Are you looking for the best affordable audio interfaces? We’ve picked together some of the best manufactured audio interfaces for you.
Audio interfaces are the lifeblood of most recording studios. An audio interface is probably one of the first purchases for artists, DJs, and beatmakers just starting recording and production.
The problem here is to find something that provides all of the essential features of an interface, such as recording instruments, monitoring with studio headphones, and playing back your work on studio monitors, while staying within budget.
Audio interfaces allow you to record that beautiful vocal or catchy synth melody and play it back over those monitors you just spent a small fortune on.
You most likely want to buy one but don’t know where to begin because many possibilities exist.
We’ve done the legwork and prepared a list of the best audio interfaces money can buy in 2021.
Understanding the type of audio interface you require
If you’ve looked through Amazon’s wide range of audio interfaces, you might be feeling a little confused by all the choices. That’s fine; it’s natural. Here is where this buying advice comes in.
Despite the wide variety of interfaces available, a few crucial factors to consider will benefit choosing an interface that is right for your recording requirements, music, and wallet.
What sort of I/O (inputs and outputs) do you require?
When looking for an audio interface, this is one of the most crucial factors to consider. Since audio interfaces might include a wide range of I/O (inputs/outputs), it’s critical to know precisely what you want. For example, consider how many mics, guitars, synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, or other instruments you’d like to record simultaneously.
A pair of balanced mic inputs may be all that’s required for vocalists, singers, lyricists who want to record their song, and acoustic guitar with microphones. However, keep in mind that you might want to play your acoustic guitar in hi-fi while singing at some point. Two inputs would be lacking in this situation, and a four-input interface would be essential.
You’ll need an instrument-level input, sometimes known as a “high-Z input,” if you’re going to be playing an electronic bass, guitar, or electronic piano that you wish to connect right to your recording system.
Line level inputs and outputs are required to join external gear such as drum machines, sequencers, and external sound processors such as multi-effects parts. Make a list of all the devices and equipment you intend to attach to your interface. Consult your device’s guide or the manufacturer’s website if you’re unsure what connections they require.
What’s the best way to connect this to your computer?
In some way, all audio interfaces connect to your computer. Many of them use standard USB 2. Some interfaces promise faster connectivity through Thunderbolt, USB3, USB-C, or even Ethernet, with many of these features only available on newer or higher-end interfaces. Still, USB 2 will suffice for most home studio or other beginners recording needs. However, before purchasing an interface, ensure that your computer has the appropriate ports to connect it.
What level of sound quality do you need?
Finally, you must ensure that your interface will sound fantastic! It’s always worth taking a little time to look over the technical details on the manufacturer’s website. A beautiful low quantity of noise and distortion, which is frequently stated as Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N), are things to look out for. The smaller this number is, the better.
You might also come across a figure called Dynamic range. This is the difference between the loudest signal the interface can process and the quietest signal. In most cases, the higher the number, the better. However, keep in mind that the dynamic range of most modern songs will be significantly lower than an interface’s theoretical maximum, so don’t sweat it.
How much is your budget?
Many people consider their budget while building their studio because we all want the most outstanding quality at the lowest expense.
You’ll want to use a high-quality microphone, interface, and monitoring system to guarantee that your whole signal chain is as high-quality as possible.
While having a decent microphone and monitoring setup is crucial, spending a lot of money on these to pass via a subpar interface wouldn’t be ideal. Even the best musicians recorded using a great mic will sound bad if the sound is ruined by noise or distortion.
Keep in mind that occasionally spending a little more upfront will result in a lot more rewards in the long run.
Benefits of Owning An Audio Interface
High Sound Quality
Audio interfaces allow a computer to create a more polished sound than a standard sound card could.
Computer sound cards aren’t designed exclusively for music production; instead, they’re designed to perform various tasks. Because an audio interface was created expressly for that reason, the sound card is significantly better.
Built-in preamps in audio interfaces increase the precision and tone of items like vocals from a microphone. In addition, many offer additional features, such as phantom power, which is required by certain microphone types to provide an extra boost of energy.
You don’t need an amp to record electric guitar or bass!
An audio interface has the advantage of allowing you to record an electric guitar or bass without the use of an amplifier, which is often underestimated. This is because audio interfaces have preamps that can boost the signal.
Although it’s not a replacement for a professional amp recording with a microphone, it’ll suffice for most people’s needs.
Multiple Inputs and outputs
Audio interfaces not only boost a computer’s acoustic capabilities but also expand the number of inputs and outputs accessible to you. This allows you to record various instruments at the same time, such as keyboard and vocals. It also allows you to record something in stereo, such as a synth.
Most audio interfaces enable you to connect 1/4 inch instrument cables or XLR microphone cables without any need for adapters. They also offer direct monitor speaker outputs, reducing the number of items you have to try to plug into your laptop or PC.
Top Five Rated Products
Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen3
Focusrite is one of the most well-known audio interfaces, and the Scarlett line’s higher- end machines are the preferences of many intermediate and professional producers. In addition, their preamps are well-regarded, and having one in an interface at this price point makes it an excellent choice for people searching for high-quality recording on a budget.
Alberto said, “I had the first generation 8i6 Scarlett and just bought the 3rd generation solo. It’s totally a different sound volume and quality. Best interface I have had.”
