by Stefan Wyeth | 4,5 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 5 Minutes
The Best ADAT Preamps for your home studio

The Best ADAT Preamps for your home studio.  ·  Source: SSL / Audient EVO

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Whether you’re doing multitrack recording, mixing, or incorporating hardware into your DAW workflow, preamp expanders can make your life easier in many ways. We’ve selected some of the best ADAT preamps for these purposes and we’ll look at why.

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We’ve discussed the origins of the ADAT format previously. So with a basic understanding of how optical Lightpipe devices work, let’s take a look at how digital mic preamp expanders can be used in your home recording setup.

It’s important to note that these devices incorporate an analogue to digital conversion stage. This means that regardless of how clean and pristine the signal may be from the preamp inputs, the quality of the converters plays a crucial role.

Clocking and jitter

When syncing multiple digital devices to the same sample rate, Word clock ensures that they are linked per sample. A sample rate of 48 kHz means that 48000 samples are linked per second, and this is where jitter comes into play.

Jitter is the result of any deviation between the linked converters. The higher the sample rate, the more room there is for error. So keep in mind the sample rate you plan on working with when selecting any digital device you’d like to add to your setup.

For this reason, you can’t expect to run multichannel high-res (192 kHz and above) conversion on budget gear. Steady clocking and jitter accuracy are why the more high-end converters cost as much as they do.

Choosing the best ADAT preamps

Although they all perform a similar function, ADAT pres range in price. While some offer high-quality preamps and conversion stages, others are equipped with additional digital connectivity formats like MADI.

To expand the tracking and mixing capabilities of your setup, we’re looking at rack-mountable preamp expander modules with a minimum of 8 analogue inputs or more.

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Audient EVO SP8

The SP8 offers the EVO series Smartgain system in a preamp expansion model. The multichannel Smartgain feature works seamlessly over up to 24 channels, provided you have the EVO 16 interface, with two SP8 preamp modules.

Audient EVO SP8

Even if you don’t have an EVO interface, this is still an excellent ADAT preamp with great preamps and conversion that offers up to 24-bit 96 kHz recording. Moreover, the EVO series has got to be some of the easiest recording gear to use, with its simple interface and clearly laid out front panel.

This makes the SP8 a great choice for home recording, with LCD metering and a pair of conveniently placed JFET instrument inputs.

EVO SP8
EVO SP8
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Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre

As a recording frontend, the Clarett+ OctoPre gives you plenty of value for the price. Its converters are excellent, and the preamps are modeled on the renowned ISA 110. Also, there are 2 instrument inputs and 8 insert points, which provide a great deal of flexibility.

Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre
Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre

It can record up to 4 channels at 192 kHz or 8 channels at 48 or 96 kHz so you get a decent expansion on your current interface. In addition, the Sub-D25 output is useful for integrating with your patchbay or mixer.

Overall, the Clarett+ OctoPre provides a good balance of utility and sound quality. It also comes with a collection of software from XLN Audio, Softube, Antares, and Brainworx.

Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre
Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre
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Audient ASP 880

The ASP 880 is nothing new, but it is still one of the best choices of ADAT preamps available. There are two instrument inputs, and each of the 8 preamps has its own individual switches for phantom power, HPF, polarity, and converter bypass.

Audient ASP 880
Audient ASP 880

In addition, there is a Sub-D25 connector for both send and return, giving you flexible routing options for your insert path. What makes this a slightly more precise preamp is the variable controls for HPF and three impedance settings.

This is why the ASP 880 continues to be used in such a wide variety of audio setups including recording and broadcast studios.

Audient ASP 880
Audient ASP 880
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SSL Pure Drive

The SSL Pure Drive microphone preamp range offers two flexible solutions with four and eight preamps. Apart from the 192 kHz 32-bit AD conversion, the Pure Drive pres also function as USB audio interfaces.

  • Pure Drive Quad
  • Pure Drive Octo

As you can expect from SSL, the routing and connectivity options are unmatched. From insert sends and returns to AES/EBU outputs and word clock, the Pure Drive has it all.

In addition, the preamps themselves offer a range of features, with precise gain and trim controls, metering, variable high-pass filters, and three drive modes including Classic-Drive, Asymmetric-Drive, and Clean.

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SSL Pure Drive Quad
SSL Pure Drive Quad
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SSL Pure Drive Octo
SSL Pure Drive Octo No customer rating available yet
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RME 12Mic

If you’ve got the budget for high-end conversion, the RME 12Mic offers 12 incredibly transparent and low-noise preamps (4 x combo, 8 x XLR inputs) with RME’s unique SteadyClock FS technology.

RME 12Mic
RME 12Mic

The 12Mic also supports a wide range of digital formats including ADAT, MADI, and AVB. RME is also known for stable drivers, and the software routing matrix makes it easy to adjust your setup to take on different tasks.

The price may be steep and there’s certainly no bundled software, but if you’ve used RME’s pres or converters before, you’ll know it’s more than justified.

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RME 12Mic
RME 12Mic
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*Note: This article contains promotional links that help us fund our site. Don’t worry: the price for you always stays the same! We will receive a small commission if you buy something through these links. We appreciate your support!

Image Sources:
  • Audient EVO SP8: Audient EVO
  • Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre: Focusrite
  • Audient ASP 880: Audient
  • Pure Drive Quad: SSL
  • Pure Drive Octo: SSL
  • RME 12Mic: RME
The Best ADAT Preamps for your home studio

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2 responses to “The Best ADAT Preamps for your home studio”

    T says:
    2

    If you have the budget, the Cranborne Audio 500ADAT is awesome. You can load it up with any variety of 500 series modules (pres, dynamics, effects, etc) and pipe them in via ADAT. Great sounding piece of gear, built like tank and extremely versatile!

    Actually Steve says:
    1

    PreSonus Digimax FS 8. It might be old but it’s an honest piece of kit. Plenty of headroom, INs and OUTs that beat all of these other options dollar for dollar. Get one if you can find it!

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