This article is not intended for beginners. It is for those who do not mess around when it comes to the quality and functions of their recording equipment. This list is for those who know their stuff and people with super-high recording and engineering IQs. Today, we’ll discuss the best professional audio interfaces that you can buy right now. And once we have considered all the products on this list, we’ll tell you what to expect from the best professional audio interfaces.
You have probably examined the top audio interfaces for your recording settings, the good with the not-so-good weighted, and now you are ready to buy. The best professional audio interfaces in our list will do you good (assuming it is compatible with your current setup). Each of these devices is a safe bet because they are all great.
Best Professional Audio Interfaces List
Antelope Audio Zen Studio
Professional tier audio interfaces are designed to bridge the gap between commercially viable equipment and something that a world-class studio would use daily. Antelope Audio is one of those brands you have probably never heard of, but one that knows how to meet these requirements. Antelope Audio Zen Studio is a great model and is full of features. You watch a great set of mic preamplifiers that deliver a warm, natural sound.
Combined with quite impressive analog-to-digital converters, low latency, and high resolution, this interface offers professional levels of audio quality. If you are building a studio from scratch and need something bulletproof, this is undoubtedly the best professional audio interface for you.
- Simple yet functional design that is easy to use.
- Great set of mic preamps and analog/digital converters.
- Plenty of excellent features which are efficient
- Zero-latency allows for real-time mixing.
- Not on the affordable end of things.
Universal Audio Apollo 8p
If there is one brand that you can trust when it comes to professional audio interfaces, then it is Universal Audio. Their Apollo 8p is a rack-mounted compatible unit that can run everything available for its money. It contains a lot of great features, most of which are needed for a professional studio to work well. For starters, you get 16 inputs and 20 different outputs. These range from standard TRS / XLR to MIDI and others.
The preamplifiers that come with the interface are top class, just like other hardware elements. In general, you look at a unit that offers very low latency and great sound quality. For this price, it is one of the best professional audio interfaces to buy right now.
- Functional and user-friendly design that works
- Great selection of features paired with good hardware.
- It comes with a large display on the front side.
- Awesome sound quality and almost no latency.
- It takes a bit to figure out all controls.
RME Fireface UC
RME Fireface UC is one of those interfaces that does not look that much but hide a very specialized character. This is a rack-mount compatible set-up that has everything to do with function-over-shape. One of the nice things about that approach is that it is generally cheaper than most of its competitors. It is one of the best professional audio interfaces. The core of this interface consists of two high-quality microphone preamplifiers.
This means that you have two special XLR channels that can also be used as line inputs. The back reveals many balanced and unbalanced line-outs, as well as MIDI-outs and more. This model alone is worth the I/O package.
- A performance-oriented design that is easy to use
- One of the best mic preamps in the business.
- It comes packed with cool and functional features.
- Very low latency ensures real-time mixing.
- Not much to look at.
MOTU 896mk3 Hybrid
MOTU’s models in this segment of the market are legendary on the border. The one we have chosen for this list is a hybrid package that offers both FireWire and USB 2.0 connectivity. As you can probably just see by looking at it, MOTU 896Mk3 Hybrid is a rack-mount-friendly model. Unlike most similar designs, it needs two rack slots. When it comes to functions and functionality, there is so much to talk about.
To begin with, you have 28 inputs and 32 outputs. In addition to special microphone channels, you also have SPDIF, AES, EBU, and several other inputs and outputs. The front panel is great, in the sense of organization and functionality. On the whole, this is one of the best professional audio interfaces right now.
- Awesome model if you need multiple I/O ports.
- Dual connectivity with both FireWire and USB 2.0.
- Delivers zero-latency signal and good resolution
- Easy to work with thanks to its large display.
- Double slot chassis may be too large for some.
