Choosing an audio interface can sometimes turn out to be a daunting job – people fall into panic and put themselves through an unnessecary amount of trouble trying to chose the most suitable option from hundreds of devices.
Having tested dozens of sets, we have chosen the most expedient ones. So let’s dive in. These aren’t the only devices we can recommend, but we assume them to be the top choices.
Watch our top pick of 15 affordable audio interfaces of 2018.
|№||Image||Name||Features and summary|
|1||Focusrite Scarlett 2i2|
|2||Focusrite Saffire Pro 26|
|3||Universal Audio Apollo Twin 699 GB|
|4||Mackie Onyx Blackjack|
|5||M-Audio M-Track Plus|
|9||Avid MBox + Pro Tools Express|
|11||Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6|
|13||The Audient iD4|
|14||Steinberg UR22mkII USB|
|15||Akai EIE Pro|
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
We consider it the best audio interface for beginners working in semi-pro studios and at home.
This portable device provides great stability due to durable assembly, quality microphone pre-amp along with 2 “ins” and 2 “outs” and also features two built-in pre-amps.
The amp quality is comparable to lots of interfaces with condenser and ribbon mics, so you won’t get anything extra special but a good simple interface for amazing price that will absolutely cover your most basic music needs.
It has another big bonus for all users – it comes with the highly estimated digital workstation Ableton Live Lite. This piece of software is super popular even among professionals today. We view it as a symbol of excellent quality, testifying to your perfect taste completed with the beginner-friendly options.
Powered with USB, it disappoints with a lack of MIDI ins or outs. But one can always find some ways around it.
On the whole, this device with basic setup is number one featuring excellent value for its money.
- Type of connection USB 2.0;
- The need for additional mains power supply: no;
- Compatible with all hardware, PC, Mac;
- Ableton Live Lite;
- A/D resolution: 24 bit;
- Front panel includes direct monitor control
- Maximum frequency (stereo) 96 kHz;
- Phantom power: yes;
- ASIO support: v. 2.0
- 2 Analog Channels (“OUTs”);
- Two Analog Connectors (“OUTs”);
- One Independent headphone output;
- Input analog channels – two;
- 2xJack Inputs (standard 6.3 mm);
- two XLR Input Connectors;
- microphone inputs – 2;
- completed with instrumental input (Hi-Z)
Focusrite Saffire Pro 26
It is incredible but the truth – you get so much for this money! A plenty of connectivity to satisfy your basic needs in studio – this Saffire will suit perfectly. Users highly estimated price-quality ratio.
- maximum recording quality: 96 kHz, 24 bits;
- high-frequency preamplifiers: х4;
- Compatibility with Thunderbolt (via optional adapter);
- 5-segment signal level indicators;
- 16 “Ins”: two XLR, two instrumental 1/4 Jack, two Combo XLR/TRS, two TRS, S/PDIF (RCA), MIDI I/O;
- outs: 6 analog TRS, 2 headphones with 1/4 Jack control, S / PDIF (RCA), MIDI I/O;
- 8 channels ADAT (optical TOSLINK);
- Bundle: power adapter, users’ manual, software activation code (Ableton Live Lite);
- Cable FireWire 400-800;
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 108x273x470 mm;
- Weight: 2.98 kg.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
This one is MAC-only interface providing incredible power. All basics are carefully accumulated, two-input configuration is very popular among electronic producers.
The Apollo’s two mic preamps are perfectly transparent, the audio conversion impresses – you get the clean sound with zero-latency.
Improve your work with other capabilities: Apollo is one of the recording interfaces shining with DSP-powered plugins that are available due to built-in UAD-2 processors.
The plugin Realtime Analog Classics collection can be used during recording or monitoring.
Also due to the smart “Unison” function you can use some UAD preamp plugins like UA 610 emulation (included). That way you can adjust the input impedance and gain staging response of analogue preamps that are digitally controlled.
Either you start recording or mixdown in the end, DSP options give you a plenty of flexibility to the music production process.
Universal Audio will bring you high-quality built device that won’t let you down.
