Rated highly upon release the Steinberg UR22 has remained a popular interface choice since its launch in 2013. Over two years on and Steinberg have now seen fit to bring the second revision to market, snappily titled the ‘UR22mkII’. The new model boasts iOS compatibility and included software for iOS, Mac, and Windows. We were eager to get a chance to try one out and came away with some interesting impressions.
Those familiar with the first generation UR22 will be hard pressed to find any differences on the exterior of the second revision, with only the ‘mkII’ lettering on the front giving a hint as to the interface’s age. Steinberg have maintained the conservative appearance of black and silver on the mkII, and while it’s an attractive enough unit we can’t help but think some will find it a little outdated looking when compared to recent competition.
As with the original UR22, the chassis itself is of metal construction and feels suitably robust; especially important when we consider that the new iPad/iPhone connectivity options (discussed shortly) will appeal to those looking to cart their interface around for mobile recording. The weight though, at 1030g means that the mkII is officially 32 grams heavier than it’s predecessor and is typically heavier than similar sized competing interfaces available. In this instance we’re not too fussed, the heft lends a feel of quality to the unit and it’s not something you’re going to notice in day-to-day use. The five knobs and single switch all appear to be made of plastic but feel solid in operation and turn as smoothly as you can expect with a pleasing amount of resistance. Similarly, connectors both front and rear are made of injection molded plastic as is typical on an interface in this price range.
Finally, we love the labeling on top of the chassis, making fast work of connecting a cable to the rear of the interface while it’s up close to a wall – an often frustrating task. Overall, the build quality on the UR22mkII impresses.
The aforementioned connectors on the front of the unit are high quality Neutrik branded XLR/TRS analog inputs, with associated gain controls and peak LEDs to advise when input signals are too hot. A Hi-Z switch, also on the front, combines with the second input to allow for direct recording of guitar or bass. Further along the front you’ll find a standard 1/4 inch headphone jack with an independent volume control, an output level knob, and a mix knob for adjusting the signal level balance between the signal from the analog input jacks and the signal from your system.
Connectivity options on the rear consist of MIDI I/O sockets and a pair of balanced 1/4 inch TRS audio outputs. MIDI inclusion is excellent to see at this price point, and is always nice to have available even if it’s not immediately useful for everyone. A 48V phantom power switch, also on the rear, powers both inputs simultaneously and allows you to connect any condenser microphone of your choice. We’d prefer this switch to be on the front for easy access, but it’s a minor inconvenience at worst.
Whereas the original UR22 is solely USB bus powered, the mkII requires that a suitable power supply is connected when hooked up to an iPad or iPhone. And so it’s on the rear where we find a micro-USB 5V DC power connector alongside the standard USB 2.0 connector. A sliding switch allows for choosing between the two power sources. iPad and iPhone users will need to locate a suitable Apple Lightning-to-USB or CCK connector in addition to a power supply as Steinberg don’t provide these with the UR22mkII. Fortunately, micro-USB chargers are ubiquitous these days, and rechargeable USB power packs are available for those users that might be away from a power outlet when recording.
Setup & Software
Steinberg created the low-latency and well-regarded sound card driver protocol, ASIO. As a result, you can typically expect stable and high performing drivers to be provided for their audio interfaces. Indeed, setup of the UR22mkII went smoothly and we were up and running within minutes on both our Windows 10 and Mac desktops. At the time of writing, the Windows driver supports Windows 7 SP1, 8, 8.1, and Windows 10. On the Mac OS side, 10.9 (Mavericks) through 10.11 (El Capitan) are supported by the current driver while older driver versions are available for use with 10.7.5 (Lion) and 10.8.5 (Mountain Lion). Updated drivers are made available for download on the support section of Steinberg’s website.
Desktop users are provided with access to a downloadable copy of Cubase AI, a special cut-down version of Steinberg’s award winning DAW Cubase. Cubase AI is a basic but polished package and exists as great start for the recording enthusiast. Unfortunately, it’s installed through a rather tedious process that necessitates a clunky registration and activation process that serves as an exercise in frustration. Once installed however, the mkII worked flawlessly.
For iOS, Steinberg offer Cubasis LE – a free, stripped down version of Cubasis (essentially what Cubase AI is to Cubase). Cubasis LE is an easy download from the Apple store and can be later upgraded to the standard Cubasis full feature set via an in-app purchase. Cubasis LE offers a maximum of four audio tracks and four MIDI tracks, and supports a maximum of two audio input channels with an audio format of 16-bit/44.1kHz. You’re also limited to three effects, although two additional FX packs are available through in-app purchase, one consisting of primarily reverb and delay-type effects and the other a variety of vintage style effects. We’ve been fans of Cubasis since launch and thinkCubasis LE acts a great entry-point for personal recording on iOS.
With all that said, how does the UR22mkII sound? On our desktop machines we ran a range of subjective listening tests of commercially available music, the mkII matching our high expectations, sounding fantastic and with more than enough output to push our studio monitors to their limits. We were able to get high quality recordings of vocals through dynamic and condenser mics, while recording of electric guitars (through the second input with the Hi-Z switch on) proved similarly impressive. We’re fond of the Yamaha designed “D-PRE” mic pre-amps that feature on the UR series interfaces and here they sound as clean and musical as we’ve come to expect. Audio formats at up to 24-bit/192 kHz are supported, which is well above what is typical of interfaces in this price segment.
Of course, the most notable new feature of this second generation UR22 is that of the ability to connect it to an iPhone or iPad. With this in mind, we pried a brand new iPad Pro from the hands of an unsuspecting colleague and hooked it up to our mkII with the help of Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit and a standard USB power adapter that was surplus in the office. There’s no driver installation required on iOS so setup is extremely straightfoward and once the interface was connected and the multitude of cables were placed safely out of the way we were able to begin our mkII testing on iOS. It seemed appropriate to start with Cubasis where we created a fairly simple vocal and acoustic guitar track, which was then followed with a spell in our goto app for guitar amp modeling, BIAS FX. We’re pleased to say that both apps worked flawlessly with the UR22mkII being performant while sounding every bit as good as with our desktop configurations.
As a budget 2-in / 2-out interface, the UR22mkII sits in a crowded market segment and finds itself competing on price with the likes of Focusrite’s best-selling Scarlett 2i2. If we consider, though, that the UR22mkII now offers iOS compatibility in addition to MIDI connectivity and 24-bit/192kHz support, we really must come to the conclusion that the UR22mkII is unmatched in features at this price point. The robust chassis and quality sounding preamps only help to strengthen our impression of Steinberg’s latest interface. Overall, this is a fantastic audio interface for users at any level and we recommend it highly.
- Robust chassis
- Supports up to 192 kHz sample-rate
- iOS support
- Cubase AI activation process