UR816c user review - 30 days in

This section is about Steinberg's UR-C audio interfaces product range
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axemanchris
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UR816c user review - 30 days in

Post by axemanchris »

I was disappointed to find out that support for my bulletproof Steinberg MR816X was ending. I figured I might was well upgrade now while my old one is still worth something, and while I could take advantage of a super good sale.

Comparing: MR816X vs UR816c features:

1. +48v phantom power no longer selectable on each channel. Now either on or off for channels 1-4 and either on or off for channels 5-8.
2. Pad function no longer selectable individually on each channel. Now, just individually on channels 1-4. There is no pad function for channels 5-8.
3. Rear connectors on back: Lost coaxial connectors for S/PDIF in/out. Gained Midi in/out.
4. New “loop back” feature allows you to record music directly from the computer into your DAW when that hip hop client shows up and says, “My beat is on YouTube.”
5. No more “push button” integration with Cubase. Although a neat idea, it was one that I never really used that much myself.
6. The functionality for adding monitoring FX (ie RevX reverb, Morphing Channel Strip) has been simplified and streamlined.
7. I have gained the channel strip and guitar amp software to complement the RevX reverb that I had with the previous unit that remains standard.
8. Functionality for higher sample rates and higher bit-depths.... which I don’t really see the point of.

Setting Up:

The drivers and other required software (dspMixFX, etc.) all installed easily. There was no mucking about fighting with stuff getting it to work.

The supplied USB cable is only about a half a meter. I had to use a USB extender to get it to reach my computer, which was no problem, but a longer cable really should have been included.

Firing it up and getting it to work with Cubase was a snap and there was no need to muck about with stuff. The default settings (ex. buffer size set to 128 samples, etc, which on my system, worked out to about 9ms of latency - entirely usable) were perfectly fine for my modest computer (i3 with 16GB RAM, Win10, 4GB video).

Performance:

I use this interface with the addition of a Behringer ADA8000 (connected via ADAT) that I use when I need more channels, so my system overall is limited to recording 16 channels at a time. (I used one input replicated across all sixteen channels) Using the default settings (128 sample buffer, etc.), I was able to record 16 tracks of 24-bit/44.1khz audio (my own personal default project settings) without any signs of dropouts, etc. I stopped my trial after 6 minutes, but after the four minute mark, I upped the ante and fired up YouTube, opened and closed a couple of webpages, zoomed in and out of my project window, etc. No glitches. I’m sure I could not do this with the old MR816X. Nice!

Sound:

The MR816X was well-known to be a great sounding interface, both in terms of preamps and converters. The UR816c uses the same preamps, and a new converter chip. I expect the difference is probably measurably improved in the modern iteration, but with a few days between hearing the old and the new interfaces, I’m sure I did not notice a difference. So… at the very least, we have the same great sound as before.

Functionality:

Pros: The REV-X reverb, and Sweet Spot Morphing channel strip algorithms have not changed, to my knowledge. They have added a guitar amp simulator suite, which on quick testing sounds fine enough. It might not be what you want for your keeper guitar tracks, but… maybe. I’m a bit spoiled, though, having gotten used to BiasFX and the Headrush modelling. The channel strip and the guitar amp sims can be set to appear before the input bus (so just for monitoring purposes without recording the processing), or after the input bus (so you would be committing yourself to those sounds as you record). It’s nice to have options. The usage of the REV-X reverb applied in the monitoring chain doesn’t seem to be able to be routed to the input recording bus, but the included REV-X plug-in means that you don’t have to export your projects in real time (like you had to on the MR series) if you want to use it in mixing.

Within the UR816c exists a number of “virtual” output buses that allow you to, say, take DAW direct output bus #1 and route it to your headphone bus in the Cubase control room, or take DAW direct output bus #2 and run it to a mix cube monitor system.

Cons: I have really struggled with some of the output routing. First, if you use Direct Monitoring in Cubase, it will NOT work with control room enabled. (Good thing the device allows you to reliably record at suitably low latency!). I could create my cue mixes within Cubase and have them output properly to my four headphone buses, but the “live” track that I wanted to monitor while recording did NOT get sent to the cue mixes unless Direct Monitoring was turned off.

