Universal Audio Volt 276 Interface Review: The New KING For Recording At Home?

Universal Audio Volt 276
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The new Universal Audio Volt 276 might be the best new way to record guitar, or anything else at home! Does this knock the Scarlett out of the #1 Position? Today we talk about the pros and cons!

Universal Audio Volt 276 Interface: Next Level Home Performance

We talk about recording guitar at home all the time. I use everything from Line 6 and amp sims, to my 5150 and BOSS Katana. Sometimes I go directly into the interface, but other times I use a mic to record a guitar cabinet. It really depends on what kind of tone I am going for, and what kind of “feel” the song needs.

For years, I have used the trusty Scarlett 2i2 unit, and I think that is a great interface for anyone getting into recording for the first time. The Scarlett Solo is aimed at guitar players, and it sounds great despite being so cheap. I think these are the “go-to” interfaces for a reason, and the simplicity is what makes them so attractive.

The thing is, I have outgrown my Scarlett in many ways for my home studio. You see, my home studio is getting closer to being a REAL studio, with professional gear. I have tons of plugins, but I also like physical gear. Especially when it comes to compression, since I do record other things along with guitars. The Universal Audio Volt 276 is a perfect fit for guitarists (especially with the free software bundle), but it is also pretty advanced and can handle so much more.

If you take guitar seriously, you should definitely be recording yourself. Whether it is something like the Scarlett, the Universal Audio Volt 276 we are talking about today, or even your phone. Its important, because you can hear where you need to improve. When you are just playing, you do not hear minor slip-ups and mistakes. Recording can be a great tool for learning, with any level of guitarist!

My hope going into this review, is that the Universal Audio Volt 276 will replace my Scarlett. But I also want it to get me out of the habit of using plugins for compression. When I open Reaper to record a vocal, or bass track, I immediately pull up a compressor. I would much rather have a physical compressor right in front of me, so I can A/B the sound in pre-production. Compression can be very tricky if you are not familiar!

What IS Compression? Why Is It So Important?

Compression is used to “normalize” sounds, in a way, when recording. Think about the difference between a loud distorted guitar amp, and a softly plucked acoustic guitar. The dynamics between those two things is HUGE. Compression reduces some of the dynamic elements of a recorded sound, so both can be heard clearly in a mix.

If that all sounds a little too advanced for you since you are just getting started, fear not! The Universal Audio Volt 276 is also a very simple interface that will work with Windows AND Mac seamlessly. So yes, we will talk about how simple it is to use. But we will also dive into what compression does, and why it can be so important for your recordings!

So let’s dive in to the Universal Audio Volt 276, and break down all of the cool features and add-ons!

Universal Audio Volt 276 Interface: Features And Specs

Universal Audio Volt 276

Just like so many beginner interfaces, you have pretty much everything you need in a simple package with the Universal Audio Volt 276. Now, Universal Audio also has a single input device called the Volt 1that can bee seen HERE. The Volt 1 is much more streamlined and simple, so if you just need a single input, that might be more up your alley.

But my case for having two inputs has two different facets, and it might be something to consider yourself. I mainly use just the one input, but if that one were to break during a session I would have a backup. Secondly, I sometimes use two different mics to capture a guitar cabinet. One right on the speaker, and one for a “room” sound. This can make your guitar tracks sound HUGE.

The Universal Audio Volt 276 is more of an “upgrade” for those of us that have already had a single channel interface, and have been using one of those to record guitar. The Volt 276 is the “next step up” for a lot of home studios, and having two inputs vastly expands your choices. Even if you just plan on recording guitar!

But if you have moved on to making full mixes at home, and started making full songs with vocals, then the Volt 276 will be a huge step up in quality. It has everything that the basic interfaces usually feature, like phantom power and “instrument DI” options. But there are some big features that you would never see on those entry-level interfaces.

Universal Audio Volt 276 Unit:

  • Desktop 2-in/2-out USB audio interface with class-leading 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion for Mac, PC, iPad and iPhone
  • “Vintage” Mic Preamp mode lets you record voice or guitar with the rich, full sound of a classic UA tube preamp
  • Built-in “76” Compressor adds instant clarity and punch to voice, instruments and other sources with all-new analog circuit based on UA’s iconic 1176 Compressor Module
  • Essential suite of audio and music software including Ableton, Melodyne, UJAM’s Virtual Drummer, Marshall, Ampeg and more
  • Built-In headphone amplifier
  • USB Powered
  • 48V phantom power for condenser microphones
  • Direct Monitoring for latency-free recording
  • 1-in/1-out MIDI connections
  • All USB cables Included

