Review of low-cost dual-channel USB interface – PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 – update popular low-cost dual-channel USB interface, new in 2017.
The American company PreSonus has released an update to its popular AudioBox interface. The model has got the prefix 96, which indicates the added support for the 96 kHz mode. The rest of the possibilities and appearance almost did not change. By the way, if you need support for 192 kHz, it is available in the more expensive dual-channel model PreSonus Studio 2 | 6.

Do you need high modes in the entry-level interfaces? If this does not lead to a large price increase, why not. The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 remains one of the most affordable sound interfaces. How can PreSonus surprise? The converters inside are the same as for most competitors. This is the codec CS4270. Unusual microcontroller NXP LPC4320FBD144 on the ARM architecture. Quite a non-standard digital and analog part, with proprietary developments of Americans.

To make the review more interesting, we compared playback and recording with a direct competitor to M-Audio M-Track 2×2. And then we were waiting for a surprise. But first, let’s talk about the very interface AudioBox USB 96.

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

The case of the device is completely metallic, which makes the AudioBox USB 96 suitable for everyday use and for outdoor recording. The interface has two high-quality mic preamps in Class A. The model is positioned for the studio and mobile work with the laptop. Traditionally, all PreSonus interfaces come with PreSonus Studio One Artist. This is a proprietary recording software for PC and Mac, which has many ready-made plug-ins for sound processing.

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 – price. Where is the best place to buy?

The recommended retail price of the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is about $ 99,95. At this cost, you can buy it on Amazon.

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Specifications

Microphone input
Connector XLR, balanced
Frequency response 20 Hz – 20 kHz, +/- 3 dB
Input Impedance 1.2 kΩ (balanced)
Harmonic distortion + noise < 0.008%
Signal / Noise > 95 dB
Common-mode rejection ratio > 45 dB
Gain from 0 dB to 35 dB
Maximum input level -3 dBu
Phantom Power + 48V
Guitar Input
Connector 1/4 “TRS (unbalanced)
Input Impedance 0.5 MΩ
Line Out
Connector 1/4 “TRS (balanced)
Impedance 51 Ω
Headset Output (Phones)
Connector 1/4 “TRS
Maximum Power 60 mW / channel at 60Ω load
Frequency response 20 Hz – 20 kHz, +/- 1 dB
MIDI
Connectors separate five-pin DIN
Converters
ADC dynamic range 105 dBA
DAC dynamic range 105 dBA
Modes 24 bits, 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz
Miscellaneous
Dimensions (WxHxD) 139.7 x 44.45 x 139.7 mm
Weight 2.27 kg

Technical characteristics are quite typical for all such entry-level interfaces. Although 105 dBA refers to the performance of the CS4270, according to our measurements, the characteristics of the device are quite close to this value. We received 103 dBA for a linear output.

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
The front panel is no different from the predecessor Audiobox USB. There are still two TSR / XLR microphone / guitar combo inputs, a + 48V phantom power button for condenser mics, channel gain controls with overload indicators, hardware input monitoring, separate volume controls for headphones and line output to monitors.

The gain range for microphone XLR inputs is from 0 to +60 dB, for guitar TRS inputs from -10 to +30 dB.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Line outputs – balanced, on the TRS connectors. Headphone output, traditionally for PreSonus, is located behind. A great advantage for musicians is the separate MIDI connectors. The device is powered by a USB bus, the cable is bundled. A separate PSU is not provided – thus, the manufacturer does not position the device to work with the iPad. But there are full separate drivers for the PC and Mac for all the latest versions of the OS. Manufacturers develop their own drivers.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Analysis of electronic components shows that the manufacturer has preserved the continuity of generations.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
The same CS4270 codec, where there is a dual-channel DAC dynamic range of 105 dB, Harmonic distortion + noise -87 dB. two-channel ADC dynamic range 105 dB, Harmonic distortion + noise-95 dB. As you can see, the ADC for distortions is much better than the DAC.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
The same quadruple opamps ST Microelectronics TS464, the distortion is 0.003%. Our measurements confirm this. The headphone amplifier is assembled on a current buffer NJM3414A.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
But the digital processor has been updated. The NXP LPC4320FBD144 microcontroller on the ARM architecture here is responsible for the USB2.0 interface. Theoretically, it can even process the signal, but in this model it is used only for low-delay input / output. The interface is compatible with USB2.0 and USB3.0.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
The minimum ASIO buffer is 64 samples.

