Arturia's new audio interface is well designed, simple to use and enticingly priced.
Arturia first made their name as designers of software synthesizers, including some impressive recreations of classic instruments such as the CS80 and Jupiter 8. They then diversified into hardware, producing everything from affordable controller keyboards to the mighty MatrixBrute analogue mega-synth, before turning their attention to the world of USB audio interfaces.
Released in 2017, their debut in this department was a boldly unconventional and incredibly well-featured desktop interface. The AudioFuse offered not only mic and line inputs but also digital I/O, monitor control, turntable connections and probably an attachment for getting stones out of horses' hooves. It sounded very good and offered some unique features, including a rather quirky approach to direct monitoring and cue mixing.
After poking their toe in the audio interface waters, Arturia held back on immersing the rest of their foot, and it was not until this year's NAMM show that two further AudioFuses were announced. The AudioFuse Studio, yet to touch down on the SOS helipad, is an expanded and restyled AudioFuse with additional features and I/O. The subject of this review is the AudioFuse 8Pre, which takes one of the key strengths of the original and heads off in a rather different direction.
The 8Pre is primarily a showcase for the DiscretePro mic preamp technology Arturia developed for the original AudioFuse. It's a 1U-high unit that can be rackmounted or used as a tabletop device by applying the supplied feet/ears attachments as you so desire. It provides eight analogue inputs, each with a mic preamp, and 10 analogue outs, plus a headphone socket duplicated on quarter– and eighth-inch mini-jacks. And it can be connected either directly to your computer over USB, or to another interface such as the original AudioFuse as an ADAT expander. It has dual ADAT in and out ports, but the second pair is there only to retain the full channel count at 96kHz — you can't get more than eight channels. There's also word clock I/O, but no S/PDIF or MIDI. Computer interfacing is handled through a single USB-C port, and the package includes two USB cables, one C-C and one with the Type A connector for older machines.
Like its antecedent, the AudioFuse 8Pre offers features that are not commonly found in this sort of price bracket. All of its eight inputs have independent signal paths for the XLR and jack components of their combi sockets, meaning that line-level signals bypass the mic preamps for the cleanest possible sound. Phantom power is switchable on a per-channel basis, and the first two inputs feature not only the usual high-impedance mode for connecting electric guitars, but balanced insert send and return sockets on quarter-inch jacks. Thoughtfully, the main combi sockets for these two inputs are duplicated on front and rear panels, and plugging something into the front socket automatically overrides a rear-panel connection. You can therefore leave the 8Pre wired up in a studio rack while retaining the ability to...