Price: Discountinued (originally $450)
Pros: Very good quality audio recording and reproduction. Great set of inputs/outputs
Cons: Firewire can be problematic on laptop chips. No input level monitoring
Model: Firebox (Discontinued)
My Initial Experiences
When I first started making music and editing on the computer (in my teen years) I simply used the audio card built into the computer and a pair of headphones (whatever was laying around). Slowly I began to get better at what I was doing and wanted to start to progress into more professional gear. The first purchase I made was quality headphones (AKG K240 Studio Monitor Headphones) which then prompted the need for a decent audio feed.
At the time I had no real need for audio inputs or Mic recording as I didn't do a lot of this but wanted the option. I was also very interested (though not really sure why at the time) of having multiple audio outputs. Researching units at the time I found the Presonus Firebox to be right in the middle of what I wanted.
When I initially purchased the firebox it was back in 2004 on an older PC and I really didn't have much experience with this level of equipment but after I connected it to my firewire port and installed the drivers and put on my headphones for the first time I heard only silence.... This was a great thing to hear. Being so use to using just my computer sound card I always had a "hiss" in the headphones from the noisy amps. The firebox was dead silent until the music started to flow and instantly I could hear what I never had before. The complete detail of what made a music track.
- High Speed Firewire connectivity (with passthrough firewire port)
- 24bit\96Khz recording over all inputs
- 2 x Combo XLR\TRS inputs on the front with high quality pre-amps for the XLR inputs and Gain Controls.
- 2 x Line Level TRS inputs on the back
- 1 x Digital Coax Input (stereo)
- 6ch Analogue Output (2ch main and 4 ch sub)
- 1 x Digital Output (stereo)
- 48v Phantom Power for XLR inputs
- Input signal clip indicators
- Headphone monitoring of any input or output with gain control (software mixer)
- Main level control
- MIDI I/O
- Included power supply (but can run from firewire power)
The build quality of this thing is excellent. The whole thing is built from steel and aluminum and even the control knobs are machined aluminum. It has a solid weighty feel and almost everything seems like it was well considered and implemented... Then you get to the Firewire connector itself.
It just seems SUCH a shame to have something so well built and then it looks like they ran out of quality parts so just popped in any old connector for the firewire port. The connector sticks way out the back instead of being nice and flush ant though this really isn't a concern of cosmetics it does affect the quality of the mechanical connection of the cable. With the connector sticking out of the casing the cable is free to wiggle and bend the sides of the connector which makes it loose and can cause the cable to disconnect or be loose which can cause ground buzz issues etc. In a fixed studio environment it is fine but something to be aware of.
It is great. Recording at any of the quality settings is no problema nd recording using all inputs and outputs is a snap. The Mic pre-amps are very quiet and I cannot detect any hiss on any of the outputs or headphone monitoring. The interface has been used with Cubase, Ableton Live, Buzz Tracker, Vegas Pro 9 and handles all the tasks just fine.
Latency can be set quite low with a good processor. I can set overall latency below 12ms on a core i7 3.2Ghz PC without issue.
Testing with some computer games though presents an issue. I do not have games installed on my studio rig PC but I hot-swap the main drive out with a different OS drive to play games on the machine if I want and some games will cause pops and clicks from the interface but these are minor. Music and video production work is just fine.
Usage & Reliability
This interface has been used on a number of different PCs over the years in my studio. It doesn't go out on the road as I have other interfaces for that but in the studio it has always performed at a top level and has not normally had issues. Occasionally I have found the audio interface isn't recognised by Windows when I start the PC but I could not count that out as a firewire port issue on the PC or a driver issue. Typically an unplug and replug will fix that and it is very rare.
Usage is very easy as the software mixer allows simple access to all the mixing and settings for the interface and it is very quick to monitor between any inputs or software with the headphones. One nice feature is that if you have the AC plug pack connected and simply power the firebox ON it will rout the Line In to the Master output allowing anything you have connected to the line inputs to be heard through the mixers out on your monitor speakers without having to power on the PC. This can be handy when you just need to hear something from the mixing desk without the PC being on.
Using with a laptop seems to be problematic. I tried this interface with 2 different laptops and had issues with audio dropouts and clicks/pops that I just cold not resolve. From my research it appears to be an issue related to the firewire chips in the laptop sharing hardware resources with other hardware such as video cards. I tested expansion firewire cards but again still had issues. I invested in a USB interface for laptop which didn't have issues at all.
This device has been a great partner in my setup for over a decade and has sat quietly doing its job without so much as a complaint. For that I have to give it great marks. It is no longer available and has been replaced by the Presonus Firestudio which is a very similar looking interface but is USB powered instead of firewire. Back in the days the firewire connection was basically dedicated for high speed audio and video connections but now days USB 3 can replace this and sems to be a little more forgiving and reliable. If I was to replace this interface I would probably look at a USB device but for the time being it still has a place.