Explore all eight models in Roland’s USB audio interface family, discover the key technologies that make them so capable and see which one offers the most figurative bangs for your recording bucks
From basic 2-in/2-out boxes to professional multi-I/O recording powerhouses, there’s at least one model in Roland’s eight-strong fleet of USB audio interfaces for Mac, PC and iPad to suit every music producer and engineer, no matter what their experience level or budget. In this guide, we’ll take you through the full range, from bottom to top, with the primary objective of leaving you in no doubt as to which is right for you and your individual recording and playback needs.
ENTRY LEVEL USB AUDIO INTERFACES
For those just getting started or looking for a secondary interface to work into a mobile recording or mixing rig, Roland’s three entry level offerings present plenty of options.
DUO-CAPTURE mk2 USB Audio Interface
Roland’s most affordable and portable recording interface, DUO-CAPTURE mk2 was designed with mobile music production in mind. It connects to your Mac or PC via USB, or your iPad via Apple’s Camera Connection Kit, drawing power from the host device.
A 2-in/2-out unit, DUO-CAPTURE mk2 features a 1/4-inch mic/guitar input with Hi-Z switching, and an 1/8-inch stereo line input, alongside dual headphone outputs – 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch – that make it easy for, say, a musician and an engineer to work together without the need for an elaborate monitoring setup.
Recording and playback are at 24-bit quality, with a choice of 44.1 or 48kHz sample rates, and ASIO and Core Audio drivers ensure that latency is kept low on Mac and PC. When you need to monitor your playing or singing with no latency at all, however, engaging the Input Monitor switch on the back passes the signal from the input straight to the outputs. Volume levels in both directions are adjustable on the interface itself using the two sliders on the top surface, which are topped off with Peak LEDs for alerting you to overly high levels.
DUO-CAPTURE mk2 is ideal for singer-songwriters, field recordists and any producer or musician seeking an easy, lightweight interface that doesn’t compromise on sonic quality – weighing just 130g, you won’t even feel it in your laptop bag! Oh, and you get Cakewalk’s handy starter DAW for Windows, SONAR X1 LE, thrown in, too.
TRI-CAPTURE USB Audio Interface
Very much one of a kind, the Roland TRI-CAPTURE layout is loosely styled on that of a compact mixer. USB bus powered, it records and plays back at up to 24-bit/96kHz, and with dedicated inputs for guitar (1/4-inch with Hi-Z switching), mic (XLR with optional phantom power) and an auxiliary stereo source (Left and Right phonos), each with its own top-surface level knob, there’s no basic recording task it can’t handle. Outputs comprise Left and Right 1/4-inch balanced jacks and a 1/4-inch stereo headphone socket, the latter with level knob. The Input Monitor switch enables zero-latency monitoring, while Output Mute kills the main output but leaves the headphones active, giving singers the ability to flip in and out of ‘record mode’ at the push of a button.
What truly sets TRI-CAPTURE apart from other interfaces, though, is its cleverly realised trio of task-specific Recording Modes. Mic/Guitar mode assigns the mic and guitar inputs to separate mono tracks; All Inputs mode records all three inputs as a stereo mix; and Loopback mode mixes and records the mic or guitar input with the output of any other applications running on the host computer – useful for recording yourself playing along to a YouTube video, for example.
An obvious choice for musicians recording guitar and vocals together, TRI-CAPTURE is also perfectly suited to web streaming, podcasting and video production. Again, Sonar X1 LE is included as well, giving Windows users everything they need to get started.
DUO-CAPTURE EX USB Audio Interface
Expanding on the DUO-CAPTURE in every department, DUO-CAPTURE EX is a 24-bit/48kHz audio interface for Mac, PC and iPad, sporting two combi XLR/TRS inputs (both phantom powered, one with Hi-Z switching), 1/4-inch Left and Right outputs, a 1/4-inch headphone output and 5-pin DIN MIDI I/O. Crucially, both inputs are equipped with Roland’s acclaimed VS Preamps, for flawlessly transparent recordings with up to +16dBu headroom.