- Monitor and preamp switches;
- UAD Processing in real time;
- Type of connection: Thunderbolt;
- The need for an additional power source: yes;
- A/D resolution: 24 bit;
- Master Volume Knob;
- A/D frequency (stereo): 192 kHz;
- 1 Independent output to headphones;
- Two “Ins” (balanced analog channels);
- Analog Output Connectors: 4;
- 3xJack Inputs of standard 6.3 mm;
- 2 mic-inputs;
- The device has Instrumental input (Hi-Z);
- S/PDIF digital interfaces: optical input;
- Phantom power: yes;
- ADAT support: yes;
- Support for external synchronization: yes;
- Compatibility with Mac OSX10.8.5 and higher;
- DSP-processor Shark.
Mackie Onyx Blackjack
This “Blackjack” is ultra-compact and ergonomic device which can easily be placed on the desktop at your home studio.
Featuring high-quality pre-amps this recording interface provides plenty of power and incredible zero-latency.
Easily integrated, PC/MAC-friendly, it will drive you crazy with amp gain – it gives the maximum along with minimum possible distortion, comes with attractive price and shows good durability.
Mackie Onyx Blackjack won’t disappoint you being the best option with high-quality amps in low-price segment.
- Design: high-headroom;
- Type of connection: USB;
- Maximum frequency (stereo): 48 kHz;
- 2 pre-amps (Onyx-mic);
- 24 bit of A/D resolution;
- Amps can be cranked up to 60 dB;
- Support of ASIO: v. 1.0;
- Equipped with Tracktion 3.
All needed supply of “ins” and “outs”:
- Two Analog Output Connectors;
- The set is equipped with two Analog Outputs;
- One Independent headphone output;
- Analog inputs – two;
- 2 Standard Jack Inputs of 6.3 mm;
- Two LR Input Connectors;
- Mic inputs – two;
- Instrumental input (Hi-Z).
M-Audio M-Track Plus
Solid-build USB-powered model with clear “ins” and “outs” – the necessary minimum for musicians and producers not having much to spare.
This microphone interface offers great phantom power both for instruments and mics. Each channel has in- jacks.
You have no need to pay more if you record simple tracks – all is included in this audio interface that can compete in price with the models recommended above.
Simple, well-built and features the primary capability.
- compatible with PC and Mac;
- 24-bit / 48 kHz;
- 2 LR microphone inputs;
- Audio monitoring with minimum latency;
- Solid aluminum build;
- phantom power;
- Two of 1/4″ line inputs providing guitar-level control;
- USB powered – much convenience for good mobility;
- MIDI “out”, “in”;
- Data exchange via USB;
- The bundle includes: Avid Pro Tools Express+iLok USB key+AIR Ignite software;
- Overall dimensions: (WxDxH): 6.5″x 4.7″x2.25″;
- Weight: 0.68 kg.
No matter if you are a pro or a beginner. Stop your searching if you are here – you are looking at the real GEM of low-price audio interface. This 2×2 is more simple and affordable than many others. And it will conquer your heart.
Firstly, PreSonus audio interfaces are well-known as made by Brand of equipment world. Need we add anything about the quality?
Secondly, 2 pre-amps of high quality make your sound product perfect, mellow and deliver it with zero delay. The panel is standard, only the headphone jack perplexes with its back position – maybe some would prefer to see it in the front.
And finally, the power is great for a low price-point audio interface.
All most basic options will work if you don’t have high headphones’ impedance or aren’t trying to reach more than 35 decibel of volume.
Even though it doesn’t have any fancy digital conversion – simple job will be completed. So isn’t it the best idea for saving your bucks?
- Type of connection USB (2.0)
- Studio One software, resources of about 6 GB
- Phantom power: 48 V
- ASIO support: v. 1.0
- 24 bit A/D resolution
- Compatible with: PC/ Mac
- Rugged build
- Pick of sampling rate: 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz
- Two Analog Output Channels;
- 2 output connectors (analog);
- The set is equipped with combo XLR mic/balanced 1/4″ input;
- One headphone output (independent);
- The rig has two “In” analog channels;
- 2xInput Jack (6.3 mm);
- MIDI: in+out.
This will work only with MAC and is not quite the cheapest, but there are 2 explanations for this. First – the amp can be cranked up to 63 dB – could you just imagine what this babe can reproduce? Second – the 48 volt phantom power. The device also features a built-in condenser microphone, if you need it.
