Scan recommended - The new budget audio interface champion!
Zoom is a company that many users may remember as being one of the early proponents of digital effects and over the last few years they've expanded into other fields, such as their superb hand held recorders for both audio and video as well as these amazing little interfaces which in our own testing here at Scan come out as simply being great in every metric we could establish.
The interface itself is a simple 2 in and 2 out interface with midi which on the surface looks like a fairly common spec, however its under the hood where things start to get really interesting as we discovered.
Thanks to the improvements in latency offered under USB3 and some well tuned drivers we've been seeing performance scores that give you half the latency of a good USB 2 device. At the lowest 32 buffer settings the interface has a total RTL (the time it takes for audio to enter, be processed and be routed back out to your speakers) of around 4ms, with a 64 buffer setting offering around 5ms.
By contrast the best of the best USB 2 interfaces available for under £1000 can manage around 6ms and in real terms you can start to feel lag around 10ms - 12ms meaning that anything up to around a 128 buffer or under on this interface is going to be perfect for the recording artist who needs to add realtime effects before monitoring.
Don't need the real time effects on your monitoring chain? Then you can switch the interface to the direct monitoring mode for real time audio foldback, and there's even a reverb on the monitor mixer, that wont get recorded, but will make vocalists a lot happier when recording!
Whilst we were blown away by this performance coming from USB at this or indeed any price point, other parts of the interface are as equally well thought out too.
Giving you the ability to record at up to 24bit/192kHz, the included convertors include a Burr Brown PCM4202 ADC & AKM AK4396 DAC both of which in the recent past have been found on a number of higher end interface solutions but rarely if ever before at a price point this low. Of course the choice of convertor is directly affected by the quality and design of the signal path and once again, the Zoom UAC-2 has a well thought out path and sounds great in use and allows them to offer class leading dynamic range and signal-to-noise rates that give you a sound quality that punches far above its weight. This coupled by the converters inbuilt ability to 4X upsample before processing, ensures that far less digital noise and aliasing can occur, allowing you to capture high quality transparent recordings every time.
All this ties up into at a great package at a previously unseen price point, making the Zoom UAC our current budget model to beat. If you need a simple 2 in / 2 out interface, this could be your ideal solution, however if you need more I/O for your studio the Zoom UAC-8
. Feature DetailsUSB 3.0 SuperSpeed Audio Converter for Mac and PC
Take your sound new heights with the high-speed, high-resolution, low-latency, and ultra-portable UAC-2 USB 3.0 Superspeed Audio converter.
The bus-powered UAC-2 adds two channels of 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio to any USB 2.0 or 3.0-equipped Windows or Mac computer—even to your iPad.* It utilizes USB 3.0 SuperSpeed technology for low latency and includes advanced features such as 4x upsampling, Loopback, and MIDI I/O. Plug in any microphone, line-level device, or instrument and use the UAC-2 for onstage playback, recording to a DAW, or enjoyment of high-res audio in your home or office. You can also use it for fast, low-latency podcasting, gaming, and other live streaming applications.
* Optional power adapter and Apple Camera Connection kit or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter requiredLive performance
Now you can get the best out of your laptop at every gig. The UAC-2 is portable, bus-powered (no AC connection required), and built rugged for the road, plus its advanced converters and support for USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ensures superior audio wherever your music takes you.Webcasting, podcasting, gaming, and live-streaming
Broadcast your creativity, enhance your gaming experience, and share your performance with the world. The UAC-2's Loopback function combines the input from connected mics, instruments, and line-level devices along with background music or other audio tracks being played back by your computer and then instantly routes a custom blend of the signals to your favorite streaming software.Recording and archiving
Pair a UAC-2 with your DAW and create great audio in any recording environment. Connect a wide variety of microphones, line-level devices, and instruments. Use Direct Monitoring for zero-latency overdubbing. Sync your MIDI controllers, sound modules, and drum machines. Archive your favorite recordings in high-resolution formats. The UAC-2 provides everything you need, in one compact device.Desktop audio enhancement
Think your headphones and speakers already sound pretty great? Try plugging them into the UAC-2 instead of your computer's audio outputs and treat yourself to the true experience. Now you can enjoy the ultimate in streamed high-resolution audio—all the way up to 24-bit/192kHz—in full fidelity.Complete connectivity
The UAC-2 works with everything from legacy USB 2.0 laptops and desktops, all the way up to the latest-generation Mac or Windows USB 3.0-equipped computers. Or plug in an AC adapter and Apple Camera Connection kit or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (sold separately) and use it with your iPad.MIDI
The UAC-2's MIDI input and output connectors ensure rock-solid synchronization between your computer and devices such as electronic keyboards, controllers, drum machines, and synthesizer or sampler modules.USB 3.0 SuperSpeed
The USB 3.0 SuperSpeed transfer protocol supported by the UAC-2 is ten times faster than USB 2.0 and six times faster than FireWire 800. The result? Low-latency (2.2ms roundtrip @ 96kHz / 32 samples) for improved performance from your DAW software, and a stable data stream that is unaffected by computer jitter (slight variations in timing), so there's no need to connect an external master clock source. What's more, the extra bus voltage carried by USB 3.0 (900 mA, as opposed to the 500 mA carried by USB 2.0) allows for the use of higher-end electronic components such as the advanced preamps and converters in the UAC-2.The Hardware
The USB 3.0 connector on the rear panel carries digital signal to and from your computer in addition to providing power to the UAC-2—no batteries or external power required. Dual front panel combo XLR/TRS inputs allow you to connect a wide variety of microphones as well as line-level signals from electronic keyboards and music players—even passive instruments such as electric guitars and basses. Dual-balanced TRS output jacks enable you to connect the UAC-2 to amplifiers or self-powered speakers, and there's an independent ¼" stereo headphone jack with dedicated volume control for private monitoring of the input or output signal.
Dedicated input gain controls and Clip LEDs make it easy to set optimum input levels, and a large Output knob enables fast control over overall output level. A phantom power switch applies +48 volts to the mic inputs, allowing you to use the UAC-2 with studio-quality condenser microphones, and a three-way Direct Monitoring switch enables monitoring of input signal with zero latency in both mono and stereo. MIDI In and Out connectors allow interfacing with devices such as electronic keyboards and drum machines. Last but not least, a Class Compliant Mode switch enables the UAC-2 to be connected to an iPad.*
* Optional power adapter and Apple Camera Connection kit or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter requiredUpsampling
The UAC-2 uses high-end components such as the Burr Brown PCM4202 analog-to-digital converter and AKM AK4396 digital-to-analog converter. In addition, the UAC-2 performs 4-times upsampling during both analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion. In other words, when the sampling frequency is set to 44.1kHz or 48kHz, the UAC-2 processes the signal at high resolution 176.4kHz or 192kHz. For A/D conversion, this means less aliasing noise; for D/A conversion, this means increased clarity and fidelity.Extend your capabilities with software
UAC-2 MixEfx is a free Macintosh and Windows compatible application designed specially by Zoom for the UAC-2. With UAC-2 MixEfx, you can set mix parameters and add high-quality effects such as reverb and echo. Other features include a low cut filter, phase reverse, AUTO GAIN control for each input. UAC-2 MixEfx even has three memory slots for saving user settings with quick recall.Zoom recommends using an Intel USB 3 controller for the best performance and compatibility.