Sound Devices USBPre 2 by rmerck
I'd like to start off by saying that the USBPre 2 was the only device that had all the features I was looking for to fit into my studio setup.
I didn't know what to expect once I got my USBPre 2, but after getting familiar with the device, and after returning the first one to my retailer that was defective, here are my impressions:
Build Quality: The device is rock solid. The only areas of this device that are not made of metal are the rubber feet that keep the device secured above your desk and the rubber covers that seclude the dip switches. Everything is meticulously finished and top notch from the Neutrik connectors, usb 3.0 port (somewhere in my research I discovered that SD chose the USB 3.0 connector because of it's ability to create a more secure connection to the cable. I don't know where I read it and can't find it again, so it isn't quantifiable. Let's continue forward assuming that USB 3.0 compatibility will be available in a future firmware upgrade) and to the individually seated meter lights, you can definitely be sure that the USBPre 2 can give you years of service.
Sound Quality: The first USBPre 2 that I purchased added clicking noises to the recorded sound. Top that off with hearing heavily digitized (think distorted robot voice) audio while monitoring and you have a lot of wtfbombs being dropped. After my retailer apologizing profusely and replacing the device immediately (kudos!), I am convinced that the USBPre 2 gives a premium quality sound. I prefer gain hungry dynamic microphones and this device is perfectly suited for mics such as the RE-20 and SM7B. Even at the necessary gain levels, audio is clean, audible and beautiful. The device gives a broad spectrum of quality levels up to 192hz.
Ease of Use: I am not a Mac user. I stumbled onto the USBPre 2 while looking for an interface that could compete with Apogee products yet be Windows compatible. After much research and finding that the USB Class Compliance ratings that it has, once I got the USBPre 2 in hand, I figured I'd try just plugging it in and trying to record. This worked perfectly (I am referencing my use of the non-defective product that the retailer replaced). Of course, low latency and higher sound quality (above 48khz I believe) was not that attainable without installing ASIO drivers. Once these drivers were installed (which btw, was simply downloading an executable and clicking a couple "yes" or "continue buttons"), higher quality and lower latency times (through allotting system resources) were instantly at my disposal. Mac users, enjoy not having to worry about ASIO drivers, just plug and go!
Features: What more could a person ask for? This device will easily provide DA/AD conversion for a wide range of products. However, that isn't what I bought it for. Having features such as stand alone operation for field use (via 5v usb power supply. I've tested an iPhone wall charger adapter and it works great!), an excellent switchable meter, multiple I/O, and USB Class Compliance puts together an excellent combination of features.
Bang for the Buck: I would really like to give this device a 7 or 6 for the bang for buck area. However, the quality of the pre-amps won't allow me to. My original purchasing plan was to buy a Grace M101 and an undecided usb interface. This would easily set me over a $750 budget had I included a USB interface over $100. The USBPre 2 gets a 10/10 because I estimate that it saved me about $200 extra, gave me the sound I want and helps keep my audio chain minimal.
Customer Service: I usually wouldn't include something like this in a review, but I do feel that I have to. I purchased this device from B&H Photo. Once I determined that I may have a defective device, my first instinct was to call Sound Devices so that it could be remedied (I know B&H would never knowingly sell a faulty product, and this falls on the manufacturer in my eyes). I was told to try installing the drivers because Firefox is "known" to corrupt downloaded files. However, in my experience with software development, most if not all commercially implemented software/installation extractors are implementing some type of checksum system to prevent the installation of corrupt software/data. I instantly felt stupid talking to the Sound Devices customer service rep. To his credit, after I followed his instructions and returned a new call to him, he had no hesitation in issuing me a warranty claim. Here was my gripe. I made it clear to him that I had purchased the USBPre 2 within the last 7 days. I was informed that I would be responsible for shipping charges to the warranty center, and that the device would be repaired within 10-12 business days and returned to me. IF the device was damaged beyond repair and under the most extreme circumstances, I would have a new one returned to me. I was pretty pissed that after dropping $650 on their device they didn't have the decency to handle this situation the way B&H did. I called B&H afterwards and had a pre-paid UPS label emailed to me and assured that as soon as they received my defective unit, they would send me an unopened device. I could see Sound Devices handling this the way they did had I been out of my return period or somewhere else throughout my warranty, but their hesitancy to make it right immediately meant that I burned up their retailer's time and labor in sending a defective unit back.
All in all, I love having this device in my home setup. It performs well for what I need and I know I can grow into it for years to come. I'm fortunate to have purchased from a reputable retailer (they now OWN me as a customer) and I'm loving every audio wave coming from this device