Best Audio Interface Review – Top Rated Models with Buying Guide
Whether you’re new to guitar or vocal recording, or you’ve already gained some experience in this field, using the best audio interface is an essential step to take if you aim at professional results. The market is quite generous when it comes to such items, and, to simplify your shopping process, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the most appreciated items in this line. After carefully considering the features of various models, we have concluded that the first product to take into account is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface. One of the first things that make this unit stand out is the simple design that renders it ideal even for those of you who are new to this. Thanks to the converters featured, you will get that professional sound quality you need to up your recording experience. The unit is packed with what it takes to help you record vocals and instruments, such as guitars and basses. Should you be unable to find this product, another model you might want to try is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface.
Our Top Choice
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned musician, this audio interface is worth adding to your list as it can be used to record instruments and vocals. The 24-bit/192kHz AD-DA converters will make sure that your recordings will be paired with professional audio quality. Since it can be powered via USB, you can use it anywhere you go.
There is no instruction manual provided; to get instructions, you will have to register on the manufacturer’s website.
Packed with high-performance converters, this unit can be employed to record vocals and instruments. It features an intuitive and easy-to-use design, and it connects directly to your computer.
If you travel a lot and you need an audio interface that will enable you to cater to your recording needs even on the go, this model might be the one for you. To ensure such portability and flexibility, the item is connected and powered via USB. The product operates at 192kHz/24-bit, which translates into crystal clear and hum-free audio.
A code is needed to download the drivers for the interface, and getting it might not be simple; make sure the code is included before buying.
Designed with on-the-road musicians in mind, this audio interface is equipped with features that ensure professional audio quality, enhanced portability, durability, as well as ease of operation.
Also To Consider
Packed with MIDAS-designed mic preamps and operating at 24-Bit/192 kHz, this model can be used to record audio in high quality and do so effortlessly. The unit can be connected with guitars, microphones, keyboards, and MIDI devices. It comes with free instrument/effect plug-ins and recording software.
The instructions provided might not be that helpful, and some parts of the unit require enhanced attention when handled.
Equipped with free software and plug-ins for endless recording and mixing possibilities, this audio interface is easy to use and can be employed to record vocals and instruments in high-quality audio.
10 Best Audio Interfaces (Updated Reviews) in 2021
Finding the best audio interfaces might take time since there are so many available for sale these days. To help you make a more informed decision faster, we have compiled below a list of audio interface reviews. Check them out to learn more about the various features offered by some of the most popular items in this category of products.
- 1. Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface
- 2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface
- 3. BEHRINGER UMC404HD Audiophile Audio Interface
- 4. Tascam US-4×4 USB Audio/MIDI Interface
- 5. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 Audio Interface
- 6. PreSonus Studio 68c 192 kHz USB-C Audio Interface
- 7. Pyle 2-Channel Audio Mixer with USB Soundcard
- 8. Native Instruments Komplete Audio Interface
- 9. Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio 3rd Gen Bundle
- 10. M-Audio AIR 192|6 USB Audio / MIDI Interface
- Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface
Ideal for beginners and seasoned musicians alike, this audio interface was built in such a way to help you create studio-quality recordings easily. What sets this unit apart from other models in this line is the fact that it can be employed to record both instruments and vocals.
Thanks to the Scarlett mic preamp and the switchable air setting featured, your vocal recordings will get a more natural and open sound. The high headroom instrument input will allow you to record your newest music pieces anywhere, as you can simply plug your guitar straight in.
Furthermore, the product is packed with 24-bit/192kHz AD-DA converters, which means that you will get professional sound quality whenever you want to record, mix, or playback audio. Plus, you can employ the unit even when on the road as it connects directly to your computer via a USB cable and requires no external power.
Whether you want to record your guitar or vocals, this audio interface might be cut out for you as it is packed with features that will get you studio-quality recordings.
The unit was designed with ease of use in mind and therefore boasts a simple design so that you can record effortlessly; the Quick Start tool will also simplify the entire operation.
