I've looked for years for something along the lines of the EVO 4, a simple audio interface, into which I could plug a mic and other audio inputs directly into my computer.
EVO 4 is simple, integrates with Adobe Audition and other audio editors seamlessly and with the physical buttons and large dial on top it couldn't be easier to use.
The EVO 4 is the best device I've come across this year; it's so simple to use, cuts out the pain of recording voice-overs, podcasts and all sorts, it's just brilliant.
Great how too videos
Outstanding audio quality
Case feels a little thin
What is the EVO 4?
Recording audio into your computer should be easy. But professional mics don’t have standard computer audio connectors, and even with adapters, that type of connection doesn’t always make the most of the mic’s quality.
This is where an audio interface comes in. It enables you to plug-in professional-level audio equipment to your computer. Well, that’s at the base level. A decent audio interface such as the EVO 4 will offer more; preamps, audio options and enhancements to ensure the best possible audio quality and control.
This makes interfacing and monitoring all your audio easy, and the EVO 4 is just about the easiest and most streamlined audio interface available.
As photographers and videographers, we often overlook audio, which is ridiculous as audio can make or break a production.
Many of us rely on the basics, a mic attached to a camera or external audio recorder, then a secondary track added for music or effects.
However, as we’re all getting more accustomed to producing professional-level video, audio is becoming a major focus.
How do you record great-sounding voice-overs, and what happens if you need to record more than one audio input?
This is where the power of the EVO 4 comes in.
Take any of these scenarios; an interview with an interviewee and interviewer, a simple podcast with a guest or co-presenter, or for that matter, filming a musician playing an instrument and singing.
Although this all sounds quite simple, getting each person or mic wired up correctly is quite technical. You need to balance the levels of each input, and then once that audio is captured mix it down and apply the audio tracks to the video.
The EVO 4 steps in to simplify the process. Set up the two mics for an interview, for instance, plug them into the EVO 4, connect to an application such as Audition, and check the levels are all correct and record. The gain can be adjusted on the EVO 4 to ensure the best quality balance and audio input.
What I’m describing might seem simple, but try recording the audio of two people with basic kit, and you’ll soon see how tricky it can be – especially when trying to get the levels and audio quality right.
The EVO 4 then sounds like a no brainer, but can it be that good? After all, it costs less than £100.
Product type: Audio interface
Input: 2 X XLR or Line-level 1 x Instrument
Output: Left and right 1/4-inch
Preamps: X 2
Gain adjustment: -8db +50db
Phantom Power: 48v
Audio interfaces are clever bits of kit enabling the user or audio engineer to tweak settings so a variety of audio sources can be recorded at the same time.
Audio levels or gain can be adjusted as well as the track mixes, enabling the live recording of tracks that can easily be mixed down later.
The EVO 4 looks incredibly simple, but the variety of exterior buttons gives you direct access to some powerful features.
SmartGain is, for example, is ideal for those just starting, and hands the control of the audio gain to the EVO 4. Once pressed, it’s just a case of starting to speak, and the box will set the input level for each mic.
Each channel is marked with a number, 1 and 2. A short press of each enables you to adjust the input levels manually or you can hold down the button to mute the input completely.
The settings button on the right of the box enable you to adjust the mix between the two tracks and is used for monitoring through headphones.
Many microphones can be phantom powered, and by pushing the button in the top right, you enable 48V over USB Bus.
Dominating the EVO 4 is the large dial in the middle. This comes into action once a button is pressed, the dial can be used to increase or decrease gain and mix audio output.
On the back of the box are two combi connectors for XLR or Line-Level device inputs, essentially microphones or instruments. Then there’s left and right speaker outputs and the USB Type-C port.
On the front, there’s a headphone socket and instrument input.
The two combi connectors go into two mic preamps, and the signal level can be reduced by 8db and boosted by 50db.
Along with the EVO 4 comes the EVO software. This is an application that enables one of the biggest features of the EVO 4 that will appeal to videographers. Loopback enables you to record from external sources such as microphones and internal sources such as Skype, Zoom or anything else you wish to imagine.
