Best Audio Interface: Our Top 10 Brands Revealed

Screen showing audio fluctuation

Many people want to find the best audio interface for their individual needs. Shoppers have a price range they are looking to spend, and they want to know how to get the best bang for their buck.

We have broken down some of the best USB audio interfaces on the market to help you pinpoint the best audio interface for you. So ask yourself, how many audio inputs or outputs do I need? Will I use my guitar? Or am I more concerned with voice recording?

What USB transfer speed do I need? Am I using it for fun or for a business? What is my price range? Take a look at the 10 products we reviewed and ask what is the best audio interface choice for you.

​Comparison Table

FAQs for the Best Audio Interfaces

1. What Is an Audio Interface?

2. What Is the Difference between an Audio Interface and a Sound Card?

3. Why Is the Sound Card That Came with My Computer Not Sufficient?

4. Is an Audio Interface Easy to Install and Use?

5. How Many Inputs and Outputs Should an Audio Interface Have?

6. Why Do I Hear Everybody Talking about Latency?

7. Do I Have to Mess with Drivers If I Want to Use an Audio Interface?

Black audio mixer with orange buttons

​Image via Pexels

How We Reviewed

The following audio interfaces were reviewed based on the subsequent parameters: Features, Pros & Cons, Price, Where to Buy, and Warranty. We attempted to approach each interface from the perspective of an advanced user, an intermediate user, and a beginner.

What is perfect for a novice is probably not the best product for an advanced buyer. Advanced is not always better. Do the products do what they claim? Do they fit the bill for the buyer they target? Are they priced fairly for their ability?

A basic one-channel audio interface that is durable, portable, and produces quality sound may be a better product than a $​$$ eight-channel product that is overpriced and doesn’t deliver transparent sound.

Overall Price Range

The price of audio interfaces ranges widely depending on the quality of the product.

Shoppers should not waste their money on perks they do not need or understand. Some of the best audio interface options on the low price end have only two channel audio interfaces.

That is often perfect for an at-home recording because it allows the user to record both voice and music. However, if a more serious user wants to record a complete ensemble, he will need to invest more in a loftier product.

Other variables include things such as microphone preamplifiers. Cheaper models often have preamps that produce transparent sound, meaning they amplify but do not enhance the sound. This is usually fine for simple recordings.

Other units, however, will use preamps that color and enhance the sound of voices or instruments. Still, others place importance on being able to power their interface by a USB instead of a traditional wall plug.

For some, the best audio interface is the one small enough to travel but durable enough not to easily break on road trips. Understanding your own needs will help you understand your potential investment among a wide range of audio interface prices.

What We Reviewed

  • Audient iD4
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
  • Presonus Audio Interface
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD
  • PreSonus Studio 192
  • ​RME Audio Interface FIREFACE802
  • Steinberg UR242
  • Roland OctaCapture
  • Tascam US-20×20
  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio ​2

Audient iD4

Audient iD4 USB 2-in/2-out High Performance Audio Interface
  • USB 2.0 Audio Interface with 1 Class A Mic Preamp
  • 2 Headphone Outputs - Mac/PC/iOS
  • 1 JFET DI

Features

The Audient iD4 High-Performance USB Audio Interface offers a good blend of simplicity and quality sound. The design is compact without sacrificing the performance of a larger competitor.

A superb Audient console mic preamplifier is a key feature along with console controls, and Audient’s own ScrollControl that offers tricks for automation, vocal rides, delay throws and other techniques.

The product also features high-performance converters, all-metal enclosure, and wide bandwidth

Warranty

Limited 1-Year Warranty

Pros

  • ScrollControl is a virtual scroll wheel
  • Mix feature lets you monitor blend of iD4’s inputs and DAW playback
  • Near-zero-latency monitoring while recording

Cons

  • Using iOS devices requires both a camera adaptor and a powered USB hub

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Sale
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
  • Two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gain; two instrument inputs, 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs to connect professional studio monitors; one headphone output with gain control
  • Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP
  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE Venomode DeeQ, Maximal 2, and Pivot, plug-ins upon registration and download.
  • Includes Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite's Red Plug-in Suite, 2GB of Loopmasters samples, Choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Compatible with Windows 7 and higher, and Mac OS X 10.10 and higher. Frequency response - 20 Hz - 20 kHz ± 0.1dB. Supported Sample Rates: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz. Focusrite now offers a 3-Year Warranty on this and all other Focusrite products.

Features

As users seek the best audio interface, the Focusrite Scarlett has become one of the best-selling products in the world. The user will need to install a driver on Windows, but other than that, there are no software installations needed for the for Focusrite Scarlett.

