The Best Audio Interface For Recording

Trying to figure out which the best audio interface for your needs to get can be one of the most confusing and overwhelming pieces of equipment to purchase for your recording rig depending on your background with computers.  We will do our best to help you in making your decision as to what audio interface is best for your needs.

What Is An Audio Interface


Knobs On The Best Audio Interface

An audio interface is hardware that allows you to connect microphones to it and converts signals to something that your computer can read.  This is an essential part of your recording rig, and I like to think of the audio interface as the brain of your recording rig.  everything plugs into it, and it registers what is happening.  Even studio monitors, headphones, and a DI box (If you choose), plug into this piece of equipment.

Tips For Getting The Best Audio Interface For You


When looking through the audio interfaces below, think of what you are wanting to record.  How many mic inputs will you need at a time?  If youThe Best Audio Interface Tips are recording a drum set, you will need several.  If you are recording a podcast, you may only need one or 2, depending if you will be speaking with someone else.  Other things to consider, is what your computer can do.  All of these audio interfaces will require a specific operating system that they will work with, and I do suggest to use a computer with at least 8 GB of RAM.  With that being said, let's take a look at some of the best audio interface options! (the following products contain affiliate links.  This means at no additional cost to you, I get paid if you click through and make a purchase)

The Best Audio Interface Suggestions


Focusrite Scarlett

The Focusrite Scarlett series features a USB connection to your computer and has sample rates of up to 24-bit/192kHz.  This interface series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and PC Windows 7 or later.  Focusrite products are most easily recognized by their red shell that they use on their products.  The Scarlett series made our list due to their great sound at a very affordable price that are  budget friendly.

Scarlett Solo

  • 1 mic preamp
  • 1 XLR input
  • 1 1/4" input

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Scarlett 2i4

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4" inputs

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Scarlett 6i6

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 4 1/4" inputs

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Scarlett 18i8

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 8 1/4" inputs

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Scarlett 18i20

  • 8 mic preamps
  • 8 XLR inputs
  • 8 1/4" inputs

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What Customers Are Saying About The Focusrite Scarlett Series

This interface has a great material quality, while having a pretty good sound quality too.  There is very little noise from the interface, and it has a decent volume control.  Tech support for Focusrite is great.  I noticed that the issues customers had on Amazon with a defective product, Focusrite commented on to try to help.

Focusrite Clarett

The Focusrite Clarett series has a USB connection to your computer and has sample rates to 24-bit/192kHz.  These include several Focusrite plug-ins for your recording software.  It is compatible with Mac OS X 10.11 or later and PC Windows 7 SP1 or later.  While the Clarett series is a little more expensive than the Scarlett series, it comes with additional features like the plugins that are a great value.

Clarett 2Pre

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4" inputs

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Clarett 4Pre

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 4 1/4" inputs

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Clarett 8Pre

  • 8 mic preamps
  • 8 XLR inputs
  • 8 1/4" inputs

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What Customers Are Saying About The Focusrite Clarett Series

This device has a fantastic sound quality and is a step up from the Scarlett series.  It is faster and crisper.  However, there are some complaints about trying to get the drivers to work.  That said, there is little latency on it.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin

The Universal Audio Apollo Twin series has a thunderbolt connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz.  It includes some of Universal Audio's state of the art plug-ins.  The Apollo Twin series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and PC Windows 10 64 bit(will need a thunderbolt adapter if using on PC).  Universal Audio is known for top-of-the-line quality, and these fit right into their reputation.  They are one of the more expensive audio interfaces from our list, but the quality is fantastic.  However, the only downfall of the Apollo Twin series, is that you are limited to two preamps.

Apollo Twin SOLO

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4" inputs
  • 1 SHARC processor

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Apollo Twin DUO

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4" inputs
  • 2 SHARC processors

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Apollo Twin QUAD

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4" inputs
  • 4 SHARC processors

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What Customers Are Saying About The Universal Audio Twin Series

The thunderbolt connection makes it transfer data extremely fast with a very crisp sound quality.  The included plugins by themselves are enough that you could make a great sounding album. It is suggested to not use with Windows, but if you are to use a USB 3.0 connection instead.  The material kit is made out of is high quality, and the sound is beautiful.

Universal Audio Apollo 8 Quad

The Apollo 8 Quad has a Thunderbolt connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz.  It includes some of Universal Audio's state of the art plug-ins.  The Apollo 8 is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and PC Windows 10 64 bit or later (Must have thunderbolt adapter for PC).  With some great plugins in the package, this is a great audio interface.  It is more expensive but has great quality.  The only downfall, similar to the Apollo Twin, you are limited to 4 mic preamps.

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 2 instrument preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 8 1/4" inputs
  • 2 1/4" Hi-Z

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PreSonus Studio

The Presonus Studio series has a USB connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz.  The Studio Magic plug-in bundle is included.  The Studio series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.8.5 and up and Windows 7 Sp1 and up (Intel 2GHz multi-core processor or better).  The Studio series has a great quality, and it comes at a budget friendly price too.  If you are needing to save a few dollars, this should be one you consider.

