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Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII review

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How do you improve on perfection?

  • £590
  • €899
  • $899

MusicRadar Verdict

With Unison preamps and full access to the UAD catalogue, the Apollo Twin MkII does more than just amazing interfacing.


  • +

    Incredible audio quality.

  • +

    Real-time tracking and monitoring through Unison plugins.

  • +

    Superb UAD-2 plugins.

  • +

    New Quad Core option.

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Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.

A scaled-down alternative to Universal Audio’s flagship Apollo 8 and 16, the original Apollo Twin has been giving ‘the rest of us’ access to those mythical Unison preamps, first-class I/O and swanky UAD plugins for three years now.  

The new Apollo Twin MkII is essentially more of the same, but with a few minor improvements, and an optional DSP upgrade. Let’s start with what’s stayed the same. 

Still a desktop-format 2-in/-6-out audio interface with 24-bit/192kHz capabilities, the Apollo Twin MkII would be almost indistinguishable from the original were it not now black rather than silver. It connects to your Mac or PC via Thunderbolt, but it has to be powered from the wall; and while the original Twin (still available) could be had in a USB 3 version, it’s not clear whether the MkII will follow suit. 

The back panel and front edge house two combi Mic/Line inputs, a Hi-Z quarter-inch guitar input (overriding Mic/Line 1 when occupied), four quarter-inch output jacks (two Monitor, two Line), stereo S/PDIF out, Headphones out and a TOSLINK port for adding up to eight analogue inputs via ADAT. 

The top panel centres on a satisfyingly oversized knob, controlling Monitor or Preamp input levels, as selected with the two buttons flanking it; and six Option buttons, contextualised by an LED icon strip, that again change function depending on whether the unit is in Monitor or Preamp mode. Input and output metering are provided by four five-segment LED ladders. 

(Image credit: Future)

In Unison

Also a ‘DSP box’ for powering UAD plugin effects (VST/AU/AAX/RTAS), the Apollo Twin MkII features the same game-changing Unison preamps as its predecessor, fed by the Mic/Line and Hi-Z ins. These enable a gradually expanding subset of UA’s classic hardware emulation plugins to be inserted directly into each input path, physically reconfiguring the preamp’s impedance and gain staging – prior to the regular algorithmic modelling of valves, transistors, amps, EQ, etc – for near-zero-latency monitoring and/or recording through them. 

In a nutshell, it’s like singing into a real preamp, or playing guitar through a real distortion pedal, with no perceptible delay between input and output. Direct monitoring with plugins, in other words. 

When we first reviewed the Twin, there were only three Unison plugins available – the UA 610-B (bundled), the UA 610-A and the API Vision. Since then, they’ve been joined by the Manley Voxbox, Neve 1073 and 88RS; eight guitar and bass amps by Ampeg, Fender and Marshall; and three distortion stompboxes, including the bundled Pro Co Rat emulation, Raw. All of them sound and feel great, and Unison remains a huge and unique selling point for the Apollo Twin MkII. 

As for the rest of the UAD plugins bundled with the Apollo Twin MkII, you still get the Realtime Analog Classics collection, comprising 14 compressors, EQs, amp sims, distortions and reverbs, including the more-than-serviceable Legacy versions of the 1176, LA-2A and EQP-1A, the acclaimed RealVerb Pro, and a lite version of Softube’s Amp Room Bundle. Many, many more are available through the UAD store, ranging in price from £75 to £299, and since they’re all installed with the UAD software (weighing in at about 2GB) whether you like it or not, you can activate the two-week demo of each at your leisure. 

Twins, Basil, Twins! 

So, apart from the colour change, what else is new? Well, UA has apparently beefed up the AD/DA converters, for even more dynamic range and less distortion, but the MkI was so outstanding in this department that you’ll be hard pushed to tell the difference – it’s still the cleanest, most transparent-sounding interface in its price range.  

