Best Budget Audio Interface 2020 : Buying Guide & Reviews
Are you a keen musician, or do you just really like to record from your computer? Fancy making some shoe-gaze-worthy distortion with your synthesiser? Are you struggling to get that audio quality just right? Do you wish you had a device that could do this? Well – you might want an audio interface. Perfect for any home studio, an audio interface is a piece of hardware that enhances audio capabilities of your PC or Mac. The most popular ones will allow you to connect microphones, instruments, and other signals to a computer – usually via USB audio, and can also output signals.
For those just starting out in mobile recording and production, an audio interface is a really good purchase to make – especially when you’re trying to save the pennies and need a best budget interface. Thankfully, you can easily find a high quality and easy to use without forking out a load – as you’ll see in our handy guide to the best inexpensive audio interface.
Keep reading to find out the considerations you should keep in mind when shopping for audio interfaces, and to see our top 10 picks!
10 Best Budget Audio Interfaces
Here is our top ten list for the best budget audio interface devices! This is a must-read for home studio owners, so make sure you’re reading our recommendations for the best music software for home studios! All of our brands are reviewed by Amazon members, who will help you make your decision by showing you which products have the best reputation. Pay attention, do your research, and have fun – this will be a breeze! You can see prices and reviews through the associate links provided.
1. Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface
Best Features: Software Bundle. High Performing Converters.
This first pick comes from Focusrite – it’s the Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) USB Interface. It comes with Pro Tools and is easily adapted to however many mic preamp outputs you need (one or two). Perfect for professionals with tons of flexibility – every producer needs this product.
The conclusion is simple; this piece of software is a key tool for any beginner. The Scarlett’s high performing converters allow you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192 kHz. This is a perfect start up tool for all of your ideas. With its suave appearance bursting with charm, this model also boasts simplicity and easy to use designs.
With this interface, you’ll also get a 3 month Splice subscription and a choice between one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument – all available to download upon purchase. What’s more, you’ll get a FREE Nugen Audio Monofileter Elements plug-in.
Connectivity: USB | Protocol: USB 2.0 | Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz | Number of Preamps: 1 | Instrument Inputs: 1 | Line Inputs: 1 | Balanced Line Outputs: 2TRS | Headphone Outputs: 1
2. PreSonus Studio Audio Interface
Best Features: Ease of Use. Professional Design.
Our second pick comes from PreSonus, and is the Studio 24c 2×2 USB-C Audio Interface. PreSonus have set a positive reputation for themselves with other devices such as the PreSonus Audiobox USB – so it’s no surprise that this pick is one of our more popular ones, and also comes at a great price – perhaps the best budget audio interface.
These audio interfaces are perfect for your home studio. Their build quality and ease of use makes them one of the best audio interfaces on the list – with studio-grade 24 bit converters, professional input metering to monitor recording levels, and easy-to-use mixer knobs to ensure low latency, this audio interface is the real deal.
There’s also a +48 V phantom power for condenser microphones. The USB-C to C and -C to A cables come included with this USB audio interface, so it really couldn’t be easier to get your USB interface audio recording ready.
Connectivity: USB | Number of Preamps: 2 XMAX-L | Instrument Inputs: 2 | Line Inputs: 2 | Balanced Line Outputs: 1 | Headphone Outputs: 1
3. BEHRINGER U Audio Interface
Best Features: Professional Audio Quality. Build Design.
Our third pick is the BEHRINGER U-MC404HD audio interface, and it comes with a wealth of positive reviews. The software compatibility and state-of-the-art mic preamps make this interface perfect for any first-timer or seasoned professional; a budget audio interface which boasts a 24 bit 192kHz resolution.
The build design of this best cheap audio interface is definitely a selling point; the mic preamplifiers come with a + 48 V phantom power, and the design itself has a “built-like-a-tank” impact-resistant metal chassis to keep the interface safe and effective in storage. The BEHRINGER U couldn’t be more perfect.
The professional audio quality and software compatibility makes it brilliantly adaptable and perfect for your home studio – up there with some of the more renowned makes like the Focusrite Scarlett.
