The Best Audio Interfaces 2019

The 25 Best Audio Interfaces Money Can Buy (2019)

Audio Interfaces are the beating heart of most producers’ studios.

They help you capture that perfect vocal or catchy synth line, and allow you to hear it all back through those monitors you just blew your budget on.

Chances are, you probably are looking at buying one, but don’t know where to start – there are so many options.

Here, we’ve done all the research for you and compiled the best audio interfaces money can buy in 2019.

Table of Contents

  1. Before Buying
  2. What To Look For
  3. Under $300
  4. Under $500
  5. Under $1000
  6. Pro Level
  7. Wrapping Up

Before Buying

You might have heard you NEED an audio interface to produce music. Now, this isn’t exactly true. In fact, your computer actually has one built in.

If you’re just using headphones, chances are the built-in sound card that comes with your computer is all you need.

The issue is, the built-in sound card in most laptops and desktops isn’t ideal for recording instruments and vocals, or for playing sound through studio monitors. So if that’s you, keep reading on.

There’s a lot of terminology here, so if you get confused, make sure to check out our massive glossary of production terms.

What To Look For

Audio interfaces can come with a variety of features, and depending on your needs, you need to know what to look for.

There are five main factors to consider:

  1. Connector
  2. I/O
  3. Compatibility
  4. Format
  5. Extras

Connector

There are many types of connectors that audio interfaces. The main ones are:

  • USB – The most common form of interface connector, as it plugs directly into a USB 2.0 or 3.0 socket. Compatible with most Macs and PCs.
  • Thunderbolt – The second most common connector, favourable due to fast speed and compatibility with most Macs.
  • Firewire – An older Mac connector which historically had faster transfer speeds, but is less ideal than Thunderbolt.
  • PCIe – A different type of connector used on internal interfaces that connectors directly to your motherboard. Very fast, low latency and the most reliable (and expensive).

I/O

The number and type of inputs and outputs that an audio interface has will matter greatly in the decision-making process.

Most interfaces have at least 2 quarter-inch jack outputs to connect to studio monitors, and at least 2 inputs that for either a microphone or direct line input, but more can be useful depending on your needs.

Need to record a full drum kit? Probably going to need more inputs.

Need to output to multiple pairs of speakers? Probably going to need more outputs.

Compatibility

Not all interfaces are compatible with all DAWs. Sometimes, a manufacturer will make an interface specifically for a certain environment. This is especially true of high-end interfaces (we’re looking at you, Avid).

Format

What does format mean? Well essentially, there are two formats.

Desktop and Rackmount.

Most low-to-middle end interfaces will be Desktop, while higher-end interfaces will be Rackmount. If that isn’t self-explanatory, desktop interfaces can sit on your desk, while rackmount requires a rack to screw the interface into.

Extras

While the connector and inputs/outputs determine the bulk of the purchase decision, the extras definitely need to be factored in too.

Extras include:

  • Size – Is it big, small, heavy, light etc.?
  • MIDI Interfacing – Does it double as a MIDI interface for hardware control?
  • DSP – Can I use it to save CPU on my computer?
  • Appearance – Does it look sexy?
  • Inclusions – Software bonuses or DAWs?

Now, let’s dive into these audio interfaces. But if you’re a new producer, we’ve compiled a quick PDF guide of the best five interfaces with extra information.

Download the Free PDF Guide Now

Under $300

If you’re just starting out, you’re probably on a budget. The good news is, these interfaces are super affordable and still get you studio-quality sound:

Behringer U-Phoria UM2 

$39.99 USD

Behringer U-Phoria UM2
Credit: Amazon

First up comes the Behringer U-Phoria UM2. This is the cheapest audio interface money can buy while still not sacrificing quality.

Features

  • 1 XLR/quarter-inch input
  • 1 quarter-inch (only) input
  • 2 quarter-inch output
  • +48V Phantom Power
  • Headphones Output
  • Easy-access gain and output knobs on the top surface
  • Signal indicator
  • Desktop use
  • Compact
  • USB Powered
  • Compatible with most major DAWs
  • Recording software included

Our Take

If you need the cheapest audio interface available that is still reliable, then the UM2 is a great choice. While it might not have the flexibility and features of other audio interfaces (Scarlett has better preamps and input options), at $39.99 it certainly seems to be outdoing itself.