It’s not just the hardware

All members of the Apollo family are configured and handled using the excellent Console software application, which looks like a mixing desk with up to 14 Input channel strips (four of them ‘Virtual’ ones, visible as hardware outputs in your DAW), two auxiliary effects channels, and Control Room section and Monitor sections. As well as the auxiliary buses and main Monitor bus, signals can be routed to Line outs 3/4 and the Headphones bus for discrete cue mixing. 

Each of the two Analog Inputs has a Unison insert point, and every channel, including the Talkback mic, can host up to four regular UAD effects plugins, making Console a useful standalone mixer. The plugins browser that pops up when an insert point is clicked shows the entire UAD range by default, with no discrimination between those you own and those you don’t, and although you can ‘Hide’ the latter in the Console Settings, it feels like there should be an option to just filter them all in and out in the browser itself – there are a lot of them, after all. That aside, seamlessly designed, utterly rock solid and very easy to use, Console is as high-quality as audio interface control/mixer apps get. 

More dramatically, the MkII has been granted a massive boost to the onboard DSPs. The original Twin maxed out at the two-core Duo version, but the MkII can be had in Solo, Duo and Quad editions, each doubling the power and, consequently, UAD plugin counts of the one below. So, whereas the Duo can handle 18 stereo instances of the Pultec EQP-1A Legacy, for example, before conking out, the Quad manages hosts up to 36 of the buggers. 

Other than that, the MkII sees a refinement of its studio workflow with the addition of a talkback mic and front panel access to a few of the monitoring functions of the Console software (see It’s not just the hardware). 

In Monitor mode, four of the Option buttons – which weren’t used at all by MkI – now come into play, necessitating the addition of a new row of icons to the LED strip, which has been made a bit deeper to accommodate them.  

The Talk button activates the talkback mic (the tiny hole below the knob), which can be sent to the outputs of your choice for control room communication or quick recording of notes and cues. The Dim button lowers the monitor output level, the Mute switch kills it entirely, and the Mono button switches between stereo and mono output for playback system compatibility checking. Very nice. 

Finally, the Alt and FCN buttons are linked to Console’s monitor switching and ‘cascaded’ (up to four Apollos can be linked) routing options, respectively. 

Apollo’s creed Apart from the Quad Core option, the Apollo Twin MkII is the very definition of an iterative upgrade. If you’re already a happy owner of MkI, the talkback mic and extra monitoring control alone aren’t reasons enough to reinvest. If, however, you’ve been hankering for more DSP than your existing Twin affords you, your day has come – have at it. And, of course, newcomers to the world of Apollo and UAD now get even more for their money, which can only be a good thing.  

Given how much we loved the original Apollo Twin, it’ll come as no surprise that the MkII again wins our highest possible recommendation. Far, far more than possibly the best audio interface ever made, this is a musically empowering hardware/software hybrid, capable of elevating even the humblest of home and project studios to genuinely professional-quality heights. 

  • Explore more of the best guitar audio interface options

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Universal Audio Volt 76 series review

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UA has finally joined the affordable audio interfacing party, here we check out the 176 and 276 models

  • £215+

(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

Bad news for other affordable interface makers: these are great, with a spritz of hard-to-resist recording history magic on top.


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    Classic UA recording channels with Vintage and 76 Compressor embellishments.

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    UA quality at an affordable price.

  • +

    Attractive, intuitive, easy to use, plug-and-play design.

MusicRadar’s got your back
Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.

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Universal Audio Volt 76 series: What is it?

Until now, Universal Audio seemed happy to cater to the ‘pro’ market alone. That changes with the release of the Volt audio interface range, which arrives to disrupt the more affordable end of the audio interfacing world. Here, we’re focusing on two of the more eye-catching designs, the Volt 176 and 276. 

In the box you’ll find the interface itself, a USB cable for connection and another to provide power; whilst the interfaces are bus-powered, the option to plug in may be reassuring for some. 

