With so much choice, picking the best audio interface is tough, but here are five you can’t go wrong with…
If you want to do some home recording with a computer, one of the key elements to getting a great result is having the best audio interface you can afford. This is the connection between your music and your recording software. So, your music will only sound as good as this interface will allow.
There are hundreds and hundreds of audio interfaces available, presenting a bewildering array of options to the user. Which is the best for you? It very much depends on budget and needs (there is a more comprehensive article on just what an audio interface is here, which may help you to decide).
However, to help you along a little, here is a mini guide to five of the best audio interface models currently available for under £400.
You might know Presonus for their great large-scale mixing desks, such as the StudioLive series, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t consider them for a great value home set up too. The Presonus Audiobox iTwo offers just about everything you could want from a portable USB audio interface including multi-platform compatibility (PC, Mac and iPad), Class A microphone preamps built with high-quality components, zero-latency monitoring and easily manageable weight and size.
This sleek blue box offers 2 input channels, with both preamps using combo mic/line/instrument jack sockets to ensure you don’t have to dig around for any adaptors or make any compromises when it comes to plugging in. You also get a copy of Presonus’ own Studio One Artist DAW software with the iTwo, plus there’s also a free iPad app (Capture Duo) available for download which is compatible with the interface.
Don’t need tons of inputs but still want high quality audio? This interface has you covered.
There are some things that you can’t see from a spec sheet. Reliability is one of those things, as are ease of operation. The Roland interfaces have always had an impeccable reputation with regard to the above- if someone had experienced issues with getting their computer to ‘play nicely’ with audio interfaces in the past, the Roland products were always a very safe bet to work with just about anything.
The Duo Capture EX is one of Roland’s affordable 2-in 2-out interfaces, which offers VS series mic inputs, 3-way powering (including batteries) and Mac, iPad (via camera connection kit) and Windows (including Windows 8) compatibility.
This was always a great USB interface, but at its current price, with the current software bundle, it’s a steal. The Komplete Audio 6 is a 6-in/ 6-out interface, built around the excellent Cirrus Logic converters of its siblings, meaning that it sounds great. It is perhaps the software bundle that demands greatest attention. The Komplete Elements package provides 3GB of sounds (over 1000) taken from the Native Instruments catalogue, plus Cubase LE and Traktor LE are included.
The best audio interface for those who want a great ‘just add computer’ package.
If you need a USB interface that you can use in more involved recording situations, the Scarlett 18i20 is a superb option. If you need to be able to record a number of different tracks simultaneously, it is equipped with 8 analogue inputs, plus an ADAT input and SPDIF digital input. This means that in total, you can potentially record up to 18 tracks simultaneously!
The 18i20 features the great audio quality and pre-amps that Focusrite are famed for, too, which adds even more value to this impressive package.
The best audio interface for those who may need to record a full band, or mic-up a drum kit.
Okay, this isn’t an interface alone, but it is a great package for anyone who’d like to start to record at home. the Scarlett Studio includes an excellent Scarlett 2i2 2-input/ 2-output USB interface, along with a large diaphragm condenser microphone and cable, plus reference headphones and a software package that includes Cubase LE and a full suite of Focusrite and Novation plug-ins.
The best audio interface for those who need a full recording set-up (minus computer) on a budget.