In this article, we help you choose the best USB audio interface available on the market. If you are into mixing or DIY audio recording, we will help you get started. If you want to use an extremely sensitive, high-quality microphone for detailed, warm, and comprehensive audio recordings, you should try one of the products listed below.
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Why an Audio Interface? Because it is one of the essential parts of DIY music production. The audio interface helps to get the extra details for optimal sound recording. There are hundreds of audio interfaces in the market with different connectivity options and features. These products vary across price ranges depending on the feature sets.
It might be a tough job for a beginner to find out the best audio interface for recording from an iPad, iPhone, Mac, or even a PC. To help you choose the best, we have compiled a list of the best USB audio interface for iPad, Mac, and PC in this post.
USB audio interface has the advantage of getting connected to a lot of devices. An audio interface is a device that connects your various audio equipment to your computer.
Some of you might be wondering why to use an audio interface when we have an inbuilt sound card. The inbuilt sound card can be helpful when you have recorded for fun or typical home use. When it comes to professional recording, the sound card built on your PC, iPad, or Mac cannot produce the audio depth, warmth, or connectivity options that feature on an audio interface.
Also Read: Best DJ Controller for Beginners
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You are looking for a USB Audio Interface that gives you top performance with a budget? The Motu M2, then, is the device for you. In addition to being compatible with Mac and Windows PCs, it is also compatible with iOS, which means that you can use this device with your iPhone or iPad to record music and podcasts.
What’s more impressive is that the MOTU M2 uses a USB-C audio interface in its 2-in/2-out setups, thereby making faster conversions, and the ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC technology built into it lets you hear your recordings in crystal clear quality. The inbuilt mic with excellent sound capture and low latency certainly sweetens the pot.
If you are a podcaster, the MOTU M2 has you covered with its inbuilt loopback function, which allows you to combine audio from multiple sources to make your episodes more interesting. This device is also quite the looker with its color LCD screen and metering display. Oh, did we mention that it was portable as well?
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
This is one of the most popular USB Audio Interfaces and is compatible with both Mac and Windows PCs. This 3rd generation device boasts of low latency due to its 24-bit/192kHz converters that provide top sound quality. The I/O consists of 2 inputs and 2 outputs with two mic preamps with a switchable air mode – a nice nod to the ISA console transformers that Focusrite is famous for.
With the portable form factor, the Scarlett 2i2 includes software bundles like Focusrite Red2/Red3 Plug-in Suite, Ableton Lite Live, and Pro Tools First, which are the cherry on top of an already delicious cake.
PreSonus Studio 1824c
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Delivering 24-bit/ 192kHz sound quality and including the XMAX preamps running on 30-volt power that PreSonus is widely regarded for, this beast of a USB Audio Interface provides for maximum headroom and fantastic sound quality. It is compatible with both Mac and Windows PC, has support for USB-C, and contains 18-in/18-out I/O with two independent headphone outputs.
The Mono and Mute buttons on the front panel as well as the MIDI I/O. SPDIF I/O and a BNC word-clock output make it easier to control and fine-tune the quality of your recordings. If you are worried about expansion in the future, the inclusion of the light pipe port for eight channels of ADAT I/O has you covered.
Suppose you are looking for a zero-latency, flexible USB Audio Interface with incredible software bundles and top-tier plugins included in the package. In that case, this should be your go-to device.
Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
As far as USB Audio Interfaces are concerned, this one is probably one of the most bang for your buck devices out there. Compatible with both Windows PC and Mac, this is a low-cost replacement for an actual studio with its 18-in/20-out I/O and 24-bit/96kHz audio support with simultaneous use of all signals for enhancing expandability.
The Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 has direct monitoring support, which allows it to provide low latency. The dual headphone output it boasts of provides the option to have individual levels of control and monitor the selection of A/B sources, which provides for DJ-style audio cueing.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
This USB Audio Interface is probably the best one out in the market for portable and personal recording. It is compatible with Macs and Windows PCs and records at up to 24-bit/96kHz, through two mic preamps with combo inputs and phantom power. The best feature is an internal analog mixer built-in that blends the playback signal with your direct recordings to achieve low latency.
The pot is sweetened with the inclusion of PreSonus’ Studio One Artist DAW software and 6GB of third-party content. The only thing against this USB Audio Interface device is that the 2-in/2-out I/O only supports the old USB 2.0 standard instead of the newer and faster USB 3.0. Even so, this is probably the most suitable USB Audio Interface for independent solo artists trying to bring their music to the world.
