As a loyal user of UA products over the years (upgraded straight from the DigiDesign MBox 2, that I had for an EMBARASSINGLY long time into being the Gear God, to an Apollo Twin Solo, then the Apollo Twin Quad, to now the x8p Heritage Edition, and I also have the Apollo Solo as my travel interface) I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m a fan. If I’m recording, or playing audio from my computer, it’s through UA.
The issue that many have had with the UA interfaces is the price – understandable, they aren’t cheap because they’re outrageously well made and have worked without problems for me since I started using them – but UA has heard the cries. They understand that not everyone needs the extreme functionality of their more powerful interfaces, but still want high-quality preamps, conversion, and simple use. And UA wants to give it to you.
Thus they have developed and now released the Volt series of interfaces. Available in 5 formats,
- Volt 1 (1 in/2 out, $139.99)
- Volt 2 (2in/2 out, $189.99) <– this is the one I reviewed
- Volt 176 (1 in/2 out with inbuilt 1176-style compressor, $249)
- Volt 276 (2 in/2 out with inbuilt 1176-style compressor, $299)
- Volt 476 (4 in/4 out with inbuilt 1176-style compressor, $369)
Even the most expensive of the lot is only a little more than half the price of UA’s next model up, the Apollo Solo ($699) and has double the I/O.
The main difference between the Volt series and Apollo series interfaces is the analog element. The Apollo interfaces are a gateway to digital emulations of classic gear, a veritable library of vintage sounds from preamps to compressors and anything else you can imagine – but for many, that’s a library of option paralysis. The Volt gives you two total options on the way in for preamp sounds – its normal analog pre, or a UA610-style tube modeled preamp using the Vintage button. For the majority of users, this is plenty – in fact, the lion’s share of interfaces don’t even have more than one sound.
These interfaces have everything you need and then some – all of them have combo mic/line jacks that are also instrument DI inputs (hit that Inst button if you’re plugging your guitar in direct), 48v phantom power to power condenser mics etc., headphone out with separate volume control, balanced monitor out, bus power over USB-C (with the ability to use AC power via a sold-separately adapter), and, curiously, 5-pin MIDI I/O. In the age of USB MIDI, this is almost an anachronism – but also a welcome feature for me. I have recently been trying to work out how to control a couple MIDI devices in my studio, but none of my interfaces have 5-pin I/O – until now.
The more advanced features in the Volt 76 models include a FET compressor modeled after the storied 1176 compressor from UA, a staple in every studio across the globe, as well as more I/O (up to 4 ins and outs in the 476) and more flexible routing. Also, stylish wood panels!
One ultra-handy use for the 1176 style compressor being inline at the push of a button is for streamers – as someone who streams a lot, I know that having good compression on your voice is very important, and while I love using the 1176 plugin in my chain in UA Console using the built-in DSP in my Apollo, it does use some DSP that could be otherwise used for other purposes, and simplicity is king. One button and BOOM – your voice has the punch it needs to be heard and felt by your audience. This could be a worthwhile upgrade if you are a streamer.
A frequent concern of budget interfaces like this is the instrument DI input clipping. The internet is rife with complaints of the old first-gen Scarlett 2i2’s direct in being incapable of recording a guitar signal without clipping, rendering it nearly useless. To put your fears to rest with regards to the Volt, I plugged in my highest output active pickups and picked as hard as I possibly could, and there was still plenty of headroom left. No clipping to be found here! This is very important in the age of amp sim plugins – you can have amazing guitar tones in the box, but only if you can get a clean signal into it.
The Volt marks a new chapter in Universal Audio’s story, hearkening back to their analog roots to bring an interface to the people, one that combines the classic sounds they built their brand on with the technology they’ve become known for, all at a price point that will leave similar units in the dust. It’s an impressive unit that delivers everything it promises, is plug-and-play easy, and is priced to annihilate the competition.
Check out the Volt on Sweetwater.
Some of the links contained in this article are affiliate links that Gear Gods earns a small commission on, at no cost to you, and don’t worry – your price is the same! Thank you for your support.