It offers two solid mic preamps and two instrument inputs and no need for DSP. Offering state-of-the-art performance in its price range and very low latency, the Focusrite Scarlett is packed full of features.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 2-Year Warranty

Pros

  • Songwriters can record two mics at once
  • Low latency with plug-ins
  • Super cost-to-value ratio

Cons

  • With iOS you may have to add phono-compatible output cables

Presonus Audio Interface

Sale
PreSonus AudioBox USB 2x2 Audio Interface - Includes Studio One
  • Bus-powered USB audio and MIDI interface
  • 24-bit resolution, 44.1 and 48 kHz sampling rate - NEW VERSION goes to 96 kHz
  • 2 combo mic/instrument inputs with high-performance, low-noise, high-headroom mic preamplifiers
  • Zero-latency analog monitoring
  • Includes free download of Studio One 3 Artist DAW software and 6+ GB of third-party resources after product registration

Features

Well built steel chassis forgoes plastic for excellent durability. For this reason users may be more comfortable transporting the mobile device for recording on the road without fears of damaging the device.

The interface offers two combo input jacks along with Class A mic preamplifiers. Along with one-touch recording options, production software is available for editing songs on Mac and Windows.

Volume knobs offer separate control of headphone volume and main output. A good USB cable comes with the purchase of the Presonus Audio Interface.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 1-Year Warranty

Pros

  • Built with metal instead of plastic for durability
  • Good value without the bells and whistles
  • Standout software included in purchase

Cons

  • Those who progress from beginner to advanced may outgrow the product in time
  • A multi-instrument setup is limited

Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD

Sale
BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC202HD, 2-Channel
  • 2x2 USB 2.0 audio interface for recording microphones and instruments
  • Audiophile 24-Bit/192 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.
  • Streams 2 inputs / 2 outputs with ultra-low latency to your computer, supporting Mac* OS X* and Windows XP* or higher
  • 2 state-of-the-art, MIDAS designed Mic Preamplifiers with +48 V phantom power

Features

In your search for the best audio interface, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD offers a one-stop shot for digital recording. It offers two very clean microphone preamps along with connectivity for keyboards and other instruments.

Other features include latency-free input monitoring and studio quality resolution.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 2-Year Warranty

Pros

  • One-stop shot with everything you need for quality recording
  • Quality MIDAS preamps

Cons

  • There is only one phantom power switch for each of four channels. It’s an all or nothing arrangement

PreSonus Studio 192

PreSonus Studio 192 26x32 USB 3.0 Audio Interface and Studio Command Center
  • Ultra low latency, 26x32, USB 3.0 audio interface and studio command center with up to 24-bit, 192 kHz operation
  • 8 XMAX remote controllable mic preamps, 2 instrument inputs, 6 balanced line level inputs
  • Zero-latency monitoring with Fat Channel processing, preamp control, Talkback routing, and speaker switching from included UC Surface for Mac, PC, or iPad
  • Flawless analog signal path with top-quality 118 dB digital conversion
  • Tightly integrated with included Studio One 3 Artist DAW software and 6+ GB of third-party resources (free download after product registration)

Features

The PreSonus Studio 192 Audio Interface features eight microphone preamplifiers and zero-latency monitoring with StudioLiveTM. Individual stereo outputs have controls accessible from the front panel.

It comes with power supply, USB cable, and software card for easy installation. The Studio 192 product is designed with Studio One, a very effective audio workstation application.

Warranty

It comes with a 1-Year Limited Warranty

Pros

  • High-quality, low-latency
  • Class A XMAX microphone preamps

Cons

  • With OS X 10.10.x and OS X 10.9.x audio does not stream over USB 3.0 when connected to a USB 3.0 Port on a Mac. A USB 2.0 cable is required

​RME Audio Interface FIREFACE802

RME Audio Interface (FIREFACE802)
  • High-end audio - the foreface 802 is a highly integrated Pro audio solution, a full-blown studio, all within a 19" Enclosure. An interface designed for users who don't want to make compromises in sound, stability and ultra-low latency operation, and who long for an unrivaled professional feature set. Once again A milestone interface from RME, including the best of the best and even a bit more

Features

The RME Fireface UCX 36 is a top-of-the-line 36-channel audio interface with an assortment of professional connections including 18 inputs and 18 outputs. Up to 8 analog and 10 digital channels can be recorded onto 18 separate tracks.

It offers quality jitter reduction with its SteadyClock technology that avoids disturbance. All analog inputs and outputs use a low latency converter, and two high-end microphone and instrument preamplifiers utilize RME’s Micstasy technology.

Another high-end preamplifier is available for professional recordings or other critical uses. Other features include a digitally controlled gain of up to 65dB, 100% reproducible level settings, individual phantom power switches for each channel, and two TRS inputs on the front that can also serve as Hi-Z inputs.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 2-Year Warranty

Pros

  • DSP-based TotalMix mixer supports fully independent routing and mixing of all 18 input and playback channels to all 18 physical outputs
  • Two DSP’s ensure an impressive performance
  • DSP hardware calculates RMS and Peak levels for all 54 level meters

Cons

  • Compared with competitors in its higher price range, the mic preamps and single headphone socket make it hard to label as an all-in-one product.

Steinberg UR242

Steinberg UR242 4-Channel USB Interface
  • 4 x 2 USB 2.0 Audio Interface
  • 24-Bit/192 kHz & Class-A D-PRE mic preamps
  • Compatible with all major audio editing, mastering, and music production software
  • MIDI input/output & iPad connectivity
  • Cubase AI and Cubasis LE included

Features

The Steinberg UR242 Audio Interface an all-around solution for novice and intermediate users. The inputs and outputs offer good sound advanced digital signal processing.