Focusrite Scarlertt 18i20
With an I/O of 18-in/20-out, this USB Audio Interface is the big brother of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 that we have already listed. The digital I/O it has is ripe for expansion and includes four monitor outputs with anti-thump technology and eight air-equipped preamps.
In contrast, the direct monitor circuitry ensures the ultra-low latency that it possesses. If you are into live streaming, podcasting, or sampling, those will be a piece of cake with the virtual loopback support. An inbuilt mic and incredible software bundles put the cherry on top of this fantastic device. This, too, like its smaller sibling, is compatible with both Mac and Windows PC.
M-Audio AIR 192|14
Equipped with a top-notch 8-in/4-out I/O, this USB Audio Interface can double as a desktop mixer. It is compatible with both Mac and Windows PC. It grabs eyeballs because of its great 24-bit/192kHz analog to digital converter, really low latency, and four low-noise crystal mic preamps, all of which make sure that your audio sounds great.
In addition to this, you also get two Hi-Z instrument inputs for bass and guitar, two ¼ inch line inputs for line-level sources and keyboards, a Direct knob for mixing audio and live monitoring, and a MIDI I/O. To further sweeten the pot, the M-Audio AIR 192|14 comes bundled with first-grade software such as Pro Tools First, Eleven Lite, Ableton Live Lite, a complete set of AIR virtual instruments, and a bunch of Avid Plug-ins.
TASCAM Celesonic US-20×20
TASCAM has been a long-trusted name in the home recording game, and the company does not disappoint with this offering as well. The TASCAM Celesonic US-20×20 boasts a 20-in/20-out interface with support for USB 3.0 standard and a standalone mixer with 8 channel mic preamp. Its support for the newer USB standard coupled with the 24-bit /192kHZ audio conversion support provides for the low latency in recording and the great sound that comes out of the projects done with this device.
But what sets this device apart from the rest is TASCAM’s eight mic preamps and the hi-Z input support for guitars and bass, along with the inclusion of the fantastic digital I/O for expansion. Furthermore, it also has an in-built equalizer, reverb, and compression to provide a comprehensive package for audio mixing. The only thing against this device is that it is not very portable due to its size. The best way to use it would be to put it on your desk or mount it on a rack to the side.
While it can be viewed as another generic USB Audio Interface supporting Mac, PC, and iOS, the Steinberg UR-RT2 stands out from the others on this list due to its association with Rupert Neve. Neve often referred to and revered as the father of modern console design, is widely known for the superior sound quality of his channel strips and consoles.
The Steinberg UR-RT2, expectedly, does not disappoint. The 24-bit/192 kHz analog to digital conversion is enhanced by the switchable input transformers that Rupert Neve has designed. Add to that MIDI I/O, two D-PRE mic preamps, hi-Z instrument packs, and a loopback functionality for podcasting and live streaming, and the Steinberg UR-RT2 becomes a compelling offering. The integrated DSP included plug-ins and zero-latency monitoring to sweeten the pot.
Solid State Logic SSL2+
If you swear by SSL sound, then this is the USB Audio Interface for you. Compatible with both PCs and Mac, the Solid-State Logic SSL2+ has a Legacy 4K mode which, when activated, provides a 4000 Series console sound experience to everything that you record through the two mic preamps contains. Featuring a rock-solid design, 2-in/4-out I/O, and 24-bit/192kHz AKM converters combined with Neutrik connectors and Alps pots, it is equipped to the teeth with high-end equipment and components, which is what you expect from one of the world’s leading USB Audio Interface manufacturers. It also comes with a fantastic selection of software which includes titles such as Ableton Live Lite, Komplete Start, and Pro Tools First.
Audient EVO 4
This device is perfectly portable and ideal for podcasters and live streamers due to its loopback facility. The Audient EVO 4 boasts of a 2-in/2-out I/O with two transparent EVO preamps and 24-bit/96kHz audio conversion. It also has a Smart gain automatic level-setting feature built-in which makes recordings easy and fun. It is helpful not only with Macs and PCs but also with iOS devices – which means that if you work off an iPad, you can make good use of this USB Audio Interface device. Add a high-quality audio software package to these, and the Audient EVO 4 quickly becomes one of the most value for money devices on this list.
