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Preamps are very useful devices for recording and live performances, shaping the sound of the audio that is captured through an input. Having a preamp with ADAT optical outputs installed will expand the options you have to work with.
ADAT may seem confusing, but it is simply an optical audio feature that is capable of transferring digital audio from two devices. ADAT stands for Alesis Digital Audio Tape and gets its name from the popular 8-track recorder released in the early 1990s.
The optical output that we call ADAT is capable of transmitting eight channels of 24-bit audio, uncompressed, and at 48kHz in one direction. This makes it easy to add additional mic inputs to your recording rig.
In a Rush Roundup
How We Tested
To test these preamps with ADAT optical outputs as accurately as possible, we began by monitoring the sound quality of the inputs. By connecting different mics and instruments to the preamps, we were able to rate their transparency and tone and identify any noise issues.
Next, we tested the quality of the onboard controls and parameters to see whether they contributed positively to the functionality of the preamps. Finally, we assessed the ADAT optical outputs and how effective this feature was.
Best ADAT Preamp Reviews
The Audient ASP800 is one of the best 8-channel preamp ADAT devices in its price range. Designed to enhance the sound of your recordings, this device includes an array of impressive components and features.
Each input on the ASP800 has a high-end Audient-designed mic preamp which delivers crisp recordings with a touch of warm coloration that sounds great with condenser mics.
In addition to the eight onboard mic preamps, Audient has installed a pair of JFET D.I inputs so that you can plug in an instrument and capture it directly. These inputs are ideal for recording samplers, keyboards, drum machines, or any other electronic instrument.
One of the most interesting features that the ASP800 boasts is the “Retro” channels, which produce an analog-style, vintage sound when you plug a microphone into them and hit the record button.
These two0 channels have been designed to resemble the tube consoles that were used in the 60s and 70s, and the results are pretty impressive.
- 8 Audient Console mic preamps
- 2 JFET instrument inputs
- 118 dB Burr-Brown A-D converters
- Warm, vintage from 2 retro channels
- Transparent, low-noise recordings
- Simple operation
- No onboard effects
Focusrite’s Scarlett audio interfaces have quickly become some of the most popular devices amongst musicians and recording engineers. With the OctoPre model, you can enjoy the classic Scarlett preamp with ADAT output installed.
This device helps to increase the flexibility of your recording rig. With eight clear-sounding Focusrite 2nd gen mic and live-level preamps, it provides professional-sounding recordings of vocals and instruments.
The two instrument inputs provide impressive headroom, so you can plug in your guitars, keyboards, or other gear directly into the interface without worrying about digital distortion.
This device offers up to 109dB of dynamic range, and its ADAT optical inputs are combined with analog line outputs, making this Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre the perfect device to build your recording rig around.
The trademark 24-bit/192kHz conversion that Focusrite installs on all of its Scarlett devices ensures that the OctoPre provides impeccable digital audio.
- 8 2nd gen Scarlett mic/line level preamps
- 8 ADAT outputs at 48kHZ
- LED meter display for each channel
- Intuitive control layout
- Minimal coloration added by preamps
- Extensive dynamic range
- +48v phantom power can be applied to channels 1-5 or 5-8
Sometimes, choosing a device that is smaller and simpler to use is a better option than a more extensive, complex model. The Audient iD14 is smartly designed and won’t take up much space in your studio.
Digital recording technology has allowed musicians and content creators to take their rigs to different locations with ease. The iD14 is as portable as they come and can be easily stored away in a backpack for transportation.
This device has a pair of Class-A microphone preamps, which are complemented by its exceptional conversion. While having two inputs does limit the type of recording out can make, the ADAT outputs have got you covered.
By utilizing the ADAT optical connectivity, you can increase the number of inputs to 10 and the outputs to 6. This is ideal if you envisage yourself recording full bands of musicians in the future.
In addition to being a useful tool for musicians, the iD14 is also well suited to podcasting, vlogging, and other forms of content creation. Its portable design, coupled with its ability to capture audio with a great deal of clarity, makes it a well-rounded preamp device.
