Features to Look for in the Top Audio Interfaces

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You might need a new audio interface if you want to improve an existing one or you plan to start a new home studio. However, shopping for a new audio interface could be very confusing because of the high number of options available, each one is designed to meet the requirements of a particular studio type.

For instance, a pro studio that demands dozens of INs / OUTs may need a few interfaces costing more than $4000 each, while a small studio may manage just with a cheap $100 audio interface. Even for the experienced, it might be difficult to match the right studio with the right interface. Here are some tips to help you choose.

Features to take into consideration:

5 most important features of good audio interfaces:

• Input / Output Count (I/O) – I/O counts can range on a typical audio interface anywhere between over 20 on a professional interface and 1-2 on a simple interface.
• Interface Connectors – there are four cable options used commonly when connecting your computer and an audio interface:
o USB
o Firewire
o Thunderbolt
o PCIe
• DAW Compatibility – 90 percent of the top DAW’s are compatible with any interface. But if you want to continue using a certain DAW is recommended to verify on the company’s website its compatibility.
• Form Factor – the typical options are desktop interfaces and rack-mounted interfaces.
• Input Channel Types – includes a combination of Mic Input, Line Input, and Optical Input.

Best Desktop Audio Interfaces

Most of the audio interfaces users that are not professional musicians will only need a cheap interface good enough to record music in a home studio. For this purpose, we recommend a 2-6 channel USB desktop interface. On the low end, this will cost between $100 and $300. On the high end, the price is in the range of $500 to $1500. The best brands of desktop interfaces are Universal Audio, Avid, Focusrite, and Presonus.

The recommended models from each brand are:
• Universal Audio (Thunderbolt connection)
• Apollo Twin DUO
• Apollo Twin SOLO
• Avid (USB connection)
• Pro Tools Quartet
• Pro Tools Duet
• Focusrite Scarlett (USB connection)
• Scarlett 18i8
• Scarlett 6i6
• Scarlett 2i4
• Scarlett Solo
• Presonus AudioBox (USB connection)
• Audiobox 44VSL
• AudioBox 22VSL
• AudioBox USB

Sound Producer Mixer

Best Rackmounted Audio Interfaces

An intermediate home studio setup that requires more sophisticated recording tasks would demand a higher I/O. For this studio type, we recommend an 8+ channel rack-mounted interface. The best brands in this category are Antelope Audio, Universal Audio, Apogee, Focusrite, and Presonus. The recommended models from each brand are:
• Antelope Audio
• Antelope Audio Orion32+
• Antelope Audio Orion Studio
• Antelope Audio Zen Studio
• Universal Audio
• Apollo 16 (Thunderbolt)
• Apollo 8 (Thunderbolt)
• Apogees
• Ensemble (thunderbolt)
• Focusrite
• Clarett 8PreX (thunderbolt)
• Clarett 8Pre (thunderbolt)
• Scarlett 18i20 (USB)
• Presonus
• Studio 192 (USB)
• Firestudio Project (firewire)
• Audiobox 1818VSL (USB)

Professional Interfaces

Professional audio interfaces are the higher class only seen in high-end pro studios. They typically connect to a separate PCIe card and cost multi-thousand dollars. You can only install them on a desktop computer and are usually used to upgrade the Pro Tools HD.

Among their advantages are included:
• High I/O counts
• Ultra-Low latency
• Multiple Connection Options
• Premium Digital Conversion

Some top professional interfaces are:
• Apogee Symphony
• Avid HD 16×16

We hope that our guide will help you select a suitable audio interface more quickly.