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Presonus Digimax D8 Review

Brandon Drury —  July 8, 2009

The Presonus Digimax D8 is an 8-channel preamp / analog to digital converter with ADAT out allowing additional eight channels of simultaneous recording to any audio interface with ADAT inputs. It competes with products such as the M-Audio Octane. I won’t bore you with the features. You can read about them here or at the Digimax D8 page of the Presonus website .

Preamps
I liked the preamps in the D8. While a little research will tell you that they are super similar to the preamps found in the Presonus Firestudio (I believe their name for these is XMAX which I believe is a series of movies starring Mel Gibson.) I don’t care what anyone online says, the preamps in Digimax D8 are clearly not the same preamps in the Firestudio. By adding the additional five dB of gain something clearly changed. This was reflected in every preamp shootout I conducted with the Digimax D8 in multiple blind tests for the Killer Home Recording Series. These preamps are a step up from the Firestudio and I have the proof in the Killer Home Recording shootouts .

The preamps sounded very good to me. They certainly weren’t in the league of the Neve family stuff, Vintech 1272 and Great River MEQ-1NV; the Manley TNT, or Presonus ADL 600. Then again, the preamps in the D8 cost between 1/20th and 1/50th the price of the monsters they were up against. Regardless, the Digimax D8 preamps certainly did not sound cheap. I put this in the “nothing gained, nothing lost” category. We could call these “normal” preamps if we wanted to. If I didn’t have access to my fancier toys (and the necessary credit to obtain those toys) I would gladly be able to use the D8 day in and day out without fret. Hence, the preamps in the D8 are ideal home recording preamps.

It’s really tough to right anything overly sensational about D8 preamps. They didn’t win any shootouts, but never did I not like the sound of them. If you are willing to sell your new car or skip six vacations you could get incrementally better preamps, but I can guarantee that if you are in the market for 8 preamps in this price range you will be more than happy with the Digimax D8.

Digimax D8 vs M-Audio Octane
I’m sure those of you here aren’t really all that concerned how the 8 channel D8 fairs against a one channel Great River preamp. Minivan shoppers typically aren’t overly interested in an 8mph Lamborgini. So how does the Digimax D8 compare to the Octane? I’ve owned an Octane for close to two years so I know it fairly well. They certainly had their character differences, but in the end I feel the exact same way about both of them. They both sound pretty good most of the time. Each seems to have strengths in different areas, but I consider the two to be entirely interchangeable. I’ve found Presonus to be a cooler company to deal with, personally, and the D8 is quite a bit cheaper.

Metering
One thing I did like about the Digimax D8 was the metering. It was four LEDs arranged in a way that makes adjusting levels super easy. I always set my preamp levels by the meters within Cubase, but I found their metering to most useful when dealing with retard drummers. (Yeah, I know. I’m stating the obvious. That’s like saying “red blood”, “wet water”, or “tall skyscraper”.) No matter what you do, it always seems like drummers always play at ¼ intensity during soundcheck while setting preamp levels. When the real deal session starts, they always seem to make preamps clip and even though you compensated with relatively low levels already, they always seem to engage the autogain circuit in their brains to hit the drums just hard enough to clip. They think it’s really funny, apparently. For some reason, I always feel extra uncomfortable when tom tracks are spiking through the roof. I found the metering in the Digimax D8 made me feel more calm. The metering made it much easier to see when clipping set in and gave a clear idea of how much headroom I had within the preamp. This may seem like a small detail – and I guess it is – but I found it worth noting.

Gripes
The only gripe that comes to mind is the ADAT cable was not included with the Digimax D8. I’m sure this an issue of hitting a price point and I really don’t think it’s a big deal. I could just imagine having to run to the local store to get the thing to work and paying 10x as much for a cable I could have ordered along with the Digimax. It’s one of those small flaws of capitalism that no one is going to put a gigantic red sticker stating “ADAT Cable Not Included!”. So fair warning!

Conclusion
If you are considering buying a Digimax D8, just go ahead and do it. As an owner of the Presonus M80, Vintech 1272, M-Audio Octane, and Manley TNT I can assure you that the Digimax D8 is a screaming value. There are other options out there, but at this price point you aren’t going to beat the D8.

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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4 responses to Presonus Digimax D8 Review

  1. I love my D8 too, completely different preamps than Firestudio. It’s my first purchase with ADAT lightpipe, but after a little researching I wish I had bumped up to an ADAT converter that can do 96k sample rating. The D8 only has 41k and 48k. Maybe I don’t “need” it right now for drum tracking but my computer is fast enough to handle 16 tracks of 96k, and I’d like to have the option.
    But overall, very good piece.

  2. i own a d8, just bought it a few months ago, im using it with the digi003, and simply no comparison.

    bass, drums vocals, all crystal clear.

    i don’t have thousands for a preamp, i would have liked to use the FX series which you can go above 44.1, be warned you cannot daisy chain this preamp, those are the 2 limitations, if ur cool with that and on a budget, need clear reproduction, this is it.

  3. Why would any preamp come with cables other than the power cable? They have no clue how you’re going to hook it up (nor with what length of cable), so it’s wise not to include any. The price would obviously have to be higher, and many buyers wouldn’t need the included cable anyway.

  4. Why would any preamp come with cables other than the power cable?

    Good question. The Digimax D8 is intended for ADAT Lightpipe usage. So there isn’t a whole lot of guessing that goes with how you are going to hook it up.

    The cable is certainly not a big issue by any means. It would certainly add some cost to the unit. However, due to the specialty nature of that particular cable, it’s not the kind of thing that people would usually have a dozen sitting around. I just wanted to make it clear to everyone reading the review that you would have to also purchase an ADAT cable and it would best to do it when ordering so you don’t have to run out to your local electronics story and pay 10-20x as much.

    Brandon