The term ‘evolution’ is one that carries an added sense of weight when talking in the context of audio and recording technologies. As an industry with a handy knack for almost instantly finding the technical limitations of any technology afforded to us, it pays for manufacturers to keep on the cutting edge, applying a forward thinking approach to product design in the hopes of falling in lockstep with the ever-evolving workflows and technical requirements of their customer base.
In the audio industry, there lies a very set evolutionary arc, one that generally starts with a clunky attempt at replicating a traditional workflow (see the primitive ‘soundcard with cheap preamps’ interfaces of the early oughts) and ends in something like the hotly anticipated EVO 8 from British stalwarts, Audient-an interface that takes the brands well earned reputation and absolute dedication to audio quality in the professional space and applies it to an endlessly mobile, extremely affordable, one knob solution for the modern home recording chain.
Like its more minimalist forebearer, the Audient EVO 8 also bears with it a similarly stylish, sleek aesthetic. It’s a small footprint box that serves as the perfect nucleus for any laptop-based setup, doubling the I/O of the highly touted EVO 4 and edging the EVO’s unique one knob layout closer and closer to full band spec. This, in turn, increases the workflow possibilities and positions the EVO 8 as a perfect choice for for the itinerate recording engineer or songwriter on the go.
Operating on a single USB-C connection, the EVO 8 keeps a minimalist footprint right down to the connections, a welcome sight for any MacBook users sick of unsightly adapters and hubs occupying prime desk space. The fact that the unit is entirely bus-powered, meaning nothing in the way of chunky AC adaptors only further increases this feeling of free movement and ‘one knob, one cable’ operability and certainly goes a long way to liberating the EVO 8 of many of the time consuming set-up requirements of other ‘portable’ recording solutions.
In keeping with this contemporary ethos and aesthetic, the outputs are quarter-inch stereo TRS, omitting the commonplace yet chunky XLR outputs. This serves as a nod to the kind of small scale, portable monitors this interface is likely to be paired with and only further adds to this focus on portability and ‘pro-on-the-go’ workflows. The addition of dual headphone outs also goes a long way towards opening the EVO 8 up to the kinds of collaborative workflows rarely accounted for on interfaces of this size.
For a band or musical project with programmed/sampled drums, you have a high quality four channel recording setup that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. This level of scalability and flexibility only increases the more you move away from traditional live performance style recording, a testament to the evolution of the modern recording workflow and its preference for track recording.
If you were looking to add mono or multi-mic'ed overdubs to a pre-recorded track (especially in a home recording context) then look no further. You would be hard pressed to find anything better suited to the task, in terms sound quality/portability.
And this may be the area where the EVO 8 hits its biggest home run. For a four-input, four-output interface at this price-point, it’s simply unparalleled in regards to the quality of the preamps and the level of A/D conversion on offer here. To have it housed in a unit that you can carry in your pocket is quite remarkable and really says a lot about how far interfaces have come in recent years.
This, coupled with the EVO 8’s intuitive and excellent playback capabilities (a trait that echoes Audient’s longstanding position as the pre-eminent ‘monitor controller de jour’ for commercial recording studios the world over) result in an extremely adept, extremely flexible interface for both tracking and playback.
Content creators and those working in mixed media will no doubt welcome the small physical footprint as well as the ease of use afforded by the Smartgain feature, with its intuitive level setting capabilities allowing for the Gen Z answer to a ‘set and forget’ type workflow.
Suffice to say that the aforementioned ‘Smartgain’ feature is there to make everyone’s life a little easier (not just those new to recording), and there is something incredibly novel about letting it do it’s magic, while sitting back and enjoying the benefits of clean, distortion free recording with a minimum amount of fuss.
Of all the possible applications, this seems most pertinent to podcasters who are perhaps stronger in charisma and interview technique than audio gain staging expertise and in this regard the ‘Smartgain’ feature perfect to get recording here and now and learn about the intricacies of headroom later.
Another interesting feature undoubtably aimed at the content creation crowd is the ‘audio loopback’ feature which allows you to capture your computer audio in addition to your microphone inputs. This is perfect for capturing in-game audio as well as a headset mic for a Twitch stream, or for podcasters with a library of pre-recorded material, stingers or remote guest interviews via Skype calls.
For fine-tuning of all these sound sources, accompanying Audient EVO software provides virtual control over all features, so you can produce a full, balanced mix ready to uploato your content-hungry followers. Both content and music types alike a sure to make use of the dedicated artist headphone mixes, allowing you to customise and store mixes for different users.
True to form as something of an upsetter in the audio industry (with a reputation for over delivering on audio quality in a way that puts the fear of god into many of their more expensive competitors), Audient are at it again with the ‘Evo by Audient’ series. A line that in many ways marks the next chapter for the beloved British manufacturer continues on this legacy for extremely high quality audio solutions at an egalitarian pricepoint.
As a no-fuss, effortlessly versatile little interface with an extremely pristine capture, the EVO 8 instantly jumps to the front of the queue for the army of creatives and home recordists looking for the best quality capture possible, at an accessible price and little in the way of physical footprint. For this kind of application, the EVO 8 is an awesome choice, ticking all the appropriate boxes whilst also having the added flexibility of a more versatile I/O layout.
Perhaps the crux of the EVO 8 - and where this ‘Evolution’ is on best display - is in how seamlessly Audient’s famous preamp and A/D quality is so excellently replicated in the context of a (very) small interface. In the case of the EVO 8, we can see how well integrating this level of quality into an affordable portable solution can directly translate into applications far beyond that found in just the traditional musical domain, because it’s 2020 and everybody deserves the best quality audio possible.
Hits and Misses
Sleek, stylish and compact
Smartgain and audio loopback features are perfect for music and podcasting alike
Impeccable Audient-style sound quality and conversion
Considering the price tag, I don't think we could find any fault here!