Best Overall Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface
Renowned throughout the industry as being one of the best all-around audio interfaces in the world, and adored by musicians and producers who are starting out and fully experienced alike, you can’t wrong with what this device has to offer.
Best Budget Audio Interface: Yamaha Steinberg UR22MKII USB Interface
Yamaha has always been one of the most reputable brands in the audio equipment industry, and their audio interface addition is no exception to the rule in terms of functionality and performance, as well as ensuring it’s suitable for musicians and producers shopping on any budget.
Best Premium Audio Interface: RME Audio Interface
If you’re looking for the best of the best, your audio interface experience doesn’t get any better than this. With absolutely every function and connection port possible, including analog and digital inputs, and class compliant features for connections to iPads and computers, this is a device that exceeds all expectations.
Our Top Ten
As a music producer, band, or solo artist, you’ll know the importance of being able to record your sounds in the highest possible quality. However, as soon as you start trying to get your music into a digital format, you’ll notice this is easier said than done. So much equipment needs to be plugged in using compatible ports, and the hardware you’re using needs to be as high of quality as you want to record.
To make things simple and easy, you’re going to want to use an audio interface. These are devices designed to help you connect everything in one place when recording your music to a computer while making sure the final result is pristine, but which audio interface is the one for you?
Today, we’re going to explore ten of the very best audio interfaces that are available right now, as well as sharing our complete buying guide to help you choose which one is going to be best for what you’re looking for. What are you waiting for? Let’s jump straight in!
Starting off our list, we’ve opted for the Native Instruments device that is still regarded as one of the company’s best releases to date. This specific model is designed to be as simple to use as possible with a minimal learning curve, which is great if you’ve never used a device like this before, making this ideal for start-up bands and producers.
Within the device, you’ll find XLR ports for effortless connections to pretty much any microphone using the universal connections, as well as jacks for guitars so you can record your entire band using this box. However, if you wanted to record something like a vlog, podcast, or other kind of speech, this device would work perfectly.
Of course, the device will phantom power all your devices up to 48V, which will be more than enough for the majority of situations, and each port even has individual gain control so you can adjust your input levels directly in an instance! While this device is simple, there’s no denying it’s still packed with the essential features you’ll need.
Native have opted to use USB 2.0 connections here instead of USB 3.0, which is fine because it means the device is still compatible with all computers you may be using, but there is also the option to output the sound to hi-fi speakers thanks to the dedicated RCA connection, which we think is a really nice touch.
Quick and Easy Monitoring
Having a quick look at the specs of this device, there’s a VU meter on the top made with LED lights, which allow you to easily glance at your levels quickly when you need to, and the quality is maintained at the professional standard of 192kHz at 24-bit, which is the professional level of quality you won’t find better in this price bracket!
In many respects, if you’re looking for a plug-in-and-play solution that has everything you need and guarantees to tick all the boxes for what you’re looking for, you may not need to look further than this!
What We Like About It
The level of compatibility you’ll get from this audio interface is one of the best out there, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a Native Instruments software solution, or any other option such as Ableton Live, Cubase, or MASCHINE, this device is going to work seamlessly.
- Accurate VU monitoring via LED lights ensure your recording levels are perfect, no matter what situation you’re recording in
- Comes with integrated USB 2.0 connections to connect this interface to any computer system you may be using while maintaining a high-quality recording at 129kHz and 24-bit
- Houses numerous connections for connecting XLR microphones and universal guitar jacks for all kinds of line inputs
- Works flawlessly with all DAW applications and recording solutions you may be using
TC Electronics is a hugely popular audio electronics brand, so it should come as no surprise that their addition to the audio interface market is highly rated and easily one of the most unique versions of this device you’re going to find. Come on, look at it.
Outstanding Monitoring Features
There are very few audio interfaces, if any, that offer such a detailed analysis of what’s being recorded and what your audio levels are. This is truly as professional as it gets, and while the price reflects this, when it comes to nailing your mixing, mastering and production tasks perfectly, you’ll never need anything other than this.