Connectivity: USB | Resolution: 24-Bit/192kHz | Number of Preamps: 4 MIDAS | Line Inputs: 1 | Balanced Line Outputs: 1 | Headphone Outputs: 1
4. Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo Interface
Best Features: Inputs. Creative Freedom.
Our fourth pick is the priciest one on the list, but unsurprisingly because it’s from a renowned brand with a way of making customers happy with their high quality. This is the Universal Audio MKII Duo audio interface, which also comes in quad and solo versions.
Perfect for all of your recording needs, these interfaces are “born to make records”, boast their manufacturers. The input systems of these audio interfaces make recording so easy – with two premium mic preamps, 2 line outputs, and 8 channels of digital input, this not too cheap audio interface is worth the extra cost, with all of the recording benefits offered.
One of the hallmarks of this device also is the creative freedom it allows you in recording; the Console 2.0 software features channel strip presets, drag-and-drop functionality, resizable windows and the possibility to run UAD powered plug-ins – you have so much choice with these audio interfaces, which offer 24 bit audio conversion. More pricey compared to famous brands like the Presonus Audiobox USB, but fully worth it.
Connectivity: USB | Number of Preamps: 2 | Instrument Inputs: 5 | Line Inputs: 2 | Balanced Line Outputs: 8 | Headphone Outputs: 1
5. PreSonus Audio Interface USB-A
Best Features: Plug-in Suite. Price Point.
Our midway pick is similar to the earlier PreSonus model we showed you, but it’s instead a USB-A model, which comes with 24 bit conversion and 2 mic preamps, and 2 line-outs.
These audio interfaces are some of the best budget audio interfaces on the list, so their price point is a clear winner. With an included plug-in suite to maximise all of your recording needs, and 24-bit resolution, as well as front-panel level control, this device offers you an impressive line level with a good chance at zero latency.
One of the best cheap audio USB interfaces on the list, this gives your home studio one needed upgrade.
Connectivity: USB | Resolution: 24-bit | Number of Preamps: 2 | Instrument Inputs: 2 | Line Inputs: 1 | Balanced Line Outputs: 1 | Headphone Outputs: 1
6.Tascam Audio/MIDI Interface with iOS Compatibility
Best Features: MIDI in/out. XLR input and TRS input with Phantom Power.
Our sixth pick comes from Tascam, who bring you the US-2X2 MIDI range of audio interfaces. These cheap audio devices come with iOS compatibility and a range of super cool qualities to help your recording be one of the smoothest processes ever – do things your way.
This professional level device is one of the better audio interfaces at its cost. Compared to the Focusrite Scarlett and other listed makes, the inputs and outputs of this interface are brilliant.
The MIDI inputs and outputs allow you to connect synths, drum machines, and controllers – meaning you can employ a range of different devices. What’s more, the XLR and TRS inputs accept balanced mic and line level signals, with a high-impedance option for electric and bass guitars. This also supplies +48 V phantom power. Low latency, high quality, one of the best options we have.
Connectivity: USB | Protocol: X | Resolution: X | Number of Preamps: 2 | Line Inputs: 2 | Headphone Outputs: 1
7.Tascam US 1X2 USB Audio/MIDI Interface
Best Features: Input and Output on Rear Panel. Bio-Cell Side Panels.
Similar to its sibling above, these interfaces are also from Tascam and give you a MIDI Interface with Mic Preamps and iOS Compatibility. The ease of use on these will make recording so easy. The installation is a breeze, and it has unique design features to make a distinctively efficient recording process.
This interface offers you so many possibilities, so it’s definitely one versatile device. The mic input gives you a professional XLR connector, which supplies +48 V phantom power for condenser microphones.
The unique bio-cell side panels allow you to angle this device next to your desktop for increased usability. What’s more, both stereo line inputs and outputs are available on the rear panel, for a simple, easy input process and fast connection for all of your audio gear.
Connectivity: USB | Number of Preamps: 3 | Line Inputs: 2 | Headphone Outputs: 2
8.Alesis MultiMix 8-Channel Interface with Effects
Best Features: DSP Effects and Foot Switch Bypass. Eight Mixing Channels.
