Steinberg UR22 Review

Steinberg UR22 Review – 2 Input-output USB Audio Interface

The Steinberg UR22 is a 2 channel input/ 2 channel output usb audio interface. Steinberg is the inventor of Cubase and Nuendo. They also invented the Software instrument and effects standards VSTi and VST and the low latency audio driver ASIO.
Steinberg has a very long track record and is owned by Yamaha at this moment.

In this Steinberg UR22 review I will focus on the features, intended audience and usability of the unit.

Connections: “only” 2 inputs and outputs

This simply means that if you want to record a whole band with close miking this would not the interface to choose. If you are in the market for a personal recording interface this could be just what you need. Both inputs are combo inputs and located on the front. They feature phantom power (which you need if you want to connect condenser microphones). Only one input can however be used to record an electric instrument (like an electric guitar or bass) directly. This single low-z input is optimized for the output of electric guitars and basses (audio outputs of keyboards are usually line-level). A jamsession with an electric bass and ditto guitar connected simultaneously is not possible unless one of them is recorded using a microphone.  Another solution is to use a D.I. box or effect processor with a line level output for the second electric instrument.

Update!

Research on different forums revealed a problem with the instrument input! As with many audio interfaces in it’s class, the instrument input is reported to be too sensitive. In other words: the maximum input level is too low. This results in clipping of the input stage even with the gain knob turned all the way to zero.

This is reported even with passive pick-ups.

Disclaimer: I didn’t test this hands-on. I will as soon as I get a test unit in my hands.

As stated before, this is happening with a lot of interfaces in this price range. I will try to post a list with interfaces  that have been reported to suffer from this problem.

So, what can you connect/ record simultaneously:

  • 2 microphones (phantom power provided)
  • 1 electric guitar or bass guitar connected directly + 1 microphone
  • 1 electric guitar or bass guitar connected directly + 1 line input (such as the audio output of a digital piano or hardware synthesizer)
  • 1 microphone input +1 line input
  • 2 line inputs like an audio output of a hardware synth and a hardware drum machine
  • You CAN record a midi instrument alongside all above.

There are no digital connections (spdif or or other)!

Midi input:

The Steinberg UR22 features a midi input. If you have an older digital piano for example that doesn’t feature usb midi connection, you can connect the piano with an ordinary midi cable. Almost all recent midi controller keyboards function over usb. If you have such a keyboard you will probably not need this midi input right away, but some folks do need a midi input.

Outputs:

“Only” 2 outputs means that you can not mix in surround, but do you need surround? I don’t (for the moment, but who knows). Small footprint audio interfaces with multiple outputs do exist, but not at this price point. For the most users (musician/ electronic composer…) 2 outputs will suffice.

A headphone output is located at the front. The headphones amp delivers not that much power and needs quite sensitive headphones with preferably low impedance to get a reasonably high audio level. This is a common “problem” with usb audio interfaces. Most consumer headphones and earbuds will be o.k, but headphones like the Beyerdynamic Pro 770 (which is a standard in home and pro studios) need some power to be driven well. Note on the Beyerdynamic Pro 770: exists in a low (32ohm), mid (8ohm) and high impedance (250) version. In this case, buy the low impedance version. I have these and got the high impedance version by accident. I had to swap it for the low impedance version to get a healthy monitoring level with my audio interfaces at that time (Line 6 UX2 and UX8).

Latency:

Users have reported fairly low but not extraordinarily low latency. latency is the delay between the played note and what you hear coming out of your speakers. Latency occurs when monitoring through software such as amp sims and or D.A.W.’s like Steinberg Cubase. The ability to operate at really low latency depends on the quality of the drivers for the unit. These drivers are called ASIO drivers on Windows and Core Audio on Mac. Interfaces such as the Steinberg UR22 come with their own ASIO drivers and are usually compatible with Mac Core Audio.