The key feature of this device is the full-color, high resolution 7-inch screen that provides dozens of unique measuring and monitoring settings for studio environments. It’s been described many times as the ultimate metering toolkit that focuses on levels like clipping, channel weighing, frequency distribution, phase balances, mono compatibility and many more. In fact, there are six pages you can cycle through!
A Producer’s Holy Grail
Of course, the device sports the standard USB connections to sync your audio up with any computer rig you may be using, but you will need adapters to connect your instruments. Unlike other interfaces, this doesn’t directly connect to your instruments but rather your computer or setup and then tracks the levels this way.
While this does mean you’ll need to connect your instruments and microphones using another method, you won’t need to spend a fortune on an average interface; just add adapters, and then this device will handle all the rest. As you can probably tell, this is a professional solution that’s really marketed to experienced producers who want the ability to record at the very best possible levels.
Released early 2019, this is one of the most modern audio interfaces currently available, and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is going to change the game for many years to come.
What We Like About It
While this device may seem super complicated to begin with, the controls located on the front of the device make it easy to navigate all the pages and monitoring features with just the literal press of a button. This ensures you can quickly cycle through the many features without stress and fully focus on the task at hand.
- Sports a full HD 7-inch screen that displays dozens of monitoring statistics clearly and vibrantly
- Considered by many to be the ultimate metering toolbox that helps you perfect your mixes using a ton of different settings and options
- Connects to any computer or audio setup/rig you may be using via a universal USB connection. Also compatible with VST plugins and AAX plug-in metering solutions
- Easy to use and cycle through the settings thanks to the controls located on the front of the device, which literally operates with the push of a button
Search for the best audio interface around and the Focusrite Scarlett is going to be that device you see on every best-of list. This device is hugely popular thanks to it being one of the most functional and feature-packed, but also one of the most affordable, which is why so many musicians opt to use it. And they’re not wrong.
Hailed by users and critics alike as one of the best performing microphone preamps, this high performing device offers full 192kHz recording at a 24-bit rate, which is the highest professional standard you’ll need for the best. This is complemented by three channel inputs that have been designed to be 100% interference and hum-free, which only furthers the quality level of your audio.
The Renowned AIR Mode
These inputs break down into one high-headroom instrument input designed for guitars and bass variations, and two vocal inputs that you can, of course, use however you please, but this is the device’s original intention. There’s even Focusrite’s coveted Air Mode to ensure your recordings sound even brighter, lighter, and more open.
Endless Software Bundles
However, the biggest draw of this audio interface is yet to come. Included with each purchase, you’ll be granted access to such a huge range of software bundles and sample subscriptions to get you started it’s hard to know where to begin.
Some of the packages you’ll have access to include Pro Tools, the Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, a subscription to Softube Time and Tone Bundle, access to the Focusrite Red Plug-in Suite, a choice of one free copy to the XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument set, and a 3-month sample subscription to Splice samples.
That’s a huge amount of samples and software to sink your teeth into, which easily makes this audio interface one of the best when you’re starting out and learning what software suits you while giving you room to experiment to see which solution best suits what you’re looking for.
However, even if you’re a super experienced music producer that has used audio interfaces before, there’s still so much you get from this device, especially with all the stats and features we spoke about above, and in many respects, audio interfaces really don’t get much better than this.
What We Like About It
Easily the best feature of this device is just how easy it is to use. There are no complicated processes to follow or hoops to jump through. You just plug everything into the correct port (you can’t go wrong here) and away you go! There’s nothing complicated about using this audio interface.