Installation is simple. Follow a link to the UAD website to download UA Connect, which then lets you register, install firmware updates, and then download any items of the bundled software you like. 

These include Ableton Live Lite, Melodyne Essential and assorted instruments and effects including LABS from Spitfire Audio. But let’s be immediately clear; not only are the Volt interfaces a departure from the cost of previous UA designs, they have a very different remit too. 

There’s no UAD plugin hosting, onboard software processing nor Console software to configure recording setups. Instead, the Volts are plug-and-play USB-C interfaces that offer UA’s excellent preamps and, in the case of the two units on review, the added benefit of some onboard analogue processing to bring the flavour of two legendary Universal Audio designs to the tracking stage.  

(Image credit: Future)

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: Performance and verdict

To focus on the 276, the interface is a desktop module, with combo XLR/TRS inputs on the front panel, with phantom power (one button for both inputs), Instrument switches and a headphone port (with generous gain), alongside a headphone volume dial. 

The upper panel is where the main action is, with Gain dials per channel, plus the option to switch in 76 Compressor and Vintage options. The first speaks for itself, with an analogue circuit enabling you to choose 1176-style Vocal, Guitar, Fast or Off one-button compression at the recording stage. 

Whilst the Vintage option is less explicitly named, it provides the tube emulation, gentle saturation, top-end lift of UA’s classic 610 channel. No additional controls are available for either option; you won’t find Ratio switch options for the 76 Compressor, for instance. But all three compression settings give a characteristic flavour without going overboard.  

Otherwise, the dominant Monitor dial controls output volume to speakers, and a blue-lit Direct button enables direct monitoring by routing the inputs to the outputs. Round the back, you’ll find stereo outputs, the USB connector and MIDI In/Out ports. 

The 176 offers all of the above but limits itself to one input channel. 

The Volts are a radical departure for UA, offering an affordable taste of the brand’s key ingredients. They’re incompatible with plugins from the UAD store and don’t even work with UA’s LUNA software. But they absolutely deserve to shake up the budget interface market with a great design, a plug-and-play workflow and hard-to-beat audio conversion.

MusicRadar verdict: Bad news for other affordable interface makers: these are great, with a spritz of hard-to-resist recording history magic on top.

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: The web says

“Universal Audio’s first serious foray into the budget interface world is definitely a success.  “

“The Volt 276 Studio Pack is a great place to start for a budding podcaster or YouTuber. The interface is excellent for the price range, and the effects, while subtle, will give your recordings a very nice polish. For advanced users and musicians, the Volt is all about the top-notch input effects.”

“These capable and great-sounding audio interfaces are ideal for a first studio build, and a worthwhile upgrade for existing small setups.”

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: Hands-on demos

Universal Audio

Ed Thorne Music Production

Universal Audio Volt 76 series: Specifications

(Image credit: Future)

  • 1-in/2-out [176]
  • 2-in/2-out [276]
  • 4-in/4-out [476, not reviewed here]
  • 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion for Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone
  • Vintage Mic Preamp mode for recording voice or guitar with the rich, full sound of a classic UA tube preamp
  • Built-in 76 Compressor adds instant clarity and punch to voice, instruments, and other sources with all-new analog circuit based on UA’s iconic 1176
  • Essential suite of audio and music software from Ableton, Melodyne, UJAM’s Virtual Drummer, Marshall, Ampeg, and more
  • Studio-quality headphone amplifier for loud, clear monitoring
  • USB bus powered to reduce cable clutter
  • 48V phantom power for condenser microphones
  • Direct Monitoring for latency-free recording
  • Stylish, rugged construction built to withstand years of use
  • 1-in/1-out MIDI connections
  • USB-C to USB-A cable included

(Image credit: Future)

