If you’re a regular listener to the Pro Tools Expert Podcast you are probably aware that I have a Digi 002 that I have had since I traded in my Digi 001 some years ago. I will probably be in the market for a new interface in the not-very-distant future.
Until earlier this year I was generally content with the inputs and outputs on the 002 as I was primarily focused on creating music “in the box”. I was well aware that I could expand the number (and improve the quality) of mic inputs by purchasing one or more preamps but I didn’t feel the need. My needs have been changing. Now that I have decided to offer studio services I need to have more inputs (and outputs).
After evaluating my options and reading other reviews I purchased a used Focusrite Octopre Mk II. I understand that there are both higher and lower end preamps available. For the foreseeable future I’ll continue to use other rooms for tracking or rent gear when I want to use boutique quality pres. I have been very impressed with the sound quality and the price/performance ratio of the Octopre (even at the street price for a new unit) for the types of work that I am doing in my project studio. About the same time that I had purchased the used Octopre Mk II, I got this opportunity to evaluate and review the Octopre Dynamic Mk II.
When I had done my initial research I thought that the principal difference between the Octopre Mk II and the Octopre Dynamic Mk II was the presence of the built-in compressor on each channel. I had decided that although I certainly couldn’t buy eight channels of compressors of that quality (they’re based on the compressors found in the Red series) for the difference in price, I would be content to use compressor plug-ins.
What I had missed in my research was another important (and valuable) difference between the two units. The Octopre Mk II provides eight inputs and eight outputs (no kidding Captain Obvious) and the ability to add those eight inputs to my Digi 002 (or any other interface with ADAT input). The analog outputs however simply mirror the ADAT output. Now being able to connect each of the preamps to a line level input is certainly good, but it doesn’t get me what I wanted. I had failed to notice that it had no ADAT inputs.
The Octopre Dynamic Mk II has the same eight inputs and eight outputs but it provides both input and output via ADAT providing not only the additional eight additional analog inputs to my 002 but eight addressable analog outputs as well. That gives me eight more line outputs for cue mixes or hardware sends or any other purpose.
The Octopre Mk II and Octopre Dynamic Mk II are designed to specifically complement the Saffire series of interfaces, but they certainly work well with MBox Pro, Digi 002, Digi 003 or any other interface with ADAT I/O. In the case of my Digi 002 I’m limited to either 44.1K or 48K operation. The Octopre Dynamic Mk II supports the ADAT SMUX mode so it can support up to eight channels of 96K sample rates across the two ADAT ports in both input and output.
The sound quality of the Focusrite preamps is excellent. I conducted tests using several different microphones and other inputs. I used a Shure Beta 57 dynamic microphone along with an sE 2200a II condenser. I also connected my Yamaha S80 keyboard to test a line level input.
The “one knob” compressors work remarkably well and sound very smooth. By adjusting the Gain and Compress levels I was able to achieve a very balanced and effective amount of compression on my vocal and instrumental testing. A button labeled “More” on each channel switches the compressor to a 4:1 ratio (instead of the normal 2:1 ratio).
Phantom power is switched on and off for banks of four inputs (1-4 and 5-8). The unit uses combo connectors for the eight inputs. Phantom power is only supplied to XLR connections. Additionally there are no switches for mic or line input - the unit assumes mic level for XLR connections and line (or instrument) level for 1/4” connections. There are front panel switches that allow inputs 1 and 2 to be switched (independently) to Hi Z instrument level. As mentioned previously ADAT input and output are available. The clock source can be internal, ADAT or Wordclock. BNC connections for Wordclock In and Out are provided above the ADAT ports on the rear. There is a switch labeled AD/DA on the front panel that toggles the analog outputs between the eight internal inputs and the ADAT inputs.
After spending time with both units, if I knew then what I know now, I would definitely have opted to purchase the Octopre Dynamic Mk II over the standard Octopre Mk II. I have no complaint with the performance or value of either unit, but I believe that the difference in value between the two is greater than the difference in price. I really like the sound of the Focusrite preamps and compressors in this unit. I like the versatility of both analog and digital output. That’s very flexible and will protect the investment for anyone that adds one of these to an existing interface then moves to another interface. The build quality is excellent. The layout of both the front and back panels is intelligent and effective. I give the Focusrite Octopre Dynamic Mk II an enthusiastic thumbs up! ( I’m also planning to acquire an Octopre Dynamic Mk II and resell my Octopre Mk II!)
FWIW Super storm Sandy interfered with my original plans to record and video a complete test session including some DI guitar and bass in addition to mic’ing vocals and drums. That session will be rescheduled but Focusrite want their unit back sooner than that.