ASIO Diagnostics

Device: AudioBox ASIO Driver

Features:

  • Input channels: 2
  • Output channels: 2
  • Input latency: 72
  • Output latency: 65
  • Min buffer size: 64
  • Max buffer size: 64
  • Preferred buffer size: 64
  • Granularity: 0
  • ASIOOutputReady – not supported

Sample rate:

  • 8000 Hz – not supported
  • 11025 Hz – not supported
  • 16000 Hz – not supported
  • 22050 Hz – not supported
  • 32000 Hz – not supported
  • 44100 Hz – supported
  • 48000 Hz – supported
  • 88200 Hz – supported
  • 96000 Hz – supported
  • 176400 Hz – not supported
  • 192000 Hz – not supported
  • 352800 Hz – not supported
  • 384000 Hz – not supported

Input channels:

  • channel: 0 (Input 1) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 1 (Input 2) – Int32LSB

Output channels:

  • channel: 0 (Output Left) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 1 (Output Right) – Int32LSB

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

The delay with the minimum buffer was only 6 ms. This is 4 ms less than for a typical interface. In addition, with this buffer value, there are no problems with stable operation.

Testing in RMAA

We provide RMAA measurements for the linear output in a gain position corresponding to the output voltage of 1 volt RMS. This allows us to get a high signal-to-noise value, but do not over-distort the analog output. For devices powered by the USB bus, the optimum quality of the signal level is below 100% of the volume.

Testing the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 line output at 1 Vrms (24 bit 44 kHz mode)

RightMark Audio Analyzer test report

Testing device PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Sampling mode 24-bit, 44 kHz
Interface ASIO
Testing chain External loopback (line-out – line-in)
RMAA Version 6.4.1 PRO
20 Hz – 20 kHz filter ON
Normalize amplitude ON
Level change -0.3 dB / -0.2 dB
Mono mode OFF
Calibration singal, Hz 1000
Polarity correct/correct

Summary

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB
+0.12, -0.22
Very good
Noise level, dB (A)
-102.9
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A)
102.9
Excellent
THD, %
0.0040
Very good
THD + Noise, dB (A)
-85.2
Good
IMD + Noise, %
0.059
Good
Stereo crosstalk, dB
-86.3
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %
0.0048
Excellent
General performance
Very good

Frequency response

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Frequency response

Left
Right
From 20 Hz to 20 kHz, dB
-0.86, +0.06
-0.89, +0.12
From 40 Hz to 15 kHz, dB
-0.24, +0.06
-0.24, +0.10

Noise level

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Noise level

Left
Right
RMS power, dB
-101.6
-102.1
RMS power (A-weighted), dB
-102.9
-103.2
Peak level, dB FS
-83.5
-83.5
DC offset, %
-0.0
-0.0

Dynamic range

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Dynamic range

Left
Right
Dynamic range, dB
+101.8
+101.9
Dynamic range (A-weighted), dB
+102.8
+103.2
DC offset, %
-0.00
-0.00

THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

Left
Right
THD, %
+0.0039
+0.0036
THD + Noise, %
+0.0045
+0.0043
THD + Noise (A-weighted), %
+0.0058
+0.0051

Intermodulation distortion

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Intermodulation distortion

Left
Right
IMD + Noise, %
+0.0598
+0.0603
IMD + Noise (A-weighted), %
+0.0202
+0.0198

Stereo crosstalk

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Stereo crosstalk

Left
Right
Crosstalk at 100 Hz, dB
-65
-64
Crosstalk at 1000 Hz, dB
-84
-86
Crosstalk at 10000 Hz, dB
-70
-72

IMD (swept tones)

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 IMD (swept tones)

Left
Right
IMD + Noise at 5000 Hz,
0.0051
0.0050
IMD + Noise at 10000 Hz,
0.0045
0.0041
IMD + Noise at 15000 Hz,
0.0047
0.0044

Typical values for an inexpensive interface, nothing special can not be said here. All is well.
Using the convenient case, we measured under the same conditions from the same USB port of a direct competitor – M-Audio M-Track 2×2, which has the same CS4270 converters, but with a different digital and analog part.