Buy Now

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

$159.99 USD

Credit: Amazon

One of my personal favourites, the Scarlett 2i2 by Focusrite. The company definitely got their focus right with this one.

Puns aside, this interface has been a long-term studio staple for me. It’s been used in both studio and live situations, it’s been through a lot and it still comes out on top.

Features

  • 2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs
  • 2 quarter-inch output
  • Phantom Power (+48V)
  • Headphones Output with dedicated output knob
  • Intuitive ring signal indicator
  • Quality build
  • USB Powered
  • Desktop use
  • Compatible with most major DAWs
  • Comes with a suite of FX plugins included

Our Take

Great for a first audio interface because of the amazing form factor, high-quality preamps and versatility for a bedroom producer. Most electronic music producers who may occasionally want to record something and need to output to monitors will absolutely love this. The only downside is no MIDI In/Out. The red looks pretty dope though.

Buy Now

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4

$219.99 USD

Similar to its sister device the 2i2, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 is a device you can’t look past.

Essentially it’s the same as the 2i2 but dressed up a bit more with extra output options, MIDI in/out and extra switches.

Features

  • 2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs
  • 4 unbalanced RCA outputs
  • 2 balanced quarter-inch output
  • MIDI In/Out
  • Phantom Power (+48V)
  • Headphones Output with dedicated output knob
  • Intuitive ring signal indicator
  • Quality build
  • USB Powered
  • Desktop use
  • Compatible with most major DAWs
  • Comes with a suite of FX plugins included

Our Take

Once again, like with the 2i2, the 2i4 is a great first interface. If you need some extra outputs, like to a second speaker pair, or have some hardware you what to use with your DAW, then this is the choice for you.

Buy Now

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

$99.95 USD

The USB96 is quite a nice little interface – great for portability and serving the needs of a bedroom producer.

Features

  • 2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs
  • 2 XLR outputs
  • Inputs/Playback mixer to hear original signal
  • Main output knob with dB measurement
  • Headphones output with a dedicated knob
  • MIDI In/Out
  • 48V Phantom Power
  • Includes Studio One DAW, 6GB+ of resources and extra plugins

Our Take

The form factor on the AudioBox is a little nicer than the U-Phoria, so it’s probably going to be a bit more durable on the road. Plus you get the option of XLR or quarter-inch for the second input, as well as MIDI in/out, so it might be worth it for you. The extras are also pretty great with this one.

Buy Now

Apogee One

$275 USD

Apogee are renowned for their simple, elegant and beautiful interfaces. If you’re the kind of person who wants something that doesn’t clutter your studio space while getting a damn good quality product, check this one out. Be warned though, this device only works on macOS/OSX.

Features

  • Aluminium chassis
  • 2 quarter inch outputs
  • 2 inputs
  • Built-in omnidirectional condenser microphone
  • Simple output knob
  • Headphones output (3.5mm)
  • LED level indicators
  • Intuitive I/O display
  • Compatible with all DAWs on MacOS

Our Take

If you want a more traditional audio interface, maybe give the One a miss. But if you like simplicity and don’t mind the input/output configuration (and work on a Mac), the price point might work out nicely for you.

Buy Now

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

$149 USD

Focusrite now has a new kid on the block, and it’s one of the best entry-level interfaces you’ll be able to find on the market.

Is it the cheapest? No, but for $149 it might be all you need.

Features

  • 1 XLR input
  • 1 quarter-inch input (line or instrument)
  • Gain knobs with intuitive ring singal indicators
  • Monitor knob
  • 2 RCA outputs
  • Headphones output
  • Great built-in preamps
  • USB connectivity
  • Great audio conversion (up to 192kHz sample rate)

Our Take

If you like the form factor and the preamps of the Scarlett series and don’t mind sacrificing extra features, then this is a great entry-level interface.

