It is more and more difficult to stand out in the crowded market for Usb 2In/ 2Out sound cards, but Steinberg seems to have succeeded with the small and economical UR22. There are three characteristics of this sound card that make it particularly interesting: the build quality, the sample rate support and the price. Just take it in your hands to understand that it is a professional product. It weighs a good 1 kg despite its small size and has a casing made of gray/black metal. The design of the casing is able to fit into almost any interior.
Full Steinberg UR22 Review
The Steinberg interface is supplied with a CD-ROM containing only the drivers and the manual in multiple languages. In fact, with the purchase of the interface you also get a license for the “Cubase AI” DAW software (the application must be downloaded from the Internet using the code in the package).
Among the features of the device should be noted:
- solid metal housing;
- support for operating modes up to 24 bit 192 kHz;
- combo connector that is both jack and XLR at the same time;
- phantom power;
- MIDI input/output.
Under a simple casing you have high quality sound with preamplifiers D-PRE from Yamaha, a company that owns Steinberg itself. In the tests the pre-amps they behaved well, resulting in no distortions or background noise. The same preamplifiers are used in mixing consoles of the MGP series. Each amplifier consists of 4 bipolar transistors. Each arm of the signal is amplified by a composite transistor, known by the name of the creator of Sidney Darlington. A composite transistor is used to increase the gain and obtain high input impedance.
What a sound engineer can do depends on the quality of the preamps he works with, which determine the direction the mix is going to take and, ultimately, how it will sound good. The D-PRE preamps are characterized by their natural and full-bodied bass, their intense yet gentle highs, and a very low distortion. These preamplifiers offer an impressively wide range of frequencies that allow you to handle signals from any audio source without amplifying any specific element of the sound.
The card, of course, also includes ASIO drivers, which can be used in any compatible DAW. Although it belongs to the Steinberg brand, this audio interface cooperates with the best software brands. Compatibility with ASIO, Core Audio, or WDM gives greater versatility. You can use it with the iPad and a large number of applications for iOS.
With the UR22, Steinberg has created an economic and portable card that can be useful in many situations. Thanks to the support of such a high sampling rate, singers, guitarists, keyboard players and bass players can also take it into consideration to record some tracks autonomously and then take them to a professional studio to make a demo or CD-Audio.
UR22 is a traditional USB-interface without any special integration with Steinberg applications. Some users complain that the device stop working after a while (sound is lost). Most likely this is due to incorrect connection. It is necessary to check the version of USB ports on the PC and connect the device to ports 2.0 (not 3.0).
Without a doubt, USB 2.0 is a reliable system, more than tested, easy to install (in many cases as in Apple computers without drivers), prevents errors when connecting, uses low voltage in the connectors to prevent sparking, it is transportable between the different current Mac and PC computers and fully standardized as a system. The amount of “audio channels” input and output that allows USB 2.0 and the stability in this communication have been proven more than enough for a system of medium characteristics.
Having an “external” component to the computer where the input and output audio connectors are concentrated, allows us to put it near our workplace, within easy reach and thus access the volume controls, monitoring by headphones or gain control input as many times as we need, which is very convenient. The power of Ur22 is made from the computer (USB bus powered) which is always a great help for those who hate extra cables.
In the system panel of the device you can select only the buffer size and the sampling rate. Other parameters are changed with the help of hardware controls located on the device itself.
All controls are made on the front panel. Here we find:
- the gain for the two inputs;
- the two knobs for controlling the output volume and the headphone;
- the usual Mix handgrip to choose the percentage of mixing between the direct sound of the sources and the sound processed by the DAW software on the PC;
- the button to activate on input 2 the high impedance mode dedicated to guitars and basses.
Only the small switch of the 48V Phantom is located on the back, perhaps to avoid accidental insertion. Also on the front there are the two inputs (which adopt Neutrik Combo connectors), the stereo jack-type headphone output, two Peak LEDs (which indicate when the input signal of one of the two sources goes into saturation), an LED that signals the activation of the 48V power supply and one – white – which lights up when the card is connected to the USB port of the computer. On the back we find the two outputs (1/2 or L/ R) of balanced jack type, the Midi In / Out connectors and the USB socket, which is also the only power source.
You can connect one time all the necessary equipment, then put the device in the box and only open it for adjustment. The utility that is installed on the computer does not have wide settings, and as a result we have that all the device management can be done from the hardware panel. The MIX control allows you to adjust the volume of the hardware monitoring of the incoming signal. The headphone output is controlled separately from the overall volume (the output to the headphones has a large margin for loudness).
The device is equipped with power indication and 48V phantom power. The phantom power for condenser microphones is also very useful since the proliferation of affordable condenser microphones within the reach of anyone is one of the great news of recent years. However, remember that whenever we use phantom it is advisable to have the computer connected to the electrical network to avoid rapid discharge of the battery.
The minimum buffer size that can be configured through the computer is 64 bits. The device supports frequencies from 44.1 to 192 kHz. In a world where MP3 has become the standard for music distribution, the 24 bits and 96 KHz that any inexpensive sound card reaches are simply impressive and in most cases it is not necessary to use 44.1 KHz and 16 bits to get great results in our recordings. The minimum delay in the buffer will be 9 ms. If you play for example on a MIDI keyboard and use virtual music instruments, this number is halved. Thus, the device we are considering is very suitable for studio recording.
The problems of latency in a home study have always occurred. Any current card connected to a computer with current characteristics will have latency values between 2 and 10 milliseconds of latency, which is negligible for practical purposes and will not affect the most typical processes of our work, such as recording by tracks (overdubbing) playing on top of the previously recorded playback or the use of virtual instruments in real time from a MIDI keyboard.
