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Science And Nature

Best audio interfaces of 2022

Updated Sep 13, 2022 8: 58 PM

Youve got the microphones, guitars, and keyboards. Youve got the computer. Now you simply need to have them talking. Thats where in fact the best audio interfaces can be found in. Because the conduit between your analog and digital worlds, your audio interface is among the most important devices in the chain of article marketing. Whether youre recording or livestreaming, your interface determines the signal quality you capture and level of creative flexibility you have. Conversions, inputs and outputs, and portability/expandability are simply a number of the considerations when picking an interface. Nevertheless, you dont need to scroll through specs attempting to seem sensible of everything. Weve surveyed the marketplace and picked the best audio interfaces to meet up your needs regardless of the scale of one’s projects or budget.

How exactly we selected the very best audio interfaces

Audio interfaces can be found in a vast selection of configurations and we selected models in line with the most typical needs of content creators, musicians, livestreamers, and podcasters. Quite a few selections are outfitted with super-versatile combo inputs that accommodate XLR and 1/4-inch connections which are appropriate for most microphones, instruments, and line-level devices like keyboards. Connectivity can be a significant factor in determining the usefulness and system compatibility of audio interfaces; we selected a number of units that use either USB, Thunderbolt, Lightning, or some combination thereof. Interfaces with fewer inputs are naturally smaller and better suitable for portable use, while interfaces with an increase of inputs are perfect for large-scale studio use and will often have designs that reflect this. This list represents the complete spectrum, with portable single-input interface at one end and probably the most expandable 26-input, 26-output interface at another. Finally, high analog-to-digital conversion bitrate and recording quality are crucial features to consider when selecting the very best audio interface for professional use. In the event that you plan to use audio recorded during your interface for just about any production-level application, be it streaming, film scoring, or podcasting, industry standards favor utilizing the highest-available quality of audio, that is generally a depth of 24 bits and sample rates of either 96 kHz or 192 kHz.

Points to consider before buying an audio interface

Audio interfaces can be found in a broad selection of input numbers, so its vital that you decide on a unit that fits the kind of content youre creating. Single- or double-channel audio interfaces ought to be sufficient for basic streaming and podcasting work, but musicians should choose four or even more inputs in order to avoid being painted right into a corner creatively. An eight-input interface is the greatest place to begin with regards to flexibility, but remember that those units arent as portable as a two-input design.

Which kind of audio are you currently recording?

The majority of the units with this list include specially-shaped combo inputs that may accommodate both XLR and 1/4-inch TRS connectors, allowing a number of microphones and instruments to be utilized and that will supply the most flexibility in working environments. Compare the kind of audio equipment youre seeking to capture having an audio interfaces inputs can save lots of headache down the road; for instance, the iRig HD 2 is really a convenient single-input interface, but its not appropriate for microphones.

Do you want portability?

Probably the most portable audio interfaces generally have no more than two inputs, with some models offering expansion via their ports. To increase the portability factor, choose an audio interface thats powered via its link with the computer. This kind of design limits the necessity for extra electrical wiring, looked after enables you to record remotely only using the battery of a laptop.

Do you want expandability?

If youre looking to create a studio or expand your production later on, choose an audio interface with ADAT optical inputs just like the PreSonus Quantum 2626. An individual ADAT port generally allows interfaces to simply accept yet another eight channels of audio from another compatible dedicated unit over a straightforward optical cable, effectively doubling as well as tripling the capability of a base model eight-input interface.

Best audio interfaces: Reviews & Recommendations

Best professional: Apogee Element 88

Why it made the cut: This compact interface from Apogee offers high-headroom microphone preamps with switchable phantom power and high-fidelity analog-to-digital conversion in a design thats outwardly minimalist yet highly expandable.

