Steinberg UR22 mkII USB 2.0 Audio Interface
By Phil O'Keefe |
Steinberg UR22 mkII USB 2.0 Audio Interface
192kHz USB audio and MIDI interface for Mac, PC and iOS
by Phil O'Keefe
Mac or PC, studio-based or mobile, laptop, desktop or tablet...if you're recording on a computer, you'll need an interface - a way to get audio and MIDI into and out of your device. But do we really need multiple interfaces for all our different devices and applications? Maybe - but maybe you don't need a separate device for, say, your desktop computer and iPad. That's where the new Steinberg UR22 mkII comes in, because it's designed to be cross-platform capable and mobile-friendly. Let's look at the details.
What You Need To Know
- The Steinberg UR22 mkII is an update of the earlier UR22; the biggest changes are improved audio performance, iOS compatibility (in addition to the previous Mac and Windows compatibility), and being able to power the unit with a USB brick power supply or rechargable USB battery while using it with an iOS device. This is really important for mobile applications, as some interfaces preclude charging the battery while in use - so you'll be in a race against time before completing your project and running out of battery juice.
- The UR22 mkII is a 24-bit 2x2 audio and 1x1 MIDI class-compliant USB 2.0 interface that supports sample rates up to 192 kHz.
- The UR22 mkII is built solidly; its beefy metal housing measures 159 mm W x 46 mm H x 159 mm D (6.26" x 1.81" x 6.26") and weighing 1030 grams (36.33 ounces). Required power is 2.5W, and when used with a computer, the bus-powered UR22 mkII receives its power over the USB connection.
- The front panel has most of the unit's controls. There are two Neutrik combo XLR / 1/4" mic/line inputs, each with its own Gain knob fhat's adjustable from +6 to +60 dB - more than enough for most purposes. The Steinberg UR22 mkII includes Yamaha's well-regarded D-PRE mic preamps, which feature a Class A transformerless design.
- Input 2 also has a Hi-Z switch, which turns the 1/4" input into a high impedance input optimized for plugging in guitar or bass directly.
- Individual peak LEDs for each of the two inputs, as well as LEDs for USB connection status and to indicate when the 48V phantom power is turned on, are within easy view right on the front.
- A front-panel 1/4" stereo headphone output jack has a dedicated headphone volume control. An additional dedicated Output knob controls the level of the main line output jacks (located on the rear panel).
- A third knob near the headphone and main Output knobs allows for direct, no-latency monitoring while recording. Turning it towards the left lets you hear more of the input source in the headphones, while turning it past noon and towards the right gives you more of the DAW's output, allowing you to choose the balance of the two you prefer.
- The rear panel houses the MIDI In and Out jacks. There's no MIDI Thru jack, which is a bit of a disappointment but understandable given the space limitations. The two 1/4" TRS output jacks are also here, as well as a switch right above them for turning the 48V phantom power on or off.
- A USB 2.0 jack is also located on the back, along with a 5V DC mini USB jack and a switch marked "power source" that selects between the two. For Mac and PC use, you click the switch towards the USB 2.0 jack and the unit receives its power over the USB bus.
- When using the UR22 mkII with an iPad, you switch it the other way. Steinberg calls this CC Mode. You'll need a few more things though. Since the UR22 mkII needs more power than an iPad can supply through bus powering alone, a wall charger (like the one you use to charge your iPad) can provide power to the UR22 mkII, or you can use an external USB battery, which is the better option if you need to be fully mobile and won't have a AC wall socket available.
- You'll also need the Apple Camera Connection Kit or a Lightning-to-USB adapter to connect the of the UR22 mkII's USB output to the iPad's Lightning port.
- Regardless of your recording platform of choice, Steinberg have bundled something to get you up and recording right away. For iPad users, it's a download access code for Cubasis LE. This is rather stripped-down recording/playback software with up to four audio and four MIDI tracks, but can be upgraded to the full version of Cubasis as an in-app purchase for $29.99. This provides unlimited tracks (limited only by your iPad's capabilities) along with more effects, virtual instruments, automation, Inter-App Audio and Audiobus compatibility and more. The basic version is easy to learn and quick in use and should be fine for quick demos and songwriting, but you'll want to spring for the full version for more serious and elaborate recording projects and better audio quality.
