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Audio interfaces are some of the meat and potatoes of music production, and in 2021 there are many of the best audio interfaces available. Some interfaces are Thunderbolt/USB compatible and some are better suited for Mac or PC (Windows), but it is not always easy to figure that out.
In this list we will review 10 of the best audio interfaces that you can purchase in 2021 for your professional or home studio. We think you’ll find this one of the most helpful audio interface reviews online.
Here are the best audio interfaces 2021:
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre
- M-Audio M-Track 2X2
- TASCAM US-2×2
- Behringer U-Control UCA222
- Steinberg UR22C
- Apogee Element 46
- Roland Rubix24
- Mackie Onyx Producer 2-2
1. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII – High-Quality Audio Interface
The ultimate best audio interface in 2021
The Apollo Twin MkII is a top-rated audio interface from one of the world’s most popular brands. It features high-end converters and delivers the sound of a classic analog device. With this interface under your belt, you will not need any fancy plugins, guitar pedals or even a microphone. The Apollo Twin MkII has everything on board.
The Apollo Twin MkII has been updated to provide a super wide dynamic range and expanded monitoring controls and has the best external sound card for music production. It is essentially a whole mixing console in a tiny little interface that fits on your desk.
The Apollo Twin MkII has two XLR and instrument combo inputs and four outputs. It is also got an optical in and uses Thunderbolt connections, making it the best Thunderbolt audio interface.
It is compatible with Mac and PC and has built in UAD processing. This means you can enjoy the rich, warm, analog sound of UAD’s plugins while both mixing and tracking.
Another feature of the Apollo Twin MkII is that it has special technology that works with the preamp, called Unison. Unison mic preamp technology allows you to recreate the sound of popular classic microphone preamps without the use of software. In fact, it sounds better than software modeling does.
Getting deeper into Unison, it is essentially a bi-directional communication between the mic preamp in the Apollo Twin and a UAD mic plugin in your computer. The plugin adjusts the preamp’s circuit and other parameters like impedance and gain structure, so it is not just modeling, it is adjusting the preamp’s behavior.
It does not filter audio like a normal modeler would, instead it causes your microphone to interact with the preamp in the way that it would with a modeled preamp. The included UAD plugins are a great way to get analog style sounds that sound just as good as the real thing.
The Unison technology will model different effects plugins or channel strip plugins for your microphone inputs, which eliminates the need to buy physical hardware. The Apollo’s Twin also has a built in microphone for you to use in the studio if you have to talk to someone in the recording booth without having to grab a microphone.
Upon purchasing an Apollo Twin MkII, you get the Realtime Analog plugin bundle from UAD, which includes channel strips, guitar amp emulators, some compressors and EQs, and delay and reverb plugins. It is a fantastic bundle of plugins and gives you everything you need to get started making music.
|Image credit: Universal Audio Check Sweetwater||
If you want a top of the line, extremely high-quality audio interface and have the money to spend on it, get an Apollo Twin. It is easily the best-sounding audio interface money can buy and is one of the highest-rated on many websites. You will never regret it, and since you are getting a lot of extra features like the Unison technology and plugin bundle, it adds to the value even more.
Most professional studios use Apollo audio interfaces, so I mainly suggest the Apollo Twin MkII for advanced producers, but if you are a beginner and you do not ever want to have to upgrade, an Apollo will be good for you.
2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – Best Audio Interface for Beginners
The best budget audio interface
Focusrite is a really great company that has a lot of best-selling options when it comes to audio interfaces, from more expensive ones to more affordable ones. The Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen audio interface is the best 2-channel audio interface for recording, podcasting, and many other activities.
The Scarlett 2i2 is a 2-channel USB-C audio interface (2 inputs and 2 outputs) with two upgraded Scarlett preamps, extremely low latency, and instrument inputs that can handle everything from guitars to drums and everything in between.
Now included in the Scarlett 2i2 is an ‘Air’ button, an effect that was modeled on Focusrite’s legendary ISA console transformer. When engaged, the Air button gives your voice or instruments a bit more air, a sonic quality that adds more brightness and openness.