Included Free Software And Plugins

  • Ableton Live Lite DAW
  • Softube Marshall Plexi Classic Amp
  • Softube Time & Tone Bundle (Delays And More!)
  • Celemony Melodyne Essential
  • Relab LX480 Essentials
  • Plugin Alliance Ampeg SVT-VR Classic Bass Amp
  • Brainworx Tuner
  • Brainworx Masterdesk Classic (Compression and Saturation Control)
  • UJAM Virtual Drummer DEEP
  • UJAM Virtual Bassist DANDY
  • Spitfire Audio LABS

This is a lot of stuff to take in, but starting with the actual Volt 276 device, this thing is really cool! The wood panels give it a vintage vibe. You have visual input/output levels on the top of the device, and they are pretty accurate when you compare them to the level in the DAW. You know when you are peaking, or clipping.

But overall, the Universal Audio Volt 276 is not that much bigger than my two channel Scarlett interface. The unit is still very compact if you wanted to take it somewhere. This would be perfect for people who do podcasts, since you could throw the Volt, a couple mics, and your laptop all in a backpack. But I also think it works great as a “permanent” feature in your home studio.

Universal Audio Volt 276: Testing And Review

Universal audio volt 276

While Universal Audio is definitely sponsoring this article, I also wanted to upgrade my home recording setup. Like I said, the Scarlett 2i2 is a wonderful piece of gear, and a great start to home recording. But it is very basic, and I feel like it might be time to move on. Universal Audio was always on my radar but the Apollo Series was always too expensive, and it seemed very complicated.

Look, I am old. When I started recording, all we had was tape! We had physical gear for everything, since recording with computers was in its infant stages. I still treat my DAW like a tape machine in many ways! Like I always try to get something in one take. So hopefully the Universal Audio Volt 276 can help bridge the gap for me.

Right out of the box, you need to download the Universal Audio Connect App, and plug in your Volt to your computer. This will do the basic “setup” of the Volt 276 for you, but if you are using Windows/PC make sure you also download all of your drivers. I also recommend you to download ASIO4ALL if you use a Windows PC. This can help if latency problems happen, but the Volt should be just fine out of the box.

The first thing I like about the Universal Audio Volt 276 is the style. The wood panels look very retro, and it goes along well with the aesthetics of my vintage synthesizers. But the unit is also very study, with a metal chassis that will hold up well during transport. It feels very solid, sturdy, and substantial. Many user reviews say they use it as a portable device, and I can see why.

You have all of the usual things you expect to see in a two channel audio interface. The front has two inputs for 1/4” or XLR, with 48V phantom power for condenser mics. The front also has your headphone output and volume control. But this is where things change, and why I like the Universal Audio Volt 276 over the Scarlett 2i2.

The top of the unit is where all the magic happens. Both channels have a large gain knob, and the direct monitor level knob on top, making the unit less cluttered than other interfaces. You also have your visual input/output level LED lights, which are very accurate when compared to your DAW. I LOVE this layout, and it feels so much easier to work with than the small knobs on other entry-level interfaces.

The smaller, much cheaper UA Volt 1 unit looks more like the Scarlett, and that is exactly why I chose the Volt 276 over the other models. The controls being on top takes some getting used to, but I like this much better since I have more room to adjust the knobs precisely. Which is good, since the gain knobs are sensitive. The top of the Universal Audio Volt 276 also has your input/output meters in classic-looking LED lights.

But the star of the show is the Universal Audio Compressor options. You have a simple “Vintage Preamp” button, and this gives you the great sound of the Universal Audio 610 Tube Preamp. This tube preamp has been used in studios for decades. The real 610 is all over all the classic albums you love like Van Halen. It is not an actual tube preamp on the Volt 276, but it emulates one very well, adding warmth to your signal chain, or mic.

The controls for “The 76 Compressor” allow you to pick from some useful compressor presets: Vocal, Guitar, Fast. Preset OFF. These are all very different settings for the compressor, which is emulating the legendary Universal Audio 1176 Rack-Mount Compressor. This adds so much punch and clarity to your recorded sound, but compression is also great for keeping the levels stable.

We defined compression at the beginning of the article, but how does that work in practice? If we use recording vocals as an example, it makes your voice more “even” and “level” in the mix. Compression changes the dynamics of a vocal take, since most of us at home do not have perfect volume control. Even experienced singers have trouble with volume!

So if you sing a quiet part… and then a louder part, the 76 compressor can help keep that all in the same dynamic range. The different presets are designed around the frequencies of vocals or guitar/bass. The Fast preset can be used for anything else you may be recording. I usually use a “fast” compressor on drum overheads when I am recording.

