PreSonus AudioBox GO audio interface review: A tidy little toolbox

While recording audio on the go becomes easier every day with smartphones and other portable recording devices, the sound quality and flexibility of a dedicated audio interface is still hard to beat when looking to create a polished product. Earlier this year, audio manufacturer PreSonus launched the AudioBox GO, their smallest and lightest audio interface ever, with the aim of giving musicians, recorders and mixing engineers access to recording and high-resolution audio monitoring anywhere. To keep it ultra-portable, the AudioBox GO has a very limited feature set and few connectivity options, making it best suited for streamers, musicians, and other content creators who don’t have need to record more than one microphone at a time. I recently had the opportunity to test the AudioBox GO in my home studio in a variety of monitoring and recording scenarios, and was pleased with its overall sound quality and ease of use. Let’s dive in and explore if the AudioBox GO is flexible enough for real-world recording scenarios.

The design of the PreSonus AudioBox GO

The PreSonus AudioBox GO has a 4.25-by-3.3-inch footprint and a height of 1.73 inches, and it weighs just over half a pound, which is a little more than the average smartphone. The interface has two input channels and two output channels. Input 1 is a combination TRS/XLR jack that accepts line level signals from equipment such as samplers and keyboards, as well as microphones. Input two is a TS instrument input that accepts direct signal from unbalanced and unamplified sources like electric guitars and electric basses. Its two output channels correspond to the left and right channels of its single stereo output, accessible via two TRS outputs on the rear panel, as well as a headphone output on the front.

All of the AudioBox GO’s manual controls are mounted on its front panel for easy access and include two knobs to control the gain of inputs one and two, a master volume knob, a headphone volume knob, and a mix knob. which allows users to adjust the mix between computer playback and live input audio. The 48 volt phantom power is also switchable via a button on the front panel, allowing users to send additional power to the XLR connector for compatibility with condenser mics and other phantom-powered equipment (don’t forget XLR cables).

One of the most attractive elements of the AudioBox GO is its bus-powered design that allows it to operate through a single USB-C connection. This makes it a truly portable interface option that can be used with any computer, Android or iOS device to record just about anywhere. Internal sound XMAX-L microphone preamp also offers 50 decibels of gain, which is enough to power condenser mics but slightly below ideal specs for dynamic microphones like the Shure SM58, at least on paper.

PreSonus AudioBox GO interface with headphones and a quarter for scale
The AudioBox GO, shown here at a quarter scale, is smaller than an average pair of headphones. Julian Vittorio

Getting Started with PreSonus AudioBox GO

With its plug-and-play design, setting up the AudioBox GO is quick and easy. While the interface comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable for connecting to laptops and computers, unfortunately you’ll need to bring your own USB-C to USB-C cable if you’re connecting an Android Apple Lightning camera to USB for iOS devices. For my tests, I connected the AudioBox GO to my MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo via USB and opened the digital audio workstation of my choice, Logic Pro X, where the interface was immediately visible and available for use in the software. I followed by connecting a Shure SM58 vocal microphone to the combo input of the AudioBox GO via XLR and connecting a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones to the headphone output of the interface (a classic pair for mixing /personal monitoring).

Right off the bat, the weight of the XLR cable tugged on the incredibly light AudioBox GO, causing it to slip and slide a bit on the table. Fortunately, PreSonus includes a sheet of four adhesive rubber feet to attach to the bottom of the interface that should theoretically fix this problem, but since I was using a demo model, I left them out for my test. If you end up choosing an AudioBox GO, it’s definitely not a step to skip.

IMAGE-2 “AudioBox GO’s rear I/O connections keep your workspace tidyXXX.” Ah-di-oh-a-GO-go

PreSonus AudioBox GO back panel on a table
AudioBox GO’s rear I/O connections help keep your workspace tidy. Julian Vittorio

The sound of the PreSonus AudioBox GO

Although very compact, the AudioBox GO is capable of high-resolution 24-bit/96kHz analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog conversion, allowing users to record and monitor audio with standard quality of industry. I tested the AudioBox GO’s D/A conversion by first loading an existing 24-bit/96kHz Logic session I’m currently working on and directly comparing its playback quality to that of a Universal Audio Apollo x8 , an interface that costs about 20 times more. While the AudioBox GO’s 0.004% harmonic distortion and 90dB dynamic range are well below the Apollo x8 specs of 0.0002% and 112dB, I found the difference between the two was negligible in the context of general playback compared to the same pair of Sony MDR-7506 Headphones.

Following my playback test, I used the AudioBox GO to record a series of vocal and vocal tracks through a Shure SM58, a common vocal mic preferred in studios and live sound applications for its clear, present response. in the mediums. The AudioBox GO’s built-in XMAX-L preamp sounded surprisingly neutral and precise, without the characteristic artificial “air” or high-end enhancement of some budget preamps.

The 50dB of preamp gain was more than enough to draw enough signal from the SM58 and, more importantly, I was also able to maximize the mic preamp gain without introducing much white noise, which is a rare feat in the budget world interfaces. To complete the recording test, I followed by plugging in a Fender MB-98 Mustang Bass straight into input two of the AudioBox GO and recording a few fingerstyle and select bass parts, all of which sounded as expected: dynamic, full and neutral.

Compared to the similarly priced Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen), which also has two inputs for microphones and instruments, the AudioBox GO offers approximately 10dB less gain and does not include high amplification ( “Air”) integrated to improve the audio at the entrance. In the world of digital audio, it’s easy to increase gain, change EQ, and make other changes to audio through software after it’s been recorded, but it’s a noticeable difference when comparing the pre-production tone captured by the two interfaces when working out of the box.

As promised, the AudioBox GO’s mix button provided latency-free monitoring of my input signal, which is a key feature that ensures consecutive performances line up properly with previously recorded material. This type of knob-controlled manual signal mixing may not be the most elegant system for balancing the mixing of computer playback and live signal versus the native latency-free monitoring offered in level devices. superior like the Universal Audio Apollo x8, but it’s very intuitive to use and adds to the simple, streamlined appeal of the AudioBox GO.

Although I haven’t had a chance to install and test it, the AudioBox GO also includes a free license for PreSonus Studio One Premium, a simple edition of the company’s popular recording software. Unlike the free editions of some competing DAWs like Ableton Live Lite, Studio One Prime allows users to create sessions with an unlimited number of audio tracks and instruments, making it a uniquely versatile choice among free DAWs for beginners. musical production.

PreSonus AudioBox GO with a MacBook, microphone and headphones
A MacBook Pro and Shure SM58 paired with the AudioBox GO makes for a fantastic minimalist recording rig. Julian Vittorio

So who should buy the PreSonus AudioBox GO?

The PreSonus AudioBox GO is marketed as one of the smallest, lightest and most portable audio interfaces available today, and it delivers on that promise at a very affordable price. Its high-resolution AD/DA conversion and bus-powered design make it a solid choice for creating audio content on the go without compromising sound quality or having to lug bigger, heavier gear alongside your computer or mobile device. .

The AudioBox GO has a very small number of input and output channels, limiting users to a single microphone or line-level source and a single instrument, as well as two redundant stereo outputs for monitors. studio and headphones. This limited I/O makes it less suitable for live recording from multiple artists, but the AudioBox GO is affordable enough to be a no-brainer for podcasters, musicians, and other creators who mix and edit audio or record. one track at a time. If you’re almost sold on the AudioBox GO but need a dual microphone option, the PreSonus USB96 works the same way and is also USB bus-powered.