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Sound Devices USBPre 2

Sound Devices USBPre 2

4.65 4.65 out of 5, based on 5 Reviews

A rock solid built pre-amp designed to be a Swiss Army knife in the studio or field.


8th December 2011

Sound Devices USBPre 2 by rmerck

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Sound Devices USBPre 2

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

10th February 2012

Sound Devices USBPre 2 by JonesH

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Sound Devices USBPre 2

Let me see. I need mic preamps, digital outputs, line outputs, great headphone amps, powered over USB. Not that many options actually, but the USBPre 2 fits the bill.

The construction is great; real metal and sturdy connectors. Some settings are on DIP-switches behind rubber flaps and are a bit tricky to adjust if you have big fingers and no nails. I usually leave it in the same settings though, so not a big problem. The assortment of in- and outputs is marvelous; two XLR mic inputs, two TRS line inputs, two RCA inputs, both 6,3mm and 3,5mm headphone outputs, RCA outputs, S/PDIF in and outputs on both coaxial and optical connectors along with two XLR line/mic level outputs. Simply great.
The LED meter bridge is excellent, very readable and clear. The knobs are high quality and two of them can recess into the body of the unit.

The unit is Class compliant and so can be simply plugged into any modern computer and immediately have I/O capabilities functioning. Although designed for stereo use only, you select which input you want to use with buttons on the front.

Among the only negative things are that the unit lacks the possibility to mute outputs beside the headphone ports, for those who use the interface as centre piece in a studio with both phones and monitors.

The specs are really impressive considering all power comes from the USB supply. Some ingenious functions like a standalone mode, loop monitoring for measurement work, monitoring mixer and such are simply the cherry on top of a well thought-out wonderful little interface.

19th February 2012

Sound Devices USBPre 2 by Accurate

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Sound Devices USBPre 2

I fell in love with this unit immediately when I bought it. I also have a Metric Halo ULN-2 that I use and originally bought the USBPre2 to get two more channels in over SPDIF. This worked flawlessly, but I also started using the USBPre2 as my main interface for location work instead of the Metric Halo. Sonically, I found them in the same ballpark, clean pres, lots of gain, low noise, and great conversion. However, the USBPre2 is TINY, takes USB power, and doesn't require any additional software, making for a very easy and quick set up.

The feature set is quite amazing for a box this size - there are lots of I/O options, very intuitive monitor controls to mix between pre and pc audio, and a very useful headphone "mono" switch. The meters are big so it's very easy to watch your levels. Built in limiters are also a huge plus and allow me some room for error.

Only annoying thing are the DIP switches in the back that control a lot of the functions like phantom power, trim, and the limiters. It would be nice to have these on the front of the box, but I guess with the size of the unit, there have to be some compromises.

3rd November 2013

Sound Devices USBPre 2 by Deleted User

Sound Devices USBPre 2

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remot...-lyra-1-a.html

Thank-you, folks at Gearslutz, for sharing your knowledge with me.

My above thread references the Sound Devices USBPre 2. This is always plugged into my laptop when I'm recording. I use it with Cubase LE, circa 2007 with no problems.

I like heftiness or sturdiness of the case -- a nice black box, it looks like everything will stay plugged in, and work correctly. While the ones with breakout cables have me worried.

In general, I don't see any problem having little dip-switches. But this would make it harder for a musician to self-correct while recording himself. I can see why field recordist would use an external recorder like the Sound Devices 702 to untether himself from running a computer...especially if you were trying to record conversations in your car -- with coffee and comedians.

I have had some problems in getting the USBPre 2 to send a usable output to both my camcorder and my laptop computer -- at the same time. It seems as if the output line level analogue signal is available only after the unit sends a digital signal to the camera. I imagine the SD MixPre 1 is the better match for that use. Note from tech support -- dip switch B6 must be set on ON for this to happen. The two XLR output jacks on the side of USBPre 2 will send either a line or mic signal -- to the camcorder -- or whatever device you wish -- but this audio has gone into and out of your computer as a digital signal. It's not the initial audio in the mic/line amp of the USBPre 2.

