Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces On The Market – The World Of Home Recording

Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces

Until fairly recently, if you wanted to record music, you had to pay the toll and get yourself some time in a recording studio. Those days are gone. Technology has advanced to a point where you can get the same or at least similar results at home, on a budget. Thisis where audio interface devices come in. Today we’re going to introduce you to this type of audio gear and talk about what it has to offer. Before we get there, we’re going to list our top 10 picks and give you a quick rundown of each. Lets begin.

Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces:

ImageStudio Headphones / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - MOTU 896Mk3 Hybrid MOTU 896Mk3 Hybrid

Total of 4.88/5  

Definitely one of the more interesting solutions for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

+ - RolandSTUDIO-CAPTURE RolandSTUDIO-CAPTURE

Total of 4.83/5  

The epitome of versatility, sound quality and practicality in a rugged package.

+ - Focusrite Clarett 8Pre Focusrite Clarett 8Pre

Total of 4.77/5  

A very capable package that combines fast Thunderbolt speeds and solid hardware.

+ - Roland Octa-Capture 10X10 Roland Octa-Capture 10X10

Total of 4.60/5  

One of the most advanced and most versatile models on the market.

+ - Focusrite Clarett 2Pre Focusrite Clarett 2Pre

Total of 4.65/5  

Next gen audio interface that shows how far this tech can go.

+ - Resident Audio T4 Resident Audio T4

Total of 4.45/5  

Simple design paired with Thunderbolt speeds makes for a really awesome interface.

+ - Steinberg UR242 Steinberg UR242

Total of 4.08/5  

One of the most solid choices on the market at the moment.

+ - M-AudioM-Track C-Series 2x2M M-AudioM-Track C-Series 2x2M

Total of 4.08/5  

A very well rounded interface that offers both style and impressive performance.

+ - Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD

Total of 3.90/5  

An awesome example of versatility in the budget segment of the market.

+ - Focusrite Scarlett Solo Focusrite Scarlett Solo

Total of 3.90/5  

A solid and functional option that delivers a very strong core performance.

MOTU 896Mk3 Hybrid

MOTU 896Mk3 Hybrid

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Achieving the optimal performance sometimes requires a fusion of two different worlds. This is exactly what MOTU has decided to do with their 896Mk3 Hybrid. This interface is designed to function on both USB 2.0 and Firewire. That alone makes it a proper piece of kit, but that's just the beginning of it. MOTU 896Mk3 Hybrid packs numerous features, including sound analytic and built-in EQ. Then we have the numerousdigital and analog I/O ports and so much more. At the end of the day, MOTU has created a true workhorse that delivers everything one could hope to see in an audio interface. Because of that, MOTU 896Mk3 Hybrid remains one of the most impressive interfaces currently available.

RolandSTUDIO-CAPTURE

RolandSTUDIO-CAPTURE

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If there is one brand that knows how to make proper audio gear, it is Roland. With their STUDIO-CAPTURE, Roland has essentially made the process of recording music much easier. This thing packs all the features you would expect from a high-end interface, as well as some you won't see elsewhere. The most notable feature has to be the auto-level function, which dials in optimal gain levels for all of your inputs. On top of that, Roland has used some of the best preamps in their arsenal for this build, giving you the sound quality equal to that of their flagship mixers. Whetheryou are a professional or just an enthusiast, you can't really go wrong with this bad boy.

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre

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Despite still being a rare sight, Thunderbolt connection remains the optimal choice for proper music recording via computer. Focusrite, being oneof the most popular brands in this industry, knows that all too well. That is why their Clarett 8Pre uses Thunderbolt, but also delivers a stellar performance. The first thing we have to mention are the microphone preamps. Clarett series offer studio quality resolution with near zero latency. That is all that's necessary for real time monitoring even if you pack the signal full of plug-ins and VSTi effects. On top of that, Clarett 8Pre brings you analog and digital ports, which make one very versatile piece of kit to have at your disposal. All in all, it's impressive.

Roland Octa-Capture 10X10

Roland Octa-Capture 10X10

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Roland's Octa-Capture 10X10 can be described as a base model flagship interface. They essentially took all of the important features from their elite interfaces and packed it in a much more cost effective unit. The key features of this model are its two high end preamps, the auto-sense technology and 10 strong I/O cluster. On its own, Octa-Capture is a very powerful piece of kit that doesn't disappoint when it comes to sound quality or versatility. It's a USB 2.0 device, although that doesn't seem to bother it at all. Latency has been reduced to a comfortable minimum where it has very little impact on workflow, while the built in features keep at the top of its segment.

