Audient ASP880 8 Channel Microphone Preamplifier and ADC - Review

04-12-2014 01:07 PM

If you’re an Avid Omni interface owner like me, then you probably feel the same frustration with the limited and somewhat crippled connectivity. For example you get a vast array of connectivity options but when all is said and done you are left with 8 inputs, 2 XLR, two jack and the rest via either ADAT, SPDIF or AES/EBU. You can’t use the internal inputs inputs and then add an additional 8 via ADAT. I was once told by an Avid engineer (off the record) that it would be possible to do this one day - that was two years ago, so I’m guessing that’s a no then.
Some may think that this preamble is an odd way to start a review about the Audient ASP880, but when I was first told about the new Audient ASP880 I thought this may be the addition to my Omni powered Pro Tools HD system I had been looking for. Granted there are a lot of 8 channel ADAT enabled options, but what the Audient ASP880 offers seems to be exactly what this Avid Omni Owner was hoping for.
Audient ASP880 - The Basics

ASP880 is an 8-channel microphone preamplifier & ADC it offers;

  • 8 Audient Console Mic Pres
  • All new, Burr Brown AD converter technology
  • Variable Input Impedance
  • Variable High Pass Filters
  • 8 Insert points between the mic pre amps and AD converters
  • 2 Channels of Class-A Discrete JFET D.I instrument inputs
  • Digital Outputs - ADAT, AES & S/PDIF
  • XLR/Jack combo inputs

To unpack the list a little, the pre-amps are Audient’s renowned Class-A console mic pre amps. They have been developed by Audient’s David Dearden and are the same mic pre used by thousands of professional studios around the world.
Each channel features an A-D button that allows the ASP880 to function as an 8 channel mic pre while you use the converters separately in stand-alone mode.
Variable impedance allows you to match the pre to your favourite mic, in particular this feature has been added to account for the modern resurgence of ribbon mics but will work on other types of microphone but with less of an effect. There’s a helpful section in the manual explaining how changing the impedance will change the sound.
Each channel features a variable (thank you!) hi pass filter.
Finally and not to be underestimated the ASP880 has no fan, so promises whisper quiet operation, an important factor in the modern studio where many engineers and producers have everything sat in the control room.

Audient ASP880 - In Use

The Audient website offers plug and play operation, yes I’ve heard that line before too. So I unboxed it, plugged the IEC power cable in, connected an ADAT optical cable from the ASP880 into the Avid Omni and fired it up. the only minor set-up was to jump into Pro Tools hardware set-up window, assign all 8 ADAT inputs as the inputs on the Omni and select the ASP880 as my external clock source. There’s a button on the front of the ASP880 where the clock in set offering 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96Khz, so I simply selected the right one. That’s it, so on that score it really is as simple as plug and play. One thing to note, that ADAT connections offer 8 channels at 44.1 and 48Khz and 4 channels at the higher 88.2 and 96Khz. However 2 ADAT ports are available offering all 8 channels over ADAT at the higher rate using 2 optical cables and thankfully the Omni supports this too.
Next I wanted to test the mic pre amps so I connected a Shure SM7B, knowing this needs some serious gain to drive it. I connected it and then adjusted the gain control on the front panel wanting to see how it would deal with high gain. It handled it very well and seemed to do so without adding the noise that some of the other pre-amps I have seem to do.
I then recorded a vocal and found the sound to be excellent. You may have often wondered why some people seem to make a lot of fuss about pre-amps, well the Audient ASP880 is one to show you why. The sound is indeed in a class of its own, open, transparent and with a nice element of British class A console character. All of this gives you a wonderfully dynamic sound with beautiful harmonics especially in the upper mid and top where it really matters.
The variable high pass filter is a welcome addition, whilst HP filter switch is OK it’s often too clumsy when trying to get the right sound, it is sweepable from 25Hz to 250 Hz, 2nd Order (12dB/Octave), so plenty to work with there.
One minor gripe I have at this point is that the knobs have no notching on them and are very easy to move. Some may see this as a bonus and whilst I don’t subscribe to a small amount of notches, it would have been nice to feel a sense of friction when setting either the gain or filter.
I then plugged in my Telecaster to check out the Class-A Discrete JFET D.I instrument inputs, again these worked very well and using the gain and filter controls I soon had a very nice guitar sound. Although in reality I would not often simply DI a guitar into a pre-amp in this way, but of course this could be used for bass, keyboards, drum machines and other line level instruments.

