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Presonus 1818VSL initial thoughts

Discussion in 'Recording' started by DonnyThompson, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The 1818 arrived yesterday.

    I dropped it in my rack, powered it up, went through all the channels ( with a mic and an instrument ) to make sure everything was working. First impressions through headphones and speakers were impressive... the pre amps sounded warm, full, rich, nice top end. You have to remember that up until I got this, I have been using a Tascam 1641, which I was never really all that crazy about. The pres in the Tascam were always on the weak side, lacking gain, and signal passed through it always sounded "pinched" - for lack of a better descriptive term. Not so with the Presonus... very nice, plenty of headroom, nice overall sonics.

    This has a nice tactile "feel" to it... well built. The input gain pots are smooth with a tight but smooth incremental-step feel to them.

    The headphone jack has some serious balls.... very nice.

    Installing it took some time, I ran into a few issues, I'll explain them here in case someone is doing an internet search based on a similar scenario as my own.

    I'm running Windows 8.1.
    I installed the drivers that came with the device, I also installed the AudioBox mixer menu software.

    First connection to PC via USB 2.0 resulted in nothing. The system recognized that it was there, but it wasn't being recognized by Sonar, Samplitude or Studio Artist (which is the DAW program that came with the device).

    I ended up having to remove ASIO4all drivers from my system. Presonus provides their own ASIO drivers, so they were obviously in conflict.

    After several reboots, still nothing. I went to the Presonus site and downloaded the latest drivers, and after that, it worked in Samplitude... yet still nothing in Sonar or Artist.

    I opened up the AudioBox menu interface and realized that the settings had defaulted to 96k at 24 bit. I switched this to 44.1. I began to see a signal passing through the AudioBox mixer, yet still no sound. I noticed a small drop down menu in the AudioBox Setting Menu, right below the software version number, that said "force Firmware update".

    I clicked on this, it immediately started to download, and suddenly, there was sound through my system.

    Sonar (7.0.5 PE) continued to give me problems, giving me a message in a white box that said "unable to open playback device, check settings". I went into Sonar's Options/Audio and noticed that the drivers were set for ASIO. I switched these drivers to WDM, saved and closed. I booted Sonar again, and the first thing that happened was Sonar saying it needed to run diagnostics on the new device it had found. It did it's thing and 2 minutes later I had signal going to and out of Sonar. Problem solved.

    I was able to test record through Sonar, Samplitude and Artist with no hitches after that.

    Playback on projects I had done previously using the Tascam I/O sounded better to me when played back through the new Presonus. No.. it wasn't a placebo effect. The results were too dramatic to be so. There was a far better clarity, warmth and definition to the low end.

    Obviously, the Tascam was not only recording less than good quality tracks, it was playing those tracks back at a lower quality as well... whether this was due to converters, amps, etc., I don't know... but I do know that the difference is absolutely there.

    What it's not:
    The Presonus is not a Neve. It's not an API, nor is it an RME, either. It's also not $1500+.
    I bought it for around $450 new, so I basically knew what to expect in terms of comparable quality to a boutique pre/converter/I-O.

    What it is:
    8 Class A 30V Rail XLR/Line Pre-amps, a very healthy Headphone level, 8 ch of Adat/Optical I/O, SPDIF, Word Clock and 8 Line Outs. Unit has a very solid feel to it, a nice build overall.
    Sonically superior to what I've been using up to now... which has included the aforementioned Tascam 1641, and occasionally a Behringer.

    My expectations thus far have been surpassed. It is absolutely far better than the Tascam I have been using. For the first time in a very long time, I'm able to hear what it is I am recording with a much greater focus on sonic detail and overall accuracy. Basic vocal tests, using a 414EB, SM57, and checking instrument jacks with a DI'd Bass and Electric /Acoustic 6 String has all resulted in very nice, open, warm, tight low end and smooth top end sounding recordings.
    Playback of previously recorded material through the Tascam sounds better than when played back through the Tascam.

