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Steinberg UR12 review: Good unit, but loses the competition

In this review, I’ll be looking at the Steinberg UR12 USB audio interface.

If you’re on a budget, this unit seems like a fair deal on the surface. Let’s take a deeper look.

Steinberg UR12 audio interface review
Steinberg UR12 audio interface | Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the Steinberg UR12 3.5

The UR12 is affordable, performs fairly well, and is nearly indestructible.

However, this unit begins to lose its luster when you start to look at other interfaces in its price range. There are at least a dozen or so less expensive audio interfaces that outperform the UR12.

What I like

  • Decent sound quality.
  • Affordable.
  • Rugged build.

What I don’t like

  • Outperformed by a number of units in its price range.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Why you should trust me

Brandon Schock, writer at Higher Hz

As a music producer and audio engineer with 15 years of experience, I’ve worked with a diverse range of audio interfaces, both in studio environments and on live productions.

Working with brands such as Audient, Focusrite, and Universal Audio, among many others, has lent me nuanced insights into the practical application of audio equipment and what value it provides users ranging from novice to seasoned professional.


Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

I/O and controls 3.5

On the front panel, you’ll find two inputs: one for XLR and a 1/4-inch input for TRS.

Each of these has their own designated input gain controls, as well as LED lights to indicate whether there is any amount of clipping in your signal.

Steinberg UR12 audio interface (front panel)
Steinberg UR12 audio interface (front panel) | Image: Higher Hz

The XLR input is equipped with 48 V phantom power, which can be engaged by a switch on the rear panel.

Next to the inputs are an output control dial, a switch for direct monitoring, and a 1/4-inch output for your headphones.

Steinberg UR12 audio interface (rear panel)
Steinberg UR12 audio interface (rear panel) | Image: Higher Hz

Turning around to the rear panel, is a 5V DC socket, a power switch, and a USB 2.0 socket.

Unfortunately, the unit has two unbalanced RCA outputs rather than balanced TRS. This shouldn’t be such a huge issue for beginners, but the audio quality is not the best.

Lastly, there is a switch to engage phantom power, as I mentioned earlier.

Recording quality 4.0

This unit has an A/D resolution of 24-bit depth and a maximum sample rate of 192 kHz. The UR12 also has a dynamic range of 101 dB (A-weighted).

This will provide enough headroom for most scenarios, although many other units within this price range perform better.

Preamps 4.0

The XLR input showcases a Class-A D-PRE microphone preamp. The preamp features inverted Darlington circuits that provide a fairly transparent and neutral performance. The input showcases a gain range of +10 dB to +54 dB.

While this isn’t necessarily the best mic preamp in this price range, it performs well enough to not pose any serious issues.

In use 4.0

This unit is great for beginners with smaller recording spaces. The UR12 is small and well built, so if you have a tendency to drop things – don’t sweat it.

Its design is simple and straightforward, so beginners need not worry about finding their way around too many features and functions.

The unit also has a loopback function, which merges the signal of your input with your DAW’s output and sends the combined signal back to your computer for zero-latency streaming.

If you’re trying to set up a podcast or gaming studio, this is a great function to have at your disposal.

One more thing I should mention about this device, is that Channel 1 records audio to the left, while Channel 2 goes to the right.

If you’d like for your signal to come through both speakers, you’ll have to make sure you set your input to mono.

Mobile recording 4.5

The UR12 is lightweight and fairly small, so taking it with you is easy enough. More importantly, the unit showcases iOS compatibility, which is great for mobile recording.

If you’re walking down the street and hear something inspiring, this unit makes it so that you don’t have to miss that special moment.

Build quality 4.7

The Steinberg UR12 is incredibly durable, and can take a bit of a beating. While I won’t recommend you go out of your way to drop it, it’s not a huge deal if you do.

Software bundle 3.0

The UR12 comes with access to Cubase AI music production software, allowing you to record up to 32 audio tracks and 48 tracks of MIDI. This is basically a limited version of Cubase Advanced.

It lacks a lot of the functionality that other DAWs have to offer, but it’s a good starting point for beginners. However, you may outgrow it fairly quickly.

Compared to other audio interfaces

Here are a few alternatives to consider against the UR12. You can also check out my recommendations for the best cheap audio interfaces on today’s market.

Steinberg UR12 vs PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

The AudioBox USB 96 has balanced TRS outputs, MIDI I/O, two combo inputs, and is only $100. I recommend you go for the PreSonus.

Steinberg UR12 vs Audient Evo 4

The Steinberg UR12 has better A/D resolution, but the Audient Evo 4 is a more flexible unit in general. It’s a toss-up.

Steinberg UR12 vs Behringer UMC204HD

The U-Phoria UMC204HD has balanced TRS outputs, MIDI I/O, two combo inputs, MIDAS preamps, and costs roughly the same as the UR12. Get the Behringer.

Steinberg UR12 vs Focusrite Scarlett Solo

Compared to the UR12, the Scarlett Solo is a much superior unit. This should be a no-brainer. Although the new Focusrite will cost you $30 more, it’s well worth the extra expense.

Who is the Steinberg UR12 best suited for?

The Steinberg UR12 is a great interface for beginners. Its no-frills design is simple and easy to use. However, you may outgrow this interface rather quickly.

See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Recent updates

  • April 26, 2024: I’ve updated the structure to the latest standard and added jump links for faster navigation. I’ve also revised the comparisons to reflect the actual market situation.
  • December 10, 2023: I’ve updated the text for clarity and fixed minor inconsistencies.
  • March 2, 2021: I published the original review based on my experience using the audio interface in different recording scenarios.