The 6 Best Audio Interfaces

Upgrade your music production setup

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The Rundown
"Huge performance, neat metering choices, and genius scroll control."
"Delivers clear and lifelike sound with ample headroom."
"Perfect for the Macaholics out there, the Apollo is a scaled-down alternative to its predecessors."
"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."
"Crafted specifically so you can record anywhere, on any device, any time."

Best Overall: Audient iD4 USB 2-in/2-out High Performance

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.

Best USB: BEHRINGER U-Phoria Audio Interface (UMC22)

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.

Best for Mac: Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo APLTWDII

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.

Best for Bands: Audient iD44 20in/24out High Performance

Audient iD44 20in/24out High Performance

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.

Best for Studio Professionals: RME UFX+ Fireface USB & Thunderbolt

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.

Best for Portability: IK Multimedia iRig PRO DUO 2 Channel

IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo 2 Channel

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.

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