Are you looking for the best audio interface under $200? We have created an in-depth guide to help you buy the best audio interface for your home studio without breaking the bank.
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If you are a music freak like me and love to design your rhythms on your Mac or PC, an audio interface ought to be your next buy without any second thought. You will find the internet flooded with opinions about which particular model is the best inexpensive USB audio interface.
However, if you want a real-world review from someone who has tested lots of equipment and you don’t have much knowledge about this product, let me share some great insights with you. This will help you make the right decision.
With so many options already available, it is important to look at some essential features in this product when you start your search. An ideal one will allow you to plugin your instruments like guitar, microphones, synths etc.
Look at the number and type of inputs and explore how many you require.
This will be a perfect choice for you as well if you are looking for an inexpensive USB audio interface under $200.
IN A HURRY? HERE’S OUR TOP PICKS!
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1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- 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.
This is our pick for the overall best audio interface under $200.
Focusrite is a popular audio interface and often the choice of many intermediate and pro level producers. The sharp looks and solid build, this product does all the justice to your needs with quality preamps.
- Preamp: 2
- Channels: 2
- A/D Resolution: Up to 24-bit/192kHz
- Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z)
- Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ TRS
- Power: USB bus powered
- MIDI: No
- Phantom Power: +48V
- Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First Creative Pack, Red Plug-in Suite, Focusrite Collective access
- Most of the time, users have considered this as their first “serious” audio interface after upgrading from other brands.
- This is loved by small home studios and mobile setups.
- In terms of sound, this has an exceptional dynamic range.
- A bit of latency has been observed by some.
2. PreSonus Studio 24c
- Mobile-ready, bus-powered 2-in/2-out USB-C audio interface; no power supply needed (USB-C to C and USB-C to A cables included).
- Loaded with 2 pristine XMAX-L solid-state mic preamps to capture every detail.
- Studio-grade converters allow for up to 24-bit/96 kHz recording and playback.
- Stay on top of your recording levels with ladder-style LED monitoring and low-latency direct monitoring.
- Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAW Recording Software included.
This is our pick for second best audio interface under $200.
Now, this one is another good option for first time users of audio interface. However, the build is neither sleek nor sharp as its other counterparts.
Still the choice of many, this product is loaded with 2 amazingly sounding XMAXX-L preamps and is tailor made for vocalists, rappers and musicians. Working with virtual instruments on this is quite smooth with MIDI I/O for keyboard controller.
You get 115dB dynamic range of resolution with its high-quality digital converters. The product allows you to connect to old to new instruments like guitar amps.
- Low latency due to the mixer knob.
- Studio One Artist software and Studio Magic plug-in suite to help you start recording right away.
- Convenient Mixer knob for reduced latency
- Low quality interface method.
- Some users have observed the support team to be weak since there is no direct contact for customer care.
Questions and Answers
What is the best inexpensive audio interface?
If you are looking forward to a pocket-friendly audio interface as a new user of this device, you will only find interfaces with a maximum of two inputs and two outputs. Only if you are fine in shelling out some extra bucks, you will be able to get more than this.
Another important feature to consider is the type of ports available. Audio interfaces usually come with a variety of instrument inputs and mic. These inputs use varied connection types and operate at different parameters to be compatible with either microphone lead or jack of instruments like guitar, drum machine, synths etc.
You must go for the one with combo inputs which can connect with any of the leads and can alternatively control microphone or instruments as per your need.
Compatibility of the audio interface should be your check. Every model I am sharing below is compatible with Mac and PC both.
What is an audio interface and why should I use it?
Before we dive into the good stuff, let’s break down what exactly an audio interface does. We found the perfect explanation over at B&H Photo and Video: “an audio interface is any device that improves the audio capabilities of your computer, allowing you to connect anything from instruments to microphones to your computer.”
In short, it takes the analog input (such as your voice or guitar chord) and translates it into digital information that audio recording software can read.
If you’ve ever encountered a song someone produced that sounded like it was recorded on a calculator, that was probably because that person just recorded their song using only their computer microphone, which was never designed to record high-quality audio. An audio interface is what lets you get better results from home.
So how do you get those results?
