In this post, we’ll provide an in-depth review and grade the Steinberg UR12 audio interface.
You may be familiar with Steinberg’s popular Cubase digital audio workstation (DAW).
But on the hardware side, they’re well-known for building durable road-ready audio interfaces.
Steinberg’s UR12 interface is tailored toward newcomers to digital music production.
It has a clean, easy-to-navigate design and delivers great sound quality for the price.
While you’ll likely outgrow the UR12 over time, it’s a great budget option if you’re just getting started.
Here’s our take on the UR12’s recording quality, preamps, features, etc., and help you decide if it’s a good choice.
The Steinberg UR12 is a 2-in/2-out budget-friendly audio interface with standard audio production features and solid audio quality. This interface won’t wow you with features, but if you’re new to recording, you’ll find it very easy to use.
Overall Grade: B+
Build Quality: A+
Design Quality: B+
Recording Quality: B
Software Bundle: B
Who is the Steinberg UR12 Best for?
The Steinberg U12 is an excellent choice if you’re new to audio and music production.
It’s a user-friendly interface with all the standard tools you’d expect from a unit in this price range.
In general, we recommend having one of these around regardless of your experience level if you need a durable mobile interface.
The UR12’s heavy-duty aluminum exterior and tightly placed knobs allow it to hold strong against drops and bumps.
The Steinberg UR12 is best for…
- Basic home studios
- Mobile recording
- Self-recording artists
- Producers/Engineers on a budget
- 2-in/2-out: Mic input, Hi-Z instrument input, and two RCA main outputs
- Direct monitoring
- Phantom power
- LED indicators
- Sample rate: 192kHz | Bit-Depth: 24-bit
- 5VDC Power Connector
- USB-B Connector
Layout and Controls
On the front of the UR12 is an XLR mic input and a ¼-inch Hi-Z instrument input.
Each input comes with a corresponding gain control knob and an LED “peak” indicator for clipping.
The mic input also has a +48V LED to show when phantom power is enabled. The last LED labeled “USB” lights up when you connect the UR12 to a power source.
To the right, you’ll find a volume control knob, a button to toggle direct monitoring, and a ¼-inch headphone output.
On the back, you’ll get a 5V DC socket that can power your interface when you connect an iPad or mobile device.
The UR12 also comes with a USB-B connector for computers.
Between these two connectors is a switch to select which power source you’d like to use.
Lastly, the UR12 has two RCA outputs and a switch to enable phantom power.
One of the highlights of the UR12 is its build quality.
It has a road-ready metal frame with hard plastic front and back panels.
The knobs on the front feel very sturdy and rotate effortlessly.
There’s no doubt this interface will hold up after consistent use and even a drop here and there.
Build quality may not make a huge difference for home recording. But the UR12 is an interface you can take wherever you go.
Throw it in the front pocket of your bag and record whenever inspiration hits you.
The UR12 has an impressively clean design.
You won’t find any unnecessary clutter on the front.
Its knobs and inputs are nicely spaced out, and everything is labeled for easy navigation.
Also, you’ll get a couple of useful LED indicators to monitor clipping on each channel.
No Line Inputs
One thing to note is that the UR12 doesn’t have line inputs. It lets you easily connect a mic or guitar, but what if you wanted to connect a preamp or mixer?
Preamps and mixers are known as line-level devices and produce the best results when you connect them through line inputs.
However, since this interface is for entry-level needs, not having line inputs isn’t a deal-breaker.
Luckily, the UR12 has quality preamps, so you likely won’t need an external unit in a basic home studio.
No Individual Headphone Volume Control
Also, this unit doesn’t have an individual headphone volume knob. Instead, you can adjust your headphone volume using the output knob.
You’ll have more flexibility with individual controls, but many interfaces in this price range have a similar design.
Overall, we think Steinberg did an excellent job with the design of this interface.
It has an intuitive layout and easily assessable controls, making it an ideal first-time interface.
With the Steinberg UR12, you can record at a sample rate of up to 192kHz and a bit depth of 24-bits.
These days, most people tend to record at 44.1 and 48kHz. But 192kHz is the gold standard for film and video production.
Recording and mixing at higher sample rates and bit depths can provide more headroom and allow you to use more plug-ins in post-production.
Let’s take a deeper look at the UR12’s inputs and outputs to get a better idea of its recording quality.
Two key recording quality measurements are frequency response and dynamic range.
Frequency response measures how accurately an interface can reproduce sound without altering its tonal qualities.
Like most interfaces, the UR12 has a relatively flat frequency response within the 20Hz-20kHz range.
On the other hand, dynamic range is the difference between the loudest and quietest signal and interface can record.
Conveniently, a higher dynamic range gives you more headroom, so you can worry less about clipping when recording hotter signals.
The UR12 has a dynamic range of around 100 dB, which puts it on par with the Behringer UMC202HD but is noticeably lower than the similar price Audient Evo 4.
From our experience, we get plenty of headroom even when recording loud vocals. However, we advise setting the gain for your electric guitar very low to avoid clipping.
The UR12’s mic input features a Class-A D-PRE mic preamp from Yamaha.
The D-PRE’s unique circuit design helps deliver smooth highs, natural-sounding bass, and low distortion.
It also has a gain range of +10 to +54 dB, which gives us a tighter range than we would like. But a 44 dB range is pretty standard for an interface around $100.
We don’t expect special features with an interface in this price range.
Having more flexibility over direct monitoring with a mix knob would be nice.
Also, we like when an interface has separate controls for direct monitoring and phantom power for each input.
However, you’re more likely to find these features in slightly more expensive units.
Included with the UR12 is access to Cubase AI, an easy-to-use DAW with basic recording, production, editing, and mixing tools.
Cubase AI lets you record up to 48 MIDI and 32 audio tracks at once, which is impressive for free software.
It’s not the most sophisticated DAW, but it’s enough to get you going.
Audio Interface Comparison
Let’s compare the Steinberg UR12 to similar interfaces to see how it stacks up.
Steinberg UR12 vs Steinberg UR22 MKII
You’ll get additional flexibility with the Steinberg UR22 MKII.
It comes with two combo mic and line inputs instead of a mic and instrument input with the UR12.
There’s also a mix knob that lets you blend your direct signal and the signal from your DAW and MIDI I/O.
However, if you’re only recording one mic or instrument at a time, we recommend going with the more affordable UR12.
Steinberg UR12 vs Steinberg UR22C
The Steinberg UR22C has a similar design to the UR22 MKII.
The difference is that with the UR22C, you can enable direct monitoring in mono and stereo.
This feature is helpful if you’re recording two mics at once.
Steinberg UR12 vs Focusrite Solo
You can expect a similar audio performance from the UR12 and the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
However, unlike the UR12, the Solo comes with a line input and an Air Mode feature.
Air Mode is an advanced preamp feature that makes your audio sound brighter when enabled.
We recommend the Scarlett if you’re looking for a more versatile interface.
Takeaway: Steinberg UR12 Review
- Solid recording quality
- User-friendly design
- Limited features
- Limited gain range