The Apogee Duet takes us into the realm of more professional-grade USB Audio Interfaces. It features an I/O of 2-in/4-out and is armed with a 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converter. The Apogee Duet’s desktop interface has two XTR/TRS inputs coupled with preamps and switchable one-level inputs, which enable you to connect your outboard preamps.
This device is also equipped with Apogee’s legendary Soft Limit Technology, two TRS Outputs for monitors, and one output for the headphone. It features a full-color OLED panel with a programmed touchpad that enables you to control the device easily. The Apogee Duet is a professional USB Audio Interface compatible with Mac, PC, and iOS with a highly portable design that makes it a pretty good contender for someone who wants professional equipment with the power of portability.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin X USB DUO
The only thing that goes against the Universal Audio Apollo Twin USB DUO is that it supports Windows PCs only, so it is not for Mac or iOS users. But that is where the disadvantages end and the fascination begins – armed with a 10-in/6-out I/O; this USB Audio Interface supports world-standard 24-bit/192kHz analog to digital conversion with less than 2 milliseconds latency.
Additional features like the inclusion of premium mic/line preamps and the gold standard for analog plugins – UAD Powered plugins certainly set this device’s place in the upper reaches of the USB Audio Interface market. The main strength of this device lies in the plugins it offers – UA’s Realtime Analog Classics Plugin bundle, which comprises ultra-realistic models of the LA-2A, Pultec EQP-1A, and 1176N. If you want to go above and beyond these, then the unlimited array of UA analog-modeled plugins are available to choose from and collect as per your expansion needs.
What’s more, you get the flexibility to mix and track through those plugins in real-time, just like you would using real hardware!
RME Babyface Pro FS
The RME Babyface Pro FS is another pro-grade USB Audio Interface with a 12-in/12-out I/O and a highly portable interface. Despite its portability, it offers professional level AD/DA conversions coupled with SteadyClock/femtosecond (1/1,000,000,000,000,000 of a second) technology for stable clocking, which means that this device can capture even the most minute variations.
In addition to this, it also has two preamps which are digitally controlled to get highly high-quality recordings. This can easily be the star of your portable studio with its integrated MIDI, digital and analog connectivity support.
If you thought that’s all this beast offers, then you are in for more surprises since it has a fully flexible digital mixer built-in, containing 46-bit internal resolution, zero-latency processing, and 288 channels!
It also has a 3-band EQ, a low-cut filter, echo, and reverb. In addition to this, the onboard metering on this USB Audio Interface is one of the best in the market with RMS and Peak presentation, and it comes with software bundles too, with offerings from the likes of Brainworx and Scuffham.
This device can work with iOS, Mac, and Windows PC, which adds to the portability quotient since you can use an iPad to edit your projects with the RME Babyface FS.
Cranborne Audio 500R8
If you are in the market for a pro-grade USB Audio Interface that looks good and provides the power to tackle all you can throw at it, you need to look no further than the Cranborne Audio 500R8. Boasting a low-latency 28-in/ 20-out I/O, it packs a lot more under the hood.
The chassis is a solid 8-slot 500 Series which allows you to configure the front best as you need and to fir your workflow in the best possible way. At the same time, the expansive I/O makes connecting entirely of your digital and analog hardware array work like a charm. It also contains a very discrete summing mixer to add studio-grade sound quality. At the same time, the inclusion of a high-headroom monitor controller has two sets of speakers and provides facilities for Talkback, Dim, Mute, Mono, and Sum.
Further included in this beast are a zero-latency mixer and two reference-grade headphone amps, which play well with the Cranborne Audio 500R8’s analog to digital converter and internal clocking. All that notwithstanding, the best feature of this device is the integrated C.A.S.T. System which provides you with the option of transmitting 4 channels of balanced analog audio over an ethernet cable (shielded and of Cat 5 grade), which helps with the entire cable management nightmare scenario, allowing for a clean and sophisticated look to your complete studio setup. While it might be sometime before you need to expand, you can use ADAT when you need it for that purpose. The Cranborne works with both Macs and PCs.
Audio interfaces are available in various sizes and features. Most of these USB Audio interfaces provide professional audio software as a bundle. It is one of the factors which could help you choose one over the other. AudioBox iTwo natively supports iOS devices and includes the “Studio One digital audio workstation” software bundled.
