After a long wait, it is finally time for PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Review. The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is a budget audio interface that has got a good amount of noticeable features. It is very portable, light-weight & provides an easy setup.
The AudioBox USB 96 is now available in full black color as a part of the 25th anniversary of PreSonus. The black paint looks fantastic, and the external case is quite solid as well. Apart from its reliable first impressions, does the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 delivers more than its competitors, including Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
Let us find out!
Related: Best budget audio interfaces!
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface Review
First let us see some of the most notable features of the PreSonus Audiobox USB 96. The features are pretty good and what I think a budget audio interface should have.
Also, not to forget, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is currently priced at $100.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Specifications
- 2 Mic/Line/Instrument inputs,
- +48V Phantom powered,
- Professional-grade A/D/A converters,
- LED clip indicator for each channel,
- One MIDI Port available,
- 1 Headphone output with dedicated gain knob,
- 2 line level/ Studio monitors outputs,
- Direct Monitoring Available,
- 24-bit resolution,
- +105 dBu Dynamic Range,
- Supported sample rates – 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz,
- Wide range of softwares included,
- Windows/Mac compatible.
[Also check: Audio interface setup diagram to connect different studio gears]
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Analysis
The PreSonus Studio AudioBox is very similar to PreSonus Studio 24c in terms of design and first impressions.
There are two Mic/Line/Hi-Z inputs on the front side of the interface. It means that you can easily connect the instruments like keyboards, line level equipment like mixers, Hi-Z instruments like guitars or bass or microphones.
Not to forget, one MIDI I/O is also present at the back of the interface. The availability of MIDI port has two big advantages:
- You get an extra input to plug in MIDI instruments, and
- The inputs at the front are free to use as and when required.
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In some audio interfaces like 2i2, there is no MIDI I/O. Sadly, it consumes one of your inputs which limits what you can do with the other input.
Is there Phantom Support?
Both the inputs in AudioBox USB 96 are +48V phantom power. This means that it can record condenser mics as well and not just dynamic mics. However, I don’t recommend using dynamic mics on this audio interface as they generate a lot of noise in the background. We will talk more about the same in the sound quality section in just a bit.
Next comes the direct monitoring feature, enabling a person to hear the audio captured in the microphone. An application of direct monitoring is recording vocals in sync with tracks. Since the AudioBox USB 96 has near-zero latency, direct monitoring becomes even more helpful. It benefits a singer to sing a song in sync with the audio track, which leads to smoother vocal recordings.
In the AudioBox USB 96, there is a knob that controls the audio distribution. You can monitor the audio coming from the DAW, inputs, or a mix of both. By default, the knob is positioned in the exact middle. It means that the audio distribution is equal among the DAW and the inputs.
The outputs are pretty standard in what they do. There are two ways to hear the audio coming out of the interface. One is to hear the audio on a headphone. Or you can connect up to two studio monitors or external speakers.
Furthermore, both the headphone and Line level outputs have an independent gain knob. I must say that the gain knobs are of good material.
If you want an extra set of line-outs, I recommend checking out our Presonus Studio 26c Review.
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 audio interface connects to a laptop/computer through a USB 2.0 cable. The USB port is located on the rear side of the interface besides the MIDI I/O. There is no A/C power input and uses Laptop/PC to power itself via USB bus.
Sound quality of PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio interface
One of the most important aspects to consider is the overall audio quality. The preamps also play a significant role in determining the sound quality as they interact directly with the input signal coming into the interface.
The Preamps are responsible for boosting signal frequencies to capture each harmonic input detail in utmost clarity. Some preamps do an excellent job, while others can introduce noise.
The sound quality of the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is pretty decent. The mic Preamps are also well built and work fine with condenser mics. The overall sound could have been better because some of the cheaper interfaces under $100 outperform the AudioBox sound quality.
There is one big problem, however. Connecting the interface to a dynamic mic introduces a lot of noticeable noise in the background. It is because dynamic mics impose weaker signals which cause the mic preamps to over-boost. This over-boosting introduces a lot of gain boost to make the signal stronger as well as adds noise. This substantial extra noise makes AudioBox USB 96 not fit to use with Dynamic microphones.
However, the noise is significantly reduced when a condenser microphone is used for recording purposes. It is because they use a strong signal response. Therefore, the mic preamps do not have to go haywire over the signals. In this case, the only noise you need to worry about is the noise that the microphone will capture.
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Potential Use Cases
The presence of one MIDI port allows you to use the AudioBox USB 96 in many settings. Let’s look at all the ways one can set up the interface with other pieces of equipment.
For the sake of simplicity, let us consider a beginner-friendly setup consisting of guitars, MIDI keyboards, and microphones. You can connect simultaneously connect:
- Two Mics, One MIDI keyboard,
- One mic, one guitar, one MIDI keyboard,
- Two guitars, one MIDI keyboard.
However, these are only a few examples. The list can expand even further. You can connect other line-level inputs such as mixers or other MIDI instruments such as a sampler. But, considering an artist who is new to music production, the instrument remains standard as well.
Lastly, can we say from the above use cases that the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is capable of recording a small band of three people?
I think, Yes!
Gain Ranges of PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 audio Interface
The dynamic range refers to how much a signal can peak in amplitude before clipping. Hence, a higher dynamic range means the signal can have more headroom space before starting to clip.
The dynamic ranges for mic inputs and the overall dynamic range are pretty low in this budget audio interface. I would have loved to see a higher gain capacity. Like in this case, the lower range can become a problem if you try to record very expressive vocals.
Let’s look at some of the gain figures of AudioBox.
PROS of PreSonus AudioBox
Now, to give you an even fair review, let us look at the advantages and the disadvantages of the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
- Solid and sturdy built quality,
- The paint looks amazing,
- Knobs are compact and of good quality,
- MIDI port is available,
- LED lights turn red as the signal clips,
- Good Preamps,
- Ultra low latency great for sound monitoring,
- 24-bit resolution,
- easy to use drivers,
- good sample rates available,
- Windows/Mac/iPad compatible.
For setup purposes, there are few drivers which can be downloaded from the PreSonus official website.
I think these pros are self-explanatory and don’t much elaboration.
CONS of PreSonus AudioBox
- Dynamic ranges are quite low,
- The preamp generate noise when used with dynamic microphones,
- No LED monitoring display,
- Mic preamps could have been better,
- Driver and firmware issues.
The biggest turn-off for me is that the preamps generate a lot of noise when a dynamic microphone is used. Another thing I expected was a higher dynamic range.
All in all, I feel there some improvement that needs to be done to make this little portable audio interface a bit better.
Who should get the AudioBox USB 96?
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is the mini version of the high end audio interfaces. It has got fairly limited input capabilities which means it cannot be used to record a whole band.
It is a portable and easy to plug and play audio interface that can sit in your home studio. Since it is lightweight and portable, it also packs the ability to be a good companion during tours. And touring artists will have a look at this interface for what it offers.
In addition, the AudioBox is a great choice for beginners who want to learn the basics of music production by using comparatively low-budget studio gear. And I think, this is the place the AudioBox falls perfect.
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In conclusion, I feel that the PreSonus AudioBox is a pretty decent audio interface under $200. The sound quality is well balanced, and the features you get with it are quite numerous as well. It packs everything that a beginner producer needs.
However, I feel if the budget allows you, look for better options under $200. Then, do a quick comparison of what you need and what the interface is offering. Then, I think you’ll have a clearer picture of whether you should go for PreSonus AudioBob USB 96 or not.
This section marks the end of the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Review. I hope the article gave some insights into the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 and whether it will sit on your desk or not.