- An insanely high-performance device that offers full 192kHz and 24-bit audio recording potential whether you’re mixing or recording
- Comes with an insane number of software applications and sample subscriptions for you to try out for yourself as well as to enhance your overall interface experience
- Comes with Focusrite’s patented Air Mode technology that enhances and optimizes your audio to sound brighter, more open, and generally better from all aspects
- One of the easiest audio interfaces to learn how to use and set up, with no learning curve whatsoever
Yamaha is another hugely popular audio equipment manufacturer, so whether you’ve trusted the brand before and know how reliable they are, or you’re ready to take your audio productions to the next level by investing in a quality product that won’t let you down, you’re not going to want to miss this Yamaha device.
This wildly popular interface comes with two USB 2.0 connections and offers the high industry standard of 24-bit to 192kHz sound quality made possible by the two integrated Class-A D-PRE microphone preamps; this is everything you’ll need when recording and mixing high quality audio on the fly.
Plug in and Play
Using this device, you’ll be able to simply plug it into any computer and use it without having to install anything, which means you can also use this interface with any DAW application or software you may be using now or plan to use in the future.
As you would expect from such a premium device, this comes with a controlled MIDI input, and you can even use this connection to link up to independent iOS iPad devices! As you know, there is a huge number of audio production related apps that are now changing the production game as we know it, and this interface is one that will help you take full advantage of this growing industry.
Software Ready to Go
Don’t have software in hand already? Don’t worry; this device comes with Cubase AI and LE editions that you can install to either your Mac or Windows and get started using straight away. These are really powerful pieces of software, which make them great for experienced producers, but even if you’re new, these applications are simple enough not to be too overwhelming.
With a ton of extra features, including access to Yamaha’s unique amp classics collection that can help better your instrument sounds to emulate the traditional tones with Steinburg’s world-class engineering reputation in mind, you can use this interface safe in the knowledge that this device will survive no matter what you’re putting it through.
What We Like About It
One of the highlight features of this interface is, in fact, the D-PRE preamps. These are specially designed to have a wide frequency range, which is unlike other preamps and interfaces. This means although designed for vocals, you’ll be able to input audio from any source you like without having to compromise on quality.
- Designed and built by one of the most popular audio manufacturers in the world
- Grants access to Yamaha’s extensive catalogue of amp model sounds to help you customize your guitar sounds
- Comes with D-PRE preamps that sound amazing regardless of what microphones or instruments you’re plugging in
- Comes with Cubase AI and LE editions for free, which you can use however you please
Just like the Yamaha audio interface above, Behringer is yet another one of the most trusted equipment brands in the world, and mention this name to any expert in the industry and they’ll be able to tell you just how prestigious they are. There’s a reason their kit is used in events and situations almost daily.
This is the compact audio interface that Behringer has to offer (we’ll be focusing on their more professional option next), but if you’re recording at home, in a studio, or at small to medium sized venues and need a handy, lightweight interface, this is the one you’re going to want to draw your attention to.
Great for Beginners
You can record both instruments and microphones at the same time thanks to the two USB slots, all recorded to the professional sampling rate standard of 48kHz with full 192kHz accuracy precision. Of course, just like any proper audio interface, you can connect this device to your Mac or Windows computer without the need for any complex installation process.
This means the device is compatible with pretty much every single DAW application you can think of. The list includes Ableton, Avid, Steinburg’s Cubase series, and many more. Not only does this mean you can use this device with your existing software, but also any software you may be using in the future.
Computer and DAW-Ready
However, if you’re short of a software application to use, this model does come with a free copy of Tracktion, which is free to install and one of the most popular and fastest growing DAW applications currently being used in the music industry. All the essentials are covered, including MIDI recording, unlimited track counts, and a vast library of resources to work with.
In short, this audio interface comes with everything you need to get started and to have one of the most complete experiences possible, no matter what instruments or sound sources you’re recording from. Simply put, everything you’ll need is right here!
What We Like About It
Behringer is manufactured in Germany, which means that when you invest in this device, you’re investing in quality unlike anywhere else in the world. This interface is robust and highly durable, and you won’t have to worry about general wear and tear from daily life damaging it.
