Sonic LAB: Steinberg UR-RT4 Audio With Neve Transformers

USB interface with DSP      07/08/18
    MP4 19:52 mins    

Gaz Williams takes a look at the new Steinberg UR-RT4:
The UR-RT 4 is the latest in a long line of Steinberg audio interfaces and is a relatively simple 6 input 6 output box with four mic preamps. The big news though is the four mic preamps have switchable transformers courtesy of British audio legend Rupert Neve. There is also a URRT 2 available with just two Neve transformer equipped preamps and a bit less i/o.  The URRT however is a 6 input box with inputs 5&6 being fixed line level. Also nice to see is the inclusion of MIDI din plugs. Other controls include switchable 48 volt phantom power in pairs and two headphone outputs (which can have separate mixes). All housed in a sturdy metal enclosure that craftily includes vents which allow you to peer in and see those elusive transformers!

Neve’s wonderful mic amps and mixers have always been highly prized for their bespoke transformers so it’s interesting to see them appear here coupled with the excellent modern Yamaha D pres. We have encountered these Yamaha preamps on earlier offerings (see our review for the UR22 mk2) and they truly are impressive preamps in their own right. Being able to switch the transformers in or out does make sense as the Neves do impart a definite flavour. They add some heft and body to the sound and seem to accentuate lower mids. In my experiments I found that I generally preferred them engaged however whilst recording a strummed acoustic guitar, the transformer brought out more of a metallic sound than I wanted. Switching back to the standard D Pre rectified the issue and the guitar sounded fine. Vocals really benefit from the Transformers adding a familiar edge that has graced many hit records over the years. When considering that a single Neve preamp retails for more than the entire cost of this interface, then the good value for money becomes apparent. 

There is also built in DSP too that is accessible either via a very dated looking control panel (Mac/PC) or within the Cubase family of products. This is an area where the Steinberg connection pays dividends. The DSP can be addressed from within the Cubase/Nuendo mixer and can be setup for direct monitoring or actually routed to record. Alternate headphone mixes can be created in the mixer too. The DSP itself is fairly simple so don’t expect UAD flexibility here. The DSP here is either a channel strip with Yamaha’s useful morphing sweet spot compressor or a guitar preamp with various flavours to choose from. Sadly no speaker or cabinet modelling is included. Also a single instance of Yamaha’s stalwart Rev X can be instantiated primarily as a monitoring reverb.

One final superb feature is that the URRT 4 can run driverless and thus can be used as an iOS interface. An app called dspMixFx can be downloaded for free which accesses the DSP functionality making it a very good choice for those looking for a straightforward and high quality interface for mobile purposes. I should mention though that the URRT 4 requires a power adapter and cannot be bus powered.

At around the street price of £480/$599 the URRT 4 is an excellent choice for those looking for a simple but high quality recording interface.
Sample rates go as high as 192khz so it can easily match most professional situations. The lack of extra digital connectivity may be an issue to some but those glorious Neve transformers are likely to be the main attraction.

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Gaz Williams

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