Another great feature that has been added to the Scarlett 2i2 is a wired analog protection circuit for the inputs and outputs, which protects the interface power surges that could damage it. The Scarlett 2i2 is extremely low latency which makes monitoring instruments and vocals with lots of effects in real time a seamless task with the Direct Monitor circuit switch.
As for the preamps themselves, they can be described as sounding vibrant. They are very low noise, low distortion, and transparent, which gives you plenty of headroom to accommodate your microphones no matter the source. The Scarlett 2i2 also allows for phantom power for your microphones that need it to operate.
The channel volume controls are ringed with lights that change color based on your channel volume level. Green is a good level, orange means it is close to clipping, and red means it is clipping. This makes it easy to keep your levels monitored without having to constantly watch your computer screen.
|Image credit: Focusrite Check Sweetwater||
If you are a beginner starting out with production or a musician who needs some great sounding gear with a low price tag, the Scarlett 2i2 by Focusrite is the best budget option. The Scarlett 2i2 interfaces are popular among beginners and intermediate users because of their easy set up, simple design, and high quality, which makes it an ideal entry level interface.
I have used a Scarlett 2i4 for years and it is never disappointed me. Scarlett interfaces are also the best for Ableton Live (and often include it as a download with their interfaces), which makes them all the better. I strongly recommend any Focusrite Scarlett products.
3. Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre – Best Instrument Recording Audio Interface
A premium 8-channel option
The AudioFuse 8Pre is a compact audio interface with 8 channels. It has premium components and a ton of awesome features. The AudioFuse 8Pre comes with 8 Discrete Pro preamps that provides a great, clean sound for use in modern studios. This audio interface is great for recording everything from metal to classical string ensembles.
The USB-C connection makes for a solid, fast connection to your computer. The Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre also allows you to stack two 8Pre interfaces for 16 inputs since the eight channels are ADAT compatible and there is an ADAT output on the interface. ADAT stands for Alexis Digital Audio Tape, and it is a magnetic tape format used for recording eight tracks.
If you buy an AudioFuse 8Pre, it includes Arturia’s Creative Suite software pack, which offers 3 vintage preamp plugins for beefy drums and sparkling guitars. You also get a Lite version of Arturia’s Analog Lab software which offers a collection of popular synth sounds. Additionally, you get Arturia’s Mini Filter plugin, which features step sequencing and ladder type filtering.
The audio interface does not add any noise, coloration, or anything that would negatively impact your audio. It provides clean, clear audio that sounds great through studio monitors or headphones. It is fully USB 2.0 compatible and also has the ability to connect to other pieces of gear in your studio. There is also a talkback microphone and clear metering lights.
|Image credit: Arturia Check Sweetwater||
The AudioFuse 8Pre from Arturia is the best 8-channel audio interface available right now. If you want a rack style audio interface that can sit close to your other gear without picking up electromagnetic frequencies, the 8Pre is the one for you.
4. M-Audio M-Track 2X2 – Best Audio Interface for Money
A cheap yet powerful audio interface
The M-Audio M-Track 2X2 is an easy to use, user intuitive audio interface that is designed similarly to the Apollo Twin. It features a large central volume knob, very low noise preamps, and audio/digital converters that convert audio to extremely high quality in your DAW.
With the M-Track 2X2, you are able to record 2 channels at once with an XLR input and an instrument input. There are also 2 outputs. To connect the audio interface to your computer (Mac or PC), you have the option of using a USB 2.0 connection or a USB-C connection.
USB-C is much faster, so I do recommend that, but if you have an older computer that is not compatible with USB-C, USB 2.0 will get the job done. With both connections you will get zero latency playback and recording as well as monitoring of your inputs to make recording fast, precise, and easy.
Another included feature of the M-Audio M-Track 2×2 is a software bundle that has everything you need to get started making music. The software bundle features the M-Audio edition of Pro Tools First, the Creative FX Collection by Pro Tools which is a plugin suite of 20 effects, a Mini Grand piano plugin, the Strike drum arranger and sequencer, and the Xpand!2 virtual instrument.
