NOTE: This review is truly ancient history, as in 2002 (back in the end of the Digidesign 001 days). The Firepod is gone, replaced by the FireStudio Project in the Presonus product line. I have long left Presonus A/D/A’s behind, but my unit served me well for at least 5 years before I sold it. A couple of features quit working (SPDIF and one channel’s trim control became unusably noisy) near the end and, as Presonus products so often do, I heard a lot of bad reports from others who used this unit and a few found that it met expectations. It is fragile, no doubt. Presonus is not known for making durable products and you should not expect this unit to survive ham-handed operation in any fashion.
I purchased my Presonus Firepod practically the moment it became available at my local Guitar Center. I paid $480 for the unit and put it to use immediately. I immediately took a load of crap from other engineers for even considering such a low-priced piece of equipment, especially from Presonus. I have to beg to disagree.
First, I disagree that there is some inherent defect in the Presonus design philosophy. I happen to believe that being quick, clean, and quiet is all a microphone preamplifier should be. Others believe that a microphone preamplifier should have as much personality as microphones. Presonus takes the less trendy approach and their engineers have created a collection of products that are, essentially, invisible to the record chain. That works for me, but it may not be your cup of distortion.
The Firepod is one of the most successful Plug 'n Play devices I've ever experienced. My Mac G4 and My WinXP laptop recognized and incorporated the Firepod seamlessly and flawlessly. Unlike ever other piece of equipment I've added to either of my systems, the Firepod simple worked from the moment I connected the Firewire cable to the computer. Even my old PC standby, CoolEdit Pro v1.2, snagged the Firepod device and was able to record, multi-track, without any difficulty. Personally, I think this is a testament to both the Firepod and CoolEdit, since the software hasn't been updated since 2001 when Adobe bought Syntrillium and renamed CoolEdit "Audition."
The eight microphone preamplifiers have 60dB of gain and can be used as either line amplifiers, mic pres, or instrument DIs. The first two channels incorporate inserts, so external equipment (such as EQs, compressors, or alternative mic pres) can be inserted into the analog signal chain.
The Firepod's outputs are equally flexible. The back panel offers balanced main, cue, eight line (group) outputs, SPDIF, and MIDI outputs. A pair of Firewire connectors complete the rear panel. Up to three Firepods can be connected to create a 24-channel recording system. One SPDIF channel pair can be used along with the included channels, upping the max record chain channel count to 26.
I use Digidesign's 001/002 and the Firepod and my preference is toward the Firepod, both for sound quality and flexibility. Since writing this review, I've run into several golden ear recordists who share my opinion. If quiet and clean is your recording objective, I think you should consider the Presonus Firepod.