Specs:

  • Inputs:
    • 4 x Microphone/Line/Instrument combo
    • 4 x Microphone
    • 2 x ADAT optical
    • Word clock
  • Outputs:
    • 2 x Stereo out
    • 2 x Headphone out
    • 2 x ADAT optical
    • Word clock
  • Connection Type: Thunderbolt
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Around 24-bit/192 kHz

Pros:

  • Highly expandable
  • Fully software-controlled
  • Compact, minimalist design
  • Flexible preamp design

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Thunderbolt only
  • No daisy-chaining support

The Element 88the flagship model in Apogees least expensive type of sub-$2,000 pro studio audio interfacesis our pick to find the best professional audio interface. It includes a amount of appealing design features to greatly help users use speed and flexibility. Most of all, its minimalist front and back panels are free from switches, knobs, along with other tactile elements, with all level control and switching occurring in Apogees control software using the pc itself. This feature allows users to spotlight the screen with no need to pivot to adjusting real hardware, which may be cumbersome and distracting in creative settings.

The Element 88 is ideal for simultaneous recording of large groups with a number of configurations like drums, keyboards, guitars, vocals, and much more. It houses eight built-in switchable analog preamps, each using its own phantom power and four that automatically accommodate high-impedance signals such as for example those from electric guitars and basses and line-level signals such as for example those from keyboards and synths. Theyre all easy to get at from leading panel of the interface, making setup fast and simple. The interface also contains pro features like BNC word clock in and out for synchronization with other compatible digital gear.

Apogees products are located in professional studios everywhere and theyre known for his or her clear, open, and transparent sound, and also their capability to record at qualities around 24-bit/192 kHz, if you want a futureproof pro-level interface, the Element 88 is a good option. Remember that while this interface is expandable to 16 inputs via an ADAT optical connection, it only has one Thunderbolt port, which prevents daisy-chaining of multiple Thunderbolt devices. This isnt a concern if youre utilizing a different model interface for expansion, but if you wish to use multiple Apogee Element units, your personal computer needs two Thunderbolt ports. Remember aswell that Thunderbolt ports are more common natively on Macs (though could be put into Windows computers through PCIe expansion cards) and newer Macs use USB-C ports allowing you to connect Thunderbolt devices.

Best for livestreaming: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Why it made the cut: The compact Scarlett 2i2 from Focusrite sports an intuitive layout and two versatile input preamps which make it ideal for owning a basic recording or livestreaming setup.

Specs:

  • Inputs:
    • 2 x Microphone/Line/Instrument combo
  • Outputs:
    • Stereo out
    • Headphone out
  • Connection Type: USB
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Around 24-bit/192 kHz

Pros:

  • Small and portable
  • High-quality converters
  • Simple, easy-to-use design
  • USB bus-powered; no wall wart required
  • Accommodates all sorts of audio signal

Cons:

  • Not expandable
  • Only two inputs and something headphone output

Even probably the most minimalist recording setups require gear thats robust enough to provide high-quality audio. The Scarlett 2i2 is really a compact USB-powered workhorse that provides pro features like combo inputs, 48-volt phantom power for condenser microphones, and 24-bit/192kHz analog-to-digital conversion at a realistic price point, rendering it the very best audio interface for live streamers, mobile recordists, voiceover artists, and much more.

Most elementary livestreaming and podcasting setups require a couple of microphones for the most part for voice capture, therefore the two-input capacity of the Scarlett 2i2 helps it be a lean and fitting choice for this type of context. This stripped-down design allows it to draw all its power from USB, that makes it smaller sized than a few of its competitors that want an external power. Its minimal capacity also helps it be a good option for use as a stereo output when working with software synths, samplers, along with other line-level computer-based sources.

As the Scarlett 2i2s small-but-mighty design is among its main strengths, it doesnt have the capability nor the expandability of larger audio interfaces. Other competing stuff like the Audient iD14 are simply as small but include ADAT inputs for adding eight more preamps to your setup if the need arise. If youre seeking to record a lot more than three sources simultaneously, whether theyre microphones or instruments, you may opt for one of these brilliant ADAT-compatible interfaces or grab one just like the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 which include eight of its.

Best for home studios: PreSonus Quantum 2626

Why it made the cut: This rack-mountable interface from PreSonus offers capacity, expandability, and an attribute set rivaling that of interfaces twice its price, rendering it an attractive choice for small and home studios.