- Comes with a free version of Tracktion, but is compatible with any DAW application or software you use
- Records both microphones and instruments at the same time thanks to the dual USB 2.0 connection ports
- One of the most durable and most reliable devices that guarantees to last for many years to come
- Offers zero latency monitoring to ensure you’re able to monitor and adjust your levels accurately and in real time
Following the smaller Behringer audio interface we were talking about above, if you’re looking for something a little more professional, more powerful, and with a lot more features that offer the most complete interface possible, this 4-channel interface is the one for you.
While in many ways this device is identical to the one above, it does instead come with 4x USB 2.0 connection ports that can support both instruments and microphones at the same time, all in the professional quality of 192kHz and 24-bit audio, which is the one of the best you can get.
Use on the Road
In true Behringer fashion, this device is compatible with pretty much any computer system you may be using, and you can easily plug it in and go without any complex installation process. This is great if you’re travelling around and will be working with lots of different equipment.
Of course, this means your device will be compatible with any and all DAW software you may be using, whether that’s Avid Pro, Ableton Live, Cubase, or any of the big or small applications that you may find yourself working with now and in the future.
Connect Everything Your Way
Since this device contains four inputs and four outputs, plus a dedicated MIDI connection for linking it to your PC, you can enjoy a real-time low latency connection that ensures all the audio is manageable without any delay or lag, and guarantees to be synced up live.
Just like the previous model, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of the world leading MIDAS microphone preamplifiers that minimize any distortion or unwanted interference you may get with other devices, all while maintaining the professional level of quality you would expect from a premium device such as this.
Of course, you also get the advantages of Behringer’s world-class engineering, which means this device is practically built like a tank and is one of the most durable interfaces on the market. You get standard features like 48V phantom power and both Mac and Windows compatibility, meaning you’ll have everything you need in this easy to use system.
What We Like About It
Reputation is everything when it comes to audio equipment, and it’s safe to say that Behringer has one of the best. There are currently thousands of positive four and five star reviews on this device from customers all over the world, guaranteeing the type of experience this device has to offer.
- Compatible with all DAW applications both big and small, and can work seamlessly on both Mac and Windows computers
- The quality of this product is backed by thousands of positive, five-star reviews from customers all over the world
- Offers four unique USB connection ports plus a MIDI interface, all of which support the professional quality 24-bit/192kHz
- All the essential features including leading durability and reliability, plus 48V phantom power through all ports
If you’re in the market for the best of the best when it comes to audio interfaces, and you want to make the most effective investment you possibly can, you’re going want to draw your attention over to the RME Audio Interface. This is as state-of-the-art and as professional as it gets.
A Premium Solution
While this is the most expensive item on our list, it’s also one of the most powerful and most feature-rich. Within the device, you’ll find four analog compatible inputs, two phone outputs, an ADAT I/O and a MIDI I/O. As a producer or audiophile, you’ll soon realize that this is one of the best you can get in terms of what the device has to offer.
What really sets this device apart from the rest, however, is the fact it offers the latest technology in terms of low latency AD/DA. This means you can adjust your settings and sound levels on the fly, such as using the gain that adds up to 76dB, which can be adjusted in increments as small as 1dB.
Endless Connections & Channels
With the ability to operate within 24 unique channels across the 12 analog connections and 12 digital connections, compatibility with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connections, and multiple track support when using studio DAW applications, this is a complete package. You don’t need any other hardware to use this device; just plug it in and go.
While one of the most feature-rich devices, this is also one of the most compact, which is ideal for taking with you wherever you go, no matter what situation you’re in or what kind of equipment or setups you’re working with. Regardless of what you’re up to, this interface will go above and beyond the call of duty, no matter how demanding that may be.
What We Like About It
Since this device is Class Compliant, you can plug it in and pretty much use it with any device you care to name. Whether that’s a Mac or Windows computer, or even portable hardware like an iPad, this device guarantees to work safely and perfectly.
