Creation of an Icon
It was 1985, and Sir George Martin (The Beatles, America, Jeff Beck) was looking for a no-compromise mic pre and EQ installed into the recording console at Air Studios Montserrat. Naturally, he put in his request with legendary recording console designer Rupert Neve – and thus, the ISA 110 was designed. The ISA – short for Input Signal Amplifier – was outfitted with a Lundahl transformer-coupled mic preamplifier, an elegant EQ, and a musical compressor that would sound good on most anything. These designs were unlike anything on the market and gained high accolades from studio owners worldwide.
This, of course, begged the question: what if you built a professional recording console with the same no-compromise principles used to create the ISA 110? With this in mind, Rupert Neve and a small team of engineers built ten large-format consoles known to this day as the Focusrite Studio Console. Only ten consoles were ever built, and most of them are still fully functional to this day, providing an incredibly low noise floor and that classic ISA sound.
The ISA modules that comprised the Focusrite Studio Console were the paradigm of audio clarity, influencing how engineers and producers would work for decades to come. Neve’s craftsmanship on these consoles went beyond just achieving the greatest sound possible; there was also careful and deliberate consideration in making the most simple-to-use yet proficient workflow possible.
The Classic ISA Sound, Modernized
While owning one of the original Focusrite Studio Consoles is very unlikely for most of us, these same schematics still live on today in Focusrite’s ISA Range. Using the same coupled Lundahl LL1538 Transformer, which has been in Focusrite’s ISA Preamps for decades; and implementing ADN Dante-enabled option cards for Audio-Over-IP – Focusrite Pro’s ISA range brings the classic ISA sound to modern Dante workflows, all in a compact design.
Whether you’re a musician looking for the best sounding mic pre with a portable design, an aspiring engineer with a personal studio, or a professional production studio looking to fill your rooms with classic mic pres – there’s an ISA option for you. And better yet – with Focusrite’s Dante-enabled option cards, you can expand your mic pre count with a single cable – and access it from anywhere over a network connection with Focusrite’s RedNet protocol. Now anyone can have the legendary sound of the Focusrite Studio Console’s preamps at a fraction of the cost and space.
Let’s take a look at Focusrite’s ISA Range.
A great preamp can make any microphone shine – and if you’re just starting to lay down your own tracks, it’s essential to have at least one great preamp or channel strip for vocals and acoustic instruments. Encased in a rugged all-metal enclosure and brandished in the iconic ISA blue, the ISA One gives engineers the heart of the Focusrite Studio Console in a compact and portable design. Packed with the classic Focusrite microphone preamp utilizing the same Lundahl Input Transformer as the ISA 110, it also features a versatile independent DI channel with variable impedance choices to shape your sound. Whether you’re an artist, an engineer, or a producer, the ISA One is like no other mic pre you’ve ever used – unless you were lucky enough to use the original Studio Console.
Plus, with Focusrite’s ISA ADN2 option card, you get pristine A-D conversion up to 192kHz while expanding your channel count by simply connecting a single cable.
For the songwriter who could benefit from having more inputs, Focusrite Pro’s ISA Two gives you a pair of totally independent ISA mic pres backed with the original input transformer – the Lundahl LL1538 – in a 1U rack-mountable chassis. Both mic pres give you an option of a mic, line, or instrument input, and with the variable impedance selector, your tracks can sound exactly how they’re supposed to. Both channels come with an insert allowing you to use inline processors, like compression, on your signal.
ISA 428 MkII
For those of us who already know that one or two inputs won’t be enough, Focusrite Pro’s ISA 428 MKII is for you. Incorporating four of the renowned mic pres into an easy-to-operate 2U rack-mountable enclosure, the 428 MKII places four mic preamps, instrument inputs, and line-ins right at your fingertips. Not only does the 428 MKII incorporate the original schematics of the ISA 110, but it comes with a few improvements. Added are three additional input impedances, allowing you to match any microphone from any era – whether you’re going for the color and warmth of a vintage microphone to the clear transparency of a modern design. Each mic pre has a dedicated insert and allows up to 80dB of gain if that’s required, which allows you to create your perfect signal chain for vocals, bass, guitars, drums, and more.
ISA 828 MkII
If you want to capture the sound and feel of the original Focusrite Studio Console in a small package, look no further than the ISA 828 MKII! The ISA 828 MKII equips your studio with eight of Focusrite Pro’s classic mic preamps, with a Lundahl LL1538 Transformer on every input. Each input gives you the option of either mic or line input, and lines 1 thru 4 provide an instrument input on the front panel while still giving you the option for variable input impedance on all inputs to provide a range of different sonic characteristics.
Designed for the ISA One mic preamp, the ISA ADN2 is an optional two-channel A-D card, giving you high-quality analog-to-digital conversion that simply connect to Dante, AES3, ADAT, and S/PDIF. With the Dante outputs, you can now utilize your ISA One Mic Pre over a network connection to all Focusrite RedNet devices – as well as hundreds of other Dante-enabled devices from other manufacturers. Don’t have a Dante system? No problem! Use the ADN2 over ADAT or S/PDIF to get the ISA sound without hogging valuable I/O on your interface!
Bring the power of Audio-Over-IP to your ISA 428 MKII or ISA 828 MKII with Focusrite Pro’s ISA ADN8. This optional card gives high-quality analog-to-digital conversion to your Mic Pres while also providing connectivity to any Dante, AES3, or ADAT units with a bit depth and sample rate up to 24-bit / 192kHz. Adding up to eight ISA preamps to your Dante Network will prove to be a serious gamechanger and is sure to bring incredible sound and flexibility to your workflow. But even if you don’t have a Dante-enabled interface, most interfaces offer ADAT ports, allowing you to add up to eight channels of that classic ISA sound to your system with a single cable while leaving your interfaces hardware I/O free for other sources!
Since the ISA Range uses the same schematics and parts as the original ISA 110, anyone can bring Rupert Neve’s no-compromise sound to their tracks; the same no-compromise sound that can be heard on albums by Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Green Day, and more. And, with the addition of the Dante connectivity, you can use these mic pres from hundreds of feet away and without taking up a significant portion of your studio space!
That Classic ISA Sound, Modernized
Want more of the ISA sound? You’re in luck! For a limited time, Focusrite is offering the Brainworx model of the classic Focusrite Studio Console to anyone who purchases an ISA, Red, or RedNet device – a $349 value! The Brainworx bx_console Focusrite brings detailed models of the original ISA 110 Equaliser and ISA 130 Dynamics Modules right to your DAW to complete your ISA setup!
Have Any Questions?
Still have questions about Focusrite’s ISA Range?
Our Pros are glad to answer any questions you may have and help find the best option for you!