If you’re a musician who likes to record and play their musical instruments on their computer at high quality, you need an audio interface!
A good audio interface should allow you to get crisp sound and music in and out of your home studio.
In today’s article, we’ll walk you through the best audio interface reviews, so you can pick the one that suits you the most!
Top 7 Audio Interfaces Available on the Market
There are tons of audio interface devices on the market. However, not all of them are created equal.
To help you with the process of finding the ideal choice for you, we’ve scoured the market looking for the 7 best audio interfaces on the market. Here’s a brief overview of each one of them!
Kicking off the list with one of the overall best options that are known for their excellent performance and amazing features. The third-gen Focusrite Scarlett is available as solo, 2i2, and 4i4 microphone presets.
What we like about this audio interface is that it comes at a relatively affordable price when you compare it to the quality it offers!
One of the key factors to include this audio interface in the list is because it comes with powerful converters that allow you to enjoy recording and mixing with excellent audio results.
Also, the system gives you access to a variety of Pro Tools, such as First Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite.
This system features air mode, which adds a remarkable boost to your medium and high-frequency ranges, giving your recordings a wider soundscape and extra sound details to improve the sound quality.
The Focusrite Scarlett is connected via a USB Type C connection, which allows for easy connection to desktop devices.
Moreover, the Scarlett is an excellent choice for beginners as well as intermediate-level users because it comes with a Quick Start system that allows you to start using the system with relative ease.
The only downside about this audio interface is related to its driver’s installation on windows computers. Some musicians found these drivers a bit confusing and took a little longer than usual to install.
- Excellent sound quality for its price
- Compact and lightweight for a portable design
- Has a remarkably low latency
- Comes with access to Pro Tools
- Drivers take a bit longer to install
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII is one of the top-line models that are available in the market.
For starters, this one comes with a Thunderbolt connection rather than a USB one, which guarantees an excellent transfer rate. It also has a superior bit rate of 24-bit and 196 kHz audio conversion.
The audio interface also comes with a processing unit, so you don’t have to overburden your computer with this task.
It also comes with a real-time UAD processing unit, which allows you to track vintage tape machines, compressors as well as guitar and mic preamps.
Moreover, it gives you two line outputs and 8 channels of digital input via an Optical connection in addition to 2 digitally controlled analog monitor outputs.
- Comes with an excellent monitoring system
- Features real-time UAD processing
- Sleek design and compact size
- Premium price tag
The Behringer U-PHORIA is also one of the best audio interfaces in its price range. It has multiple great features that make it a pretty decent value for its price.
It works through a USB 2.0 connection and has two connectors to allow recording from microphones and musical instruments.
Although a USB connection makes it a bit slower than other systems, it’s still good enough for most beginners.
The music clarity and audio quality in this one are quite decent for the audio interface’s cost. It offers a 192 kHz frequency and 24 bits audio resolution.
Another impeccable feature of this audio interface is that it’s compatible with some of the best DAW software and pro tools on the market, such as Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, and Ableton Live.
Additionally, it features 2 I/O channels with relatively low latency and comes with 2 mic preamps with 2 48 volts phantom power supplies.
- Relatively affordable price for entry-level users
- Comes with 2 mic preamps
- Compatible with most popular DAW systems
- Has a simple design with a clear description of what every button and knob does.
- Not suitable for those who require multiple input and output channels
The Audient iD14 is one of the best USB audio interface options on the market, making it an ideal choice for serious beginners who are looking for a feature-packed system. The system is compatible with desktops, Macs, iPads, and iPhones.
It comes with a huge variety of inputs and outputs, allowing you to connect up to 10 inputs and 4 outputs simultaneously without interference.
However, you might notice some gain noise when connecting all these devices to the audio interface.
Moreover, the Audient iD14 audio interface comes with 2 premium quality mic preamplifiers as well as 8 channels ADAT input and A/D Burr-Brown converters.
- Simple layout to make it easy to use for beginners
- Compatible with a wide range of devices
- Has a large number of I/O connections with 10 inputs and 4 outputs
- Might have some gain noise upon simultaneous connection
If you’re looking for a remarkably simple audio interface that is affordable, easy to use, and compatible with a variety of devices without compromising on the sound quality, you should look no further than PreSonus AudioBox iOne Audio Interface!
This one also connects via a 2.0 USB connection and comes with a 24 bits resolution. It also features a sampling rate of 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz, which is quite impressive for its size and price!