I'm less baffled now -- for the time being -- I will stick with my MAcGyver parallel circuit. Send only one pristine high end audio signal to the laptop via USB cable, then set up a separate mic pre and alternate mics, perhaps dynamic mics since it's more mid-ranged focused, then the analogue signal goes into my fourteen-year-old camera via a 1999 Beachtek XLR to camera interface box. Any syncing of top quality audio to video would then be done in an app like Final Cut Express (or iMovie) -- But unfortunately -- I have no patience for correcting the video syncing -- using frame by frame alignment. I prefer to make music, and continue my woodshedding and music learning experiences.

4th November 2013

Sound Devices USBPre 2 by pointebleu

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Sound Devices USBPre 2

REVIEW
SOUND DEVICES USBPRE 2

Like many other musicians and independent project producers, I am continuously seeking the highest quality sonic reproduction available, with practical functions, in a space saving compact unit, and, at an affordable price.

While typically only recording one or two audio or software tracks (stereo) at a time, these two tracks must be of the highest conversion quality available, and the preamps must RULE with clarity and openness.

I have found that identifying, much less obtaining, a professional, high quality two (or four) channel interface, with high quality preamps and converters, at a price that is indicative of having only two channels, is virtually non-existent, except for a handful of devices; none of which even approach the usbpre 2 in functionality, design, or sonic quality. (comparisons below)

As a small studio using several virtual instruments, I am also very concerned about achieving a highly refined, accurate, and clear D/A conversion, so that the virtual piano and the virtual cello sound as they were sampled (like live instruments).

In order to accomplish this feat, the unit must include both quality preamps as well as quality a/d and d/a conversion; and some latency control for multiple plug-ins and multiple tracks.

While this may seem like a huge delivery, the usbpre 2 gets about as close as any interface in its league might hope to...with several bonus options.

Lets jump right in.

PHYSICAL

The usbpre 2 is not large. It's about 7' x 4" x 2"; but is extremely well built with several i/o options right in the box (with no need for breakout cables).

It is heavy for its size.

It is all metal, including the knobs, and has a professional, industrial physique.

It also functions independently of any software and may be used as a standalone unit, or as an interface with your favorite DAW.

I use Logic X as an interface and the usbpre 2 integrated flawlessly with the DAW.

The front panel is intuitive, if a little crowded, and offers up two separate channel gain knobs, a vivid and accurate meter display, several indication LED's, headphone output volume control knob, monitor output volume control knob, and a latency control knob (very handy).

The back panel has balanced XLR outputs, S/PDIF Optical Input and Output, and the DIP Switches that can be used to configure various aspects of the usbpre 2, including, front panel knob function, phantom power, sample rate, low cut, limiter, etc. (see discussion on DIP Switches below)

The left panel has two low impedance microphone inputs, two 1/4 balanced line inputs, and two auxiliary in RCA connectors.

The right panel has both a 3.5mm and a 1/4 inch TRS stereo headphone outputs that are accessible simultaneously and controlled by the front panel headphone volume control. (This a really convenient option if you are recording with closed and open headphones or if you just want to get another reference while mixing)

The right panel also includes two auxiliary RCA outs, a S/PDIF Coaxial input and output, and a USB power and data port.

Oh, did I mention it was entirely powered and capable of data transmission via USB computer hub? (Is this good or bad; more later)

No external power source needed, just plug and play, and can be used in standalone mode with a simple 10 watt USB power adapter or charger, or a USB hub on a computer.

Lastly, but certainly not insignificantly, the usbpre 2 functions with both Mac and Windows based DAW's.

I use Macbook Pros slaved via Vienna Ensemble, so although I cannot comment on the Windows experience, the usbpre 2 immediately lit up when plugged into my Macbook with absolutely no issues.

METAPHYSICAL

If music were a religion, this thing would be an oracle.

I could not believe the sheer clarity of sound delivered by the usbpre 2.

