Top 5 Best Audio Interfaces

Let’s be honest, with shopping you either love it or you hate it! It doesn’t matter if you are shopping for one of your favorite things, the whole shopping experience can be overwhelming with the amount of choice on the market nowadays.

It’s no different when you are shopping for a new piece of music equipment, like an audio interface. With most products being explained in nothing but technical jargon it can be tough to find what it is that we need for a price that suits a certain budget.

The world of music production continues to grow but now it is growing in professional studios and in the comfort of people’s homes.

Finding an audio interface that can be used in both environments can be a mean feat if you don’t know what to look for.

We have compiled a list to make your search for a new audio interface as easy as saying testing one, two, three.

Below we look at the best audio interfaces that are currently on the market. These audio interfaces have been chosen to suit a range of budgets and also a range of recording abilities.

Whether you are a seasoned professional or a budding music producer there is something for you!

The first three audio interfaces have been found to be the best of a certain category.

These categories include the best budget audio interface, best audio interface for beginners, best audio interface for home studios, for individual musicians, and for ensemble recordings.

All other audio interfaces on this list vary in price as well as ease of use, with some being better suited to more experienced users.

Best Budget Audio Interface: Audient EVO 4

Audient EVO 4 USB Audio Interface

Overview

This modern-looking, the compact interface continues to grow in popularity. Its portable size makes it great for anyone who needs to bring their equipment with them regularly.

Simply plug in your EVO 4 to your computer using USB and record on the go.

Loved by beginners and pros this interface is easy to use and the SmartGain Mode is a great way of ensuring your recordings sound great every time.

The SmartGain Mode also helps to prevent any clipping of the audio tracks or distortion. If you are just starting out or simply looking for a more portable audio interface the EVO 4 is a solid and reliable choice.

Pros

  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Compact design takes up less space than any other audio interface on the market
  • Compatible with all major audio software and plugins while also coming with a collection of professional standard software
  • Individual phantom power switches for each channel

Cons

  • Smart touchpoints feature is quite sensitive and can take time to get used to
  • No angled front, difficult to see full controls
Audient EVO 4 USB Audio Interface
  • Audient EVO 4 USB Audio Interface

You can buy this audio interface from Sweetwater by clicking here.

Best Audio Interface For Beginners: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface for Recording, Songwriting, Streaming and Podcasting — High-Fidelity, Studio Quality Recording, and All the Software You Need to Record

Overview

Are you just starting out on your audio recording journey? This easy to use audio interface is a great place to start. This is the third generation of this model meaning it just keeps getting better.

Coming with an Easy Start tool you will be able to quickly learn the basics to get great sounding audio in no time.

The Scarlett 2i2 is also compatible with numerous operating software and a wide selection of recording software. This audio interface is even compatible with the iPad Pro.

Pros

  • 3-year warranty
  • High-performance converters, allowing you to playback audio as well as mix and record in top industry-standard quality
  • Instruments like a guitar or bass guitar can be plugged straight in due to two high headroom instrument inputs
  • Comes with a host of software and tools needed for recording; Ableton Live Lite, Focusrite Plug-in Collective, Hitmaker Expansion as well as Avid and Splice 3 month subscriptions
  • Compact and lightweight design

Cons

  • For best results, it should be paired with microphones from the same brand
  • No individual channel phantom power
Sale
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface for Recording, Songwriting, Streaming and Podcasting — High-Fidelity, Studio Quality Recording, and All the Software You Need to Record
  • Pro performance with the finest pre-amps - Achieve a brighter and a more open recording thanks to the best performing mic pre-amps the Scarlett range has ever seen. A switchable Air mode will add extra clarity to your acoustic instruments when recording with your Scarlett 2i2.
  • Get the perfect guitar and vocal take - There’s no need to sacrifice your tone with two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass so that they shine through. Capture your voice with clarity and your instruments in all their glory without any unwanted clipping or distortion thanks to our Gain Halos.
  • Low-noise for crystal clear listening - Two low-noise balanced outputs provide clean audio playback. Hear all the details and nuances of your own track or music from Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. Plug-in your own headphones via the output for private listening in high-fidelity.
  • Studio quality recording for your music and podcasts - You can achieve professional sounding recordings with Scarlett’s high-performance converters which enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/192kHz. Your recordings will retain all of their sonic qualities so that you can sound like the artists you admire.
  • Easy Start - It’s easier than ever to get up and running with your Scarlett with our online tool, Easy Start. Whether you’re looking to record or playback audio, we will help you get started.

You can buy this audio interface directly from Sweetwater by clicking here.

Best Audio Interface For Home Studios: Solid State Logic SSL2+

SSL SSL2+ 2-In/4-Out USB-C Audio Interface

Overview

This audio interface is made by SSL who is an audio company with an extremely good reputation within the world of audio.