If you’re more in a single rack interface that’s more on a digital side when it comes to functionality, something like this MOTU 24Ao might be exactly what you’re looking for. Unlike most other MOTU models in this range, everything revolves around the software. The controls are minimalistic, simple, and functional but ultimately out of the way. All I/Os are located at the back. You have 72 audio channels at your disposal, 24 analog outputs, and much more. Software support makes it a great tool for those who use both iOS and Windows systems. In general, it is still one of the best professional audio interfaces at the moment.
- Smooth and clean design is user-friendly.
- It comes with a whole lot of digital channels.
- Packs an abundance of analog outputs
- Great software support makes it functional.
- Lack of XLR/TRS inputs and outputs.
PreSonus Quantum 26×32
PreSonus offers a lot of awesome interfaces, especially in the higher end. The one we’re looking at today goes under the name of PreSonus Quantum 26×32, and it offers a lot of bang for the buck. On the surface, it looks like just another rackmount interface. That isn’t the case. The re’s more to it than meets the eye. Before we go any further, it is worth mentioning that aesthetics weren’t that important to PreSonus with this one. It is all about function over form, and boy is there some functionality in here. You’re looking at high-resolution audio pushed through XMAX mic preamps, a 26 inputs and 32 outputs. On top of that, it comes with great software.
- Simple and functional design that is easy to use.
- It comes packed with a whole lot of inputs and outputs.
- Includes award-winning XMAX mic preamps.
- Great bang for the buck compared to most.
- Not much to look at.
The Roland interfaces are not as popular with some other brands. However, that has nothing to do with their quality or functionality. When you come to the higher part of Rolands, you will find that they are unique. Models such as Roland STUDIO-CAPTURE offer a strange mix of inputs and outputs, but one that is perfect for vocal recording studios and more.
We say that because Roland STUDIO-CAPTURE has 16 inputs, including 12 XLR/TRS channels, each with its microphone pre-amplifier. That means you get 12 high-quality microphone pre-amplifiers, in a package that is the most affordable way. Also, this thing is packed with great features and great compatibility with both operating systems that make it one of the best professional audio interfaces right now.
- One of the most capable models for recording vocals.
- Great and functional design that’s easy to use.
- 12 high-quality microphone preamps, which are great.
- Overall low latency audio combined with great resolution.
- Not really for those focused on recording instruments.
Zoom’s TAC-8 is an incredible power multiplier for those who need a rack-mounted unit with sufficient support for the vocals. Moreover, it is one of the most affordable professional models you can find at this moment. If you have a limited budget, that makes a lot of difference. In comparison with most, it is focused on performance. You look at 8 microphone frames linked to hybrid XLR/TRS inputs. At the back, you will find a whole range of TRS and other inputs and outputs. This model offers 192 kHz high-definition audio with Thunderbolt bandwidth, which ensures operation without zero delays. If you add 18 inputs, 20 outputs, and other great features, that’s great.
- Simple design that brings a lot of functionality.
- It comes packed with great features all around.
- 8 Microphone preamps of great quality.
- Thunderbolt connectivity means near-zero latency.
- Not much to look at aesthetically.
What To Expect From the Best Professional Audio Interfaces?
- Price: With high quality comes a lot of demand and with high demand comes naturally at a higher cost. This means that if you have a typical DIY budget, these best professional audio interfaces may fall outside of your price range. For the most part, these professionally arranged interfaces range from about $700 to $1400. If that amount of money sounded ridiculous to you, you might want to look at more affordable audio interfaces, such as those using Firewire or USB.
- Expansion: the best professional audio interfaces can usually be extended with other interfaces. You can, for example, connect one of these interfaces to different interfaces to increase your inputs and outputs and simply direct your signals elsewhere. All devices in this category come with first-class software, whether it’s a workstation for digital audio or something that gives you significant effects or other plug-ins. These audio interfaces are built with you, the professional, in mind.
- Compatibility: As I am sure, make sure you know which type of operating system the interface is compatible with – yes, some of these devices work with both Mac and Windows, but some only work with one or the other. It would be a real shame for you to receive a brand new interface, let it come in contact with enthusiasm, only to realize that it is not compatible with your computer. But you know what you are doing, so that would certainly not happen.