Best USB Audio Interfaces for Home Studio – Reviews and Articles

As you know, digitalization has affected almost all areas of our lives, and it is quite logical that progress could not bypass the recording industry, because two or three decades ago it was very problematic to make a high-quality multi-track sound recording: artists had practically no options other than searching for a suitable studio and an experienced sound engineer who is not only able to cope with the processing of sound material, but also knows how to use a whole scattering of all kinds of studio equipment. At the same time, the most intriguing question remained unchanged: will the musician have at least some money left in his pocket after he pays for the services of a recording studio? Today, the situation has changed in many respects: digital sound technologies are widespread and do not require impressive financial investments. In addition, portability and ease of use is another significant plus: just connect a digital audio interface to a computer or laptop and install the necessary software to start creating your own musical masterpieces. Moreover, many modern models of external sound cards are USB-powered and do not require a power outlet, which means almost complete freedom: you can work with sound wherever it is appropriate to use a laptop and headphones. There is only one logical question: which audio interface to choose? After all, the number of offers on the market is really impressive. In this review, we will look at the top audio interfaces for home studios, which not only have balanced characteristics, but are also distinguished by an affordable price.

PreSonus AudioBox iOne – All in One

PreSonus, a company that has been designing professional audio products for over 20 years, offers an affordable PreSonus AudioBox iOne audio interface that works on Mac, Windows, and is compatible with the Apple iPad. The chassis of the device is made of metal, which means that the sound card will successfully withstand even active use. Power is supplied via the USB bus, so there is no need to use external adapters, which tend to get lost at the most crucial moment.

Technical features include a Class A preamplifier and a DAC/ADC with support for modes up to 24 bit/96 kHz. The front panel contains an XLR mic input, a TRS instrument input, a +48V phantom power switch, a Direct key for zero-latency audio monitoring, an output volume knob, and a headphone jack with separate output level control. On the back of the case are two unbalanced TRS output connectors, a USB connector for connecting to a PC or MAC, and an MFi port for connecting to an iPad.

Studio One Artist software included, and Capture Duo included for iPad use.

ESI U22 XT – bright solution

ESI has been known among sound engineers for quite a long time thanks to the optimal price-quality ratio of products for professional work with sound. Among the current developments of the manufacturer is a portable USB audio interface ESI U22 XT, one of the most successful solutions in its price segment.

The device immediately attracts attention with a stylish lacquered body in a very unusual copper shade. The front panel has an XLR-TRS combo jack, a Hi-Z TRS instrument input, and a headphone output with a separate volume control.

The rear panel has RCA inputs and a FRONT-BACK hardware switch that allows you to select which inputs will be used by the sound card. The outputs are made on balanced TRS connectors, which is very nice, given the more than democratic cost of this device.

FOCUSRITE Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen – optimal balance

The FOCUSRITE Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen sound card is the next update of the popular audio interface series, with improved sound performance and useful innovations in terms of design and ergonomics.

The stylish aluminum body of the device is highly durable and wear resistant. The front panel has two input connectors: XLR (with +48V phantom power supply for condenser microphones) and instrumental TRS. There is a headphone output and a proprietary three-color indication of signal level and overload. Zero-latency audio monitoring is also provided. Balanced TRS outputs are located on the back of the case. This is a pleasant fact, again, given the price category of the device.

Engineers have carefully worked on the analog part of the circuit: the signal wiring has been significantly optimized, due to which the sound characteristics of the device have grown noticeably. Also of the interesting innovations is the AIR mode, with emulation of the sound of branded ISA preamps. Connection to a computer is implemented using a high-speed USB-C bus. An external power supply is not required, which will be especially convenient when traveling.

Professional software included: Avid Pro Tools First, Ableton Live Lite, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite.

Behringer UMC204HD – functionality above all else

Behringer offers the Behringer UMC204HD portable audio interface, part of its U-Phoria series of devices. The audio interface is made in a durable and compact body, compatible with MacOS, Windows, and many modern DAWs. Of the interesting technical features – proprietary low-noise preamplifiers Midas and support for 24 bit / 192 kHz.