The signature SSL aesthetic is one of the favored features of this audio interface with analog color enhancement and signature knobs.

It is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems but be aware that the cable it comes with is a USB-C so you may need an adapter to connect this audio interface to your computer.

This audio interface gives you industry-level recording power for an affordable price.

Pros

  • Separate phantom power switches
  • Compact design and bus power make it perfect for on the go
  • 2 Headphone jacks, great for collaborative work
  • Easy to use monitor mix control
  • Offers the best of SSL technology features and expanded I/O capability

Cons

  • Expensive for the features that this audio interface offers
SSL SSL2+ 2-In/4-Out USB-C Audio Interface
  • 2-In/4-Out USB-C Audio Interface
  • 2 x SSL-designed microphone preamps
  • Legacy 4K - analogue colour enhancement, inspired by classic SSL consoles
  • 2 x Professional, high-current grade headphone outputs: create a second independent headphone mix
  • 24-bit / 192 kHz AD/DA AKM Converters

You can buy this audio interface on their site by clicking here or find trusted local retailers on the manufacturer’s website by clicking here.

Best Audio Interface For Individual Musicians: PreSonus AudioBox iOne USB Audio Interface

PreSonus AudioBox iOne 2x2 USB/iPad Audio Interface with Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAW Recording Software

Overview

Who knew studio standard equipment could be so affordable? For small format recording projects for individual musicians, the PreSonus AudioBox offers brilliant sound with every take.

Not only is it bus powered, but it is also compatible with everything from Mac to PCs, even iPads.

This audio interface is easy to master and the LED lights are great for alerting you of any clipping or signal errors while you are recording.

Pros

  • Low-noise, high headroom mic preamp can be used to record both vocals and instruments
  • Comes with Studio One Artist SAW software
  • Perfect for mobile recording
  • Stereo headphone output with independent level control

Cons

  • Only offers single-channel recordings
PreSonus AudioBox iOne 2x2 USB/iPad Audio Interface with Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAW Recording Software
  • Bus-powered USB 2.0/iPad audio interface for personal and portable recording; no additional power supply needed.
  • Contains 1 microphone input with low-noise, high-headroom, Class A mic preamplifier and +48V phantom power to accommodate studio condenser microphones.
  • Contains 1 instrument input to record guitar, bass, and more.
  • Comes with Capture Duo for iPad, a one-tap recording application with wireless transfer to Studio One.
  • Comes with over $1000 worth of recording software including Studio One Artist, Ableton Live Lite, and Studio Magic plug-in suite. Also compatible with almost all recording software for Mac, Windows, and iPad.

You can buy this audio interface on Amazon by clicking here or find trusted local retailers on the manufacturer’s website by clicking here.

Best Audio Interface For Ensemble Recordings: MOTU 8Pre USB Audio Interface

MOTU 8pre USB

Overview

If you are often recording bands or multiple musicians at once then this audio interface is the assistant you need to ensure your music is pristinely clear and that the audio recordings are converted to your recording software without losing any of its quality.

Other than the robust input and output features offered by this audio interface it also comes with an optical converter.

While it may look more complicated than other models that have landed on our list the MOTU 8Pre audio interface is surprisingly easy to use.

Pros

  • 16 inputs and 12 outputs, giving you incredible flexibility in the studio
  • Great price for such a technically advanced piece of recording equipment
  • Sample-accurate MIDI for precise sequencing
  • 8 preamps with phantom power
  • Comes with CueMix DSP which means the knobs located on the front of the interface don’t need to be used

Cons

  • Not ready for use out of the box, need to take time to learn software and how to manage all of the inputs
MOTU 8pre USB
  • Hi-speed USB 2.0 audio interface for Mac and Windows " provides 16 inputs with 8 mic preamps and 12 outputs including separate phone and main outs for all the basic I/O you need for a powerful desktop studio.
  • Eight XLR/TRS "combo jack" mic inputs " connect up to eight mics, or mix and match mics with guitars, synths, drum machines and other analog input signals.
  • Flexible analog inputs " each provides a crystal-clear preamp (for both the XLR and TRS input), 24-bit 96 kHz converters, indiv
  • The 8pre front panel provides a five-segment level meter, 48V phantom power button, 20 dB pad button and trim knob for all 8 mic inputs
  • Two banks of ADAT optical provide 8 channels digital I/O, even when recording in high definition at 88

You can buy this audio interface on Amazon by clicking here or directly from Sweetwater online by clicking here.

Buyers Guide

Investing in an audio interface is not something that should be rushed and it’s important that you understand the main features and considerations that you should think about when you are shopping for your new piece of recording equipment.

Below we look at four factors that you should take time to consider when you are comparing models or deciding to buy an audio interface.

Budget

Audio Interfaces were once extremely expensive pieces of kit that would only be found in professional recording studios.

There are now audio interfaces suitable for any budget making home recording more accessible to everyone.

