Arturia expands its AudioFuse line of USB audio interfaces with the 8Pre, a versatile single rack space unit eight input preamp/audio interface that has up to eight channels of ADAT I/O, plus USB-C connectivity. My testing for this handsome "dual-mode" unit included use cases as both a standalone interface and an eight-in/eight-out 24-bit/96 kHz ADAT expander for my other interfaces.

The hardware is finished in a restrained matte black with contrasting bright orange rack mount ears, which double as desktop feet (of a sort) when installed in a vertical orientation to the sides of the 8Pre. The orange color "pop" of the Arturia's rack ears makes for easy identification in a busy rack. All controls are effortlessly accessible, clearly labeled, and all correlate to one dedicated function. The pots are high quality, and critical function buttons are backlit, which is a massive plus in a dark studio. The first two channels have XLR combo jacks duplicated on the front panel, another rack-friendly design element that is always appreciated. All eight inputs have the same combo jacks addressable on the rear panel as well, and the first two channels have dedicated insert loops via two pairs of TRS jacks – sweet! The remaining outputs are all TRS, and the rear panel is rounded out with word clock I/O and two pairs of ADAT I/O (both pairs need to be connected to address all 8 ADAT channels in 88.2 or 96 kHz). That's a fair amount of ins and outs!

Driver installation and set up on a Mac is a snap (Windows is supported as well). Like the original AudioFuse [Tape Op #123], the power button doubles as a convenient shortcut to launch the AudioFuse Control Center app when connected via USB-C (the Control Center isn't available when connected via ADAT only). The 8Pre must run in either USB or ADAT mode but will address Control Center mix, preference, or setting changes over USB when setting to ADAT mode. Did I mention that Arturia includes all the required cabling (USB C-to-C, or A-to-C)? At this price point, you'd expect a stingy approach to the in-box materials, but nope.

In my testing, I used the USB connection to update firmware and fuss with a few settings in the Control Center software. After cabling everything up correctly, I switched to ADAT mode and disconnected the USB cable. I can verify that the 8Pre performed quite nicely as a "standalone" 8-channel expansion for my existing interface. Though the 8Pre is limited to 96 kHz, you do get a full eight channels at that resolution, provided you have four ADAT/TOSLINK cables connected. I used my existing master clock in my setup, but, of course, the 8Pre could be used as the master clock in any installation. Two 8Pres can be cascaded/chained over ADAT or attached to a single computer via USB, and the Control Center will address them as an aggregate device.

The 8Pre's mic preamps punch way above their weight. In my review of the original AudioFuse I noted that its path sounded much better than I'd expected, given its affordability, and that the quality of its A/D and D/A conversion was on par with interfaces above its price class. I also mentioned that the onboard Arturia DiscretePRO preamps sounded incredible, and justified all of the hype in the marketing literature, which states, "Our interfaces give you the most vibrant, accurate sound around, with practically zero noise even at max gain, and enormous dynamic range." This all holds true for the 8Pre – they even provide an individual DiscretePRO preamp performance certificate for every unit sold.

Arturia has done a stellar job of tuning these boxes for minimal noise with maximum gain, and the inclusion of two inserts on the first two channels is super useful. If the value represented here wasn't seemingly enough, Arturia throws in a "greatest hits" bundle of their software effects and virtual instruments ($800 value) to sweeten the already sugarcoated deal, including TridA-Pre (A-Range style preamp/EQ), 1973-Pre (British style preamp/EQ), V76-Pre (German tube style preamp/filter), Mini-Filter (recreation of Moog's Ladder Filter with LFO, envelope, and step sequencer), Comp FET-76 (Class A FET compressor), Delay TAPE-210 (tape echo), and Analog Lab Lite (software instrument with a selection of more than 100 Arturia V Collection patches). For folks just getting serious about recording their band, or even some fussy old studio rat like me with an existing rig and workflow, the AudioFuse 8pre is an undeniable win at this price point.

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

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