So many audio interfaces, so little time! To help you navigate the ins and outs when you're getting started as a beginner or as a new studio builder, here is a guide we put together to showcase some of the best interfaces and bundles out there as of May 2019. We also picked out the best value deals we could find on these and put links throughout. Be sure to add them to your cart from here!
The Importance of an Audio Interface
Getting into recording music with a computer is easier and more affordable than ever! Never before in history has so much music creation technology been available so widespread at such a reasonable price point. The audio interface is the heart of that equation. An audio interface takes analog signals from things in the real world and converts them to digital signals for processing in the software running on your computer. It also returns them back to the real world so you can hear what you’re making. In essence, without an audio interface that meets your needs, your recordings just won’t be able to get off the ground at all.
I have a microphone, now what?
So now you have some songs written, or your first podcast is scheduled and you want to record it. With so many audio interfaces to choose from, where do you start? It can be overwhelming deciding what you need first, which gear is worth the money and even what some of these terms even mean or tools even are. Below, we put a guide together to showcase some of the best interfaces and bundles out there as of May 2019. So, maybe you know a lot about music but not sure what interface to get or this is your first time getting into studio technology, you’ll find the guide below will be most helpful in making a decision.
The Best Interfaces to Start With, With the Most Bang for the Buck, [Ranked Cheapest to Most Expensive]
Behringer Xenyx 302USB Interface & Mixer:
Get plugged in to great sound!
This little interface packs a big punch! Behringer has always been a brand that creates low cost access to reliable equipment that can always be recommended when you’re first setting sail. It hooks up to your computer with a simple USB cable and has lots of different inputs for everything from a microphone to an AUX IN (phone, laptop, etc) and then back out to speakers and headphones. If you’re not sure if digital audio recording is something you want to really dive into, this Behringer unit is a great first step. Not only will it help you get your audio in and out of your computer, it has few extra features that will make your recording experience much more efficient & smooth.
Pros: Price point is unbeatable, lots of extra useful features not on other interfaces in this range.
Cons: Only has one microphone input, which could be outgrown quickly
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2:
A bundle to jumpstart great recordings!
The Scarlett 2i2 by Focusrite is a massively popular interface! There are so many of these out in the world getting daily use that just by owning one you’ll embracing a rising industry standard. It’s got plenty of connections and is rock solid reliable when recording, not prone to dropouts like some other cheap interfaces. The sound of how it captures microphones through its preamps is surprisingly great, considering this is usually the part companies will create cheaply. You can’t go wrong with the Scarlett!
We're featuring the bundle because we are blown away that all of these necessary essentials come in the same pack - namely the pop filter, mic stand, cables. headphones, and the microphone. Take advantage of collecting this kind of gear as you set out. You'll be surprised how much you'll find yourself using it later.
Pros: Proven track record for being a reliable interface. Bundle is a ridiculous deal
Cons: Though you can use it on the stage, it isn’t incredibly bomb proof or rugged.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo (MKII):
The producer's choice
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo! For those who are serious about music production and want a high quality solution to rival what the pros are using, this is it. Rock solid construction, great preamps and some of the best conversion to get those real world sounds in the box with the most reality retained. And of course, you get access to the the renowned UAD plug in technology which puts sonic imprints of some of the best studio hardware at your fingertips. This updated version, the MKII, also has a built-in talkback microphone, very handy for sessions with people who are not right next to you.
Pros: The sound, the construction, the reliability, access to UAD plug-ins.
Cons: Thunderbolt connectivity is not accessible to everyone.
Line 6 HD PRO X:
Get great sounding guitar & bass recordings
Many people simply need a home audio interface & computer recording rig to record their guitar or bass parts. The Line 6 HD Pro X is an edge amp & effects pedal simulator with some of the best sounding models for the price. It also has all the connections you need to use it as an audio interface and record high quality versions of your parts, just like if you were using an amplifier with a microphone on it! My favorite part about Line 6 gear is that it is doing all of this processing without causing noticeable latency to your playing, something many modelers have historically struggled with.
Pros: A great all-in-one option for musicians that primarily record guitar, bass and keyboards.
Cons: Rack unit takes up more space than some of the other interfaces on this list.
Presonus StudioLive AR12:
Easily record rehearsals & shows
If you are looking for a solution to record your rehearsals and be able to mix them later or use what you capture on future tracks, the Presonus StudioLive series was built for you! More and more, being able to capture great sounding multitrack recordings of live performances and even rehearsals is becoming a critical element in the life of any artist. With the Presonus StudioLive, you’ll be able to have a PA system, monitors and a recording rig all in one package that anyone can use!
Pros: Makes so much possible! Lots of flexibility, easy to use, love the built-in effects
Cons: Will require extra space. Can seem daunting, but really isn’t
Antelope Orion Studio:
Great for new studios & drummers
It is really hard to beat the Antelope Orion Studio in sound quality, connectivity and price. If you’re building your first studio out or know you’ll be recording things that will require lots of inputs (like drums or multiple keyboards), then starting out with something like an Antelope Orion is really your best bet. The price point is the highest on this list, but is something you can build a whole studio & production plan around without worrying about outgrowing it. It also features many of the same wonderful attributes as the other interfaces on this list, such as plug-in modeling similar to Universal Audio UAD and amplifier modeling similar to Line 6. The USB connection on this is rock solid and works flawlessly with both Mac & PC. Lastly, the preamps on this unit are incredible and will really light up everything from vocals to strings to drums and beyond.
Pros: An incredible sounding interface at a tremendous value that can work in your setup at any stage in your career
Cons: A little more costly to get into, but will hold its value