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Steinberg UR12 review

Steinberg interfaces have a reputation for being virtually indestructible, and the UR12 certainly lives up to that. As a compact audio interface, the UR12 does the two most important things; delivers high-quality audio and won’t break in transit. Some users might change a few things given a chance, but if you’re on a budget, it’s well worth a look. Let’s have a look at what it has to offer and who it might suit best.

Table of contents:

Steinberg UR12 overview

The Steinberg UR12 is a 2×2 audio interface, and it’s the smallest in the UR range. In typical Steinberg fashion, the UR12 has a look that focuses more on utility than style. The familiar black face and silver casing definitely give off that Steinberg vibe.

Inputs/outputs 3.5

Following the trend of many compact interfaces, the UR12 has one XLR input and one Hi-Z input. Each input has an individual gain control knob along with LED indicators for signal peaking.

The XLR input provides 48 V phantom power when needed. You can toggle phantom power on and off via a switch on the back panel.

Steinberg UR12 audio interface (front panel)
UR12 (front panel) / Image credit: Steinberg

The front panel has a 1/4″ headphone output with a direct monitoring switch. When active, direct monitoring will let you hear the direct input rather than the output from your DAW.

There is a slightly disappointing feature or lack of feature when it comes to monitoring. The headphone output doesn’t have an independent level control, so it shares the master output knob with the main outputs.

Steinberg UR12 (back panel)
UR12 (back panel) / Image credit: Steinberg

You have a power source switch to move between USB bus-powered and 5 V DC power on the back panel. If you are connected to a laptop, then you will be using the USB connector only. When connected to an iOS device, you will need to switch to 5 V DC power.

The main left and right outputs are unbalanced RCA outputs rather than balanced TRS outputs. It’s not uncommon for smaller interfaces to go with RCA outputs, and we usually say it’s better to have balanced TRS, but at this price, it’s not a dealbreaker.

Audio/recording quality 3.5

The Steinberg UR12 provides analog to digital conversion with a bit depth of 24-bit. On paper, that means you should get a reasonably impressive dynamic range from the UR12.

Sample rate/dynamic range

Steinberg’s UR12 offers sample rate selection from 44.1 kHz through to 192 kHz. A typical project that you’d use this kind of interface for might well stay in the 44.1-48 kHz range, but the option to go for 192 kHz is useful for some people.

The UR12 has a dynamic range of 101 dB (A-weighted). In reality, the dynamic range shouldn’t be too much of a disappointment because it still provides enough headroom for most applications. The downside is that it’s still not quite as good as some other budget interfaces with 24-bit A/D conversion.

Preamp

The XLR input has a Class-A D-PRE microphone preamp. The UR12 was designed as a collaboration between Steinberg and Yamaha, and the preamp is the best showcase of that partnership. It features inverted Darlington circuits that provide clean and detail-rich performance.

The XLR input has a gain range of +10 dB to +54 dB. So, again, it might not be the best in its class, but it certainly offers more than enough clean gain for just about anything.

At home/studio 4.0

The UR12 is a good beginner option that’s ideal for a first home studio. There are a few reasons the UR12 is a good first interface, so let’s start with the most basic ones.

First of all, it’s easy to use, and it doesn’t have too many features. As a beginner, it’s not a good idea to have too many functions and features available to you, always start with the basics.

Secondly, it’s small and well built, so if you get a little clumsy, it’s not a big deal.

The main reason it’s good for a home studio is that it has a loopback function. The loopback function merges your input signal with your DAW’s output and sends the combined signal back to the computer for seamless streaming. So, if you are someone setting up a podcast or gaming studio, it’s perfect.

We should point out that, when recording, channel one records audio to the left side of your speakers and input two records to the right. If you want your microphone to come out of both speakers, you will have to set your input to mono.

Mobile recording 4.0

The UR12 is exceptionally light, and it’s very compact, so taking it on your travels isn’t a hassle.

The thing that makes it most suitable for mobile recording is iOS compatibility. Sometimes people assume that it’s a bit pointless to record to an iOS device rather than a laptop or computer. But it’s about convenience and timing.

For example, if you were traveling with the UR12 in your backpack and see the most amazing busker, you could plug them in and capture a high-quality recording on your phone.

Obviously, the primary purpose is to work on your own projects and not random situations, but inspiration can come anywhere at any time. The UR12 can make sure that you never miss it.

Build quality 4.5

Build quality is something that you aren’t likely to find fault in with the UR12. We use the phrase built like a tank to describe gear at times, and it’s never more fitting than it is here.

It has a solid metal chassis and hard plastic front/back panels. There is a little bit of movement with the inputs, but that isn’t unusual, even in more expensive interfaces.

The buttons and knobs all feel very robust, which is good news if you do plan to throw the UR12 in your backpack. Sometimes, an interface will either have knobs with a smooth action that feel a little flimsy or robust knobs with a poor action. The UR12 controls are both solid and smooth to rotate/press.

Software bundle 3.5

The UR12 comes with a copy of Steinberg’s Cubase AI music production software. Cubase AI allows you to record up to 32 tracks of audio and 48 MIDI tracks.

Cubase AI is basically a watered-down version of Cubase Advanced. It doesn’t have the same advanced functionality, but it is a good start for beginners. It also includes some VST effects, VST3 plugins, and a variety of loops.

Overall, it’s a great package for beginners, but you might outgrow it relatively quickly.

Steinberg UR12 vs. other interfaces

The Steinberg UR12 is an interface that offers reliability and quality on a budget. It might be the perfect interface for you, but here are a few other options to consider. See our pick for the best budget audio interfaces and the best recording packages.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

The UR12 and Scarlett Solo are pretty even on build quality, so both are good for mobile recording. The Scarlett Solo has Air mode, which is something a little creative that the UR12 lacks; we’d go with Focusrite. See our Solo audio interface review

PreSonus AudioBox iOne

The AudioBox iOne is quite similar to the UR12, but the Steinberg interface is built slightly better. On the other hand, the iOne might be even more suited to mobile recording; UR12 at home, iOne on the go. See our AudioBox iOne review

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1

The Komplete Audio 1 is extremely popular amongst fans of Native Instruments plugins. Its biggest flaw, in our opinion, is its less than robust build quality; stick with the metal-bodied UR12. See our Komplete Audio 1 review

Also, see our picks for the best budget audio interfaces and the best recording packages.

Final verdict on the Steinberg UR12

The UR12 is a bit of a plain Jane; it’s more of a workhorse than a superstar. But, sometimes, a workhorse is exactly what you need. Other interfaces perform better in certain areas, but it’s hard to top the UR12 on sheer reliability. It will last you a lifetime!

  • Outstanding build quality.
  • Loopback function.
  • iOS compatibility.
  • High-quality audio.
  • Limited software bundle.
  • Unbalanced RCA outputs.
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