Not too long ago, we wrote about the introduction of German company Steinberg's new collaboration with Yamaha, the UR-RT series of audio interfaces, packed with transformers from legendary studio hardware company Neve. In this review, we'll be taking a look at the smaller of the two units, the UR-RT 2, to see if they are really worthy of bearing the Neve name.
What is it?
The UR series is a new USB audio interface from Steinberg, that comes in two sizes. The RT 2 being four ins, while the 4 is 6 inputs. Both come with the same studio-grade D-Pre preamps from Yamaha, and transformers from legendary Rupert Neve. If that name is unfamiliar to you, Neve is behind some of the most legendary mixing desks ever. However, the units contain 2 and 4 transformers respectively. The RT also serves as a MIDI interface. The interface is housed in an all-metal construction and has a sleek industrial design aesthetic. It's a very attractive looking device.
How does it work?
Generally speaking, there isn't much that separates either unit from any other USB audio interface with MIDI in and out, when it comes to what it actually does. But, it's not whats on the outside that counts, it's what lies beneath. As we've already established, the RT series comes with Neve transformers and Yamaha D-Pre preamps. What exactly do the transformers do though? Think of them as mild saturators, that add depth and bring out the small details in your sound or voice when activated. You won't be hearing Metalica level distortion, just a rich and warm glow to your signal. Yamaha's preamps are also top-notch, and keep things sounding pristine when the transformers are not activated. Each transformer can be used separately or in tandem, depending on how and what gear you plug into the interface. I used it on both vocals and synths, and while it added a nice texture to the synths, I really enjoyed the extra oomph and weight it gave my voice. Granted, I was using it to record episodes of In Conversation, but that is actually a testament to how well the transformers work. Spoken work sounds personal and up close like you're sitting in the same room as the person talking. Both units also come with a software that allows for DSP processing with zero-latency monitoring, taking the load off your CPU, and allowing you to maximize creativity without any lag.
What do I think?
I was definitely excited to try out the UR-RT2 just from the Neve name alone. Setup was simple, and that's always a plus. Like I said earlier, it's fairly standard operation in terms of general abilities, but I was expecting that. There aren't many audio interfaces that have loads of crazy features that are useful to the general public. But again, I was expecting that, and that's not why I chose to review the interface. Its all about the transformers, and I love them. In reality, the RT4 is more what I need for my setup, as two ins is just not enough for my gear, but one must make do with what they are given. I love the tone and love the look of the unit. It reminds me of the golden age of design when Braun was absolutely smashing it out of the park. We need to bring that stuff back man... If there is one downside, it would be that the software suite it comes with isn't great. It's not bad, and when used properly can be a great tool, but I didn't find it to be very useful for my own personal working style. That's not to say you won't use it though.
Should you buy one?
If you are looking to invest in a new interface, something portable and well built, then perhaps. If you are one to record lots of vocals, then YES. Absolutely. Priced at $349 and $599, they won't break the bank and are definitely very well priced. It's less than others in its category and comes with Neve transformers. That's a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
Well built, rugged design, packed with top-notch components, at a great price point that won't leave you begging for change? That's a real winner right there.
Pros: Inexpensive compared to competitors, high-quality components
Cons: Software isn't amazing, but it works
Final Score: 9/10
Visit Steinberg's website to get your own UR-RT series interface here.