Shopping for an excellent audio interface was never so easy – whether you’re searching for the budget or on the premium market. Today we look at those interfaces that are somewhere between the budget and premium class- the Best Audio Interfaces Under $500. In the list below, we have highlighted a handful of the best models in this price range – all worthwhile if you are looking for a quality interface for a professional home studio.
List of the best audio interfaces under $500
We have compiled a handy buyer’s guide below to help you choose the right unit for your requirements. First, let us dive directly into the list of best audio interfaces under $500.
Roland Octa-Capture 10X10
You do not have to spend a lot of time in the world of audio equipment to hear from Roland – their mixers and keyboards are very legendary. However, this respected brand has produced a graphical interface for creating graphs in the Octa-Capture 10X10. As we discuss more, this highly flexible platform provides ten inputs and ten outputs, with the choice between the desktop or rack-mounted configuration.
The hardware inside is of a high level, especially given that Roland has used microphone pre-amplifiers from their popular professional mixers, which ensures excellent sound quality. Even at the higher price, this interface is one of the best audio interfaces under $500.
Focusrite Clarett 2Pre
Because their Scarlett series has been dominating the market for so long, they show that it is not a one-trick pony with a new generation of high-quality audio interfaces designed for home studio use. The Clarett Busre 2Pre offers almost no latency, with a powerful pre-amplifier that provides a clear and transparent sound. Whether you are a guitarist or a passionate singer, this interface can be a real game-changer. It also helps that the Clarett 2Pre is an attractive and robust device that is fully compatible with all platforms and DAWs. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under 500 dollars.
Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
The U-PHORIA UMC1820 from Behringer is a new item in our chart and proves to be one of the best audio interfaces under $500. For users who are looking for sufficient input for a relatively small budget, this suave impact-resistant rack-mountable unit is worth considering, with eight XLR/TRS inputs. However, this is also an excellent performer – as the other audio interfaces in this list. It has the famous MIDAS microphone amplifiers, while each input has a decent control cluster (everything at the front) and offers excellent flexibility. No bells and whistles, but still great!
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8
The 18i8 is part of the above mentioned Scarlett series and is a trendy audio interface for home studios. With a stylish aluminum chassis, reliable controls, and an intuitive design, it is a piece of professional gear that is packaged in a user-friendly format. The most distinctive feature of this interface is the optical input channel, which allows you to create ten extended channels using the ADAT input, along with eight analog XLR/TRS ports, to bring the total to 18 inputs! The Scarlett 18i8’s performance and durability are also top-notch and deliver a clear sound with very low latency monitoring. Overall, a solid addition to our list of best audio interfaces under 500 dollars.
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
The respected audio software company Native Instruments shows off their hardware capabilities with the Komplete Audio 6 – a four-channel audio interface that does things. The German brand uses a standard desktop interface design. However, the top panel is used for controls and LED indicators, so you can immediately get an idea of what is going on. Under the hood, the hardware is pretty high-end and delivers crystal clear audio no matter what. Of course, as you would expect, it comes with some of the excellent Native Instrument software, including 3 GB VSTi and other plug-ins. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under $500.
PreSonus Studio 1810
PreSonus audio interfaces are often considered the toughest competition to Focusrite. Some users prefer Focusrite, but of those who are not impressed, you can expect most to be loyal PreSonus users. That said, the Studio 1810 is one of the favorites of PreSonus fans. It has all the specifications that make a reliable, high-quality audio interface. But in my opinion, this PreSonus audio interface is best suited for DJs and electronic musicians.
The PreSonus Studio 1810 has some of the best sounding top quality preamps and digital converters. With 18 flexible inputs, 8 outputs, cue mix monitoring, and an onboard DSP monitor mixer, this audio interface is every digital musician’s ultimate dream. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under $500.
MOTU Audio Express
The MOTU brand certainly deserves more attention and praise, as it produces audio interfaces of great quality at a pretty affordable price. The MOTU Audio Express may be an overlooked audio interface, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less quality than the other options on the list. It may look like a regular interface, but with its long list of features and specifications, it’s no surprise if this device makes it onto your list of favorites as well.
The MOTU Audio Express is a 6×6 Firewire USB audio interface and standalone mixer with 2 mic/hi-Z combo jacks. In my opinion it works best for the traveling digital musician, but it also works great for a live DJ gig. So if you are a DJ and you are looking for a simple audio interface, the MOTU Audio Express is worth a try. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under $500.
What To Expect From The Best Audio Interfaces Under $500
So you’ve found a few extra dollars to leap an audio interface of less than $200 to something in this range of less than $500? Excellent! You have doubled your options and can find an audio interface that will become a handy partner in your recording adventures. In this section, there are numerous upgrades that you can not find in the entry categories. To make this article easier to follow, we will subdivide these functions into different segments, including I/ O options, designs, connectivity, internal hardware, and software.
Upgraded I/O options
Let’s start with probably the most obvious upgrade to enjoy The Best audio interfaces under $500 – better input and output options that can meet the demands of busier studios and more complex recording scenarios. Forget the one, two, or four inputs of the budget categories, here you will usually find standard eight or more entries, with some units reaching up to about 18 entries. It is worth noting that these are not all analog inputs.
For example, in an 18-input device, you will typically find eight standard XLR/TRS combined ports and ten digital inputs such as SPDIF ports and ADAT connectors. Whether you need the digital, I/O cluster depends entirely on your needs, but the fact that they are there makes this category very attractive.
If you look at the actual design or form factor of the interface, you will see differences in this range. At this price level, most models were designed to be used on a desktop, sit next to your laptop and take up relatively little space. Now, however, we are starting to see application-specific interfaces, in other words, rack-mounted designs. These interfaces fit neatly into a rack and can easily be screwed to the sides.
As you probably know, when you shop in this price range, racks are one of the best ways to organize your audio equipment, and almost everything that is not an amplifier or mixer can now be put in a rack. If you have a big studio and you’re running racks, buying a rack-friendly audio interface is perhaps The Best way to go.
One of the best things to invest in your audio interface is the choice of connectivity. Many budget models usually run on standard USB 2.0 (with average speeds of 480 Mbps), which is very acceptable. Many of these best audio interfaces under 500 dollars still use USB connections with great results. However, some of the most modern interfaces put the USB 2.0 standard to the limit. When you drop up to $500 in your audio interface, you will find several other connectivity options, including Thunderbolt models.
Of course, microphone pre-amplifiers and A/D converters are the core of every audio interface. As you can imagine, units in this price range usually have a much better version of this hardware than the budget models. Many brands will use their flagship preamplifiers, just like Roland, with their Octa-Capture technology. They have taken the device directly from their most popular mixers and integrated them into the interface.
If you are serious about recording music and you need the most precise recordings and the best possible quality, then a first-class pre-amplifier is essential.
The best audio interfaces are how they tend to scale naturally. Those in the affordable entry-level model are great for smaller home studios, and while you work your way up, you’ll see devices that are suitable for professional use. The best audio interfaces under $500 we mentioned today are a great example of professional audio interfaces. With both desktop and rack-mounted units, USB and Thunderbolt devices, we hope that our list and guide has given you a good idea of what’s in this range, as well as a bit of inspiration. Whatever you ultimately go for, we hope that it will give you a pure recording pleasure for years to come!