Audio interfaces are definitely a popular piece of gear, but nowadays we like to get a lot more strict when it comes to really judging what newer models can bring to the music equipment world. We were super excited to see this thing from a distance as we were walking up to the PreSonus booth. With 24-bit, 192 kHz analog-to-digital converters (audio quality is always our biggest gripe), USB-C connection for desktop use and an overall user-friendly design with extra control features to take our recording to the next level, we had to get our hands on this thing at least for a little while at NAMM 2020. We were able to watch a demo and jot down our thoughts of what we thought was most important to understand about this audio interface and controller before making the buy. Here’s our PreSonus ioStation 24C review.
Features of the PreSonus ioStation 24C
- USC-C connectivity
- Two (2) built-in XMAX micropone preamps
- Touch-sensitive motorized fader
- Two (2) mic/instrument/line combo inputs
- Two (2) balanced 1/4″ TRS main outs
- Mixer knob for direct input monitoring
- Compatible with macOS and Windows
- 360 button encoder
- Various controls for streamlined recording process
- Software included: Studio One Artist (Mac and PC), Studio Magic Collection (6 GB of loops, samples, sounds, plugins, instruments, etc.)
Build and design of the ioStation 24C
As this is one of our favorite brands for their ‘Faderports’ and audio interfaces in general, we were excited to see what this is going to bring to the table, considering this controller \ audio interface essentially brings both of those together in one piece of gear. Let’s talk design and what ins and outs we have at the back of the unit. We have two class-A mic preamps, and a big plus for us in audio interfaces is being able to have combo connectors to give us flexibility in plugging in microphones or instruments which we have here. There are also the standard balanced outs for studio monitor speakers, a TRS stereo headphone amp, and a footswitch (for those of you who use them — nifty for punching in and out or starting and stopping recording).
Now that we’ve taken a look at the back panel, let’s get deep into what controls are actually on the top unit itself (considering it’s labeled as a ‘controller’, this is going to be make or break for most of you). Noted first here are the microphone preamp gain pots, and we have two of those (for each output), an LED indicator to notify our signal presence which can also tell us about clipping, a line level button (changes from instrument to line level), and of course 48V phantom power for your mics. We also like their ‘mix knob’ which gives us the power to monitor our inputs with zero latency to blend in with the play back in our computer. Mix in some muting (this was big for us because a lot of interfaces don’t have this ability — you can mute your monitors on and off for play back) and extra volume controls for headphones and master and we have quite a lot at our fingertips already when it comes to the more standard controls of audio interfaces.
You can look at the photos to get more of a feel of the standard controls we’ll have, as we want to move on to the actual control surface the ioStation 24C brings. We especially liked the convenient touch-sensitive moving fader (100mm), full transport controls (stop, play, fast forward, rewind), solo, muting and arming tracks, bypassing plug-ins, and automation modes. All of these also have secondary functions by holding that shift button up top in the right corner, but most are accessible using their Studio One software and may not work with other DAW.
Now as we reach the middle of board under that main volume knob, there is a ‘link’ button that can (again, Studio One feature) link any parameter to the blue encoder (maybe linking up your lead reverb fader to that instead, you can also do plug-in parameters too). Finally we have some song navigation where you can do so by either section or markers. The reason this will be useful is because of certain situations in recording, such as a guitar solo or particular part of a verse — marking a spot can be useful (especially when we’re recording by ourselves) when it comes to navigating through your song and editing a specific piece of your track. These bottom four buttons can also act in secondary functions by holding shift, and these in particular can be assigned literally anything in your DAW (which say F1 – F4 in the grey box). So ultimately, we have four fully customizable and assignable buttons here, which is a big win in our opinion.
As you can see, there are a lot of additive little features that we aren’t really sure are useful to some, while others may see it as very efficient for their workflow. It’s going to really depend on your style of recording. This is because we know many musicians (such as ourselves) who are just super quick in their DAW when it comes to hot keys and familiarity, while we know others who are more hands-on and analog with their engineering. It’s going to be subjective. We’ll expand more upon these thoughts but ultimately these highlighted features are going to depend on person and whether or not you think it’s worth spending some money to streamline some of these parts of the recording process.
Concluding our PreSonus ioStation 24C review
The ioStation 24C is essentially what they called your “studio assistant in a box”, providing both a high-res 192 kHz interface with a full-featured controller all-in-one. It’s great for anybody recording audio in a studio (we’d say it’s portable as well if you’re ever on the go), especially for musicians, streamers, and podcasters. This isn’t necessarily a live performing controller either and is geared towards just recording, although we could see a few people being able to use a few of the features for stages if they needed to. Otherwise, there are better live performance controllers out there for those who really need to focus on the stage.
The workflow is streamlined here and we’re especially digging the controls at our fingertips while we record or are mixing. As we stated previously, we’re not going to say this is worth it or not for you — it’s going to really depend on the way that you work. In our opinion if you want to learn this controller well and can incorporate it into your recording flow, we’re all for it. If you’re using Studio One, even better. We’re digging the navigation features, their touch fader, and of course the smaller, nifty features such as muting your monitors or being able to link up certain parameters that we need at that particular recording moment. As stated previously, we as of now personally just use our DAW for all of these controls, as we’re pretty quick with hot keys and basically have our formula down already. However we’re always open to additions or improvements.
If you’re still on the fence with all of this being said, it’s honestly going to be important if you use Studio One or not. There are many ‘strictly Studio One features’ here so we’re not going to say it’s make or break, because it is indeed quite compatible with other popular DAWs out there (they told us it’s compatible using Huey for Pro Tools and MCU for other DAW, and custom MCU modes for Logic and Ableton). However, it will definitely be a bigger plus if you do use Studio One because every single feature will be integrated natively very seamlessly. Or perhaps you’d like to try the software out? We are getting a fresh copy of Studio One Artist in the box to try out, and we think it’s a solid DAW for a long-term investment if you are beginning and need software, or perhaps want to experiment with a new workstation.
In terms of being completely ground-breaking? We wouldn’t say so, however we think it’s brilliant for people who are shopping for a new audio interface, want a whopping 192 kHz resolution to their recordings, and also want some extra controls at their fingertips to streamline their workflow. Why not? In our opinion the creative process only improves once we’re able to get more of our ideas down to the software from our brains, and the PreSonus ioStation 24C can definitely do that.