Due to the Scarlett mic preamp and the Air effect, your vocal recordings will be paired with brighter sounds.
Thanks to the converters employed, you will also be able to record and mix up at up to 24-bit/192kHz.
The item is also designed to provide clean audio playback and thus sports two hum-free balanced outputs.
Make sure you get all the information you need before buying this product if you want to use it with iOS devices, as it might not be compatible with items in this category.Buy from Amazon.com for ($119.99)
2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface
Designed with on-the-road musicians in mind, this product comes with features that will enable you to record high-quality audio anywhere you go. To enable users to do so, the unit can be connected and powered via USB.
This model is not only about flexibility and portability, but it is also about audio quality first, and it thus sports the features needed for the digital conversion to operate at 192kHz/24-bit. This translates into hum-free and crystal clear audio. Thanks to the combination inputs provided, you can use this audio interface to record instruments and do so professionally.
The item is equipped with Scarlett mic preamps, and this bundle includes Pro Tools to take your experience even further. The product was built to enable you to cater to your recording needs with ease, and thus the various controls featured are intuitive so that you can waste no precious time and record the new piece you have in mind.
Lightweight and portable, this audio interface connects to your computer and is powered via USB, which means that you can use it anywhere to record your instrument.
To provide you with professional sound quality, the product is built to work at conversion and sample rates of up to 192kHz/24-bit.
The combination input jacks will help you cater to your needs while keeping distortion at a minimum, yet getting you plenty of headroom.
The product also boasts two balanced outputs, 48V Phantom power, instrument/line switches, and ensures direct monitoring.
Thanks to the red metal chassis and gain controls, you can rest assured that this item will withstand the test of time.
The interface comes with Pro Tools and various software versions for enhanced versatility.
To download the drivers needed to use the interface, you will need a bundle code, which may not be easily available; therefore, make sure this code is included before buying.Buy from Amazon.com for ($275)
3. BEHRINGER UMC404HD Audiophile Audio Interface
Recording vocals or instruments and doing so professionally at home won’t be a problem when this audio interface is involved. The unit was designed to enable you to record your next masterpiece easily and in high-quality audio, and it offers enhanced flexibility so that you can connect it with guitars, microphones, keyboards, and MIDI devices.
Thanks to the MIDAS-designed mic preamps, +48 Volt phantom power, and 24-Bit/192 kHz converters featured, you’ll be able to record vocals in noteworthy audio quality. The XLR/TRS inputs take versatility one step further, whereas the analog inserts will make it possible for you to use the interface with a variety of external effects.
To provide you with endless recording and mixing possibilities, the unit comes paired with free instrument/effect plug-ins as well as audio recording, editing, and podcasting software that can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s official website. The interface is also compatible with popular recording software, including Ableton Live and Avid Pro Tools.
The product is equipped with noteworthy features that enable vocal and instrument recording in high-quality audio.
To make sure that your vocal recordings will be paired with superior sound quality, the interface is packed with four MIDAS-designed mic preamps including +48 Volt phantom power for condenser mics.
The 24-Bit/192 kHz converters ensure professional audio quality, while the various inputs and outputs and the MIDI I/O will enable you to use the interface with a variety of hardware.
The unit was built to make it easy for users to employ it and comes with an intuitive design, as well as a durable body that will keep up with extended use.
Once you purchase it, you can download free instrument/effect plug-ins and audio recording and editing software from the manufacturer’s website.
Some parts of the unit might not be that durable; for example, the headphone jack might break easily if not handled with care.
Also, the instructions in the manual might not help as expected/desired.Buy from Amazon.com for ($149)
4. Tascam US-4×4 USB Audio/MIDI Interface
Setting up a recording studio at home is nothing complicated if you give this model a try since the unit sports features that will help you record your next masterpiece easily and in high-quality audio.