SSL 2+ audio interface
- 2-In/4-Out USB Audio Interface
- 2 x SSL-designed microphone preamps with unrivalled noise performance and gain range for a USB-powered device
- Legacy 4K - analogue colour enhancement for any input source, inspired by classic SSL consoles
- 2 x Professional, high-current grade headphone outputs
- USB 2.0, bus-powered audio interface for Mac/PC - no power supply required
The SSL 2/2+ is a high-quality audio interface with great sound and performance. It enters the competitive industry of entry-level studio gear, combining 40+ years of expertise into a product that, while slightly more expensive than the competition.
Eric said, “This Interface makes your instrument sound like you’ve paid for session time at some Los Angeles studio. The cost of this doesn’t match the quality, physically and in tonality. BUY THIS!!!”
The SSL 2/2+ should be the interface you choose if you have a little extra cash to spend on one.
Audient iD4 MkII
- The new successor: Due to the great success of the Audient iD4, the audio experts had the project to bring the successor iD4 MKII to the next outstanding sonic level.
- Harmonious overall package: Thanks to new transducer technology and Class-A microphone preamplifier from Audient's high-end ASP8024 HE console, home recording is taken to the next level.
- New connector: The new Audient iD4 MKII now has a high-speed USB-C connector, so handling is easier and power supply is improved! Now there's no more need for lots of different cables!
- Long life: The all-metal desktop housing provides stability and durability on the move. Now you can easily take your audio interface with you and always have it at hand.
- Scope of delivery: Audient audio interface iD4 MKII - Class A console microphone preamplifier - Mac/PC/iOS compatible - USB C cable (1m) - Dimensions: 133x120x40.7 mm - Weight: 740 g - Colour: Black
The Audient iD4 is a USB Type-C audio interface with two inputs and outputs. There is no need for a separate power supply because the interface is powered by the USB bus.
There are some excellent touches, such as an extra headphone output and an intelligent scroll wheel that can alter software settings. And, while we’re on the subject, the ARC package includes lots of plugins, effects, and virtual instruments to get you up and to dash. As a result, it outperforms all the audio interfaces in this list.
Dawid says, “Love it! Fantastic purchase for any home studio. Multi-client ASIO driver.”
It’s a touch more expensive than the other interfaces on our list, but it’s a well-rounded product.
PreSonus Audiobox USB 96
- Value-packed 2-channel USB 2.0 interface for personal and portable recording.
- 2 high-quality Class-A mic preamps make it easy to get a great sound.
- 2 high-headroom instrument inputs to record guitar, bass, and your favorite line-level devices, plus MIDI I/O.
- Studio-grade converters allow for up to 24-bit/96 kHz recording and playback.
- Comes with over $1000 worth of recording software including Studio One Artist, Ableton Live Lite, and Studio Magic Plug-in suite.
We reckon the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface is one of the best inexpensive audio interfaces, demonstrating that setting up a new home or portable studio doesn’t have to be expensive. Moreover, for just over £70, you get a fantastic choice for simultaneously recording two inputs.
This audio interface is compatible with all of your standard DAWs. Still, if you’re just getting started, you’ll be happy to hear that Studio One 3 Artist Software and the Studio Magic Plug-Ins Suite are included, allowing you to start recording right away if this is your first interface.
Doug Heacock says, “I like this unit, and it is a great value. The software it ships with (PreSonus Studio One v. 4) is quite good, and the only thing that keeps it from being a full-featured DAW is the lack of mastering functionality (which you can upgrade the product for if you need it). Construction of the unit is good, sturdy, metal case, controls are smooth operating (with detents), and I like the combo-style (XLR and 1/4″) panel jacks for the inputs.”
Behringer UMC 22
Now, let’s move on to the most affordable audio interface in this roundup. The Behringer UMC 22 is the model. Even though it retails for $100, you can get it for around $60 right now! It features one instrument input and a combined mic line input. Like the Presonus, it has a signal and clipping indicator, although the meters on the Native Instruments in M-Audio interfaces aren’t as good.
Generic John says, “It is clearly meant for entry level users and hobbyists. I’m extremely happy with the UMC22. It is exactly what I was looking for. I first tried a couple cheap USB sound interfaces and they were awful. This market space is a zoo and it’s not clear what many products do; many products are pure junk. This one works very well and feels like it’ll last as long as I live.”
When purchasing an audio interface, keep in mind how you intend to use it. If you only want to record one track at a time, you have a lot of choices. On the other hand, if you’re going to record in numerous ways simultaneously, such as guitar and vocals, you’ll need a good audio interface that can handle the load.
In the device, good preamps are also essential. Preamps give the audio signal more warmth and richness, making it a better starting point. They also cut down on annoying hiss and hum.
Make sure your computer is working smoothly for the best results. In many circumstances, adjusting your computer’s settings can improve interface performance.
Audient iD4 MkII is our choice since the audio quality has been improved to give us an extra 7dB of A-D dynamic range and 11dB of D-A dynamic range. It may appear to be chasing numbers, but it makes a real difference, and the unit sounds better as a result.
The new iD4 has a USB-C interface and is still powered by the bus. It’s also been given a fresh coat of paint and a unique style. Very clear.
We hope you found the answer to your question and that you start or continue to make excellent music!