So you want to complete your studio with one of the Best Audio Interfaces? For us, this is one of the most important parts of making music and we regard it as the star on top of the Christmas tree. Without an audio interface, you simply can not optimally record. Your stuff essentially misses half of the power and potential without one of these in your studio. The best audio interfaces help us with sound quality, phantom power, and amplification, more general control over our equipment, the organization of all our inputs/outputs in one device and ultimately the annoying concept of latency disappear. Today we highlight our top 10 best audio interfaces available on the market and give you some information to facilitate your shopping adventures.
What Is An Audio Interface?
An audio interface is a device that connects your various audio equipment to your computer (microphones, MIDI keyboards, studio monitor speakers, etc.). Some have even called them ‘external sound cards’ because the components built into computers cannot make the cut (not for nothing – they are usually too expensive or not big enough). In terms of possibilities (and it really depends on which model you go), they can supply phantom power to amplify your microphones, connect any instrument or controller you’ve gotten through MIDI, and use XLR ports for microphones. Audio interfaces convert the analog information into digital signals for your production computer or music laptop to recognize and record your songs.
How To Choose The Best Audio Interfaces?
When it comes to the best audio interfaces, it really depends on a few factors. We would like to give you a clear answer, but it is too dependent on many elements you have to take into account when shopping for the device. It depends on what you need:
- Budget – Most of these are relatively affordable, but you can always go higher for a number of powerful functions. We have seen that audio interfaces go within a price range of $ 30 to $ 2000. We have tried to grab a few of each price point to give you options for your search.
- Connectivity – You can choose the more popular USB route, FireWire or even advanced Thunderbolt. The more sophisticated you leave USB, the more money you will have to drop; however, it can be worth the investment if you have the money.
- A number of I/O – This is something to really take into account, not only for now but also for the future. Many musicians who record several instruments simultaneously, such as with a band, require numerous inputs and outputs to operate all equipment. Of course,e I am a one-man band in my job, so I think it’s fine with lesser inputs because we take everything separately. Do you need a pair of microphone inputs
- Ports – Try to look at the acceleration around you and plan what you want to connect to your audio interface. If you plan to buy more stuff in the future, buy an interface that can provide you with a few extra connections for your future studio.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- USB connectivity
- A/D resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
- Inputs: Two XLR/TRS combo
- Direct monitor control on the front panel (switch between headphones and speakers easily)
- Comes with Ableton Live Lite and Scarlett bundle (processors, effects)
In our opinion, this is one of the best audio interfaces available. This Focusrite interface is best for home and semi-professional studios (I have two friends who make full-time music using this). The Scarlet 2i2 gives us a high-quality preamplifier, very robust construction for stability and portability, and a good number of selections for ins and outs. The name “2i2” actually means that it has two inputs and two outputs, as well as two built-in preamplifiers (the other models you will see have similar names related to the connection options).
This is largely talked about amp-quality, compared with mechanisms found in many capacitor and ribbon microphones and more expensive interfaces. Another big advantage of this is that it comes with Ableton Live Lite, a very popular digital audio workstation among music heads. This is especially perfect if you are looking for a software to start with or just want to switch to one of the most popular pieces of software today – Ableton comes together with this package and makes this a must. Ultimately, it’s just a simple interface for great costs – one of the most popular choices available.back to menu ↑
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
- 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
- Headphone and guitar input on the front
- A dedicated master volume knob
- Comes with a plug-in bundle (analog classics)
- Two mic/line pre-amps
- Thunderbolt connection
