word Clock I/O, USB-C, and a locking connector for the external power supply.
While you can hot-select sample rates from 44.1 to 96 kHz and choose word clock, internal clock, or ADAT clock for sync from the front panel, there are many more options
provided by the AudioFuse Control Center software. As you can see on the screenshot, this control panel lets you set up the no-latency cue mix, easily route signals and groups to various outputs, mute and solo inputs, and manage a loopback from your computer as well.
While the AudioFuse 8Pre has a USB-C connector, it’s backward compatible with USB 2.0, and comes with USB-C and conventional USB-A cables. The included power supply is always required; the 8Pre can’t pull enough power over USB-C to feed all those preamps. As a final touch, the removable rack ears can be mounted facing downward, turning them into feet for desktop use; Arturia even includes rear feet for that application.
Whether you need the AudioFuse 8Pre as an eight-channel ADAT expander for another system, or as a 16-in/20-out interface with eight fantastic preamps, there’s a lot to like here. While it lacks some of its smaller sibling’s ‘everything in one box’ functionality, what it does provide is impeccably reliable and sounds fantastic. Capture a large drum kit or a whole band in one pass, monitor with high fidelity, and love the results—the AudioFuse 8Pre stands out from the competition for its clean, clear workflow, all at a ridiculously affordable price for what you’re getting. I can’t wait to see where Arturia takes this technology next.
Price: $749 (MAP)
More from: www.arturia.com