If you are not a musician, but a podcaster, who is only interested in recording voice, a simple USB Mic Converter should help you achieve this. So the bottom line is; first, you need to identify what you need and your use case. Once you figure that out, proceed with our recommendations.
So let’s start the list of the best USB audio interface for recording from the cheaper ones and finish off with the premium ones.
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Behringer U-Control UCA202 is an ultra-flexible audio interface that connects your instruments, mixer, etc., with your computer for recording and playback. It has high-resolution 48 kHz converters for high-end audio quality.
This USB audio interface works with your PC or Mac computer. You don’t have to install any drivers. You get free audio recording and editing software that is available for download. There is a stereo headphone output with dedicated level control. It will let you monitor both input and output.
Behringer USB audio interface features an additional S/PDIF optical output for direct digital conversion. It is powered via USB; no external supply power source is needed. It comes with three years warranty program. Overall, this is the most affordable USB audio interface for PC and Mac.
Lexicon Alpha 2-Channel is a portable USB audio interface to record anywhere. It packs Studio quality hardware and powerful software that will turn your PC or Mac into a 24-bit high-quality recording studio. It is compact and comes with features that are needed to get a professional audio recording.
It has a USB-powered input/output mixer. This device has stereo line inputs for keyboards, drum machines or uses an analog output of a CD/MP3 player. It packs a Low-noise mic preamp with balanced XLR inputs. Plus, a high-impedance front panel input for electric guitar or bass.
The professional mixer features have separate mic and line level input controls with individual peak indicators. The high-powered headphone amps give precise fidelity while delivering optimal power to any headphones.
You can record up to two tracks at once. The audio quality sample rates are 44.1kHz to 48kH with 16-bit or 24-bit audio resolution. No doubt, this is the best USB audio interface for recording under $50.
The Onyx Blackjack Premium USB audio interface brings studio-quality sound and features at an affordable price. It features Boutique-quality Onyx preamps that are usually found on expensive consoles. It offers improved radio frequency (RFI) rejection and ultra-wide dynamic range. Along with 60 dB of available gain, it stands ahead of the competitors.
The Onyx Blackjack uses Cirrus Logic converters offering a 114dB dynamic range. It ensures that the sound has the lowest noise and distortion possible. The actual analog path monitoring directly from the preamps to your studio monitors and headphones offers zero-latency recording.
Both channels deliver 48V phantom power, so it will let you use studio-quality condenser mics. Onyx Blackjack features a sleek, powder-coated all-metal chassis that makes it rugged and stylish both at the same time. With a 25-degree inclination, it allows a complete view of all the controls without any hassle.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB provides the easiest way to start recording from your PC and Mac. This USB audio interface for recording is ideal for singers, songwriters, and guitar players. Its simple and compact design gives you the freedom to carry this anywhere and record it.
It comes with Ableton Live Lite recording software and a suite of software and samples, so you can start recording straight away.
It works with all the leading DAWs on Windows and Mac. It offers lower latency than other comparable audio interfaces in this price range. You can also record two vocals at the same time.
It operates at sample rates all the way up to 192 kHz with super-low latency for ultra-clear audio recording. Every part of your record will be crisp and clear; you can amplify the quieter moments as well, without any unwanted hiss or buzzing.
Whether you are a musician, producer, or podcaster on a tight budget, the AudioBox USB audio interface is for you. This audio interface for recording comes with a simple and handy design that makes your recording hassle-free.
It has the right set of features and hardware for basic recording. The AudioBox USB has two front-panel combo mics & instrument inputs that make it ideal for singer/songwriters and guitar or guitar-bass collaborations. A mix control on the front panel gives you control over the input and computer playback without any delays.
This audio interface also has a pair of balanced line-level outputs, crystal-clear headphone output ports, and MIDI I/O. Talking about the build quality, it has duty steel chassis and metal knobs to bear the rough and tough usage.
Raising the budget to a high level, we have Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 USB audio interface. It is an advanced audio interface designed to record for professionals. This offers four analog ins/outs, digital in/out, and MIDI in/out.
It is USB powered, so you need not worry about power. It gives flexible connectivity, pristine sound, and valuable software with a low latency interface, making it the best fit for professional audio recording. Komplete Audio 6 is an all-in-a sleek with rugged metal casing audio interface.
It provides 48V phantom power for condenser mics and active DI boxes. Plus, the big analog volume knob delivers advanced level control to the user. It also comes with high-quality preamps with individual gain control to record lower voices with ultra-clarity. So, this is the best USB audio interface for recording if your budget is somewhere around $200.
