Choosing the right audio interface that will meet your requirements and expectations might be a bit of a difficult task to fulfill considering the great variety of them available on the market nowadays. And besides there are other things that need to be taken into consideration too such as input and output configurations, connectivity types, formats, etc. In order to significantly narrow down your selection among all the types and brands of audio interfaces we have singled out the top 10 best audio interfaces thus making your purchase much easier and faster.
Before starting our list of top 10 audio interfaces, let’s first get an idea of what an audio interface is in essence. An audio interface is a type of hardware that links microphones, drum machines, synths and other audio gear to the computer. A standard audio interface converts analog signals into digital audio information processable by the computer. It also does the opposite function by converting the digital audio information into an analog signal.
Besides the computer connectivity, one of the most important features of audio interfaces is the I/O i.e. input and output configuration. The exact number of inputs and outputs is a matter of personal preferences depending on what you want to record. There are 2-channel desktop units and systems with the ability to record 100s of channels. For example, a pair of inputs would be enough for a singer or a songwriter.
There are a few computer connectivity options to be mentioned:
Having described the structure of audio interfaces let’s now pass on to our top 10 list of best audio interfaces that will be good for all users, be they singers, producers, or a music-band.
1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
This is one of the best audio interfaces worth to be mentioned on our list. It’s compatible with PC, Mac, all hardware. The device comes with:
• USB connectivity,
• A/D resolution,
• Inputs – two XLR/TRS combo,
• Direct monitor control on front panel
• Ableton Live Lite and Scarlett bundle
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface would be a great choice for home and semi-pro studios. It features a high-quality amp and a great microphone pre-amp, that’s both highly stable and portable.
2. Universal Audio Apollo Twin
Though compatible with Mac only, this one comes with some great features too:
• 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
• Headphone and guitar input on front
• Preamp/monitor switches
• Dedicated master volume bomb
• 2 XLR/TSR mic ins
• Realtime UAD Processing
• Plug-in bundle
• Thunderbolt connection
This audio interface is surely worth the purchase. Being extremely powerful it will serve you a long time.
3. PreSonus AudioBox
Another great choice would be the PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 audio interface. It comes with the following features:
• Bus-powered USB audio and MIDI interface
• 24-bit resolution, 44.1 and 48 kHz sampling rate
• 2 combo mic/instrument inputs with high-performance, low-noise, high-headroom mic preamplifiers
• Zero-latency analog monitoring
• Free download of Studio One 3 Artist DAW software and 6+ GB of third-party resources after the registration of the product
• Compatible with nearly all recording software for Mac and Windows
4. Lexicon Alpha
If you need something cheap that will come with good performance then Lexicon Alpha is the best choice for you. It features the following functionalities:
• Dual-channel interface
• 2 XLR and 2 TRS inputs
• A convenient high-impedance instrument input on the front for guitars and basses
• A 1/8th inch output
• TRS outputs
• Peak indicator LEDs on the front
• Ability to drop monitor mix from stereo to mono to check for any phase issues
• Independent headphone volume control
• 24 bit/ 48 kHz recording
• Cubase LE4 and LE5
This will save you lots of money and give you a quality performance which is rare.
5. Mackie Onyx Blackjack
This interface is compatible with both Mac and PC and features the following characteristics:
• Two Onyx mic pre-amps
• Amps reaching up to 60 dB
• High-headroom design
• USB powered
• Separate studio monitor/headphone designs
We recommend this audio interface to DJs especially however, it’s good for professional musicians too as, despite its low price, it comes with 2 high-standard and powerful Onyx pre-amps. Powerful amplification is guaranteed.
6. Komplete Audio 6
This high-quality audio interface comes with the following features:
• Low-latency performance aimed at using virtual instruments and effects
• High-standard pre-amps with individual gain controls
• Direct monitoring for live, latency-free recording
• Mono input switch for recording vocals, guitar or other mono sources
• 48V phantom power for using condenser mics and active DI boxes
Komplete Audio 6 doesn’t come with a very low price but it is surely worth the investment as it will justify all your expectations.
7. M-Audio M-Track Plus
M-Audio M-Track Plus audio interface is compatible with Mac and PC and is introduced to the users with the following high-tech features:
• 24-bit/48 kHz digital audio processor
• Low latency
• Solid aluminum build
• 2 XLR inputs, 2 balanced ¼’’, MIDI in and out
• Selectable phantom power
• Headphone out on front
• Pro Tools and Ignite by AIR
This affordable audio interface is especially good for those looking for only a few ins and outs together with clear audio quality.
8. Apogee ONE
This interface is compatible with Mac only, including iPad. Apogee ONE is represented to the “audience” with the following functionalities:
• A/D and D/A conversion: 44.1/48 kHz 24 bit
• Single input channel
• Internal condenser microphone
• XLR microphone pre-amp
• Encoder knob – gain control, output level control
• Maestro software
Despite being quite simple from the point of connectivity, this audio interface comes with a really high-standard amp. It reaches up to 63 dB which is quite high for its size. As the saying goes: “Good things come in small packages.” So be sure that this small-sized interface is powerful enough to meet your expectations.
9. Focusrite iTrack
Here is another audio interface compatible with Mac and iPad that features the following high-standard functionalities:
• Sleek Focusrite industrial design – the best platform for docking, charging, and recording music with the new gen iPads.
• Best sounding iPad-based workstation with a premium Focusrite A-D/D-A conversion with over 105dB dynamic range and the option to record at up to 24 bit, 96 kHz sample rates.
• 2 Focusrite Mic preamps with 48V Phantom power for use with condenser microphones and unique gain halos for the easy setting of the input gain
• A guitar input with clear headroom for catching both quiet and loud guitars
• USB MIDI port for MIDI controller connectivity
10. Behringer UCA202
The Behringer UCA202 audio interface, that’s compatible with both Mac and PC, has the following tech specs:
• High-resolution 48 kHz conversion
• No drivers necessary – USB powered and connectivity
• Stereo headphone output
• Free editing software – KRISTAL Audio Engine and Audacity
This interface is budget-friendly and comes with effective features which include its high portability, and up to 48 kHz resolution. It lacks XLR and TRS inputs though so you better choose this if you need a simple digital converter.
Choose the best audio interface according to your needs and demands and save your time, money and efforts by reading our top 10 audio interface guide!
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EDITOR: La Mont Reed
IMAGE: 10 Best Audio Interfaces