Product Review: PreSonus DigiMax FS Channel Pre-amp

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

As a producer and musician, I’m always looking for anything that can work within my budget and help me do my job quicker and easier without sacrificing great tone. The DigiMax FS Channel Pre-amp by PreSonus clearly delivers. I checked with a couple friends of mine that told me that one of the studios used by BEC records used the DigiMax on all their drum tracks. Not a bad endorsement.

The DigiMax FS is an eight channel microphone preamplifier, with 24-bit/96k ADAT dual SMUX I/O and word Clock I/O. It’s really meant to be more than just a preamp. It’s meant to be an expander unit for ADAT-compatible mixers and interfaces such as Apogee or Rosetta. What does that mean in layman’s terms? It means that you have a cost effective way to expand your digital recording system via optical light pipe with additional channels that capture all your hard work in DVD quality.

Designed to work with the PreSonus FireStudio, it also works with any digital recording system with optical light pipe expansion capability such as DigiDesign’s HD and 002 or 003 systems, RME, YAMAHA, Alesis, Mackie and Apogee. But what if you’ve already purchased your equipment and you’re not on the cutting edge of digital technology? This was an initial concern of mine because like many of you, we already have a fair amount of money invested in gear.

In our case we have a pre-existing set up using Nuendo through a Mac G-5. We were able to connect via light pipe through our Rosetta 800 with the X Symphony Card and the Symphony PCI Card from Apogee. You could also interface through the Apogee DA-16X in the same situation making the DigiMax FS ideal for expanding just about any digital recording system you may have.

I also liked the flexibility and thought put into designing the input structure of the DigiMax FS. I’m a big fan of putting the inputs on the front of the unit. It makes for easy access. I’m also a big fan of the Neutrik Combo Connectors. Each channel has a Mic/Line connector that enables you to use either 1/4” instrument cable or XLR connectors in the same female input. The first two channels are 1/4” hi-Z Instrument and microphone input. Channels three through eight are 1/4” TRS Balanced line and microphone inputs. All eight channels of pre-amp feature phantom power that can be turned on in groups of four channels. In other words, you can turn on 1 through 4 or 5 through 8, but you can’t turn on channels individually. That means you have to do a little bit of planning if you want to use both dynamic and condenser mics in the same session with other instruments.

Each channel contains a custom designed XMAX Class A discrete microphone preamplifier. For me this is the most important part of the gear. A good mic-pre can make or break your tone. I was impressed by the big clean tone I was able to get out of the DigiMax FS. Additionally, the input gain knobs are offset from each other, making them easy to get to.

The DigiMax FS can also handle word clock synchronization in a number of ways. If you’re working with the traditional ADAT format that supports eight channels of digital audio over optical light pipe, simply set your digital audio workstation to sync via optical, press the ADAT sync button and set the desired sample rate. Simple and all accessible from the front of the unit. If you’re using the new SMUX generation of products that supports sampling rates up to 96k, the DigiMax is outfitted to utilize two optical cables for channels 1-4 and 5-8 respectively. For the majority of engineers who prefer to take care of word clock and audio separately, the DigiMax is also set up to handle synchronization via a BNC input. Again, a simple push of a button on the front panel. This is great product engineering. In fact, the DigiMax FS is made to daisy chain with other systems with it’s patented JetPLL technology that virtually eliminates all audio band jitter. Sample rates that are supported for audio are 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96k. External Syncs supported are BNC or ADAT.

One of the coolest sections on the DigiMax is the output section. This is where a great deal of flexibility occurs. Each channel features it’s own individual insert point. This allows any external processing such as compressors or limiters to occur before the output stage on each channel independently. The ADAT outputs allow you to send eight channels of digital audio output in a couple of different ways. When using the new SMUX technology you can achieve 8 channels at 24 bit / 96k via dual optical light pipes. When using the traditional ADAT technology you can achieve 8 channels at 44.1 or 48 k via one light pipe. A couple of other cool features are 1/4” DAC Outputs that add 8 output channels to a digital mixer for a separate internet broadcast feed, video feed or monitoring. The DigiMax also features 8 channels of 1/4” Direct Outputs to send to a back up recording device or mixer. Essentially all outputs and inputs can operate simultaneously making the DigiMax FS it’s own little splitter.

If you’re looking to expand your current digital recording system with a full featured microphone preamplifier at a price point that fits your budget, I would definitely suggest the DigiMax FS Channel Preamplifier. To quote a friend of mine who uses the DigiMax regularly in his studio, it definitely delivers the bang for the buck.