To make sure your recordings are free of distortion or there are almost inaudible noises involved in the performance delivered, the interface comes with the manufacturer’s Ultra-HDDA mic/line preamps. What also sets this unit apart is the signal-to-noise ratio of 101 dB, a feature you can hardly get with a unit in this price range.
Thanks to the professional XLR connector and the 48V phantom power it supplies, you can employ the interface with condenser mics. You can make use of the inputs featured to record your bass or electric guitar. If you want to employ the interface with Mac OS X or iOS devices, you can easily and rapidly do so as no drivers are needed.
With noteworthy audio specs and an easy-to-use design, this 4-channel interface is suitable for mobile and home studios.
The high-quality components will make sure that the audio performance delivered is free of distortion and noises and that the source is not colored.
The unit ensures plug-and-play operation when used with iOS and Mac OS X devices; for Windows compatibility, you only need a driver.
The product comes with two DAW applications, including Ableton Live Lite 9 and Cakewalk SONAR X3 LE.
Thanks to the XLR and TRS inputs, the interface can be used with microphones; moreover, you can switch the first two inputs to high-impedance and thus record your bass or electric guitar.
You can power the unit via its USB 2.0 connection or the dedicated AC adapter that is included in the pack.
The unit might not work correctly when used with Windows; plus, the driver for Windows might not provide the desired results as it can be used for two-channel and not four-channel recording.Buy from Amazon.com for ($325.79)
5. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 Audio Interface
If a simple, easy to use, and reliable audio interface is what you have in mind, this model from PreSonus might be cut out for you as it ticks all these boxes. The 2-channel product was built to meet the needs of musicians, podcasters, and producers and can be employed right away since it is USB 2.0 bus-powered, which means that you just have to plug it in to start recording.
To ensure high-quality audio, the unit features 24-bit, 96 kHz converters and Class A mic preamplifiers. What’s also great about this audio interface is the fact that it is compatible with almost any Mac and PC audio-recording software.
The product is not only easy to use, but it is also durable enough to keep up with on-the-road musicians. The heavy-duty steel chassis will make sure that using it for a long time won’t be a problem. Plus, the headphone output enables you to take versatility one step further.
Compact and rugged, this unit is built to withstand the test of time and help you cater to your audio-recording needs for a long time.
The item is USB 2.0 bus-powered, which ensures immediate use, and is compatible with a variety of Mac and Windows recording software.
The audio quality delivered shouldn’t disappoint, given that the item is packed with 24-bit, 96 kHz converters and Class A mic preamplifiers.
The pack includes the Studio Magic Plug-In Suite and Studio One Artist DAW software, which makes it ready to use and convenient money-wise.
The unit was designed with travelers in mind and, therefore, features a durable as well as a portable construction so that you can easily add it to your gear.
Make sure you get all the information regarding the content of the pack and order as the audio interface might not always come with the Studio One software as advertised.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.95)
6. PreSonus Studio 68c 192 kHz USB-C Audio Interface
Whether you’re a producer or you have a small band, this model is worth taking a closer look at, given the nice features it packs. Recording and mixing in high audio quality won’t be a problem since the product operates at up to 192 kHz and comes with high-performance converters on every output and input.
Moreover, the product is equipped with professional-grade XMAX mic preamps, which translates into impressive high headroom and rich sounds with smooth highs and deep lows. The item boasts mic/line inputs with +48V phantom power so that you can use it with condenser mics, as well as line outputs in case you’re interested in monitor mixing and L/R main outputs.
The frequency response ensured ranges between 20 Hz – 20 kHz, and the product is paired with the PreSonus’ Studio One Artist recording software for a complete experience. Thanks to the built-in MIDI interface, you can easily connect a keyboard, control surface, or a sound module.
If high-quality audio results are the ones you’re after, this product shouldn’t go unchecked as it operates at 192 kHz and sports professional-grade XMAX mic preamps and high-quality converters.
All the features just mentioned translate into rich sounds with deep lows and smooth highs, as well as noteworthy headroom.
The various features ensure versatile connectivity and ultra-high-def sounds so that you can employ the unit for different audio recording applications.