Step 1: Know What Connection Your Computer Has
Not all interfaces will connect to just any computer or device. Imagine getting your interface in the mail, eager to plug it in and check out the specs, when you discover that you can’t connect it to your computer.
Don’t do that to yourself. Take the time to figure out what kind of connection your computer has.
Does your computer have a USB 2.0, USB 3.0, or a USB Type-C connection? Make sure the audio interface you buy will work with your computer’s USB interface.
Step 2: Decide What You Want to Record
This is the foundation that you will build off of when you decide how to go forward in your home studio. Recording a podcast will be different than recording Acappella covers to recording full-band songs.
And if there’s a chance you will use your studio for more than one purpose—a versatile audio interface will be able to handle your various interests. A quality interface can cater to microphones, instruments, and/or line-level sources.
For example, check out the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 recommended above.
It has four analog inputs: two for microphones and two for instrument inputs. With impressive conversion and sample rates, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 would be good for anyone out there that doesn’t want to get bogged down by too many inputs, knobs, and cords.
Alternatively, if know that you’re just going to do some light vocal recording, an audio interface with just one input will do fine. They’re cheaper too so that might help sway your decision if you’re on the fence.
A good simple audio interface with one XLR input and one instrument input is the Behringer U-Phoria UM2.
With just one mic line, you can have a simple studio setup with a microphone connected to the Behringer, giving you a hassle-free start.
Decide on the intention of your recording studio. If it’s full songs or an EP, you’ll want to get an audio interface that can handle more inputs and thus more instruments, microphones, or other equipment.
This will require more money and smarter cord storage so they don’t get tangled or lost. Otherwise, get yourself a cheaper, less input-based audio interface.
Step 3: Learn the Lingo
Don’t get intimidated by the talk of bits, hertz, and DAC. If you’re confused, don’t worry. We’re here to help you sort it all out.
You’ll often see X-bits on the specs for an audio interface. 1 bit is approximately 6 decibels (dB), meaning how loud a piece of audio can be. A 16-bit audio interface, which is CD standard, has the range of (16 x 6) 96 dB.
At this level, the noise minimum will be high and the dynamic range will be small. So, your quiet sections will be noisy, and if you like to sing loudly, you’ll get the whirring noise of the interface not being able to handle the input.
That’s why 24-bit is the standard for music recording since it gives you an ample range of recording while not having your audio sound shoddy. It’s highly recommended.
You’re also going to see the term DAC, which is Digital to Analog Converter, and they’re everywhere. Whether it’s your computer, gaming console, or smartphone, if you hear audio, you’re encountering a DAC.
Creating professional-quality recordings will require a high-quality DAC since that is ultimately what your audience hears. A good DAC lets you hear the minutia of your recording and lets you critique it better than something with a mediocre DAC.
There’s definitely a lot more to learn out there. If you stumble across something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to do a little research first. Know what you’re buying before you make a commitment.
Step 4: Consider the Future
While it might not be what you’re concerned about now, considering where your professional recording will go ultimately defines what kind of equipment you’ll buy now, as it will influence how you use your equipment now.
If you want to create songs or podcasts to make a profit for you, you’re probably planning to upgrade your equipment within a few years. By gaining a decent following you’ll be able to make a profit from your recordings.
Therefore, you can gamble with a more expensive interface since you will use it indefinitely, or at least until you’ve made enough money to buy a better one.
Whether you have a growth mindset or are just a hobbyist, by deciding your plans for the future, you should be able to determine the kind of audio interface to buy.
Get an audio interface that’s worth your money
With all that in mind, you should be prepared to get an audio interface for your home studio. By knowing the technical requirements, your budget, plans, and needs, you’re just one step away from setting up your recording studio with an audio interface that’s perfect for you.
So, I have picked these best audio interfaces in your budget, under $200 if you are looking for a rather inexpensive audio interface with best of specifications.
Sleek and compact build of all these products listed here give them an edge over all of their rivals in the market. Plug them to your microphone or instruments at ease and enjoy the most vibrant music pieces on Mac or PC setup.
It is ideal for first time users, these are comparatively cheap and give the best output for a musician, composer, or instrumentalist to set up a home studio.