Testing the M-Audio line output 2×2 at an amplitude of 1 Vrms

Testing device M-Audio 2×2
Sampling mode 24-bit, 44 kHz
Interface
Testing chain External loopback (line-out – line-in)
RMAA Version 6.4.0 PRO
20 Hz – 20 kHz filter ON
Normalize amplitude ON
Level change -0.1 dB / -0.1 dB
Mono mode OFF
Calibration singal, Hz 1000
Polarity inverted/inverted
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB
-0.05, -0.12
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A)
-104.6
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A)
104.4
Excellent
THD, %
0.0060
Very good
THD + Noise, dB (A)
-82.1
Good
IMD + Noise, %
0.0055
Excellent
Stereo crosstalk, dB
-93.8
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %
0.0057
Excellent
General performance
Excellent

M-Audio has a slightly better situation with noise, but worse with distortion.

Testing the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Headphone Output at 1 Vrms

Testing device PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Sampling mode 24-bit, 44 kHz
Interface ASIO
Testing chain External loopback (line-out – line-in)
RMAA Version 6.4.0 PRO
20 Hz – 20 kHz filter ON
Normalize amplitude ON
Level change -0.2 dB / -0.3 dB
Mono mode OFF
Calibration singal, Hz 1000
Polarity correct/correct

Summary

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB
-0.05, -0.29
Very good
Noise level, dB (A)
-101.1
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A)
101.7
Excellent
THD, %
0.0041
Very good
THD + Noise, dB (A)
-84.8
Good
IMD + Noise, %
0.048
Good
Stereo crosstalk, dB
-85.3
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %
0.016
Very good
General performance
Very good

The results of the headphone output of PreSonus are almost identical to the linear output. By the way, the headphone output is pretty loud. We connected low-sensitivity high-impedance headphones Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, the volume was enough. With low-impedance headphones PreSonus also works fine, it can produce high current without distortion.
We compared the sound of headphones and line outputs PreSonus vs. M-Audio. To our surprise, the difference was highly discernible, and it is entirely in favor of PreSonus. Interface AudioBox USB 96 produces a bright, dynamic sound in headphones and in speakers. The sound of M-Audio is somehow muddy and flat, with less detail. Based on measurements you can not understand anything, the values are very similar, but in reality, when you connect headphones and monitors, the differences are very large.
We included in comparison a much more expensive studio device Lynx Hilo. It gave the sound character closer to PreSonus, but not so bright sound, more balanced, without emphasis on midrange. If we compare only inexpensive devices, then we prefer unequivocally PreSonus, not M-Audio. The difference in headphones and speakers is preserved, the PreSonus has a clearer and more detailed sound, with an underlined middle. Why such difference? Although the devices have the same ADC / DAC, the digital and analog parts are completely different, they have nothing in common. Also, of course, the great experience of PreSonus in creating high-quality studio products positively affects.

We also tested mic preamps. High-quality expensive microphone Neumann TLM 103 was connected first in PreSonus, then in M-Audio. A ready-made studio microphone Cordial with gold-plated Neutrik connectors was used. We modeled the real process of recording vocals, with further real processing, as when creating a commercial product. The final result was judged by the sound, not the raw source.
Here, the difference in sound was much harder to hear. In our opinion, M-Audio was rehabilitated in this test due to its good discrete scheme. Both interfaces worked slightly differently. It is difficult to give someone preference. The discrete M-Audio preamplifier seemed to sound more velvety, while PreSonus had a more neutral sound. We believe that both preamps are great for inexpensive condenser and dynamic microphones. For expensive studio microphones with a price tag above $ 1000, it’s better to choose the interface class above. Basically, the limiting factor in mobile interfaces is USB bus power.
The M-Audio interface worked worse with a small buffer, we had to delay 512 samples, for confident sound recording. We liked drivers from PreSonus more, they work more stable with a small buffer. Although, it will be more important for keyboardists and guitarists than for vocalists.

Conclusions

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 was able to surprise us with a proprietary bright sound. We were convinced that even among inexpensive sound interfaces, with similar internal stuffing, a very strong difference in sound can be obtained. In our opinion, AudioBox USB 96 is a very serious competitor in the niche of entry-level interfaces. The cost of PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 in the US is quite competitive – $ 99.95.

Summary
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Testing in RMAA & Detalied Review
Article Name
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Testing in RMAA & Detalied Review
Description
Detailed review and test in RightMark Audio Analyzer of low-cost dual-channel USB interface. Comparison with M-Audio M-Track 2x2. Specs. Video.
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