Here's a 24-bit, 192 kHz audio interface that's a ridiculous bargain at this price point. The Studio 1824 has plenty of analog and digital I/O, plus an 18x8 DSP mixer with low-latency monitor mixing. That's all well and good, and to be honest we've tested many comparable interfaces – some with more bells/whistles, some with less. However, the price on this interface is crazy low, especially when you consider that it includes a license for my new go-to DAW of choice, Studio One [Tape Op #86]. You get Version 4 in an introductory "Artist" version that can be leveled up to the full kit for around $299, but the Artist version is still robust and has some gnarly integrations with the 1824. Side note: I've spent the last few months transitioning from Pro Tools to Studio One Professional, and thus far I haven't looked back. Studio One is stable, extensible, and has an incredible creation and mix-friendly workflow. I love it!

The 1824 interface purchase also includes the UC Surface touch-control app, which runs not only as a Mac or Windows native application but also on current iPads or Android tablets. If you use this interface with Studio One, you can use UC Surface on a tablet to act as a full-featured remote. Oh, and you get a free bundle of damn fine plug-ins from Arturia, Lexicon, Output, SPL, and others.

The I/O is plentiful and even includes MIDI in and out, which is rare for a single rack space-sized interface. There are eight mic/line inputs on XLR combo jacks, with the first two channels accessible from the front left of the panel, and the remaining six channels on the rear. I like this particular design choice, as it means I don't have to reach for a snake to patch a mic in quickly when inspiration strikes. The outputs are all TRS, with eight individual line outs plus two dedicated monitor outs. S/PDIF and 8-channel ADAT Lightpipe are present as well.

The mic preamps are what PreSonus refers to as "our famous XMAX Class A preamps" and they sound great – transparent, with no coloration and lots of headroom. Each pre has a dedicated gain knob on the front panel, so there's no toggling through to get to your input gain. Impressive again for this price point is the conversion, which boasts specs that rival interfaces costing four times what this one does.

Gripes? Not really. Well, maybe one subjective one – the design of the front panel looks less like a serious piece of studio gear and more toy-like than I care for, personally. The curved silver fascia matched with bright blue alloy knobs – it just doesn't look super tough. Not every rack piece has to be military-grade with Bakelite knobs and old-school VUs, but the looks just aren't my cup of tea. Okay, one more: the 12V power supply is a barrel-type, but doesn't lock – it does have a cable catch, I guess, but I'd like to see something a little more substantial.

Minor gripes aside, I seriously have no idea how PreSonus is developing hardware at this level, bundling it with a ton of valuable freebies, even throwing in an entry-level edition of a heavenly DAW, and then selling the whole caboodle for pennies on the dollar. It feels like theft at $499! As of this writing, PreSonus just announced a new version of the 1824 interface at NAMM this year, the Studio 1824c, with the same exact I/O and specs – only with a USB-C connection instead of the USB 2.0 port on our review model. Oh, and it has an updated front panel in (mostly) black that looks way tough, too! So, there's that – but for a hundred dollars less and the same guts you can still get this one!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More