Enter the Audiohub 2x4, a two-in, four-out USB audio interface from Novation. The first thing that's unconventional about the Audiohub is that the outputs outnumber the inputs—rarely the case on budget interfaces. Secondly, as the "hub" part of the name implies, the interface is also a three-input USB hub. It's slightly baffling that no other company has thought about putting a USB hub on a soundcard until now, since so much of the modern studio is centered around USB. So before you even open the box, Audiohub 2x4 looks like a winner.
Novation, though, are extremely keen to let you know that not only is the Audiohub dangerously loud, it also needs an external power supply for most cases. The manual and extra warning cards remind you of this as you unpack the unit. And it's true. I plugged in my Kenton USB Solo, a particularly power-hungry USB device, and found it wouldn't power on without a power supply. Bottom line: most will find it essential to plug in this interface. The unit feels solid, with a metal case and rubberised bottom both welcome in a live environment. On the front, there's a single phono input, with a Low/High gain button rather than a dial. It's a shame Novation couldn't stretch to a dual TRS input on the Audiohub, regardless of the cheap price. It means this unit can't effectively double up as your studio interface, unless you're based entirely in the box and never expect to leave it.
In the back, there's a choice of either balanced outputs via TRS, which can only be assigned to Outputs 1-2, or individual outputs for 1-2 and 3-4 via phono. You won't find any MIDI DIN ports on the Audiohub, which is a shame, but you could always attach a MIDI USB cable to one of the USB ports for not much extra outlay. Outputs 1-2 and 3-4 both have individual volume knobs on top of the unit to make it easier to adjust in the dark, along with a headphone dial that also sits on top. You can also switch the headphone output to monitor either 1-2 or 3-4. The Audiohub isn't just for live performance; it also makes sense as a digital DJ interface, especially considering the loud and selectable headphone output and USB hub, which could be used for controllers. I tested the Audiohub using Traktor, with an X1 and an F1 both plugged in, and everything worked as expected. It was nice to have one cable taking care of everything, and I could leave the laptop off to the side where it belongs.
Another key use for the Audiohub is as an iOS interface. Since iOS now supports Core Audio, almost any interface will work with the iPad. But once one is plugged in, it's not possible to connect any more USB devices. The Audiohub, though, adds an extra three connections. I was able to sequence a Yamaha CS10 via the Kenton USB Solo plugged in to the Audiohub from an iPad app named Little MIDI Machine while a MIDI keyboard played the GarageBand app and another drum machine app provided the beats. This turned the iPad into a much more serious music-making tool, allowing multiple controllers to be connected at once. Sadly, though, as is often the case with iPad compatible devices, the Audiohub will not charge your iPad, essentially ruling it out of any live performance scenarios. If you're buying an interface for iOS-use alone, there are better options than the Audiohub, but it's a nice bonus and makes the price even more of a steal.
However, none of these features would mean a thing if the Audiohub didn't sound good. With Focusrite providing the 96-kHz, 24-bit converters and the extra loud headphone output, the Audiohub sounds excellent. It's got huge depth for a soundcard at this price. In an A/B with a higher-end MOTU alternative, the much-cheaper Audiohub easily kept up.
The Audiohub 2x4 isn't perfect, even for the low price. The unbalanced phono input and lack of dedicated gain knob is a letdown, and the absence of MIDI DIN is also a shame. But this interface knows its role, and if your needs match it, you'll get a flexible and excellent sounding card. Although it will only satisfy the simplest of setups, it's a cheap solution for anyone looking to experiment with live electronic music.