Second, in order to monitor a track you are recording with the Rev-X reverb, the reverb MUST be sent to an *actual* output bus and will NOT work on a “virtual bus.” So, if you’re using DAW Direct Bus #1 to feed headphone cue mix #1, you will get no reverb on the headphone bus, even though you might be hearing it in the control room, which is fed by the master bus. My workaround solution to this has been to disable the control room, assign my main outputs to my studio monitors, and then physically patch the headphone out on the UR816C to the aux in on my headphone amp and send *that* to my headphones in the tracking room. Note that the headphone outs on the UR816c are attached to the *actual* output buses. Oh, and I have to manually create a talkback channel in order to communicate with the tracking room. :-/ It is my experience, however, that most singers are happy enough recording their vocals without reverb in their headphones, so this will not be a routine inconvenience as much as it will be an occasional inconvenience.

The included dspMIXfx software looks good and is easy to use. The routing options in it are intuitive and easy to use. By comparison with the included MR Editor that came bundled with the MR816, one must be careful not to assume that they work in the same way. If you are using Cubase with the MR816, the MR Editor was made entirely redundant by the controls within Cubase. If you are using Cubase with the dspMIXfx software with the UR816c, you will still need (occasionally) that app open to support some of your routing tasks. It now works along side Cubase, rather than being made redundant by Cubase as it was before.

At the time of this writing, Steinberg Canada has been quite helpful in their support on this matter, and these have been noted by Steinberg as a bug and they hope to be able to address these in a future update. Whether that update is on the Cubase end, the UR firmware end, or if it will require a hardware revision along the way (like a UR816c MkII), is unclear.

Overall:

The features and performance of the UR816c do represent an upgrade from the MR816 that I really loved. Improvements have been made to various internal functionalities as well that I really like. Performance and stability are, in my mind, outstanding. I just really wish that the output routing didn’t require workarounds in order to achieve the same flexibility that the MR816 had without any futzing around. It is easily an equal the to the MR816, I’d say, and if Steinberg can address those couple of minor issues, this unit should be able to set the standard by which other interfaces are measured.
Cubase Pro 10.5
Steinberg UR816c
Behringer ADA8000
intel i7 920 @2.6 Ghz 4-core
16GB RAM DDR3 @1066 Mhz
Radeon RX 570 Video (4GB)
Rampage II Gene MB
500 GB SATA SSD
1TB SATA SSD

ca-booter
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Re: UR816c user review - 30 days in

Post by ca-booter »

Nice to read these user aspects of the UR816C.
I use it too for a couple of days now but in a different way. My goal was only to be able to use my external hardware devices through the URC and a Behringer ADA8200.
I do not activate "direct monitoring" in Cubase.

For monitoring, the main outs of the URC are going into my Yamaha N12 mixer which drives my three speakersets, the headphone amp and controls for Cubase.
That mixer I will keep using for my (home-)recordings instead of the UR816C. The N12 for me is very flexible for this purpose(seperate aux phone-mix, built-in reverb and FW interface) so I do not use the DSP FX on the URC.

My few cons of the URC are that the input 1/2 are not perfect for linelevel devices (only mic and H-Z/unbalanced), so 2 inputs less.
And then the output routing:
I thought I would have 16 outputs but the 2 main outs have to be used for the DAW control room listening.
That would be sent to MIX 1/2. So that cannot be used anymore for something else.
Also why not the choice of 16 DAW direct outs instead of only 8?
Now the 8 DAW direct outs I use on the URC as hardware outputs, but the 8 outs on the ADA8200 you have to route to a stereo-MIX output, 3 pairs of them.
In the beginning this was not very obvious for me, the manual could be improved on this point.

Another improvement would be to be able to change the naming of the channels in the DSP mixer.

Built quality: it seems to me that you better keep the headphones jack connected all the time, otherwise it won't live long I guess.
Mayvbe that is for all the connectors.
The Sound is okay, although it seemed to me that the Midas Pre's of the ADA8200 sounded a bit better than the URC ones. First impression though.

A question : It seems somewhat strange to me that the reverb send is only possible on one mix.

Performance is great, the USB driver does the job just fine. Latency monitor checker shows no nasty things and very low values during a heavy mix with lots of plugins and external hardware, at max. buffersize.
PC ASUS i7-2600 3,4Ghz |Win10-Pro 1909 SSD | 16Gb DDR3 | ASUS R5230 graphics | Cubase Pro 10.5.20, user since Atari | Wavelab 10 EL | Absolute 3 | SuperiorDrummer3 | Yamaha-Steinberg N12 FW | Steinberg UR816C+Behringer ADA8200 | Behringer X-Touch One | M-Audio Axiom 61 | Fishman TriplePlay | Lexicon MX200, Strymon Volante, Art Pro VLA II, Art Pro Channel II, Klark Teknik: KT-2A, 1176-KT, 2* EQP-KT

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