The Ins and Outs Of The Audient ASP880

When it comes to flexibility the Audient ASP offers a vast array. To start with you get 8 channels of XLR/Jack input via combo connections on the rear as well as the 2 JFET jack inputs on the front. Each channel offers 60db of gain, variable impedance, polarity reverse, pad and 48v phantom power. Furthermore you get 8 balanced outputs via DB25 as well as 8 ADC inputs via DB25 which allow you to insert into the channel or use the 8 channels of the ASP880 as a line level ADC.
In the digital domain it offers the aforementioned ADAT outputs as well as AES/SDIF and Wordclock.
As an Avid Omni owner the Audient ASP880 gives me 8 XLR/Jack channels of Class A pre-amps with variable filters as well as inserts on every channel, I can then use the additional 8 outputs of the Omni too and via a patch bay I get maximum flexibility.

Audient ASP880 Review - Conclusion

You may be getting the idea that I like the Audient ASP880 and I do, it was one product I was looking forward to reviewing and my expectations were met with an excellent experience at every level.
Audient claim that the ASP880 is flexible, easy to use, sounds great and is whisper quiet - it’s all true. Furthermore the ASP880 is somewhat cheaper than the older ASP008 it replaces by around £200, now shipping for around £899.
A minor gripe for me is the lack of any power button on the unit, I did check with Audient to see if I was simply being dumb, but there is no power switch. Some may not care about this, but I don’t like gear staying on unless I pull the power.
Setting that aside, the Audient ASP880 is everything I hoped it would be. Great sound, whisper silent operation and now cheaper than the older version - what is there not to like?
If you need 8 channels of British pre-amps, built in A/D conversion and the flexibility this unit offers then you would be nuts not to check it out.
Now where’s my cheque book? I’m buying it…. really.

  • Class A sound
  • Flexible operation
  • Ease of use
  • The silent operation
  • 1U size
  • The price


  • No power switch
  • No notching on knobs

Audient ASP880 - Specifications

MICROPHONE PREAMPLIFIERS: (measured to insert send)
MIC GAIN: -10 to +60dB (-10dB Pad)
LINE GAIN: -16 to +44dB (-10dB Pad)
*PHANTOM POWER: 48v +/-4v @ 10mA/Channel
MIC EIN: 80dB @ 100 to 10kHz
MAXIMUM INPUT LEVEL: +22dBu (+32dBu with Pad)
INPUT IMPEDANCE: Mic LO: 200Ω Balanced Mic MED: 1k4Ω Balanced Mic HI: 3k6Ω Balanced Line (All Z): >10kΩ Balanced
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: +/-0.5dB 10Hz to 100kHz
HPF: Sweepable from 25Hz to 250 Hz, 2nd Order (12dB/Octave)XLR: Pin 2 (Hot), Pin 3 (Cold) & Pin 1 (Shield)1/4” JACK: TIP (Hot), RING (Cold) & SLEEVE (Shield)
* Line input level at the combi jacks will be affected by the input impedance switch position, this can be used as a second pad control to adjust line input ranges on all channels.
DISCRETE JFET D.I (Channels 1 & 2):(measured to line outputs / insert send)
D.I GAIN: -10 to +60 dB (-10dB Pad)
MAXIMUM INPUT LEVEL: +16dBu (typical), +22dBu
INPUT IMPEDANCE: 1MegΩ UnbalancedFREQUENCY RESPONSE: +/-0.5dB 10Hz to 50kHzTHD+N @ 0dBu (1kHz):