When you’re looking for a budget two-channel audio interface, probably the first audio interface that would come into mind would be the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
However, the Scarlett 2i2 is known to have a ‘bright’ sound with its AIR mode feature. If you’re looking for an audio interface that can provide a warmer tone, the Universal Audio Volt 2 is the best option.
Universal Audio has always been a name that resonates with quality and reliability. It is a globally recognized leader in audio hardware with a rich history of creating some of the most esteemed preamps, channel strips, and compressors. The Universal Audio Volt 2 continues this tradition, packing a punch to both aesthetic and functional excellence.
And if you’re already familiar with the Scarlett 2i2, you’ll be interested in this Universal Audio Volt 2 review; they are like night and day. We’ll delve into the features, performance, and overall value of the Volt 2, to provide a comprehensive look at this impressive piece of gear.
At a Glance
The Universal Audio Volt 2 is a compact and affordable 2-in/2-out audio interface with a blend of vintage charm and modern functionality, making it an ideal choice for musicians, podcasters, and audio enthusiasts alike.
It boasts various features designed to enhance your recording experience with professional-grade audio. These include stereo output via ¼-inch jacks for speakers, a shared headphone amp for channels one and two, zero-latency direct monitoring, Vintage Mode, MIDI in and out (x1), 48V phantom power, and 2 x combo XLR/1/4″ inputs.
The option to power the interface through a Type-C USB port or a separate DC power cable adds to its convenience, especially for on-the-go recording. The Volt 2 also comes with a handful of free software goodies, all for just $189.00.
Design and Build Quality
I like that Universal Audio significantly emphasizes the user’s unboxing experience. The device arrives in an elegant black box that you’ll need to slide out from the packaging. When you lift the box lid, the Volt 2 sits snugly inside, cushioned by foam on its sides. The cables are stored neatly in a smaller black box at the bottom.
In contrast, the PreSonus Studio 26C I use, and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 merely wrap the audio interface in plastic when taken out of their packaging.
The Volt 2 is a solid and sturdy piece of equipment with an all-metal body. Despite its compact size, it has a reassuring weight, a good half pound heavier than the Scarlett 2i2, making it durable and portable.
The dials are very firm, while the buttons are sturdy and responsive, lighting up in bright colors to indicate whether onboard features are active.
I’m amazed that Universal Audio can skillfully give the Volt series of audio interfaces a classy, old-school appearance, complemented by a modern flair. The glass LED buttons, LED indicator strips, and simple dials remind me a little of the classic Neve 1073 or Focusrite ISA 428 mic preamps.
Input / Output Connections and Connectivity
The Volt 2 offers diverse audio input and output connections tailored to your recording needs.
XLR/TRS Combo Inputs
The 2 x XLR / TRS combo inputs provide versatile connections for various instruments. They allow the flexibility to connect two inputs, whether from a mic, instrument, or line inputs, or even two of the same input devices.
The UA Volt 2 features stereo outputs through 2 x 1/4-inch jacks for studio monitors. Using balanced TRS audio cables can ensure a clean and clear connection on a balanced stereo monitor system.
Additionally, it includes a studio-quality headphone jack that monitors both inputs with zero latency.
The device also incorporates a 1 x MIDI input/output, which is rare for budget audio interfaces. This MIDI Input/output will allow you to connect MIDI controllers, synths, or sound modules to the Volt 2.
USB-C Connection & 5VDC Power Inlet
The USB-C connection facilitates data transfer and powers the device via USB-C bus power. The Volt 2 package contains one power cable and USB-C to USB Type A cable, simplifying the setup process.
One fantastic feature of the Volt 2 lacking in other budget audio interfaces is that it can be powered by an external power source using the included 5VDC-to-USB connector to a USB-to-wall power adapter. This feature is beneficial for reducing the power drain on your iPad or laptop or if a USB port cannot provide enough power.
Another lesser-known application for its 5V power inlet is that the Volt 2 can act as a standalone mic preamp without connecting to a computer. You can connect the Volt 2 to analog outboard gear, like a compressor or mixer.
The UA Volt 2 promises clear, high-resolution audio conversion that closely aligns with the company’s industry-standard Apollo line.
With a robust microphone preamp offering 55db gain, the Volt 2 captures your recordings with a high dynamic range. This preamp gain provides an “open” high-frequency range and a detailed midrange, avoiding the “muddy” character often found in audio interfaces within its price range. While the low mids might not be as nuanced as the Apollo converters, the differences are minor and only noticeable in specific multitracking scenarios.
The sound quality of the UA Volt 2 is impressive, especially considering its price point. The preamps are clean and robust, and the headphone amp should be able to drive most headphones.
It also has a low equivalent input noise of -127 dBu, which is excellent when used with dynamic microphones. You can crank up the gain or add a lot of compressions and still get a clean sound without much buzzing and hissing.