Buy Now

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1/Audio 2

$109 USD/$139 USD

Native Instruments are renowned for making quality software and hardware, like Massive, Traktor and Maschine.

Normally you’d be paying a bit of a premium to get something from NI, but this affordable interface seems to be the exception, for both the Audio 1 and 2.

Features

Audio 1Audio 2
1 XLR Input2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs
1 quarter-inch input
Phantom Power (48V)Phantom Power (48V)
Headphones outHeadphones Out
Top-facing meteringTop-facing metering
Top-facing monitor knobTop-facing monitor knob
USB ConnectivityUSB Connectivity
Desktop buildDesktop build
2 RCA outputs2 RCA outputs

Our Take

There’s no denying that these interfaces look great, and the functionality is really good. If you like design, portability and robustness and are looking for an entry level interface with some nice features, then definitely consider the Audio series.

Buy Audio 1/Buy Audio 2

PreSonus Studio 24c/26c

$149 USD/$199 USD

Another option from PreSonus is the Studio range. The 24c and 26c both fit into this price bracket and compete with similar models like the Komplete Audio and Scarlett ranges.

Features

24c26c
2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs
MIDI I/O
MIDI I/O
Phantom Power (48V)Phantom Power (48V)
Headphones outHeadphones Out
MeteringMetering
Monitor knobMonitor knob
USB-C ConnectivityUSB-C Connectivity
Desktop buildDesktop build
2 quarter-inch outputs4 quarter-inch outputs

Our Take

The PreSonus Studio 24c and 26c are a clear competitor to the Scarlett range but at a slightly cheaper price point. Although in my opinion, the Scarlett range is worth the extra money. That being said, if the USB-C matters to you, then choose this one for sure.

Buy 24c/Buy 26c

Under $500

If you have a little more cash to spend, it might be worth it to level up to these interfaces, especially if you want a couple more inputs/outputs or want a bit of a faster connector:

Focusrite Scarlett 6i6

$358.99 USD

You’ve probably noticed that the Scarlett range of interfaces shows up a lot here, and for a very good reason. The form factor is amazing, and the functionality is great for the price point.

Features:

  • 2 XLR/quarter-inch instrument inputs
  • Gain knobs with ring signal indicators
  • 2 line ins
  • 4 direct outputs
  • 2 headphone outputs
  • MIDI In/Out
  • Separate power
  • USB Connectivity

Our Take: Another great option from Focusrite. The extra headphones socket is great for collaborations, and the extra ins/outs might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Buy Now

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

$499 USD

Credit: Amazon

Wait, what? 18 inputs and 20 outputs for $500? You’ve got to be joking right?

Nope, that’s the case with the Scarlett 18i20. Although most electronic music producers don’t record a whole lot, for those that do and/or want the flexibility to when needed, this the ultimate no-brainer. Oh, and it comes with a version of Pro Tools.

Features

  • 8 XLR/quarter-inch inputs with preamps
  • 2 instrument inputs
  • 10 quarter-inch balanced outputs
  • Rackmount format
  • Intuitive metering
  • 2 headphones out
  • On-off switch
  • Included plugins (Addictive Keys, Focusrite, Softube)

Our Take

Focusrite somehow keeps on delivering. This is very cheap for a rackmount interface with this many I/O options. If you’re upgrading to a more pro-grade studio and need somewhere to start, this is definitely a great choice.

Buy Now

IK Multimedia Axe I/O

$349 USD

IK Multimedia is a very underrated audio company. It’s probably because they tend to be more popular with traditional musicians rather than producers, but that’s no reason to look past them. They make some great software and hardware, and the Axe I/O is no exception to that.

The new Axe I/O is designed as a combination of an amp simulator and an audio interface, for those who love their guitar.

Features

  • 2 quarter-inch inputs
  • 2 line in (XLR/quarter-inch) inputs
  • 4 quarter-inch outputs
  • Headphones Out
  • Amp Out
  • Pedal switch control
  • MIDI In/Out
  • USB Connectivity
  • Amp preset knob
  • Level indicators
  • Includes AmpliTube 4 software
  • Seperate power supply

Our Take

If you like to record guitar, this is a great option. The flexibility of the AmpliTube software combined with a well-designed interface makes this quite the offer, especially for under $500.

