Since the dawn of solo artists making their own DIY EPs, two things have always rang true. You need to have songs to play, and you need to have researched the very basics of audio engineering. With the release of the EVO 4 by Audient, songwriters have no excuses not to make their presence known and get recording.
Grabbing the EVO 4 out of the box, it’s no hassle at all to get the interface set up with a computer. The four-step instruction leaflet has you operating the unit within minutes. Impressively tiny at only 14x6.7cm, there’s no need for bulky AC power adapters either. Plugging in with a single USB-C cable, the EVO 4 makes for a highly portable solution should you want to quickly record that flash of genius you have in a hotel at three o’clock in the morning.
One of the features which differentiates this interface from many of its competitors (other than the low price for the 24bit/96kHz quality) is the Smartgain technology. Just select which channel you’re using, enable Smartgain mode, make some noise and the input gain will adjust itself. This method seemed to be quite foolproof, making sure that absolutely anyone can get great gain structure and avoid harsh digital distortions or piercingly loud noise-floors which can often be a hallmark of home studio rookies. I decided to try recording one of the most unpredictable elements out there, an acoustic guitar pickup straight into the direct input of the front panel. As long as you don’t set the Smartgain by strumming a soft folk song and then smash your strings with a rendition of your favourite punk band, you shouldn’t run into any issues as those spiky transients can clip even the lowest gain settings. The preamps are as they should be in this price range, clean and unnoticeable.
If you are so inclined however, you can of course set the gain manually with the monolithic control knob at the unit’s centre. If I had to nitpick one issue with this device, it’s that the detents of the knob feel quite slippery and hard to really ‘lock’ into for that satisfying click we musicians seem to crave. A smooth rotation may have been the better solution, but this complaint is truly grasping at straws. Some may argue that for any modern piece of equipment, USB 3.0 connectivity is a must. However I had absolutely no issues with latency, either with headphones plugged into the unit or through my laptop, so the USB 2.0 seems to be pulling more than its fair share of weight.
My favourite feature of the EVO 4 is the Loopback function. If you’re wanting to use the EVO as a way to record podcasts over Discord, or maybe gaming content for YouTube or Twitch, it is so easy to get your computer audio routed through alongside your microphones.
The lightweight nature of a small USB device is something to be noted as well. If you view the EVO 4 as a portable, quick and easy solution to recording ideas or even full songs at good quality, then the 360 gram interface is definitely something to admire. However, if you plan to use it in a dedicated home studio setup, you may wind up finding that it doesn’t like to stay put once it has a few cables plugged into it. Especially the stiffer breeds of speaker and instrument cables can easily push the EVO 4 off a desk.
All in all, Audient have clearly put a whole heap of thought into this thing. Nothing has been left to chance in terms of its ease of use, and it assumes nothing in the expertise of its end users. For a budding songwriter signing up to Soundcloud, or a touring rockstar needing to capture the flashes of genius, you cannot go wrong with the EVO 4.
Hits and Misses
Control knob is a little slippery