PreSonus StudioLive AR12c Vs. Zoom LiveTrak L 12: Reviewed & Compared

Choosing the right mixer when there are so many on the market these days isn't easy.
Especially when many of them are built for one specific need but being marketed as an all-rounder 🙄
But not to worry, I've got ya!
I have taken a deep dive into two beasts in the audio-mixing game and gone head to head with them: PreSonus StudioLive AR12c vs. Zoom LiveTrak L 12.

We're looking at things like:
  • Sound Quality: This is the heart of the matter, right? How each mixer holds up in delivering crisp, clear audio. Are we talking about a mixer that makes your tracks sound like they're live from the garage, or are we hitting studio-quality sound?
  • Ease of Use: Nobody wants to spend hours figuring out which button does what. I’ll break down the user interface of both PreSonus StudioLive AR12c and Zoom LiveTrak L 12. Are they plug-and-play easy, or will you need a PhD in mixology to use them?
  • Features and Functions: Ie. What's under the hood? Let's find out what sets them apart.
  • Durability: No matter your reason for buying, you want something that's gonna last, not fall apart after a few light sessions.
  • Price Point: Yep, money talks. When it comes to prices, we need to see which mixer gives us more bang for our buck. Is the higher price of one justified by its features, or is the other a hidden gem at a bargain price?
  • Customer Reviews and Feedback: What's the word on the street? Sometimes real-world use tells a different story than what the sales page says.

PreSonus StudioLive AR12c

Presonus StudioLive AR Series Mixer: In-Depth Review After Extensive Use

Initial Impressions and Functionality

After over two years of using the Presonus StudioLive AR Series Mixer, I've got a lot to share. Initially, this mixer impressed with its robust features – SD recording, Bluetooth connectivity, and the abundance of free software it comes with. The multi-track software, particularly useful for recording and editing, adds significant value. Its form factor and features like the microphone preamps and USB-C connectivity seemed promising for a range of applications – from music production to podcasting.

Performance and Reliability Issues

Short Lifespan and Quality Concerns

The major downside, however, has been the mixer's reliability. It worked flawlessly for a period, but after 2.5 years, it abruptly stopped working. This was particularly frustrating as the mixer was handled with care and never subjected to any rough use. The lack of durability for a high-end piece of equipment is a significant drawback, especially considering the cost of repair, which can run into hundreds of dollars.

Customer Service Experience

Lack of Support and Warranty Concerns

My experience with customer service was less than satisfactory. When the mixer failed, I reached out, only to be told that it was out of warranty. While this is technically true, the expectation for a quality mixer to last beyond 2.5 years is reasonable. The company's approach to customer service and their unwillingness to provide support or reasonable repair options is a major red flag.

Sound Quality and Features

Excellent Audio but Some Limitations

On the positive side, the mixer's sound quality is excellent when it works. The microphone preamps, while needing to be turned up high for certain mics, provide clear and crisp audio. The multi-track capabilities are user-friendly and the mixer is fairly easy to navigate, even for those new to audio equipment. The inclusion of SD card recording and Bluetooth adds to its versatility, although the SD recording could benefit from more informative display features.

Form Factor and Build

Good Design with Some Build Quality Issues

The mixer's form factor is appealing – it's compact and fits well in various setups. However, the build quality seems to be a concern given the longevity issues I've experienced. The unit feels sturdy initially, but the internal components may not be as reliable.

Overall Experience

Mixed Feelings Due to Reliability Issues

In summary, while the Presonus StudioLive AR Series Mixer offers a range of impressive features and excellent sound quality, its reliability is a major concern. The poor customer service and the mixer's short lifespan significantly overshadow its initial appeal. For those considering this mixer, it's crucial to weigh these factors. The possibility of encountering similar issues and the lack of support from Presonus might be deal-breakers for many potential buyers.

Zoom LiveTrak L-12

Zoom LiveTrak L-12: A Multifaceted Digital Mixer

Practical Design, Impressive Functionality

After spending three months with the Zoom LiveTrak L-12, I've found it to be an invaluable tool for a musician, offering versatility in numerous situations. Its compact size belies its powerful capabilities, making it ideal for various settings from practice to live performances.

Rehearsal and Practice Sessions Elevated

Integrated Metronome and Recording Ease

The L-12 excels in practice environments. Its ability to connect multiple devices, such as a computer via USB for playing along with Spotify, is highly convenient. The built-in metronome and easy recording to SD cards are perfect for pinpointing and working on challenging sections. The recording feature is intuitive, simply arm the desired tracks, and you're set.

Rehearsal Powerhouse

Individual Monitoring and Built-in Effects

In low-volume rehearsals, particularly where everyone uses headphones, the L-12 is a game-changer. With five independent aux sends to 1/4″ headphone jacks, it offers personalized monitoring for each musician. The built-in effects, like reverb for vocals, add to the mix's quality.

Writing and Recording Made Simple

Instant Recording and DAW Integration

Capturing spontaneous musical ideas is effortless with the L-12. Its standalone recording capability, combined with the metronome, allows for quickly laying down initial ideas and building upon them. The seamless integration with DAWs for further editing is a significant advantage.

Live Performances and Mixing

Flexible Output Options for Shows

Though more suited as a sub-mixer, the L-12 can handle a full show, especially when using in-ear monitors. It offers up to five different mixes for in-ear monitoring and has both XLR and balanced 1/4″ outputs for speakers. Recording live shows for later mixing is a breeze.