But just because “The 76” tells you what each preset is meant for, does not mean you have to use it that way. You might find that the “Guitar” preset works better for your vocals. These are just suggestions, and I found that the “Vocal” preset sounded great on a DI bass guitar track! These are just guidelines on the Universal Audio Volt 276, you can use them however you wish.

But are the Universal Audio Volt 276 Compressor Settings Any Good?

I would say yes! These are great presets that walk a pretty fine line since it can be easy to overdo compression, especially on vocals. I found that all of the presets offered just enough, and with vocal tracks I did not find myself using any other compressors to make the track “sit” in the mix properly.

You do not have the control that an actual compressor module will give you, or even a plugin variant. This is more of a “quick mix” option. That being said, each setting is very unique. You can tell the difference between each one, so the settings are not just arbitrary.

When it comes to recording guitar and bass, I tried a few different methods. First of all, you should just leave the “Vintage” button on pretty much all the time. The tube preamp emulation sounds great with every guitar tone I recorded, clean and distorted. I used my BOSS Katana with a mic, as well as STL Tones running direct. Both sounded better with the tube preamp engaged. Throwing a mic in front of my acoustic guitar yielded the same results so I don’t see a reason to ever turn off the tube emulation.

Personally, this is why I think the Universal Audio Volt 276 is great for someone starting out with recording at home. You have a perfect introduction to compression, and how to use it properly. Likewise, I think the Volt 276 is also great for someone like me, who is ready to “up their game” when it comes to home studios. It takes away a plugin that I would usually use, and the sound quality is great!

So this is a fantastic interface for beginners, professionals, and definitely for people who want to go mobile with their recording setup. The built in compression and preamp sounds amazing in a musical way, yet it also works great for spoken word projects like podcasts. If you just want to record guitar, then that works great as well!

Now usually, I would gloss over the free software that an interface, or recording bundle comes with as an incentive. Most companies just throw a free DAW at you, and call it a day. Universal Audio put some real thought into this, so I want to go over the free software it comes with. Some of these you can already download for free, but some are a great value…especially for guitarists.

Free Plugins And Ableton DAW

Universal Audio Volt 276

So you get a lot of free plugins with the Universal Audio Volt 276 interface that can definitely get you started recording. Almost every single free plugin that you get is useful, and I could make a whole song with just a guitar and these included programs.

Ableton 11 Live Lite is a stripped down version of the more expensive Ableton DAW. But you get a lot of functionality out of what is included. It has a good amount of built in instruments and effects that you can use. It may not be expansive like the paid version, but you do get some quality instruments and effects. You can program the instruments via midi, or you can use a midi controller.

Ableton is the preferred DAW for a lot of home studios, since it comes with so many plugins already. But Ableton is also streamlined to work with just about any modern computer. You will not need a crazy-powerful studio computer setup to be able to record at home. Ableton is intuitive, and easy to use even for the novice producer.

For guitarists, you get a Marshall Plexi Amp Sim by Soft Tube that sounds pretty great. If this is your first time using an amp simulator, then it will be pretty easy to figure out. The layout is simple, and you use the mouse to control the amp like you would in real life. It comes with a reverb unit, and added compressor that makes dialing in a good tone simple and intuitive.

Universal Audio Volt 276 Studio Pack

Volt Studio Packs combine the essential tools you need to record music, livestreams, or podcasts with big studio tone. With Universal Audio’s Volt 276 USB audio interface, condenser mic, studio headphones, audio software, and cables, getting professional recordings has never been easier.

The same goes for bass guitar as well, and the Ampeg Amp Sim is something I use myself, a LOT! The Ampeg SVT-VR Sim does all of the classic gritty bass tones you know and love. It can clean up well, but we all want that gnarly Ampeg growl, right? Plugin Alliance also throws in a BX Tuner for both guitar and bass, and testing next to my physical tuner it reads very accurately.

I played around with the UJAM Virtual Bass and Virtual Drummer DEEP quite a bit. If you do not own a bass guitar, but need one for a song, you can program a bassline that sounds very close to the real thing! The Virtual Drummer has tons of patterns to choose from, in all kinds of different genres. As a guitarists, you can get a loop started and play along in no time, which is great for getting down riffs/song ideas.

But the UJAM Virtual Bass actually surprised me, since I thought it was just something you program. Both the drummer and bassist programs follow an algorithm that picks up what you are playing on guitar. It can even identify the chord you are playing, so the bass is always in the right key! You have a virtual band at your fingertips!

The Universal Audio Volt 276 also comes with the LABS Plugin from Spitfire Audio. This has everything from piano, to soft orchestral sounds that can be used in various types of applications. I had the most fun with this plugin, since has percussion, synths, and full-on string swells. You can do some really cinematic sounds with this plugin!