The item is coupled with the Studio One Artist software to help you benefit from a complete and mobile recording studio immediately upon arrival.
The pack also includes cables to ensure compatibility with most computers, and the unit’s built-in MIDI interface allows you to connect a control surface, keyboard, or sound module.
In case there are any issues with the unit or the software, it might be difficult to submit a ticket on the manufacturer’s website or get tech support over the phone.Buy from Amazon.com for ($319.95)
7. Pyle 2-Channel Audio Mixer with USB Soundcard
Suitable for beginners and professional producers alike, this model features a design that ensures ease of operation as well as versatile connectivity. It thus boasts a combo XLR and ¼’ phone jack to enable you to use microphones, RCA jacks to help you easily connect various audio file players, and a main output for amplifiers, mixers, and receivers.
The 2-channel mixer is paired with a USB soundcard and an audio interface, which means that you will be able to connect it with any PC or MAC to record. Given its features, you can control and amplify the signal of the input channels without the sonic output being affected by distortions or noises.
The item comes with an 18V Phantom power supply, so you can rest assured that you have a reliable power source. The product was designed to ensure smooth and easy operation and thus comes with independent controls, as well as LEDs that will show you the power levels. The product is available in 2, 3, and 5-channel versions.
Designed for home studios and musicians interested in a compact yet versatile miniature mixer, this unit sports a variety of features that ensures versatile connectivity and ease of use.
Thanks to the stereo RCA main output, you can connect an amplifier or receiver, while the stereo RCA input enables you to connect MP3 and CD players, as well as other similar devices.
Connecting the unit to your PC or Mac is easy thanks to the USB connector, which means that you can use your favorite DAW software for your projects.
Moreover, the unit is powered via USB when used with a computer; however, you will also receive a USB AC adapter.
The convenient controls will ease the entire process and enable you to adjust the gain level and control the output levels.
Be sure to get as much information as possible before ordering this unit as it does not forward the input to the computer, and you can only record through the instrumental line input.Buy from Amazon.com for ($49.24)
8. Native Instruments Komplete Audio Interface
Recording audio into your computer is a smooth process when this unit is employed, given that the product was designed to ensure easy operation and cover a variety of needs. This model is suitable for producers, podcasters, musicians, and performers interested in high-quality audio.
The combi-XLR/jack inputs featured will not only allow you to capture stereo sounds but will also enable you to connect synths and outboard gear. The stereo jack out enhances the flexibility ensured as it will make it possible for you to employ the unit for studio, home, or stage applications.
The product operates at 192 kHz and 24 bit, which translates into high-quality audio. It is also USB powered so that you can benefit from superior portability. For a complete experience, the pack includes the tools you need to explore your sonic creativity, such as Monark, Ableton Live Lite, and Maschine Essentials.
This product is worth considering if you’re interested in a versatile audio interface that you can use at home, the studio, or on stage, and that can get you high-quality audio.
The unit was designed to cover many recording needs and is suitable for songwriters, podcasters, performers, and beat makers.
Since it operates at 192 kHz and 24 bit, you can rest assured that the audio delivered won’t disappoint whether you record vocals or various instruments, such as guitars.
Creating songs right away is possible thanks to the many tools included; you will get software such as Komplete Start, Monark, Maschine Essentials, 3 Studio-Grade FX, and Ableton Live Lite.
The product is compatible with macOS and Windows, and it can be powered via the USB connector for enhanced portability.
Accessing the drivers and included software for this product might be difficult and take time.
Plus, getting support or a response from the manufacturer in case there are any issues you need to solve might also turn out to be a slow process.Buy from Amazon.com for ($139)
9. Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio 3rd Gen Bundle
In case you’ve been looking for an all-in-one solution for your recording needs, this model from Focusrite might be right up your alley as it was designed to make the entire audio recording process smooth and easy. To enable you to start employing the product right away, the pack includes various items.