An easy to transport device can just be mounted and used as well as a mic. It surprises us with lack of XLR ports and MIDI ins/outs, but you can definitely deal with a converter cable and plug it into controller, MIDI keyboard or an external microphone.
You should not be deceived with little size — it will produce music quality like no other – thanks to its incredible power. Great investment!
- Type of connection USB 1.1
- Software: Maestro
- Resolution: 24 bit /
- Frequency: 44.1/48 kHz
- 1 Analog Output Connector
- 1/8″ for headphones
- gain and output level control by encoder knob
- 1 Jack-Input (3.5 mm)
- 1 Microphone input for internal condender mic
- OS Compatibility: Mac OS
- Additional Information: built-in microphone
- XLR microphone pre-amp
The high-end experienced creators of the legendary Apogee have descended to more simple and available products. The modern design and construction of the audio interface have been developed taking into account the pro-features.
Duet introduces a pleasant and convenient supply of small additions, such as an OLED screen for better feedback.
It will satisfy pro-travellers and mobile musicians who don’t need the large number of inputs as they make only 1 or 2 recordings at the same time. The Duet gives sound of “Real-Apogee-Quality” being a two-input option. We couldn’t find a better option for clear sound production in this price range.
This pretty basic system is one of the best usb audio interfaces made by professionals for professionals. And the most importantly – the price will suit not only pros.
- Fully aluminum body with large, multi-function selector and parameter settings.
- High-quality audio signal, USB 2.0
- Resolution options: 24 bit/192 kHz.
- Direct, direct digital connection to devices iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.
- Easy compatibility with Apple Devices .
- Full support and interaction with the software Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton, Core Audio (MAC), Auria, MultiTrack.
- Lack of latency.
- Full control under outputs and inputs with specialized software for iOS and MAC – Apogee Maestro.
- Multifunctional MIDI channel input and output via USB connector (A type).
- Two analog inputs, equipped with high-quality mic preamps.
- phantom power system (+ 48 V) for studio condenser microphones.
- Two symmetrical analog line outputs, one independent stereo output with a 1/4 Jack connector for headphones.
Avid MBox + Pro Tools Express
Get engaged in the music industry – just start working with this a bit more expensive set. But you‘ll get an extremely rewarding purchase – many call Pro Tools the best software (Express is only a short version).
The Mbox features a very solid tool due to its own rich interface and not just because it is a Pro Tools’ adherent.
The condenser mic is tooled with 48-v phantom power. The device allows making some on-board effects for the guitar-addicted.
It’s bottom line cheap! The device comes with a soft-clip limiter and a built-in tuner, and perfectly suits into either a semi pro or a pro studio. It is really cool as a gift: a lovely package for fulfilling a big musicalo dream.
- Mainly tailored for Mac, but can deal with Windows 10;
- Separated knob for monitor volume control;
- 4×4 parallel I/O channels;
- Equipped with “Pro Tools Express” – one of the software leaders;
- mic preamps of pro-level work with 2 combined mic/line XLR-inputs;
- 2×1/4″ DI-inputs on the front panel;
- MIDI: 1x input, 1x output;
- 2 symmetrical 1/4 “monitor outputs;
- phantom power of standard 48 V;
- Digital input/output S / PDIF;
- Built-in guitar tuner;
- 1×1/4″ output of stereo headphone;
- Monitoring section completed with Mono and Dim buttons.
Here is another very budget stable friend of any musician.
With extremely low retail price, 2 TRS and 1 XLR mic along with 1XHi-Z input the sleek device gives out the uninterrupted too-good-for-50$ sound. This is a great advantage! Nevertheless the lack of MIDI ports and phantom power can cause some to be annoyed. Then you should just switch to more expensive audio interfaces skipping this price range of about 50-70$.
We emphasize – the low latency is the trade mark of this very device – we couldn’t even make a close comparison to the other similarly price-ranged analogs.
The verdict is: a basic, solid audio interface for simple recordings. Great for beginners, we assume. The perfect one if you agree to add to the recording process the cable switching (between keyboard and guitar). The nice software will complete your pleasure. If you don’t have to hook up studio monitors – make the clicks for Lexicon Alpha purchase.
