PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL vs Steinberg UR22 are compact USB audio interfaces that are suitable for traveling musicians and producers. Both are bus-powered, so you don’t need to worry about bringing an adaptor and finding a power outlet. Though their input and output options are a bit limited, they offer excellent performance and sound quality. So, which one is better?
Continue reading the discussion below to learn more about:
- The design and build quality of each model
- The size and weight of each model
- The available inputs and outputs on each model
- The software that comes with each model
- The performance of PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL vs Steinberg UR22
- Which audio interface that will give the best value for the money
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL: Design
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL is a simple two-input, two-output USB audio interface with MIDI I/O ports. At first, this audio interface may appear really simple and perhaps a bit too streamlined. Yet, you will be surprised by the superb performance. It can tackle the job really well, thanks to the ultra-low latency. See also: Focusrite Scarlett Solo Vs PreSonus AudioBox
But, before we proceed to how this device performs, let’s evaluate its design and build quality first. We can see PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL working for traveling musicians who need a compact, lightweight unit for capturing musical ideas while on the go or triggering samples while on the stage. At 5.5″ x 5.5″ x 1.75″ and 1.6 lbs, this audio interface is highly portable and practical to use. Not to mention that the price is very affordable, too.
The unit is housed in a robust steel case which can take a beating and survive. However, the knobs and switches are plastic. This is understandable, considering the affordable nature of the unit. The front panel is colored in blue, while the top and rear panels are black. It is the signature color scheme of PreSonus’s audio interfaces.
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL: Features
Just like most other models that are designed for portable use, both PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL vs Steinberg UR22 are bus-powered. In other words, a simple USB connection to a computer is enough to power up your audio interface. This is very useful for musicians on the go, as power outlets are not always available in some places.
This audio interface is equipped with two combo inputs that accept XLR mics and balanced 1/4-inch instruments. Both inputs have Class-A XMAX mic/instrument preamps, which are good and reliable. On the rear panel, you can find two balanced line outputs, a headphone output for monitoring, a pair of MIDI I/O ports, and the USB 2.0 port.
Each input has dedicated channel-trim controls along with a light indicator that will tell you when clipping occurs. PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL has 48V phantom power that can be switched on globally. Also, on the front panel, there is a mixer control for zero-latency monitoring; it will allow you to adjust the blend between the input signal and the playback stream.
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL includes Studio One Artist, which is the company’s DAW software. It functions pretty much like other popular DAWs, such as Logic and GarageBand. It can record audio and MIDI tracks very well, with the benefit of an extremely low latency level. The software allows an unlimited track count and comes with 2GB of content.
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL: Performance
The best thing about PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL is the ultra-low latency. In the end, performance is the thing that matters the most for an audio interface, and PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL won’t disappoint you in that regard.
Until recently, ultra-low latency is only attainable from high-end products that cost tons of bucks. But PreSonus somehow has managed to put this perk into a USB audio interface that’s designed for the cash-strapped masses. When used with the Studio One Artist software, the latency is consistently very low, around 5ms. Recording vocals while knowing that your timing is spot-on feels really nice.
It should be noted that the ultra-low latency becomes unavailable if you are using this audio interface with another DAW. You can only get the ultra-low latency when using Studio One Artist. Fortunately, Studio One Artist is quite a solid DAW with decent features and capabilities, and is definitely a very good step-up from GarageBand.
If you compare the specs of PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL vs Steinberg UR22, you may notice that they have different maximum sampling rates. They both record with 24-bit resolution, but PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL ‘only’ has a maximum sampling rate of 96kHz, whereas Steinberg UR22 supports sampling rates of up to 192kHz.
Is that a problem? Not really. Well, there are some plug-ins that can perform better when running at higher sample rates. But 96kHz is already more than good enough for most of today’s applications. Besides, if you are making audio tracks for videos or aiming for CD releases, you’ll want to stick with 44.1kHz or 48kHz for the best compatibility. For mastering, 192kHz is indeed great, but 96kHz is already an excellent choice.