- Offers up to 24 unique channels with both analog and digital options available
- Class compliant and can be connected to any and all devices and equipment setups
- Compatible with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connections
- Operates in full HD studio quality of 192kHz and 24-bit
If you’re a musician or producer and you’re looking to capture every single note, every single detail, and every single aspect of a track in true studio quality while enjoying all the benefits and features of a premium interface, but for a more affordable price, M Audio is definitely a device you’re going to want to look at.
High-Speed USB 3.0
M Audio provides the professional, industry-leading standard of 24-bit, 192kHz, which, as we’ve already discussed, is the perfect rate for a producer to give listening audiophiles what they want. This is then backed by high-speed, ultra-low latency connections using state-of-the-art USB C connections.
This clocks in around the 2.59Ms mark, and unlike other devices, you’ll even have the high-speed USB cables included with your purchase, so you’ll be ready to enjoy these speeds straight out of the box.
This level of quality continues thanks to the transparent crystal preamps installed inside, which help to convert your audio signals pristinely, without having to worry about compressing your sounds or ruining the quality. It’s retained throughout.
Ready for Your Devices
In terms of the connectivity of this device, you’ll have access to one ¼-inch XLR connection, a TRS Combo connection, a ¼-inch instrument connection, and then two ¼-inch outputs, perhaps for headphones or transferring to another channel, which is more than you’ll typically need for most basic applications.
Finally, this device has a ton of finishing touches to benefit from, including a durable and rugged metal casing that helps keep this device protected and working for longer, VU LED meters for monitoring your levels accurately at a glance, and a large central volume control for easy operation.
What more could you need from your audio interface?
What We Like About It
Like a lot of highly professional audio interfaces, this device does come with a premium software application for you to install and start using on your computer. This is actually a package of software bundles, including Boom, Vacuum, Ableton Live Lite, Eleven Lute, Avid and more!
- Operates with a real-time, lag-free latency of 2.59Ms
- Comes with a range of VU LED monitoring strips so you can always ensure you’re running on the right levels
- Comes with a bundle of software applications for you to try and to use alongside your interface
- One of the more durable devices to help it stand for years to come
Presonus is another fantastic audio equipment brand that is also one of the most modern and most innovative. A testament to this is their 96-audio interface. This bus-powered USB device can be used fully as a standard USB interface, or as a MIDI interface, depending on what you’re after.
You can record and process audio in full 24-bit quality, but there is the option to use 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz sampling rates; it’s completely up to you. Of course, you can connect whatever inputs you want using the dual combo mic and instrument inputs located on the front of the device for easy access.
A Complete Creative Package
Included with your purchase you’ll find a full copy of the Studio One Artist DAW application you can use on both Mac and Windows PCs, as well as 6GB+ of samples and third-party solutions you can use in your mixes.
With an industry standard frequency response rate of 20Hz to 20,000Hz, and everything you need to get up and running and have the full experience, it’s easy to see why many regard this PreSonus audio interface as one of the most up and coming.
What We Like About It
The best feature of this device is just how simple it is to use. Multi-channel devices like this can sometimes be a bit complex to get your head around, especially if you haven’t used one before. However, this interface is user-friendly and ready for anyone to pick up and go!
- Has an impressive frequency response rate
- Comes with a ton of software bundles to use, plus 6GB of free samples and resources
- Can be used with both universal microphones and instruments
- Can select between which kind of sampling rates you want to use
Finally, to quickly finish off our list, we’re going to draw your attention over to another PreSonus device, this time taking things one step further in terms of your overall experience and what you’ll be able to achieve.
This sub-c powered interface comes with 2×4 input and offers itself as a full MIDI interface. Of course, you can record in full 24-bit quality with various sampling rates from 44 to 192kHz.
Easy Controls and Features
Pretty much all the other settings are the same as the above, but what makes this device stand out is the ability to monitor everything far easier using the LED strips on the front, and you’ll have more control over the features thanks to the dedicated buttons.
This means you can really get creative with how you’re recording your audio, and your final product will guarantee to be exactly how you want it.
