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Best Audio Interface For ANY BUDGET! (Full-Fat 2022 Guide)

What is the highest quality audio interface? Does it matter what audio interface I use?

You need the best audio interface that you can get your hands on, if you want to get maximum value out of your vocals. Why? Because aside from providing your microphone with phantom power, an audio interface actually affects the overall quality of your sound. No joke!

That’s because audio interfaces are also preamplifiers. They take the signals from your condenser mic, which are usually of a low voltage (i.e. very quiet), and amplify them so that they’re of a reasonable volume. After which, they assist with feeding this audio into your computer as a readable audio file that you can edit further via your DAW. Not only that but, if you plug in headphones, this nifty device will also give you audio playback in what’s essentially real-time.

Nowadays most interfaces have very little latency. All of which makes them great for monitoring your levels when recording. Question is though, which audio interface is best? Is there even such a thing? Read on and we’ll dissect the inner workings of the audio interface, as well as give you an overview of 16 audio interfaces that we think are some of the best in 2022.

Searching for info on a specific audio interface? Or just wondering what is a good audio interface for beginners? Use the menu below to get the answers you need in 1 click…

The best audio interfaces @ a glance…

15 of the best audio interfaces you can buy in 2022 (+ 1 to avoid!!)

A selection of the best professional audio interfaces…

1: Arturia AudioFuse Studio

2: Focusrite Clarrett+ 4Pre

3: Universal Audio Apollo Twin X MK II

4: RME Audio BabyFace Pro

Ideal audio interfaces for beginners…

5: Motu M2

6: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)

7: Audient iD4

8: Solid State Logic 2+

9: Behringer U-phoriaUMC204HD

10: Apogee One

11: Presonus Studio 24C

12: Mackie Onyx Producer

13: Roland RUBIX22

Best budget audio interface (around £100)

14: Presonus Audiobox iTwo

Here’s the best audio interface for solo artists…

15: Focusrite Scarlett Solo

PC Users: avoid this audio interface at all costs!!

BONUS: Apogee Duet 3

Which is the best audio interface? Our editor’s choice…

Deciding on the best audio interface of 2022 wasn’t easy. In fact, it was such a task that we decided to narrow it down to two: one that’s the most beginner-friendly audio interface and another that’s our ‘go to’ for professional use. Although with that being said, professional and beginner audio interfaces need to have two things in common in order to be even be classed as ‘the best’.

Now obviously, while the best audio interface does somewhat depend on what you’re recording, all great interfaces share a balance of two things: functionality and value. Functionality being how flexible they are in terms of inputs, outputs and overall use. While value harks more towards the quality of the build and preamps in relation to price.

So bearing this in mind we’ve reached two conclusions. The first being that the best audio interface for beginners is the…

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We’re particular fans of the screen, however the fact it also boasts an independent set of button for phantom power & direct monitoring, is equally useful too. Make no wonder that upon release the M2 was hard to get your hands on, because for the money, this interface really is a steal for any beginner! And for those after something slightly more professional orientated, we’d say that the

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is the way to go. Now granted, for some the sheer portability of the Apollo Twin X may mean it pips the Audiofuse to the post, however we’d beg to differ. From a technical standpoint, the Arturia runs rings around the Apollo.

The Audiofuse is newer, feels more solid, has more inputs/ outputs and completely schools the Apollo when it comes to gain. So overall then, for any pro hunting for an interface that’s very much at home in the studio, the Audiofuse is by far one of the most capable out there. In fact, we’re so blown away by the Audiofuse that we’d even go as far as to say that it’s the best and most full-featured interface that we’ve ever come across.

Yep… it’s really that good.

Enjoy this review of the best audio interface for 2022 and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Music Kit Reviews, as well as the lowdown on all things Music Production. Recently, we also published an article on the Best Condenser Microphone Under £500 + another on the Best Vocal Mics For Recording. Useful if you’re kitting out your studio!

Or, if you’ve still got as burning question about audio interfaces, keep reading to discover even more about why audio interfaces are such valuable pieces of kit…

The lowdown on everything audio interfaces & sound quality

Focusrite offer some of the best audio interfaces that money can buy, hence why their Clarett range is often used by professional producers and studios.