The standout feature of the UA Volt 2 is its Vintage mode. This mode is to the Volt 2, as the AIR mode is to the Scarlett 2i2. It offers deep and warm saturation to your audio, reminiscent of the Universal Audio 610 Tube Preamps, used to record many artists, from the soulful Ray Charles to the rock band Van Halen.
The effect of Vintage Mode is a valuable tool for enhancing your audio, perfect for those looking to infuse some old-school analog charm into their recordings.
Audio Interface Controls
The Universal Audio Volt 2 Audio Interface designs focus on user-friendly controls; you don’t need an audio engineer to use its features fully.
Dials and Button
The front panel has two gain knobs for each channel, allowing precise control over the input levels. Each channel has its input meter; they are pretty simplistic, providing a general sense of the levels, with green, yellow, and red lights indicating healthy, loud, and clipping levels.
Each channel has two buttons: the “Vintage” button, which toggles on/off the vintage mode, adding warmth and harmonics to your tone, and the “INST” button, which switches the TRS input between line level and instrument input.
48V Phantom Power
The UA Volt 2 features a single button that simultaneously sends 48V phantom power to both inputs when connecting to condenser microphones. This 48V power going to both inputs will be fine for most users, but this limitation is something to keep in mind if you’re using vintage ribbon mics or other equipment that the 48V power may damage.
When toggling the button for 48V phantom power, the LED light blinks red when activating or powering off.
The interface also features Direct Monitoring, which provides zero latency when monitoring the audio from your studio monitors or headphones. The “DIRECT” monitoring button has three functions: On (LED Orange) for stereo, On (LED Blue) for mono, and Off (LED Unlit).
On the rear panel of the UA Volt 2, you’ll find a power switch that lets you quickly power off the audio interface when it is not in use so that it does not drain the battery from the connected device.
Marshall Plexi Classic Amp Bundle by Softube
The Marshall Plexi Classic digitally represents the iconic Marshall Plexi Super Lead 1959 amplifier. While it’s a limited version, it doesn’t compromise on the rich, full-bodied distortion for which the Super Lead 1959 is renowned.
The Plexi Classic offers the genuine Marshall sound, characterized by its unruly and robust tones. One of the distinctions between the Classic and the full version is the microphone selection. The Classic version retains the industry-standard SM57 microphone, known for its reliability and versatility in capturing guitar tones.
You can also shape your tones further with the included Softube Time & Tone Bundle with four plug-ins: Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor, TSAR-1R Reverb, Tube Delay, and Saturation Knob.
Melodyne Essential is the entry-level edition of the Melodyne software that lets you make pitch corrections, minor vocal tweaks, or detailed editing with its Grammy Award-winning sound quality.
You can tweak monophonic vocals, instrumental tracks, and drums and even remix entire tracks by time-stretching or transposing them. The only thing you can’t do is edit individual notes from polyphonic instruments like pianos or guitars.
You’ll also have the Main Tool at your fingertips, where you can effortlessly fine-tune pitch, adjust timing, and modify note durations and separations. And thanks to the integrated macros for pitch, timing, and dynamics, you can achieve quick enhancements without getting tangled in complex functions.
Ampeg SVT-VR Classic Bass Bundle by Plugin Alliance
The Ampeg SVT-VR Classic is a digital representation of Ampeg’s iconic big bass stacks, renowned for their earth-shaking and rich low end. This plugin captures this authentic tone, offering a streamlined version with only the essential features for straightforward use.
It includes a single complete channel with both “Ultra Hi” and “Ultra Lo” settings, and a tailored FX Rack, featuring a noise gate, tight and smooth filters, a Power Soak for added saturation, input gain control for optimal gain staging, and three of Brainworx’s advanced boutique recording chains to integrate your bass sound into any mix seamlessly.
The bx_tuner is precisely what its name says: a guitar or bass tuner. This bx_tuner is a useful plugin if you just want to play your guitar straight into your DAW. It also has a unique Output Dim feature that lets you tune with sound but reduces in volume.
The ‘Brainworx bx_masterdesk’ is a high-end analog mastering system in a single plugin that offers a comprehensive suite of features designed to simplify the mastering process while delivering professional results.
It boasts a straightforward interface with clear, intuitive metering, allowing users to achieve a studio-quality sound in a simple 3-step workflow with large dials labeled ‘1.Volume,’ ‘2.Foundation,’ and ‘3.Tone.’ You can also use their extensive pre-set list to avoid making tweaks yourself.
The ‘Volume’ adjusts the loudness, the ‘Foundation’ adjusts the overall tonality between the lows and highs, while the ‘Tone’ does some minor EQ to add color to the sound. You can also make further adjustments using the de-esser, compressor mix, and stereo width controls.
