When setting up a home recording studio there are several pieces of equipment which are essential. One of the most important is your choice of audio interface.
The audio interface is the piece of hardware which will allow you to capture audio and process it onto your computer. Audio interfaces are sometimes referred to as ‘soundcards’. They come in all shapes and sizes and to suit all budgets, from beginner to professional level.
In this article we will discuss some of the best audio interfaces on the market today. We will look at their price, their value for money, their connectivity and their main selling points. We think you’ll find this one of the most helpful audio interface reviews online.
Here are the best audio interfaces 2020:
- Steinberg UR242
- Roland Rubix24
- Behringer U-Control UCA222
- RME Fireface UCX
- M-Audio M-Track 2X2
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen)
- Zoom UAC-2
- Roland Octa-Capture
- MOTU UltraLite Mk4
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII
1. Steinberg UR242
Steinberg is a well-known brand that caters to professional musicians around the world. The UR242 takes the tops spot on our list as it proves itself to be a great value audio interface and an all-round workhorse.
This audio interface is an ideal piece of kit if you are planning on doing some home recording on a budget of $300 or less. It features a dedicated TRS headphone output, combined microphone/TRS instrument inputs, monitor inputs and MIDI inputs. You also get a copy of Cubase which is one of the most popular DAW’s on the market today.
Steinberg UR242 is an external sound card for both audiophiles and recording enthusiasts. This interface is compatible with both PC and Mac. The UR242 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-famous brand and would be a solid purchase for any home studio.
2. Roland Rubix24
In second place is the Roland Rubix24. This is an audio interface which is really designed for recording and mixing purposes. It has 2 inputs and 4 outputs. This is more than enough for most home studio recording setups.
Other features include direct monitoring and phantom power, which can be used to power condenser microphones. There are also handy indicators which allow you to monitor your input levels and avoid peaking.
The Rubix24 is a great solution for online streamers and the likes of podcast recordings. It’s functional and easy to use. In addition to home recording, this interface is also great just for music listening and watching movies.
It’s no surprise that the Rubix24 is fetching great reviews online. Customers love the ease of use that comes with Roland’s sleek design.
3. Behringer U-Control UCA222
The Behringer 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 UCA222 supports ASIO 2.0, which is a nice bonus too as this is not always common with audio interfaces in this price range. The interface works smoothly even without the installation of drivers.
This interface is on our list for a reason. Not only is it extremely good value, it’s also very portable which makes it a convenient choice for rehearsal recordings, on-the-fly recording and casual listening too.
4. RME Fireface UCX
The RME Fireface UCX is a professional level soundcard for the studio. This interface boasts excellent parameters, many inputs and outputs (8 in/8 out) and also the ability to connect via USB and FireWire.
But the main thing about the Fireface UCX is the clean untainted sound and stable performance. The included Total Mix FX software, although it looks slightly outdated, has some impressive functionality.
This interface, largely due to its impressively stable handling, is excellent for capturing performances of all kinds. With the abundance of inputs and output it’s suitable for recording drum kits and large ensembles.
That said, for the average home studio, its capabilities are probably overkill. Most home recording does not involve drum tracking. This is generally reserved for bigger studios, hence the price of the Fireface UCX.
The manual that accompanies the Fireface UCX is quite substantial. Let this be an indicator as to what this device can do. It’s definitely not an audio interface for beginners. Leave the RME Fireface UCX to the professionals!
5. M-Audio M-Track 2X2
On first impressions the M-Track 2X2 is a thing of beauty. Happily though, the look is not the only thing worth mentioning. The sound is very impressive from this unit. All the controls are arranged in a way they are easily accessed.
The M-Track 2×2 comes with separate headphone and monitor outputs. There is also a convenient input monitor. This allows you to listen to the dry sound of the guitar, for example, and then compare it with your post effects.
This interface works best with high-impedance headphones. Tones are transmitted evenly and the bass is very true. The inputs are impressively quiet which makes for a pleasurable recording experience.
For the money, this interface sounds very, very good indeed. The headphone amplifier works well and gives a strong output – you don’t have to go over 60% of the volume to get a healthy signal.
In direct comparison with more expensive devices the M-Track won’t match the better devices with professional pre-amps, but for the hobbyist, this is a great budget audio interface.
6. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen)
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a best-selling audio interface which caters to beginner and semi-professional musicians. Its exceptional quality won’t leave you disappointed if your budget is quite limited.
Focusrite, in general, deliver convenient, practical and decent quality hardware for home studio enthusiasts.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 2nd Gen is an external audio interface with a midrange price tag. For this you still get high-quality sound and a device which is ideal for guitar and vocal recording.
This audio interface has all the features you need for an entry-level home studio recording. There are two combi inputs and 2 balanced outputs, a separate headphone input, convenient volume control knobs and even “gain” indicators.
7. Zoom UAC-2
The Zoom UAC-2 is a state of the art audio interface complete with USB 3.0. It’s suitable for recording in any home studio whether that be music or podcasting.
