Best Audio Interfaces in 2023! (Ultimate Guide)

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Looking for the best audio interfaces in 2023? Read our ultimate guide to find out the top features, brands, and models for your music production needs.

 

1. UA Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition

HIGH-END INTERFACE

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2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen    

VERSATILE OPTION

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3. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820      

EXPANDED CONNECTIVITY

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4. NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2      

PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE

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5. PreSonus Studio 68c          

LOW-LATENCY SOLUTION

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6. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen

VERSATILE STUDIO HUB

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1. UA Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition

HIGH-END INTERFACE

1176, LA-2A, Pultec, vintage tones.Unison-enabled mic preamps with near-zero latency and full dynamic range.
Thunderbolt 3 offers fast performance.Beautiful metal chassis with LED.
Picture by UA
Picture by Alesis

PROS

  • If you’re in search of a top-notch audio interface boasting an elegant design and notable heritage, look no further than the UA Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition. This device boasts outstanding features that set it apart from the competition. Here are four key advantages of this audio interface:

    1. Bundled with a selection of classic analog plugins from Universal Audio—including the 1176, LA-2A, and Pultec EQ, among others—this interface replicates the sound and essence of renowned hardware units, granting you access to vintage tones and effects.
    2. Equipped with two Unison-enabled mic preamps, you can record with virtually zero latency and a complete dynamic range. Unison technology enables you to adjust preamp impedance and gain staging, adapting to the characteristics of different microphones and instruments.
    3. Its Thunderbolt 3 connection ensures fast and reliable performance. Thunderbolt 3 represents the latest and most advanced version of Thunderbolt, offering bandwidth of up to 40 Gbps and compatibility with USB-C devices.
    4. Encased in a sleek metal chassis embellished with a conspicuous knob and LED meters, the design draws inspiration from the iconic Apollo consoles utilized by illustrious artists like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. The knob allows you to effortlessly control input levels, monitor levels, headphone levels, and more.

    These are just a few of the strengths of the UA Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition. Should you wish to delve deeper into this audio interface, feel free to visit the official website or peruse some online reviews. Investing in this piece of gear is bound to be a decision you won’t regret!

CONS

  • The UA Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition is a top-of-the-line audio interface known for its exceptional sound quality, extensive features, and premium plug-ins. However, it comes with a couple of considerations worth noting.
  • Firstly, its price tag of $1,099 is significantly higher than other similar audio interfaces. While this price reflects the quality and reputation of the UA brand, if you’re on a tight budget, you may want to explore more affordable options.
  • Secondly, this device requires a Thunderbolt 3 connection, which is not widely available on Windows PCs and older Macs. This may necessitate purchasing adapters or cables, adding both cost and complexity. Those seeking greater connectivity options or lacking a Thunderbolt 3 port should explore alternative audio interfaces.

2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

VERSATILE OPTION

Upgraded preamps, high-resolution converters.Easy setup and operation.
“Versatile inputs for diverse sources.”Impressive software bundle included.
Picture by Focusrite

PROS

    • If you are in search of an affordable and straightforward audio interface for recording and mixing music or podcasts, then the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen is a great option to consider. This USB audio interface offers several important pros or positive aspects that appeal to both beginners and experienced recording enthusiasts. Here are four key advantages:

      1. Professional-grade sound: With upgraded preamps, high-resolution converters, and low-latency monitoring, the Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen delivers transparent stereo recordings for XLR mics and quarter-inch inputs. The included Air feature enhances high-end detail, providing your sound with added brightness and clarity.

      2. Simplified setup and operation: Connecting to your computer via USB-C, this audio interface is compatible with major DAW software. Its sleek and intuitive design, coupled with easy-to-use controls and indicators, allows you to effortlessly adjust levels, switch between inputs, and monitor audio.

      3. Versatile inputs: Equipped with two combo inputs, the Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen accommodates both XLR mics and quarter-inch instruments, such as guitars, basses, and keyboards. The instrument button optimizes input impedance for different sources, while the phantom power button supplies power to condenser mics that require it.

      4. Impressive software bundle: Alongside the audio interface, you receive a generous selection of software, including Avid Pro Tools | First, Ableton Live Lite, the Focusrite Red plug-in suite, and more. Additionally, access to online tutorials and support further assists in getting you up and running.

      The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen is an exceptional audio interface that offers professional-grade sound, ease of use, and an extensive software bundle at an affordable price. Whether you’re recording vocals, guitars, keyboards, or podcasts, this interface provides the style and reliability you need.

CONS

  • The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen is widely used for recording and podcasting. However, it does have a few drawbacks to consider before purchasing.

    Firstly, the input gain knobs lack precision. While they offer a wide adjustment range, they lack numerical markings or indicators. This makes it challenging to set precise levels and match different input levels. To find the optimal gain setting for your microphone or instrument, you might have to rely on a software meter or trial-and-error method.

