A simple, sleek, and super clean-sounding audio interface with enough channels for eight mics.
As if becoming a proficient drummer wasn’t hard enough, in today’s technological landscape being able to record yourself well is arguably of equal importance. Objectively speaking, it requires a substantial investment of time and patience to develop the necessary skills to do both well. There’s also a financial investment in gear, be it drums or studio equipment. While owning the most expensive version of something doesn’t guarantee better results, we do feel that the most effective strategy to deploy when building a recording rig for drums is to seek out the highest-quality gear possible, and with the most intuitive workflow, available in your price range. And when it comes to audio interfaces, prices, features, and ease-of-use vary drastically.
Up for review this month is the Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre, which is a dual-mode eight-channel interface with ADAT expandability. Its modest $799 price tag is competitive with anything currently on the market—that’s less than $100 per channel, for anyone keeping score—and Arturia loads it up with professional-grade features and a Creative Suite plug-in bundle. We found that the unit and the included Control Center software have a clean, streamlined build and intuitive, user-friendly workflow. The unit shines amongst its competition in the mid-level price point and also gives much more expensive units a run for their money.
The AudioFuse 8Pre features sixteen line-level inputs and twenty line-level output channels. There are eight microphone preamps, which feature Arturia’s DiscretePRO technology. System requirements are Win 7+ (PC) or OS 10.8+ (Mac), 4 GB RAM, 1 GB of hard disk space, and an Intel i5 or faster CPU. A power supply and two USB cables are included (USB-C and USB-C to USB 2.0).
Front Panel Functions
Channels one and two feature combo XLR/quarter-inch inputs, which access the same DiscretePRO preamps as the XLR-only connectors on the back. To the right of those two inputs are the controls for all eight mic inputs. Each channel has a gain knob and individual buttons to engage 48v phantom power, a dB pad, and phase reversal. Channels one and two also include an instrument button (INST) for use when connecting quarter-inch line-level instruments, like guitars, keyboards, or electronic drums. It should be noted that if the rear inputs for channels one or two are in use and you connect something to their corresponding channels on the front, the interface will automatically switch to the front panel controls.
The monitoring section of the front panel has individual level knobs for monitor and headphone outputs, and there are quarter- and eighth-inch headphone jacks. There’s also a mono button that converts your entire monitor mix to mono, and there’s a button to toggle the output from the mains to cue for independent headphone mixes. The Arturia-branded button turns the unit on and off, and a quick press of it while the unit is connected to a computer will open up the software’s Control Center.
The AudioFuse Creative Suite delivers extremely useful plug-ins that will help improve the quality of your recordings for a more professional final mix. These plug-ins were modeled after classic recording gear and have intuitive designs and functional presets. Currently included in the suite are three preamp and EQ recreations modeled after some of the most iconic studio gear of all time. These are the TridA, the 1973, and the V76. There’s also a COMP FET-76, which is a fantastic recreation of the legendary 1176 compressor, the Delay TAPE-201 tape delay, the Rev PLATE-140 reverb, and a Moog-style filter. (Additional high-quality plug-ins can be purchased via Arturia’s website.)
Full disclosure: I love all things drums and drumming, but recording has been the bane of my existence. As a drummer, musician, and songwriter, I feel the process of audio engineering takes me out of the creative mindset, as I spend too much time trying to get the sounds I hear in my head to be reproduced accurately from my computer. So when I shop for studio gear, the first thing I look for is quality, followed closely behind by ease-of-use, and then budget. When it comes to microphone preamps, you can easily spend several thousand dollars to get something comparable to the eight channels that Arturia provides in the AudioFuse 8Pre for just $100 each.
Although I consider myself a novice as a home studio drummer, this unit is easy to set up and use within minutes. The mounted hardware allows the interface to be placed in a rack or on a desktop using the included legs.
The AudioFuse Control Center software is intuitive and self-explanatory. I appreciated that each button on the interface has a single function, and there are no hidden menus to navigate. In around thirty minutes I had my gains set for five drum mics, a guitar amp, a bass DI box, and a vocal mic. I created a session template in my DAW, so I’ve been able to quickly bounce from instrument to instrument to record ideas as they develop.
I’ve been overwhelmingly pleased with how well the AudioFuse 8Pre captures audio. One notably impressive aspect is how quiet the unit is while recording. The AudioFuse 8Pre adds practically zero noise to your signal. It was so quiet that I almost thought it wasn’t working properly at first. If you’re in the market for your first multichannel audio interface, or if your old setup is in need of an upgrade (in terms of sound quality and not price), check out the AudioFuse 8Pre by Arturia. It’s as good as—if not better than—anything else out there.
By David Ciauro