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Best Portable Audio Interface For Ableton

Ableton is a very powerful digital audio workstation for both studio and live usage. Its unique features such as the separate arrangement and session view make it a unique DAW.

However, to be able to record musical instruments and vocals into the software, Ableton users will need an audio interface. And, with so many different choices in the market, it may be difficult to find one that will work flawlessly with the software.

That’s why in this article we’ve tested 9 products to help you find out what is the best audio interface for Ableton. We’ve divided our top picks into three categories. Keep reading to learn more.

Tip: after you finish reading, you can check more models of audio interfaces in our Best Audio Interface article.

Our Top Picks

MOTU M4 4x4 USB-C Audio Interface

Overall Best Audio Interface for Ableton – MOTU M4

We tested 9 products and found the MOTU M4 to be the overall best audio interface for Ableton.

Rode AI-1 Single Channel USB Audio Interface

Best Portable Audio Interface for Ableton – Rode AI-1

A compact unity with outstanding sound quality, the Rode AI-1 is our top pick for the best portable audio interface for Ableton

Audio Interface with Octane Preamp

Best Professional Audio Interface for Ableton – M-Audio M-Track Eight

The M-Audio M-Track Eight is our top pick for the best professional audio interface for Ableton.

Keep Reading

Keep reading to learn more about why we’ve chosen these three units as our top picks, as well as get to know six more amazing options of audio interfaces.

Best Audio Interface for Ableton in Our Tests

Table of Contents

  1. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2
  2. Steinberg UR242-4
  3. Mackie Onyx Producer 2X2
  4. IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo
  5. Antelope Audio Zen Sinergy
  6. Zoom UAC-2
  7. Rode AI-1
  8. M-Audio M-Track Eight
  9. Motu M4

9 Best Audio Interface for Ableton Reviewed in Detail

#1 Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2

The Komplete Audio 6 MK2 is a very nice-looking interface. The all-black design really caught our eye as it seems very clean and professional. We’ve decided to test if the sound quality is as good as the looks.

Product Specifications

  • 2 Combo XLR Inputs
  • 2 Instrument Inputs
  • 2 Headphone Outputs With Dedicate Volume Control
  • Stereo Line Output
  • MIDI In/Out
  • +48V Phantom Power
  • Mono/Stereo Monitoring Switch

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The dual headphone outputs can be useful if you’re a music producer recording artists in your home studio, as you can control their monitoring separately.
  • The design looks clean and very professional.
  • The headphone outputs have high power, meaning you can use high-impedance headphones without the need for an external preamp.
  • The gain input monitoring LED lights on top of the audio interface look very good and very useful to monitor the signal going into Ableton.

Cons

  • A little more on the larger and heavier side, not very practical if you want to use this audio interface for live gigs.

Verdict

The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2 is a very good option for small to medium-sized home studios. We particularly like the fact that it has two headphone outputs, unlike most other audio interfaces in the same price range.

The only downside we found is that it is not very portable. As we know that Ableton users often like to use DAW for live concerts, we considered this as a con. You know, it could work for a live situation, but there are more compact options with the same recording power.

#2 Steinberg UR242

Steinberg UR242

The Steinberg UR242 is the company’s entry-level audio interface. The design and the construction seem to focus more on the durability side. But let’s check how good it is at recording audio as well.

Product Specifications

  • 2 XLR/Instrument Combo Input
  • 2 Line Inputs
  • Headphone Output
  • Stereo Line Output
  • MIDI In/Out
  • +48V Phantom Power

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The construction is very sturdy and it seems like the unit could easily survive eventual drops and falls.
  • Comes with some interesting audio plugins that can be used with Ableton, such as Guitar Amp Classics, Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip, and REV-X Reverb
  • The D-PRE Class-A preamps manufactured by Yamaha sounds very clean and crystalline.
  • If the device is not connected to a computer but connected to the AC adapter, you can still use it as a mixer for simple applications.

Cons

  • Some of the technology used on this audio interface is outdated, as the USB 2.0 port.
  • Most audio interfaces of the same size don’t need to be connected to a power adapter like this one.

Verdict

This is an option for those whose main priority is durability and sturdiness. The UR242 seems very resistant to any kind of potential damage, and it will serve well for any beginners or small home studio owners looking to buy their first audio interface.

The only thing that we didn’t like is that a lot of the technology used on this unit is outdated. For example, the USB 2.0 port and the need for an external power supply. Still, the audio interface works very well for basic applications.

