Top 5 Audio Interfaces
When it comes to recording, some people tend to focus on processing audio once it’s in your DAW. To set yourself up for success, you need to give that audio it’s best chance at arriving in its finest form. That comes from your hardware, and a lot of it has to do with your audio interface.
Audio interfaces are the middle man in the recording process. It recognises signal from your microphone/instrument and converts it into a format your computer understands. It also routes that signal back to your headphones or monitors. The higher the quality of the interface, the higher the quality of the audio.
Not all of them are eye wateringly expensive. We’ve compiled five great, affordable interfaces that will positively impact your recording process. Let’s quickly brush over a few pieces of terminology in case you’re not familiar:
- DI: Direct input
- Dim: Instant volume reduction so that the people in the studio can talk without stopping the audio.
- Phantom power: A type of power that is transmitted through microphone cables to operate microphones that contain active electronic circuitry, such as condenser mics.
- Preamp: An amplifier that converts a weak signal into a signal strong enough to be noise-tolerant and strong enough for further processing.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 ($99.95)
Your classic, two channel USB audio interface. The AudioBox has two high-quality preamps with jacks that accept both XL and ¼” inputs. It sports two line outputs for studio monitors, as well as a headphone jack.
It’s set up perfectly for recording instruments like piano or a guitar through a DI. If you’re making beats and wanting to record your own vocals, this is a great first interface.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ($159)
One of the most sought after two channel audio interfaces on the market. It comes with two Focusrite preamps that has added “air” functionality. This means you can get a few different sounds using the same preamps, which comes in handy when exploring vocal or guitar tones. It comes with two stereo outputs for monitors, and of course a headphone output. A versatile, dynamic interface if you’re on a budget.
Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD ($178)
For when you’re wanting more than two preamps, but don’t want to stretch your budget. The Behringer U-Phoria has four, compatible with XLR or ¼” inch cables. For this price, it features some traits you wouldn’t usually expect.
Each preamp comes with a pad that turns down your mic gain so you can adjust the level until you’re happy – great if you’re recording loud sounds. It also has inserts, which allow you to route your analog signal out of the interface into an external tool, like a compressor or an EQ. It comes with main outputs for monitoring, plus four additional ¼” outputs for sending audio out. This is great when using more effects, or if you’re wanting to create a separate headphone mix (like when tracking vocals). It also features in and out ports for MIDI.
A great, well-rounded tool that you can bring to any studio session and get the most out of.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII SOLO ($599)
One of the most sought-after audio interfaces in the world. It boasts two outstanding preamps which have combo XLR and ¼” jack inputs for microphones and instruments. It also comes with an optical cable at the back if you need to expand your inputs. The layout is simple: a big volume knob, a mono switch to create a more combined sound, a dim switch and a talkback feature.
The real beauty behind Apollo Twin’s is that Universal Audio interfaces feature a processor that runs their own plugins. These range from high-quality emulations of preamps, compressors, EQ’s and reverbs to name a few. The added bonus of using this system is it handles its own processing, which takes CPU load off your computer, making for a smoother experience with your DAW.
Audient iD44 ($699)
Now we’re really getting into expanding. This comes with four XLR and ¼” inputs, plus capability to add sixteen channels of audio through two optical inputs on the back. The four onboard inputs have phantom power, plus a pad and hi-pass function all built in.
The first two inputs feature an insert function, which sends audio through effects before being converted to your computer. This is a great way to get your compression and EQ to your liking before it even arrives in your DAW. There are two headphone outputs, perfect for collaboration. Plus it has all the bells and whistles of the Apollo Twin: a volume knob, dim and cut features and talkback.