Additionally, it comes with 2 high headroom and low noise mic preamps and Studio One DAW software as well as 6 GB access to multiple Pro tools along with the package.
The system also supports MIDI devices and accepts both XLR and quarters inch inputs, making it a complete solution audio recording.
- Remarkably affordable price that comes with multiples freebies with the package
- High sound resolution and various sampling rates
- Simple as sleek design
- Limit input and output connections
If you’re on a strict budget and looking for a decent audio interface that also doubles as a DJ Mixer, this one should be suitable for you.
Although it doesn’t offer super crisp sound quality, it does offer a variety of features that makes it ideal for beginner youtubers and podcast hosts.
It connects using a USB 2.0 Type C connection and offers a mixer with multiple controls for the audio.
In addition to powering the device and transferring audio, the USB connection also charges the device, which allows it to work for up to 8 hours when fully charged, making it a decent portable option.
Of course, such a device won’t be ideal for some professional sound engineer. However, it gets the job well done for someone looking for something rather simple and easy to deal with while costing you a fraction of what other budget audio interfaces would set you back.
- Ideal for buyers on a very strict budget
- Can be charged and work outdoors
- Connects to a variety of devices
- Has a relatively poor sound quality
The SSL2+ is the updated version of the Solid State Logic audio interface. What’s new about this system is that it adds two new outputs to the already present 2 inputs and 2 outputs system.
The audio interface is quite compact and comes with professional features and easy USB 2.0 Type C connectivity.
The system comes with 2 x SSL-designed microphone preamplifiers as well as MIDI support and 2 professional Headphone Out slots. These allow you to monitor different mixes.
Moreover, it comes with a Legacy 4K button that adds some high-end essence to the sound quality.
- Expanded I/O capacity
- Supports MIDI systems
- Solid and durable built
- After some time, the audio interface might disconnect by itself
Do You Need an Audio Interface?
An audio interface is simply a device that allows you to connect various audio devices, whether they’re microphones or musical instrument cables.
The interface then directly connects them to your computer and allows you to listen to your recordings in real-time, whether through headphones, studio monitor speakers, or regular speakers.
You might be wondering how this can benefit your audio or music setup rather than relying on your computer sound card since it’s technically an audio interface.
Well, while sound cards can do some of the jobs, they won’t offer the quality or the quantity that an audio interface would do, so they’re not ideal for any kind of professional recording.
The vast majority of sound cards on the market are simply labeled as “consumer-grade”. This means that they don’t have the I/O capacity or sound quality needed for a professional audio production system.
This might be enough for entry-level audio professionals, whether you’re hosting a podcast or producing music.
But as time goes by and your listener base starts to grow, or you want to have better control of monitoring and mixing, investing in a good audio interface should be your next move.
Things to Consider While Shopping for Audio Interfaces
In order to make the ideal choice while deciding on the perfect audio interface for your needs, there are plenty of features and buying tips that you need to be aware of. Here’s a quick look at some of them.
Sound Clarity and Quality
Regardless of the features and functionality of any audio interface you buy, the primary consideration while buying an audio interface should always revolve around sound quality and clarity.
Of course, other features such as compatibility and connections are important, and we’ll address them shortly. However, none of these features would be of valid use if the audio interface doesn’t offer the quality that you’re expecting to have.
For that reason, always make sure that the audio interface you’re going for offers a studio-quality sound to produce clear and crisp vocals, sounds, or music!
The Digital Audio Workspace (DAW) is the software system used for producing, composing, editing, and mixing audio. The compatibility of your audio interface with that system is one of the major features that you need to look for while shopping for an interface.
As a rule of thumb, a wide variety of modern audio interfaces today are compatible with DAWs. but since it’s one of the fundamentals of having an interface, it’s extremely essential that you check for it.
Type of Connections
One of the main advantages of having an audio interface is that it offers a wider range of connections to your system.
Of course, the more methods of connecting the audio interface offers, the merrier! Ideally, there are 4 major methods of connections available on the market, these options include
The majority of new audio interface options will connect through the standard USB 2.0 ports. It’s one of the most versatile options and also the cheapest.
This makes them convenient for anyone with a strict or limited buying budget. However, you should keep in mind that this connection is also the slowest, although not by a huge margin.
Some of the Audio interface devices will use a USB Type C cable, which is more convenient to use and connects easily. However, it might be a problem for outdated computers.
Along with USB connections, thunderbolt is easily one of the most popular types of connection and is widely available in medium to high range audio interfaces.
