Steinberg is getting into the Thunderbolt rackmount audio interface game with the new AXR4. It’s a flagship product designed for professional recording. Here’s what it’s capable of:
Analog & digital connectivity (+ MIDI!)
The AXR4 has four Neutrik combo inputs and a pair of headphone outputs up front. The rear panel is more abundant, with eight TRS line inputs and eight outputs kept company by two pairs of ADAT. They also double as S/PDIF, with the second I/O providing AES/EBU Sub-D connection. There’s MIDI, which is an absolute rarity in this class of devices. You get both MIDI input and output placed next to the Word Clock I/O, which are equipped with SSPLL jitter suppression technology. Let’s not forget Thunderbolt 2, whose high throughput ensures low-latency audio and enables daisy chaining up to three interfaces.
32/384 AD/DA conversion
The AXR4 has some mean converters built into it. They offer 32-bit/384kHz audio recording which is two times higher than what you get with most pro-audio interfaces in this segment. It’s also completely overkill, but this is no argument for standing in the way of technological advancement.
Rupert Neve Designs sonics
The AXR4’s four hybrid mic preamps implement “refined” transformer circuitry and Rupert Neve Designs’ SILK processing, recreated in DSP format by virtue of Yamaha’s Virtual Circuitry Modeling tech. Speaking of DSP effects, you also get several modeled units with latency-free monitoring capabilities: VCM 276 compressor, VCM EQ601, the Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip, and the REV-X reverb. All in all, premium sound quality doesn’t seem to be a challenge for this interface.
Price and availability
Shipping in the first quarter of 2019, the AXR4 is priced EUR 2599 in Europe (German VAT included). Running natively under macOS, a Windows Thunderbolt driver is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2019. There’s lots of potential packed into this interface, and the price is appropriate for what you are getting. Steinberg has clearly put some thought into future-proofing the unit while taking advantage of technology that’s already in production. It’s the kind of forward-looking, clever thinking I appreciate in a premium product.