You can easily find an audio interface that suits your recording needs without being broke after going outside of your budget.

Compatibility

Compatibility is a hugely important factor to consider when buying a new audio interface.

There are three parts to this section that all hold equal importance, they are choosing the right I/O configuration, checking your computer operating system and connectivity options, and lastly checking the other equipment you have, such as microphones that you hope to use with your new audio interface, to ensure they are all compatible.

I/O Configurations

I/O configuration stands for input and output configuration and it is an extremely important feature.

What you hope to record will affect how many and the type of inputs and outputs that you need your audio interface to have.

Audio interface products can range from featuring 2-channel desktop units to systems that can record hundreds of channels.

If you will mostly be recording vocals you will need an audio interface that includes two or more microphone preamps and if you are using condenser microphones ensure there are phantom power switches for each channel.

For plugging in instruments you will need an audio interface that has hi-Z, or instrument level, inputs. Having line-level inputs and outputs is fantastic for attaching headphone amps and studio monitors.

Computer Operating Systems And Connectivity Options

While there are only a select number of audio interfaces that are only compatible with one computer operating software it is still something to factor into your buying considerations.

Most computers are operated by either Windows or Mac (iOS) software. In the technical specification area of audio interface product outlines, you will be able to check if the audio interface you are considering is compatible with your computer.

The next thing to consider in reference to your computer is if it is compatible with the connectivity cable that the audio interface uses.

For example, if you have a Macbook Air and the audio interface you buy has a USB connectivity cable then you will need to purchase an adaptor in order to connect the two.

Most connectivity cables will be USB but there are a number of models that come with Thunderbolt connectors or they may not need any cables at all and connect to your computer via FireWire which is a data transfer software.

Ensure that you can connect and use the audio interface with your computer to avoid having to search for a new audio interface again.

Additional Equipment

If you already own microphones you will need to check that the input is compatible with the microphone that you have.

Most microphones will have the same input and output cables and this tends to not be an issue but it is worth checking.

Buying products from the same brand is a great way of avoiding any issues with connectivity between pieces of equipment, other than your computer.

Purpose

If you are only starting to record it may be beneficial to think about the future when buying an audio interface.

While you will need something that you will easily be able to master, it can be worthwhile getting an additional I/O so that you can add extra vocals and instruments over time when you are more experienced.

This would save you from having to reinvest in another model. If your purpose is solely to record individuals then you will not need many inputs and outputs on your audio interface.

If you are more experienced and juggle multiple channels at once then you will need an audio interface that can support this amount of audio while still providing industry-grade clarity and sound.

Reviews

Don’t be influenced by a brand name when searching for a new audio interface. While some brands are known for top-end products these products may not be suited to you and what you need from your product.

Firstly find products that tick the above boxes for budget, compatibility, and purpose and the last step should be to check reviews. Speak with friends or family that may have used the product before or may currently have it.

Ask them how it is operating, what pros and cons they think the product has to help you to make your decision. If you are shopping online the reviews section is also a great place to check out any issues that other users may have with the audio interface in question.

Sometimes lesser-known products are just as good, if not better than the big brand names.

You are entitled to know as much as possible before making an investment in a new audio interface so be inquisitive and ask questions to get the best audio interface for you.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this guide has given you more of an understanding of what audio interfaces are on the market that are at the top of their game as well as what you need to consider when buying an audio interface.

Parting with money is never easy so being able to know that you made the right choice and found the perfect product for you is all we hope for you! All that’s left to do is to get that audio interface and start recording. Happy creating!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Audio Interfaces Improve Sound Quality?

Audio interfaces are only one component of a recording setup. If the mic you are using is not of a good quality unfortunately the audio interface will not be able to rectify this. This is the same in relation to speakers.

What audio interfaces do is boost the signal strength which gives better clarity to your recordings. It also transforms audio into a format that both your computer and recording software can recognize.

What’s The Difference Between An Audio Interface And A Mixer?

The main difference is that an audio mixer can be used to adapt audio recordings but an audio interface does not. An audio mixer is used to process and route audio signals.

You can take audio from microphones, instruments, or previously recorded audio and mix, balance, and combine these tracks to produce balanced audio.

An audio interface simply enhances the clarity of a recording and converts audio into a format that both your computer and recording software can understand.

How Do I Connect My Audio Interface To My Computer?

Different models and brands will require a different method to connect an audio interface to your computer, laptop, or Mac. Some have simpler setups than others and this is something you should consider when purchasing an audio interface.

For USB audio interfaces you need to ensure that it is compatible with the operating software on your computer and also that it is compatible with your recording software.

You will be able to find out about the compatibility of all devices prior to purchasing. A cable will be provided with most audio interfaces or a sound card and in most cases, you will already have the recording software installed on your computer.

Once everything is compatible it can be as simple as plugging in your audio interface, opening your recording software, and beginning with your recording.