The Volt 476P, Universal Audio’s latest in their line of low-cost-yet-high-quality USB-C audio interfaces, is the flagship of the Volt fleet. It has the same essential features as its little brothers (Volts 176, 276 [Tape Op #148], and 476) but differentiates itself with four analog preamp inputs and two headphone outputs (up from two preamp inputs and one headphone out on the Volt 476). The four primary mic/line inputs have the same stellar Volt architecture with selectable UREI 1176-derived analog compression model presets and a Vintage toggle emulating the characteristics of the Universal Audio tube 610 console preamplifier. All this adds up to a fast, studio-grade tracking solution.
This new Volt is still a full-featured 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA interface like its siblings, but with additional raw I/O for more demanding multi-mic tracking sessions (think drums). Similar to the other models in the Volt lineup, such as the 276 or 476, the 476P can typically be bus-powered via a single USB-C cable (the online manual warns that bus power is only available “in limited configurations”). Therefore, some setups may require a dedicated 5 VDC power supply. Fortunately, UA includes a wall-wart style PSU and a USB-A to barrel adapter – the latter works well if you want to run off a USB power bank battery, for example. This greater power draw from the 476P makes sense, as the unit can run up to four microphones with 48 V phantom power. In my testing, the 476P did receive bus power when attached to an iPad Pro with USB-C, and also worked correctly when bus-powered via a direct USB-C connection to a Mac Studio desktop computer. Throughout my testing, the only configuration I stumbled across that didn’t support bus power to the 476P was when the unit was connected to an Akai MPC Live II, which supports external audio interfaces over its USB bus. The MPC does power the Volt 276, so I suspect this is one of the corner cases that the 476P manual is alluding to. Not a deal breaker by any means, as the additional I/O on the 476P adds a great deal of flexibility and is well worth the hunt for the free power outlet!
In contrast to the 276, having an additional stereo out (lines 3 and 4 on the 476P) allowed me to set up proper hardware sends for external effects loops. I tested this theory on an iPad Pro running AUM (a super extensible iOS audio mixer) and used the fantastic UA Starlight Echo Station pedal [Tape Op #145] as a hardware stereo delay – it all worked perfectly. One can, of course, power up the Volt interfaces sans computer or mobile device – the interface boots with the last-run configuration, so if you simply need it to run as a four-channel preamp/compressor/monitoring station, this is a possibility as well.
The Volt family all comes bundled with a generous helping of audio software, including Ableton Live Lite and Celemony Melodyne [Tape Op #84], so again, I think these interfaces are among the best options currently available to beginning recordists or bedroom producers.
While I love the Volt series’ build quality, retro design, and form factor, I’m not a massive fan of the smooth plastic knobs on the 276 and 476P. On a whim, I actually found some stellar substitute machined aluminum knobs via lovemyswitches.com (side note: excellent resource for gear restoration or the odd upgrade). I opted for the Cosmonaut knobs; it’s a nice aesthetic and modest ergonomic improvement, at least for my large bass player mitts. Admittedly, this is super nerdy, but it looks keen, so why not?
My only other (minor) gripe is that the Volt series is still unsupported in UA’s LUNA DAW [Tape Op #138]. Though I understand that the fundamental value of LUNA is in its near-zero latency and tight integration with the Apollo interface range, I could imagine a “LUNA lite” option as an attractive ecosystem entry point for the above-mentioned home recordists. Or maybe even a “LUNA Mobile” option? One can dream, right?