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre

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What Focusrite Claret 2Pre offers is a pretty niche combination of performance and price. Clarett represents one of Focusrite's higher end interface series, with its supreme microphone preamps and a Thunderbolt connectivity. Clarett 2Pre brings this combination of features in a package that won't break your bank account. It is compact, durable and most importantly consistent. Thanks to impressive Thunderbolt standards, you are looking at near zero latency on a round trip. The increased bandwidth also means that you can load the signal with all kinds of effects without suffering delay as a result. Aside from its premium hardware, Focusrite ships these with a fairly extensive software suite. Altogether, you're looking at a perfect choice for a smaller home studio.

Resident Audio T4

Resident Audio T4

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In the world of audio interfaces, there are dominant brands and those which lurk in their shadows. Resident Audio is currently in the latter category. However, this can very easily change if they keep delivering interfaces such as the Resident Audio T4. This model offers four inputs and equally as many outputs. Everything about it's utilitarian, including the design. What matters the most is that Resident Audio T4 allows you to access the world of Thunderbolt speeds at a very reasonable price. Resident Audio essentially stripped away all of the non-essentials and left pretty much only the core components necessary for proper studio work. As such, T4 may not be the ultimate audio interface, but it gets the job done.

Steinberg UR242

Steinberg UR242

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Steinberg's UR series of interfaces are easily at the very top when itcomes to bang for the buck value. In the more affordable segment, Steinberg UR242 takes the cake. This interface comes in a very rugged and simple chassis, which goes against most of what you can see on the market. Steinberg has bet on UR242 outperforming its competition and so far they are winning the bet. You are looking at two rock solid channels with good mic preamps and plenty of software support. As a matter of fact, the software suite behind this package is essential to its performance. There is something about Steinberg's ability to integrate their hardware and their software, which results in a smooth performance.

M-AudioM-Track C-Series 2x2M

M-AudioM-Track C-Series 2x2M

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Once you dwell into the affordable range of audio interfaces, you tend to see a lot of similar solutions. While this mainly refers to the exterior designs and aesthetics in general, it is also present in other areas. M-Audio doesn't follow that narrative. Instead, they offer something fairly unique in this segment of the market. At its very core, M-AudioM-Track C-Series 2x2M is fairly advanced compared to its competition. You get the same two inputs and outputs, but also a MIDI cluster. On top of that, the built in mic preamps are more than decent on their own. M-Audio sweetens the deal with a proper software suite and flawless integration across different platforms as well as Digital Audio Workstations.

Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD

Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD

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Being limited by budget has been an issue in the past when it comes to recording music at home. That is no longer the case. One of the brands that basically specializes in affordable is Behringer. Their U-PHORIA UMC404HD is easily among the most efficient devices in its price range. Behrigner didn't go crazy with features, but they did include four inputs. That is a very, very rare sight in this segment ofthe market. Aside from that, UMC404HD works extremely well and provides the type of consistency that is necessary for proper music recording. If you are looking to get the absolute best bang for your buck, chances are you won't find anything that beats this audio interface.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

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Focusrite has got to be one of the most popular names in the business. Their Scarlett series have made a large impact on how we perceive audio interfaces today. Focusrite Scarlett Solo is the most basic, but also the most popular model in the series. It features a single input that takes either a microphone or instrument line and features the classic Scarlett mic preamp. The second generation, which is the one we are looking at today, has ironed out some quirts that plagued its predecessor. In other words, this interface is about as solid as they come. However, that is not why it's so popular. Focusrite Scarlett Solo is among the cheapest reliable models you can find right now.

What Exactly Are Audio Interfaces?

As computers became easily accessible, affordable and more efficient, a lot of things have crossed over from analog to digital. The same happened with recording music. Not so long ago, in order to record guitars you had to spend time in a recording studio with large mixers, mics and amplifiers. On a similar note, those who wanted to record music athome were simply out of luck. Needless to say, not everyone could record and those who could were usually paying a decent price for this experience.