You will thus receive the audio interface, a condenser mic, closed-back headphones, mic and USB cables, and free software. The microphone provided will help you record audio in studio-grade quality, while the headphones will make sure you get to enjoy superior sound quality and comfort when you want to record and mix.
The item features 24-bit/192kHz AD-DA converters, which means that you will benefit from professional audio quality. Rest assured that you can easily connect the unit to your PC or Mac via the USB cable and that you’ll be able to use it right away thanks to the Pro Tools included.
If you want to record the songs you write and do so effortlessly while getting high-quality audio, this bundle is worthy of consideration.
Thanks to the 24-bit/192kHz AD-DA converters featured, achieving studio-grade quality at home won’t be a problem.
For a complete experience, the bundle includes a CM25 MkIII condenser microphone that will help you get professional recordings and HP60 MkIII headphones for comfortable and superior audio playback.
The high-headroom instrument input allows you to plug in your bass or guitar, whereas the USB cable will make it easy for you to connect the unit to your PC or Mac.
What also makes this option an inspired choice is the software tools included in the bundle, such as the Ableton Live Lite and First Focusrite Creative Pack.
It seems that not all packages include the microphone and headphones mentioned above; therefore, make sure you get all the information you need regarding the content of the pack you want to order before purchasing.Buy from Amazon.com for ($229.99)
10. M-Audio AIR 192|6 USB Audio / MIDI Interface
Easy to use and intuitive, this audio interface packs features that render it suitable for a variety of applications, and that ensure high-quality audio recordings. The product operates at 24-bit/192kHz and sports A/D converters and low-noise preamps, which says a lot about the audio quality delivered.
Thanks to the XLR+¼” balanced combo inputs featured, you can employ the unit to record up to two channels at the same time. What’s more, the item also boasts two ¼” instrument inputs so that you can plug your bass or guitar directly into the unit.
Connecting sequencers, synths, and MIDI gear is possible thanks to the MIDI ins and outs. The 192|6 also sports a headphone output and comes paired with software tools that will help you get started immediately and complete your audio recording experience. Furthermore, the product was designed to make it easy even for beginners to use it and stand the test of time.
This unit stands out thanks to its audio recording capacities and elegant and intuitive design that render it suitable for a variety of applications.
To make sure that the audio you record is delivered in high quality, the product packs A/D converters and low-noise preamps and operates at 24-bit/192kHz.
The various software tools included will help you explore your creativity and take your experience one step further.
Thanks to the instrument inputs featured, you can use this audio interface to record your bass and guitar and do so in high-quality audio.
The durable construction should enable you to employ the product for a long time, while the MIDI in/out connections allow you to add external MIDI gear.
Make sure you use the rear line out jacks carefully as they might grip the plugs tightly and, thus, when pulling the plugs out, they might get damaged.Buy from Amazon.com for ($169)
Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
If setting up a home studio is next on your sonic adventure lists, then an audio interface becomes a mandatory piece of technology. The many specs such units come with and the variety of affordable audio interfaces available for sale might slow the shopping process, though.
To help you narrow down the extensive list of options and choose the best USB audio interface for your needs, we have compiled a short buying guide below. Give it a read to find out more about the key factors to consider before hitting the order button.
Being picky about the audio interface you use is actually a good thing if professional results are desired. As the name suggests, this type of product is about audio performance, and that’s the first thing you should consider. You’ll see that almost every audio interface on the market comes with a few specs listed, and one of them regards the bit depth and sample rate.
These deserve great attention as they have a direct impact on the sonic results delivered. A bit is equal to 16 dB, which means that 16-bit audio will have a dynamic range of 96 dB. The thing is that when working at 16-bit, the quiet sections of an audio piece might be actually noisy.
That’s why production professionals use 24-bit audio interfaces, which have come to be considered the standard in this field. The sample rate of an audio interface holds great importance as well. While a 44.1kHz model is a popular choice as it can capture and reproduce all the sounds humans can hear, many professionals go for upper sample rates.