Buy Now

Audient Sono

$449 USD

If you love to record guitar on your tracks, this soon to be released amp simulator and audio interface seems to be quite a contender at $449. You won’t find it on Amazon (yet), but keep an eye out (and we’ll link here as soon as it’s out).

Features

  • 2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs with Phantom Power
  • 2 balanced quarter-inch out
  • Headphones Out
  • Amp Out
  • Quarter-inch input for guitar
  • Valve preamp
  • EQ/tone control
  • Monitor mix
  • LED level indicators (with added humour)
  • 12AX7 tube with drive
  • Optical in
  • 3 classic cabinet emulation modes

Our Take

It seems to be getting quite a bit of hype before it’s even out. While we haven’t tried this& one ourselves, it definitely seems to be something to keep an eye on if you want to record classic-sounding guitar alongside vocals, synths and other instruments. Not necessary if you’re just wanting a run-of-the-mill interface, though.

Pre-Order on Sweetwater

PreSonus Studio 1810c

$399 USD

Credit: Amazon

Being the bigger brother of both the 24c and 26c, the 1810c packs a lot of power into a seemingly cheap interface.

Features

  • 2 mic/inst line inputs
  • 2 mic/line inputs with phantom power and Class A preamps
  • 8 ADAT input channels
  • 6 quarter-inch balanced outputs
  • 2 headphone outputs with AB switch
  • Main output knob
  • Metering section in centre
  • Input gain knobs
  • Includes Studio One with plugins

Our Take

If you need more input and output options at a cheap price point, this is definitely one to keep an eye on. While it’s not the prettiest, it certainly does the job, and the metering section shows you all you need to see.

Buy Now

Under $1000

If you’re looking for a middle-to-high end interface that is reliable, quality and has a few extra bells and whistles, these interfaces are probably for you:

Apogee Duet

$649 USD

So we’re back to the pretty-looking ones, are we? Yep, you bet.

Apart from being super sexy, the duet is a very intuitive and fully-featured interface for those of you on macOS.

Features

  • Direct iOS compatability through USB MIDI port
  • I/O Cable
  • 2 inputs with world-class preamps
  • 2 balanced quarter-inch outputs
  • Headphones output
  • USB connectivity

Our Take

Though it’s kind of like dongle city (to hide the clutter on your desk) with this interface, it certainly works well. If you are into the array of apps on iOS as well, this interface is a no brainer. However, if you want a stock standard interface that does it’s job, at this price point it probably doesn’t make much sense.

Buy Now

Universal Audio Apollo Twin Solo/Duo

$699 USD/$899 USD

Now if you’ve been wondering whether it’s possible to have good looks and functionality all in one – the answer is yes.

The Apollo Twin Solo and Duo from Universal Audio looks amazing on the desk, and also comes with an array of features for the pragmatic producer.

Features

Apollo Twin SoloApollo Twin Duo
2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs with preamps2 XLR/quarter-inch inputs with preamps
2 quarter-inch outputs2 quarter-inch outputs
Headphones outputHeadphones output
2 digitally-controlled outputs for monitoring2 digitally-controlled outputs for monitoring
Metering sectionMetering section
Thunderbolt connectivityThunderbolt connectivity
One UAD processing chip for DSPTwo UAD processing chips for DSP
Preamp/monitor switchesPreamp/monitor switches
Multi-function buttons with displayMulti-function buttons with display

Our Take

As stated before, this interface looks good and works good. If you want really top-notch audio quality with the flexibility of DSP and analog emulation, this is quite a bargain, really (considering UAD’s other interfaces).

Buy Solo/Buy Duo

Arturia AudioFuse

$599 USD

If there’s been an interface that I’ve had my eye on for a while now, it would be this one. Although it’s a bit busy looking, this compact interface is just the right size to suit many a producers needs. This is much more than a standard audio interface.