The M-Track is part of M-Audio’s C-Series interface series which include the extremely high-quality professional ‘Crystal’ Preamps. Any audio running through these preamps is crystal clear and transparent. Combine that with the Phantom Power button on the interface and you have got some insanely good sounding recordings.
|Image credit: M-Audio Check Amazon||
The M-Track 2×2 by M-Audio is a really good recording solution. Since it only has two inputs and two outputs, I would mainly suggest it for beginners. If you do not plan to record a lot of tracks at one time, it would be suitable for use in an intermediate to advanced studio too. The M-Track 2×2 is reasonably priced and is a good mid to high end quality interface.
5. TASCAM US-2×2 – Audio Interface for All Operating Systems
The best audio interface for a home studio
TASCAM is a pretty old company that has excelled in the audio gear market for many years. Along with regular USB audio interfaces, they have many nice FireWire audio interfaces as well as plenty of other top-end gear that will help you make music.
The TASCAM US-2×2 is an affordable USB audio interface that makes recording easy. The US-2X2 has two high gain microphone preamps that let you record into your DAW on Mac, PC, and even iOS devices. The interface is set up similarly to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, where each channel is an XLR and instrument combo jack.
There is a gain knob for each channel, signal volume indicator lights, and an impedance switch for when you want to record guitars and other instruments directly. The TASCAM US-2X2 is sure to have zero latency monitoring through the included headphone output with volume level.
The HDDA (High Definition Discrete Architecture) preamp design provides crystal clear audio that has extremely low self noise, making it great for capturing details in your performances. The TASCAM US-2X2 is small enough to take with you wherever you go, but powerful enough to record a singer songwriter or a small ensemble.
Phantom power allows you to use condenser mics for even bigger performances or for use in a small recording studio. It is very sturdy and has a metal housing, so it can withstand hours of travel or rough use. The US-2×2 also comes with Cubase LE software to help get you started with making music as soon as possible.
|Image credit: TASCAM Check Amazon||
The US-2×2 from TASCAM is a nice audio interface for Windows, Mac, or Linux. It is the best value for the money as it does not surpass $200, and it sounds great and lasts a really long time due to how durable it is. I would suggest it for beginners and intermediate producers for a home studio or for those who like to record while on the road.
6. Behringer U-Control UCA222 – Best Audio Interface for Travel Musicians
The smartphone-sized audio interface
The Behringer U-Control UCA222 is a budget audio interface which is great for both recording and listening to music. Although this interface appears to be fairly cheap and simple, do not be fooled. This budget interface is known for exceptionally low noise level when recording. In fact, the sound quality even goes on to match more expensive models.
The output is strong and fidelity is high too, even at high volume. The U-Control UCA222 is a compact and easy to use interface that is extremely portable. It is about the size of a smartphone, so you can take it just about anywhere with you.
Unlike the rest of the audio interfaces on this list, the U-Control UCA222 uses RCA inputs and outputs. Because of this, there is a lower level of recording quality, and it may be a bit harder to find the right cords or adapters to use it, but for the most part you should have an enjoyable time using this compact recording interface.
There is no XLR input on this interface module, so you can only connect instrument cables and RCA cables. However, this opens up the door for you to be able to connect the interface to either your computer or a soundboard console mixer.
The Behringer U-Control UCA222 also supports ASIO 2.0, so if you have an older computer, you can still record easily without relying on a PCIe audio interface and sound card. The UCA222 does not require any driver installations in order to work, and it also includes a software bundle of Audacity, Podifier, Juice, Podnova, and Golden Ear.
|Image credit: Behringer Check Sweetwater||
The UCA222 by Behringer is on our list for a reason. Not only is it extremely good value, it is also very portable which makes it a convenient choice for rehearsal recordings, on the go recording and casual listening too.
I suggest it for beginners who like to travel and record, as well as those who have a soundboard or mixing console and need a good cheap audio interface.
7. Steinberg UR22C – Best USB Audio Interface for Money
An all-around workhorse interface
Steinberg is a well-known brand that caters to professional musicians around the world. The Steinberg UR22C proves itself to be a great value audio interface and an all-around workhorse. This audio interface is an ideal piece of gear if you are planning on doing some home recording on a budget of $200 or less.