Specs:

  • Inputs:
    • 2 x Microphone/Instrument combo
    • 6 x Microphone/Line combo
    • 2 x ADAT optical
    • 2 x Line return
    • S/PDIF
    • MIDI
    • Word clock
  • Outputs:
    • Stereo out
    • 2 x Preamp out
    • 8 x Line out
    • 2 x ADAT optical
    • S/PDIF
    • MIDI
    • Word clock
  • Connection Type: Thunderbolt
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Around 24-bit/192 kHz

Pros:

  • Great value for a pro-level feature set
  • Expandable via ADAT to 26 inputs and 26 outputs
  • Line returns for integration with outboard gear
  • Extremely low latency
  • Includes DAW software

Cons:

  • Only two instrument inputs
  • Thunderbolt cable not included

PreSonus includes a way with engineering pro-quality gear and rendering it available at an acceptable price and the companys Quantum 2626 could be the best example yet. Rack-mountable and decked out with BNC word clock, ADAT, Thunderbolt, 48-volt phantom power, 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA conversion, and a bunch of analog I/O, that is among the best audio interfaces for home recording because of its sheer capability to integrate with other audio gear and expand together with the changing needs of all studios.

Importantly, the Quantum 2626 comes bundled with digital audio workstation (DAW) software including Ableton Live Lite and PreSonuss own Studio One Artist, causeing this to be a perfect option for jumpstarting a fresh recording setup. It includes a total of eight microphone preamps, two which are appropriate for instruments and six which are appropriate for line-level signals. Its ADAT and S/PDIF inputs allow users to expand to an impressive total of 26 inputs and 26 outputs, causeing this to be a straightforward and cost-effective choice when you have aspirations to cultivate your studio down the road. The unit also contains its dedicated line returns for inline interfacing with outboard gear line compressors and equalizers.

While this unit does connect via the most recent and snappiest version of Thunderbolt, it doesnt add a Thunderbolt cable, which should be purchased separately and arent inexpensive. This might switch off some users, however the Quantum 2626 continues to be a lot more affordable than a lot of its direct competitors by several hundred dollars. Its limit of two instrument inputs also affects its usefulness as a guitar or bass preamp, but this is often circumvented with a direct injection (DI) box just like the Whirlwind Imp 2, that allows 1/4-inch connections to be changed into XLR form for use with any microphone preamp.

Best for guitar: IK Multimedia iRig HD 2

Why it made the cut: This pocket-sized interface comes bundled with amplifier simulation software and carries a dedicated amplifier output, rendering it ideal for recording to Mac, iPad, and iPhone while integrating with existing rigs.

Specs:

  • Inputs
    • Instrument
  • Outputs
    • Amp output
    • Headphone out
  • Connection Type: USB, Lightning
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Around 24-bit/96 kHz

Pros:

  • Smaller when compared to a smartphone
  • Includes amplifier simulation software
  • Onboard quick-adjust volume and signal controls
  • Headphone output for easy monitoring

Cons:

  • Instrument only; no line-level or microphone sources
  • Prevents device charging during use

If youre searching for the very best audio interface for guitar, the iRig HD 2 is really a robust quick-start option thats small enough to match on any desk or put on a gig bag. Though minimal in its design, it sports thoughtful features like onboard level controls, an integral headphone output, and an optional amp throughput for sending signal to some type of computer and an amplifier simultaneously. Its appropriate for Mac and PC and connects using either Lightning or USB (cables included).

Besides its portable shape and its own capability to capture high-quality 24-bit/96 kHz audio, among the iRig HD 2s most crucial features is its bundled amplifier simulation software, Amplitube. This program carries a host of virtual pedal effects and amplifier cabinets for creating realistic, studio-quality guitar recordings lacking any amplifier or external FX rig. Not merely does the program eliminate the dependence on bulky recording equipment, nonetheless it allows users to record loud guitar tones in near-complete silence, causeing this to be an excellent option for recording during the night, in shared spaces, and on the run.

The iRig HD 2 is without a doubt a fantastic choice for mobile recording, minimalist setups, and guitar demo use, nonetheless it can only just accommodate an individual 1/4-inch instrument input, so its not appropriate for microphones or multi-instrument setups. Additionally, when used in combination with an iPad or an iPhone, this interface occupies the devices Lightning port and eliminates the opportunity to charge during use. If youll be recording for long stretches on an iOS device, make sure to bring along a charger or perhaps a battery power to juice up between takes.

