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Best Overall: Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd Gen) USB at Amazon
"A midrange model that sports the same dazzling red anodized aluminum wraparound case."
Runner up, Best Overall: Audient iD4 USB High Performance at Amazon
"Huge performance, neat metering choices, and genius scroll control."
Best USB: BEHRINGER U-Phoria Audio Interface (UMC22) at Amazon
"Delivers clear and lifelike sound with ample headroom."
Best for Mac: Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo APLTWDII at Amazon
"Perfect for the Macaholics out there, the Apollo is a scaled-down alternative to its predecessors."
Best for Solo Artists: Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) USB at Amazon
"Has a single microphone input and an instrument input that’s perfect for you and your guitar."
Best for Bands: Audient iD44 20in/24out High Performance at Amazon
"This audio interface is ideal for smaller bands."
Best for Studio Professionals: RME UFX+ Fireface at Amazon
"This audio interface is built just for those purposes, with up to a jaw-dropping 94 channels of I/O."
Best for Portability: IK Multimedia iRig PRO DUO 2 Channel at Amazon
"Crafted specifically so you can record anywhere, on any device, any time."
courtesy of Amazon
Focusrite’s Scarlett line of audio interfaces is impressive, especially when you consider the competitive pricing. This 6i6 is a midrange model that sports the same dazzling red anodized aluminum wraparound case as the others in its line. It’s fairly basic when it comes to connectivity; it has two mic preamps with even gain, two instrument inputs plus two additional line-level analog inputs. There are also two headphone outputs with individual level control.
It handles monitor and output routing in addition to global sample rate and sync settings (at up to 24-bit/192kHz). On top of that, it includes MIDI in and out and is powered via external PSU; there are front panel LEDs for both MIDI and USB activity. Perhaps the most notable feature of the 6i6 is the analog preamp design, which yields clean gain for mic, line and instrument inputs.
Prices of professional audio interfaces can creep up to the thousands, but there are plenty of budget options on the market that still produce high-quality audio. This Audient iD4 is a great example, delivering a big-console performance in a tiny desktop chassis. It comes equipped with one Class A console mic preamps, a discrete JFET DI, class-leading conversion technology, two headphone jacks, and console-style monitoring control.
Audient uses the same mic preamp across all of its product lines so you can be confident that it sounds great, even in a budget audio interface. We’re a big fan of Audient’s ScrollControl virtual scroll wheel, which allows you to use the volume knob to tweak your DAW and plug-in parameters, and even scroll through your song library.
With a compact footprint, the iD4 measures just 2.4 x 5.3 x 4.7 inches and weighs 2.2 pounds, making it easy to transport from home to studio. But don’t let its size fool you; we applaud its huge performance, neat metering choices and genius scroll control.
You don’t need the fanciest equipment to record audio at home. This tiny U-Phoria audio interface will capture your sounds in high quality without depleting your bank account. It houses a MIDAS microphone preamp, which delivers clear and lifelike sound with ample headroom, while the dedicated instrument input onboard will capture your guitar, bass or piano in all its glory. The preamp includes +48V phantom power onboard so you can use your choice of quality condenser microphones with it. Its plug-and-play simplicity makes it perfect for a beginner or a singer/songwriter who doesn’t need many inputs.
Perfect for the Macaholics out there, the Apollo Twin MKII is a scaled-down alternative to its predecessors, boasting incredible audio quality and real-time tracking. It’s a desktop-format 2-in 6-out interface with 24-bit/192kHz capabilities that connects to both Macs and PCs via a Thunderbolt cable (not included). Universal Audio has bolstered the AD/DA converters to deliver even more dynamic range and less distortion, producing a super clean and transparent sound.
Included is also a bundle of UAD analog emulation plug-ins, which you can track through in real time with UAD-2 SOLO, DUO or QUAD Core processing. And if you plan to grow your studio, you can connect up to 4 Apollo interfaces and 6 UAD-2 devices over Thunderbolt, adding DSP and I/O (input/output). Perhaps best yet, it takes 100 percent of the load off of your Mac; meaning no more fans spinning and low noise.
If you’re a singer or songwriter, you don’t need a complex audio interface setup, but you still need a high-quality one. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo makes a perfect audio interface companion, with a single microphone input and an instrument input that’s perfect for you and your guitar. The volume knob and headphone output sit right on the front, as well as a gain knob that indicates your recording levels. It connects to your Mac or PC via USB and its digital conversion operates at up to 24-bit and up to 192kHz to ensure you capture your sound in all its glory without distortion, no matter how softly or loudly you play.
Bundled into this purchase are a suite of professional tools, including XLN Audio Addictive Keys, one of four inspiring and interesting keyboard instruments; Softube’s Time and Tone Bundle, four of Softube's reverb, delay, mastering and distortion plug-ins; Ableton Live Lite music-making software and 2GB of royalty-free sample libraries from Loopmasters.
In contrast to singers and songwriters, your garage band will need an audio interface with lots and lots of inputs. Of course, it depends on your band’s setup, but if you have a guitar, a bass, a keyboard, a singer and a drummer, you’ll need at least five, but more realistically 10, inputs or so. The Audient iD44 has 4 console class mic preamps that can be used directly with singers or guitar cabinets and dual DI inputs give you perfect inputs for instruments.
This audio interface is ideal for smaller bands, but if you want to incorporate additional instruments or a large drum kit, you can use the digital ADAT inputs on the back. ADAT inputs provide eight channels of audio and let you expand your audio interface, though you’ll have to purchase an 8-channel ADAT box, giving you eight more microphone or line level inputs. The iD44 doesn’t come cheap, either, but your bandmates will agree that solid recording sound is priceless.
If you’re a professional, you often pay a lot for professional equipment. But this RME Fireface UFX+ audio interface is worth every penny. After all, in a studio setting, you need to route audio from a variety of sources and you’re likely using a lot of outboard gear for your preamps and DI inputs. This audio interface is built just for those purposes, with up to a jaw-dropping 94 channels of I/O over ADAT and MADI. On the analog side, you can use the 4 XLR/TRS combo jacks on the front, plus the eight line-level inputs on the back.
For outputs, you get six TRS and dual XLR jacks on the back, plus twin headphone outputs. The digital I/O bolsters that number, with 64 channels to the MADI protocol and 16 channels via ADAT. It connects via USB or Thunderbolt and can record multichannel audio directly to a USB thumb drive, letting you skip over the computer altogether. Despite its complex setup, reviewers praise the UFX+ for its simple user experience; a winning combination that you’ll be hard-pressed to beat.
Some audio interfaces can be cumbersome to schlep around, but the iRig Pro Duo doesn't have this problem. It’s crafted specifically so you can record anywhere, on any device, with sound quality on par with what you’d expect in the studio. It’s hands-down the best mobile option out there, featuring everything you could need from a two-channel audio interface: MIDI, phantom power, direct monitoring, signal metering, combi XLR/Hi-Z inputs. Its gain knobs are flat, which goes a long way in cutting down the profile of its design.
You can connect directly to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop with the included cables and can be powered by either battery (two AAs) or by your computer’s USB. Reviewers complain that it burns through batteries like wildfire, but it’s easy to overlook that issue when you hear its stellar sound quality; it has low noise floor, signals are clear. And better still, it has virtually no latency.