Features

  • 2 XLR/quarter-inch input channels with phantom power and preamps
  • 2 phono inputs
  • Phase Inversion and Pad switches
  • USB Hub (3 USB slots for MIDI)
  • 4 balanced TRS outputs
  • 2 inserts
  • USB connectivity
  • 3 color options – Black, Space Grey and Silver

Our Take

This interface is the ultimate all-in-one for the bedroom producer. No more USB hubs, MIDI interfaces or mixers. If you’re looking for this kind of studio solution, you won’t find a better option. Personally, this will be my next purchase.

Buy Now

Arturia AudioFuse Studio

$999 USD

The AudioFuse Studio is the upcoming beefed-up version of the AudioFuse we just looked at. With a bigger form-factor, more input options and even nicer extras, this might be what you need. Unfortunately, it’s not yet for sale.

Features

  • 4 XLR/quarter-inch input channels with phantom power and preamps
  • 2 phono inputs
  • 4 quarter-inch line inputs
  • Phase Inversion and Pad switches
  • USB Hub (3 USB slots for MIDI)
  • 4 balanced TRS outputs
  • 4 inserts
  • USB-C connectivity
  • Bluetooth
  • 3 color options – Black, Space Grey and Silver

Our Take

This interface looks amazing, to be honest. While it’s quite pricey, the features on this are insane. This might be the first interface with wireless capability. To top it all off, it does it all while still looking pretty darn good.

More Info

MOTU UltraLite AVB

$649 USD

On the feature list, this might look pretty standard. But the star feature of this interface is the awesome display, something MOTU is infamous for in the audio industry.

Features

  • 2 XLR mic inputs with phantom power
  • 2 quarter-inch guitar line inputs
  • 6 quarter-inch balanced inputs
  • 8 quarter-inch line outputs
  • USB connectivity (with Ethernet for virtual mixing console)
  • MIDI I/O
  • Headphones out
  • Intuitive display
  • Touch Console for iOS and Android

Our Take

There are heaps on inputs and outputs on this one, so coupled with the nice display, the AVB is certainly a contender for sure.

Buy Now

Pro Level

If you want the best-of-the-best, ‘full speed ahead’ interface, then this is the right place. Note that if you are a bedroom producer who wants to record a couple of vocals and a guitar, then this is NOT for you. These interfaces require complicated setup and have a lot of features for those who are in larger recording and monitoring situations.

Apogee Quartet

$1395 USD

Credit: Apogee

More from Apogee? You bet.

To top their desktop line of interfaces off, the Quartet is a site to behold.

Features

  • Direct iOS compatibility through USB MIDI port
  • I/O Cable
  • 4 inputs with world-class preamps
  • 6 balanced quarter-inch outputs
  • Optical ins
  • Headphones output
  • USB connectivity
  • Touch display for configuration

Our Take

The best part about the Quartet is finally all the I/Os are actually on the device itself, not as part of a dongle. Oh, and if you want the best desktop interface money can buy, this is probably it.

Buy Now

Universal Audio Apollo 8

$1999.99 USD

Credit: Universal Audio

Although it has been super-seeded by the Apollo X Series, the original Apollo is still an industry standard in many studios worldwide today.

Features

  • 4 XLR/quarter-inch inputs with emulated preamps from Neve etc.
  • Expand with more interfaces over thunderbolt
  • Thunderbolt connectivity
  • 8 balanced quarter-inch line out
  • 4 line in
  • 2 monitoring outputs
  • Built in UAD DSP
  • Includes UAD plugins
  • World-class DA/AD conversion

Our Take

It’s been around for a while for a reason. It’s a studio staple for many pro-grade producers and engineers alike. The focus here is less on the number of ins and outs (although you can expand) but more in audio quality and DSP cabablity.

Buy Now

Apogee Symphony I/O

From $1995 USD

Credit: Apogee

With the Symphony up to its MKII release, this is another great option for the high-end studio owner. It’s available in 4 configurations: 2×6 SE, 8×8, 16×16 and 8×8+8MP.