- iPad users will need an iPad 2 or better running iOS 7 or higher.
- Using a laptop or desktop computer? Don't feel left out - the UR22 mkII also comes bundled with a version of Cubase AI. While this is also stripped down compared to the full-blown version of Cubase, it is less so than Cubasis LE - you get up to 32 simultaneous audio tracks, 48 MIDI tracks, and full 24 bit / 192 kHz support, so there's plenty of recording, editing and mixing features and capability available for even fairly advanced and complex projects.
- PC users will need Windows 7 service pack 1 or later (Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 are also supported) on either an AMD or Intel-based computer, while Mac users will need OS X 10.7 - 10.11. Both Macs and PCs need at least a dual core CPU with 2 GB of RAM, 4 GB of free hard drive space, a CD-ROM drive available for software installation, and a spare USB 2.0 or 3.0 port for connection. You'll also need an Internet connection for software downloading, authorization and registration.
- While it's nice that it's included, you're not obligated to run Steinberg's software. The UR22 mkII comes with rock-solid ASIO, WDM and Core Audio drivers on the bundled CD-ROM, and I was able to use it without a hitch with both Pro Tools on my Mac and SONAR on my PC, as well as with a variety of audio apps on my iPad 2 mini.
- With only two simultaneous audio inputs available, this unit is not really intended for recording larger groups or instruments where you may want to use several mics at once, such as when recording a live drum kit. There's no ADAT I/O or other digital I/O, so expanding the number of inputs is not an option. Those needing more inputs and outputs may prefer other models in the UR range.
- The Camera Connection Kit and an external power supply and micro USB cable (all are not included) are required when using the UR22 mkII in CC mode with an iPad.
- The Cubasis LE app is only 16 bit in the included version; you need to upgrade to the full version of Cubasis to access the 24 bit (up to 96kHz) option in settings.
As an interface for solo artists, songwriters, a mobile interface for bands on tour, and for field sampling and live recording, this is a sweet little interface. I was particularly impressed with the sound quality - it's pretty amazing how good it is for under $200. You also get a good bundle of software, and you can easily use the hardware with other software if you prefer. I was happy that the UR22 mkII includes MIDI in and out jacks too; without them, you're more limited in terms of what you can do on an iPad all at once, and with them, it's easy to record a MIDI keyboard part and a vocal part simultaneously while your friend accompanies you on guitar or bass. But that's about as much as you'll be able to track simultaneously, so take that into account.
Although the biggest drawback is the limited number of inputs, this won't be an issue for everyone. What's there sounds great for a product in this price class, but you may long for more - especially if you want to record drum kits or several musicians simultaneously. If that's you, then consider one of the larger UR-series interfaces instead.
If you're concerned with durability and worry about your gear surviving the occasional bumps that are inevitably going to befall a mobile interface, the UR22 mkII merits your attention - its sturdiness is undeniable, and reassuring. The fairly large metal case and solid knobs (I was surprised that they have little or no wobble to them!) seem quite robust and roadworthy. That comes at a cost, and it means more bulk and weight compared to a plastic housing but I think the tradeoff and extra durability are worth the increased weight. But don't think that this is only suitable as a mobile interface. If two channels of audio I/O with MIDI I/O is enough for your needs, it's a very capable and good sounding interface for home recording too. The fact that it can now serve double duty as both a home and mobile interface is big news, and will no doubt lead to many users adopting the UR22 mkII.
Steinberg UR22 mkII Audio / MIDI Interface ($199.99 MSRP, $149.99 "street")
Steinberg's product web page
You can purchase the Steinberg UR22 mkII from:
Cubase AI Tutorial
Cubasis LE / iPad Tutorial
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.