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Universal Audio are probably best known for their range of premium priced, professional grade audio interfaces like the Apollo series.

Last year they dived headfirst into the budget end of the Audio interface market with the Volt range of beginner friendly devices. 

Now that the dust has settled, i’ve grabbed their entry level audio interface the Volt 1 to see if these budget focussed interfaces are worth the hype. 

Coming in at around £125/$140, the Volt 1 is the entry level model in Universal Audio’s Volt range and seems to be aimed squarely at beginners.

There is no shortage of really good audio interfaces at this price point nowadays so this better have some tricks up it’s sleeve if it wants to stand out from the crowd.

Feature Packed

Inside the box you’ll find the interface itself as well as a small black box that contains some papers, a USB-C to USB-A cable and a separate USB-A power cable too. 

I am genuinely surprised by how heavy and sturdy the Volt 1 is. Its body is made completely of metal and has a lovely almost rose-gold finish on the top and front.

On the front of the interface is a single XLR / 1/4” combo input. Next to that is a gain dial for the input and two LEDs that will glow to let you know if your inputted signal is too hot. 

Next there are two buttons labelled Instrument and Vintage.

You’ll want to hit the instrument button if you’re hooking up a guitar or bass for example, and switch off if you’re connecting a line level source like a keyboard. 

The Vintage button activates the Volt 1’s emulation of Universal Audio 610 tube preamp. Universal Audio say that “this feature gives you the rich, full sound of this iconic UA preamp, thanks to it’s built-in tube emulation circuitry.”

Next there is a 48V phantom power button, which you’ll need to activate if using a condenser microphone. The direct monitor button allows you to monitor audio via your DAW when turned off or directly from the audio interface with zero latency when turned on.

There’s also a blue LED light nestled in between the two buttons that lights up when you have the interface turned on. 

There’s a lovely, premium feeling monitor dial that controls the output  of any studio monitors that you have attached. Two adjacent LEDs light up to give a visual representation of how loud your output level is. 

On the right of the interface is a 1/4” TRS headphone input and a dedicated headphone volume control, which isn’t something you necessarily see on interfaces at this price point. 

That theme of things you don’t normally see in budget audio interfaces continues on the BACK of the Volt 1.

I was delighted to see that Universal audio have sen fit to furnish the Volt 1 with an On/Off switch. Very very handy to have.

Another lovely feature here is the inclusion of 5v external power input. The Volt 1 can be powered via USB when used with a Mac, PC or USB-C port equipped iPad.

You will probably find that when used with a Macbook or iPad though, that your battery will drain pretty quickly with this attached. Plugging the Volt 1 into the mains completely negates this.

Also, if you want to use the Volt 1 with a lightning port equipped iPad or iPhone, plugging the interface into the mains removes the need to supply your iDevice with extra power via a powered USB hub for example.

An absolute game changer, especially for mobile musicians. 

There is a USB-C port on the back to hook the interface up to your Mac or iOS device and next to that, MIDI In and Out ports. A definite rarity at this price point. Next to that there are balanced 1/4’’ outputs that you can connect your studio monitors to. 

Built To Last

I briefly mentioned the Volt 1’s build quality earlier, but let me be absolutely clear. This thing feels nigh on indestructible.

All of the knobs, buttons and inputs feel solid and there’s nary a wiggle jiggle or rattle to be felt anywhere. it’s a seriously impressive bit of kit that also comes with an impressive selection of free software.

With the volt 1 you get access to Ableton Live 11 lite, Melodyne essential, free Marshall guitar amps and effects, free Ampeg bass amps and effects, free reverbs, a free virtual drummer plugin, a free virtual bass plugin and access to Spitfire Audio’s LABS.

It’s worth noting that none of the included software is compatible with iOS.  

Circling back to that vintage button I mentioned earlier. Universal Audio claim that “Few sounds can compare to a vintage Universal Audio 610 tube preamp, as used to record everyone from Ray Charles to Van Halen. Volt 1 gives you the rich, full sound of this iconic UA preamp, thanks to its built-in tube emulation circuitry, a UA exclusive”

Which sounds exciting, but doesn’t mean much if the Vintage feature doesn’t actually make much difference. Thankfully, it definitely does, adding some crispy-ness to the top end and a touch of analog warmth to recordings made with it active.

Incredible Value

The Volt 1 really surprised me.

I mentioned at the start of this review that audio interfaces at this price point needs to do things a bit differently to stand out from the crowd… and I think the Volt 1 definitely does.

The build quality is exceptionally good for an audio interface that comes in at under £150, plus the inclusion of features like the actually noticeable and usable vintage mode, the inclusion of MIDI I/O, an on off switch and external power really make this a contender for one of the best value budget interfaces i’ve ever come across.

Not only that, it just  provides really clean, clear recordings. Universal Audio obviously know what they’re doing when it comes to high quality premium audio interfaces and it’s great to see them jam all of that know how and quality into this tiny wee metal box. 

The Volt 1 offers an amazing suite of features considering its budget price point. Highly recommended for beginners or those looking for a portable recording solution.
Exceptionally high quality pre-amp
Very good build quality
Many features you don't normally see at this price point
Great suite of free software
No included software for iOS users
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