The indicators and controls on the device front convenient and feel robust. The main selling point of this interface is, of course, high performance USB 3.0.
The UAC-2 is one of the best low-latency solutions when compared with other interfaces of this price range. A nice user-friendly DAW is included too. The functionality is perhaps not that overwhelming, but for the price you get everything you need for well under $300.
8. Roland Octa-Capture
The Roland Octa-Capture is another great audio interface which is suitable for both recording and music listening.
This interface resides in the mid-range price category. You can usually pick one up online or in stores for around the $500 mark. For this you get a remarkably efficient recording interface with extremely stable drivers, which provides for minimal latency.
Created with VS Streaming technology, the Octa-Capture interface supports all modern Mac and PC sound programs, thanks to ASIO 2.0 / WDM (Windows) and Core Audio (Mac).
Setting up input levels has never been so easy thanks to the cool AUTO-SENS feature. Simply turn on the AUTO-SENS and send a signal to the input of the interface. The Octa-Capture will automatically calculate and set your ideal recording level.
Whether you are a beginner or a professional, AUTO-SENS can save you a lot of time and leave you more space for creativity. It also means that you avoid weak signal recording or distorted peaking.
User-friendly interface, high-quality components and a USB connection make this interface an excellent candidate for home studio recording.
This is an ideal audio interface for recording multiple audio tracks at once. If you are thinking about purchasing only for music listening (films, games etc.) the Roland Octa-Capture may be a bit over-qualified in that respect.
9. MOTU UltraLite Mk4
The UltraLite Mk4 is quite an interesting and original looking audio interface which offers some high-end functionality. Observing the rear panel we find that there is a host of analog inputs and outputs.
This exceptional device was created for work both on the stage and in the studio. With that said, it’s also suitable for mobile sound recording. You can connect keyboards and synths, stage monitors, auxiliary and main speakers, MIDI modules, onboard and outboard gear, even home theaters – and of all these at the same time!
Apart from the many impressive features of the UltraLite Mk4, there is also the exceptional sound quality it offers. Should you wish, there is also the ability to wireless control the device which makes for a pleasurable user experience. The Mk4 offers ultra-low latency too (1.83 ms) thanks to its optimized drivers.
On the front panel you will find several knobs and toggle switches to control sound quality and channel volumes. This interface can be powered with a special adapter, or with FireWire 400.
MOTU UltraLite Mk4 provides excellent quality all round. The sound is crystal clear with no crackle or hiss during recording and mixing.
Also if necessary, the device can be used as a standalone recording station, so there’s no need to connect it to a computer, which is great for live sessions and performances.
10. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII
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 won’t need any fancy plug-ins, guitar pedals or even a microphone. Apollo Twin MkII has everything on board!
The MkII comes complete with a range of classic analogue processors, equalizers and state-of-the-art high-quality plug-ins for recording and mixing. There’s also a couple of distortions and a flexible reverb based on unique UA algorithms that allows you to simulate different rooms.
For guitarists there are some really cool vintage emulating amplifiers too. The whole collection will blow your mind and is ideal for both beginners and professionals alike.
In the past, Apollo devices were used to record such famous albums as Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp A Butterfly), Coldplay (A Head Full of Dreams), Dr. Dre (Compton), Brad Paisley (Wheelhouse) and many others.
It’s no surprise that many Apollo interfaces have received high recognition from publications such as Sound on Sound as well as winning the prestigious TEC Award in the category of sound production. With this interface you are bound to take your recordings to the next level.
Also this interface is available in either Solo, Duo or Quad versions. The difference between these is down to the amount of onboard SHARC processors.
These processors help with the workload and are a huge boon if you’re running on a laptop with low amounts of RAM. The MkII Solo, Duo and Quad versions come with 1, 2 and 4 processors respectively.
This review highlights some of the best audio interfaces available in 2020. We have made the selection based on quality, value, reliability and usability.
We have included some of the best audio interfaces in every price range from budget to mid-range to professional standard so you can cater to your own finances.
If you are thinking about buying an audio interface, it’s wise first to get a good sense of the budget you will be working with. Next take some time to establish your sound-recording objectives.
Think about how many inputs and outputs you will need, what instruments and devices you will need to connect. For most users, two inputs and two outputs will be all that is required.
If you are planning on recording large instruments such as drum kits, then ideally you will need more inputs. You may be planning on recording a podcast and interviewing several people at once. In this case too it helps to have quite a few inputs so that you can place a microphone on each person and mix accordingly.
If you’re a fan of condenser mics you’ll more than likely need an audio interface with +48V phantom power so do keep that in mind.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is the speed and power of your computer. If you do intend on running and recording 6 – 8 tracks at once you’re going to need a lot of processing power to handle all the data in real time.
There’s no point forking out for a top of the range audio interface if you haven’t got the means to run it to its optimum capabilities. Have fun on your search for the perfect audio interface!