#3 Mackie Onyx Producer

Mackie Onyx Producer

Mackie is a legendary company well known for its large mixing desks and monitoring speakers that can be found in many professional studios and live stages around the world. The Onyx is their entry-level audio interface designed for songwriters and small home studios.

Product Specifications

  • 2 XLR/Instrument Combo Output
  • Headphone Output
  • Stereo Line Outputs
  • MIDI In/Out
  • +48V Phantom Power

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The design of the Onyx Producer looks very unique and professional with its black, brushed metal finish.
  • As said before, Mackie is a company well known for its large mixing desks that usually feature built-in preamps. This excellence is honored with the Onyx Producer preamps.
  • It has very low-latency monitoring, even if you’re hearing the signal directly from your DAW.
  • It is compact enough to be carried with you on tours and gigs.

Cons

  • Just like the Steinberg UR242, we found the USB 2.0 connection to be outdated. Nowadays most audio interfaces use a USB C or Thunderbolt type one.

Verdict

The Mackie Onyx Producer offers a great balance between functionality and portability. As a basic audio interface, it brings nothing new to the table, but it will work like a charm to record microphones and instruments into Ableton.

Just like with the Steinberg UR242, we particularly didn’t like the USB 2.0 connection, as most audio interfaces nowadays come with a USB C or Thunderbolt type one. Even though, this is not really that bad, as USB 2.0 will work just fine for most applications.

#4 IK Multimedia iRig Pro DUO

IK Multimedia iRig Pro DUO

The IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo is well known for its portability and compatibility across many devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets. Being able to fit into a pocket, this is an amazing compact audio interface that leaves nothing to be desired compared to its larger counterparts.

Product Specifications

  • Two XLR/Instrument Combo Inputs
  • Stereo Line Outputs
  • Headphone Output
  • MIDI In/Out
  • +48V Phantom Power
  • Battery or DC Adapter Powered

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • It is one of, if not the most portable audio interfaces in the market.
  • Can also be used with mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones for recording quick ideas and even full songs.
  • As it is so compact, it is great for touring musicians using Ableton in their live sets.
  • Leaves nothing to be desired compared to its larger counterparts when it comes to recording inputs and monitoring outputs.

Cons

  • The building quality is a bit fragile as the unit is almost entirely made of plastic.
  • The line outputs and the MIDI in/out ports are different than the standard size connectors.

Verdict

The iRig Pro DUO is an amazing choice for those who favor portability and for artists who use Ableton in their live sets. IK Multimedia managed to fit in so many different features in a device so small that the value for money is incredible.

The unit is very fragile, so if you’re a touring musician, it is worth transporting it in a case. Another downfall is that the line outputs and MIDI in/out ports are both not compatible with standard size connectors, so a lot of people may not like that.

#5 Antelope Audio Zen Go Synergy

Antelope Audio Zen Go Synergy

We don’t hear a lot from Antelope Audio products, but this audio interface really surprised us. It has built-in real-time effects and supports the DSP processing powered audio plugins from the brand.

Product Specifications

  • 2 Combo XLR/Instrument Inputs
  • Two Headphone Outputs
  • Two Line Outputs
  • Two RCA Outputs
  • S/PDIF Optical Cable In/Out
  • +48V Phantom Power
  • Built-In Audio Effects
  • Loopback Function

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The Zen Go is bundled with 37 Sinergy Core audio plugin effects, and 50 are available as optional expansions.
  • The DSP processing feature present in the unit really takes analog-modeled audio plugins to another level.
  • This is one of the few audio interfaces that we’ve ever seen to feature built-in audio effects. These effects are great, especially for live situations. The unit can also do session recalls.
  • The audio interface features two different options of connection for hooking it up to your audio monitors: line and RCA outputs.

Cons

  • The audio interface has a lot of features that aren’t usually used by music producers and creators, such as the S/PDIF In/Out. We also expected a MIDI In/Out functionality for that price.
  • The unit’s high price may not suit every budget.

Verdict

The Antelope Audio Zen Go is an audio interface that brings lots of new stuff to the table. To start off, there are built-in effects, unusual to this kind of product. There’s also DSP processing, which is still rare to find.

The downside is the unit’s high price. There are a lot of other audio interfaces for the same price range that features a greater number of inputs and outputs for audio and MIDI, even though they don’t have DSP processing. The choice comes down to a matter of priorities.

