Reviews

Road Test: The New PreSonus StudioLive 64S

Putting the recently introduced flagship of the StudioLive Series III line of digital consoles through its paces.

The software has some growing pains, as I would expect from any platform in its early stages. One particular feature warrants a caution: I’ve been known to do a quick factory reset on any desk I encounter in the wild to ward off any “Ghosts of Users Past,” and on the 64S this can be accomplished by holding the FX key during powerup.

However, if you accidentally hold the adjacent Home key instead, you’ll roll back the console’s firmware. There’s no USB-A port on the console to quickly remedy this via your touring USB key – you’ll need either an SD-card with the firmware file, or a laptop running PreSonus Universal Control software. I see the value of having an emergency firmware rollback function, but I would feel a bit more comfortable if the required key combination was less likely to be triggered by accident.

Looking Further

In terms of the interface and console layout, here’s what I found. Cold boot time is less than 50 seconds, and the footprint is trim and fit, especially the NSB 16.8 stage boxes, which are by far the smallest, lightest, and sleekest design of a 16 x 8 stage box I’ve used to date, and I really like them. (There’s even a thoughtful feature that allows you to hold the stage box’s “Mute All” button to disable it, eliminating one source of gig anxiety for me.)

I was able to get the stage boxes connected and patched within a few minutes, without checking the manual. However, with the current AVB implementation, latency is not where it should be. I measured a latency through the desk itself (analog mic pre input to main output) to be just shy of 2 milliseconds at 44.1 kHz, but with a round trip from and back to the stage box added in, I measured close to 7 ms, which is high for professional in-ear monitoring mixing applications. PreSonus has informed me that they recognize the latency issue and further, they have an update planned for later this year that should lower the AVB latency significantly.

The I/O capabilities on the back of the 64S as well as the NSB 16.8 AVB stage box.

There’s a lot of backlit controls and buttons, which is great for working in low-light situations. The LEDs that backlight the worksurface buttons had an intermittent flicker that I noticed in dark environments. With 64 inputs, clear and intuitive labeling is a must, and the scribble strips are clear and bright.

Future-Think

The mixer is well integrated with PreSonus StudioOne DAW software, especially for studio work, and the Capture multitrack recording software streamlines the virtual sound check process. When VSC tracks reside either in Capture or on an SD card, the console will automatically handle the routing changes.

However, if using other software platforms – the acts I currently work with predominately use Logic Pro X and Waves Tracks Live – there isn’t currently a way to “flip over” all the desk inputs at once to the DAW for virtual soundcheck and then flip back to the live inputs; the best way to do this is to hold down the “USB” input source button, tap each input channel’s select key, and then release the button.

I would love to see a future menu option to streamline this process down to a single click. Both the scene management/automation system and the cue/solo system are pretty basic in their current state.

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In conclusion, the 64S is a jump forward in power and capability for the StudioLive series, and certainly punches above its weight in terms of channel count. Existing StudioLive users (and analog junkies) will be delighted with the increased capabilities and the channel plugin feature. There are some functionality gaps in its current state, but since many of them are on the software side of things, I believe that forthcoming firmware updates will even further increase the platform’s appeal. Find out more about the 64S here.

StudioLive 64S MAP: $4,399.95; NSB 16.8 AVB MAP: $799.95; NSB 8.8 AVB (8in/8out) stage box MAP: $599.95