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To help narrow down the extensive selection, we rounded up ten pro sounding audio interfaces. This buyers guide will help you choose the best audio interface for an affordable price. An audio interface is the hub of a modern recording studio. It connects your studio monitors, headphones, microphones, instruments, and other gear to your computer.

10 Best Audio Interfaces For Mac (12222 Reviews & Buying Guide)

For example, an audio interface converts analog signals from a microphone or instrument into digital audio signals your computer can process. This audio conversion also performs the same process in reverse. Digital audio signals from your computer convert into analog signals heard through your studio monitors or headphones.

Many audio interfaces also provide preamps, metering, and other features for recording or tracking audio. Understanding how audio interfaces work, and the various features will help you make an informed buying decision. The number of inputs and outputs you need depends on your set up. For example, at least two balanced line outputs are necessary to connect studio monitors.

If you DJ with a computer, consider an audio interface with four line outputs. Two outputs that connect to the house sound system, and two outputs to cue songs. The number of inputs also depends on how many devices you want to connect and record simultaneously. Latency is also an important consideration if you work with multiple plugins and high tracks counts. Latency is a delay caused by the time it takes audio to pass from the audio interface through your DAW and then back out.

It takes time to convert and process the audio.

Best Audio Interface | Pro Reviewed and Recommended

Faster connection types will give you better performance. Other features to look for are metering and included software packages. Newer audio interfaces also integrate software control and onboard DSP for mixing. Digital signal processing DSP provides integrated software mixers, audio effects, and monitoring. This technology reduces latency and CPU load. It packs console functionality into a compact desktop unit.

The new redesign brings two Unison enabled mic preamps and next-generation audio conversion used in their flagship Apollo interfaces. Mix with authentic analog emulations of iconic vintage recording gear! Read More. This second-generation Scarlett brings new upgrades. It features super-low latency, improved sample rates, enhanced sound quality, and more. Also, the industrial redesign gives you metal volume controls, and a sleeker red metal chassis built to go anywhere. This virtual scroll wheel gives you control over compatible parameters within your DAW.

The right-hand side of the panel sports output and headphone level knobs, as well as a toggle button for controlling the direct monitor feature. The main difference is in the actual audio quality of the recordings. The U-Phoria utilizes 2 Midas microphone preamps, one for each channel, giving this interface a noticeable advantage.

The specs sheet also makes the difference pretty clear. At this price point, definitely. The audio quality is above average, and the user experience is straightforward and simple. Whether you need an audio interface for everyday use, or just want to be able to record some tunes from time to time, the U-Phoria by Behringer is a safe bet. Focusrite Scarlett 18i The Scarlett 18i20, with its numerous inputs and outputs, and overall amazing performance, focuses on more advanced studio needs. Only 2 of the 8 combined analog inputs are on the front, while the rest are tucked away in the back.

The controls cover level for all of the analog channels, with separate 48V boost for either the first or last 4 channels, when they are used with condenser microphones. On the right-hand side of the front panel, there is a neat LED visualizer, letting you know the levels of the individual channels in dB, so you can easily tell if any one of them is clipping or not, without having to actually look at your computer screen.

The rest of the controls include dim and mute buttons, a monitor level knob, as well as 2 headphone outputs, each with its own level control. Besides the channel inputs, there are 10 line outputs, as well as MIDI in and out. DAW included and everything you need for an advanced studio. The PreSonus is a perfect fit if you can put it in your budget. However, the Studio by PreSonus offers a slightly different approach which will definitely appeal to at least a portion of the reading audience.

The front panel while a bit more simple, definitely still gives you full control over the many inputs and outputs this device can handle. As expected, there are 2 easy to reach combined inputs on the left, followed by a small screen which gives you more info about the currently selected channel or preset. A big yet very precise dial is used for setting the main level, and the smaller two knobs are used for adjusting the individual headphone levels for each of the 2 outputs. This not only gives the Studio very high audio quality but allows you to enable effects for monitoring as well. Everything you could possible need in terms of technology, inputs, and ease of use. You can't go wrong with the PreSonus Studio Great audio and build quality, reliability, and a constant and pleasant workflow. As with most Apple-centered devices, do have in mind that the price is going to be pretty high.