Then we have a mac interface and this thing is extremely powerful. It is a 2 x 6 lightning bolt connection and the audio conversion is quite revealing at 24-bit/192 kHz for some of the brightest, zero-latency sound that is now possible. It has real-time UAD processing, so tracking with compressors, EQs, and amplifiers for different instruments is the real deal. It is only compatible with Mac, but it is one of the best out there – Universal Audio brings us quality versions that will last a long time, so this is an investment. You need a lightning cable for this, but it’s worth it if you use the full 9 – the Universal Audio Apollo Twin will not let you down if you have the money. It is one of the best audio interfaces, quite famous and has been around for quite some time.back to menu ↑
Mackie Onyx Blackjack
- Two Onyx mic pre-amps
- Amps go up to 60 dB
- High-headroom design
- USB powered
- Separate studio monitor/headphone outputs
Mackie equipment is more tuned to DJs, but this audio interface is very solid for the price, giving us two high-quality Onyx microphone preamps that are very powerful. Gives us some distortion protection due to the design with high headroom. Great zero-latency recording, but what strikes us is the amplifier gain control: great for electric guitars and dynamic microphones. You can play every line in (1 and 2) to 60 dB, set the phantom power to max on the monitor or telephones, and have even more controls at the front. Standard ins and outs with two XLR and TSR. One step up a lot of audio interfaces thanks to the high-quality amplifiers. One of the best audio interfaces in the lower price range in our opinion. We recommend the Mackie Onyx Blackjack for those who need strong reinforcement for an affordable and one of the best audio interfaces.back to menu ↑
M-Audio M-Track Plus
- 24-bit / 48 kHz digital audio processor
- Very little latency when monitoring
- Solid aluminum build
- 2 XLR inputs, 2 balanced 1/4″, MIDI in and out
- Selectable phantom power
Here is another of the best audio interfaces for the money. This is a very solid model in terms of structure and overall supply of necessary ins and outs because M-Audio equipment usually comes on the table. It is powered via USB and offers fantastic phantom power for microphones and guitars, has insert connections on each channel and finally comes with Avid Pro Tools Express and Ignite software for the creation of AIR.
If you are looking for a good software combo this is great, otherwise, it is still a solid audio interface because it offers us the essence: 2 XLR, 2 TSR, and MIDI ins/outs… what else do you need? Unless you use and record multiple instruments at the same time, everything else is not really necessary. The M-Audio M-Track Plus is a solid audio interface for people who want only a few ins and outs and have some clear audio quality. It is reasonably affordable and contradicts the Scarlett model that we previously recommended in terms of price.back to menu ↑
- Rugged steel build
- Combo XLR mic/balanced 1/4″ input
- 48 volts of phantom power
- 24-bit resolution and 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz sampling rate
- MIDI in/out
- USB 2.0 port
Another 2 x 2 to view here, and this is a more simple and budget-friendly audio interface than many others. PreSonus equipment has a very positive reputation in the world of equipment and the AudioBox is a favorite interface of many. You get two very high-quality pre-amplifiers, a nice small steel build and two MIDI in/outs on the front. The back has your TSR-ins, a USB port for power and connectivity, as well as a left and right stereo input.
Finally, a headphone connection (at the back), although I usually like it at the front, oh well. Because it is more budget-friendly, it is not recommended for people with instruments that require more than about 35 decibels gain or headphones over 100 in impedance. Keep this in mind, because the power is great for a lower price-point audio interface, but it is also not chock-full. This is one of the best audio interfaces for people on a budget who need the standard features of an interface and although it does not have an elegant digital conversion (like the Apollo Twin), you get what you pay for.back to menu ↑
- A/D and D/A conversion: 44.1/48 kHz 24-bit
- Single input channel
- Internal condenser microphone
- XLR microphone pre-amp
Apogee electronics brings us one of the best audio interfaces for Mac. It is rather simplistic in terms of connectivity, but the reason that it is so expensive is that of the amplifier. It goes up to 63 dB, which is quite large for its size. Another plus is the 48-volt phantom power, but it also has a built-in condenser microphone if you think you’re going to use it for that. You can only mount it and use it as a microphone while you have an audio interface at hand.