LX480 Essentials by Relab Development
The LX480 Essentials faithfully captures the essence of the iconic 480L hardware reverb, infusing your mix with its rich, intricate textures and expansive tails with four iconic reverb sounds:
- Fat Plate: A shimmering reverb that imparts a lush, bright touch, especially to vocals and percussion.
- Medium Hall: Designed to emulate a genuine medium-sized hall, this reverb seamlessly blends tracks, establishing a unified sonic environment.
- Small Ambience: Subtle yet significant, it enriches the depth without being overpowering, making it perfect for drums and crafting a nuanced ambiance that’s more felt than heard.
- Large Wood Room: A uniquely colored reverb that provides a sense of space without dominating, making it versatile for everything from music production to film.
Virtual Drummer DEEP by UJAM
The rhythmic soul of UJAM’s “Virtual Drummer DEEP” is inspired by the iconic sounds of the 60s and 70s that encapsulate the spirit of traditional genres like Soul and Funk while seamlessly blending with contemporary styles like pop, rock, and alternative tracks.
DEEP boasts 30 styles with 690 drum patterns and 70 sound designer pre-sets, ensuring a vast palette of grooves. You can customize the five distinct drum kits effortlessly, and the unique “Grit” control adds that edgy retro touch.
The meticulous recording process has up to 60 velocity layers per instrument and both vintage and modern mics and ensures unparalleled realism with UJAM’s dynamic round-robin algorithm. With intuitive mix pre-sets and a detailed mix section, crafting the perfect drum sound has never been easier.
Virtual Bassist DANDY by UJAM
Like the “Virtual Drummer DEEP”, UJAM’s “Virtual Bassist DANDY.” DANDY is a world-class vintage bass guitar player that offers 30 styles, 990 phrases, and 100 pre-sets to deliver ultra-smooth basslines to enhance a mix. It has intuitive control for beginners and allows skillful players the freedom to craft their bass parts.
DANDY’s vintage sound is perfect for genres like Soul, Pop, Blues, and Rock. Whether aiming for soft, round tones or bright, modern vibes, DANDY’s custom DSP algorithms and multi-effects have you covered.
DANDY intelligently follows the key and chord you play, selecting the most musical articulations for a stellar bass output. Plus, with features like Player Mode and Instrument Mode, you can leverage masterfully played phrases or record your unique bass solos.
LABS by Spitfire Audio
LABS is a curated virtual instrument library of instruments that is free and easy to use for various applications such as home recording, composing film scores and orchestras, etc. There are organic textures, synth strings, guitar harmonics, pipe organs, tape orchestras, and many other sounds that musicians make. But then again, this is quite a gimmick because LABS by Spitfire Audio is accessible to anybody, not just users who purchased Universal Audio’s products.
The Universal Audio Volt 2 is a solid audio interface that offers exceptional value for its price of $189.00. It delivers impressive audio quality, a robust build, and a range of features, making it a versatile choice for mobile and home studios recording setups. Whether you’re a podcaster, voice artist, or singer, the Volt 2 is a reliable and affordable option that doesn’t compromise quality.
Experienced professionals might find the 2-in/2-out USB audio interface somewhat limited for purposes other than mobility and quick recordings. The compact size makes it a very mobile device to carry around in your bag and ensures that it will fit neatly on your desk.
The software bundle accompanying the Universal Audio Volt 2 is a treasure trove for music producers. The software offerings are diverse and valuable, from SPARK’s 30-day trial to the Softube Marshall Plexi Classic AMP and Celemony Melodyne essential. Including virtual instruments like UJAM Virtual Drummer Deep adds to the appeal, especially for those new to music production.
- A/D Resolution: up to 24-bit/192kHz
- Computer Connectivity: 1 x USB Type-C (USB 2.0) Port
- No. of channel: 2
- Number of Preamps: 2 x mic
- Gain range: 55 dB
- Equivalent Input Noise (EIN): -127 dBu typical (A-weighted)
- 48V Phantom Power: Available
- Analog Inputs: 2x Combo XLR/TRS Mic/Line/Hi-Z Input
- Analog Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ TRS Balanced Monitor Output, Headphones: 1 x 1/4″ TRS
- Direct monitoring switch
- MIDI I/O: 1 x DIN 5-Pin Input / 1 x DIN 5-Pin Output
- Vintage Mic Preamp mode for recording voice or guitar with the rich, full sound of a classic UA tube preamp
- Software: Complete audio and music bundled software packages from manufacturers like Ableton, Ampeg, Melodyne, Virtual Drummer, Marshall, and others.
- USB bus powered with an On-Off switch, and additional power port
- Dedicated dial for adjusting the outputs for headphones and monitors
- Zero-latency monitoring feature with stereo and mono modes
- 1-in/1-out MIDI connections
Universal Audio Volt 2