Best budget: PreSonus AudioBox USB

Why it made the cut: This simple interface packs two combo inputs, speaker and headphone outputs, and high-quality 24-bit/96 kHz analog-to-digital conversion into an inexpensive bus-powered unit.

Specs:

  • Inputs
    • 2 x Microphone/Instrument combo
    • MIDI
  • Outputs
    • Stereo out
    • Headphone out
    • MIDI
  • Connection Type: USB
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Around 24-bit/96 kHz

Pros:

  • Powered via USB
  • Studio-quality analog-to-digital conversion
  • Combo inputs for microphones and instruments
  • Includes recording software

Cons:

  • Limited by two inputs
  • Phantom power affects both channels simultaneously

If you want a straightforward, portable audio interface for powering a little podcasting setup or barebones recording studio on a budget, the two-channel PreSonus AudioBox will probably be worth a look. Its two combo inputs accommodate XLR microphones, along with 1/4-inch instrument inputs, and contains simple stereo outputs for a couple of speakers in addition to a single headphone output for monitoring. A knob on leading panel allows users to regulate the mix between their prerecorded audio and their live signal, eliminating the normal latency and delay conditions that are typical of digital recording.

Our pick to get the best budget audio interface, this unit is bundled with a substantial level of recording software including Ableton Live Lite and Studio One Artist Edition, that makes it an excellent option for users that are beginning with square one. In addition, it has high-quality converters with the capacity of recording at fidelity around 24-bit/96 kHz, also it includes MIDI inputs and outputs allowing you to connect keyboards along with other devices.

The bare-minimum design of the AudioBox includes some perks and also some drawbacks. For instance, its powered with a single USB connection and doesnt need a separate wall wart, so its ideal for remote laptop recording from electricity. Simultaneously, it cant provide independent phantom capacity to each input, which means you cant work with a powered condenser microphone and a sensitive ribbon microphone simultaneously. Its single headphone output also requires users to create their very own splitter or headphone amp if theyre dealing with others. Still, if youre in a position to work within its limits, the AudioBox is a good value.

FAQs

Q: Are costly audio interfaces worthwhile?

The more you may spend on an audio interface, the much more likely it is to possess high-quality analog-to-digital conversion, efficient design, and expandable I/O. Having said that, you dont need to break your budget to achieve great results. The relatively affordable Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, for instance, has the capacity to record at an extremely high 24-bit/192 kHz quality (an answer that satisfies the expectations of mastering engineers and lossless streaming services like Apple Music, etc.). Still, its limited by only two inputs. Whether a far more expensive audio interface will probably be worth it for you boils down to whether you value capacity, expandability, and futureproof design.

Q: Why is one audio interface much better than another?

Audio interfaces combine many critical components within a unit including analog-to-digital conversion and preamplifiers. The very best audio interfaces are generally probably the most flexible and may accommodate a variety of input types from condenser microphones to keyboards. The more costly an audio interface is, the more choices for expandability it will offer.

Q: Just how long does an audio interface last?

Theres no real limit on the lifespan of an audio interface beyond the deprecation of its connector type. For instance, Apple recently stopped designing computers with FireWire ports, which was previously commonly entirely on audio interfaces for the higher part of ten years. The unit can be used in combination with an adapter, but if youre searching for an interface with stamina, pick one with a more recent connector like Thunderbolt or USB-C.

Summary on choosing the right audio interfaces

Whether youre livestreaming, podcasting, making music, or recording voiceovers, an audio interface can be an essential little bit of gear allowing you to connect analog audio equipment together with your computer. When searching for the very best audio interface to your requirements, remember the amount of simultaneous inputs youll require: a two-input unit just like the PreSonus AudioBox USB could be sufficient for a streaming, vocal, or podcasting setup, while an eight-input interface just like the PreSonus Quantum 2626 is way better fitted to recording a complete band. Mobile recordists could also prefer a bus-powered audio interface just like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, that allows one to record on the run with no need for an external power. No matter your objective, its vital that you pick an audio interface that matches the scale of one’s studio and accommodates your preferences for portability, expandability, and audio quality.

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