Common Audio Volt 2 USB-C audio interface evaluate: Moveable potential

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Based in 1958 by audio engineer Invoice Putnam, Sr., Common Audio is well-known within the professional audio world for manufacturing top-shelf outboard gear (preamps, compressors, and the like) and for the best-in-class audio converters present in its Apollo line of interfaces. In late 2021, the corporate introduced its new Volt collection, which goals to ship UA’s sought-after analog sound and high-quality conversion in its most inexpensive and travel-friendly audio interfaces. I not too long ago spent a while on the street recording and touring with the Common Audio Volt 2, a 2-input/2-output mannequin that concentrates on offering the cleanest sign in a compact type issue. Listed here are my ideas on the interface’s sound, design, and workflow to evaluate the way it stacks up towards related USB interfaces in its worth vary.

The Common Audio Volt 2’s design

The Volt collection runs the gamut in measurement and worth, from the 1-input/2-output Volt 1 at $139 to the 4-input/4-output Volt 476P at $469. Whereas every of the Volt interfaces is bus-powered by way of USB-C and features a distinctive “classic” tonal possibility—extra on that later—just a few of the fashions additionally embody a built-in FET compressor styled after the corporate’s 1176LN Compressor, a comparatively loud and bright-sounding compressor able to producing responsive, clear sign leveling however costing a number of thousand {dollars}. The Common Audio Volt 2‘s distinguishing characteristic, nevertheless, is its panache and portability: its clear rectangular chassis measures roughly 7 x 5 x 2 inches, it weighs simply 1.4 kilos, and it requires no wall wart because of its USB-C bus-powered design.

From a design standpoint, the Volt 2 considerably improves on Universal Audio’s final moveable providing, the 6 x 6 x 3-inch, 2.4-pound Apollo Twin X, which requires wall energy. The Volt 2’s management panel can also be organized in an easy and easy-to-use method, with many of the achieve controls and monitoring choices clearly labeled and positioned alongside the interface’s two combo XLR/¼-inch inputs, which settle for mic, instrument, and line degree alerts. A couple of backlit buttons supply entry to 48-volt phantom energy, instrument sign choice, and the Volt’s distinctive “classic” mode, which engages solid-state electronics so as to add smooth clipping and heat saturation to the enter alerts within the model of the Common Audio Solo 610 Tube Preamp.

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Just like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, PreSonus AudioBox GO (which I reviewed in 2022), and different similarly-sized 2-in/2-out USB interfaces, the Volt 2 encompasses a single 48-volt phantom energy toggle that sends voltage to each inputs concurrently. This received’t pose an issue for many customers, however this limitation is one thing to bear in mind should you’re utilizing classic ribbon mics or different gear that could be broken by phantom energy. On the conversion aspect, the Volt 2 options a powerful max audio conversion charge of 24-bit/192kHz, matching that of Common Audio’s flagship Apollo line of interfaces and permitting customers to file extraordinarily high-fidelity audio with a really small footprint.

One important design limitation of the Volt 2 is its lack of onboard DSP processing, which is required to run Common Audio’s huge library of over 200 plugins. Whereas not one of the interfaces within the Volt collection can run Common Audio’s plugins, this speaks to a bigger caveat within the firm’s ecosystem; to run most UAD plugins, you want an Apollo-series interface or an exterior UAD accelerator. That is considerably remedied but additional convoluted by the latest introduction of UAD Spark. This new subscription service gives entry to round 20 of the corporate’s plugins with out an Apollo interface or different exterior processors. Lengthy story brief: you’ll save some huge cash choosing a Volt-series interface over an Apollo, however you received’t be capable to use it to run most of Common Audio’s plugins.

Universal Audio Volt 2 USB-C bus-powered audio interface rear panel
Plug-n-play, as they are saying. Julian Vittorio

Getting began with the Common Audio Volt 2

Establishing the UA Volt 2 for recording is a breeze because of its bus-powered design. To get began, I eliminated the interface from its packaging, unpacked the included USB-C cable, and related the Volt 2 to a USB port on my MacBook Professional. The Volt 2 instantly powered on and appeared as an obtainable system for audio enter and output in Logic Professional, my most well-liked digital audio workstation. In case you’re operating the Volt 2 into an older USB hub or wish to preserve battery in your system, an included 5VDC-to-USB connector means that you can energy the interface with your individual USB-to-wall energy adapter.