    More to come after I get a chance to work with it more. So far I am satisfied with the quality and sound of the Presonus 1818VSL.


  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Glad you got your 1818VSL working well, Donny. You deserve the upgrade from your 1641.

    It could be that the 1818VSL installation process expected a new owner to be starting from a position of no previous audio interface installed. I hope that someone from Presonus picks up on this thread and takes note of the installation problems you encountered and overcame - that level of trouble would have defeated a lesser mortal!
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I hadn't thought of that Bos, but that makes complete sense.... I have no other explanation for it. And this is important, because so very few would have a "clean slate" with a $500 audio I/O. Maybe one of the lower priced models, but you'd think that they would be aware that if someone was dropping 5 hundred bucks on a pre-converter that they would likely have had other audio devices previous, and accordingly, other drivers installed.

    And I know it was indeed a driver conflict, along with an update patch to both software and firmware - because when I uninstalled ASIO4ALL along with the old Tascam 1641 drivers, the system finally recognized the 1818.

    It took a bit more doing to get Sonar to finally recognize it and make it available t0 use. Samplitude picked up on it right after the old drivers were dumped. Studio Artist picked up on it after the software update patch and firmware update. I finally got Sonar to see it by de-selecting ASIO as the main driver in Sonar's Options/Audio/Advanced section. I selected WDM, at which point Sonar ran some quick diagnostics on the new found 1818 and I was then able to use it. I'm hoping that this scenario is viewed by those who may gave purchased the 1818, or similar Presonus device.

    I can tell you that after 24 hours of working with this, I love the pre amps in the Presonus. They are the exacts same pres and converters that are in the Presonus Studio/Live Consoles, which I had oportunity to work with a few times previous, and the pres were the first things that stood out for me. I'm looking forward to having my nice mics being better represented by these new preamps as opposed to what I'd been using in the past.

  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I could be wrong but my guess from past experience with ASIO4ALL, it locks your DAW audio up as the default. Its part of the settings when you set it up. Uninstalling it dropped it. ASIO4ALL is a good driver but its aggressive and can be a real pain sharing.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Presonus also uses an ASIO driver, but it wanted to use it's own asio, or at least it did in Sonar, anyway.

    I originally installed Asio4All back when I bought the 1641, as the Tascam drivers that came with the I/O were shaky, so I took the advice of an engineer friend of mine and installed Asio4. It managed to smooth things out considerably... but after installing the resident ASIO drivers that came with the Presonus, not only did I not need the old asio4all drivers any more, they were also creating issues as well... so, I dumped the drivers.

    So far, the Presonus is working perfectly, and the upgraded pres are making a dramatic difference (for the better) in the overall sound of, well, so far everything I've sent through it and played back..

    Again, I understand it's not a Neve, or an API, or RME or Lavry... but it's a fantastic improvement over what I previously had. The pres and converters in the 1818 are the exact same preamps and converters that are in the StudioLive consoles, and I've really liked the sound of those desks when I've had the occasion(s) to work with them.

    For the most part, that's really what the 1818 is - it's a scaled down (less channels and outs, USB instead of FW, etc) version of the StudioLive desk, and after having worked with the SL mixers in both studio and live situations, they are, as far as I'm concerned, not only the best in their price class, but maybe even for the next price class or two up as well... (although Bos has mentioned several times that the A&H Zeds are a coin-flip in comparison to the Presonus SL desks.)

    What I can tell you, in the short time I've had to work with it, is that it's great to not have to crank the gain up nearly all the way to get a decent signal, and I'm now hearing a certain open-ness, a type of "air", a fullness, with a smooth and silky top end, as opposed to the choked, thin, brittle, harsh and fizzy tones that the Tascam provided. I can only assume that it's the preamps and the converters.

    And, my opinion is that converters do matter. In fact, I think that they matter a great deal. If people are convinced that "converters are converters" or that "they are all the same", or that the quality and caliber of them doesn't really matter in the end, then frankly, I'd say they were crazy.

