Review: Evo by Audient SP8 8-Channel Smart Preamp

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Review: Evo by Audient SP8 8-Channel Smart Preamp

Evo by Audient-SP8-8-Channel Smart-Preamp
Words by By Lewis Noke Edwards

Studio Connections | RRP: $799

The only thing more consistent than our coverage of Audient’s growing range is the reliability, build, quality and design of their products. Audient is a UK-based professional audio company who produces everything you need at the core of your studio: preamps, consoles and converters. Founders David Dearden and Gareth Davies met while working at Soundcraft, when their knack for designing and building functional equipment began to fall into place.

Read more gear reviews here.

Audient’s range of EVO interfaces is so unique that they’ve side-stepped into their own branding, EVO by Audient. EVO are some of the most unassuming pieces on the market, classy matte black boxes filled with high end AD/DA converters, clean mic preamps and well-laid out controls. The most recent addition is the EVO SP8, built to provide even the most discerning studios with an extra 8 channels of EVO preamps. Connected via ADAT, the EVO SP8 features eight EVO mic preamps, two of those switchable to JFET Instrument/Hi-Z inputs and eight line outputs. The SP8 is rack mountable with the additional EVO SP8 Rack Ear Kit, so it can be installed on a more permanent basis into your racks, relegated to the very heart of your studio, interfacing all your equipment.

It’s important to note that the SP8 is not a stand alone audio interface, meaning it can’t serve as the soul of your studio, but is instead designed to be used to expand an existing audio interface with just a few ADAT cables. For those playing at home, a single ADAT connection can generally carry 8 channels of audio (if you’re recording at 44.1kHz or 48kHz), so this doesn’t need to involve a lot of extra patching and additional costs for cables. The preamps are balanced and have 58dB of gain available, while boasting ultra low distortion and noise. The preamps are controllable via the channel’s button and a shared pot for gain, and phantom power is selected by toggling between the channels and pressing the shared ‘48V’ switch on and off. The same use applies for the Instrument button that’s used to switch to Instrument level inputs for channel 1 & 2. What’s more, you can link stereo channels to adjust their gain at the same time. The SP8 features EVO’s Smartgain feature, accessible by the big green button on the unit’s face. Smartgain is a new feature designed to quickly set optimal gain for mic preamps and get on with the music making. With Smartgain engaged, the unit will analyse the incoming signal and set the optimal gain for maximum dynamic to minimal noise. All of this is easily read and interpreted on the SP8’s screen, which also has brightness controls for those of us working out of dimly lit studios. The SP8 can either act as its own clock or receive clocking from an external source, either ADAT or via the Wordclock IN, and the outputs can be toggled between the 8 analogue line outputs or ADAT.

In use, the SP8 is a breeze. Connection via ADAT brings up the additional channels on your main interface, and adjusting settings to clock from your master interface has the SP8 slaved for its sample rate. The Smartgain feature is a lot of fun, albeit mostly providing a great starting point for you to tweak a little further. The Smartgain feature analyses a small amount of audio, and without having an entire song’s worth of information, it’s almost impossible for the unit to set optimal gain. The paired stereo control makes recording things like drums a breeze, allowing you to pull up stereo pairs of overheads and rooms very quickly with complete independent control if you need it. The one thing that may be missing from the SP8 is a phase switch, but admittedly, this is something easily set inside your DAW, and for the price of the SP8, it may be a lot to ask. The SP8 may just be the most affordable way to expand your studio, with no sacrifice on sound quality at the end of it all.

The SP8’s screen offers great feedback on the adjustments you’re making, usually preset to watching the little green metres bounce when receiving signal. The EVO preamps aren’t particularly colourful, and provide a great palette for mixing in some of that colour, but when set as line inputs can be used to receive signal from external preamps if grit, tone and analogue warmth is more your thing.

The SP8 is the latest in a range of unbelievably affordable recording solutions from EVO. The unit offers an additional 8 channels to just about any recording set-up that accepts ADAT, and when paired with the EVO 16 for 16-24 channels of EVO preamp, is a formidable setup that’ll pass the test of even the most acutely-trained set of ears. The entire EVO range comes to us from one of the biggest audio manufacturers in the biz, Audient, and their focus on features that really matter to working creatives are on show in the SP8. Extra inputs with well laid out controls that allow you to quickly set gain and phantom power, so you can quickly throw some mics up and capture a performance rather than be bogged down in dials, menus and settings. The SP8 chassis is the same matte black as the rest of the EVO range, and it’ll integrate easily both sonically and aesthetically. The SP8 is such a home-run that has me re-thinking my entire studio in lieu of a couple of rack spaces of EVO gear.

For more information, head to Audient. For local enquiries, visit Studio Connections.