- 2 Microphone inputs: XLR
- You can Record up to two tracks together
- 600 Ohm of Input Impedance, balanced
- Sensitivity: + 40dB
- Frequency: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Cuba LE4 and Pantheon reverb VST – software addition
- Instrumental “ins”: one X 1/4″ mono jack
- Linear outputs: TRS (2) + RCA (2)
- OneX1/8″ stereo jack for headphone, 25 mW per channel at 50Ω at the back;
- Sampling frequency for conversation, determined by PC app: 44.1 and 48 kHz
- USB Type B: Version 1.1, Version 1.1 hubs are not supported
- Dimensions: 171mm x 40mm x 165mm
- Weight: 0.49kg
- mic pre-amp of low noise
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
You get the perfect sound quality if you can add a bit of money as Native is priced slightly above an average budget one. Its long life (as a result of solid built) and the rich packages of software turn to be strong competitive characteristics. This is a closest rival to Avid rig, which we have considered above.
The bundle shows great supply of opportunities. With 48 volts of phantom power you can easily use either active DI boxes or condenser mics. If you are effect-addicted you’ll be glad to discover the software included in the set.
You can rely on your Native – the sound latency will approach Zero or be close to unnoticeable. The main volume knob is nothing but needed and extremely convenient for users. The clean preamps in the Komplete Audio 6 shine with outstanding transparency. According to reviews most users had no reliability issues.
Our resume – great bargain for this money.
- Case: metal;
- Compatible with: Windows and Mac;
- Dimensions: 52 × 159 × 122 mm;
- 2 pre-amps each with gain controls;
- color: black;
- The bundle comes with: TRAKTOR LE 2, CUBASE LE 5, CD with KOMPLETE Elements;
- Processing data: 24-bit/96 kHz;
- Audio interface, power: USB 2.0;
- Phantom power of standard 48V;
- Big Main Knob of volume;
- Directly monitoring with mono input switch;
- Frequency response: 9 Hz – 45 kHz;
- Weight: 850g;
- LED status lights.
Analog “ins” and “outs”:
- 4 Ins: two balanced combo : XLR and TRS, two balanced lines: 1/4 TRS, MIDI and digital stereo;
- 4 balanced “outs”. 1/4 “TRS, MIDI, digital stereo, headphone.
This baby will handle all basic operations and that’s the only thing we need to say. The compact external USB-interface comes with a worthy free software and presents clear well-balanced sound as a result.
UCA202 set is a standard portable low-price model with no need of external power supply – it is powered via USB.
The solid for its price resolution of 48 kHz, volume control and headphones, jack comes along with the noticable lack of XLR or TRS ports – it is obvious as the set is the cheapest one. You can improve standard RCA “ins” with proper cables for soft connecting a mic.
Grab this simple digital converter! All essentials will be completed with this best budget-friendly audio interface-2018.
- Original style and modern design from the popular brand Behringer;
- Full compatibility with laptops and personal computers PC and Mac;
- The ability to monitor through headphones and an extended set of software;
- No drivers are needed;
- High performance of digital converters: 16-bit / 48 kHz;
- Power supply via USB, LED indication of the device status;
- Built-in digital optical S / PDIF output;
- Stereo output for connecting headphones with an independent level control;
- Fast connection and ready for use without the need to install additional drivers (Windows, Mac OS);
- Components and electronics of high quality;
- Ability to use on tours, trains and home recording studios;
- Small overall dimensions and rugged, compact body;
- Free editing software (nothing crazy) – Kristal Audio Engine and Audacity.
The Audient iD4
Small-sized (5 inches on side) and genius in quality and functions – it is the best converter that can be bought for reasonable money.
With its metal case and knobs it looks like premium interface and shows solidity and well-built construction.
It features a tabletop design with controllers on top that are highly intuitive and easy to operate and get used to. Tweaking knobs simplifies working.
JFET DI and dual headphone jacks are loceted in the front, the rear features an USB 2.0 port, one input and L&R monitor speaker outputs, and a line/mic combo jack (with phantom power). Indicator lights on top show you the intensity of the in and out signals .