Build and Handling
The EVO 4 looks great and has a nice matt black finish, the dials and buttons all feel good, and overall it’s of a decent quality. Although not an issue, squeeze the sides of the EVO 4 and you can feel that the plastic is relatively thin, however, it all seems robust enough to survive in a kit bag.
Setting up with two mics is as simple as plugging them into the EVO 4, inserting the USB between the box and computer and then you’re almost set to go.
If you’re looking at setting up on a Mac, you can then select the EVO 4 as the audio input and with two mics attached you have your left and right channels.
Pop into an application such as Adobe Audition, select the audio input and output as the EVO 4, then Line 1 and Line 2 for the channels and ensuring headphones are plugged in, or speakers and you’re ready to record.
The EVO 4 handles all of the hard work for you.
Adjusting the input and output volumes is as easy as taping the input or output button and rotating the dial, small led lights around the dial show the amount of increase or decrease.
If you’re not 100% sure what you need to do then hitting the Smartgain button will automatically set the gain for you.
In manual mode where you adjust the input gain, the LEDs flash to show the audio levels.
On the front, there’s an instrument in socket. This takes a 1/4 plug, and as soon as anything is plugged into this port, it overrides channel 1, and again all the options and settings can be adjusted in the same way.
As I mentioned earlier, the type of socket used for the two main inputs is a combi connector. This means that it will take both an XLR and 1/4-inch, so can be used for microphones or instruments.
The biggest feature during my testing became the loopback. This essentially enables you to loopback the audio from your computer as a source.
Setting this up is a little bit more complex than the direct plug-in cable approach, but it’s by no means difficult, especially because of the videos created by Audient.
Through this test, I have to say that the quality of documentation and video how to’s by Audient are just about the best I’ve seen. They’re easy to follow and get you the results you’re after.
I’ve used several audio interfaces over the years, they’re essential but generally expensive and require lots of cables.
The EVO 4 from the outset is simple; it does things simply without the need for multiple cables looping audio back into machines in order to get the results I want.
Setup is relatively straight forward, with direct controls on the box and full compatibility with the two audio applications I tried, Audition and Logic Pro.
In use, I’ve been incredibly impressed. The Evo 4 worked seamlessly, and the ability to transport it anywhere easily, without the need for an external power supply is a huge benefit.
The audio quality of the mic inputs is clean with a depth that you can only get from using professional equipment.
The manual gain adjustment works well, and while this isn’t like the old analogue mixing desks with the dials and sliders, it still had that feeling of control.
Recording voice-overs was a straight forward and easy test for the EVO 4, adjusting the inputs and recording directly to Audition.
The recorded audio only needed the slightest tweak, and to be honest, it probably didn’t even need that.
But, where the EVO 4 comes into its own is when used for podcasting or any scenario where there’s a need to record multiple inputs including those from a computer.
Using the loopback feature enables both mic inputs to be used along with audio recorded through a Skype, or Zoom conversation. Setup in this format, I was able to record two people in one room and several others through a Skype call.
This pushed the inputs to 3, two physical and one loopback and it’s possible to add another loopback if needed or use the loopback as a stereo rather than mono feed.
Overall the EVO 4 is difficult to fault, it fills in the gaps that have been left by the migration from analogue to digital. It’s the biggest audio revelation I’ve had since finding the Tascam DR-40 almost eight years ago.
The EVO 4 will revolutionise the way that you record audio. From high-end professional voice-overs to recording interviews and musicians, the quality and control over the inputs is unparalleled.
What sets the EVO 4 apart from all other audio interfaces is the ease of use, this is by far the easiest option out there at the moment and ideally suited for photographers and videographers.
But, where this small device transforms from a useful device to an absolute essential is with the loopback feature. Connected to your computer you have something as powerful as the Rode Rodecaster Pro, and it’s easy to use and understand.
If you need to record audio, then at £99 there’s nothing else close to the EVO 4, it’s just outstanding.