    Secondly, the headphone output is not particularly powerful. Although it can accommodate most headphones, it may struggle with high-impedance or low-sensitivity models. In noisy environments, you may not obtain sufficient volume or clarity from your headphones. To achieve the best sound quality, you may need to utilize an external headphone amplifier or select a different pair of headphones.

3. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820      

EXPANDED CONNECTIVITY

18 inputs, 20 outputs, 8 preamps24-bit/96 kHz high-quality audio.
Compatible with popular recording software.Easy setup, intuitive design.
Picture by Behringer

PROS

  • If you are in search of an audio interface that is reliable, affordable, and has a multitude of inputs and outputs, the Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 is worth considering. Here are four key advantages of this device:

    1. The Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 offers an impressive 18 inputs and 20 outputs, including 8 MIDAS-designed mic preamps that feature phantom power, 2 instrument inputs, 10 line inputs, ADAT and S/PDIF ports, as well as MIDI I/O. This wide array of options ensures flexibility when connecting various devices such as microphones, instruments, synthesizers, and more.

    2. Supporting up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution, this interface allows for high-quality audio recording and playback with minimal latency and noise. Additionally, the built-in monitor mix control grants the ability to adjust the balance between the input and playback signals for each output.

    3. The UMC1820 is compatible with most popular recording software including Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Cubase, Logic Pro, and more. The included Tracktion software enables immediate recording capabilities, or you can download the free Behringer UMC driver to use with any other preferred DAW.

    4. Setting up and using the U-PHORIA UMC1820 is hassle-free due to its intuitive front panel design and LED indicators. The gain, level, and pad settings for each input channel can be easily adjusted, and LED meters allow for easy monitoring of input and output levels. Additionally, there is a dedicated headphones output with its own level control and source switch.

    These features of the Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 audio interface make it a top choice. For more information, visit the official Behringer website or read online reviews from other users.

CONS

  • The Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 is a versatile and affordable USB audio interface. With 18 inputs and 20 outputs, along with 8 MIDAS-designed mic preamps and 24-bit/96 kHz resolution, it’s a handy tool for home recording, podcasting, and live streaming. However, there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind.
  • Firstly, the drivers can be unstable and unreliable, leading to issues like latency, crackling, popping, and dropouts, especially when using the UMC1820 with Windows 10 or Mac OS X.
  • Additionally, the build quality is not the sturdiest, with some parts feeling cheap and flimsy. Proper care and the use of power conditioners or surge protectors are recommended.

4. NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2      

PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE

6 inputs, 6 outputs24-bit/192 kHz audio resolution.
Six inputs and six outputs.Software bundle with 2000 sounds.
Picture by NI

PROS

  • The NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 is a premium audio interface designed to cater to the needs of music producers and performers. With its sleek and robust design, it provides seamless control and monitoring through its large volume knob and LED meters. Its metal casing and rubber feet guarantee long-lasting durability and stability.

    This device supports up to 24-bit/192 kHz audio resolution, ensuring every sound is recorded and played back with incredible clarity and detail. Thanks to its low-latency drivers, it offers smooth performance and compatibility with most digital audio workstations (DAWs) and software instruments.

    Equipped with six inputs and six outputs, the NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 provides flexibility for connecting different sources and devices, including microphones, guitars, keyboards, speakers, headphones, and MIDI controllers. Additionally, the two headphone outputs allow for monitoring different mixes or collaborating with another musician.

    One of the standout features of this audio interface is its software bundle, which includes a vast collection of over 2000 sounds and effects from NI’s renowned Komplete library. From Massive, Monark, Reaktor Prism, to Phasis, the possibilities are endless. Moreover, users can also access the NI Online Shop and enjoy discounts on additional products.

    All in all, the NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 is a versatile and powerful audio interface that elevates music production and performance to new heights. If you seek a reliable and professional device that delivers superior sound quality and a wide range of features, this is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment.

CONS

  • The NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 is a well-known audio interface that combines excellent audio quality, versatility in connectivity, and a sleek design. Despite its many advantages, it is important to consider its limitations before making a purchase.
  • Two notable drawbacks of the NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 include the absence of MIDI ports and the lack of a direct monitoring switch. The absence of MIDI ports means that you are unable to connect external MIDI devices like keyboards or drum pads, potentially restricting your creative options, particularly if you heavily rely on MIDI instruments and effects.
  • Additionally, the absence of a direct monitoring switch means you are unable to hear the input signal without latency or processing from your computer, making it more challenging to record instruments requiring precise timing and feedback. Instead, you are forced to rely on software settings and buffer size, which may negatively affect the performance and stability of your system.