Audient has also installed a studio-quality headphone amplifier on this device. It comes with a pair of outputs that work independently of one another and can therefore be used for monitoring or listening to audio.
- 2 Class A mic preamps
- 600-ohm headphone amplifier
- JFET DI instrument input
- Compact and mobile design
- Very straightforward to use
- Records cleanly and without noise issues
- Restricted by having only two mic inputs
The PreSonus Quantum 2626 boasts a long list of impressive features and capabilities, which make it one of the best 8-channel preamp ADAT recording devices.
Latency is a common issue with audio interfaces and preamps, but thunderbolt 3 connectivity has the potential to alleviate this problem. PreSonus has used this connectivity format to ensure less than 1ms of latency at all times.
A total of six microphone/line-level inputs are installed on the Quantum 2626, all of which benefit from Class-A XMAX preamps. These preamps deliver stunning sound quality and coat the recording with gentle, warm coloration.
Another significant factor that contributes to the brilliant sound quality produced by this device is the 24-bit/192kHz converters. Offering up to 120dB of dynamic range, the Quantum 2626 can record any instrument or sound source with clarity and precision.
Two sets of ADAT inputs and outputs have been installed on the Quantum 2626, which makes it possible to expand the system significantly without any hassle.
- 120dB dynamic range
- Expandable up to 26 inputs and outputs
- 6 Class A XMAX preamps
- Delivers a pristine, accurate sound
- Prevents latency issues
- Enough input to record a full band
- Thunderbolt 3 connector required
MOTU’s 1248 wouldn’t be out of place in professional recording studios. Its four onboard mic preamps deliver a transparent sound and can be used with dynamic, condenser, or ribbon mics effectively.
A unique feature of this MOTU 1248 32×34 Thunderbolt is its hybrid connectivity. You can choose between Thunderbolt for its minimal latency or USB 2.0 for its convenience. Furthermore, it can be hooked up to iOS devices too.
Being able to switch between these popular connectivity methods is a rare quality, and it means that even if you change from PC to Mac devices in the future, you won’t need to replace this interface or purchase a converter.
EQ, compressors, and a range of onboard effects make it easy to shape the sound of your recordings before they reach your DAW’s sequencer. The digital mixer is driven by DSP, and it increases the versatility of this device.
Overall, this preamp recording device is a great choice for anyone who wants to achieve the best sound quality possible.
- 4 channel preamp ADAT device
- Onboard digital mixer
- 123dB dynamic range
- Ideal for recording many sound sources simultaneously
- Includes EQ, compressor, and effects
- Compatible with Mac or PC
- 32 inputs may be unnecessary for some people
Behringer is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of affordable music gear. The ADA8200 allows you to benefit from the expandable aspects of ADAT optical connectivity, without spending your entire budget.
This 8-channel mic preamp is based on the successful Behringer ADA8000 but features some new improvements that weren’t installed on the previous model. A total of 8 MIDAS mic preamps make capturing instrument and vocal tracks easy.
The mic preamps work in conjunction with Cirrus Logic converters, which ensure that there is no diminishment of audio quality due to the conversion process. Phantom power is included with the device, so using condenser mics is no issue.
You can sync the Behringer ADA8200 to ADAT, World Clock, or use it as the master clock in your recording studio. Also, it’s possible to choose between 44.1kHz or 48kHz to maximize compatibility with the other digital equipment you use.
This mic preamp device can also add up to 60dB of gain to the signal, which is a significant amount. Even the lowest-gain microphones, like the Shure SM7B, will be boosted to an optimal level using this device.
- 8 MIDAS mic preamps
- Cirrus Logic A/D converters
- 60dB of gain
- Affordable ADAT preamp
- Compact and lightweight
- Intuitive design and layout
- Phantom power can only be applied to none or all channels
Preamps with ADAT Optical Outputs Buyer's Guide
Due to a wide variety of preamps being available for different purposes, it’s easy to get confused by the many specs and features these devices boast. Preamps with ADAT optical outputs are great for expanding your recording rig beyond its current capabilities.
Preamps are devices that are unfairly categorized as complicated to understand, but this is simply because they can be used in many ways. In reality, a preamp is designed to improve the sound of your existing audio equipment.