Front panel features XLR-TRS combo inputs, headphone jack (1/4” Jack TRS) with separate volume control, stereo/mono selector, output volume and mix balance controls, and LED mode indication. On the back side of the case there are MIDI connectors (input and output), a +48V phantom power switch, two pairs of output RCA connectors, balanced TRS output connectors, as well as insert connectors for connecting additional external effects. Powered via USB – no external adapter required.

Mackie Onyx Artist – a big advantage

Mackie offers the Mackie Onyx Artist USB Audio Interface, which is sure to please both novice producers and experienced audio professionals. The body of the device is made of aluminum, which has a very positive effect on resistance to external interference and mechanical damage. Of the nice bonuses – support for 24 bit / 192 kHz. On the front panel there are XLR and TRS connectors, buttons for activating monitoring with zero delay and turning on phantom power +48V. There is a headphone output with a separate volume control, convenient indication of overload and the presence of a signal at the input, and the handles are equipped with additional rubber pads – it is very convenient to use them. On the back side there is a pair of output TRS connectors.

The sound card is connected to the computer via USB, no external power supply is required. The audio interface comes with DAW Tracktion T7 and a set of plugins for audio signal processing.

Steinberg UR12 – affordable minimalism

Steinberg, a well-known developer of professional software and equipment for musicians, offers its own line of portable audio solutions. We paid attention to an affordable and functional model, the Steinberg UR12 audio interface. This sound card is equipped with proprietary D-PRE preamps and supports operation in modes up to 24-bit/192 kHz. The minimalist front panel houses XLR and TRS inputs, a headphone jack, an output volume control, and a zero-latency direct monitor button. On the rear panel there is a line output, made on a pair of RCA connectors, as well as a +48V phantom power switch. Device management is organized extremely simply and concisely.

Work with operating systems Windows, MacOs, and also with mobile devices on iOS is supported. The package includes a license for the Cubase AI software package. Power is supplied via the USB bus, and when used with mobile devices, it is possible to connect an external power supply.

Roland Rubix22 – fresh solution

When looking at the Roland Rubix22 sound card, the first thing that comes to mind is that this device was designed not only with a purely practical approach, but also with the aim of creating a unique design that would be well received by the target audience. The front panel has two combined XLR-TRS inputs, a headphone output with a separate volume control, and a +48V phantom power switch. The rear panel houses MIDI jacks, a zero-latency direct monitoring switch, a Ground Lift switch, and two balanced TRS outputs. The interface supports operation in modes up to 24 bit/192 kHz, compatible with Windows, MacOs, and can also work with iPad. Power is supplied via the USB bus or from an external adapter. The package also includes Ableton Live Lite.

Tascam US-2×2 – reliability and functionality

Tascam, well-known among audio professionals, offers a balanced solution in its price segment, the Tascam US-2×2 external sound card. An interesting feature of this model is the use of a proprietary Ultra-HDDA preamplifier, made on discrete elements. CIRRUS LOGIC chip is used as DAC/ADC, with low noise level and impressive dynamic range. The front panel has combined XLR-TRS inputs, a +48V phantom power switch, and a headphone output with a separate volume control. The rear panel of the device has a balanced output on a pair of TRS connectors, as well as MIDI connectors (IN / OUT), which distinguishes this sound card from many devices in this price segment. Power is supplied from the USB bus, and the connection of an external power supply will be required only when connected to the iPad.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 – new approach

Native Instruments has been producing music software and professional equipment for many years, and has managed to establish itself as one of the leaders in its market segment. Portable sound card Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 immediately attracts attention with a not quite typical arrangement of controls and indicators. On the front panel you can see XLR-TRS combo mic/instrument jacks, a headphone output with a separate volume control, a +48V phantom power activation key, and a signal monitor balance control. The output volume knob is located on the top panel of the device, next to the informative signal level indicators. Such a design decision allows this product to stand out among the main mass of competitors and further simplifies the process of working with the device. On the back of the case are balanced TRS output connectors, as well as a USB port. Among the advantages of this sound card, one cannot fail to note the relatively low weight: with a mass of only 360 grams, you can take it with you even on a trip.


