For most of us, it is common sense that if you are looking to obtain a good playback and computer recording quality, you will have no other choice than to invest a significant amount of money in a performant audio interface. However, before you make up your mind and opt for an audio interface, you should make sure that it provides the output and input you require. The audio interfaces we will talk about in this article operate via USB and are compatible with virtually all PCs and Macs. Some are even compatible with iOS devices. These are some of the most budget friendly audio interfaces currently available on the market.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
As its very name suggests, this well-built and stylish audio interface provides 2 outputs and 2 inputs. Each one of the 2 inputs is endowed with a mic preamp which will allow you to capture strong signals record both vocals and musical instruments. Some other notable features include a headphone amp, gain controls for inputs, and a Monitor dial for volume adjustment. On its back end, you will find the stereo outputs and a USB 2.0 connector. The package also includes Mac and PC effects plug-ins that will allow you to polish sound.
PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL
A simple and easy to use 2 input/output USB 2.0 interface, PreSonus’ AudioBox 22VSL comes with MIDI I/O and promises ultra-low latency when used with the included Studio One Artist DAW. Each one of the instrument/mic inputs has its own level controls. Additionally, you get headphone and main output controls. When you are recording, you can make use of a further dial to blend computer output signals and the input. This device’s quiet preamps and focused stereo image make it an excellent choice!
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
An entry to mid-range audio interface, the Komplete Audio 6 provides 4 analogue inputs/outputs, MIDI In and Out and digital I/O. The KA6 is capable of recording both instruments and mics and it is definitely built to last. If you travel a lot and want to carry your music making setup with you, this is the best option. Since we are talking about a NI product, we should not be surprised that the device comes with an amazing software bundle that includes Komplete Elements. This feature provides 3GB worth of effects and instruments. The Traktor LE 2 has been specifically designed for DJs.
Akai EIE Pro
With a sophisticated ‘vintage’ design, this 4-in/4-out audio interface is robust and comes with 4 inserts that allow you to add up hardware effects to the signal path. The device also comes with three bonus USB ports. This basically means that the interface can also function as a MIDI I/O and hub. Rocker switches allow you to change the input types between Guitar sources and Mic/Line. The phantom power is switchable in pairs. The sound is bright and open, while the analogue VU meters look really nice. So, if you need a few more inputs but can’t afford to spend a lot of money, the EIE Pro is the solution.
Mackie Onyx Blackjack
This amazing 2-in/2-out Blackjack comes with a sturdy metal chassis that makes it look like a studio gear piece. Since it is produced by Mackie – a reputable company in the music technology industry- this should not surprise us. The two high-quality preamps are a clear reflection of Mackie’s quality work. You can plug in instruments and mics, and, if you send the signal to the speakers, you can record with zero-latency. In addition, its USB-powered Blackjack is spectacular. It will look incredibly on your desk while angling its controls towards you. We are definitely talking about a quality product that is well worth the investment.
Roland Duo Capture EX UA-22
This Duo Capture EX UA-22 offers 2-in/2-out and is endowed with two VS preamps, similar to those installed in more expensive models, such as the Quad-Capture or the Octa-Capture audio interfaces. The inputs accommodate both 1/4-inch and XLR jack connections. The phantom power is available via the XLR connections. On its back, you can find MIDI in/out ports and balanced 1/4-inch jack outputs. The front panel headphone output features independent volume control. The device can be powered by AC adapters, USB, or batteries. Sound quality and a sturdy build make of the UA-22 an excellent choice.
Should you like the design of Focusrite’s 2i2 but you would like additional connectivity options, Focusrite 6i6 is a good contender. With a similar style, this device comes with 2 preamp-equipped front panel line/mic//instrument inputs. In addition, it also features 2 balanced TRS line level inputs on its backside and 4 balanced TRS outputs. The 6 in/out specs are complemented by stereo S/PDIF in/out. From the front panel, the phantom power switch can activate the mic preamps. The 2 headphone outputs have individual level controls. Due to its ability to provide highly detailed recordings, Focusrite’s 6i6 offers a lot at an affordable price.
IK Multimedia iRig HD
On this occasion, we are talking about an iOS device that comes with Lightning cables and a 30-pin.The iRig HD can operate as a Mac USB interface as well. Portable and sturdy, you can power the iRig HD with your device. The gadget comes with only one jack socket for guitars. The inset knob will allow you to set the input gain while you monitor the sound via headphones or the monitors connected to the PC or to your device. Due to its 24-bit audio quality, the IK Multimedia iRig HD is capable of translating well your guitar sound and send a clean and dynamic signal.
A result of the collaboration between Steinberg and Yamaha, the UR22 is a 2-in/2-out audio interface designed to operate over USB 2.0. The device provides up to a 24-bit/192 kHz performance. The device also features preamps with a +48v phantom power, XLR/TRS varied inputs, and a Hi-Z switch that must be used when you record guitar. Additional connectivity features include 2 TRS jacks outputs, MIDI I/O and one headphones output. The Mix Balance knob allows you to achieve zero-latency monitoring. The UR22 can make an excellent first audio interface!
Novation Audiohub 2×4
This is the only audio interface produced by Novation. However, the device is able to carve its own niche through adding a three-port USB 2 hub. By doing so, the device practically doubles the number of ports on the host PC. This innovative connectivity is due to the fact that the device aims at ‘electronic’ musicians instead of only instrumentalists. This fact is clearly shown by the two phono inputs the device features. Audiohub 2×4 is also endowed with 4 phono outputs (1/2, 3/4), a 1/4″ headphone socket, and 2 balanced 1/4″ outs. Combining usefulness, clear usage proposition, an impressive audio quality, and USB hub features, Novation Audiohub 2×4 is definitely an option worth considering.