Further features include a low-noise three-way power supply, allowing DUO-CAPTURE EX to run on USB bus power, three AA batteries or an optional AC adaptor; direct monitoring in mono and stereo; level knobs for the inputs and the headphone out; and the inclusion of Sonar X1 LE for Windows.
With its rugged aluminium casing, flexible I/O, accessible front panel controls and superb sound, DUO-CAPTURE EX is a serious step up from the regular DUO-CAPTURE for home studio musicians and mobile laptop/iPad-based producers.
INTERMEDIATE USB AUDIO INTERFACES
When three inputs aren’t enough and/or only the next level in audio fidelity will do, these three mid-range interfaces have all bases covered.
QUAD-CAPTURE USB Audio Interface
With a feature set belying its ‘did-I-read-that-right?’ price tag, QUAD-CAPTURE is an adaptable and innovative interface built to stand up to the rigours of the road.
Compatible with Mac and PC, QUAD-CAPTURE records and plays back at 24-bit/192kHz, and is USB bus powered, capitalising on the same low-noise power supply as DUO-CAPTURE EX. Inputs consist of two combi XLR/TRS jacks (with phantom power, Hi-Z and ground lift) and coaxial digital, while outputs come on 1/4-inch Left and Right jacks, coaxial digital, and stereo headphone out wth +10dBu gain. 5-Pin DINs are in place, too, for MIDI In and Out. Both analogue inputs feed into VS Preamps (see below for a full explanation), and the time-saving Auto-Sens system analyses incoming signals and automatically sets optimum input levels for you. For example, you could mic up an acoustic drum kit with a separate mic for kick, snare, toms etc and just start playing; the Auto-Sens feature will quickly set the optimum levels of each input.
Direct monitoring is available (the Mix knob setting the blend of input and output for monitoring), although with Roland’s low-latency VS Streaming Driver handling communication between QUAD-CAPTURE and the host computer, you might not need it. Finally, LED collars around the two input level knobs provide a degree of visual monitoring; the included Control Panel software lets you take command of the VS Preamps’ built-in compressors, phase inversion and low-cut filters; and Sonar X1 LE is, once again, in the clip.
A stellar option for singer-songwriters and roving producers, with the added engineer appeal of digital I/O and the brilliant convenience of Auto-Sens, QUAD-CAPTURE is a premium bit of kit at a budget price.
Mobile UA USB Audio Interface
If you’re simply after the best in monitoring and playback signal quality for your DAW or audio editor, the sleek, compact Mobile UA will take your breath away with its incredible sound and straightforward workflow.
Serving up 32-bit floating point PCM audio at sample rates up to 352.8kHz, and 1-bit DSD format audio at up to 5.6MHz, this is as good a listening experience as you’ll ever get from your Mac or PC. Two 1/4-inch headphone outputs (one doubling as a balanced line out) deliver a whopping 158mW of power per channel, while Roland’s proprietary S1LKi (Super 1-bit Linear Kinetic) DSP technology takes sample rate conversion and filtering away from the DA converters, resulting in a smoother, clearer, altogether more engaging sound. The VS Streaming driver keeps latencies super low, and four output modes cater to various monitoring and playback scenarios, including routing separate signals to each output – laptop DJs take note!
Bus powered via USB, as a playback-only audio interface, Mobile UA is in a class of its own, as at home in the studio as it is on the road. For the producer or DJ working entirely ‘in the box’ with no need for recording inputs, it’s a winner.
OCTA-CAPTURE USB Audio Interface
Now we’re getting serious. OCTA-CAPTURE is a 24-bit/192kHz 10-in/10-out USB interface, with eight combi XLR/TRS inputs (phantom powered), eight balanced 1/4-inch jack outputs, stereo digital coaxial in and out, and MIDI I/O. Every analogue input boasts a VS Preamp, complete with digitally controlled compressor, phase inversion and low-cut filter, all adjustable directly on OCTA-CAPTURE itself via the LCD display and rotary encoder, or onscreen using the Control Panel software. Auto-Sens is onboard, for automatic input gain setting, and with up to four separate Direct Mixer setups available at once, you can send a different monitor mix to each analogue output pair.