And finally, yes…you get Melodyne. I am not going to preach to you the evils of auto-tune programs, you have heard them all haven’t you? But you CAN use Melodyne sparingly to great success! Sometimes I hit a bad note while laying down vocals, and I will manually fix it. Sure, you can use it all the time…but one day, you may have to actually sing. It is mainly a tool, and not a technique.

The plugin suite that you get with the Universal Audio Volt 276 is a great deal all on its own. Some of these are free plugins that you can get online right now, but some are worth more than the price of admission! This is just an added bonus to an already great recording package. You have all you need to get started with recording!

Speaking of, the Universal Audio Volt 726, as well as the Volt Series as a whole, comes in bundled packages. I am usually weary of these “studio packages” since I have seen a ton of them. Some are okay, don’t get me wrong! But most throw in a barely usable microphone. I am happy to report, UA got it RIGHT.

Universal Audio Volt 276 Studio Pack: Worth It?

Universal Audio Volt 276

The Universal Audio Volt 276 Studio Bundle comes with everything you need to get up and recording. You get the Volt 276 Interface, a condenser mic, studio headphones, the free software and plugins, and all of the cables needed to connect everything.

I also got to try out the studio pack that Universal Audio, and most gear sites has to offer. I already have a few “affordable” vocal mics that I really like, and I definitely have studio headphones. But I decided to give these a try anyway. I thought about the brand new user, someone trying recording for the first time. It adds exactly $100 to the cost of the Universal Audio Volt 276.

The Mic is actually really decent quality for a “bundle deal”, and if I had to compare it to another condenser mic I would say it is VERY close to my MXL 990. It works really well for vocals, and I think that was probably the primary focus when UA designed this mic. However, I also tried it with acoustic guitar with the Volt 276 preamp engaged, and it sounded great!

Now the MXL 990 microphone that I am comparing the Universal Audio mic with, costs about $100 on its own. They are almost identical in performance, and I think the MXL 990 is a great beginner vocal mic and I recommend it often. The included UA mic would be great for podcasts as well. It has a basic, but perfectly clear sound. So it is nothing special, but it does sound great for a “package deal” microphone.

The Headphones on the other hand, are just “okay”. They are no comparison to my studio headphones, but that really isn’t fair. My studio pairs are all rather expensive from name brands. These UA cans sound just fine for actually recording/monitoring. However, I would not try to edit or mix with these headphones at all. They get the job done just fine as monitors while you record.

So if you know that you will eventually need a microphone, this is a pretty good deal! I think the mic that comes with the Universal Audio Volt 276 is outstanding at this price point, and the headphones sound fine for monitoring. I would like to take the mic apart, and see if it is just an MXL copy. It really does sound nearly identical. This is a pretty good deal from UA!

Universal Audio Volt 276: Final Thoughts…

We never give products ratings on our site, because we feel like it diminishes the experience. It can be hard to say if a product is “5 Stars” in every category. But if I were to rate the Universal Audio Volt 276, it would probably be 5 stars, in every category. I think it has a lot to offer musicians, and anyone that does voice work or podcasts.

It is portable, and powered by USB so there is no external power source. So that definitely appeals to the podcasting crowd that likes to do sessions “on location”. The built in compression can make your voice sound great for the whole podcast, and easier to edit in post-production.

But more specifically, it is great for recording guitar. I wanted to find a replacement for the Scarlett, and I definitely found one. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting to record guitar, or you have been doing it as long as I have. This is a great interface that will appeal to newcomers as well as seasoned professionals. It will definitely be joining my studio full time!

Universal Audio Volt 276 Studio Pack

Volt Studio Packs combine the essential tools you need to record music, livestreams, or podcasts with big studio tone. With Universal Audio’s Volt 276 USB audio interface, condenser mic, studio headphones, audio software, and cables, getting professional recordings has never been easier.

Is The Universal Audio Volt 276 Worth it?

The Volt Series really takes entry level interfaces to the next level by adding important features like built in tube emulation, and compressors. This gives artists a lot more quality and versatility than most interfaces in the same price range.

Is The Universal Audio Volt 276 Good For Recording Guitar?

The Volt is great for recording guitar, and even has a special compression setting built in for guitars. This works well with amps sims, running direct. But it also works well if you plan on using a mic for electric and acoustics.

Universal Audio Volt 276 Good For Podcasts?

The Volt 276 is perfect for podcasts, since it is easy to transport and is powered by your computer VIA USB. The interface is very sturdy, yet compact enough to travel with you in your backpack. Having two inputs also makes it ideal for podcasts.


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