Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces On The Market

0 Sep 15 2014 in Reviews
Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces On The Market

If you’re looking to record audio into your DAW and feed high quality audio through your studio monitors, then an audio interface is a must have.

Unfortunately, most people tend to go for whatever’s cheap. While there are good budget interfaces out there (some of which are showcased in this post), it’s hard to find which interface stands up in terms of build quality, functionality, and reliability.

In this post I’m going to share 10 of the best audio interfaces on that you can buy. Ranging from entry level, under $200 interfaces, to more expensive, high-end interfaces.

What to Consider When Buying an Interface

While reading this post and looking at the different interfaces on offer, you have to be aware of a few things:

A/D Conversion

If you’re new to production, A/D and D/A (digital & analog) conversion is the last thing you should worry about. It makes little sense to worry about the negligible difference that high quality converters make unless you’re using high quality monitors in an acoustically treated room.

Bad A/D converters do exist, though, especially on cheaper interfaces. It can be problematic.

D/A Conversion

Digital to analog conversion happens when audio travels from your computer, through your interface, and out through your speakers. For the most part, D/A conversion is going to be fine on almost all interfaces, with the difference being between the very high-end models and super cheap models. The difference here is miniscule, but if there’s a general consensus that a certain interface has bad D/A conversion, it’s probably worth avoiding it.

Latency

Latency is a much more important factor when it comes to choosing an interface. If you’re recording vocals, instruments, or whatever else, then it’s important that you have no latency when monitoring (not only is it annoying, but it can severely inhibit someone’s ability to perform).

Mic Preamps

The final thing you should consider when buying an audio interface is the preamps. If you’re using it for recording, then you want decent preamps, hands down.

Low quality interfaces may require you to run the gain right up before getting to a decent recording level, resulting in a lot more noise and artifacts. Other interfaces will provide a decent amount of headroom and make recording a breeze.

As a general rule, the higher the cost of the interface, the better the preamps.

Enough of the technical explanation, let’s look at interfaces!


10. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The most popular choice among bedroom producers and home studios run on a budget, this interface is by far the best in its price range. It looks fantastic, it’s robust, and it simply does what any good interface should do. Did I mention it comes with Ableton Live Lite?

Stand-out Features:

  • Minimal noise when recording
  • Very low latency
  • Rugged build
  • Incredibly portable

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs
  • 2 TRS outputs
  • USB powered
  • USB 2.0 connection

Learn more about the Focusrite Saffire 2i2 and purchase it here.

9. Steinberg UR22

Steinberg UR22

The Steinberg UR22 sits right next to the Saffire 2i2 in its entry-level price bracket. It’s durable, has D-pre preamps, and comes with a copy of Cubase AI6 so you can get started with it straight away. If you’re after a reasonably priced interface with amazing preamps, then the UR22 is a great pick.

Stand-out Features:

  • Extremely durable
  • Class A "D-pre” preamps
  • Latency-free hardware monitoring

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs
  • 2 TRS outputs
  • USB powered
  • USB 2.0 connection
  • MIDI I/O

Learn more about the Steinberg UR22 and purchase it here.

8. Lexicon Alpha

Lexicon Alpha

If you’re on a really tight budget and can’t stretch to the UR22 or 2i2, then the Lexicon Alpha is a good choice. It’s an interface that will do the job, and do it reasonably well, but you may experience some issues with drivers. It also doesn’t have phantom power, which might be a deal breaker for some.

Stand-out Features:

  • Very well priced
  • Comes with Cubase LE
  • Zero-latency
  • Lexicon Pantheon VST reverb plugin

Tech Specs:

  • 1 XLR input
  • 2 TRS inputs
  • 1 ¼” Hi-Z input
  • 2 TRS & RCA outputs
  • USB powered
  • USB 2.0 connection

Learn more about the Lexicon Alpha and purchase it here.

7. Komplete Audio 6

Komplete Audio 6

Native Instruments stands for quality, and Komplete Audio 6 is a pure representation of that. This beautifully designed interface is perfect for the bedroom producer and live performer with its logical layout and strong build.

Stand-out Features:

  • Direct monitoring
  • Low-latency
  • 15 status LEDs (great for performance)
  • Includes: Traktor 2 LE, Komplete Elements, and Cubase LE

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR combo inputs
  • 2 TRS inputs
  • 2 S/PDIF inputs
  • 4 TRS & 2 S/PDIF outputs
  • MIDI I/O
  • USB powered
  • USB 2.0 connection

Learn more about the Komplete Audio 6 and purchase it here.

