In this article, I’ll be reviewing Universal Audio’s Volt 276 audio interface. The company has been renowned for its contributions to audio technology, so with any new release, expectations run high. Let’s see if the Volt 276 can hold its own.
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Final verdict on the UA Volt 276
While the Volt 276 is a good audio interface, it leaves a lot to be desired, at least for the more seasoned audio engineers. I’m a bit surprised that Universal Audio would release something with such a noisy compressor. Although, in their favor, this is an entry-level unit. The price is reasonable, and is perfect for beginners.
What I like
- Good recording quality.
- Interesting features.
- Reasonably priced.
What I don’t like
- The 76 Compressor could be better.
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I/O and controls
Just as the Volt 2, the Volt 276 is a 2-in/2-out audio interface with 24-bit/192 kHz A/D resolution. The most striking difference between the Volt 276 and the Volt 2 is that the 276’s design is far more spacious and ergonomic.
Where all controls and inputs were cramped into the front panel of the Volt 2, the Volt 276 has split the inputs and controls between the front and top panels.
On the front panel, the unit features two XLR/TRS combo inputs, as well as a 1/4-inch headphone jack. Above the inputs are the 48 V phantom power switch, to be engaged when using condenser mics, as well as line-in switches for when running audio via TRS.
Looking over towards the top panel, you will find the gain controls for the inputs, as well as a master control for monitoring. Each input is able to be engaged by either UA’s Vintage mode or their 76 Compressor.
With Vintage mode engaged, the preamps will take on the characteristics of UA’s classic 610 tube preamp, adding warmth and fullness to your recordings. The 76 Compressor is designed to emulate an 1176-style FET compressor, and has three separate presets for vocals, guitars, as well as synths and drums.
Lastly, UA has equipped the unit with full LED monitoring for gain staging, as well as a switch for direct monitoring.
On the rear panel are the two 1/4-inch outputs, MIDI I/O for any synths and controllers, a USB-C port, a 5V DC socket, and an On/Off switch.
The recording quality here is great, which is more or less to be expected. These days even entry-level units are inching closer to professional-grade quality.
Most of what matters now are the features. How good is the EQ? How good is the Vintage mode? Is the 76 Compressor all it’s cracked up to be? The answer to the last question, at least in my opinion, is no. I found that the 76 Compressor is actually quite noisey.
It’s nice that Universal Audio has given us some presets to work with, but unfortunately, the lack of any further adjustments make this a bit of a pain. You really have to crank the gain of your inputs to clear out the base level noise (much like you would do running to tape) but this should definitely not be the case.
While it is a unique feature in this price range, and beginners may fare well with this capability, it might be best to leave these effects off. However, at that point, what is the point?
While the 76 Compressor feature is a bit underwhelming, the Vintage mode can be quite a pleasant effect to add fullness and warmth to your recordings. However, I would still suggest using it sparingly.
Due to the Volt 276’s design, I find that it makes a much better fit in home recording studios, especially for novices. Its compact size makes it easy to sit on a desk without taking too much space, and its layout feels much more natural than the congested design of the Volt 2.
The Volt 276 is small and lightweight, making it an ideal companion for on-the-go recording. The 5V DC socket is also crucial when using it with an iPad or other mobile devices.
Overall, the interface is solid, well-built, and the knobs and I/O don’t have much give. The thing can surely take a beating and the occasional drop, although I wouldn’t suggest you try to test its limits, unless you’re into that.
The Volt 276 comes with a hefty software bundle. Granting you access to Ableton Live Lite, Melodyne Essential, UJAM, Softube Marshall, Plugin Alliance Ampeg, and Relab LX480 Essentials. This is more than enough to get you recording as soon as possible.
Compared to other audio interfaces
Despite the minor flaws, I still consider the Volt 276 one of the best audio interfaces in its price range. But here are some alternatives to check out.
UA Volt 276 vs Solid State Logic SSL 2+
While these are both great interfaces, I might have to hand it to the Volt 276 in this case, at least for those looking for an entry-level unit. The Volt 276’s built-in compressor and preamps (while not the best) are still more than what the SSL 2+ has to offer.
UA Volt 276 vs Motu M4
For those of you looking for something with a bit more connectivity, the Motu M4 is the better option. My reasoning is that 4-in/4-out is better than 2-in/2-out, that’s how math works. It’s also cheaper.
UA Volt 276 vs Audient iD14 Mk2
The Audient iD14 Mk2 is far more of a workhorse than the Volt 276. More connectivity, better preamps, and all for the same price. The Volt 276 is better left for the creative with a small setup.
Who is the UA Volt 276 best suited for?
The Volt 276 is best suited for beginners and novices looking for an entry-level audio interface. For those of you who have some displaced nostalgia for using tape, the Vintage mode and 76 Compressor can help you achieve some grittiness that you otherwise might not have access to.