It features a dedicated TRS headphone output, combined microphone and TRS instrument inputs, monitor inputs and MIDI inputs. You also get a copy of Cubase which is one of the most popular DAWs on the market.
The UR22C has a couple different connection options, you can choose between USB 3.0 or USB-C, so you can record on a PC or Mac as well as any iOS device. The UR22C was designed to be compatible with any setup, and with its transparent dual mic and line inputs and phantom power, it will fit right in with your rig.
A feature that we see here in the UR22C that no other interfaces on this list have is MIDI inputs and outputs. With this DAW, you can transfer MIDI information to and from your computer or different instruments depending on how you have got things routed. The interface also has main outputs for use with studio monitors.
The UR22C is another interface that supports ASIO 2.0 as well as Core Audio and WDM, so you get universal compatibility standards. You can also either power the interface through USB 3.0 or a 5-volt DC.
Upon purchasing the interface, you get a free download of Cubase AI to use with your computer. For an iPad, you can download Cubasis LE. Projects started on Cubasis LE can be opened up and finished on your computer with ease.
|Image credit: Steinberg Check Sweetwater||
The UR22C by Steinberg is a solid interface for both audiophiles and recording enthusiasts. The interface is compatible with both PC and Mac. The UR22C makes it easy to record guitar, vocals, percussion and other instruments from the comfort of your home studio.
This is a relatively inexpensive USB audio interface from a world-renowned brand and would be a solid purchase for any home studio setup.
8. Apogee Element 46 – Best High Tech Audio Interface
World class sound in 12 inputs and 14 outputs
The Apogee Element 46 is an audio interface great for collaborating and recording in a studio, at home, or out and about. It has 4 analog inputs with world-renowned mic preamps, 2 headphone outputs and studio monitor outputs.
The Element 46 is a great step up from a beginner audio interface. In total, the Element 46 actually has 12 inputs and 14 outputs (4 inputs being analog inputs and 6 outputs being analog outputs) and selectable phantom power for use with condenser microphones. Instrument cables or other line in devices like synthesizers will also be compatible with the Element 46.
The gain of the inputs can go up to 75 dB which will be more than enough for you to use in a small professional or home studio. Some of the outputs are XLR style, so if that is something you are in need of, you get it with this awesome audio interface.
To connect to a computer, the Element 46 uses a Thunderbolt connection for lightning-fast audio transfer and recording into your DAW of choice with ultra-low latency. There are also optical inputs and outputs that support ADAT, SMUX, and S/PDIF if you are into using those.
A super cool feature of the Element 46 is that it comes with Apogee Control Software for Mac. Apogee Control Software is a virtual rendering of the audio interface and enables you to control all the hardware parameters like input gain, output level, and low latency monitoring all from your computer.
The interface is also compatible with the Apogee Control mobile app which is a remote control for the hardware (only available on iOS devices). There is also a desktop hardware remote control if you do not want to use the Mac software.
The Element 46 Thunderbolt capability supports multiple units. This means that you can connect two Element interfaces directly to Thunderbolt ports on your computer and use them both at the same time.
|Image credit: Apogee Check Amazon||
The Element 46 by Apogee is a great option if you need to record a lot of channels at the same time. It would fit nicely in a small home studio or bedroom. It is suitable for beginners or intermediate producers, but could also be used in some smaller scale advanced productions quite nicely. If you also like the ability to remotely control the interface, check the Element 46 out.
9. Roland Rubix24 – Easy-to-Use Audio Interface
An interface with a built-in compressor
The Roland Rubix24 is an audio interface which is really designed for recording and mixing purposes. The Rubix24 offers a solid balance between high-quality sound, a durable build, sleek design, compact size, affordable price, and all the features that musicians and producers in today’s industry need to make great sounding music.
The Rubix24 has 2 inputs and 4 outputs and sounds clear and detailed with extremely low self noise and lots of headroom for recording. 2 inputs and 4 outputs is more than enough for most home studio recording setups, and with the compact size of it, the Rubix24 will fit nicely in your home studio or bedroom studio.