What We Like About It
While it comes with a lot of features, this device doesn’t skimp out when it comes to the essentials. With this purchase, you’ll find the same world-class software that comes with this level of interface to help you make the most of the recordings and sounds you’re creating.
- Offers a complete monitoring solution with LED strip lighting and adjustment controls
- Comes with two dedicated ports compatible with microphones and instruments
- Comes with a Studio software bundle to take care of the computer side of things
- Durable enough to survive any situation you may find yourself needing an interface
Our Definitive Buying Guide to Choosing the Best Audio Interface
Now that you’ve seen some of the best of the best when it comes to audio interfaces, it’s time for you to choose which one is right for you. All you need to do is follow our buying guide below and you’ll soon see which one is best fit for your own creations.
The first and foremost thing you’re going to need to consider is what you’re recording and in what environment. Are you recording vocals in a studio or instruments on stage? Perhaps you’re looking to record both at the same time?
Whatever the case, you need to make sure you have enough connections and enough power to connect everything you want to record up to the audio interface, which will save you having to buy more than one device.
On this point, you’ll also want to think about durability. If you’re touring around and recording while onstage, the device might get knocked around, so you’ll want one that can survive this general wear and tear.
While on the subject of being able to connect a device, you’re going to need to think about what other connections you’ll need, besides the standard instrument/microphone ones. This will obviously include connections to a computer, but perhaps also to another device in your audio rack, or even a headphone output for a better monitoring experience.
While you’re recording, you’re going to need to have the ability to change the volume settings on your device, so you know you’re recording your audio in the right way. Otherwise, you’ll listen to your audio playback and it’s not going to sound right, and may even have peaked too much.
This is why you’re going to want a device with gain controls, so you can adjust the levels in real time. If you’re looking for a more premium device, you may even get LED monitoring strips so you can see the levels, and maybe even added effects to go over your sounds like Delay or Reverb.
Compatible with Software
It’s important to make sure the audio interface you’re working with is compatible with the audio software or DAW
application you’re using. Otherwise, how are you planning to work with your clips and samples?
Most audio interfaces will work without installation, or only require a few click and point processes to get working, but always read the product description to ensure there’s no exceptions.
In many cases on more premium devices, you’ll have access to compatible software included with your purchase, which is ideal if you’re not working with one already, or you want a change.
Some audio interfaces will offer MIDI control, which means you can use your instruments in the MIDI format by connecting everything using the interface. This allows you create real-time samples with your microphone or instrument, allowing you to let your creativity flow.
As a musician or producer, this is something you may want to consider.
Perhaps the most important consideration you’ll want to think about: the quality of the audio recorded. As you can see from our list, the leading and best quality level tends to be 24-bit and 192kHz, unless you’re looking at a device that’s super expensive and professional, which could be higher.
If you want the highest possible audio quality where your tracks will sound amazing, this is the rate you’ll want to look at. Another lower rate is fine if you’re happy to use it, but don’t go too low because your sounds won’t be great.
Frequently Asked Questions When Choosing an Audio Interface
Is an audio interface and a sound card the same thing?
In essence, yes they are, because the jobs that the two devices do are very similar. However, you could regard an audio interface as an external sound card since sound cards tend to already be built into a computer, whereas an audio interface you can take and use anywhere.
If you’re using USB microphones/instruments, do you need an interface?
A very common question since you can plug these USB devices straight into a computer, so is an interface really necessary? Typically, something like a USB microphone will have a sound card inside, so it doesn’t tend to need an interface to work.
However, there are numerous situations where you might still want to use an interface, such as if you’re working with a lot of equipment and want to input the sound in one central place, or if you want to make sure everything is compatible by simply plugging it into the interface and then the computer, removing the need for any installation processes.
As you can see, there are a lot of great audio interface devices out there, and it doesn’t matter what application you want to use one for, there’s a high quality one designed for you. Now all you need to do is get out there and start creating!