The iD4 button turns into a mouse scroll wheel for navigating the iTunes interface. Just try it – you’ll see how convenient it is! The knob of volume control is the largest one.
We found that the preamps quality of iD4 crushed all Audient’s price-range rivals. Clean and simple sound – most users are claiming it is perfect!
The one disadvantage is that the headphone signal is not controlled separately, only with the main output. For some it could be important.
iD4 being compatible with iOS is the gem for mobile users, most musicians have had quite a few problems with the drivers. This is clients’ opinion.
And as for our conclusion – it’s an affordable audio interface shining with preamp quality, with solid drivers and intuitive design. Do you really need more reasons to make a decision?
- Digital operation options: 24 bit/96 kHz;
- Built-in converter of high quality;
- Main Speaker Output;
- Compatible with Windows, macOS and iOS;
- The mic/line combo is equipped with an A-class preamplifier;
- The bass, the guitar or other instruments are connected through the instrumental discrete input (HI-Z);
- Monitor Control;
- The execution of linear analog outputs on TRS;
- Monitor Mix and Monitor Pan modes to simplify recording with zero latency;
- a pair of parallel outputs for headphones in the built-in A/B-class amplifier;
- The iD ScrollControl function for control DAW, plug-in characteristics and the iTunes library through the volume control;
- Compact metallic body;
- Powered by USB 2.0. You need an adapter and an active USB hub for working with iPad.
Steinberg UR22mkII USB
One of the best budget models in our scroll comes as upgraded version to the original UR22 beloved by many.
Within “cost-functions” ratio it is the closest competitor to Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, but UR22mkII slightly beats it with price.
Users have estimated highly MIDI ports presence, clean sound, build quality and durability of the set.
Back panel has 2 USB ports including a smaller USB connector.
Equipped with solid drivers, Steinberg is good in tracking down bugs. You can upgrade the firmware – we would recommend to. As for constriction – we consider it to be rugged and completed with whole-metal chassis.
Preamps by famous Yamaha stun with fantastic, transparent sound – the best provided by the bottom budget ranged device.
- Latency-free operations.
- The maximum supported mode of operations 192 kHz / 24 bit.
- Two Yamaha D-Pre mic preamps with +48 V phantom power, Class A, built on discrete components.
- A pair of combined microphone/line inputs on XLR-1/4″ (Neutrik), one of which suits for guitar or bass.
- Two linear TRS-outputs, as well as an headphone “out” with independent volume control.
- Hardware monitoring with zero delay and “Mix” regulator.
- USB (2.0) powered with Mac/PC. When connected to the iPad, power is supplied from an external adapter or battery through the micro-USB port.
- MIDI “ins”/”outs” for connecting controllers and keyboards, synthesizers and other equipment.
- Compact and rugged all-metal case.
- Loopback function for streaming on the Internet.
- The software Cubase AI for PC and Mac and Cubasis LE (versions for download) is included.
- Compatibility with Mac OS X, Windows, and iPad (for tablet connection you need Camera Connection Kit).
Akai EIE Pro
A slightly unusual interface in our roundup. It features a special approach: each of the four “ins” can accept line level of instrument signals and also microphone level. In other words the “ins” work identically. Each channel is equipped with its own insert – signals, coming through outboard, are processed before being recorded.
You could be pleased with the nicest feature: a pair of VU meters displays the levels of working “ins” and “outs”. For you to see the whole picture.
Our verdict: it’s a decent quality affordable device. And if you are a retro fan you’ll be especially pleased.
- Desktop classical design – retro-beautiful.
- 24-bit audio interface supporting sampling frequencies of 44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz.
- Four combo XLR/jack connectors with phantom power and sensitivity control.
- Built-in USB hub.
- Four nickel plated jack-connectors for two separate monitor systems.
- Two classical-designed indicators with selector for audio level control and red LEDs.
- Three additional USB (2.0) ports for external equipment.
- MIDI input and output (based on 5-pin DIN connectors).
- Headphone output with direct monitoring capability.
The bundle includes:
- Power and USB cable
- User guide
The “Golden Trio” – best professional audio interfaces of 2018
|1||RME Fireface UCX 999GB|
|2||Metric Halo LIO-8 2995GB|
|3||Prism Sound Titan 2694GB|
RME Fireface UCX
Fireface UCX with 2 preamps and low latency is the first fully professional audio interface that supports hardware compatibility via CC mode. This allows working with Windows, Linux and Mac systems as well as with iPad devices without drivers.
