Universal Audio Volt 476 - A Review
A review of Universal Audio’s Volt 476 (featuring audio samples).
I work as a freelance music producer and audio engineer; and one evening in Winter my other sound card, which had been used relentlessly, every day, for years, sadly stopped working (it had more than paid for itself). I needed a new one relatively urgently; one that would be fairly straightforward to set up and would result in a high quality signal chain. After a lot of research (which was conducted under truly manic conditions of panic) I purchased this model and put it to the test.
This review primarily focuses on setup, ease of use, overall sound quality, and more information about the model itself, and the analog predecessors the preamps emulate.
About the Volt 476
The Universal Audio Volt 476 is a member of Universal Audio's Volt Series (the other models being the Universal Audio Volt 1, Universal Audio Volt 2, Universal Audio Volt 176 and Universal Audio Volt 276). What drew me to this sound card, in particular, was the inclusion of the vintage and 76 compressor preamps; as having a hint of analog warmth in your signal chain makes such a huge difference to the character of your recordings.
The vintage setting is an emulation of the Universal Audio 610 tube preamp (which was used to record Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and many more), the 76 Compressor being an emulation of an analog circuit, inspired by UA’s 1176 Limiting Amplifier.
The sound card also is powered by a USB C connection (which is also what drew me to this as I work within Windows, and using a Thunderbolt cable may have invoked more setup hardship). This sound card can be used with Windows or Mac, and can also be used with ipads and iPhones, which is pretty cool.
Setup and features rundown
This sound card has 4 inputs in total; two on the front, and two on the back. The front panel (pictured below) has a phantom power option to the left of input one, and both inputs have an instrument selection (labeled ‘INST’)
The back features the other two inputs and 4 outputs; alongside the other connectors pictured above. Setting this up was fairly straightforward, you simply download UA connect from here, connect your device (via USB C connection), launch UA connect, and follow the on-screen instructions. It also comes with a power adaptor and a USB C cable.
The 76 compressor option has a few different preset options from which to choose; you can select between vocals, guitar, fast, and simply turn it off.
This is honestly the best raw vocal sound I have ever gotten from a soundcard outside of a recording studio.
Just by itself, the vocals sound silky, yet warm, the high frequencies being nice and crisp (with no harshness); the lower registers sounding beautifully rich. The vintage setting is fairly subtle, however, when combined with the compressor - this is a game changer. I found that for harmonies it added a huge amount of shimmer and depth (especially for higher register ones). Having such a strong signal chain makes such a difference in the long run, as it massively reduces the amount of post production/mixing down the road, and saves you from the frustration of CPU overload.
Vocal Recording 1 (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings off)
Vocal Recording 2 (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings on)
Vocal Recording 3 (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings off)
Vocal Recording 4 (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings on)
I tested this on an organ, electric piano and strings. All of the instruments sounded great without either the compressor or the vintage setting on; as there was a flavourful depth preserved (I have, at times, found with other sound cards, that the digital brightness can make instruments at times sound a bit tinny) however, there is a whole lot more power to the instruments when you do use it, resulting in the instruments having a nice shimmer and gleam; the low - mid frequencies still sounding nice and warm.
Organ (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings off)
Organ (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings on)
Strings (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings off)
Strings (Vintage and 76 Compressor settings on)
Vocals + Organ - Settings Off ( with a little bit of reverb)
Vocals + Organ - Settings On ( with a little bit of reverb)
This is an absolutely fantastic sound card; one that will shave a lot of time off mixing, as the source is so powerful and strong. What sets this apart from other sound cards is that it truly preserves the depth and character of the source (this may be due to the analog emulations within the soundcard), making everything sound a little more interesting. I would highly recommend this as it is very affordable, incredibly easy to set up and use, and most importantly, sounds and looks like a dream from the 70s.
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