The company itself was founded in 1985 and began life making microphone preamps and equalisers. Exactly why Focusrite today, is one of the most popular brands of audio interfaces. Even to this day, the obsession with preamps and sound quality hasn’t left the company. Most products from Focusrite are still singled-out for the quality of their preamps, as well as their overall build quality, which we have to say, is tough to beat.

Yes.

The quality of an audio interface can make a substantial difference to your overall sound. Reason being that the audio interface is actually what turns the signals picked up by your condenser microphone into audio – i.e. sound that your computer can read. Think of it as the go-between or a transformer of sorts.

And that’s because the signals that comes out of condenser microphones (i.e vocal mics) are actually quite small. The majority deliver relatively low voltage recordings, that need to be stretched out and amplified before they’re fed into your computer. And it’s this that gives you a fuller vocal and enhances the range of your sound. Just one of the jobs of your audio interface.

Another one being to actually supply your mic with what’s known as phantom power. This is the 48V that any condenser mic needs in order to function. Without it, your mic will not pick up anything in the way of recordings, making it practically useless. Hence why investing in the best audio interface possible is just common sense.

Fail to do so and not only could you be taking an unwanted vocal hit when making recordings, but you could also be hemming yourself into using a lower-quality mic.

Yes, audio interfaces are certainly worth it, as without them you cannot record professional quality sound. Something that especially nowadays is a ‘must’ if you want to gain any sort of loyal fanbase.

Exactly why we say that you shouldn’t judge an audio interface purely on its price. If you want to know if an audio interface is worth it, you should instead judge it on its overall value. So basically assess your needs and see which audio interface provides the most value for you in your situation. To do so you ‘d have to take into account factors like the quality of the preamps, the amount/ type of outputs as well as portability and how durable it is.

In which case you’ll often find that the cheapest audio interface isn’t always as valuable as its price leads you to believe.

While professionals don’t really have a set audio interface which is their ‘go to’, you do tend to find a lot of professionals trend towards the Universal Audio and top of the line Focusrite interfaces.

The reason most likely being the quality of the preamps, which in both breeds of interface, is top notch. Universal Audio especially is known for their seamless audio quality and because of which, are able to charge quite a hefty price tag. But then again, that doesn’t seem to have scared off many audiophiles. Even Drake is said to use an interface by Universal Audio, so if you ask us, there’s certainly value in what they produce.

Although with that being said, we wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of professional musicians and producers migrate from these brands over to Arturia. Granted, Arturia interfaces are nowhere near as expensive, however we feel that their latest wave of interfaces has really set the bar high and is from a professional point of view, a tempting prospect.

As for the best audio interface for beginners, you can’t go wrong with the Scarlett Solo. That’s providing of course you don’t need more than one channel.

Focusrite are one of the best in the business when it comes to easy to use user-friendly interfaces. The setup, especially on their smaller devices (those targeted at beginners), is super simple. Plug in your device and you’ll be instructed on how to install the drivers (if you’re on Windows), while for those on Mac the device will be plug-in-and-play!

So as you can imagine, with a Focusrite it’s quite a challenge to even get stuck. And then even if you do, their support is second to none, so solving an issue shouldn’t be a problem – we can vouch for that!

How you go about choosing an audio interface really all depends on your situation. Only then can you go about selecting the best audio interface for you. So to help you out, here’s a few questions to help you narrow down your options…

  • How do you record? – Are you a vocalist? If so, preamps must be high up on your agenda, as it’s these that’ll have an impact on your overall sound. The last thing you want is to spend £100 on an interface only to find that the preamps in its rival are significantly quieter.
  • Do you need a lot of channels? – In an band? Then you have to consider this! Buy an interface with too few channels and you may be find yourself hindered in terms of recording, or worse, have to folk out for a second interface later down the line.
  • What’s your budget? – While we’d never say you should judge an interface by price, if you have a low budget then it’s important that you get the balance right. For instance, if you’re in a band and need a lot of inputs, don’t just buy an interface based purely on that. Also consider the quality of the preamps that you’ll get in an interface of that size on a budget. Are they good? If not you may be better off buying two smaller interfaces.

Yes, it really does matter what interface you use, especially if sound quality is your main concern.

Use and interface with poor quality preamps and it’s likely you’ll be left with a slight static hissing noise towards the background of your recordings. Not to mention a flatter sound, which isn’t good! Ask us and the preamps are the most important part of the entire interface and what you should judge your purchase by.

