Steinberg UR44C USB Audio Interface REVIEW

Portable in recording usually means small, but at the cost of options or connectivity. Steinberg’s new UR44C brings ‘portable’ without stripping out inputs, preamp quality or recording  possibilities.

Size-wise, it’s not much bigger than a hardcover book, with four combo XLR/1/4” inputs. The first two are optimized for microphones as well as acoustic instruments, while the other two are meant for instruments like a bass going direct, or an electric guitar from an amp sim or effects type unit like an HX Stomp or Helix. Each has its own gain  control, and peak signal notification LED, and phantom power is available for those DI’s and condenser mics that might require them. Two1/4” headphone jacks each have their own levels, and a main output control finishes off the front panel. 

The rear panel has power selection, which can be from the USB C or the included wall power supply. MIDI in and outs reside here as well for keyboard or pad controllers, you’ve got 1/4″ outputs for monitors as well as four line outs available, and finally for extra inputs, two 1/4” connections round things out.

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So why two power sources? Well connecting to a Mac or PC, USB will do fine, but it can be connected to an iOS device, with the correct cables (not included), the wall power supply can provide power in this configuration. Included is a gaggle of free software to use; Cubase AI, Cubase LE, and Steinberg’s Basic Suite FX, which covers EQ strip morphing suite, Rev-x Reverb, and Yamaha’s guitar amp classic plug-ins which cover clean, crunch, drive and lead amp models. Finally, it does have its own dspMixFx software that makes it a more robust portable platform, with its own mixer interface. It will also work with any other DAW software, of course, if Cubase isn’t your thing.

Recording at 32 bit and a 192kHz sample rate, matched with Yamaha’s D-Pre Mic preamps makes for a great starting point. Everyone always throws around the term “natural” and “transparent” when it comes to mic preamps, but that’s usually only found on bigger, and more expensive interfaces. Well, they’re here, and they are spectacular! Plugging in a variety of tried and true instrument and vocal mics, yielded great sounds right off the bat, with minimal tweaking. Plugging in guitars with our Radial JDX cab sim also brought great results. Players who want to bypass amps and use plug-ins, no problem there either. It’s also running its own internal DSP which means processing functions are running off of the unit and not the DAW, freeing up some of your CPU’s power. Loopback connectivity is also a possibility, being able to patch in signals and make it a live streaming broadcast unit. 

Since the unit is so small, and has six inputs, it’s practical to bring to practices, and put together what could be the bed tracks of a band’s future release. Run line outs from the FOH mixer to it, and doing that live album just got a whole lot easier.

As a value proposition, it’s really a perfect unit for home/desktop recording, and can go more than a few steps further than the usual ‘cheap’ DAW interface you might have started out on. Connected to an iOS device, or laptop, it’s now a true portable studio that can easily fit in a backpack and still deliver great quality.

PROS:

Great preamps, low latency, small portable footprint

CONS:

iOS cables not included.

STREET PRICE:

$349

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