For many musicians, an audio interface with a multitude of I/O can be overkill, and often, the extra features necessitate a larger footprint. For the beginner, as well as musicians looking to record voice-and-guitar projects, simpler is almost always better.
With that in mind, Steinberg gave the UR12 basic I/O with 24-bit/192kHz resolution and housed it all in a solid metal chassis. The USB audio interface has a single XLR mic input (feeding a Yamaha D-Pre mic preamp), a high-impedance instrument jack, two input gain controls, an output-level knob, a headphone jack, and a direct monitoring switch to avoid latency issues. The rear panel is similarly uncomplicated, with a +48V phantom power switch, unbalanced RCA outputs, a USB B connector, and a power selector—standard USB bus power or micro USB (for use with a power adapter when you’re connected to a mobile device). There is no MIDI I/O or stereo input configuration.
I tested the UR12 with a Mac Pro desktop computer, a Macbook Pro laptop, and an iPad 3 (using an Apple Camera Connection Kit), and each device worked without a hitch. To interface with the computers, I needed to install the Yamaha USB driver, which came on a CD along with documentation. There was no need to install a driver for the iPad. The UR12 is easy to use and sounds remarkably good. For example, using a Shure KSM-32, I recorded solo bluegrass-style banjo with my Gibson RB250 Mastertone. The highs came through impressively sweet and devoid of shrillness, with fat lows and a deep, plunky midrange.
As a starter interface, the UR12 is particularly well suited to the solo artist with simple needs, but performers who work with backing tracks would be equally well served. And with a street price below $100, it is very competitively priced.