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I primarily examined the Volt 2 whereas touring, which required that I set it up and pack it away in a number of completely different lodge rooms with workspaces of various sizes. Subsequent to a 13-inch laptop computer, the Volt 2 is a perfectly-sized interface for assembling a lean and imply cellular recording rig, and since it doesn’t require wall energy, it’s simple to arrange just about anyplace. Whereas on the street, I solely had an electrical guitar and bass at my disposal for recording, each of which I related on to one of many Volt 2’s 1/4-inch instrument inputs whereas monitoring via the interface’s headphone output utilizing a pair of KRK KNS 8400 over-ear headphones. I additionally used the Volt 2’s direct monitoring characteristic, which gives latency-free monitoring of the enter alerts by way of a entrance panel swap to make sure a pure and comfy efficiency expertise.

Suppose you’re organising the Volt 2 as half of a bigger studio setup. In that case, the interface options left and proper TRS outputs on its rear panel for connecting to studio displays and two MIDI ports for connecting older synths and different MIDI-compatible gadgets. Some smaller two-preamp interfaces just like the Apollo Twin embody ADAT to permit customers to develop their rigs with extra inputs and outputs. Whereas I might have favored to see this characteristic included within the Volt as a substitute of the older and fewer generally used MIDI connectors, it will possible imply a big improve in price.

The Common Audio Volt 2’s sound

The UA Volt line guarantees clear high-resolution audio conversion that follows within the footsteps of the corporate’s industry-standard Apollo line, and the Volt 2 stacks up very effectively upon comparability. In comparison with audio recorded with related two-input interfaces, the Volt 2 sounds distinctly “open” in its high-frequency vary with a comparatively detailed midrange that doesn’t undergo from a lot of the obscure and “muddy” character that’s typically an indicator of its worth vary. In these respects, the converters within the Volt 2 sound remarkably near these within the Apollo, although I discovered the low mids within the Apollo converters to be barely extra nuanced and centered. Whereas these variations are comparatively minor, this impact can generally compound when multitracking and should create additional mixing work on the again finish.

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The Volt 2’s distinctive “classic” characteristic additionally provides one other degree of inventive flexibility to the equation, and it was nice to have this selection whereas touring with restricted gear. With the mode engaged, the Volt’s inputs sound distinctly analog and old-school, changing its clear and pristine default sound with heat, spherical, saturated tone. The classic mode additionally engages a smooth clipper to flatten peaks within the enter sign in a habits just like analog tubes, lending a personality that’s notably nice for early rock and Motown-esque bass and guitar tones. Whereas it’s most likely not a one-size-fits-all sound, the classic mode is killer for including an additional degree of character and “glue” to minimalist demo recordings and overdubs.

Universal Audio Volt 2 USB-C audio interface next to a MacBook Pro
A “studio” in your messenger bag. Julian Vittorio

So, who can purchase the Common Audio Volt 2?

The Volt 2 options a number of the clearest and most musical-sounding converters I’ve examined in its worth vary. In case you’re available in the market for a easy two-input journey interface, you’d be hard-pressed to do higher. Its classic preamp possibility can also be extremely versatile. It provides a distinctly pleasing “pre-mixed” analog high quality to enter sources, saving time on mixing and bouncing, notably when recording demos or overdubs. I want that the Volt 2 included ADAT or S/PDIF for including extra inputs as a substitute of MIDI—the tiny, forward-facing design of the Volt 2 appears at odds with every little thing that outdated and hulking MIDI gear stands for—and, sadly, the interface can’t run UAD plugins. Nonetheless, should you can look previous these design limitations, the Common Audio Volt 2 is an extremely versatile and comparatively inexpensive journey interface with the potential to ship studio-quality recordings on the go.