Now, it all depends on your particular needs. If you want to post MP3 audio online or release a demo on a CD, working at 16-bit/44.1kHz might just do. However, if you want to release instrumental music, such as jazz, in a high-resolution format, then working at 24-bit/96kHz is the starting point.
Also, get as much information as possible about the digital converters featured as they hold great significance as far as the audio performance ensured is concerned.
Inputs and outputs
When buying such a product, be it a cheap audio interface or a pricier one, what you want to record is of equal importance. This takes us to the I/O configuration of the model you’ve set your eyes on.
A singer-songwriter might do with a pair of inputs. If that’s your case and you want to sing and play your guitar at the same time, then make sure you go for a model that has two mic preamps as you will need one for your guitar mic and one for your vocal mic. Think of how many mics you want to record at the same time and consider the number of inputs offered by a specific model.
The number of outputs depends, again, on your particular interests and the type of outboard gear you’d like to use for your projects. Having MIDI and digital I/O proves to be of great help if you intend to expand in the future. MIDI inputs will allow you to connect various MIDI devices, while the digital inputs and outputs will help you expand the unit’s I/O channels.
Portability and other features
If you’re on the road a lot, getting a USB audio interface is the thing to do. Many affordable audio interface models run on USB bus power, and such a design will provide you with enhanced flexibility.
Many of the latest products in this line come with such features. Whether you want to buy a Focusrite audio interface or a Behringer audio interface, make sure you don’t overlook the computer connectivity options before you buy.
Reading an audio interface review of the model you’d like to buy before actually placing the order is always an inspired thing to do, even if it’s a cheap audio interface. Also, check out the software or recording tools included, if any. Such bundles will help you get started right away and often prove to be more affordable than if the tools are purchased separately.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What is an audio interface?
A simple audio interface definition describes this piece of equipment as the hardware that connects audio gear, such as microphones, to a computer. Such interfaces are designed to convert analog signals into digital ones so that the computer can process them. They basically get sounds in and out of computers.
To do so, the audio interface uses certain types of connections, including FireWire, USB, PCI/PCIe card, and Thunderbolt. Audio interface USB models are highly popular these days, given the portability and flexibility they ensure.
As we’ve said before, the audio interface does the same thing with the signal conversion in reverse as well; therefore, an audio interface receives digital information from a computer and converts it into analog signals that you can hear using headphones or studio monitors.
Most such products, including cheap audio interfaces, feature line-level analog I/O, mic preamps, and even digital I/O. Audio interfaces are thus a must when it comes to recording vocals and instruments and doing so in high-quality audio.
Q: What does an audio interface do?
What an audio interface does is to provide you with the hardware needed to connect your instruments and microphones to your computer so that they can exchange information and, thus, ensure the required audio information conversion. This piece of hardware will be the front end of the recording system you use.
For example, if you want to record yourself singing, the analog signal that gets into the mic input of the audio interface you use goes through the built-in mic preamp to reach a line level. After that, the signal is sent to an analog-to-digital converter that changes it into digital audio information that goes to your computer through different connection types.
The same happens in reverse and, thus, the digital information is sent from your computer back to the audio interface over the USB cable and goes through a digital-to-analog converter that will change it into an analog electrical signal. This signal can then feed various headphone outputs, studio speakers, and line-level devices.
Q: Do I need an audio interface?
If you want to record vocals or instruments and do so in high-quality audio, then an audio interface is a piece of audio equipment you might want to invest in. Using a dedicated audio interface comes with various advantages.
Many computers feature good sound cards that can help you cater to basic recording needs, but the sound quality and I/O offered by these cards are limited and, more often than not, consumer-grade.
An audio interface will provide you with the possibility to connect various analog and digital signals, and such products come with converters and components that will make sure the audio quality ensured is superior. That’s why they are used to record and monitor production-quality audio.
Using a Scarlett audio interface or one from Behringer will get you a different and superior level of audio than the stock sound card that is built into a computer.