If you are serious about recording music, you need a preamp.
But knowing which one you need is not easy.
Take the ART TubeOpto 8, for example. It is a great preamp with a ton of features, impressive sound quality and an amazing price.
But for many, it would be a bad purchase.
That is because it is a tube preamp. This adds a vintage warmth to your tone. This type of sound is highly sought after by some, but others want a transparent sound instead.
If you want an old-school sound and you need multiple channels, you won’t find a better value than this preamp. We’ll take a look at the many features it offers below.
If you are looking for a transparent sound, you can save yourself some time and skip the rest of this review. Check out the Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre for a transparent preamp with multiple channels or the Grace Design M101 if you only need a single channel.
ART TubeOpto 8 Review: Overview And Features
Whatever kind of recording that you’re doing, having a good microphone is a must. After all, that’s how the sound is captured, and it’s the first thing needed to get quality audio.
However, in order to use the microphone’s full potential, you’ll need other equipment as well. Having a mic preamp is vital for any serious music producer. That’s why we wanted to take a closer look at one the best preamps on the market, the TubeOpto 8 by ART (short for Applied Research and Technology).
As the name suggests, this is a tube-driven preamp that features a total of eight channels. But it’s more than just that.
TubeOpto is also technically an ADAT. This means that, using an optical cable, you can use it to expand your audio interface with eight additional channels and map them all out in your DAW of choice. Of course, you’ll also need an audio interface that supports this connection.
When using it as ADAT, you get quality conversion to a digital signal at 24-bit resolution and 44.1 or 48 kHz quality. It’s more than enough for any decent studio work.
The front panel might seem a bit complicated at first, but it’s not that hard to get used to once you figure it all out.
There are a few features and practical controls in addition to the regular channels. First, there’s the obligatory phantom power which can be added to the first four, the second four, or all eight channels. On the backside, you can find switches that toggle between ADAT functionality and a regular preamp.
Each of the channels also features its own controls, giving you enough parameters to tweak everything according to your needs. With this being such an advanced piece, each of the channels can be utilized both for microphones or instruments. This preamp adds the classic warmth to the tone when it goes through the tube circuitry.
- 8-channel preamp
- Tube circuitry
- Can be used as an ADAT (24 bit and 44.1 or 48 kHz quality)
- Individual controls on each of the channels
- Can be used for both instruments and microphones
- Frequency response from 12 Hz to 20 kHz
Primary Features And Functionality
As already explained, this is an 8-channel preamp that can also be used as an ADAT. On the front panel, you have the basic in-line channel layout. On the very left, you can find switches for phantom power – one for the first four, and another one for the second set of four channels.
Inputs are all located on the back panel, with the standard XLR and line combo inputs. However, with the first two channels we have an exception, as they also feature line instrument inputs on the front panel. This makes for a practical solution for quick operation in case you need to record basses and guitars.
Looking at the back panel again, there are also 8 balanced outputs, along with the optical cable input and output, which you’ll use for connection with audio interfaces.
What’s also really exciting is the inclusion of the so-called Wordclock input and output. This is an advanced feature and it comes in handy when you need to sync it with any other digital device and to get rid of latency and low sound quality in complex rigs.
Going back to the front panel, each individual channel has multiple controls on it. This is pretty surprising for such a small channel strip. You have an input gain, output volume, a pad button for controlling the level of line inputs, a high-pass filter, and a phase inverter.
In addition, there’s also an output level monitor with four LEDs. And, as mentioned, the first two channels also feature instrument inputs on the front panel.
On the right side of the front panel, there are four switches that toggle the ADAT mode on and off. The switches are designed for two channels each. Near them, you can also find the main power switch, the sample rate switch, and sample rate LEDs.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s an additional switch on the back panel that can help you attenuate the overall output level. Nothing too fancy, but it’s still a useful addition.
The TubeOpto 8 is a fusion of analog and digital technology. It has four 12AX7 tubes, which is quite a feast for any fan of tube-driven preamps. Whether you’re using it for microphones or instruments, it just adds a little bit of that “organic” saturation to your tone.
Of course, some prefer to not have this kind of sound. Some producers want complete clarity, with no modification to the tone. It just comes down to personal preferences. Because this unit is intended to add a little bit of that vintage-inspired tone, this would not be the right model if you need absolute clarity.
The addition of a high-pass filter is pretty useful as well, especially if you’re using condenser microphones without a filter of their own. By removing everything below 80 Hz, you get a solid base for working with vocals or any miked-up instrument.
While the ADAT functionality is more than welcome, the device could use better qualities than 24 bit and 48 kHz. Some other devices in this price range can work with up to 192 kHz.
As already explained, it finds use both for instruments and microphones. Because it adds that vintage warmth and is not exactly crystal clear, it has a very specific purpose.
Advantages And Disadvantages
- Great deal for the price
- Wide frequency response
- 8 channels
- Plenty of features
- There might be some occasional issues with clipping
- It could use higher audio resolution when used as ADAT
- Not the right model if you need perfect transparency
ART Tubeopto 8 Vs Focusrite Octopre
Focusrite’s Octopre is definitely a comparable device. It also has eight channels. It is pretty similar in terms of functionality, too. However, it is not a tube-driven device, and there are a few differences when it comes to the overall controls.
The primary differences to highlight are the lack of tubes and the price. While in a similar quality range, the Focusrite Octopre is cheaper due to not being a tube-driven preamp. However, this means more clarity, especially when used as an ADAT, because sample rates go up to 192 kHz.
If you’re having trouble deciding between the two, here’s what it comes down to. The ART TubeOpto 8 is better for vintage-oriented stuff, while the Focusrite Octopre is a better solution for a modern tone and more clarity.
ART TubeOpto 8 Vs Behringer ADA8200
Anyone who’s remotely interested in music equipment is familiar with Behringer. They make quality equipment and the ADA8200 is no exception.
While there are some differences between it and the TubeOpto 8, the two units operate pretty much the same way. They also both have ADAT functionality, 8 channels, and phantom power. The digital sound resolution is pretty much the same as well.
However, the ADA8200 is not a tube-driven device and it lacks some of the useful controls of the ART model, like the high-pass filter, gain reduction, and phase. In addition, all eight outputs are XLR jacks.
The ART TubeOpto 8 is the overall better option. The Behringer ADA8200 is not bad. It’s cheaper, but it also lacks some of the functions, as well as the analog tone qualities.
The Behringer is a great choice if you’re building a home setup or a studio for demo recordings. We would not recommend it for other uses, especially for professional settings.
ART TubeOpto 8: Conclusion And Rating
The ART TubeOpto 8 is a diverse unit, capable of delivering both great tone quality and possessing numerous useful functions.
We were quite pleased with controls like the high-pass filter, especially because each individual channel has one. Not to mention how useful the gain reduction feature can be when recording guitars and basses with active pickups.
With four 12AX7 preamp tubes, it gives some great naturally saturated tones. As mentioned, some may not want this kind of sound, because it might lack the clarity they need.
But if you want to add more vintage vibes to your recordings, this is the perfect solution. What’s more, the price is great considering the quality and features. There have been some complaints about potential clipping, but this is easily avoided with proper handling and operation.
To put it simply: you can’t go wrong with TubeOpto 8 if your goal is to add some of that warm, old school tone to your work. Because it offers such great value, we give it a Musicaroo rating of 4.5 out of 5.