Our eighth pick has a fitting 8 channels as a mixer, to allow you freedom and fun in your recording. It’s the Alesis MultiMix 8 Interface, with Effects and Mixing. This device offers so much in the way of easy usability and fun recording, and it’s way more fun to use than most competitors like the Focusrite Scarlett. There are lots of different effects and inputs that can help you make the sound you need at the rate you want!
This device provides a class compliant, plug-and-play for Mac and PC interface software without the need to install external drivers. This also includes Cubase LE software!
What’s more, the built-in DSP effects with footswitch bypass control and AUX buss, allow you to manage external processing easily. There’s even a multi-colored LED metering system for visual feedback. Cheap, versatile, and easy to use. Why wouldn’t you go with this 16-bit, 48 V phantom power machine?
Connectivity: USB | Line Inputs: 8 | Headphone Outputs: 2
9. BEHRINGER Audio USB Interface (UM2)
Best Features: Recording Software Compatibility. XENYX Mic Preamps.
The penultimate pick is another one from BEHRINGER – this time it’s the Audio UM2 with 1-Channel. With ultra-low latency, two inputs and outputs, and an array of other pros, this device is perfect for you.
The 48 kHz resolution is a definite pro of this machine, which provides professional audio quality with a max sampling rate of also 48 kHz. This device is compatible with an array of recording softwares, such as Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Steinberg Cubase.
What’s more, the state-of-the-art 48 V phantom power XENYX mic preamps are highly impressive comparable to standalone preamps. The options provided by inputs, sound quality, and more, make this device a must-have.
Connectivity: USB | Resolution: 48 khz | Number of Preamps: 1 | Instrument Inputs: 1 | Line Inputs: 2 | Balanced Line Outputs: 2 | Headphone Outputs: 1
10.Audient iD4 USB 2in/2 out High Performance Inter Face
Best Features: User Satisfaction. Easy to Use.
Our tenth and final pick is from Audient, and is the stunning iD4 USB High Performance device. With its affordable budget price under $200 and the Class A mic preamps, it’s a great option for a first-time buyer.
The customer reviews for this device are glowing to say the least; whisper quiet when recording, really easy to use, with the XLR jack being handily placed at the rear of the device – it’s clear this machine was made with the user in mind.
This device also gives you a richer and more natural sounding audio compared to other interfaces, and it gives you a greater degree of control and creative freedom. There’s also a wonderful level of output, a tough aluminum construction which proves the strength of the build quality, and the preamps come highly recommended.
What’s not to love?
Connectivity: USB | Number of Preamps: X | Instrument Inputs: 1 | Line Inputs: 1 | Balanced Line Outputs: 1 | Headphone Outputs: 1
Best Budget Audio Interface
Our best budget pick is product 2, of course – it’s the Studio 24c 2×2 USB-C Audio device from PreSonus, a wonderful company in their category. They’re clearly a popular thing on the market, from musicians to standard fans alike – they come highly recommended a lot of the time, and offer you a lot of options in music production software… perfect for those avid music makers. Produce your best tracks without dropping an extortionate level of money – users report that these devices are easy to use and setup, and have a fantastic build quality – as well as a sleek look.
It’s something special and really does have everything! Any recordings artist needs this device. Don’t believe us? Look to the comment results for people to tell you their experience and advice. Thank us later.
- 2 pristine XMAX-L solid-state mic preamps to capture every detail
- 2 high-headroom instrument/line inputs to record guitar, bass, and your favorite line-level devices
- Studio-grade converters for 24-bit/192 kHz recording and playback. Computer-system requirements - macOS 10. 11 or higher (64-bit only). Windows 7 x64 SP1 + platform update, Windows 8. 1 x64, Windows 10 x64. Intel i-series 2 GHz multicore processor (or AMD equivalent) or faster. 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)
- Professional input metering to keep an eye on your recording levels
- Easy-to-use Mixer knob for low-latency direct input monitoring
Cheapest Audio Interface Available
Our cheapest pick is the Focusrite Scarlett, aka pick number 1. With its array of good features and bargain price, it’s one of the best models around. Perfect for your home recording studio, the line level inputs and hardware monitoring on this device are fabulous. A perfect piece of artist software, great for beginners.
