The What: ESI has launched the U168 XT and U86 XT, a progressive pair of USB 2.0 high-speed audio interfaces for Mac and PC, designed to bring better performance to USB (Universal Serial Bus) audio technology for better results.
The What Else: U168 XT provides 16 clearly labeled line inputs and eight line outputs on balanced 1/4-inch TRS connectors. Ultimately, this full-featured 24-bit/96kHz solution also includes four integrated microphone preamps with XLR inputs and switchable +48V phantom power, positioned on its front panel for easy access alongside two (switchable) MIC/HI-Z high-performance instrument inputs (1/4-inch connector) for electric guitars; plus (rear-mounted) coaxial S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format) in and out on RCA connectors. Two independent headphone outputs are also accessible alongside an integrated monitoring mixer. Meanwhile, external keyboards, synthesizers, and sound modules can be connected via the 16-channel MIDI with an input and output on the unit’s rear panel.
Providing fast, high-performance, low-latency drivers based on proprietary DirectWIRE technology—that can be used for routing audio streams internally within applications using ESI’s EWDM (Enhanced Windows Driver Model)—with support for the latest WDM (Windows Driver Model), ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) 2.0, and CoreAudio technology for both Mac and PC, U168 XT works with all current standard audio applications available for professional usage.
As an equally versatile USB 2.0 high-speed audio interface for Mac and PC with an analog-to-digital conversion, dynamic range of 107dB and DAC dynamic range of 112dB, the U86 XT shares the same feature set and functions as its U168 XT bigger brother, but with a reduced number of physical analog inputs (eight) and outputs (six), and reduced dimensions. Both bundle packages come complete with an eight-track version of Bitwig Studio, the namesake next-generation music creation and performance software solution from Berlin-based Bitwig as well as a license for DJ specialist Stanton’s Deckadance LE software.
The Bottom Line: Both the U168 XT and U86 XT aim to deliver better performance to USB audio technology for better results. The U168 XT is shipping now with an MSRP of €549.00; the U86 XT will follow in early June 2017 with an MSRP of €399.00.