While I have heard higher end units with more polish and more of what some would call a "musical" sound, I have never heard any interface that has more of a brutally honest and transparent sound than the usbpre 2.

Before obtaining the usbpre 2, I listened to a few other interfaces in its price range (if not class) including, Apogee Duet for ipad and Mac and the RME Babyface, and while both of these produced surprisingly high quality sonic representations, both were slightly diminished compared to the usbpre 2 in both high and mid sonic representation.

In fact, I found the Duet to be "thin" sounding with regards to the highs it produced, and, I found the Babyface to be a little muddy in the mid ranges in comparison to the usbpre 2.

When I began searching for the perfect, affordable, 2 channel, desktop interface, converter and preamp, there were a few demands I needed met for my small recording and production studio.

+ Capacity to handle large multi layered or dubbed tracking instances
+ Capacity to handle multiple plug-ins and software instruments
+ Low latency options
+ High quality preamps
+ High quality A/D and D/A conversion
+ Multiple i/o and connectivity options
+ Convenient and Accessible Design

I was confident that, having searched and previously having found several higher end units with 16 channel capacities in the range of $3,000.00 to $5,000.00, that I would be able to locate a similar unit with fewer channels, for much less, say around $1,000.00.

I was mistaken.

It seems that a limitation upon the number of channels of preamp and conversion is also a limitation upon the quality of the preamps and/or the converters in a unit.

In other words, there were no two channel interfaces with high end preamps and converters for under $1,000.00, except for the usbpre 2, and a small handful of others that, for various reasons, do not match up to the usbpre 2.

Apogee Duet for iPad and Mac.

This is really a wonderful piece of gear, with a beautiful, solid design and a clear penetrating sound.

I only had two issues with the Duet; 1. It had no digital i/o's and could not be used in conjunction with another unit; and, 2. It had a tinny high end that seemed like a high whistling wind to my ears.

I would have also liked an additional output for headphones, but, I could have lived without that.

In fact, I may have also overlooked its lack of digital connectivity, but the high end thin whistling wind sound was unacceptable to my ears.

I never got to the place where I could determine if it could handle multiple tracks and plug-ins.

RME Babyface.

Also a definite frontrunner, with a great design, solid build and tremendous i/o options, and a nice beefy (compared to the Duet), but clear, sonic quality.

The Babyface also came in two colors, blue and silver, and with a carrying case, which I thought was a good design touch.

The only two issues I have with the Babyface are; 1. It does not include a breakout box (so you are stuck with loose cables), and, 2. The mid-range in some instances sounded muddled and some of the sonic clarity and separation was lost in translation.

I also do not like the box that the Babyface ships in; but, this is truly extraneous and not at all related to the unit itself.

Still, I felt that both the Apogee Duet for iPad and Mac, and the RME Babyface marketing schemes, seemed to be directed more toward the novice or "trendy" musician, and less towards the engineer or composer/producer.

usbpre 2

Because there are soooo many things that I like about the usbpre 2, let me start with the things that I do not like about it.

1. USB Power and Data Connectivity

Honestly, I only THINK I do not like this function, but to date, I have not experienced any adverse symptoms as a result of the single USB hub that simultaneously provides power and data transmission.

I understand that this feature is highly coveted by location engineers and such, however, I will rarely remove the unit from my studio for location work, and I do not trust the USB hub to both adequately power the usbpre 2 and to simultaneously transmit data to my DAW in large projects.

My concern is that in a larger multi tracked project, with several plug-ins, the data transmitted by the USB hub will become compromised and will adversely affect the performance of the session, particularly at higher sample and bit rates.

This is usually evidenced by pops and crackles; but as I have previously mentioned, to date I have not experienced any issues at all, even with a large number of audio and software instrument tracks and plug-ins.

Still, I purchased the AQVOX USB Low Noise Power Supply and will determine if it makes any difference when I receive it and plug it up.