6. Roland Quad-Capture

Roland Quad-Capture

The Roland Quad-Capture sets the record for the least amount of customer complaints. It’s incredibly stable and features something that sets it apart from the other interfaces out there – Auto-Sens, which intelligently sets the optimal levels for both preamps.

Stand-out Features:

  • Auto-Sens functionality
  • Stability
  • Includes Cakewalk Sonar X1 LE
  • Crystal clear preamps

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs
  • 2 TRS outputs
  • S/PDIF I/O
  • MIDI I/O
  • USB powered
  • USB 2.0 connection

Learn more about the Roland Quad-Capture and purchase it here.

5. AKAI Professional EIE Pro

AKAI Professional EIE Pro

A big difference in the size department, the AKAI Professional EIE Pro is an extremely well built 4-in/4-out audio interface that even features a USB hub. It also boasts classical VU meters for those of you who miss that kind of stuff.

Stand-out Features:

  • USB hub
  • Zero-latency
  • Fancy VU meters
  • Rugged build

Tech Specs:

  • 4 XLR/TRS combo inputs
  • 4 TRS outputs
  • MIDI I/O
  • USB 2.0 connection

Learn more about the AKAI Professional EIE Pro and purchase it here.

4. MOTU UItraLite-MK3 Hybrid

MOTU UItraLite-MK3 Hybrid

Moving up in price we’ve got the MOTU UltraLite-mk3 Hybrid. It’s beyond most bedroom producer’s needs unless you’ve got a lot of hardware synths and instruments that you want connected. The 10-in/14-out interface can be connected via USB as well as FireWire, and has built-in reverb, EQ, and compression effects – something that many other interfaces don’t have.

Stand-out Features:

  • Solid build
  • Built-in effects
  • Professional-grade preamps

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs
  • 8 dedicated TRS inputs
  • 10 TRS outputs (+ headphone output)
  • MIDI I/O
  • USB powered
  • USB 2.0/FireWire connection

Learn more about the MOTU UltraLite-Mk3 Hybrid and purchase it here.

3. Apogee Duet (Mac only)

Apogee Duet

Classed as one of the best looking (and best sounding) interfaces, the Apogee Duet for Mac and iOS is a favorite among producers. Why? Because it’s got amazing preamps, a convenient OLED display that’s easy to read during the light of day in the studio and in the club at night, and because of its iOS connectivity.

Stand-out Features:

  • iOS connectivity
  • Great converters and preamps
  • Minimal design for portability
  • Configurable touch pads
  • Maestro 2 software

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs
  • 2 TRS outputs
  • MIDI I/O via USB
  • USB 2.0/iOS connection

Learn more about the Apogee Duet and purchase it here.

2. RME Babyface

RME Babyface

Akin to the Duet in style and design, the Babyface is a high-end audio interface that’s great for those wanting to upgrade, or those who like the Duet but need more I/O. A key feature of the Babyface is the included TotalMix software, powered by hardware DSP that allows for easy processing and mixing before the audio enters your DAW.

Stand-out Features:

  • Hardware DSP Mixer (integrates with software)
  • Extremely portable for its functionality
  • Clear converters and preamps
  • Functional design

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 1 ¼” (Hi-Z) input
  • 2 TRS outputs
  • 2 XLR outputs
  • MIDI I/O
  • ADAT I/O
  • USB 2.0 connection

Learn more about the RME Babyface and purchase it here.

1. Universal Audio Apollo Twin Solo (Mac only)

Universal Audio Apollo Twin Solo

Finally we have the UAD Apollo Twin Solo. With ultra-low noise and top-of-the-line hardware inputs and preamps, the Twin Solo stands out as one of the best interfaces you can buy for under a grand. It also features dedicated DSP processing which integrates with the included UAD software that allows for real-time, low latency monitoring and processing.

Standout Features:

  • DSP processing
  • Thunderbolt connectivity
  • Low noise and distortion
  • Pristine preamps

Tech Specs:

  • 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs
  • 1 ¼” (Hi-Z) input
  • 4 TRS outputs
  • ADAT optical input
  • Thunderbolt connection (Mac only)

a href="http://amzn.to/1wOQxO0">Learn more about the Apollo Twin Solo and purchase it here.

What would you add?

So there you have it - 10 of the best audio interfaces on the market today.

If you had to add an audio interface to this list, what would it be? Leave a comment below with your answer.

Last Modified: 2014-09-20 00:19:40

  • Share on Twitter Share on facebook Share on Digg Share on Stumbleupon Share on Delicious Share on Buzz
  • Visits: 9241
  • 0 0

No Comments Yet...

Leave a Reply

Name: Required Field
Email: Required Field
Website:
Comment:

Enter Captcha: Required Field