The drivers that come with it are perfectly installed on most Windows and Mac operating systems. There is no support for Windows 10, but other versions (up to XP) work perfectly. To install on macbook you need OS version 10.5.8 or later, and this should not cause any special problems. The interface works with any music programs. It works in conjunction with almost any software, supporting two output channels.
Ur22 is good interface for solo performers, people composing music, for touring groups. It cannot fail to impress the sound quality especially given the small price of the device. Perhaps for someone there will be not enough limited number of inputs. In fact, the vast majority of home musicians will only need a mic input, from which to connect the mic for the recording of some voices and line inputs to connect keyboards or CD players or MP3 players. The line inputs will be many times switchable to a high impedance input to which the instrument (bass or guitar) directly connect.
UR22 review: user test
The Steinber ur22 is well made, the case is entirely made of metal, and the potentiometers on the front panel are sturdy and precise. The only thing that has me a bit ‘to think is the fact that the input of the headset (in the front panel) and the monitor outputs (in the rear panel) that engages in one passage, is much longer than ever, the welds of the gang are fixed in the electronic base. From a functional point of view it is a super, the 24-bit / 192 kHz USB audio interface converters make the difference.
The D-Pre preamps are very quiet and very sensitive (tested with a Rode M3 microphone and a Samson mic C1) input 2 provided with the Hi-Z function. I tested it by connecting my Warwick Corvette bass and with a standard Epiphone Les Paul; the recordings were excellent (both with the pedals and with the guitar). The software supplied (to download from the product registration site) is the Cubase AI 8 (weighs 2.6 GB), has everything you need and supports a good number of tracks more than enough for home recording. I conclude by saying that for the price range is excellent sound card to try without asking a thousand questions.
Cubase AI 7 review
Cubase AI that comes with the device does not have full functionality. However, the program can be upgraded to the full version at a significantly lower price than if you buy it from scratch. Cubase is the popular Steinberg sequencer. It is software that covers all phases of music production: from composition to mastering, and for this it is very complex. More than twenty years, Cubase, the professional software for music production, has evolved continuously. Cubase 7 in addition to the completely renewed Cubase 7 mixer, it offers new functions and creative such as Chord Track and Chord Assistance, VariAudio 2.0, new tools and the VST Connect SE online recording tool. The heart of the program weighs only 370 MB, all the rest of the 7 GB of the installed files is additive material like VST Instruments with the respective sounds and demo projects.
The installation of the software is really simple. But Cubase 7 does not work on Windows XP, so all the PC users who fond of the good old operating system must first install Windows 7 or Windows 8 if they want to use this version of the Cubase. A Mac requires a system with an Intel processor and OSX 10.7 (or more advanced). When you own an eLicenser, an ordinary Steinberg USB driver, to avoid using pirated copies, you download an encrypted version of Cubase 7 for Windows from the Steinberg website and obtain a usage license key that allows you to use all software on any computer while the eLicenser is connected to the USB -port.
The 900-page manual for now only exists in pdf format in English. Video tutorials made available online are very beautiful, allowing not only to discover step by step all the news of the version of Cubase, but can be considered a significant guide for all those who have decided to opt for the audio production software of the German company.
The best budget audio interfaces review
Let’s take a look at other reliable budget USB cards highlighting 2-channel devices. In fact, almost all these audio interfaces offer a reasonable price for those who create their own home studio. All of them are compatible with the best professional recording software.
- PreSonus AudioBox iTwo is recommended by many users, with 2 inputs and 2 outputs, resolution of sound reaching 24 bit/ 96 KHz, MIDI in and out connections, metal housing. In addition to PC and Mac is compatible with iPad. It has zero-latency hardware monitoring and XMAX microphone preamps that ensure the recording of a “rich” harmonics sound. Comes in bundle with Studio One Artist that allows the recording of unlimited tracks as unlimited are send sends and insert slots for effects.
- M-Audio M-Track Plus II. This low-cost USB interface allows the connection of all electronic or electrical instruments and is also excellent for condenser microphones thanks to the integrated 48V Phantom power supply. Solid case and small size make it ideal for mobile recordings or live performances. The 2 input channels feature both XLR sockets and 1/4” balanced jack sockets. Monitoring without hardware latency of input signals is supported and has multicolor level indicators that give instant visual feedback of the signal being recorded.
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is well known in the world of USB audio interfaces for the quality of microphone preamps it uses, and is a brand recommended by many professionals.
- Tascam US-2 × 2 USB is a compact and user-friendly interface model, with 2 channels that have switchable impedance. The combo of XLR connectors and jacks allow switching from high impedance instruments to low impedance line level, and to easily use microphones. You will not need to get DI Boxes. Easy to set up, the US-2 × 2 has so many enthusiastic reviews.
We are not going to say that there are no differences in audio quality between different interfaces, but if we move in the field of home study, simplicity will always be welcome. In addition, other components of your home studio such as the speakers you have, the mics and their placement, the quality of the instruments used, their tuning, acoustic treatment of our recording booth, etc. they are factors in which we can work intensively to achieve tremendous advances in the quality of our recordings in our home studio, without having to spend a lot of money on a better card.
It is important to note that the computer we have can greatly influence the minimum latency that we can reach and that no matter how good an audio interface is, if we connect it to an outdated computer, we will have problems. Cheap computers are not always the best option and carefully choose a suitable configuration for multimedia works, with fast hard drives and graphics cards with a lot of own memory and processing capacity will be necessary.