    Every single link in your chain matters -
    from your audio I/O with pre's and conversions stage(s), to the mics and cables, to the monitors and monitor power, and to the room itself... and your sound is only ever going to be as good as the weakest link in that chain. ;)


  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Well, yes, but they are very different animals. The models in the Presonus StudioLive series are essentially digital desks with a set of good analog pre-amps. The A+H Zed-R16 is a fully analog desk with D-A and A-D converters available for selection at the input and output. Unusually, however, and as previously commented, the Zed-R16 is set up for both DAW and transport control, features that are not available on the SL to the best of my knowledge.

    An interesting comparison would be between the Presonus SL series and the A+H Qu series, this latter being a 16/24/32-channel digital desk aimed at live use and smaller studios. Since I have yet to use a Qu desk in a live environment, I'm unfortunately not in a position to make a comparison between those two offerings.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Being a sonar user for years, I encounter some few problems with Asio supports. Namely on sonar X1 X2 in Windows 7.
    When I bought my Focusrite liquid Saffire 56, I did everything I could, any tweak I could find, I still got bad latency results. Exhausted, I decide to try windows 8 and BAM !! It's not perfect but a lot better. Now with focusrite Asio drivers, X3 and Windows8 (didn't take the chance with 8.1 yet) my system is stable again ! ;)

    Are you gonna retrack the drum on your song Donny ?
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I may end up retracking the whole song from the ground up now that I've heard these pre's. I haven't decided yet, though.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    After working with the 1818 for a few days, my original sentiment stands. The preamps are great. The conversion must be decent too, as the choked and fizzy sounding top end I had with the Tascam is now gone and has been replaced with a smooth airy silk.

    OTOH, I think Presonus should make it known, within the first page or two of the installation process, that all resident audio drivers for past or current sound devices should be uninstalled before the 1818 AudioBox Drivers are installed... and not just disabled, but uninstalled completely.

    In the beginning, I couldn't even get the Studio One Artist DAW software that came with the device to recognize its own audio I/O.

    It wasn't until I uninstalled all existing drivers - which also included the Presonus 1818 driver that I initially installed, along with uninstalling the AudioBox software and the Studio One DAW software - and then reinstalled the 1818/AudioBox drivers and Studio One Program from a clean slate - that things started working.

    Sonar was it's own beast. Even after uninstalling ASIO4ALL, Sonar defaulted to a generic ASIO driver, which wasn't working.... so I switched the choices available to WDM, at which point Sonar ran its auto-diagnostics and found and configured the 1818.

    It's my experienced opinion that "Plug and Play" is pretty much a pipe dream, and perhaps conceived around the notion that the computer that any P and P device is being installed to is clean of all extraneous audio drivers.

    In P and P Dream Land, it works. But in the real world, where the rest of us live, it rarely works. There's always some type of configuring involved... and unless you are fairly savvy with your PC's configuration, and are relatively familiar with different drivers, or things like Device Manager, Uninstalling Programs and Default settings, you're probably gonna be pulling your hair out.

    Obviously I eventually got mine working, but I'm not sure that this is as much a testament to my knowledge, as it was to my tenacious attitude to go through all the tedious steps to make it work at all costs. LOL


  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    AH ! That plug and pray stuff gave me a lot of jobs over the years ! :)

    An happy IT guy !!
  11. thewonders

    thewonders Active Member

    I've always stayed away from ASIO4ALL - it seems to cause more problems than it solves.

    And Donny, I'm wondering why there isn't an ASIO driver that works for you with the Presonus -> Sonar. Certainly plenty of Presonus users have it working with ASIO.

    +1 :)
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    There is... it's the ASIO driver that Presonus uses for their AudioBox engine.

    I just didn't know this until I unchecked the generic ASIO driver that Sonar defaults to once ASIO4ALL was uninstalled...

    It works fine now. I just had to let Presonus drive the car - instead of letting Sonar run it into a ditch. ;)
  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I see I'm not the only one with a love/hate Relationship with Sonar ! ;)
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm gradually shifting away from Sonar towards Samplitude Pro X.