As you’d expect, you also get Roland’s VS Streaming driver, low-noise power supply and bundled Cakewalk software – the Production Plus Pack, in this case. And if you ever find you need more than eight analogue inputs and outputs, two OCTA-CAPTUREs can be combined for 16 of each.
Aimed squarely at bands looking to make multitrack recordings of gigs, and engineers recording full drum kits and bands in the studio or on location, OCTA-CAPTURE is a comprehensive solution for any mission-critical, medium-scale production job.
PROFESSIONAL USB AUDIO INTERFACES
Super UA USB Audio Interface
A thing of beauty, both to look at and listen to, Super UA takes the core concepts and qualities of the Mobile UA and adds to them… significantly.
With dual headphone outputs at the front (1/4-inch and 1/8-inch) and 1/4-inch TRS line ins and outs – two of each – round the back, Super UA not only offers the same stunning 32-bit/352.8kHz PCM and 1-bit/5.6MHz DSD playback as its smaller sibling, with S1LKi DSP technology, but records at up to 24-bit/192kHz quality, too. It also includes a detachable I/O module housing two XLR inputs and two XLR outputs, enabling Super UA to be taken out of the studio without you having to unplug your mics and monitors to do it.
Switching between the various ins and outs, and setting levels, is done using the illuminated, recessed buttons and LED-collared multi-function knob, and visual feedback is provided by a pair of smooth, responsive level meters.
With its all-metal construction and flexible I/O module, Super UA is perfect for the producer or DJ who demands the highest recording and playback quality in the studio and away from it, but doesn’t want to invest in a separate interface for each scenario.
STUDIO-CAPTURE USB Audio Interface
At the very top of Roland’s USB audio interface line-up, STUDIO-CAPTURE represents the last word in recording technology for Mac and PC. Featuring 16 outputs, ten inputs, two headphone jacks with individual level controls and 5-PIN MIDI I/O – plus the ability to stack two units together for double those figures – it makes light work of capturing your whole band.
12 of the inputs are combi XLR/TRS sockets with VS Preamps; the other four are 1/4-inch TRS jacks. The two main monitor outputs are XLRs, while the other eight outs on 1/4-inch TRS. 24-bit/192kHz recording and playback are supported, and a custom DSP chip powers the next generation of Roland’s VS Streaming driver for extraordinarily low latency.
Multiple input channels can be selected directly from the front panel for collective adjustment of their VS Preamp settings via the rotary encoder and LCD display, and metering is supplied in the form of segmented LED strips for each channel. Editing on the host Mac or PC is possible as well, of course, using the Control Panel software, with which you can also set up four simultaneous monitor mixes; and Auto-Sens is on hand for automatic setting of input gains.
Constructed from lightweight aluminium, STUDIO-CAPTURE is eminently portable, making it equally viable for both mobile and studio deployment. For everyone from solo singer/guitarists and small groups to full bands and medium-sized classical ensembles, it’s the ultimate computer-based recording and mixing system.
As well as their USB audio interfaces – several of which feature MIDI I/O – Roland also offer a standalone USB MIDI interface in the shape of UM-ONE mk2. Compatible with Mac, PC and iPad (using Apple’s Camera Connection Kit), the tiny UM-ONE mk2 features integrated USB and MIDI cables, in/out activity LEDs and FPT processing for fast, stable data transfer. Simply plug it into your computer or iPad, hook up your synth, sampler or other MIDI device and you’re ready to go.
The VS Preamp
A headline feature of the CAPTURE range of USB audio interfaces, Roland’s VS Preamp raises a microphone input signal to the level required for recording with astonishing transparency and minimal noise from the power supply. With no frequency bias, it also delivers a flat frequency response across the full audible range, while +16dBu headroom helps it to handle even the most dynamic signals with aplomb. Along with the microphones plugged into them, the quality of your pre’s determines the quality of your recordings, and with VS Preamps, you’re getting the same highly developed circuitry used in Roland’s professional V-Mixer series of consoles, but at a fraction of the cost.