The front of the Ensemble hosts 2 direct instrument inputs, with their own dedicated outputs below them. This means you can easily route the signal through the interface, while simultaneously sending it through the outputs to an amp. Selecting the actual input is done via 2 rows of buttons on the right of the 2 inputs, with handy OLED visualizers for both the input and output level.

The levels are adjusted on the fly with 2 large knobs. The rest of the front panel is made simple, with only 4 assignable buttons, as well as 2 separate headphone outputs and level control for each of them. The Ensemble, while definitely a rack interface, is pretty petite but manages to house a myriad of extra connections.

Before Buying

Focusrite Clarett 8PreX. Slightly more affordable than the Presonus, the Focusrite has everything you need to upgrade your amateur studio or replace your old interface. Their Clarett 8PreX audio interface targets professionals with amazing specs and features, both hardware and software-wise. This is very important to have in mind, especially if you already have a lot of rack devices in your studio.

This bad boy simply needs more space! The front hosts a pair of instrument inputs, as well as a full control layout for 6 channels individually. The right-hand side of the Clarett features an LED visualizer for 8 the 8 inputs, as well as the stereo output. The monitor level is adjusted via a big knob, and the 2 headphone output levels are controlled via the 2 smaller knobs. With the included software, as well as the ability to fully control the Clarett via an iOS device, this interface is an affordable alternative to the previously mentioned Apogee Ensemble. More affordable than some of our other options and a ton of integration options make this a prefect option in the USB category.

Having a very tight and stable integration with a DAW is one of the most important factors when it comes to audio recording. While the 44VSL is definitely cheaper and scaled down, both in terms of features and the actual size, I chose the VSL for this category, due to its expanded features and overall versatility. This means you basically have a total of 18 inputs and 18 outputs, as the model name might already suggest. But then again, this is somewhat of a different category in the first place.

How To Choose an Audio Interface - Best Audio Interface 2019

The mentioned software includes Studio One 3 DAW, and loads of other, third-party resources, which should be more than enough for beginners, and probably more advanced sound engineers as well. This is a great option for a sound engineer that is looking for a mobile option with plenty of functionality. As the second audio interface of choice in this category, we have the Fireface UCX by RME, which offers a definitely unique approach to recording audio. The front hosts 2 combined inputs and 2 standard instrument ones, alongside a small screen with a selector knob for controlling the active inputs as well as the levels.

Apart from that, there is only a headphone output on the far right. The back features 4 more balanced inputs and 6 balanced line outputs. The truly convenient thing about the Fireface is that it can either be used via the USB or Firewire connection. While I did state that we were going to focus on USB and Thunderbolt interfaces only, the extra connection is still worth mentioning.

So, why would you spend around over a grand for a device that offers, at first glance, fairly similar specs and features as the Audiobox VSL? The Fireface UCX is perfect for studio use, but for live recordings as well. Basically, this interface is the go-to choice for any sound engineer looking for a mobile yet powerful device that can easily be used on stage as well as in the studio. Capable of emulating different amps with great sound.

If you need an amp with thunderbolt connectivity, you can't go wrong. There is only one big knob on the top followed by 8 buttons and an array of LEDs, which, depending on whether the device is in monitor or preamp mode, show different parameter levels.

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The front of the interface houses a single instrument input and a headphone output on the right-hand side. It can handle up to 3 analog and 8 digital channels, and output via the 2 pairs of analog connectors. This model is a compact yet feisty Thunderbolt audio interface solution for anyone looking for a reasonably priced and well-performing addition to their studio. The Clarett 2Pre hosts only 2 combined inputs on the front, with separate level control, as well as the master monitor knob and a single headphone output.

The accompanying software pack handles all of the inputs and outputs easily, and makes using the device a very pleasant experience, even for absolute beginners. Due to the fact that it connects via Thunderbolt, there is almost no lag, and latency is very low. Overall, a very stable and reliable audio interface with high-quality microphone preamps.

All things said, the Clarett 2Pre is well worth the money!