Apogee ONE has a studio-quality microphone and USB audio interface for iPad and Mac. It is designed for creating professional and amazing sound recordings on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. It comes with a special circuitry design to deliver professional performance for iPad and a low latency USB 2.0 port for Mac.
This audio interface will cost you more than $300, but it is worth it. It comes with Apogee’s mic preamps, AD/DA converters packed in a sleek and stylish form factor design. It features two microphone preamps with an incredible gain range of 0 to 63 dB.
The best part is that it has an inbuilt mic, so you need not buy one. This audio interface is the best portable audio recording interface for those who are always on the go. It offers one stereo headphone out/speaker out, microphone/instrument input port, USB connector (iOS lightning port), and DC power supply port.
Avid Mbox is designed to record the amazing sound, edit and mix with professionalism. Easily connect mics, instruments, monitors, and other analogs with your PC or Mac to record and create studio-quality sound. It delivers a pristine sound and powerful performance with the lowest possible latency.
This USB audio interface comes with the Pro Tools Express for maximum speed, ease, and additional functionality. The professional-grade soft-clip limiter in Avid’ Pro Tools HD Series interfaces prevents distortion when tracking louder voices.
Talking about the hardware,
We live in an age of digital content consumption. Gone are the days of hunting for CDs of your favorite band and storing them. These days, streaming takes the most significant slice of the audio entertainment industry. The phenomenon is not merely limited to music – over the past five years, podcasts have exploded like never before. They are being included in greater numbers in all primary streaming services such as Spotify and Amazon Prime Music and the development of apps dedicated entirely to the podcast audio form such as Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
People listen to audio content like never before in 2021 since most of the world is confined at home due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic. According to a survey done by Statista Research Department, Millenials in the United States alone have increased their consumption of music, while more and more Americans over the age of twelve have been listening to podcasts monthly and an increasing number of people of the same age demographic have been listening to audiobooks in 2021. In short, the audio market is booming, and more people are trying to tap into this market, including big studios, indie bands, local artists, and independent podcasters.
The appeal of audio over video is in the rich experience that it provides to the listener. A good audio experience involves the listener in its content, making them a part of the narrative. Several factors, such as good narration (in podcasts), sound editing, and zero background noise, achieve this. In short, by recording high-quality audio and editing that audio well, you can have a high-quality music title or podcast. This is precisely where a USB Audio Interface comes in.
Let us take an example. Suppose you are playing the guitar or are singing. The sound you are generating by these activities is analog, which can be recorded in sound wave patterns. Now, a digital recording or editing device –a computer – does not understand sound wave patterns; it only understands 0’s and 1’s, which is why we need something that will convert those analog sound waves into digital signals for the computer to read and understand – in other words, a USB Audio Interface.
Granted, most computers – even mid-tier machines – have an inbuilt sound card that does the same job as a USB Audio Interface – converting analog sound to digital, and these internal sound cards mostly do a decent job. However, a USB Audio Interface will provide better sound quality than a sound card built into a computer on any given day.
There are several factors to consider when it comes to choosing a USB Audio Interface, the first and foremost being what your application for the device will be. Are you simply going to record acoustic guitar sessions of yourself, or will you record an entire band? Are you going to record a podcast? Is portability important to you? What is the size that you want? Is the USB Audio Interface going to sit at your desk, or will it nest on a rack to the side? What kind of input and output (I/O) are you going to use? These and more are the questions you have to ask yourself if you are in the market for a USB Audio Interface so that you can make a choice that fits your needs and your workflow.
That being said, the choice is not easy at all. Since USB is a universal standard, there are many makes and models to choose from. It can be a daunting choice since this is something you will be investing your money in for a considerable amount of time and would naturally want a fair return on your investment. But not to worry, we have tried to make a choice simple for you and have listed the 1 best USB Audio Interfaces out there in the market in 2021 that you can get.
And that’s the list! You now have the knowledge and the know-how required to choose the USB Audio Interface best fit for your needs! You don’t need to go in blind anymore and pick the nearest one off the shelves. There is power in making an informed decision, and that too is one of the advantages of living in a digital age. Now get your USB Audio Interface and create some content!
We hope our like would help you choose the best USB audio interface from the market. If you have questions or suggestions, do comment below to let us know.