The three high points of the UR242 are its quality, cost, and portability. As for quality, users can record with up to four audio channels at a high 24/192 quality.

The portability of the UR242 is seen in its compact size and the durability of its metal casing. Available under $​, this Steinberg product is a great package for the right user.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 1-Year Warranty

Pros

  • Steel casing
  • D-PRE mic preamp offers transparent sound
  • Cost, quality, and mobility

Cons

  • Users with older systems occasionally report running into software and driver struggles

Roland OctaCapture

Roland OctaCapture USB 2.0 Audio Interface
  • Eight Premium Mic Preamps, Compact I/O, Pristine Sound Quality
  • AUTO-SENS function intelligently sets optimal input levels for all preamps
  • Extreme low-latency VS Streaming driver. Low-noise, wide-range power supply. Compact with durable aluminum body and direct box functionality. Bundled with Cakewalk SONAR X1 LE
  • Four independent software-controlled Direct Mixers for creating custom monitor mixes
  • Supports all major DAW platforms on Mac or PC, including OSX 10.6 and Windows 7, through ASIO 2.0/WDM (Windows) and Core Audio (Mac) drivers

Features

With eight microphone preamplifiers, the Roland OctaCapture deserves a look in your search for the best audio interface. All preamps have combo jacks and individual phantom-power.

Its large LCD display makes it easy to access all the product’s functions.

The tone quality is attractive for multi-layered compositions with little need for collusion among various amps, preamps, and mics. It is portable enough to serve a live ensemble in real time. This is more viable because of the OctaCapture’s ability to dial four different stereo monitor mixes for every source.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 1-Year Warranty

Pros

  • An Auto-Sens function allows the DSP to find the best input level for each channel
  • Ability to plug instrument directly into unit and track through SONAR and instrument plug-in

Cons

  • Software panel has no input level meters and triggers for Auto-Sens
  • USB jack is near the power jack making a tight squeeze

Tascam US-20×20

Sale
Tascam US-20x20 USB 3.0 Audio/MIDI Interface with Microphone Preamp/Mixer
  • Packs 20 channels of analog and digital I/O into a single rackspace with great sounding preamps and USB 3.0/2.0 connectivity
  • Eight Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps provide 56dB of gain and high headroom to make microphones sound their best
  • MIDI I/O allows use with controllers and synthesizers, and sample rates up to 192kHz/24-bit are supported
  • The first USB 3.0 interface to use class-compliant drivers for future-proof use with computers and tablets
  • A built-in DSP mixer includes parametric EQ and compression on every channel and a stereo reverb send for great-sounding monitor mixes

Features

The Tascam US20x20 Audio Interface is a fast USB 3 with 20 channels of analog and digital input and output. It features eight quality mic preamplifiers and a DSP mixer with equalizer and compression on every channel.

The unit serves as a digital mixer as well as an external preamp/converter.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 1-Year Warranty

Pros

  • Efficient number of inputs and outputs with low noise levels
  • Monitor mix DSP effects

Cons

  • USB 3.0 is on Windows machines only, otherwise, it is USB 2.0

Native Instruments Komplete Audio ​2

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Two-Channel Audio Interface
  • Easily record audio into your computer
  • Choose from two flavors - same pristine audio quality, different ways to plug in and play back
  • The full package for creating - All the software you need to record and build tracks, plus synths, effects, and more
  • Plug in a pair of mics together using the two combi-xlr/jack inputs
  • Connect to studio monitors, or plug in on stage with dual Jack outputs

Features

Six inputs and six outputs are noteworthy compared to many of its competitors in the same class, making the Native Instruments Komplete Audio ​2 a contender in your search for the best audio interface options.

Separate knobs for monitor levels and headphone levels gives simple control over your production. You can use the headphone jack as an additional output, totaling three stereo outs.

Warranty

It comes with a limited 1-Year Warranty

Pros

  • Flexibility through simplicity
  • Purchase includes ideal software package

Cons

  • There is some noise at the top end, but users that power-hungry may be in need of an upgrade

The Verdict

Like many pieces of technology, the best buy often depends on the needs of the buyer. For those starting simple who want a reliable and basic audio interface, the Audient ID4 is hard to beat. Its balance of features for a low price make it a favorite among buyers. It is truly difficult to find a regretful buyer.


Among intermediate products, the Roland OctaCapture gets our nod of approval. The Roland’s array of features at its middle price point is truly impressive. With eight outputs and three stereo headphone mixes, it is truly a great product at a great price.

A buyer with a big budget and bigger ideas cannot go wrong with the RME Audio Interface FIREFACE802​ and its 36-channel offering. It connects via USB or Firewire, features six internal memory slots, and can be pre-configured away from a computer.

Moreover, it has some of the best iPad capabilities available, including eight iPad analog inputs.
You may or may not have a need for iPad performance. Every shopper has their own sets of needs, wants, and budget. That means finding the best audio interface is a subjective and personal undertaking. You now have the knowledge to get started on the journey.

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