Adaptable for Socially Distanced Rehearsals

Effective for Diverse Rehearsal Setups

The current pandemic has made music rehearsals challenging, but the L-12 adapts well to different scenarios. Whether it's playing in separate rooms or outdoors, it allows for effective mic setups and clear monitoring of all instruments. The ability to quickly transfer recordings to a DAW like Logic Pro X is highly convenient.

Areas for Improvement

Minor Setbacks, But Still a Top Choice

Despite its many strengths, the L-12 has a few areas that could be improved:
1. The compression always writes to the recording and isn’t of the highest quality.
2. The preamps are adequate but not exceptional.
3. The file naming system, while functional, can be cumbersome to navigate.
4. The lack of motorized faders means manual adjustments are necessary when switching mixes.
5. There's no option for individual stereo or mono pairs for monitor outputs in live situations.
Despite these minor issues, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 stands out for its versatility and comprehensive features at its price point.

Final Verdict

A Robust, Versatile Mixer for Various Needs

Concluding, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is an excellent choice for musicians and sound engineers looking for a versatile, all-in-one mixer and recorder. Its strengths in various environments, from studio to stage, make it a valuable asset. While it has some limitations, its advantages far outweigh them, making it a highly recommended tool in the music and recording industry.

Head 2 Head: PreSonus StudioLive AR12c or Zoom LiveTrak L 12

Presonus StudioLive AR12c: A Mixer with Potential, Hampered by Reliability

The StudioLive AR12c starts strong out of the gate, boasting impressive bells and whistles like SD recording, Bluetooth connectivity, and a trove of complimentary software. It's got all the makings of a versatile companion for music production or podcasting. Yet, despite its promising beginning, it couldn’t quite seal the deal.

Here's the rub: it's like that high-maintenance sports car in your garage that you're afraid to take out for a spin because it might just break down on you. My AR12c bit the dust after 2.5 years of gentle use. That's not exactly durable for what is supposed to be top-shelf gear.

Cue the Frustration: Customer Service Woes

As if having your mixer give up the ghost isn't frustrating enough, dealing with Presonus customer service only added fuel to my fires of discontent. I was met with an icy response when I sought help – it was out of warranty and they were out of solutions. If you’re shelling out on premium gear, wouldn’t you expect it to last more than a couple years? Clearly Presonus didn’t get that memo.

The Good News: Sound Quality and User-Friendly Features

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here – when this thing works, it works well. The sound quality is top-notch; clear and crisp audio courtesy of microphone preamps that deliver even when cranked up high. Its multi-track capabilities make recording and editing a breeze (even if you're new to audio wizardry) while SD card recording and Bluetooth bring versatility to this mixer. But, I’d have loved a bit more detail on that SD recording display.

Under the Hood: Build Quality Concerns

The compact design is a smooth operator that fits well in most setups. But, as we've established, the honeymoon period with this mixer can be short-lived. It looks and feels sturdy initially, but something inside just doesn't hold up over time.

Zoom LiveTrak L-12: A Mighty Miniature Powerhouse

Moving on to our second contender: the Zoom LiveTrak L-12. This little beast packs a punch well above its weight class. Don't let its compact size fool you; it's chock-full of functionality that makes it perfect for anything from practice sessions to live performances.

Practice Makes Perfect with the L-12

The L-12 shines in practice environments with its ability to connect multiple devices (hello Spotify jam sessions) and easy recording to SD cards for detailed work on tricky sections. Plus, it's got a built-in metronome! How cool is that?

Rehearsals Have Never Been Better

Low-volume rehearsals are where this little mixer really comes to life. With 5 independent aux sends out to 1/4″ headphone jacks, each musician can have their personal monitoring – a true game-changer! Not to mention, the built-in effects add some extra sparkle to your mix.

Capture Inspiration Instantly

Got an idea? The L-12's got you covered! Its standalone recording capability lets you lay down your ideas quickly and build upon them later. Then seamlessly transfer those nuggets of genius into your DAW for further editing.

Live Performances: Flexible and Adaptable

This mixer might be small, but it's mighty enough to handle a full show, especially with in-ear monitors. It offers up to five different mixes for in-ear monitoring and has both XLR and balanced 1/4″ outputs for speakers. Plus, recording live shows is a cakewalk.

Pandemic-Proof Rehearsal Solution

With the pandemic throwing a wrench in traditional rehearsals, the L-12 steps up to the plate. Whether you're playing in separate rooms or outdoors, it ensures clear monitoring of all instruments and easy transfer of recordings to your DAW.

Where There's Room for Improvement

Despite its many strengths, the L-12 does have some quirks. The compression isn't top-notch and always writes to the recording. The preamps, while adequate, don’t quite hit a home run. The file-naming system can be a bit clunky and there's no option for individual stereo or mono pairs for monitor outputs in live situations. But hey, nobody's perfect, right?

The Final Face-off: And the Winner Is…

Drumroll please…our clear winner is the Zoom LiveTrak L-12. Yes, it has some minor setbacks but what sets it apart is its versatility and comprehensive features at an unbeatable price point. While the Presonus StudioLive AR12c does offer excellent sound quality and impressive features, its reliability issues are just too hard to overlook. So whether you're a musician or a sound engineer looking for an all-in-one mixer, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is a clear choice. It's versatile, reliable, and ready to tackle any audio challenge you throw its way.