5. PreSonus Studio 68c          

LOW-LATENCY SOLUTION

4 XMAX mic preamps, 192 kHz sample rate, 24-bit resolutionFlexible connectivity allows versatile connections.
PreSonus Studio 68c offers: software, membership.Portable and rugged audio interface.
Picture by PreSonus

PROS

  • The PreSonus Studio 68c is an incredibly versatile audio interface that offers numerous benefits to musicians, producers, and podcasters alike. There are four significant advantages to this device:

    1. It boasts high-quality sound thanks to its inclusion of four XMAX Class A mic preamps. These preamps deliver exceptionally clear, detailed, and natural sound. Furthermore, the interface supports sample rates of up to 192 kHz and 24-bit resolution, ensuring the highest level of audio recording and playback fidelity.

    2. The Studio 68c offers flexible connectivity options. With its two combo mic/instrument inputs and two combo mic/line inputs, you can effortlessly connect an array of sources, including microphones, guitars, keyboards, and more. Additionally, the interface provides two balanced main outputs, two balanced line outputs, a headphone output, and a MIDI input/output for enhanced control and monitoring capabilities.

    3. Integrating the Studio 68c into your workflow is a breeze. It is bundled with the PreSonus Studio One Artist software, a powerful and intuitive digital audio workstation that facilitates music creation, editing, and mixing. Users also gain access to the exclusive PreSonus Sphere membership, which includes over 100 GB of content, online collaboration tools, and special offers.

    4. The Studio 68c is both portable and durable. Its compact and rugged design enables hassle-free transportation and use in various environments. With USB-C compatibility and bus-powered functionality, no external power supply or adapter is needed. Additionally, the interface features a metal chassis and sturdy knobs that can withstand wear and tear.

CONS

  • The PreSonus Studio 68c is a high-quality USB-C audio interface designed for musicians and producers, offering excellent sound and features. However, it’s important to consider its limitations before purchasing. One drawback is the limited inputs and outputs.
  • With only four mic/line inputs, two line outputs, and two headphone outputs, it may fall short for users requiring additional connectivity options like MIDI, S/PDIF, or ADAT. If you aim to record more than four sources simultaneously or connect numerous external devices, a larger interface would be necessary.
  • Another disadvantage is the absence of direct monitoring control. Adjusting the direct monitoring level requires using the software mixer (Universal Control), which can be inconvenient and time-consuming, especially if frequent setting changes are needed during recording or mixing.

6. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen

VERSATILE STUDIO HUB

Eight mic preamps, 24-bit/192 kHz convertersHigh-resolution 24-bit/192 kHz converters.
Flexible connectivity options for convenience.Generous software bundle for music.
Picture by Focusrite

PROS

  • If you’re in the market for a USB audio interface with multiple inputs and outputs, the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen is worth considering. This device has numerous features and benefits for home studio owners and producers. Here are four key advantages of the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen:

    1. It boasts eight 3rd Generation Scarlett mic preamps that deliver exceptional sound quality, allowing you to record a full band without the need for additional equipment. These preamps also feature Air mode, which replicates the renowned effect of Focusrite’s ISA mic pres, enhancing vocals and guitars.

    2. It offers high-resolution 24-bit/192 kHz converters that provide studio-grade sound with a wide dynamic range and minimal noise. This ensures that every nuance of your performance is captured with clarity and precision.

    3. The device offers flexible connectivity options, including two Hi-Z instrument inputs, ten balanced outputs, ADAT input and output, MIDI and S/PDIF. You can effortlessly connect your external gear, monitors, headphones, and more. The built-in talkback mic and speaker switching also make communication with your band convenient.

    4. The interface comes with a valuable software bundle, featuring Ableton Live Lite, three months of Pro Tools Artist, and the Hitmaker Expansion with plugins from respected brands like Antares, Softube, Landr, and XLN Audio. You can start making music immediately with some of the most beloved tools in the industry.

    Overall, the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen is a versatile and powerful USB audio interface that can transform any space into a professional studio. It provides a high channel count, professional-grade audio, pro features, and excellent value for money. For more information and reviews on this product, please visit the following links:

    [Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 audio interface review | Popular Science]
    [Scarlett 18i20 | Focusrite]
    [Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface Reviews]

CONS

  • The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen is a popular audio interface known for its excellent sound quality, versatile connectivity options, and user-friendly software. However, there are a few drawbacks to consider before purchasing this device.
  • Firstly, it comes with a relatively high price tag. Compared to other audio interfaces in its category, the Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen is one of the most expensive options, costing around $500. If you have a limited budget, it may be worth exploring cheaper alternatives that still meet your needs.
  • Additionally, this interface is relatively large and heavy, measuring 18.7 x 9.6 x 1.9 inches and weighing 6.6 pounds. This means it occupies a significant amount of space and is not ideal for portability. For those requiring a more compact and lightweight solution, it may be worth considering smaller alternatives.

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