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Best Audio Interface

Pros and beginners alike will all have some form of audio interface included in their signal chain to record, whether it be a Scarlett 2i2 or a Universal Audio Apollo. Interfaces can range anywhere from 1 input to 8 or more. We go with the best we can afford for the best quality audio for vocals, bass, guitar, piano, or whatever it is we’re working on. You want to have one that suits all of your needs. But what is it you’ll actually use it for?

At the very basics of it, you will use an interface as a conversion point between analog and digital. This is how you convert from the sound of the instrument to the info sent to the computer and vice versa. The Interface is a great source for your monitors or mixing headphones. Most interfaces also will include not only XLR inputs but ¼” connections that are combined with XLR inputs.

 

¼” and XLR combined input

Besides ¼” and XLR inputs, some interfaces will offer midi connections on the back side. On the back as well are usually 2 output sends for the monitors, and either on the front or back is an output for the headphones. Controls for all of these are generally found on the front of the interface.

One other technical piece to pay attention to, is the sample rate. This has to do with how much information is processed and stored from the original audio source. The higher the sample rate, the better quality audio you will have to work with. Most modern interfaces have options of 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 96kHz, and 192 kHz. Industry standard is generally 96 kHz or 192kHz. One thing to remember about working with sample rate is that once the sample rate is set at the beginning of a session, it cannot be changed without altering the quality of the audio. Also, you cannot put tracks recorded at one sample rate into a session of a different sample rate without some form of conversion.

Through the rest of this article we are going to take a look at some great choices of interfaces with 2 and 8 channels. We will include links to buy new, but always feel free to check out used gear websites such as Amazon.

Best 2 Channel Interfaces

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Price (before shipping)- $159.99

 

Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen)

A great interface for basic recordings the Scarlett 2i2 has built a credible name for itself. I myself have one and have had no complaints. It has both monitor and headphone controls on the front as well as a direct monitoring option.

Inputs Mic Pres Outputs Midi Connection Headphone Jacks Sample Rate Rack Mounts Power Source Computer Connection
2 2 2 0 1 Up to 192 kHz X USB 2.0 USB 2.0

 

Presonus Audiobox 96

Price (before shipping)- $99.95

 

Presonus Audiobox 96

This is another interface I have had the pleasure of working with. Presonus is a great company when it comes to interfaces having made multiple great interfaces. The one main difference for this one from most others is that it has the headphone connection mounted on the back.

Inputs Mic Pres Outputs Midi Connection Headphone Jacks Sample Rate Rack Mounts Power Source Computer Connection
2 2 2 1 in

1 out

1 Up to 96kHz X USB 2.0 USB 2.0

 

Universal Audio Arrow

Price (before shipping)- $499.00

 

UA Arrow

A Fairly recent addition to the UA family, the Arrow offers a cheaper entrance into their gear. It comes with one main control knob that can be switched for different uses.

Inputs Mic Pres Outputs Midi Connection Headphone Jacks Sample Rate Rack Mounts Power Source Computer Connection
3 2 2 0 1 Up to 192 kHz X Thunderbolt 3 Thunderbolt 3

Best 8 Channel Interface

Presonus Studio 192

Price (before shipping)- $799.00

 

Presonus Studio 192

Another Presonus product of high quality is the Studio 192. Instead of having control of each channel individually you have to scroll through a channel selection to make any gain adjustments and such.

Inputs Mic Pres Outputs Midi Connection Headphone Jacks Sample Rate Rack Mounts Power Source Computer Connection
8 8 10 0 2 Up 192 kHz DC 12v USB 3.0

 

Tascam US 16×08

Price (before shipping)- $299.99

Tascam US 16×08

This unit does not have the same interfacing details as the others on this list but still is a great piece of hardware nonetheless. All 8 XLR inputs are available from the front as well as two ¼” inputs that can be used for instrument or line in. all gain control is available in the front as well as monitor controls and headphones.

Inputs Mic Pres Outputs Midi Connection Headphone Jacks Sample Rate Rack Mounts Power Source Computer Connection
16 8 8 1 in

1 out

1 Up to 96kHz DC 12v USB 2.0

 

Scarlett 18i20

Price (before shipping)- $499.98

 

Scarlett 18i20

This is yet another unit I have worked with and own, and I have to say the options I have available are amazing. You have 2 inputs available in the front for XLR and ¼” and the rest are on the back of the unit. It also includes options for linking with other hardware to expand your input number.

Inputs Mic Pres Outputs Midi Connection Headphone Jacks Sample Rate Rack Mounts Power Source Computer Connection
8 8 10 1 in

1 out

2 Up to 192kHz IEC USB 2.0