Hands-On Review: the Senal XU-1648 XLR-to-USB Adapter


We use acronyms and generic product names daily, yet their origins have often faded into obscurity and we forget that a particular feature may actually live up to its name. USB (Universal Serial Bus) is a case in point. How many of us are aware when we use the format of its universality? Computer peripherals such as hard drives and pointing devices that previously required various connectors and power supplies are today, as often as not, connected via USB. Not content with that, the protocol has become commonplace on other devices, such as smartphones, PDAs, and video game consoles, digital cameras, effectively replacing the multitude of earlier interfaces, while in many instances also supplying power.

This has been especially true in the world of audio, where more and more of the work is done using computers. For smaller, low-count input/output audio interfaces that feature a microphone preamp and analog- to-digital converters, USB has been a boon, allowing for the proliferation of low-cost units without compromising audio quality. For some applications, only a single input and a stereo monitor output are required. Such usage might be attractive to a podcaster or a musician who needs the ultimate in portability and this is where the Senal XU-1648 XLR-to-USB Adapter enters the picture. Although not a new type of device, the manufacturer has gone to great lengths to provide the unit with an extended list of features.

Conveniently combining a low-noise microphone preamp and 16-bit A/D and D/A converters, the unit is housed in a five-inch-long, semi-cylindrical chassis that features non-slip neoprene feet on the bottom to prevent it from slipping when placed on a desktop. At one end, a female 3-pin XLR connector is provided for plugging in a dynamic or condenser microphone, while the other end contains the USB connector that is used to connect the adapter to a computer using the included six-foot standard USB cable. On the top of the unit sits a phantom power button along with three rotary wheels that adjust microphone gain, headphone level, and the balance of the input and return signal from the computer for zero-latency monitoring. Three LEDs indicate USB connectivity, phantom power selection, and a peak level indicator that signals the onset of clipping.

The unit supports USB 2.0 (and 1.1) and is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers running a wide range of operating systems.  The adapter is “plug and play” with no additional drivers needing to be installed. I tested it on a 2011 Apple iMac running OS X 10.7.x with the Avid Pro Tools 11 audio application. For the microphone, I used a RØDE NT55 small diaphragm condenser. I plugged the adapter and USB cable into the computer while it was already running and then launched Pro Tools. A quick trip to the hardware set-up page confirmed that the unit was recognized as a valid input source, at which point a new session was created and the relevant track set to record. With the phantom power switch engaged, the microphone preamp gain was raised to a healthy level, both headphone and source monitor were adjusted for comfortable monitoring, and the Record button was engaged.

The best thing one can say about any product is that it works, is easy to set up, and can be useful in many applications. The Senal XU-1648 handily ticks off all of these qualities and delivers a clean and accurate audio file. It’s one of those tools that is an almost must-have for anyone working in audio. Due to the true universality of the interface, computer audio recording can be done anywhere where there is a microphone and a computer (most systems have some form of recording software built-in, however barebones). Drop one in your kit bag and you’ll always be ready to record.

For more information, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.

Input3-pin XLR female
Input Impedance1,200 ohm
Input Gain Range35 dB
Headphone Output1/8" (3.5mm) TRS stereo mini
Headphone Power Output50 mW (16 ohm)
USB ConnectorType B standard, digital audio interface
Sampling Rate ADC8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 32, 44.1, 48 kHz
Sampling Rate DAC32, 44.1, 48 kHz
Bit Depth16-bit
USB Version1.1, 2.0
Phantom Power48 V +/-2 V, 15 mA
Frequency Response25 Hz to 20 kHz
Power Consumption2.2 W
USB Cable Length6' (1.8 m)
Dimensions5.1 x 1.2 x 1.1" (130 x 31 x 28mm)
Weight3.3 oz (94 g)