We reported on “Zoom’s U-24 and U-44” portable audio interfaces when they were released at Musikmesse 2016. The U-22 is the latest addition to this new family, and really is the baby. The size and price are certainly enticing, but does it perform as you might expect?
Having a flexible 2-channel audio interface that you can throw in a gig bag, has almost become a necessity for engineers and musicians alike. The Zoom U-22 is aiming at this market and could be one of the most compact options available. By offering the option to be USB bus-powered or powered from batteries, it also permits the interface to be used anywhere. This could be one of the most convenient solutions yet for recording a high-quality mic onto your iPad, in the middle of nowhere.
The inputs on the U-22 are a stereo mini jack line input, or a XLR/TRS combo socket. The XLR/TRS input meets all the usual expectations as a mic preamp with phantom power, and a direct input for Hi-Z sources. However, the line input, if used, cancels out the XLR/TRS input. I think this is a shame, not allowing you to record a mono line source alongside a mic for example. In most scenarios you are likely to need to carry converters with you. A mini-jack line input or RCA monitor output aren’t commonly used in most pro audio applications.
There are stereo outputs for both headphones and monitors, independently. I suspect that Zoom chose to use RCA connectors for the monitor outputs for size reasons and for DJ’s playing music from their laptop. However, it doesn’t feel very professional to me. It’s great to see a zero-latency direct monitoring feature included on such a small device though.
If compared with single-channel interfaces, price-wise the U-22 is very reasonable. If Zoom hadn’t restricted the independent input selection, this would be a neat piece of gear worth having in your bag of tricks. As it stands. this is a convenient headphone amp with separate monitor outputs. The single mic pre-amp is probably adequate for most applications and provides an easy solution for recording onto an iPad.
With a price of 83 GBP, the U-22 also has one of the smallest price tags for any audio interface. If you’re after a cheap mobile solution that’s really only 1 in and 2 out, then this is still a viable semi-pro option. The stereo line input should be seen as bonus I think. Visit the Zoom UK webpage for more information.