#6 Zoom UAC-2

Zoom UAC-2

Zoom is very well known for its microphones, audio recorders, and effect units such as guitar pedals. This new audio interface from the brand looks very well-built and designed, so we’ve decided to give it a try.

Product Specifications

  • Two Combo XLR/Instrument Inputs
  • Headphone Output
  • Stereo Line Outputs
  • MIDI In/Out
  • +48V Phantom Power
  • Switchable Stereo/Mono Direct Monitoring
  • Switchable Class Compliant Mode
  • DC Adapter

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • Available both in USB and Thunderbolt versions.
  • The design is very unique and gives the UAC-2 a high-quality, expensive look.
  • The Hi-Z button feature will match the impedance of the audio interface with instruments such as guitars and basses, giving you a better signal response.
  • USB 3.0 compatible, meaning this audio interface has very low latency when recording.

Cons

  • Lots of users related that the unit suddenly stopped working after some time. We imagine, however, that these are isolated cases.

Verdict

The Zoom UAC-2 really surprised us. Apart from looking very good, it is one of the audio interfaces with the lowest latencies in the market. This unit will be a great investment for anyone looking for a high-quality audio interface with basic features.

We haven’t found any cons regarding the UAC-2, except for some users relating that the unit stopped working after some time. But we imagine that these are isolated cases related to some kind of defect in manufacturing.

#7 Rode AI-1

Rode AI-1

The Rode AI-1 is a very compact and minimalist audio interface. The unit features every basic feature you’re going to need in order to record with Ableton inside a tiny black box. Let’s see what it has to offer in terms of audio quality.

Product Specifications

  • One Combo XLR/Instrument Input
  • Headphone Output
  • Line Outputs
  • +48V Phantom Power

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • One of the most portable and compact on the list. It has a very minimalist and clean design.
  • Regardless of its size, the Rode AI-1 seems very durable and made of quality materials.
  • You will be able to use it with your tablet or smartphone or tablet using a separate adapter.
  • The preamp present on the Rode AI-1 has one of the lowest noise-floor levels in the market.

Cons

  • A limited number of inputs (only one) due to its compact size.

Verdict

If you want a compact audio interface with a minimalist design but with a quality comparable to big professional units, then the Rode AI-1 is for you. The thing that impressed us the most in this product was the low noise floor, lower than any other option of the same price range.

The Rode AI-1 however is very limited when it comes to inputs: only one combo XLR/Instrument input. That shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t mind recording one instrument at a time and prefer portability instead.

#8 M-Audio M-Track Eight

M-Audio M-Track Eight

M-Audio is one of the best companies out there when it comes to audio interfaces. The M-Track Eight is a unit designed for medium to large-sized home studios looking for a straight-to-the-point recording solution.

Product Specifications

  • Eight Combo XLR/Instrument Inputs
  • Two Headphone Outputs
  • Stereo Monitor Outputs
  • Eight Balanced Line Outputs
  • Standard 1U 19″ Rack Size
  • +48V Phantom Power

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The large number of inputs present in this interface makes it perfect for those looking to record instruments such as drum kits.
  • There are eight line outputs. It may seem a lot to some people, but it is very useful if you’re using external hardware effects.
  • LED lights on the front of the unit to make it easier to monitor the gain amount for each input.
  • The preamps using Octane Technology from M-Audio sound very clear.

Cons

  • The audio interface gets very hot, even though it is normal for a unit that size.

Verdict

This audio interface is the best option for those music producers looking to step up their game and record larger musical instruments such as drums and/or full bands at once. The eight inputs and eight outputs of the M-Track Eight will give you lots of flexibility and possibilities. 

Even though it can get very hot while recording, this is something normal for units of that size and power.

#9 MOTU M4

MOTU M4

MOTU is a very reputable brand in the music industry. The manufacturer has its equipment present in professional recording studios all around the world. The MOTU M4 is designed to bring the same quality to home studios.

Product Specifications

  • Two Combo XLR/Instrument Inputs
  • Two Line Inputs
  • Headphone Outputs
  • Four Line Outputs (Two ¼ and Two RCA)
  • Four Monitor Outputs (Two ¼ and Two RCA)
  • MIDI In/Out
  • +48V Phantom Power

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • This audio interface features different options of monitoring outputs for added versatility. You can hook it up to your audio monitors using both the ¼ or the RCA output.
  • The LCD screen in the front of the unit looks very good and makes it easier to input your recording gain.
  • The MOTU M4 features dedicated line outputs for using the audio interface with external hardware such as effect units. This is rare to find on units in this price range.
  • The product comes bundled with 6GB of free content such as audio plugins that can be used with Ableton.

