Last month, we brought you a review of a popular USB Audio Interface intended for content creators looking to up their production quality - the Scarlett 2i2, Generation 3. With all of the highly-hyped, flashy gear on the market, it is important to cut through the noise pack with high quality audio interfaces.
Whether live-streaming or recording voice-overs for your epic play-of-the-game montages, if you want to get every ounce of quality out of your microphone you need to make sure it is plugging into something that will make you sound as good as it is. That is where PreSonus joins the conversation. This is our review of the Studio 26c by PreSonus.
- MSRP: $209.95
- Inputs: 2x XLR/Instrument jacks
- Supported Sample Rate: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
- Converter Resolution: 24 bit
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
- Gain Range: 70 dB
- Input: 2x mic/line/instrument inputs with XMAX-L pre amps, 1x MIDI
- Outputs: 2x Main Output, 2x Line Output, 1x Headphone, 1x MIDI
- Connectivity: USB, Type-C (both USB C-to-C and USB A-to-C cables included)
- Features: Cue Mix monitoring, LED input monitoring, StudioOne Artist Edition DAW software and Studio Magic plug-ins package included
The accessibility of PreSonus
In case you are not familiar with the brand, PreSonus has been in the audio-recording industry since 1995. With products ranging from microphone pre-amps and control surfaces, from digital mixers and studio monitors to powerful software, PreSonus has been a company at the leading edge of developing audio technology with accessibility to the consumer in mind.
What I mean by accessibility is that PreSonus produces quality gear at every price point and use case. Whether you are looking for a mixer for a house of worship or you are looking to start a home studio without having to take out a small loan, PreSonus not only has you covered with the right gear for the job, they give you the tools you need to succeed with the get you purchased. The Studio 26c that we are working with in this review comes bundled with PreSonus’ Studio One 4: Artist Edition (a $99 value) - their robust digital audio workstation (DAW), along with a curated suite of plug-ins call Studio Magic. This suite includes compression, tube saturation, reverb, analog synth labs, and much more.
A closer look at the PreSonus Studio 26c
Just because PreSonus makes gear accessible does not mean they are cheaply made, nor that they are purely entry-level devices. The Studio 26c is solidly built with professional features right out of the box. The sturdy chassis comes in on-brand black and metallic blue design with light branding on the front.
The front panel provides all of the necessary external controls needed to navigate the setup of your device. There is a gain toggle knob for each channel with a gain range of 70 dB (which we will come back to in a bit), a volume control for your main line mix, and a separate volume knob for your headphones mix.
There are also buttons to enable active monitoring, 48V of phantom power, an A/B selector for Cue Mix button (customized audio output), and a line boost, not to mention active channel monitoring so you can make sure your audio isn’t peaking, even if you are shoutcasting!
Each of the inputs on the Studio 26c can take a signal from an XLR connection, instrument line, or line level audio connection. While this is pretty standard across most USB audio interfaces, one of the biggest differences comes down to the quality of the built-in microphone preamps. These inputs are equipped with PreSonus’ XMAX-L microphone preamps and this next detail is an important one.
While PreSonus has a long-standing pedigree with their XMAX preamp, they needed a preamp that would still offer transparency and ultra-low line noise with a lower power draw. Enter the XMAX-L. By making an ever-so-slight sacrifice in the gain- (~10dB) and dynamic ranges (~4dB), PreSonus was able to deliver a preamp that does right by the legacy, requiring on that which is drawn from its USB-C connection.
It is important to note that there are other devices within this same product family that are equipped with the XMAX preamps, but also require power outside of USB connectivity. The only exception to this is the 26c’s little sister, the Studio 24c. It, too, has the XMAX-L preamps, but it does take a greater hit to gain- (~30dB) and dynamic ranges (~6dB).
In my testing, the Studio 26c was very easy to get set up and that ease of setup allowed me to get right to creating. The unit had a sticker, sending me to PreSonus’ website to register the device and to download the utilities required for its operation as well as my copy of Studio One 4 Artist. This software will need you to validate your account, so make sure you keep your credentials close by!
The only real critique I can levy against the Studio 26c is that it is more side-grade than upgrade to its predecessor, the Studio 26. The only discernible difference between the two is a different color scheme and the “c” - denoting the change in connectivity to USB-C. This is still operating at USB 2.0 speeds (480 Mb/sec), but this is not an uncommon for USB audio interfaces and does not have an effect on latency. The critique really has nothing to do with the device itself, but more of a curiosity. PreSonus typically innovates with each new product they launch, but the Studio C family only creates a variation on an existing product line. However, with some mobile platforms solely relying on USB-C or Thunderbolt 3, it makes sense to have a product capable of running within that market of devices to provide recording capabilities wherever there is the opportunity.
As a long-time dabbler in digital audio recording, I have watched PreSonus develop a special reputation in the audio space as leader in innovation and deliverer of quality products to market. The Studio 26c is no exception to that. Even in spite of the loss of some gain- and dynamic ranges, the XMAX-L are still as clear as their ancestral counterparts. The 26c has a sleek design and is packed with features that any burgeoning broadcast, podcaster, or streamer would benefit from out of the box.
If you are a content creator that does not currently have a USB audio interface for voice over work and you are looking to build an XLR-based setup, the Studio 26c by PreSonus may just be the next step in elevating the quality of your production.
- Bundled software makes sure you are ready to record
- XMAX-L microphone preamps provide great gain range and clarity at low power draw
- Sturdy build quality makes it perfect at home or on-the-go
- Front panel features (i.e. LED meters, active monitoring, A/B Cue Mix)
- No major updates from the previous generation other than the addition of USB-C