If you're reading this, then I'm going to assume that you know who Universal Audio are that you're well versed in the quintessential role they've played in music production over the last 63 years. I might also assume that you know of the insanely strong heritage that UA pull from and that their studio equipment has been used on countless world class recordings ranging from Frank Sinatra to Kendrick Lemar, and that their hardware is still in high demand to this very day. So, instead of a straight up review my friend, I'm going to start with an all-too-common scenario I personally face here in the store whenever I'm asked about audio interfaces.
Enter budding musician/producer/engineer. We'll call them 'the creator'. The creator walks into the store and leads with, "I've been using interface x for years now, and I'm looking to step up my game". "If you're in the market for a real upgrade, you can't go wrong with Universal Audio's Apollo range", I offer. I'll continue to list all the reasons why anyone that's recording anything at all should consider the benefits of what UA offers, and soon the creator gets a clear picture of what something like this could bring to their craft. Next, we start talking about prices and, more often than not, I'm left talking to a dust cloud in the vague shape of a person (think Homer Simpson when he's told he should get something to eat from the Hollywood food truck). I'm obviously exaggerating to make a point, which is that you roughly need to be aiming at upwards of $1000 to inject some UA goodness into your workflow. Until now.
Last week, Universal Audio announced their all-new Volt series of USB interfaces. Straight off the bat, you'll notice some classic UA design with all Volt interfaces being housed in a rugged metal enclosure and the 76 models (Volt 176, 276 and 476) featuring stylish wooden paneling on their sides. Inside, UA have included tube emulation circuitry so users are able to engage a “Vintage” mic preamp mode. Inspired by the mic/line preamp in the famous 610 tube console, this mode will introduce some sweetening harmonic content to your input signals and allow you to dial in rich sounding vocals or instruments on the way in to your recording software. The volt 76 models take this one step further and also feature a “76 Compressor” mode that engages an internal analog circuit on the input that’s based on UA's iconic 1176 FET compressor. The 76 compressor gives you three presets to choose from (Vocal, Guitar, and a Fast mode for when you really need to tame those dynamics) so you can just select what style of compression you need and get straight into that next hit you’re recording. In terms of connectivity, UA provide all the staples; combo mic/instrument inputs across the board, 5-pin MIDI I/O, phantom power supply, headphone output with its own volume control and a L/R monitor out. All the Volt’s can be bus-powered via USB-C port for maximum portability and feature a basic monitor control plus a zero-latency direct monitoring switch. The flagship 476 model also includes 2 additional line inputs and 4 line outputs (all on 1/4” jack connectors), monitor source selection, mono summing and speaker switching. If these classic UA-style features aren’t enough, a specially curated, industry-leading software bundle is also included that comes with Ableton Live Lite, Melodyne, UJAM's Virtual Drummer, a Marshall Plexi amp by Softube, an Ampeg SVT-VR Classic amp by Plugin Alliance and more!
One would be forgiven for thinking that our friend the creator has been in talks with Universal Audio as they have clearly been listening to their customer base as well as the competing market, and have packed all these fantastic features into a game changing USB interface that comes in at under $600 (or as little as $219 for the Volt 1!). With the Volt 2 and 276 interfaces also available as studio packs that include a studio-quality large diaphragm condenser microphone and pair of headphones, UA are now in a prime position to give their customers everything they need to start recording album quality tracks right out of the box, with the level of quality UA are renowned for now more affordable than ever before.
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