Cons

  • We haven’t found any significant cons regarding this audio interface.

Verdict

The MOTU M4 is amazing for its price value. Some of the features present in this audio interface are usually only found in higher-priced units, such as the LCD screen and the dedicated line outputs for use with external hardware units. For this reason, the MOTU M4 is our top pick of best audio interface for Ableton.

Tip: couldn’t find an audio interface of your liking? Make sure to also check out our Best Audio Interface for Shure SM7B and Best Audio Interface for GarageBand articles. 

Buying Guide – What Should I Look For When Buying an Audio Interface?

It is important to consider some factors when buying an audio interface. Here are some of the features we judge to be the most important to know for Ableton users looking to buy an audio interface.

Number of Inputs and Outputs

Depending on how many instruments you’re planning to record at once or how is your workflow, you’re going to need a different number of inputs and outputs.

If you only need to record one instrument at a time and is not planning to use any external effect units, some audio interfaces from the list we recommend are the:

  • MOTU M4
  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2
  • Zoom UAC-2

If you’re looking to record larger instruments such as drum kits and/or full bands at once, we recommend the M-Audio M-Track Eight, our professional top pick from the list.

Portability

A lot of Ableton users like to record music and quick ideas on their laptops while they’re touring or out of the studio, so we consider portability to be an important factor. If you’re looking for compact and portable audio interfaces, we recommend the:

  • IK Multimedia iRig Pro DUO
  • Rode AI-1

Audio Quality (Components and Preamps)

A crystalline sound is a must for those looking to record into Ableton. All of the audio interfaces on this list feature high-quality audio components and preamps, but we’ve found the MOTU M4 to have the best overall quality.

Noise Floor

Noise floor refers to how much noise the audio interface produces by itself. Of course, the lower the better. Modern units all tend to produce very little noise, but we found the most efficient in this matter to be the Rode AI-1. It is incredible how quiet this little unit is when recording.

FAQs

Do Audio Interfaces Improve Sound Quality?

Yes, when we talk about recording, audio interfaces have much better sound quality than consumer-grade equipment like the built-in microphone input of most computers.

Which Audio Interface Is Best for Ableton?

In our tests, we’ve found the MOTU M4 to be the best overall audio interface for Ableton. The Rode AI-1 and the M-Audio M-Track Eight are our top portable and top professional picks, respectively.

Which Audio Interface Has The Best Preamps?

All of the audio interfaces in our list have excellent preamps, but we’ve found the better ones to be from the MOTU M4, the Mackie Onyx Producer, and the M-Audio M-Track Eight.

Conclusion

After reviewing 9 different products, we divided our top picks of audio interfaces for Ableton into three categories: overall best, best portable, and best professional choice. Keep in mind that the best option will vary for each use case. Always research extensively before making your choice. Here are our top picks:

Top Picks – Best Audio Interface For Ableton

MOTU M4 4x4 USB-C Audio Interface

Overall Best Audio Interface for Ableton – MOTU M4

MOTU is a household name in the music industry. The MOTU M4 audio interface has a very good price value and a lot of professional features like dedicated line outputs for external effects and an LCD screen for input gain monitoring. That’s why we’ve chosen this unit to be the overall best audio interface for Ableton.

Single Channel USB Audio Interface

Best Portable Audio Interface for Ableton – Rode AI-1

The Rode AI-1 is very compact and small, however, it leaves nothing to be desired compared to larger audio interfaces, especially the audio quality. You can take this audio interface with you anywhere and record music and song ideas directly into your laptop running Ableton.

Audio Interface with Octane Preamp

Best Professional Audio Interface for Ableton – M-Audio M-Track Eight

With eight inputs and outputs, the M-Audio M-Track Eight has everything small to medium-sized home studios will need. If you’re looking to record drum kits and/or bands all at once, this is a perfect solution.

How to Buy

You can find the Amazon link for each audio interface directly on the product’s topic in our review list. Remember to research extensively before making your choice.
We hope to have helped you decide what is the best audio interface for Ableton for your particular use case. If you have any more tips or questions related to the subject, please don’t hesitate to comment below!