Zero latency hardware monitoring:

This is only useful if you do not want to use software effects (amp sims and DAW). Some people use hardware processors for effects or record their guitar amp with a real microphone (yes they do exist) and don’t need software effects at that moment. Another scenario is where you monitor most of the signal in hardware and add a touch of reverb or delay via software. This is a neat trick when recording vocals for example. In these cases zero latency hardware monitoring can be of use. Most electric instrument players will however monitor through software.

Audio quality:

The unit features Yamaha D-pre preamps for the microphone amp stages. These are considered very good preamps. Recording is possible up to 24 bit/96 kHz, more than enough.

Bus powered:

The Steinberg UR22 is bus powered. This means that it draws it’s current from the usb port. The good: you don’t need another adapter, lead and wall socket. The bad: you can not switch the unit off and hot plugging the interface will cause a “pop” in your speakers. Power down your speakers before pulling the usb cable!

Included software:

Cubase

Steinberg Cubase AI (7 at the time of this writing). This is a big bonus. D.A.W. software can be very expensive, about 100$ and up. The Cubase version that is included (download version) is a very capable “light” version. You get more than enough tracks to work with.

Light versions of cubase are however tied to the computer they are first installed on (software eLicencer). You can not use your interface AND the software on a second computer at a friends house. You CAN use the interface on whichever computer you want (after installing the ASIO drivers), but your copy of Cubase does not move along with it.

You can make your Cubase license movable by buying a USB eLicenser from Steinberg and transferring your soft-eLicense to it. This way your license is on that USB eLicenser and you can use Cubase on any computer. More expensive versions of Cubase need this USB eLicenser anyway.

This audio interface works equally well with other DAW softwares like Ableton Live, Bitwig Studio, Cakewalk Sonar etc…and is compatible with Windows and Mac computers. It can also be used with iOS devices such as an ipad. This requires the camera connection kit.

Construction and Physicals:

Very sturdy metal construction. Users use the words “build like a tank”. Although not bulky or extremely heavy (almost 1,3lbs/ 1kg), there are more compact and lighter devices on the market. These come usually with less features and/ or are less sturdy. If you want the same product but more compact, Steinberg recently released the UR12. The ur12 is also slightly cheaper but has only 1 input and is not that much smaller or lighter. If you bought a macbook air or macbook pro because they are so light, this interface will add some weight to your backpack.

Conclusion:

Well made interface mostly suitable for the solitary musician: guitarists, bassists, keyboard players/ electronic music producers, podcasting etc..

Features are on par with, or above units in this price range. Reported latency figures are not exceptional, but in range with expectations at this price point. I will try to get my hands on a unit myself to test latency and update this review accordingly.

Browsing the web for problems and user impressions on the Steinberg UR22, the picture is very positive.

In a nutshell:

  • Compact, well made unit from a big brand that is on the market for some time already. Generally seen as a good interface for the intended audience
  • Good preamps and audio quality
  • All the connectivity you can expect for a device in this price rage (and more: midi input!)
  • Stable and mature drivers
  • Very good included software that is well integrated with the interface
  • Bus powered

Look elsewhere:

If you want to record more instruments simultaneously you should check out interfaces with more inputs.

If you want uber portability (like in super tiny and light). There are smaller solutions on the market, but you will sacrifice on inputs.

If you want a really, really low latency interface check out the RME Babyface. As of this writing the Babyface will be superseded by the Babyface Pro. The latter will be/ is probably an even better interface.

Firewire interfaces operate at lower latencies in general. Not all computers feature a firewire connection. If you are considering a firewire interface, the Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 is an excellent option. For good firewire audio operation your firewire chipset should be a Texas Instruments chipset (in case of a Windows PC, Mac’s are good to go by default).

Buy the Steinberg UR22 at Amazon:

Alternatives:

PreSonus AudioBox USB
Tascam US-2X2 USB Audio Interface
Roland Duo-Capture EX
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL
Line6 PodStudio UX2
Steinberg UR242

About this steinberg UR22 Review:

This is not a hands-on review. This article is a mix of my personal views and based on information gathered from diverse sources (audio forums and the like) and my general expertise on the subject.

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