The Universal Audio Volt has caused quite the stir on the home recording scene since its introduction in 2021. By releasing an affordable, quality interface in this category, Universal Audio, who are best known for their prosumer and pro level gear, took aim straight at best sellers like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen (see our picks for low latency audio interfaces here), and came out swinging for the fences.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review we spent quite a bit of time getting to know the Volt 2, and from the get go, we absolutely loved it. Universal Audio were kind enough to send us this interface for the purpose of this review, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
The big question is, did the UA Volt outdo the Legendary 2i2? You’ll want to keep on reading to find out!
Who Is This For?
In the intro, we mentioned that the Universal Audio volt is primarily aimed at those taking their first steps at record at home. On top of that, the ease of use makes it a viable choice for beginners, or anybody to set up a real studio on a budget.
Its high fidelity performance makes it an ideal choice for everyone from guitarists to singers, and the low latency performance ensures even the most demanding users are happy.
The compact size is also a big benefit. It’s small and sturdy enough to be thrown into a backpack with a laptop, and it takes up very little space on a desktop.
Appearance / Features / Controls
We found that the Universal Audio Volt 2 is probably one of the more handsome interfaces on the market, especially at this price point. The black and white finish is simple, and much more appealing to a wider audience than some of the options from other manufacturers, especially for those who are recording at home and don’t want garish equipment laying around.
It had an all metal body, which is huge for anybody who wants to be able to travel with it, and despite having protruding controls, we felt they were sturdy enough to withstand transportation in a backpack or other bag.
The physical interface was nicely laid out, and simple to use. Controls were all clearly labeled, and spaced well enough to ensure easy operation without accidentally bumping other knobs.
As for inputs, being the Volt 2, there were 2 channels. Both had a multi jack option, allowing for either an XLR male input, or a standard ¼” instrument cable, making it a great choice for singer songwriters looking to record both guitar and vocals.
Each of the inputs had a Vintage Preamp mode activated by the “Vintage” button. This uses a really clever analog a real vintage tube preamp for rich, warm tones. With the function off, it delivers pristine clean preamp tones.
Next to the vintage button there was an “Inst” Instrument button. The purpose of this feature is to adjust the impedance and gain on the preamp. This allows for better quality recordings from guitars and basses, both of which have high impedance outputs. With the button in the off mode you’ll experience better recording from microphones and keyboards.
Both channels had an independent gain control, which is ideal if you’re using both simultaneously. On top of that there was also a control to activate direct monitoring, which is primarily aimed at those using studio headphones or monitors, rather than those using their laptop speakers to hear their input.
The unit also features midi in and out, making it perfect for running controllers, synths or any sort of midi switching through your computer.
The last control on the unit was the 48v Phantom Power on/off. Having this phantom power allows users to use condenser mics without the need for an additional power supply – an exceptionally handy feature, and a very nice function considering the size and price.
After plugging in, we set about downloading the required drivers to our Macbook Pro. As with all Universal Audio installs (from our experience), it was glitch free, and a pretty painless process. It also came with a bundle of great software, including Ableton Live Lite, Melodyne Essential, UJAM, Softube Marshall, Plugin Alliance Ampeg, and Relab LX480 Essentials – again an impressive suite of programs considering it was all free. For this review we didn’t end up using any of the bundled software, instead we used Logic Pro X.
Once everything was installed, we got to work on some recordings starting with a Gibson SG. We turned on the Instrument function and worked the gain from low through to high, and found ourselves amazed at how much more clean headroom the Volt 2 had than the Scarlett 2i2. We had no issues with uncontrolled distortion, and even when pushing high gain through the vintage preamp setting, there was no clipping.
It played especially well with the Neural DSP Archetype Rabea, and delivered solid, accurate performance when using the synth function on that plugin, too.
After playing with the dry signal, we plugged in the pedal board and found that with the Vintage mode off it delivered fantastically clean performance, again, with no noticeable clipping. This made it especially easy to get great recordings with little work needed in post to clean things up.
If you’re a podcaster you’ll be pleased to know that spoken vocals turn out beautifully with this interface. We used a Røde Podmic for the test and found that it handled Ps nicely without clipping, and delivered a smooth response across the entire frequency range. When singing we found much of the same – there was plenty of bottom end, and we didn’t find any muddiness in the finished recording.
With a close mic’d guitar it delivered more of the same quality. We tried with both the vintage preamp and the clean preamp, and in both cases the audio quality was just right, with no distortion, clipping, or unwanted clicks or pops anywhere in the track.
Final Thoughts on the Universal Audio Volt 2
Without gushing too much, we think we’ve truly found our favorite low cost USB interface in the Universal Audio Volt 2. There were no faults we were able to find during our time spent with the unit, and considering the size and price point, the audio quality was absolutely insane.
It’s about as plug and play as any interface can be (barring driver downloads), and once everything is set up, it’s one of the most user friendly units on the market. It did a phenomenal job with handling distortion and avoiding clipping, and for us that’s the biggest dealbreaker in any studio gear. All in all, the Volt 2 has set the bar – now it’s up to the competition to see what else is possible.