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Universal Audio Volt

USB Audio Interfaces By Sam Inglis
Published December 2021

Universal Audio Volt

Universal Audio target newcomers to recording with a range of affordable USB interfaces.

The Universal Audio name has always been associated with innovation. The company’s original incarnation produced ground‑breaking valve consoles, equalisers and mic preamps, before going on to create the industry‑standard 1176 compressor. And in their rebirth under Bill Putnam Jr, the current Universal Audio company brought the idea of integrating DSP plug‑ins into native computer‑based systems into the mainstream. They then built on the success of the UAD‑2 Powered Plug‑ins platform to create the wildly successful Apollo range of audio interfaces.

Until now, this innovation has been targeted at industry professionals and the upper end of the home‑studio market, and UA have been content to let other manufacturers slug it out in the ‘affordable’ and ‘entry level’ price brackets. All that has changed, however, with the launch of the new Volt range of audio interfaces.

The Volt range marks a clean break with UA’s established approach in several ways. Firstly, these are interfaces designed purely and simply for recording; they have no DSP and cannot host plug‑ins. There is no equivalent to the Console utility that is paired with the Apollo interfaces, and indeed no software control at all over levels or routing. Although you need to install an ASIO driver on Windows, the Volt interfaces are otherwise entirely plug‑and‑play, with all features directly controlled from the hardware. And whereas the Apollo interfaces use UA’s Unison technology to offer sophisticated hybrid emulations of vintage mic preamps and other devices, the Volts have their own, purely analogue input‑conditioning options. Most of all, though, they’re extremely affordable!

Five Volts

There are no fewer than five Volts in the line‑up at launch, but unlike the Focusrite Scarlett range, say, where half a dozen models span a wide variety of input and output counts, all Volts are small interfaces designed for desktop use. Even the top‑of‑the‑range Volt 476 has only four inputs and outputs, and none of them has any digital I/O for expansion, so you won’t be tracking full bands live with any of them. All are designed to be bus‑powered through their Type‑C USB connectors, but as their power needs are relatively demanding, they come with an additional USB cable that can be connected to a phone charger or similar device if necessary. A (rather short) Type‑C to Type‑A cable is also supplied, but not one with two Type‑C connectors.

The Volts all share similar dimensions and look at first sight like half‑rack devices, but in fact are taller than 1U and narrower than half‑rack width. The most basic models are the Volt 1 and Volt 2, equipped with stereo line‑level outputs, MIDI I/O and a headphone jack, plus one and two combination jack/XLR inputs respectively. These are housed in fairly utilitarian grey metal cases, with all the controls on the front panel. The other three Volts, by contrast, feature smart wooden end panels and a form factor that places most of the controls on the top panel. The 176 and 276 have the same I/O complement as the Volt 1 and 2, while the 476 adds an extra pair of line inputs and outputs. The Volt 2 and 276 are also available as part of Studio Packs with a Volt‑branded mic and pair of headphones, providing everything you need to get started...

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