2. DIP Switches/Lack of Software

OK, so it can be a pain in the arse to have to constantly change those little DIP switches on the back of the usbpre 2, but the good news is that, most of the configurations, you will set once and then leave alone.

Apogee has Maestro; RME has Total Mix; both very useful and powerful software tools for the producer and engineer.

I have embraced the virtual world of music in almost all aspects and so I sorely do miss a software program for the usbpre 2.

I wish one were included with the package.

Being a very small fry in the world of music producers, I lack both the physical space and the budget to accommodate large expensive mixing consoles, and thus, quality virtual mixing consoles and software plug-ins are highly desirable commodities.

Consequently, the lack of software and separate power supply in the usbpre 2 are precisely the features that adds to its value as a "go to" field unit; but, in turn, diminishes its value when used as a DAW interface in a small tracking and production studio like mine.

Is this all I have to complain about?!

The usbpre 2 is in a class all by itself.

A quality software mixing program for the usbpre 2 would have put it in a universe all by itself.

A separate power supply, not transmitted through the data source, would have given small studio owners that track large projects, like myself, some piece of mind.

The only other wish I have for the usbpre 2 is a direct USB Midi input for my controller, so that I could save a slot for iLOK.

And now, the GOOD!

The sound is pristine, clear and brutally accurate.

If you are trying to bury something in the mix, do not use the usbpre 2!

I record many "natural" software instruments (a contradiction in terms, I know) and seek to achieve a natural acoustic sound that I can then affect with plug-ins and other virtual analog simulations.

I have read other reviewers who have stated that the usbpre 2 does not have the same "musical" quality that some other preamps and converters possess.

And, while I take issue with the notion that a device can create a musical "feeling" (that is the producers job), I do note that the usbpre 2 does issue forth an extremely transparent sonic representation, but that is not in the least harsh or brittle.

The highs are naturally clear and bright, but not thin in the least and the bottom end is tight and substantial; I don't feel like the bass will ever get diminished in the mix.

And of course, the midrange is present, full and clear without sounding muddled.

The sound field is wide and high and I could hear all the several instruments in the mid-range in full sonic detail.

The highs were also represented in incredible sonic detail, but without any harshness or distortion.

I recorded a Taylor 810 direct, and via ribbon microphone, and was extremely pleased with the outcome in both instances, especially with the mic preamps.
I have been equally pleased when recording vocals. The results are astounding!

Also, I could not hear any noise from the unit while recording, it is very quiet.
All of my virtual instruments "come to life" through the usbpre 2 D/A conversion.

Again the clarity. It is just amazing.

I run virtual instruments through analog simulations in my DAW and the usbpre 2, to achieve a warm wonderful analog sound that is clear as a bell.
I highly recommend this product.

Forget this is an incredible value with features you would expect in a unit costing several more hundred dollars; the usbpre 2, despite its cost, will simply blow your socks off and give you a proverbial musical wedgey.

You will love the sound.

==================================================

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

I need (want) a separate power source.
I want (need) a software mixing program included.
I want (need) a USB Midi input for my controller.
I want a carrying case for the unit, large enough for attachments.
I like it as a desktop unit and would not prefer if it were a racked unit.
I don't care about a high z instrument input, but I can see where it would be convenient.

(Who do I talk to about this stuff??)

CONCLUSIONS

Beautiful crystal clear sound
Accurate reproduction
Solid and Sturdy
Good i/o options
Able to handle multiple tracking
Able to handle multiple software instruments and plug-ins
Two headphone outlets
Professional Industrial Design
Accessible Control Knobs
Variable DIP Switches
Functional, on board, metering
Able to perform as a standalone unit
Great Field Unit
Works with both Mac and Windows based DAWs
High quality preamps
High quality A/D and D/A converters
Plays well with others
Costs under $1,000.00 ($849.00 at this writing)
Will likely outlive the rest of your studio!
Has great resale value.
If you can find one for sale... .
I could not find any used usbpre 2's for sale when I purchased mine.
I believe a product should speak for itself through its performance.
The usbpre 2, does just that.

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