Best Professional Audio Interfaces
Next level recording equipment with these Pro Audio Interfaces
Things have come a long way since the days of an audio engineer in a white lab coat. We are spoiled for choice with super affordable recording equipment that those guys could only ever have dreamed of. Now, we all know how lovely and warm those early recordings were and for many of us, we’re chasing that rich texture that only analogue really gives us.
But that’s not to say we can’t get close; digital algorithms are now very precise. Some of the best professional audio interfaces out there not only emulate warmth, they ooze with valve goodness.
We’re in an age where for an affordable price, you too can create hits even George Martin would be proud of. For that you need the best professional audio interface available, at the price that fits your budget. Here’s our pick of the bunch.
We’re going to start with the beast that is the Universal Audio (UA) Apollo Twin Quad MKII. UA are stalwarts in the industry and have a fine heritage of making equipment with beautiful tone. The Apollo Twin is no exception. Boasting exceptional clarity, the A/D converters are among the best on the market, used on many hit records including artists like Kendrick Lamar, Coldplay, Brad Paisley and many more.
For your money, you’ll get lightning quick response through Thunderbolt connectivity, tracking up to 24-bit/192 kHz of audio conversion across two channels. But that’s not all. Through the optical cable, you’ll get another 8 channels of digital inputs. If that’s not enough, you can chain up to four Apollos and six total UAD-2 devices (SOLO, DUO or QUAD) adding I/O and DSP power.
Now what we have failed to mention yet is the crowning glory of this device. The ‘quad’ reference relates to the DSP processing power, which you’ll need as you take advantage of the plug-in bundles which includes the classic pre-amp UA 610, UA 1176 and LA-2A compressors and Pultec EQs. This is the setup of the gods right here.
The Roland UA-1610 is the kind of tool that project studio musicians with a large setup have been dreaming of. It features a whopping 16 ins (12 of which have high quality mic preamps), along with 10 outputs. All those outputs mean you performers can have up to 8 mono headphone mixes.
With this many ins and outs, you’ll easily record a band with full drum kit coverage, no problem. And if you have outboard gear then you’ll have lots of room for I/O routing.
The Presonus Studio 68 Audio and MIDI interface is the little box that can! Boasting Presonus’ famous XMAX Class A preamps with high-end converters, this little dynamo offers studio-quality performance in a compact unit that can be taken on the road. Whatever system you’re rocking, Presonus ensure that their Studio One Artist DAW is conversant with both Mac and Windows so that you’re always good to go. Heavy duty hardware and smooth operation make this an absolute bargain.
Focusrite have a reputation for knocking it out of the park with unerring consistency, and the Scarlett 18i20 2nd Generation USB Audio Interface continues that trend. As the name suggests, this studio-ready interface boasts an impressive level of connectivity with 18 inputs and 20 outputs across a plethora of analogue and digital options. Whether you’re setting up at home or establishing a professional recording studio, the Scarlett can happily take pride of place amongst the most discerning of hardware. Whatever your software platform or DAW of choice, Focusrite always go to great lengths to ensure their gear plays well with others and the Scarlett 18i20 welcomes the attention of all-comers. Best of all, you needn’t rob a bank to afford one!
OK, so we’ve delved into the high-end world and then taken a trip through more affordable studio-based options, but what about an audio interface pedal? Orange have answered the prayers of so many musicians by introducing the incredible OMEC Teleport USB Audio Interface Pedal, an ingenious little device that bridges the divide between analogue and digital worlds with breath-taking ease. Want to record your analogue pedals directly into your DAW? No problem. Want to connect directly to your laptop and then play your software-based guitar rig via an amplifier or PA? Easy. The OMEC Teleport is one of those devices that it’s hard to believe didn’t already exist, and now that it does can we really ever be without it ever again? Perish the thought!
It’s clear that the best professional audio interface manufacturers are really tuned into the market, and it’s refreshing to see so many different options available. If you’re a DJ, solo artist, project studio owner or a band there’s something for everyone out there, all at prices not to be grumbled at. We are living in good times indeed.