The outputs sound very natural. The stereo image is focused and well-defined. The bass and treble responses are detailed with good definition. Meanwhile, the preamps are quiet and accurate; they don’t add much color to the sound, which is exactly what most people want from an audio interface in this price range.
Steinberg UR22: Design
Steinberg UR22 is a two-in, two-out USB audio interface which is equipped with MIDI I/O and the same Yamaha D-Pre preamps that are usually found in the more expensive units. The overall performance is great, and it comes in a modest body size at a reasonable price point.
Putting PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL vs Steinberg UR22 side by side will immediately show you the differences in their dimensions. Steinberg UR22 is a thud wider and thicker, as it measures 6.25″ x 6.25″ x 1.8″. It is also a little bit heavier at 2.27 lbs. However, these differences are very marginal; Steinberg UR22 is still portable enough to be carried around easily.
Out of the box, the first impression is highly favorable. Steinberg UR22 comes in a beautiful metal case that features a black and silver finish. The construction feels very sturdy and durable. The knobs are still plastic, but they feel very solid and precise. The toggle for the phantom power is flush-mounted to prevent accidental switching.
Steinberg UR22: Features
Just like PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL, Steinberg UR22 is equipped with two combo inputs for mic and line sources. The inputs have simple controls for adjusting the gain and switching between line and instrument levels. LED lights are implemented to warn you about clipping, and there are also indicators for the phantom power and the status of the USB connection.
On the rear panel, you can find a pair of balanced line outputs. Steinberg UR22 also has MIDI I/O ports, which can be handy if you want to record instruments that support the MIDI protocol. A USB 2.0 port is available for connecting to a computer and providing bus power.
For monitoring, there is a single headphone output. There are separate volume controls for the main output and the headphone output. There is also a mix control for adjusting the balance for hardware monitoring.
Steinberg UR22 includes Cubase AI and Cubase LE. The Cubase AI DAW is pretty good. It allows up to 32 audio tracks and includes 180 instrument sounds. Although the instrument sounds are not really impressive, they are still good enough and useful for sketching musical lines. The software comes with a bundled reverb plug-in, which unfortunately doesn’t sound good on some acoustic instruments, but the other plug-ins are quite handy.
Nevertheless, Cubase AI can be greatly expanded by using freeware and inexpensive VST plug-ins, so it is a decent choice for beginners. The inclusion of Cubase LE, which is the iOS version of the DAW, is good for those who work on their iPads.
Steinberg UR22: Performance
As mentioned above, Steinberg UR22 has 24-bit resolution and supports sample rates of up to 192kHz. This is great for mastering audio tracks for archives. Using a high sample rate also allows some plug-ins to perform better. For CD release, you can just convert the audio tracks down to 44.1kHz or 48kHz.
The latency is quite low, although not as low as what PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL offers. Still, there is virtually no delay, and Steinberg UR22 will allow you to work smoothly.
The mic preamps have healthy levels of gain. You don’t need to turn the knobs up in order to achieve desirable volume. This is a great benefit when working with dynamic and ribbon mics, which typically require lots of gain. Also, the mic preamps have low noise, and can easily capture life-like sounds with great dynamics. However, when working with loud instruments, you will need to engage the attenuation pads in order to avoid clipping.
The headphone output can provide decent volume, but it is a bit noisy when the knob is turned up. The same is true for the main outputs, which deliver great sound but struggle when they are cranked to the highest levels.
One quirk of Cubase AI that is a bit frustrating is the fact that you can’t disable the software monitoring globally. It is annoying when you want to use the hardware monitoring. The workaround is turning monitoring off on the individual channels, but you will lose the input level metering as the effect. Fortunately, the input levels are still visible in the transport bar.
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL vs Steinberg UR22
In general, PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL is more recommended. It offers ultra-low latency when used with the included Studio One Artist, which is a good DAW with decent features. The mic preamps are quiet and accurate, and the outputs sound natural with very good stereo imaging.