Studio 2X4

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4" inputs

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Studio 6X8

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 4 1/4" inputs

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Studio 1810

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 4 1/4" inputs

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Studio 1824

  • 8 mic preamps
  • 8 XLR inputs
  • 8 1/4" inputs
  • 2 of the XLR and 1/4" inputs are Hi-Z

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What Customers Are Saying About The PreSonus Studio Series

Customers think that the Studio series has a great value for the cost, it is fairly easy to use, and has a pretty good sound quality.  However, there are some complaints that the tech support from PreSonus was just average.  If using other DAWs than PreSonus, the drivers can be difficult.

Audient iD

The Audient iD audio interface series has a USB 2.0 connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/96kHz.  This interface sits nicely on any recording desk and gives an ease to make adjustments to the levels.  The only downfall is the amount of preamps available.  With only 4 mic preamps, you could run into issues if you are wanting to record a drumset with multiple microphones.

Audient iD4

  • 1 mic preamp
  • 1 XLR input
  • Mac: OS X 10.7.5 and up
  • PC: Windows 7 and up

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Audient iD14

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • Mac: OS X 10.7.5 and up
  • PC: Windows 7 and up

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Audient iD22

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • Mac: OS X 8 and up
  • PC: Windows 7 SP1 and up

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Audient iD44

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • Mac: OS 10.7.5 and up
  • PC: Windows 7 SP1 and up

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What Customers Are Saying About The Audient iD Series

The sound quality is great, and it is fairly easy to operate.  There seems to be some complaints about tech support, but it looks like tech support also addressed all of the issues that people were having.  Because of this, I would ignore the complaints of that if this is the device you like the most.

Apogee Element

The Apogee Element series has a thunderbolt connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz.  It is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and iOS, NOT compatible with PC.  While there isn't much to look at with the Element series, don't mistake it for low quality.  These interfaces have fantastic sound.  However, high quality also comes with a not-so-pretty price tag.

Apogee Element 24

  • 2 mic preamps
  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4" inputs

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Apogee Element 46

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 4 1/4" inputs

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Apogee Element 88

  • 8 mic preamps
  • 8 XLR inputs
  • 4 1/4" inputs

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What Customers Are Saying About The Apogee Element Series

I honestly couldn't find hardly any complaints on it.  It appears that the Element series is pretty straight forward.  This isn't hard to believe as it isn't overloaded with options, but just relies on great sounding quality for a little pricey amount.

Antelope Audio Discrete

The Antelope Audio Discrete series uses a thunderbolt or a USB connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz.  These include the Basic FX pack from Antelope Audio.  The Discrete series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.11 and up and Windows 10 and up (8 GB of RAM minimum).  These, just like with the Element series, are very high quality producing a great sound.  However, the Discrete series also comes with a higher price tag.  That said, these do come with some great plugins to add to your collection.

Discrete 4

  • 4 mic preamps
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 4 1/4" inputs

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Discrete 8

  • 8 mic preamps
  • 8 XLR inputs
  • 8 1/4" inputs

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What Customers Are Saying About The  Antelope Audio Discrete Series

While these are pricier and higher on the price range, the material is of great quality.  It sounds crisp, and it is also really fast.  If you can spare the price in your recording studio, it seems that the Discrete series would be a great option.

Sample Rate Explained


The best way to explain sample rate is to think of how a video tape works.  If you see the tape pulled out, it is actually a series of photographsThe Best Audio Interface To Record High Quality that are put together and changed frequently that create the illusion of a video.  The same can be said for music.  The computer will take a series of "snapshots" of the audio waves, and put them together to create music.
That said, we can now see that the higher the sample rate the better the quality.  Now you might be telling yourself that you want the highest sample rate possible, but let's also consider that your computer can only process so much due to the amount of RAM that it has.  Before you spend more money on what you think the best audio interface is, consider that if your computer can only process, so much, then you are going to end up lowering the sample rate.  Thus, you could have just purchased a cheaper interface.

Understanding Bit Rate


It is best to think of bit rate like a stair case along the waves from the sound source.  the higher the bit rate, the more "stairs" there are.  Therefore, we can think of a bell curve of a sound wave when considering this rate.  The higher the bit rate the more captures a sound will have.  I had a professor that had us compare to the evolution of video games.  If you listen to how "blocky" the Mario song is, this is a great example of a low bit rate.

RAM Recommendations For The Best Audio Interface


After discussing sample rate and bit rate, you will notice that the amount of RAM your recording computer has is incredibly important.  To get the best audio interface for you, we will need to focus on what your capabilities are.  I will suggest that your computer should have no less than 8 GB of RAM.  This day and age, that will be easier and cheaper to achieve, but if you are operating on an older computer, you will want to be aware that you may need to make some upgrades, or you will need to lower your sample rate and bit rate.

