With a footprint slightly bigger than a CD jewel case, the Novation Audiohub 2x4 simplifies your desktop setup by handling several chores from within in a single portable device. Moreover, it is designed to work with computers and iPads (with the help of an Apple Camera Connection Kit).
In addition to providing a 2-in/4-out USB interface with 24-bit, 96kHz Focusrite audio technology, Audiohub 2x4 acts as a powered USB hub for drives and controllers when the included AC supply is used. You can run Audiohub 2x4 from your computer’s USB port, as well, but you lose the power going to the hub and the ability to use 88.2 and 96kHz sample rates—a small price to pay for the convenience that this diminutive device provides.
Loud and proud: the Novation Audiohub 2x4 puts out a big, clear sound but keeps your desktop tidy by offering a powered USB hub and 4-channel output. I like the ergonomics of the Audiohub 2x4: The I/O and switches are on the front and back panels, leaving just the volume controls on top—independent knobs for channels 1/2, 3/4, and headphone output. LEDs indicate signal level for each channel, as well as hub activity and audio connection.
The rear panel has three pairs of line outputs: RCA and balanced 1/4" for channels 1/2, and RCA for channels 3/4. Either pair of outputs can be routed to the 1/4" headphone jack.
Two RCA jacks on the front panel accept line-level input, with high- and low-gain settings and no-latency input monitoring. When you use Input Monitor, the input signal, computer output level, and output levels of channels 1/2 are automatically lowered to avoid overload issues. Outputs 3/4 are unattenuated.
The four RCA outputs allow you to send signals from, say, your DJ software to an analog mixer. The manual suggests additional setup scenarios, such as routing outputs 3 and 4 to an external effects device, then returning the signal to the audio inputs in order to create an effects send.
Because Audiohub 2x4 can be used as a powered hub, the three USB ports will work with bus-powered keyboards and controllers. For example, you could connect a Launchpad S and Launch Control, along with a standard keyboard controller while feeding a hardware synth to the audio input.
I tested Audiohub 2x4 on a MacBook Pro, where it was essentially plug-and-play. (Windows users need to install a driver.) I connected a keyboard controller to one of the USB ports, fired up Ableton Live 9, added an instrument to a MIDI track and was up and recording. Next, I imported sounds from drives attached to the other USB ports.
Novation warns that this product is loud, and it is—loud and clear. I auditioned the balanced outputs using a pair of Dynaudio BM12 mkIII monitors and the output sounded rich and full. The RCA jacks had a slightly lower output, but still strong and highquality. Unfortunately, you can't completely turn the sound off; the output is so hot, sound is audible even when the controls are fully counter-clockwise. If this is an issue for your work, simply mute the audio coming from your DAW.
By combining a 2x4 audio interface and a powered USB hub in one package, Novation has created a handy and portable control center designed to handle a variety of complex setups. And if you’ve found the output of other USB interfaces to be anemic, you’ll appreciate Audiohub 2x4’s powerful, clean sound when you’re ready to pump up the volume.
Powered USB hub. Four output channels. Balanced 1/4" (TRS) and unbalanced RCA outputs.
A tiny amount of signal can be heard from the outputs even when the volume controls are fully counterclockwise.