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Universal Audio Volt 76 series review

UA has finally joined the affordable audio interfacing party, here we check out the 176 and 276 models

  • £215+
Universal Audio Volt 76 series audio interfaces
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Bad news for other affordable interface makers: these are great, with a spritz of hard-to-resist recording history magic on top.

Pros

  • Classic UA recording channels with Vintage and 76 Compressor embellishments.
  • UA quality at an affordable price.
  • Attractive, intuitive, easy to use, plug-and-play design.

Cons

  • No scope for expansion beyond the limited I/O.
  • If you’re attracted by UAD’s plugins, the Volts are not for you.

MusicRadar Verdict

Bad news for other affordable interface makers: these are great, with a spritz of hard-to-resist recording history magic on top.

Pros

  • +

    Classic UA recording channels with Vintage and 76 Compressor embellishments.

  • +

    UA quality at an affordable price.

  • +

    Attractive, intuitive, easy to use, plug-and-play design.

Cons

  • -

    No scope for expansion beyond the limited I/O.

  • -

    If you’re attracted by UAD’s plugins, the Volts are not for you.

  • -

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: What is it?

Until now, Universal Audio seemed happy to cater to the ‘pro' market alone. That changes with the release of the Volt audio interface range, which arrives to disrupt the more affordable end of the audio interfacing world. Here, we’re focusing on two of the more eye-catching designs, the Volt 176 and 276. 

In the box you’ll find the interface itself, a USB cable for connection and another to provide power; whilst the interfaces are bus-powered, the option to plug in may be reassuring for some. 

Installation is simple. Follow a link to the UAD website to download UA Connect, which then lets you register, install firmware updates, and then download any items of the bundled software you like. 

These include Ableton Live Lite, Melodyne Essential and assorted instruments and effects including LABS from Spitfire Audio. But let’s be immediately clear; not only are the Volt interfaces a departure from the cost of previous UA designs, they have a very different remit too. 

There’s no UAD plugin hosting, onboard software processing nor Console software to configure recording setups. Instead, the Volts are plug-and-play USB-C interfaces that offer UA’s excellent preamps and, in the case of the two units on review, the added benefit of some onboard analogue processing to bring the flavour of two legendary Universal Audio designs to the tracking stage. 

Universal Audio Volt 76 series audio interfaces

(Image credit: Future)

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: Performance and verdict

To focus on the 276, the interface is a desktop module, with combo XLR/TRS inputs on the front panel, with phantom power (one button for both inputs), Instrument switches and a headphone port (with generous gain), alongside a headphone volume dial. 

The upper panel is where the main action is, with Gain dials per channel, plus the option to switch in 76 Compressor and Vintage options. The first speaks for itself, with an analogue circuit enabling you to choose 1176-style Vocal, Guitar, Fast or Off one-button compression at the recording stage. 

Whilst the Vintage option is less explicitly named, it provides the tube emulation, gentle saturation, top-end lift of UA’s classic 610 channel. No additional controls are available for either option; you won’t find Ratio switch options for the 76 Compressor, for instance. But all three compression settings give a characteristic flavour without going overboard. 

Otherwise, the dominant Monitor dial controls output volume to speakers, and a blue-lit Direct button enables direct monitoring by routing the inputs to the outputs. Round the back, you’ll find stereo outputs, the USB connector and MIDI In/Out ports. 

The 176 offers all of the above but limits itself to one input channel. 

The Volts are a radical departure for UA, offering an affordable taste of the brand’s key ingredients. They’re incompatible with plugins from the UAD store and don’t even work with UA’s LUNA software. But they absolutely deserve to shake up the budget interface market with a great design, a plug-and-play workflow and hard-to-beat audio conversion.

MusicRadar verdict: Bad news for other affordable interface makers: these are great, with a spritz of hard-to-resist recording history magic on top.

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: The web says

"Universal Audio’s first serious foray into the budget interface world is definitely a success. "
Engadget

"The Volt 276 Studio Pack is a great place to start for a budding podcaster or YouTuber. The interface is excellent for the price range, and the effects, while subtle, will give your recordings a very nice polish. For advanced users and musicians, the Volt is all about the top-notch input effects."
Macworld

"These capable and great-sounding audio interfaces are ideal for a first studio build, and a worthwhile upgrade for existing small setups."
MusicTech

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: Hands-on demos

Universal Audio

Ed Thorne Music Production

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: Specifications

Universal Audio Volt 76 series audio interfaces

(Image credit: Future)
  • 1-in/2-out [176]
  • 2-in/2-out [276]
  • 4-in/4-out [476, not reviewed here]
  • 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion for Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone
  • Vintage Mic Preamp mode for recording voice or guitar with the rich, full sound of a classic UA tube preamp
  • Built-in 76 Compressor adds instant clarity and punch to voice, instruments, and other sources with all-new analog circuit based on UA's iconic 1176
  • Essential suite of audio and music software from Ableton, Melodyne, UJAM's Virtual Drummer, Marshall, Ampeg, and more
  • Studio-quality headphone amplifier for loud, clear monitoring
  • USB bus powered to reduce cable clutter
  • 48V phantom power for condenser microphones
  • Direct Monitoring for latency-free recording
  • Stylish, rugged construction built to withstand years of use
  • 1-in/1-out MIDI connections
  • USB-C to USB-A cable included

Universal Audio Volt 76 series audio interfaces

(Image credit: Future)