What Buttons You Will Find On The Best Audio Interface


Just by looking at any of these options, you will notice that some of the best audio interfaces have tons of buttons on them.  If this looks overwhelming to you, don't worry.  We will go through each of the types of common buttons and inputs on an interface and what they are used for:
  • Power:  Obviously, this one is used to turn the hardware on/offButton Options With The Best Audio Interface and Studio
  • XLR Jacks:  You may find this on the front or the back of the device.  These are used to connect a microphone or DI box using a XLR cable.
  • Gain:  You will see this next to each of the XLR jacks.  This is how you will adjust the gain of the individual microphones.
  • 48V/Pad:  This is how you send power through the cable to a microphone.  You will want this turned on if you are using a condenser microphone.
  • Headphone Jack:  You can connect your studio headphones here to listen to your mix
  • Headphone Volume Knob:  This is where you can control how loud/soft the volume is through the headphones.
  • Monitor Volume Knob:  Here you can adjust how loud or soft the mix is through your studio monitors.
  • Line Out:  There should be a left and right option.  This is where you will connect your studio monitors.
  • USB/Firewire/Thunderbolt:  Here you will connect the interface to your computer.
Any best audio interface should have most of, if not all of the above options included in it to help you control and get the most out of the device.  Make sure before using yours that you have familiarized yourself with each of the buttons and inputs.

The Best Audio Interface Different Types Of Connections


There are four different types of connections that the interface might have to your computer.  It is best to know the difference between these connections so you can purchase the best audio interface for your needs.

Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt Connection For The Best Audio InterfaceThunderbolt connections can be found on the most recent Mac computers.  If you have the option on your computer to do this method, it is a great choice as thunderbolt connections transfer data 8 times as fast as USB.  However, since this connection is specific to later Macs, make sure you have the option to do so.

Firewire

This type of connection transfers data more consistently than that of a USB.  The problem here, similar to the thunderbolt, is that not very many interfaces or computers use them.  Because of this, if you have the ability to use a firewire interface, do so, but make absolute certain that it will work with your setup.

USB

The Best Audio Interface ConnectionsThis is the safest bet when purchasing an audio interface as nearly all computers should have a USB port.  It might not be as fast as the thunderbolt or the firewire connections, but you should be able to use the interface with any computer.

PCIe

This is an internal card, which because of this, will make it the fastest option for transferring data.  However, you cannot use it on a laptop, and they are very expensive.  This option is most commonly seen in bigger recording studios, but it is not a popular option for small home studios.

Additional Considerations For The Best Audio Interface


Now that we have discussed many different topics regarding audio interfaces, it is important that we look at the big picture.  Your computer,Recording Set Up WIth The Best Audio Interface DAW software, and audio interface work hand in hand with your microphones and plugins.  Do not blow all of your money to get the top-of-the-line best audio interface, if you are going to need to be skimpy on the rest of your recording purchases.  Be sure that you are purchasing the audio interface that works with your budget.
Conversely, be sure that you have a good quality audio interface, with very low to no buzz.  I cannot tell you enough how frustrating it can be when trying to record with a client and have a sound that you cannot get rid in your mix.  The interfaces that we mentioned in this article will have this quality, but if you do not purchase one of these, be sure to read reviews carefully to avoid this being an issue.  It will save you many headaches in the future!

The Wide Range Of Prices


You may have noticed as you were looking through the audio interfaces on this list that there is a very wide range of prices associated with The Best Audio Interface In The Studiothem.  The brand has some to do with this such as guitars do if you are familiar with that aspect.

All of these on this list are great quality, but those like Universal Audio, Apogee, and Antelope are more expensive.  These are the types that you might see in a more experienced home studio.  If you are just starting out in your recording adventure or on a very tight budget, I highly suggest using either a Focusrite or Presonus interface.

While both of these are more budget friendly, they have a great sound too.  I personally record on the Focusrite Scarlett series, and I can vouch that I do not have any buzz and it has a crisp sound.  This is one of the few expenses for your recording studio that I do not recommend taking a shortcut with the cost.

Having the best audio interface or a very high quality one, will save you from having many frustrations when trying to mix.  For example, with a cheap, bottom line interface, you might have a slight hum that will be a nightmare trying to fix in post production.  Save yourself the hassle by going ahead and getting an interface that is going to last and produce a clear sound.

How To Care For The Best Audio Interface


Since this type of item is the heart of your recording rig, you will want to make sure you are taking good care of it so you don't have to replace the item sooner.  There are a few things to note of how to properly use one.
Firstly, make sure the audio interface is the last item you turn on after everything is also plugged in.  This means to be sure all of your microphones you are using are plugged into a XLR cable, then plugged in to the interface.  Additionally, ensure that your computer, your studio monitors, and headphones are plugged in (if using).  After that, it is then safe to turn on the device.  After that, let the interface warm up for a few minutes before usage to get the best sound.
After you are done with the session, before unplugging any microphone or turning any device off, turn off the audio interface.  By doing these steps, you will avoid having any jolts or pops that could blow the amp.  This is a good practice to use for any devices that have some sort of amplifier.

Final Thoughts On The Best Audio Interface


If you have any questions about which is the best audio interface for you, or need any help with selecting recording equipment for your studio, please feel free to contact us through our contact us page found here.  Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for the latest Blackskye Media updates!