Today things are very different. All you really need is a computer, an audio interface and you are set to go. This brings us to a question of what exactly is an audio interface? In simple terms, an audio interface is an external audio card which you connect to your computer via USB or other ports. The device itself contains a microphone preamp and analog to digital converters. This way you can plug your microphone or guitar cable in it, and it will translate the signal from both into something your computer can read. Interfaces can be simple and extremely affordable. You can easily find a great model under $100. On the other hand, there are those that will cost you up to $1000. If you’d like to learn more about devices in this price range, check out our dedicated guide.

What Is Needed To Record Music With An Audio Interface?

No matter how complex or simple your interface is, you will only need a computer to set it up. However, software is a whole different story. The most common way of using audiointerfaces is to pair them with DAW of your choice. If you don’t have an access to a DAW, you are in luck as most modern interfaces come with a copy of one. Depending on the brand and model, some interfaces were built specifically to work with certain DAWs. This can both be a good and a bad thing. If you are used to a specific piece of software, transitioning to a whole new platform can be quite tricky. Luckily, most modern interfaces are fully compatible with the majority of modern DAWs.

What Can You Record With An Audio Interface?

The most common layout of audio interfaces includes one microphone input with a mic preamp behind it, and an instrument input. That is about as simple as it gets these days. Using nothing more than a basic interface such as this one, you can record vocals, guitars,bass guitars and other instruments which use a 1/4″ TRS jack. Once you start investing a bit more money, different opportunities will open up. For example, with a standard $500 audio interface, you can do simultaneous recording of multiple instruments and vocals at the same time. To be completely honest, some $200 models can do this as well. In other words, sky is the limit.

Different Connectivity Options – USB, Firewire Thunderbolt

One of the main reasons why audio interfaces exist in the first place is to combat latency. Latency is nothing more than a delay created by the computer due to it taking time to process the input signal. That might a be an oversimplified explanation, but still a relevant one. Audio interfaces reduce this latency to a manageable level. The most common way to link up an interface with a computer is by using a standard USB cable. USB 2.0 is still the norm for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t better alternatives. USB 3.0 is slowly coming into the industry, while Firewire and Thunderbolt have been around for a while.

Latter two exponentially faster than a standard USB connection, which is why plenty of interfaces use these standards instead. The main benefit of using a Thunderbolt model over a standard USB one is the near zero latency, as well as the ability to layer all kinds of effects onto your signal in real time with no issues. Same goes for Firewire. However, keep in mind that both Thunderbolt and Firewire require matching ports on your computer.

What To Look For In An Audio Interface?

If you are new to the world of audio interfaces, there are several things you need to know about this tech before you invest in one. First and most important one is the sound quality. Every interface has a max resolution it can achieve. Not so long ago, 96kHz/24-bit was the norm. These days that value has been pushed up to 192kHz/24-bit. While the difference between these two is pretty hard to spot, there is really no reason to go for the former if you can get the latter. Sound quality comes as the number one thing to look for.

Then we have the I/O cluster. This is where you need to plan ahead. Some people are perfectly content with having one microphone input and one instrument input. However, there are those who might need more down the road. In our book, more is always better because you never know what you might need in the future. Up to some 4 inputs is still possible in the affordable range. More than that and you are already looking at mid range or high-end devices.

Features are also a bit factor. Basic interfaces will usually have few features to offer, if that. Things like automatic gain level adjustment, signal analysis and more, are reserved for your pricier models. Figure out whether you need these features at the moment as it can save you a whole lot of money. To summarize, you have to plan ahead and choose an interface accordingly.

Can You Use Audio Interfaces Outside The Studio?

The answer to this question depends on which interfaces we are talking about. The general rule of thumb is that USB interfaces are most likely going to work for this scenario. These models use USB protocol to send data, but they also use its 5V line to draw power. In other words, you can power an interface with your laptop or tablet out on the go. Thunderbolt and Firewire platforms usually require a power adapter, making themfar less suitable for this type of application.

Conclusion

Audio interfaces are, and probably will be the go-to choice for recording music at home. As a matter of fact, a good number of professional studios prefer these devices over the bulky analog gear. Models we have shown you above are by far some of the best you can get at the moment. We have included interfaces from a variety of price ranges in order to show you that you can have one without nuking your finances to oblivion. Every guitaristor vocalist should have an audio interface. That’s literally the only affordable way of recording anything at the moment.


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