It has no MIDI ins or outs or even XLR ports, but it gives us a 1/8 “for headphones, what most people do is use a converter cable that can be connected to an external microphone, MIDI keyboard or controller, etc. Check it out because it gives us a bit of another twist on audio interfaces. Do not let the small size of the Apogee ONE make you think it’s powerful – it increases the quality of your music like no other (if you’re on a Mac). Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces on the market.back to menu ↑
Avid MBox+ Pro
- Two XLR mic/line combo inputs
- Two 1/4″ DI inputs
- Stereo S/P/DIF digital in and out
- MIDI in and out (1×1)
- Monitor control
- Dedicated volume knob
If you want Pro Tools and one of the biggest industry standards out there, we encourage you to do so. The Avid bundle is a bit more expensive than the budget-friendly audio interfaces we have mentioned so far, but it is well worth your money if you are interested in investing in a DAW software that many people call the best – the golden Pro Tools (Express is not the full version, keep in mind). The Mbox is a very solid interface, not only because it is the sidekick of Pro Tools – it comes with 4 x 4 channel ins and outs (two XLR microphone/line combos, two 1/4 “inputs, and outputs, as well as a headphone out and MIDI ins/outs). You have phantom power from the standard 48 volts for your condenser microphone, has a nice soft-clip limiter and if you play guitar, it has a built-in tuner with some built-in effects. A nice package if you are looking for a big push. The Avid Mbox is one of the best audio interfaces for semi-professional and even professional studios.back to menu ↑
- 44.1kHz to 48kHz sample rates
- Record up to two tracks at once
- Inputs: One (1) XLR, Two (2) TRS, One (1) Hi-Z
- Two TRS & RCA outs
- USB powered
- Headphone output on the back
This interface by Lexicon Pro has many positive reviews and for good reason. At a super low selling price, it has an XLR microphone, two TRS and a Hi-Z input. The only thing we miss here is the lack of phantom power and MIDI in and out, but if you do not need it, the price is a bargain, especially for the sound quality of less than $100. What is emphasized here is the low latency, so that you do not suffer any delay in recording, practically the standard of an interface, so if that was not possible, we would not even mention it here.
This is actually a solid audio interface for recording instruments that do not need phantom power, as well as connecting some studio monitors to your rig. The Lexicon Alpha is one of the best audio interfaces if you are good at switching cables to other equipment while recording, such as between a guitar and a keyboard. There is also some pretty good software included with Cubase LE 4 and their Lexicon Pantheon VST reverb plug-in.back to menu ↑
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
- 24-bit/96 kHz processor
- MIDI in and out
- 2 balanced mic/line/instrument XLR
- 2 balanced line 1/4″ TRS
- 4 balanced analog outputs 1/4″ TRS
- Two mic inputs/ headphone output
- 48 volts of phantom power
We are big fans of equipment and software from Native Instruments and this is a competitor of the Avid bundle we mentioned earlier. They were a good choice in our best VST plug-in guide. The Komplete Audio package is very powerful here, not only because of the solid build that will help with a long service life, but also because of the software it contains – Cubase LE 6 (a solid DAW), Traktor LE 2 and Komplete Elements, making it you get rid of 1k VSTs and effects.
As far as connectivity is concerned, you have a number of good plugs – 2 balanced XLRs, 2 balanced 1/4 “TRS, four balanced outputs, a MIDI in/out, and it is powered via USB for hassle-free hook-ups with a special volume button for the sake of convenience. This is a great package to see if you have the dough, especially if you also want to add some instruments and effects to your arsenal. The sound quality is very clear and reliable in terms of latency reduction. The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 is not much cheaper than Avid’s bundle, but you get Cubase instead of Pro Tools.back to menu ↑
- High-resolution 48 kHz conversion
- No drivers necessary — USB powered and connectivity
- Stereo headphone output
Behringer audio equipment here gives us the definition of a budget audio interface. This is immediately clear and it is powered via USB without external power, ideal for portability. The resolution goes up to 48 kHz, so in terms of conversion, it is solid for the price. There are simply no XLR or TRS inputs here, so connecting a microphone can become difficult – standard RCA ins (which can be converted with the right cables) while we get a headphone jack and volume control.
It also comes with a bundle of free software that is worth a look. We’d recommend to get this if you’re on the go and need a simple digital converter. The Behringer UCA202 is one of the best audio interfaces for those who only want the essentials for a very affordable price. We consider it the best cheap and budget-friendly audio interface on the market today.
There has never been a better time to buy a great-sounding, flexible Best Audio Interfaces for your home studio. With the power and excellent sound quality offered in these units, it comes down to how many inputs/outputs and which functions you need. Above, we have mentioned some of the best audio interfaces offered today, shared by whether you need USB or Thunderbolt. Let us know your thoughts on this list by sharing them with us in the comments box below.