Universal Audio Volt Review Engadget

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The 21st century has spawned bedroom manufacturer. And 2020. the music industry finally recognized that songs recorded in someone’s bedroom are just as sustainable as those recorded in a studio full of equipment worth millions of dollars. This, of course, led to many of them manufacturers of state-of-the-art studio equipment try to get into the home studio game.

The last step he took was Universal Audio. They are a brand with more than 60 years of experience, whose equipment has been used to record some of the most famous albums of all time. But until recently, the most affordable interface the company made was the $ 699 Apollo Solo – a novice or casual hobbyist is unlikely to lose money. The Volt the series, however, rejects the company’s expensive DSP chips and focuses on delivering the basics with a few unique twists. The result is a collection of affordable audio interfaces that should be shortlisted for any home studio setting.

Avg

  • Vintage mode adds character
  • Low noise level
  • Better latency than the competition on Windows

Against

  • Slightly more expensive than similar devices
  • The software package is central
  • There is no mixture for direct monitoring

Avg

  • Vintage mode add character
  • 76 The compressor is great
  • The controls are large and spaced for ease of use
  • Attractive design

Against

  • The software package is central
  • There is no mixture for direct monitoring

The volt line includes five models from the Volt 1 with one $ 139 input, all the way to the Volt 476 with four $ 369 inputs. Some features are different and the number of inputs and outputs varies from model to model, but they share the same core including 24-bit / 192 kHz audio converters and preamplifiers with “Vintage” mode that tries to recreate the sound of a classic UA 610 tube preamp.

I tested two mid-range models: the 189 Volt 2 and 299 V 276. Both are dual-input interfaces. What distinguishes the “76” versions from the basic models are some ergonomic and design adjustments, and the inclusion of a built-in compressor modeled on the company’s legendary 1176 limiting amplifier.

Hardware

Universal audio volt

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Before you even start thinking about a compressor, the difference between a Volt 2 and a 276 is immediately obvious. 2 is simple and utilitarian. It looks like most other sites in the $ 200 range. There are a pair of combined TRS / XLR inputs on the front, along with buttons to control the gain of each channel. There are buttons to turn on the 48 V phantom power to use condenser microphones, Vintage mode and to switch between line level and instrument level signals. Finally, there’s a monitor volume button, a headphone jack, and a button to turn direct surveillance on and off.

On the back there are MIDI input and output ports (something that is noticeably absent in the company’s top Apollo interfaces), balanced outputs for connecting studio monitors, USB-C port, 5V power socket (required when used with iPad or other mobile device device) and, somewhat oddly, an on / off switch.

Universal audio volt

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The rest of the Volt 2 is a plain box. On the other hand, if you have limited table space, you can put the Volt 2 in tight spaces or put things on it, and still have access to all the controls. On the other hand, it can feel cramped, especially when trying to track input levels. Next to each input are two small LEDs that light up to alert you when you start cutting.

276, on the other hand, is convenient and spacious. But you will need extra space on the table because most of the controls are on top. In the upper right corner you will find large five-segment LEDs to check your levels. The boost button and monitor level button on the top are also much larger, making it easy to pick things up.

Plus, the whole thing just has a lot more style. The LEDs are at a slight angle to make them easier to see, and the sides are made of beautiful wood. Are just those aesthetic blooms and benefits worth the extra $ 60? Honestly, maybe they are.

Competition

Universal audio volt

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

When you consider a compressor, I think the choice between the two here is obvious, as long as your budget can handle it. Volt 2 (and an extension of Volt 1) are reasonably priced, perfectly serviceable audio interfaces. But they don’t necessarily stand out from the crowd. The Focusrite Scarlett series is well established, competitively priced and shares many of the same features. The third-generation Scarlett 2i2 costs $ 170 ($ 20 less than the Volt 2), shares all the same connectivity options, and has “Air” mode, which is comparable to UA’s Vintage.

Most importantly, it would be hard for you to tell the difference between them if your goal is to record clear sound. With Air and Vintage turned off and preamp amplification set to lower levels, both interfaces give clear and crisp results. Are there any differences? Of course. But they are extremely subtle. I couldn’t separate Volt, from Scarlett, from Arturia Minifusa in a blind taste test. And I doubt that the target audience of hobbyists and beginners would succeed.

(If you want to be really nerdy about signal-to-noise ratio and lower noise and frequency response, I highly recommend Julian Krause’s YouTube channel.)

Universal audio volt

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The latency among all of these is also quite similar. I collected the interfaces I lay around – Volt 2, Volt 276, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 second generation and Arturia MiniFuse 2 – and plugged them into my MacBook Pro (2019, quad-core Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM) and Dell XPS 15 (2019, quad-core Core i7 CPU, 32GB RAM), set the sampling rate to 44,100 Hz and the clipboard size on 128 samples and measured total latency in Ableton Live 11. All four interfaces delivered the same exact latency of 12.2 ms on the Mac. On the Dell, both Volts came in at just 8.89 ms, the MiniFuse at 9.89 ms, and the Scarlett moved the rear to 12.9 ms. Although lower latency is obviously better, none of these figures are particularly alarming.

This difference starts to show a little more when you start the boost and press the preamps on these interfaces. I included my Fender Toronado with Atomic humbuckers directly in the Volt 2, Volt 276, 2i4 and MiniFuse. I amplified the preamp amplifiers on each to the end and inserted them into the basic pure amplifier simulator at Ableton. The differences are a little more obvious here, but not so dramatic – at least until you turn on the 276 compressor.

The MiniFuse at full boost is a bit fragile and sounds like a full fuzz pedal. Scarlett has a bit more of a bottom and a bit of a hollowed out middle, but he’s still quite aggressive. While the Volt 2 is a little thinner at the bottom and puts more focus on mids and highs. Still, the compressor at 276 makes a big difference here. Slightly softens edges and tames slightly sharper frequencies. It’s worth noting that all of this sounds pretty sharp at higher frequencies with the amplification turned to the end. On the other hand, it is unlikely that anyone will run these preamplifiers to the maximum on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have SSL2 + on hand for testing, which would be a better comparison for the Volt 276.

Compressor 76

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