US$429 / AU$699 at DJCity
The new Universal Audio Volt 276 Studio Pack is a starter kit
for people who want to get into broadcasting (like on YouTube or
podcasting) with a minimum of fuss—however, it's hardly amateur or
entry-level. The Pack includes Universal Audio's Volt 276 USB
interface, a condenser microphone, an XLR cable, and
The Volt 276 interface itself is as good as or better than
anything in its price range, and the microphone is surprisingly
good for a US$429 kit. There's also a software bundle that covers the
basics very nicely. As for the headphones, well, they will do for a
If you have your own microphones, headphones, etc. you can pick
up the Volt 276 interface on its own for US$299 (AU$479), and there are a
couple of reasons why you might want to if you want to minimize
post-recording work—the 276 features vintage preamp and compressor
emulations. Universal Audio also has Volt interfaces with fewer
inputs and features for as low as US$139 (all have the preamp, while
Universal Audio's x76 models add the compressor). The 4-in/6-out
476 model for US$369 which would be my recommendation for the
The 276 is a two-channel (two inputs/two outputs) USB-C audio
interface that's styled in gray, white and light wood. It measures
7.28-inches wide, by 5.11-inches deep, by 2.55-inches tall and
weighs a rather substantial 1.74 pounds. It sports a metal frames
to ward off radio interference.
The top face of the
276 offers gain and monitor level controls, as well as the vintage
(preamp), and compressor on/off buttons. The direct button
The inputs are combination type XLR/1/4-inch so you can insert
microphone or instrument/line-level cables. There are gain controls
for each input, as well as a vintage and 76 compressor buttons. The
former invokes a circuit that emulates a UA 610 vintage preamp, and
the latter a UA UREI 1176 compressor with three settings to cover
vocals, guitar, etc. The real devices are rather famous in the
industry and you've no doubt heard tracks recorded using them
thousands of times.
There are four LED stacks for monitoring levels (two input, two
output), a large monitor dial for adjusting playback volume, and a
direct monitor button (off/stereo/mono) for super low latency
On the front, along with the inputs, are a 48V button for
phantom power (condenser mics require this) and two buttons to
switch the inputs between instrument and line level. There's also a
headphone jack and a headphone level dial. Note that the 48V
function is slowly ramped up to avoid pops. Nice.
The two front inputs
accept XLR (microphone), line-level, and high impendence
On the back are two balanced (phase opposite signals travel two
wires) TRS (Tip/Ring/Sleeve) outputs, as well as the power jack,
and old-school MIDI in and out. There's even an on/off switch so
you can save juice when the interface isn't needed. There's also
5-volt input for a power adapter should your USB bus be a 90-pound
weakling, or more likely–you want to use the interface without a
computer. A 5V to USB cable is provided.
The included microphone is a large-diaphragm condenser,
broadcast form-factor type that comes with a stand mount and cable.
The headphones are just your basic black, over-ear types.
The 276 features two
balanced TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) outputs as well as old-school
5-pin MIDI in and out.
The bundled software is a very competent suite for beginners:
Ableton Live Lite (recording/mixing), Melodyne Essential (pitch
correction), UJAM Virtual Drummer and Bassist, SoftTube Marshall
Plexi Classic (guitar amp simulation), Plugin Alliance Ampeg (bass
amp sim), Relab LX480 Essentials reverb, and Spitfire's LABS
acoustic instruments. Alas, if you're a Windows users, you'll need
to create a UAD account to download the ASIO driver—that's not
kosher in my book.
You'll also need to create numerous accounts (including iLok) to
install the bundled software. That's par for the course these days,
but you wind up with several web installers and lord knows what
kind of telemetry is going on. Uninstall them where possible. If
you have your own software, and are of course using macOS, you can
The Volt 276 uses a Cirrus CS4272 AD/DA converter, which is
common in this space. It's an older but worthy design and this is
an excellent implementation.
I listened to the Volt 276 alongside a Universal Audio Apollo
TwinX Quad ($1,500) and Focusrite Clarett Pre 4 ($600) and it held
its own. I was especially pleased with the extremely low noise on
both the mic and line/instrument inputs. I didn't try an SM7B, but
the SM57 I did try is almost as gain-challenged and there was nary
a whisper of hiss at record level.
Overall, the 276's output is about average for the class—average
in this class is fantastic these days. Blind test the panoply of
audio devices on the market and you'd be hard-pressed to spot a
Where the Volts set themselves apart are on the input side. The
vintage pre-amp and compressor emulations are major differentiators
and most interfaces don't have anything to match. Every pro-level
recording I ever engineered or assisted used a microphone preamp
and compressor on every vocal track and compressors were on every
acoustic instrument track (when we had enough!).
Tastes vary, but I quite liked the way the vintage preamp
sounded. It adds highs, boosts the bass slightly from 80 to 100Hz,
and performs a very mild mid-scoop around 500 to 1000Hz. There's
also mild saturation distortion that increases with input gain.
Note that you'll want to use the preamp sparingly as you'll clutter
up the lower and upper frequencies if you employ it on
The three hard-wired compressor presets sounded quite nice, as
well, though they're subtle. Tamping rather than squashing. That
might be good for newcomers who tend to slam down on everything to
the max the first time they play with a compressor. I found it
extremely useful for both acoustic guitars and vocals, mostly the
Note that the compressor increases the signal strength
considerably so if you're on the edge before you engage it,
decrease the gain or you will start clipping. I found this gain
change a bit disconcerting, as attention to detail is excellent in
Note that there is no DSP on board the Volt interfaces
that can run UAD plug-ins as with UA's far more expensive Apollo interfaces—the effects are hardwired to
the inputs. You must be comfortable applying effects at record
time. If you're not, you should become so—it's a colossal time
I was actually quite
pleased with the Volt microphone. There's a tiny deficit to my Rode
NT1-A in high-end, but it compares very well to my Nady RMS-4
ribbon mic and Shure SM57. You could live with this mic for a long
The microphone was a pleasant surprise. As noted, it's a largish
condenser type that requires 48-volt power, and in combination with
the vintage preamp, it sounded quite good. I tested it alongside a
Nady RSM-4 ribbon mic, Rode NT1-A, and Shure SM57. It reminded me
of a cross between the SM57 and the Rode NT1-A. A little more top
end than the former, and a little less than the latter. It's
perfectly usable and I'd be in no hurry to upgrade.
The Volt headphones on the other hand, while not the worst I've
heard, are eminently replaceable. They're reasonably comfortable
and they'll get you started, but the frequency response is heavy on
the bass and light on the treble. This could work to a newcomer's
advantage by warding off neophyte tendencies to over-emphasize the
former and neglect the latter. It might not. I'd like to have seen
a bit better sound from this component.
The Volt headphones
are the weakest component, in the Volt 276 Studio Pack though
they're hardly the worst I've heard. They're comfortable, but heavy
on the bass and a bit light on the high-end.
The cables are good quality, so no complaints there. The
headphone output has plenty of headroom, more than enough to drive
high impedance headsets.
Note. If you'd like more granular info on gain, noise, latency,
etc. check out this
review on YouTube my Julian Krause.
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. If you find them appealing or
useful, they're a very good reason to buy a Volt. If not, you can
save a lot of bucks and/or get more connectivity with a similar
MOTU, Audient, SSL, Focusrite, etc. interface.