Features

  • Up to 32 inputs/outputs
  • Thunderbolt connectivity
  • Touch screen interface showing all channel info
  • HQ DA/AD conversion
  • Headphones out

Our Take

If you liked the One/Duet/Quartet and want the design and reliability in a rackmount format, then this is the one to go for.

Buy Now

Avid HD I/O

From $3499 USD

Credit: Avid

This is an advanced interface created by Avid, for use with Pro Tools only. Not for the faint of heart. Comes in an 8x8x8 or a 16x16x16 config.

Features

  • 8/16 analog inputs
  • 8/16 analog outputs
  • Digital input/output section
  • Advanced metering section
  • AES/EBU, TDIF, and ADAT connectivity

Our Take

To be honest, when you get to this level, devices compete less on trivialities like looks and more on features. Each device also tends to have a strong point. For the HD, it’s the Pro Tools integration which makes this the interface of choice for many engineers. But for electronic music producers, that’s probably not going to be the case. Plus, it still relies on more dated (but still reliable) methods of digital connection.

Buy Now

Universal Audio Apollo x6/x8/x8p/x16

From $1999 USD

Credit: UAD

The newer version of the Apollo series brings a lot to the table for a high-end interface. While the old series only included 8, 8p and 16 options, the newer x6 model allows producers to choose something a little less pricey while still getting the amazing features that this hardware provides.

Features

  • 4 XLR/quarter-inch inputs with emulated preamps from Neve etc.
  • Expand with more interfaces over thunderbolt
  • Thunderbolt 3 connectivity
  • Surround sound mixing capabilities
  • Built-in UAD DSP with HEXA core processing
  • Includes UAD plugins
  • World-class DA/AD conversion

Our Take

Very similar to the legacy Apollo series with some new bells and whistles (like HEXA core processing for DSP and surround mixing). Price is comparable so it’s probably worth it to grab this one instead of the older model, unless you have a particular tie to the older one.

Buy Now

RME Audio Fireface UFX II

From $2299 USD

Credit: RME

RME’s flagship interface. If you haven’t seen this one before, it’s a beast.

Features

  • Display with all channels
  • 4 mic-line inputs with preamps
  • 2 headphones out
  • 8 line inputs
  • 8 line outputs (2 XLR)
  • MIDI I/O
  • USB Connectivity

Our Take

The first thing I thought when I saw this was, ‘Man that display is tiny!’ That being said, it does show a lot. So if you don’t mind squinting, then the UFX II might end up on your rack. It’s popular for a reason. Although, not sure why it’s only USB at this point. Surely they would at least include a thunderbolt option?

Buy Now

Steinberg AXR4

Price TBA

This insane interface from Steinberg was very hyped at NAMM this year, and if their track record as a company is anything to go off, then the AXR4 will be a hit in studios worldwide.

Features

  • Thunderbolt connectivity
  • Hybrid mic preamps
  • Includes Cubase AI
  • Full control with a 28×24 matrix mixer
  • 8 line inputs
  • 8 line outputs
  • MIDI I/O
  • 2 headphones outputs
  • SSPLL jitter supression
  • DSP powered

Our Take

This interface is one of those ‘best-of-the-best’ interfaces, and will probably clock in at around $3500 (if the features are anything to go by). So if you’re an experienced producer with the money to spare, this is your interface.

More Info

Still Unsure?

If these options have you overwhelmed, chances are you’re probably a new producer and don’t know what to choose.

If that’s the case, then download our comparison guide between the top 5 beginner interfaces off this list. We go into more detailed comparison and show which of your favourite producers have used what.

Download the Free PDF Guide Now

Wrapping Up

And that’s a list of the best interfaces available (or coming soon) in 2019! Did we miss one you’ve heard of? Then let us know in the comments or drop me a line at [email protected]

Note: All prices were current at time of writing this article.

About the Author

Aden Russell

With 10 years of music production experience and some marketing chops, I head up the content here at EDMProd. I also have made music under Artsea, DJ Colors and Birthed. My pastimes include reading, drinking coffee and taking photos.

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