It’s also worth baring in mind that different interfaces come with different amounts of connections. Therefore if you’ll be feeding a lot of audio into your interface, all from different sources, then a budget audio interface like the Scarlett 2i2 or Solo is likely not going to be large enough. Bigger interfaces have more ports because they have more processing power, so for those of you in a band, a high quality interface with a good amount of outputs should be a priority.

In a sense, yes – you can use a mixer as an audio interface.

However, that’s only if of course the mixer has a USB output. In the case it doesn’t then you’ll need to buy a separate audio interface. Also bear in mind that a USB mixer which has stereo output doesn’t do the same thing as an interface which is multichannel. The difference being that you’ll be able to record across multiple track simultaneously using a variety of audio sources.

Drake is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t cheap-out on an audio interface.

Drizzy is said to use an interface called the RME Babyface, arguably the best audio interface for sale today. For those of you who want to know more, it’s a 24-Channel, USB bus-powered AI that’s got a near pristine sound quality, comes with great wordclock accuracy and performs with ultra-low latency. In other words, it performs!

There’s no two ways about it, ‘cheaping-out’ on your audio interface could well affect the sound quality of your recordings. That’s because the quality of an audio interface does a lot to influence your sound.

Due to condenser microphones recording a low-voltage sound, the audio interface works as a preamplifier, boosting the sound to the right levels so that when it’s fed into your computer it sounds crisp and clear. The interface can do this because it has in-built preamps (usually 2), that work to expand the frequencies and give your voice more range and depth.

It’s the quality of these preamps, which can determine how well the sound is amplified. So as you’d expect, those preamps you find in a budget audio interface don’t usually perform as well as those at a higher pricepoint.

While at first you may be puzzled by how much the prices of audio interfaces vary, when you really dissect what they offer, it’s actually pretty easy to get your head around why the best audio interfaces cost so much. Curious? Here’s just a couple of reasons that could justify a high price…

  • Material quality – Fact is that audio interfaces just like every piece of tech, use certain materials in their construction. Some will be clad in plastic and not be all that durable, while other may demand a higher price because their outer casing is metal. Much the same goes for the quality of the switchgear and the internal components. All of which really comes back to the saying “you get what you pay for”.
  • R&D costs – Depending on what type of audio interface your looking ton buy, a large part of its asking price will be down to how much has been spent on its design. For instance if a company was to launch a new model or do a substantial redesign, the cost of the end product would be quite high. Designing a new body, internals and switchgear is not cheap! Whereas if the new version is merely a face-lifted version of the pre-existing interface, then there’s a strong chance that it’ll be priced far lower.
  • Becoming obsolete – A reason some of the best audio interfaces demand such a high price is because (unlike cheaper alternatives), they’re designed to stand the test of time. So by that we mean that if you buy an expensive audio interface today, within 10 years you may only be 1, possibly 2 models behind the most current. In contrast to a budget audio interface, which may have evolved 5 times throughout the same period.
  • Input/ output features – Take a look at the best audio interface you can find, and sure enough you’ll see a difference in inputs/ outputs compared to something more budget. Reason being that a feature-rich interface is significantly more valuable to you (the consumer). A more flexible interface opens up so many more doors for you as a consumer, yet of course, the knock on effect of which, is the cost of integrating these features.
  • Sound quality – Invest in an upmarket interface and it’s also likely you’ll see a slight advantage when it comes to sound quality. Typically the best audio interfaces (if judged by price), offer higher sampling rates, as well as more depth to their sound. This being because the price of an audio interface can often reflect the quality of the preamps – the part of the interface that amplifies the frequency of your vocals.

In many cases, yes.

Upgrading your audio interface is a great way to increase your sound quality and clarity of your overall vocal. However, the way you upgrade is likely to have the largest affect. So upgrading your audio interface could be as simple as replacing your existing interface with the latest model – i.e upgrading from the Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen) to the newer 3rd Gen model.

Or you could go one step further and trade your budget audio interface for something slightly more lux. Either way though, because of how fast and efficient tech is becoming, upgrading your audio interface is an easy way to get a cheeky boost in sound quality and improve the overall clarity of your recordings. Let’s just say that the pros use pricy audio interfaces for a reason.