    And without attempting to stir up another "this vs. that" debate, I find Sonar to be sonically "smeary" in comparison to Samplitude.

    I'm one of those rare cats who doesn't believe that 'all DAWS are the same".

    I've used many different platforms, and I can tell you, at least from what I've heard, using exact apples to apples comparisons, that sonically speaking, they are nowhere near the same.

    My observation thus far is that the Samplitude sounds a lot better than Sonar does; better definition, clarity, imaging, more accurate...

    Although, the learning curve in Samplitude is a bit steep. I don't think it's anything I can't handle - it's just that with existing clients, I have to use what I am most familiar with during paying sessions.

    I've been using Sonar for so long now that I can pretty much get around it blindfolded... and you and I both know that when we are working with clients, it's not fair to the client for us to use their time/money to help us learn a new platform.

    Second on that list of familiarity is PT, because so many of my clients have it as their main DAW in their home "studios"... so I'm no stranger to Avid, either.
    Personally, I don't really care for PT, ( I care for it even less these days, with the way Avid treats their customers) but, I recognize the necessity of having to know it because so many of my clients use it.

    So, slowly but surely, and as time allows, I'm beginning the phase-out of Sonar and the phase-in of Samplitude.

    I just need a week or so of uninterrupted time with it, and that time hasn't been available lately between my clients and my gigs.

  15. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I think Sonar X3 sounds better than pre 'X' versions
    I'm telling myself I should learn another DAW for years and like you, I know Sonar too well, maybe I'll try when in the comming vacations ;)
    Can I ask why Samplitude ? I've heard good things about it and Sequoia as well but never took the leap.
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "...Can I ask why Samplitude ? I've heard good things about it and Sequoia as well but never took the leap."

    In a nutshell? Sonics.

    It just sounds the best to me... at least to my ears anyway, based upon comparisons with other progs that I have, which is Sonar** and PT.

    I do have StudioOne from Presonus, as of last weekend, and I've been told that it is a solid and well designed platform...but I haven't had a chance to use it so for now it stays out of the shoot-out.

    (I also have Harrison Mix Bus, but I'm not including it in the comparison, because I think that Mix Bus intentionally colors the sound to emulate a more analog-based fidelity)

    I don't have Reaper, Cubase, Nuendo, Ableton ... or any of the other numerous platforms available, so I can't comment on any of these as a possible comparison.

    Sonar is what I know best, and have spent the most time on, so I use it as the main point of comparison... and the main thing I've noticed is that Sonar has a "smear" to it that pulls away definition - and even clarity at times, and in comparison to Samplitude, it sounds "phasey", particularly on the top end. Now, some of this may have been caused by the I/O I was using at the time - the Tascam 1641 - but then again, if it were only that, Samplitude would have also sounded "smeary" and phasey as well, right?

    Samp sounds very accurate to me... what I record(ed) is what I hear back. Someone who is better versed in the architecture and coding of these programs might be able to tell you why this is so.

    I don't know if it has to do with the structure of the audio "engine", or the drivers, or what... All I can tell you is that when I compared the two programs, and I mean exact comparisons... exact same files, flat, no processing, same pre, same converters, same levels... Samplitude was clearer, more defined, more accurate than Sonar.

    Again, the best descriptive term I can use with Sonar is "smearing". I don't know how else to describe it... it's almost as if I'm suddenly listening back through cheap monitors or something.

    And... I didn't even know it until I had other DAW platforms to compare it to. The most dramatic difference was with Samplitude.

    Everything was immediately clearer, more defined, no apparent weird phasing anomalies...

    **The disclaimer here is that I'm not using any of the X versions of Sonar. I'm using 7.2.5 PE. I never upgraded, because none of the things that were added or improved were of any interest to me. Sonar 7 PE worked. It was always stable and reliable. Unfortunately, I found out that the fidelity wasn't as good as it should be. This issue may have been resolved in later versions. You would have to talk to someone who uses an X version in comparison to Samplitude to find out if this is still apparent.



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