Mobile production at its finest in these great, portable audio interfaces…
The portable recording rig has rapidly become the norm and there are certain bits of gear that are essential to these pared-down set-ups. The hub of everything is, of course, the audio interface. If you are aiming to take your studio mobile, here are some great portable audio interfaces that deserve a place in your bag.
1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation (3rd Gen)
In relatively short period of time, Focusrite has grown from being newcomers to the audio interface market (though it had plenty of pro-audio experience, along with experience of designing devices for other brands) to being, arguably, the market leader. Through employing premium signal paths in affordable units with solid construction and design, it raised the bar for other manufacturers to meet.
The Scarlett 2i2 became one of the bestselling portable audio interfaces ever, so it was a huge surprise when the brand announced it was going to try and improve on an already stellar product. In 2016, Focusrite announced the release of the Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation (2nd Gen) and the results certainly did not disappoint. However, the recently released Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen is one of the most compact audio interface models in its range, but it doesn’t compromise on the brand’s foundation of supreme audio quality and signal path.
This 2-input, 2-output USB design features two, award winning Focusrite mic-preamps (with phantom power for condenser microphones), which provide low noise, high dynamic range and detailed, transparent sound of a standard, which sets a precedent at its price-point. There has also been a significant improvement with latency – in fact it’s almost non-existent clocking in at a mere 2.74ms.
These double as line/ instrument inputs, via XLR combo jack, with two unique LED gain halos allow you to visually monitor your signal. A pair of balanced TRS jack outputs bring up the rear with a headphone output to the front. The Scarlett 2i2 3rd Generation come with a comprehensive software package to get you creating music straight out of the box.
2. Presonus AudioBox 96 USB Audio and MIDI Interface
The Presonus AudioBox 96 USB Audio and MIDI Interface is a bus-powered beauty that works seamlessly with both Mac and Windows. Simple to use and boasting a rugged design, Presonus have made the AudioBox 96 a battle-ready workhorse. Equipped with superb mic preamps and professional-grade audio recording quality at 24-bit up to 96kHz, you’ve got plenty of headroom to play to accommodate any instrument you need to capture.
Presonus have even included their highly respected Studio One Artist software, which offers a complete digital recording package and production suite straight out of the box. There’s no faffing around here, all you have to do is plug in and play. Job done!
To be fair there is always the awesome Presonus Audiobox 96 Studio Ultimate Recording Package if you fancy getting everything in one fell swoop!
3. M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series Audio Interface
If you want a great quality audio interface, then M-Audio is always a great place to start. The M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series Audio Interface is ideal for compact studios or those who want to be able to record on the move, and in hotel rooms, offering a simple 2 in/2 out design. There are both XLR and instrument inputs, great for recording acoustic artists, plus useful features such as a dedicated headphone out with independent volume control as well as MIDI IN/OUT connections. It’s built like a tank, includes two high impedance inputs for capturing electric or bass guitar at once and all the USB cables you need. As well as all that, Steinberg Cubase LE, Air VST software suite and manuals come with the interface too.
The M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series Audio Interface offers everything you need to record studio quality demos anytime, anywhere and is an extremely budget-friendly option too!
4. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Thunderbolt Desktop Interface
Admittedly, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Thunderbolt Desktop Interface may not have the word “portable” in the title but hear us out.
The compact dimensions of the Apollo Twin MKII make it perfect for slipping into your laptop or gig bag and taking out on the road. We will also acknowledge that it carries a heftier price tag than the other interfaces, but all we can say is that the proof is in the pudding. Universal Audio gear is highly regarded for a plethora of reasons; the quality of their interfaces goes to show why. Not only that, but with Universal Audio Plugins you have access to mic preamps from a raft of industry heavyweights including UA, API, Manley and Neve, as well as instrument amps from Marshall, Fender and Ampeg. As if that wasn’t enough there’s even studio-ready effects and tools to streamline your workflow.
If you’re heading to a recording session where someone else has a Universal Audio device, you can combine up to four of them to build you recording capabilities further. Not only that, but the optical IN port allows you to expand your input options with ease. Trust us, if you elect to go with Universal Audio, you will be more than happy!
5. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 USB Audio Interface
When it comes to flawless performance, the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 USB Audio interface is an outstanding example. For solo musicians who want a seamless audio interface for getting ideas down with in style, it doesn’t get much better than this. The Audio 1 is delightfully easy to use and provides both instrument and mic inputs to play with, as well as a front-facing headphone out with independent volume control for real-time monitoring. Boasting incredible 192kHz/24-bit audio recording quality, you can rest assured that the subtle nuances of your performance will be translated and captured with the utmost fidelity.
Not only can you rest assured that you’re getting a high quality interface from the team at Native Instruments, but it also works harmoniously with their extensive suite of Komplete Software), which offers a pretty much everything under the sun to ensure that your recordings sound as polished as possible.
Depending on your budget and requirements, there’s something for everybody when it comes to portable audio interfaces. From pocket-sized to gig bag-ready, you have more choice than ever before when it comes to picking kit to get the job done.
Hopefully we’ve given you some food for thought, but if you need any help or advice then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420. Our in-store specialists will guide you through the wonderful world of guitar effects, just pop into your nearest Dawsons store. You can also check out our selection of audio interfaces at the Dawsons’ website.
Quick recap of products covered in this article:
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation (3rd Gen)
- Presonus AudioBox USB 96
- Presonus Audiobox 96 Studio Ultimate Recording Package
- M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Thunderbolt
- Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.