Today, we’ll be reviewing the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 audio interface.
This is an entry-level interface, and modestly priced at only $100. Let’s see if it’s worth the expense.
Our verdict on the AudioBox USB 96
For the price and performance, this interface surprisingly holds its own amongst its competitors.
While folks in film and gaming may want something with higher resolution, young recording artists can’t really go wrong with one of these by their side.
I/O and controls
On the front panel are two combo XLR/TRS inputs, both of which have their own designated gain control dials.
They feature Class A mic preamps and also offer 48 V phantom power, which is great if you’re wanting to use condenser mics for vocals or acoustic guitar.
Each gain dial for the inputs has a little LED light which will flash red if you’re clipping, so make sure to set your levels correctly before tracking.
There is a mixer knob for direct monitoring, allowing you to blend between the direct signal of the interface and the signal coming through your DAW.
There is also a main master control as well as a volume dial for your headphones.
On the rear panel, you’ll find a USB-C port, MIDI I/O, two balanced TRS outputs, and oddly, a 1/4″ output for your headphones.
Usually, the headphone output is located on the front so we found this choice to be a bit strange, but it has no obvious downsides.
The unit has A/D resolution of 24-bit at 96 kHz playback. The 96 kHz is actually where the unit gets its name. This is standard resolution for professional recording.
However, at both ends of the frequency response (20 Hz – 20 kHz) there is a drop off of about 2 dB.
This isn’t abnormal for budget-priced interfaces under $100, but it’s worth noting.
The preamps are okay here. They’re transparent enough for most purposes, although some of you may want to consider investing into a decent external.
They have a gain range of 105 dB, which is fairly common for interfaces in this range.
At home studio
The AudioBox USB 96 is incredibly small, much smaller than many other interfaces at around 1.75″ tall, and 5.5″ wide and deep.
This means it can fit snugly into the crevice of a desk, and is ideal for artists with small bedroom setups.
We still find it odd that the headphone output is located on the rear panel, but working around this isn’t terrible.
Because of its lightweight and small size, this unit is great for mobile recording. Plus, it’s bus powered and requires no external power.
The unit is encased in a sturdy metal shell, and feels quite durable. There isn’t any wiggle in the inputs and outputs to note, and all the knobs feel solid.
The unit comes with PreSonus’s own Studio One Artist DAW, as well as the Studio Magic Plug-In Suite.
While the DAW isn’t the greatest out there, it’s decently user-friendly. Beginners shouldn’t have too much trouble plugging in and making music immediately after opening the box.
Compared to other audio interfaces
AudioBox USB 96 vs. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
While the Scarlett is the superior interface, it is $80 more expensive. If you have the means, opt for the 2i2.
AudioBox USB 96 vs. Focusrite Scarlett Solo
If you need MIDI I/O, the AudioBox has you covered. If not, you can’t really go wrong with either.
AudioBox USB 96 vs. Behringer UMC202HD
While the Behringer doesn’t have MIDI I/O, it has better A/D resolution and Midas preamps. It’s also less expensive at $90.
We would personally recommend the Behringer over the AudioBox, but only if you don’t require MIDI I/O.
AudioBox USB 96 vs. AudioBox iOne
For some reason, the iOne is more expensive and has less to offer. Go with the AudioBox USB 96.
Who is the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 best suited for?
The AudioBox USB 96 is best suited for beginners and bedroom pop artists.
Perhaps the more seasoned veteran could make use of this for recording demos in the tour van.
- Durable chassis.
- Decent recording quality.
- The software bundle isn’t too great, but we’re splitting hairs.