The UR22 USB audio interface is a 2-in/2-out, bus-powered audio and midi interface that sits at the entry-level end of Steinberg’s range. Clearly targeted at the mobile and home studio market the UR22 features Yamaha’s acclaimed D-PRE microphone pre-amps and at first glance appears to provide all the classic switches and I/O that you would expect from an interface in this segment. We were keen to investigate further.
Weighing in at around 2 lb (1 kg) the UR22 is constructed with a rugged full metal chassis, a very pleasing surprise at this price point. Presented in a stylish black and silver casing the unit seems to have been carefully designed to withstand all the rigors of the road with the carry weight and slight bulk being only a small compromise that you’ll be glad to make. The various controls all operate smoothly as expected and the overall first impression is that the UR22 is an attractive and solid piece of audio gear that could be comfortably thrown in a bag or stood proudly on a desk.
Located on the front panel are two Neutrik analog XLR/TRS combo inputs with peak LEDs. Each input combines with a standard gain control and an additional Hi-Z switch on the second input allows for direct recording of electric guitar or bass. Conveniently, the single heaphone input is also to be found on the front panel. Additional controls offer headphone volume, output level and a mix knob for blending the direct signal of your instrument and the output of your DAW.
The UR22’s rear panel features a USB 2.0 port, MIDI I/O sockets and a pair of balanced 1/4 inch TRS audio outputs. You’ll also find a 48V phantom power switch enabling you to connect condenser microphones. We’d prefer this particular switch be placed on the front for easier access though the labeling on the top of the chassis does help locate the switch when required.
Setup & Software
Steinberg pioneered the low-latency sound card driver protocol that is ASIO and can generally be relied on to supply stable, trouble-free drivers. Indeed, setup of the UR22 went smoothly as expected with just a simple driver installation required on our Windows 8 and Windows 10 machines. We have not yet had a chance to try this interface on a Mac but Steinberg advise us that the current released Mac driver supports up to 10.11 (El Capitan) on OS X, while the newest Windows driver supports from Windows 7 (SP1) to Windows 10.
Bundled software comprises of Cubase AI 7, a special entry-level version of Steinberg’s award winning DAW. Cubase AI is a limited but polished package and surely a good start for the recording enthusiast though we did find the installation, registration and activation process to be more complicated than we think necessary. While Cubase AI may suit the beginner perfectly it should also be noted that purchasers are able to upgrade to the superior Cubase Elements for a relatively small fee.
To begin we created a new project and recorded a number of acoustic instruments. It quickly became clear that the UR22 has plenty of gain available and as such we were able to achieve desireable levels with the gain controls at fairly low settings. We found this to be ideal for vocals but discovered we did need to monitor levels extra closely when using instruments in order to avoid overloading the input signal.
The UR22 supports 24-bit resolution at sample rates of up to an impressive 192 kHz, unusual for an audio interface in this class. This could be considered excessive with most users recording at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. Regardless, the option is nice to have and is a win for the UR22 with many competing interfaces (notably the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2) maxing out at a lower 96 kHz. The Yamaha designed “D-PRE” mic pre-amps are a known quantity and perform admirably, sounding clean and clear with a musicality that’s pleasing to our ears. The D-PRE pre-amps are often derided for not being ‘flat’ enough and while we can understand the complaints we also appreciate the personality that they bring to the table here.
Latency was acceptable across a range of testing, scaling appropriately with sample sizes used. Steinberg’s driver proving itself to be as good as expected.
Steinberg have some stiff competition in this market segment but with this interface have managed to rise with the best, offering a rugged construction, MIDI capability, 192 kHz sample rate and excellent sounding pre-amps. If you’re after a compact USB audio interface then we can’t imagine you would be disappointed with the UR22.
- Sturdy construction
- 192 kHz sample-rate
- Best-in-class drivers
- Cubase AI activation process