This method of connection offers an extremely fast transfer rate, but it’s relatively costlier than standard and budget options.
Firewire, also called “IEEE 1394” or “i. LINK”, is considered the middle spot between basic USB connections and semi-pro Thunderbolt ones.
They offer a speed that is higher than USB but lower than Thunderbolt, and therefore, priced between them. Firewire connections are suitable for anyone on a relatively relaxed yet limited budget.
The Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCI-E or PCIe ) is considered the Cadillac of connections when it comes to audio interfaces.
They’re usually found in professional audio interfaces because they offer the fastest rate of data transfer and immense processing power. However, they’re usually extremely pricey.
Bit Depth and Sampling Rate
The bit depth of an audio interface relates to the dynamic range of the audio produced. To have a better understanding of bit depth, think of them as you’d think of pixels in an image.
The more bits that your audio interface will transfer in a second, the more “audible data” transferred, and therefore the more dynamic and clearer the sound will be. For example, CD-quality bit depth is about 16 bits per sample while DVD-quality is 24 bits per sample.
Similarly, the sampling rate or frequency is all about the speed of the transmission, which is measured in Kilo Hertz (kHz). Ideally, a studio-quality sampling rate would be 44.1 kHz.
Latency stands for the time needed for audio signals to be transmitted through your system. Ideally, you need to look for an audio interface with the lowest latency possible to cut down on the delay of transmission time whether it is coming out or going into your audio interface.
The Number of Inputs and Outputs (I/O Count)
Another extremely essential aspect in any audio interface is the I/O count. This one refers to the total number of audio channels that would be available in your audio interface simultaneously.
The larger the number of inputs and outputs that the device has, the more it’s going to cost you. For that reason, you have to consider the average number of connections that you’ll usually need while recording, especially if you’re on a budget.
Most audio interfaces will typically have as little as 1 or 2 connections and all the way up to 20 connections.
More simultaneous connections are necessary for musicians that incorporate multiple instruments in their system and composers who mix and monitor different musicians in a single session.
As a rule of thumb, solo musicians would require an audio interface with 2 to 5 connections, bands will usually go for 4 to 8, while professional sound engineers would need 16 or more connections.
This is a bonus feature that is essential for musicians working with Musical Instrument Digital Interface. If the system you opt for supports MIDI input, you’ll be able to connect the interface directly to MIDI systems.
Budget vs. Variety of Features
This one isn’t a specific feature that you need to be on the lookout for but rather a buying tip or advice. In the end of the day, any product you buy is as good as you know how to use it.
What’s more important than checking all the features and aspects of the audio interface is to consider whether you need them and can use them or not.
For instance, if you’re just buying an audio interface only to convert your audio to digital or vise versa, you might not need an extensive one with tons of other features.
In that case, you should consider an affordable option and invest the rest of your budget in the rest of the setup, such as microphones or musical instruments.
However, if getting an audio interface is your transition level from a basic recording setup to a relatively better or professional one, then you might need to consider some of the premium options that will cost you a bit more.
How to Connect the Audio Interface to Your Studio Monitor?
Now that you know what audio interfaces do and what you should look for before buying a new one, all that’s left is to know how to connect it to your studio monitor! Here’s a step by step guide to walk you through the process:
- Start by checking the back of your audio interface or wherever the output slots are located.
- By looking at them, you’ll be able to figure out the kind of cables you need for the connection. Most monitoring output cables are either XLR or TRS. In most cases, the cable configuration would be XLR to XLR, TRS to TRS, or TRS to XLR.
- Next, check the back of the studio monitor and look for the input section where the cable from the interface should be fitted.
- Locate the female (XLR or TRS) connector in the balanced input section, then plug it into the TRS or XLR input in the interface, depending on your configuration.
- Check the monitor section of the audio interface again and connect the input cable to the monitor and repeat the same for each speaker.
With that said, you now have a complete guide with everything you need to know before picking the ideal audio interface system for your needs.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of audio interface systems on the market that come in a different price range.
As previously mentioned, the quality of the sound, as well as the type and number of connections, should be your main priority while picking an option.
Ideally, we pick the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface as the overall best option because it rounds up some of the best features you might need in an audio interface while staying relatively affordable.
However, if you’re not satisfied with anything but the absolute best regardless of the price, you might want to opt for our premium pick. The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII.
Although it’s going to cost you quite a hefty sum, it comes with a huge range of professional and advanced features that makes up for its price!