10 Best USB Audio Interfaces | December 2016

10 Best USB Audio Interfaces
Best Mid-Range
★★★
Best High-End
★★★★
Best Inexpensive
★★★
We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If you've outgrown amateur sounding recordings and want to drop clean and pure audio into your computer, you'll need one of these USB audio interfaces. They are essential equipment for anyone recording instruments, vocals, voice-overs, or podcasts, and we've ranked them here by signal quality, versatility, and value. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best usb audio interface on Amazon.
10
The M Audio M-Track 2X2M C-Series is ideal for any user, whether you're just starting out or have years of experience. It features a pair of dedicated MIDI ports as well as a large central volume knob that raises all levels at once.
  • works with a variety of software
  • rubber pads protect desk surfaces
  • stock drivers suffer latencies
Brand M-Audio
Model M-Track 2X2M
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
9
The Steinberg UR12 is well built, easy to set up, and comes in at an affordable price. It works great as a single input recorder, but isn't meant for large band tracking where more microphones are necessary, and the preamp is kind of noisy.
  • mini usb jack for tablet use
  • compatible with daw apps
  • does not have a midi port
Brand Steinberg
Model UR12
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
8
The PreSonus AudioBox22 VSL delivers professional-caliber 24-bit, 96 kHz audio whether in your home studio or on the road. It features the same award-winning Class A XMAX preamps found in professional recording studios, and it comes with intuitive control software.
  • clipping indicator for each channel
  • 2 dual-purpose front-panel inputs
  • not designed for line-level sources
Brand PreSonus
Model AudioBox 22VSL
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
7
The XLR tab locks on the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 add security to an already outstanding package. It features a streamlined circuit design, and comes equipped with four analog inputs and four balanced outputs for versatility.
  • preamps with individual gains
  • 48v phantom power for condenser mics
  • gain controls have a short range
Brand Native Instruments Komp
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.8 / 5.0
6
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack features high-end AD/DA converters, built-in DIs, and true analog hardware input monitoring at an affordable price. It is an ultra-compact, portable desktop design that is Windows and Mac compatible.
  • includes branded software
  • sits at an optimal 25-degree incline
  • has latency issues at times
Brand Mackie
Model Onyx Blackjack
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
5
The Tascam US-4x4 is a great choice for home, project, and mobile studios. The tough, all-aluminum outer casing was designed in Germany to have great desktop visibility, and it includes a pair of removable bio-cell side panels.
  • two daw applications to choose from
  • uses the latest microsoft technology
  • power reliability issues
Brand Tascam
Model US-4x4
Weight 4.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
4
The multi-channel Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd Gen is the best-sounding interface in its class, with eight award-winning Focusrite microphone preamps. It has powerful routing and monitoring capabilities thanks to its 18x16 DSP mixer.
  • rack-mount design
  • includes 2gb of loopmasters samples
  • drivers lag behind mac os updates
Brand Focusrite
Model AMS-SCARLETT-18I20-2ND-
Weight 11 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0
3
The cutting edge Behringer XR18 connects with your iPad or Android tablet to provide unprecedented mixing power and mobility with its free remote control app. It also boasts 16 MIDAS-designed preamps that are fully programmable.
  • automatic gain sharing
  • built-in wi-fi module
  • full-featured channel processing
Brand Behringer
Model XR18
Weight 9.3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
2
The user-friendly Peavey USB-P enables you to easily run stereo audio from a computer into a live sound system. It has dual transformers providing perfectly balanced outputs, and ground-lifted isolation ideal for audio transfer.
  • rugged construction
  • stereo-mono switch
  • consistent and reliable performance
Brand Peavey
Model 3001370
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
1
Record in ultra high-definition using the USB 3.0 PreSonus Studio 192. As a central hub for any project or professional studio, it delivers exceptional sonic fidelity with professional monitoring and mixing controls, complete with remote controllable preamps.
  • on-board talkback microphone
  • ten versatile balanced outputs
  • flexible software
Brand PreSonus
Model Studio 192
Weight 10.2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

HIstory Of The Audio Interface

The history of recorded sound goes as far back as 1860, with the phonautograms created by Édouard-Léon Scott. The sounds created by these machines are generally unrecognizable; though the machines themselves lit a spark in the imaginations of many to follow.