It features newer than the previous model remote control option, eight analogue “ins” and 8 analogue outputs. Solid drivers perfectly deliver digital flow, Total Mix software provides qualitative routing.
It has the special mode, allowing you the recording max of 8 tracks on iPad at the same time.
In order to satisfy mid-range market with highly professional best audio interface for MAC, PC and Apple devices, RME does its best. It has created the strongest brandmarked device with the highest functionality.
- Number of channels: 8
- 24-bit resolution
- Sampling frequency 192 kHz
- Frequency range: 8 to 20,400 Hz
- Dynamic range: 114 dB
- Fantom power
- ASIO support
- Jack (6.35 mm) – 8 pcs
- XLR – 2 pcs
- USB (type B)
- Jack (6.35 mm) – 6 pcs
- coaxial S/P-DIF
Headphone: 1 Jack
Metric Halo LIO-8
LIO-8 is different to other representatives on our list. This simple line-level device in its principled basis has transparent and clean conversion. The 8-channel system can be completed with mic pres, but this interface has no preamps. Why pay extra money if you don’t need to?
That allows using it any way you desire and allows great flexibility for electronic music creators with line-level sources recording and outboard mic pres, or when using an analogue mixer.
- Firewire audio interface.
- 8 channels of analog-to-digital conversion.
- Sampling frequency up to 192 kHz.
- Two channels of digital-to-analog conversion (up to 192 kHz).
- Built-in headphone amplifier.
- D-Sub connectors for eight analog outputs.
- Two analog outputs-TRS.
- Balanced Analog Outputs for using device as a splitter.
- MIDI I / O
- LED indicators
- A pair of channels DI inputs for tools or vinyl players.
- Built-in Surround Controller.
- Eight channels of outputs and AES inputs. Sampling frequency up to 192 kHz.
- SMTPE LTC I / O.
- Support for the installation / addition of 4/8 channels of ULN-R microphone preamps. Three LIO-8 interfaces will provide 24 A / D / A conversion channels, as well as 24 AES I / O channels.
- The dimensions: 432x330x44 mm.
- Weight 2.7 kg.
Prism Sound Titan
When you are ready to pay a plenty of money for expensive audio interface, you want to get more than the usual quantity of inputs and outputs – you want the best clarity of your final product. The results of your recording sound and music, overlaying, mastering and mixing need to be perfect.
Prism Sound’s Titan studio interface is the Champion of number and quality of features concentrated in one system. 18 “ins” as well as 20 “outs” make it an extremely powerful device.
This company has acquired the reputation of an ultra-clean converters producer – this splendid set, equipped with 4 mic preamps, is no exception.
In our opinion it is one of the best choices if you search for the ultimate perfect clarity of sound.
- Compatibility with Core Audio
- Dedicated USB interface
- ASIO drivers for PC Windows (Vista, 7 and 8)
- Simultaneous working of ADAT and ports S/PDIF and AES3
- Digital mixer with a low latency
- Optimal noise reduction due to well- isolated balanced architecture
- 4 high-quality integrated mic preamps
- Mic preamps with switchable phantom power (with individual control)
- Multichannel digital input / output
- Processing of MS Matrix on microphone inputs
- 2 instrument inputs
- RIAA-equalization on #1,2 inputs
- Dual headphone output, each with its own volume control on the front panel
- Master volume control and mute controls assigned to the selected channels
- Mono or stereo input configurations
- Built-in sample rate conversion for S/PDIF ports
What will you chose?
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- Focusrite Saffire Pro 26
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin 699 GB
- Mackie Onyx Blackjack
- M-Audio M-Track Plus
- PreSonus AudioBox
- Apogee ONE
- Apogee Duet
- Avid MBox + Pro Tools Express
- Lexicon Alpha
- Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
- Behringer UCA202
- The Audient iD4
- Steinberg UR22mkII USB
- Akai EIE Pro
- RME Fireface UCX
- Metric Halo LIO-8
- Prism Sound Titan