OverviewThe UR824 is a 24-bit multichannel audio interface with a maximum sampling rate of 192 kHz. It was designed in collaboration with Yamaha, of whom Steinberg is now a subsidiary. Steinberg is well known for popular music software such as Cubase, Nuendo or HALion. This wasn’t the first attempt by Steinberg in this field, but it was the first one made entirely “in-house” with the joint contribution of the company’s hardware and software divisions.
The UR824 is to be connected to a computer via a USB 2.0 cable. It doesn’t rely on the more modern and powerful Thunderbolt 2 or 3 bus, equipping some of the higher-class models. USB 2.0, adopted after the demise of the FireWire (which still equipped the older Steinberg M4816csx) proved to be perfectly adequate for the purpose, thanks to the speed of modern computers and the quality of well-written software drivers.
Despite the relatively low price, one can appreciate the solid build of this device, with its generously sized all-metal chassis. The only concession to contain price appearing to be the plastic connectors supplied by Neutrik, certainly robust enough and well tested in many other Yamaha equipment, but probably not as indestructible as good old metal connectors. The microphone XLR inputs also lack the traditional latch lock, which would have ensured a safer connection in live applications. The knobs controlling the master volume, input level and the level of the two headphone jack outputs are also made of plastic, but still feeling reliable.
The considerable depth of the chassis could be explained by the use of the same circuit board originally designed for Yamaha mixers, for example that N12 with which this audio interface shares several details. To fit several channels in the reduced space or a mixer chassis, the channel strips must be narrow and deep; an inspection to the logic board seems to confirm this solution was adopted with the UR824. As a consequence, eight microphone channels have been placed into a single rack unit, complete with combo XLR and jack connectors.
Next to the analog inputs and outputs are four optical connectors, which can act as additional ADAT or SPDIF digital channels. By specifications, the ADAT channels provided by the two pairs of connectors are sixteen at a sampling rate of 44.1 or 48 kHz, halved to eight at a rate of 88.2 or 96 kHz, and lowered down to only four at a rate of 176.4 or 192 kHz. Coaxial SPDIF input and output aren’t provided. The digital channels allow for daisy-chaining more audio converters, for a remarkable maximum of twenty-four analogue channels.
The UR824 is powered by an external power supply unit, of the type commonly used in notebooks (or in Yamaha’s portable keyboards). Luckily, the cable is passthrough, so you don’t have to attach the power supply directly to a wall socket, or provide yourself an extension power cord. We believe the lack of a ground conductor in the external power supply may be the cause of the faint hum which can be perceived by connecting the audio interface and the speakers with unbalanced audio cables. Balancing the connections solves the problem perfectly. If so you prefer, you can use the special ground plug on the UR824’s chassis to link it to the chassis of a grounded equipment.
Given the size of the UR824, one could think that an integrated power supply could have been a better and more elegant solution. However, after breaking our power supply, we could appreciate the ease of repairing this type of fault ourselves, by simply ordering the replacement part. No need to send the entire audio interface to a service center. The very slow reaction of Steinberg’s support to our ticket request made the ability of providing ourselves to the repair a real bless.
As is normally the case in Yamaha mixers, the outputs are protected, during power on and off, by potentially harmful “clicks”; you can therefore safely forget to turn on the audio interface before the speakers.
The front panel contains no display and includes very few indicators. There are, however, many physical controls. For monitoring, the UR824 should always be used together with its virtual mixer.
It should be remembered that the audio interface doesn’t include MIDI connectors. These are, however, less and less needed, thanks to the increasingly widespread use of direct connections via USB.
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