The ISA 428 is Focusrite's entry in the rapidly crowding DAW front-end field. Stock, it's basically four mic preamps in a box. With the addition of an optional card, you get eight channels of 24-bit, 192 kHz A/D conversion, soft limiting, etc.-which obviously adds a lot of flexibility. I got 500 words here so I'm not going to waste them talking about specs. You all know how to use the "Interweb," I am sure. How's it sound? Very good. If you've read any of my reviews in the past, you know I don't have racks of Neves and API's to compare to. My gear is of a more, shall we say, "modest" nature. It was pretty apparent to me right off the bat that the Focusrite preamps were head and shoulders better than what I'm used to working with. I used them on drums, bass, clean and dirty electric guitars, Rhodes, vocals, and percussion. Lots of nice midrange detail, especially on guitars, and a clean (i.e., not harsh or brittle) high end that was very pleasant on vocals. My current project is all overdubs, and I'm mixing as I go. I found that tracks recorded through the Focusrites were sitting in the mix a lot easier than the tracks recorded with my other preamps. I could track, tweak the level a bit, and move on without having to fuss much at all. A good sign. The preamps are definitely more clean than colored; but I didn't find them to be sterile or cold sounding-just clear and balanced. I will say that I wasn't too into the sound of them when pushed though, they sounded "hard," for lack of a better term.

The ISA 428 preamps have a couple features I found very handy. First is a variable high-pass filter for each channel, sweepable from 16 Hz to 420 Hz. My room has a pretty high noise floor during the day and having the filter was very useful at eliminating unnecessary low rumble on quiet sources like a toy xylophone and various percussion items. Second is the switchable impedance selector. You can choose from four different settings, which basically change the high-frequency response of the mic. The difference was subtle but certainly noticeable. I found I used the two middle settings the most. Both of these features are very useful, and it's nice to have these options for tailoring sounds closer to the source rather than using EQ later on.

I'd like to tell you about the converters, but wasn't able to track down the cable necessary for connecting the ISA 428 up to my soundcard. I'm hopng to do a followup review in a future issue.

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

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