At whatever level you are in your production career, an audio interface in your studio is a must. It is the easiest way to connect a guitar and microphone and record music and vocals without spending a large amount of money on equipment. Having an excellent interface is even more important. In this article, we look at the Best Audio Interfaces Under $200 that you can buy right now.
We have compiled a list of our favorite models that cost less than two hundred dollars, as well as a quick guide for buyers to show you what you can expect an excellent audio interface in this range.
List of the best Audio Interfaces under $200
The iD4 from the British brand Audient is a new item in this chart, and – not surprisingly, if you read the full review – it goes straight to the top! The reason is the price-quality ratio that is offered. The Audient iD4 feels like you’re getting a high-end machine and one of the best audio interfaces under $200. In some ways, you are, since the class, A pre-amplifier in the iD4, has the same specifications as used in the higher models of Audient. The I/O options and controls are abundant, allowing a very versatile recording experience. The build quality is also excellent and only contributes to the quality that is offered. Worth a look at whatever level you are.
Although Steinberg is a well-known brand for software, such as their impressive DAWs, they have leaped to the hardware side of things – and we are glad they have it! The USB powered Steinberg UR242 represents an excellent audio interface that offers two versatile inputs, two excellent microphone pre-amplifiers, reliable performance, and overall consistency. (not to mention a good dose of their software, including a copy of Cubase AI and Cubasis LE). As we emphasize the Steinberg UR242, this retro-looking unit is a real workhorse of an audio interface that is a reliable addition to our list of best audio interfaces under 200 dollars.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
The Scarlett Series audio interfaces from Focusrite are impressive, to say the least, with the 2i4 one of their mid-range models, focused on home and small studios. It has a sturdy construction and a bright red color scheme that catches the eye and looks fantastic on the desk everywhere. With two inputs, four outputs, and full MIDI support, it is also a very versatile piece of kit. In addition to being a great achievement, it is also worth mentioning that the Scarlett 2i4 is equipped with a great software suite. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under $200.
PreSonus AudioBox iTwo 2×2
PreSonus’s line of USB-powered audio interfaces is among some of their most popular products. In particular, their AudioBox iTwo 2×2, which has been around for quite some time! During this time, it has built an excellent reputation as a reliable, sustainable, and consistent solution for home recording. It comes with two inputs, two outputs, and gains controls for both channels, as well as a pair of MIDI ports on the back. Although it comes with a lower sampling rate than others on this list, it is a very reliable performer and one of the best audio interfaces under $200.
Mackie Onyx Artist
It’s fair to say that this USB-powered audio interface is more of a bare-bones model compared to the products we’ve already reviewed. This Mackie interface costs around $100, which makes it an affordable choice. It has a premium-quality, onyx preamp, a jack, and a three-pin XLR input with phantom power to meet the requirements of condenser microphones. The Mackie Onyx Artist has analog monitoring without delay for real-time functionality. It also has two dedicated outputs for home studio monitors. This USB audio interface is compatible with all major DAW software applications.
It comes with Tracktion Music production software and an essential collection of plug-ins. Some users report a small amount of white noise while using the low latency monitoring mode. We think this is probably due to the cables, so make sure you have a good set. We are very impressed with the durability of this product, and the manufacturers say it is built like a tank. We don’t disagree with that. It will certainly withstand a few knocks without issue. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under $200.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
The Scarlett series has had a big impact on the home recording studio market, especially the second-generation models. And it’s a second-gen version that we’ve put at the top of our list. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a USB-powered AI. It has two combo inputs, which consist of two XLR microphone preamps with phantom power and two instrument inputs. It also has two line-outs and headphone monitoring. It has an unmatched low latency. This allows you to better handle your workflow in your DAW.
There is no delay when you work with headphones. It offers the same professional-level signal conversion as Scarlett’s more expensive models, which are used by many pro-producers in the recording industry. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes with a driver and a host of other goodies. You get an exclusive copy of Pro Tools, Ableton Live, some pre-made samples, and additional software plugins to boot. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under $200.
PreSonus Studio 26
This AI from PreSonus offers a number of improved and more advanced features than the AudioBox model we reviewed earlier. There are two additional, balanced line-outs. It also has a cue mix A/B button, which is a great feature for DJs. The converters are on par with many other leading models in this price range. Let’s look at some other specifications. It has two combined inputs, one XLR and one jack.
The jacks are switchable from high to normal impedance. This is done via the line/instrument switch, a feature that Focusrite was the first to implement. It can support a condenser microphone with 47v phantom power as standard. There is also a MIDI in and out on the back of the unit.
It has a low-latency headphone jack for real-time monitoring. We found it to have an impressive range when it comes to decibel gain. It’s also a solidly built device that’s sure to last a while. It comes with a copy of Studio One Artist, but it is also compatible with all Mac and PC digital audio workstations. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under $200.
What To Expect From The Best Audio Interfaces Under $200
Although the differences between budget audio interfaces (those under $100) and the sub- $200 models on this page are very subtle, there is undoubtedly a difference. This difference can mean a lot if you are serious about recording good music. Entry models have their advantages (especially the fact that they are cheap!) But let’s look at some of the benefits of switching to the Best Audio Interfaces Under $200:
One of the first improvements you see in this segment of the market is connectivity. In most circumstances, cheaper interfaces offer an essential selection of inputs and outputs. This usually translates to only one or two entrances, accompanied by a single exit. As you reach the range of $200, this tends to change. Two inputs are standard, while you often see extra specific inputs for microphone and instrument lines (sometimes up to four).
This is also the price range where you can find MIDI connections, so you can easily connect MIDI keyboard controllers and other equipment without hassle. There will usually also be a slightly more extensive selection of output options. Some brands offer quad-TRS outputs divided into the stereo mode, some offer a complement of RCA outputs, while some brands offer both. Depending on how extensive your recording equipment is, having different outputs can make a big difference.
The quality of the vocals that you record more or less depends on how good the pre-amplifiers of the microphone are in your interface. The good news is that the pre-amplifiers in units in the $ 200 segment of the market are much more comparable to the more than $ 500 audio interfaces than with $ 100 devices.
Here you look at a much higher level of sound quality and more transparency. Transparency can be interpreted as the ability of a pre-amplifier not to influence the sound of a microphone. Whether or not there are fully transparent pre-amplifiers is a tag of discussion for another day. Still, the pre-amplifiers in the models in our graph offer a higher level of transparency compared to budget interfaces.
Improved software support
One of the more underestimated aspects of shopping for an audio interface is the software that comes with the device. Software and software integration is crucial if you want everything to run smoothly. Even the most affordable interfaces are supplied with a kind of DAW. These are usually the simplest versions (sometimes demos, sometimes ‘lite’ versions), but they tend to do the job, at least for new users.
When you approach the $200 brand, that software package is often more complicated. To begin with, you get a very decent selection of DAWs in this range, while some models with more than one DAW are delivered (the choice is right!). You will also find more supportive content with an abundance of plug-ins, effects, and other goodies to help you make good music. The advantages of this are that you no longer have to deal with integration and compatibility problems.
There we have it, our list of the best audio interfaces under $200. You should know more about what a $200 audio interface can offer and what some of the best models in this range are. Of course, there are many other available on the market, so take a look, but our chart represents the best of the best (in our opinion). Whatever you take pleasure in, good luck with your new audio interface – this can lead to many years of happy recordings!