There’s no problem with this great example of easy to use technology, and in addition the company has made a positive name for itself in the industry. Comments will be rating this device high for convenience and quality, with little delay or issues in sound tone. Perfect for anyone on a shoestring budget.
- One of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more open sound. One high-headroom instrument input to plug in your guitar or bass. Two hum-free balanced outputs provide clean audio playback.
- High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz.
- Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever.
- Includes Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite, 3-month Splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument, all available via download upon purchase and registration
- LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE D16 Devastator 2 upon registration and download.
Audio Interfaces Buyers Guide & FAQs
Considerations for Choosing Audio Interfaces on a Budget
As we said, the price of audio interfaces can differ based on a variety of factors. As such, it’s important to have some key considerations in the back of your mind when you shop for audio interfaces, USB connected and otherwise.
It’s no surprise that this is the most important pick – as much as we all want a cheap audio interface, we don’t want a cheap audio sound. It’s therefore really important to consider the different audio qualities and tonalities offered by different manufacturers. You’ll want to find a model that ideally has low latency or zero latency and a decent line level – to ensure there are no delays in your premium sound signals. One of the most important factors, you don’t want to compromise the reason you’re buying an interface in the first place.
Accessories and Bundles
While not a major consideration for the best budget audio interface, lots of companies will offer package deals with other software. These choices of software bundle for your software suite can be a key selling point. If you’re a first-timer or new to home studio recording, this could be really helpful. Lots of companies offer an LE (limited, entry level) version of major applications, which will help you kit out your studio one package at a time!
Be sure to check out our suggestions for the best budget DJ controllers to complement your audio interface!
Input and Output
Realistically, you won’t be able to find the best cheap USB audio interface with more than two inputs and two outputs – for heavier duty ins and outs you’ll need to splash a bit more cash. Generally, you’ll be looking at two mono or one stereo inputs, and a stereo output for a monitor, as well as a headphones output.
You also need to consider the types of ports offered – such as mic preamp provisions. Combo inputs are the most handy, as they’ll accept different lead types and allow you to switch controls.
Make sure you keep this in mind when shopping for the best audio interfaces… you want to be able to have choice to do the recording your way!
What is the best audio interface?
The best audio interface is the one that works for you, simply put. We’ve given you a list of ten brilliant picks here, from the Focusrite Scarletts to the PreSonus models – but you need to have ways of looking back through every menu with all the details, and picking the model that offers the right specs for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – reach out to manufacturers with transparency and exercise your rights as individuals and consumers.
We’ve told you our favourite picks, now go to find yours! The best brands we recommend are:
Does a good AI make a difference?
A good device absolutely makes a difference. From different adaptors, to a drum set or synthesiser – every element to your home recording studio will improve the accuracy of the operation. You want to make your home workspace a hub that’s filled with easy-to-use equipment that functions as it should and makes contributions to your sound… without spending too large a handful of bucks. View your specifications and the ratings of the products we’ve listed – and have a look at which device might be right for you in terms of your needs!
What makes an AI good?
Here are our key features of essentials for your device:
- Inputs and Outputs, including Headphone Outputs (2 x is ideal)
- Software Package Availability; as we’ve said, some come with complementary bundled software.
- 48V Phantom Power – this is the standard on mic pre amps and it’s what most will use.
- Recording Quality and XLR/ TRS
- Effective Operating Systems
- Easy to Install and Gain Control
- Easy Monitoring Systems: So you can view line levels, output options and monitor outputs, instrument inputs and instrument level, and much more. Most come with control knobs to make this as easy as possible.
Typical Cost of an Audio Interface
In order to find the best affordable audio interface, you’re probably going to need to know how much a USB audio interface usually costs, so you can work out where the price difference is and which interface models will cost a little more. Audio interfaces can differ in price based on build quality, brand, audio inputs and outputs, and the types and amounts of devices they allow connection to.
Generally, you can find a best value audio interface for around $100 to even $800 – that’s a big price jump, so it really does depend which USB to audio interface models you’re going for. The majority of our picks in this article are under $200, but you’ll be hard pressed to find options for the best audio interface under $100… given the specialist nature of these handy devices, they can be a little costly.