In 1877, Thomas Edison's cylinder phonograph was invented. The original phonographs would play dictation which had been inscribed into a wax cylinder. Though once thought to replace the need for stenographers, this idea was met by immense opposition and quickly disregarded. Phonographs found their most prominent use in the realm of music. In 1878, the first music was put on a record. It was Jules Levy playing "Yankee Doodle". By 1901 the phonograph was being mass produced and garnering much interest throughout the world.

The phonograph gave way to the record player in 1913. Though the record player struggled to stay alive as the radio was invented, it remains a steadfast audio standard to this day.

The need for a personal audio interface really began with the boom in popular music played over the radio. Hearing artists like Elvis Presley and The Beatles played heavily on the radio inspired hopeful musicians across the world. In the 50s and 60s, the idea of creating a professional sound from anywhere but the recording studio was obscene. The best one could hope for was a tape recorder. These early tape recorders allowed users one take to record themselves onto a reel in low quality.

The first home studios came about in the 70s. Reel to reel technology had improved enough to offer multiple takes and slightly better sound quality. The first preamplifiers were introduced, expanding the horizons of home recording. The 80s brought an explosion of possibilities with the invention of MIDI. This expanded the capabilities of a band's keyboard player and was the first step in music going digital.

Audio interfaces have since been used in every professional recording created. They are a key component in digital recording; potentiating the audio capabilities of any computer they are plugged into.

Purchasing Options

When considering the purchase of a USB audio interface, one should pay attention to the benefits and functions of the options available.

The user's experience will be an important factor to consider. Is the person who will be using the interface relatively skilled in sound engineering, or are they a novice? Some models require more extensive knowledge of audio engineering than others.

Is the interface equipped with the proper inputs to handle the user's needs? Some audio interfaces excel at recording with condenser microphones, while others are incompatible. If the interface will be used for both microphones and instruments simultaneously, it is important that multiple XLR and 1/4 inch jacks are present. Also consider if the audio interface will be used for MIDI, tablet computers, or line level inputs. Some musicians rely on these inputs, and will need an audio interface which can handle them.

Will the interface be used to record multiple artists at once? Many personal audio interfaces are made to ideally record one instrument and one microphone at a time. If a band is to be recorded on a simple audio interface such as this, multiple takes of the same song must be played to properly record every member.

Another important factor to consider is how much control the user would like to have before the sound wave enters the computer. Some models offer control of input gain and EQ changes before the sound reaches the computer. This makes for a high quality input file, and less editing in post production.

How Audio Interfaces Influence Music

The invention of the long playing (LP) record created a large shift in music. It was possible to hear an entire album or performance without being present to the live show or recording. This took early big band crooners such as Frank Sinatra to new heights of popularity, effectively creating pop music.

Beginning in the 1950s, the music industry really became big business. Record giants such as RCA and Columbia began signing and preening talented musicians. By repeatedly playing their music on the radio and popularizing their personas, the companies could sell records at unbelievable rates. This is how the pop-star culture was born.

The pattern continued for decades, with the majority of radio play being dominated by a handful of large record companies. These companies drove the musical journey of the consumer; highly influencing the listening and purchasing habits of the world's population.

This trend began to change in the 21st century thanks in part to the audio interface. These personal interfaces allowed talented musicians from around the world to create professional music using their home computer. The artist could then distribute the music to listeners, without a record company, via the internet. This practice continues to this day; inspiring countless artists who remain relatively unknown on the radio waves, yet enjoy a large following on the internet.



Statistics and Editorial Log

0
Paid Placements
5
Editors
39
Hours
40,881
Users
37
Revisions

Wiki Granular Update & Revision Log


help support our research


Patreonlogoorange psj5g7Wiki ezvid low poly earth xdypeb

Last updated on December 30, 2016 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


Thanks for reading the fine print. About the Wiki: We don't accept sponsorships, free goods, samples, promotional products, or other benefits from any of the product brands featured on this page, except in cases where those brands are manufactured by the retailer to which we are linking. For our full ranking methodology, please read about us, linked below. The Wiki is a participant in associate programs from Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, Target, and others, and may earn advertising fees when you use our links to these websites. These fees will not increase your purchase price, which will be the same as any direct visitor to the merchant’s website. If you believe that your product should be included in this review, you may contact us, but we cannot guarantee a response, even if you send us flowers.