The Rubix24 is a USB audio interface, so it is compatible with Mac and Windows, and even iOS devices. For being as affordable as it is, it does not sacrifice sound quality at all. The interface is made with metal, and has plenty of shielding and extensive ground lifts to protect from electromagnetic field interferences and other feedback.
Combination jacks mean that you do not have to waste time and money buying adapters or the right cables as you probably already have the right ones in your bedroom or home studio. 4 outputs make it very easy for you to send click tracks to a drummer, route audio to other external gear, or output to studio monitors.
An amazing feature of the Rubix24 is a built-in compressor and limiter to control the dynamics of vocals and instruments to prevent clipping and distortion of the audio signal. Other features include direct monitoring and phantom power, which can be used to power condenser microphones.
The unit has extremely low latency for both Mac and PC, so you can rest assured knowing that there will not be any hiccups in the audio when recording or performing. There are also highly visible level indicators which allow you to monitor your input levels and avoid peaking even in very dark environments like on stage.
The Rubix24 comes with Ableton Live Lite to provide with a head start to music recording, performing, and production.
|Image credit: Roland Check Sweetwater||
The Rubix24 from Roland is a great solution for online streamers and the likes of podcast recordings. It is functional and easy to use. In addition to recording at home, on the go, or in a small studio, this interface is also great just for listening to music and watching movies.
It is no surprise that the Rubix24 is getting great reviews online. Customers love the ease of use and great sound that comes with Roland’s sleek design. You are guaranteed to love it too.
10. Mackie Onyx Producer 2-2 – Best Interface for Songwriters
An optimal choice for singer-songwriters
Ideal for singer-songwriters and content creators, the Mackie Onyx Producer 2-2 is an audio interface that will not let you down in terms of quality or price. With analog circuitry and high resolution converters, the Onyx Producer 2-2 delivers top notch sound.
Boutique Onyx mic preamps are sure to provide you with high quality and plenty of dynamic range and headroom for recording and performing. 2 XLR and instrument combination inputs (and outputs) are available for you to record through without having to use special cables or adapters that may reduce the audio quality or cause feedback.
A Hi-Z switch is available for each channel for direct inputting your guitar and bass for recording, as well as other devices that use direct input, like synthesizers. Direct monitoring has zero latency and a headphone output is provided for you to be able to clearly hear all the details in whatever you are recording in real time as well as during playback.
MIDI ports on the Onyx Producer 2-2 allows you to hook up synths that use MIDI, MIDI controllers, and other pieces of hardware to record with MIDI or transfer MIDI files between devices. The Mackie Onyx Producer 2-2 is ultra portable and will deliver studio-quality sound no matter where you are. Audio is captured with maximum accuracy and tiny details like tone and articulations are not compromised.
The preamps add some warmth to vocals, guitars, and whatever else you run through them. There is no need for digital routing or latency makeup due to the signal path being true analog directly from the preamps to the monitoring chain no matter what buffer settings you are using.
Mackie Onyx Producer 2-2 comes with Tracktion T7 software, allowing you to record, edit, and mix anywhere in the world thanks to unlimited audio and MIDI tracks and many professional features. You also get Mackie’s DAW Essentials Collection, which is a plugin bundle with professional EQs, compressors, reverb, delay, limiters, filters, and more.
|Image credit: Mackie Check Sweetwater||
The Onyx Producer 2-2 by Mackie is a suitable audio interface for people who want on the go options and easy to use MIDI and recording compatibility. It would fit great in a small home recording studio or bedroom studio, and it is a great sounding option for those of you who like a warm, rich analog sound from your preamps rather than something more clear and transparent.
There are so many different professional audio interfaces, from USB-C audio interfaces to PCIe audio interfaces, and more. If you have found this article on the 10 best audio interfaces helpful, make sure to check back for even more new articles and guides to make the most out of your studio.
Jordan is a music producer, content creator, writer, and session musician. He has been producing music and engineering live performances for over 7 years. He is an experienced guitarist and enjoys listening to and playing many different genres of music.