In our review of external USB audio interfaces, we reviewed several models that may be of interest to both beginners and experienced audio professionals.
The devices from our selection can be safely called one of the best audio interfaces, with an optimal ratio of price and functionality, which means
that creating quality content does not require a burdensome investment. Reviewed by us
audio interfaces for home studio enough
are similar in functionality, however, each of the considered models has its own interesting features that can be very useful when working with sound.


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FOCUSRITE Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen USB


audio interface, 2 in/2 out


9000 2 Scarlett Solo is the simplest and most compact interface. It’s the easiest way to record studio class music on Mac and PC and will especially delight songwriters and guitarists. You can take it everywhere with you, because just by connecting a microphone and a guitar, you can immediately start recording with the same sound quality as the entire Scarlett line. In addition, FOCUSRITE Interfaces are the perfect partner for Pro Tools, which is why Scarlett Solo comes with Pro Tools | First – Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite and as you’d expect it works flawlessly with all DAWs on Windows and Mac.
– Authentic sound
Making a recording that sounds authentic is very easy! Plug a microphone into the natural-sounding Scarlett preamp, and a guitar straight into the newly designed input, both of which capture studio-quality audio, and your recording will sound exactly the way you intended.
– Simultaneous recording of guitar and vocals
There is nothing easier than recording vocals and guitar at the same time on separate tracks. If, for example, the vocals don’t sound right, you won’t have to re-record the guitar either. In addition, effects can be applied separately: for example, amp models for guitar and reverb for vocals.
– Real Time Effects
Super low latency allows you to enhance your recordings in a way that is simply not possible with other interfaces of this class by applying various effects in real time.
– Instant Recording
Compose, record, edit, save and share your music whenever you want with music software: Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools | First – Focusrite Creative Pack, which features 12 additional plug-ins, including Eleven Lite – guitar amp models and Black Op – signature distortions and overdrives. You also get the Softube Time and Tone Pack, the Focusrite Red Plugin Pack, Novation Bass Station virtual synths, and 2GB of Loopmasters samples. All programs are quite understandable for novice users.
– Record anywhere
With the Scarlett Solo you never miss a moment of inspiration! The Scarlett Solo is tiny and rugged enough to take with you everywhere, while still sounding like big interfaces. You don’t need a power supply, just plug it in via USB and start recording!
– Designed for guitarists
No matter how loud you play or what kind of pickups you have, the newly designed instrument input handles it all and you can play without worrying about unwanted distortion.
– New generation
The latest generation of Scarlett Solo has been completely updated. Scarlett Solo works with sampling rates up to 192 kHz and super low latency, allowing you to record with real-time effects.
– Clear Conversion
Converting your performance to and from digital audio is a very important part of the recording process. Focusrite has been making leading-edge converters for over 20 years, and Scarlett Solo has the best converters. Every part of the recording will be crisp and clear, even if you play quietly. Those. You will be able to amplify any quiet moment without any unwanted hiss or hum.
– Ideal Level
It’s easy and simple to set the ideal level thanks to the halo around the gain controls. They glow a nice green color when you’re recording at the perfect volume level. If not, you will see red.


System requirements:
Mac OSX 10.10 Yosemite or 10.11 El Capitan
Windows 7 (64-bit), Windows 8.1, Windows 10
Sample rate: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz , 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz
Mic input:
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Dynamic range: 106 dB
THD+N: less than 0.002%
Equivalent noise level: -128 dB
Maximum input level: +4 dBu
Gain range: 50 DB
Phantom Power: 48V
Line Entrance
Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Dynamic range: 106 dB
thd +n: less than 0.002%
Maximum input level: +22 dBU
Acidity: 50 dB
Tool input

66 Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Dynamic range: 106 dB
THD+N: less than 0.