Understanding the basics of how a preamp works and why ADAT optical outputs are such useful additions will allow you to maximize the positive impact the device you choose has on your overall audio rig.
Whether you’re recording music, capturing audio for podcasts or other content, or you want to expand your live sound setup, a preamp with ADAT optical connectivity is a must-have device.
You can find more detailed information on preamps with ADAT in our buyer’s guide below.
Things To Consider When Buying
Consider the number of channels
The more channels a preamp device has, the more sound sources you will be able to record or process simultaneously. For example, having six inputs will allow you to mic up each drum individually if you’d like to use the preamp for recording a live drum kit.
Think about coloration
Preamps that are installed on the mic and instrument-level inputs are designed to add color to the signal. Some sound more transparent, while others produce a warmer sound. It’s important to consider the sound you want because the coloration cannot be removed once it’s recorded.
Consider rack mounting
Depending on the specifics of your studio setup, you may want to consider purchasing a preamp with ADAT optical outputs that are rack-mountable. This will allow you to keep all of your outboard gear in one place and easily transport it for recordings or live performances.
Identify the effects you need
The best preamps and recording devices often come with onboard effects and processing tools. EQ, compression, reverb, and delays are four of the most common features that you’re likely to find on these devices.
Mic/Instrument Input Preamps
The quality of a recording device is largely determined by the microphone and instrument preamps installed on the inputs.
When you compare the preamps featured in our guide, you’ll commonly see preamps described as “Class-A.” This indicates that the preamp is of the highest quality, so it’s a good idea to look out for this description.
Some of these devices have vacuum preamps on the inputs for mics and instruments. This leads to a vintage-style recording sound, with the warmth of a tube-driven device.
High impedance instrument and line level inputs are also great for direct recording electronic instruments, effects, or samples into your preamp device.
Digital Conversion & Dynamic Range
Conversion is an integral process for any digital preamp recording device and is dependent on the quality of the converters used by the manufacturer.
Preamps that boast 24-bit/192kHz conversion will perform flawlessly, reducing the chance of lagging or glitching when connected to a computer.
The AD/DA conversion is even more important when looking for a preamp with ADAT optical outputs, as expanding your recording rig will require maximum efficiency to prevent any issues.
Another thing to look out for is the dynamic range of the preamp, as this will determine how much variation there is between the quietest and loudest signal it can receive.
A preamp with a dynamic range in the region of 110dB will give you plenty of headroom to record instruments and vocals without worrying about distortion.
How Many Channels Do You Need?
The number of preamp channels installed in a single unit will determine its flexibility. Indeed, you can use the ADAT connectivity to expand the number of inputs you have to work with, but choosing a device with an adequate number of inputs is a good idea.
For example, if you want to record an acoustic drum kit, you might need microphones for the kick drum, snare, toms, overheads, and a room mic to get a detailed recording.
Choosing a preamp with enough inputs to facilitate the recording you want to make will ensure you’re not limited to a certain number of microphones.
Preamps with ADAT Optical Outputs FAQs
How Does a Preamp Affect Sound?
A preamplifier can affect the sound of instruments and microphones significantly. Its role is to prepare the audio for amplification, and it does so by enhancing certain frequencies, adding warmth, or altering the coloration of the sound.
Every preamp affects the sound of recordings differently. For example, a tube preamp will produce a warmer sound than a solid-state preamp, which is likely to sound more modern and sharper.
Is a Preamp the Same as an Audio Interface?
Preamps and audio interfaces are often confused for one another, but in reality, these two devices are very different. An audio interface may include preamps on its inputs, but these components are just one part of the entire recording device.
A preamp is a specific device that comes before a power amp in the gain stage and can be used to shape the sound and dynamics of an audio signal. An audio interface is an all-in-one hub for recording, monitoring, and playing back audio.
How Much Gain Does a Mic Preamp Provide?
Microphone preamps vary in terms of how much gain they can add to the signal, but in most cases, they are designed to supply between 30-60dB of gain.
Preamps designed for low-level mics will provide more gain than those designed for recording with normal condensers and dynamic microphones.