Best Audio Interfaces For Mac

Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces For Mac Laptops (November 2020)

Updated - November 18, 2020

The best audio interfaces for macs offer fantastic opportunities to record high quality audio from several sources with minimal latency.

Audio interfaces for macs range from large ‘rack’ styled devices through to pocket sized incredibly compact and durable audio interfaces. Some come with full colour LED/LCD displays for input and output levels, others offer portability by being powered by batteries.

Whether you’re looking to record a keyboard, guitar or vocals, the best way to setup your recording station is to plug into your macbook and make tracks via an audio interface. Low and zero latency models are considered to be the best audio interface options on the market.

Check out our other article if you’re looking for audio interfaces under $1000?

Audio Interface Connection Types

Audio interfaces for macs come with all sorts of connection types allowing you to connect to your macbook via USB, thunderbolt & firewire to name a few. USB is the most popular and widely used mainly because it comes in many different forms ranging from USB Type-A, USB 2, & Micro USB through to the latest USB Type-C connections. Thunderbolt connections are the fastest. You’ll find these are used on some of the more modern and high end audio interfaces available on the market.

Audio Interface Price Range

The price of top quality audio interfaces has fallen dramatically in recent years. This is great news if you’re looking to get hold of a device that will give you a fantastic sound without costing the earth. This is because many brands have taken their previous generation audio interface models and repackaged them. Usually with some modern nuances to create a budget model of their current range. Don’t be put off by this, these audio interfaces for macs are still great value. They might not have all the latest bells and whistles but they get the job done. Which means you don’t need to pay substantial amounts of money for them.

Depending on what you want to achieve, you’ll priorities different features when finding the best audio interfaces for macs for your situation. If space is an issue you’ll look for a small to medium sized interface that provides you a great experience and end result while not taking up a large portion of your limited space. If you’re in need of a portable audio interface then you’ll probably rule out any rack mountable models. Instead you’ll be looking for small battery powered options.

Audio Interface Inputs & Outputs

Audio interfaces for macs come with a range of inputs and outputs. Some will have line inputs, mic preamps, headphone outputs, mic inputs & many other inputs and outputs. Make sure the model you consider has what you need. If you’re kitting out a home studio then you’ll be looking for the best audio interface which features (such as phantom power) the inputs and outputs you need at an affordable price range.

Some of the best audio interfaces for macs come with software as part of the package. Pro tools is a popular editing software that we’ve seen offered as part of audio interface packages in the past. Purchasing an audio interface that comes with a reputable editing software is a great way to justify paying more for your audio interface because you’re saving money elsewhere.

What is an Audio Interface

In essence an audio interface allows you to take audio signals and pump them in and out of your macbook. The decision on which one is right for you simply comes down to a combination of your budget and how you like to work. Simplistic models exist that simply convert analog audio signals to digital audio signals on the way to your macbook. This is because your macbook will have software such as pro tools that is able to understand digital audio signals. Allowing you to layer, manipulate and refine the sound and then pump out to a speaker or amplifier. The audio interface will convert your digital audio signals back to analog signals on the way out of your macbook. This way the speaker is able to play the sound for you to hear. These types of audio interfaces are known as AD/DA (Analog to Digital/Digital to Analog) converters

Whatever type of audio interface you’re looking for we’ve tried to find the audio interfaces with the best features. While still being considered a great audio interface for macs.

Best Audio Interfaces For Mac Laptops - Top 10
  1. Universal Audio Apollo x8 Thunderbolt - The Apollo offers a huge improvement on Universal's audio interface predecessors.
  2. RME Audio Fireface UFX II - This is one of the most reliable and fully featured interfaces on the market.
  3. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII) - Ultra high-quality, low latency audio interface
  4. Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 - Don’t let its small size and extremely low price deter you from the fact that this audio interface is the real deal.
  5. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2 - PreSonus has long offered decently-priced yet reasonably high-quality audio interfaces.
  6. Apogee One - Make no mistake, this audio interface is fantastic.
  7. Audient iD4 - The iD4 is a serious upgrade for any personal project studio or mobile setup.
  8. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB Audio Interface - Made by Focusrite, the industry leaders in music technology
  9. Apogee Duet USB Audio Interface - The Apple of the Audio Interface world
  10. IK Multimedia AXE I/O - IK Multimedia has one of the most well-regarded software guitar amp systems attainable in AmpliTube.

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Sources Researched

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Reviews Read

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Hours Invested

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Products Considered

Universal Audio Apollo x8 Thunderbolt

Universal Audio Apollo x8 Thunderbolt

  • ✔ Record with near-zero latency
  • ✔ Easily connect to pro-level studio gear
  • ✔ Includes Power Supply
  • ✔ Track and mix with powerful HEXA Core processing
The Apollo offers a huge improvement on Universal's audio interface predecessors.

The incredibly designed Apollo 8 from Universal Audio is a phenomenal rack-mount interface. Its ability to reach a high level of dynamic range allows for extreme clarity, depth, and intimate accuracy on any recording. With plenty of connectivity options, it’s possible to chain a few of them together. In the attempt to find the most optimal sound recording experience.

If you’re looking for create professional sounding recordings one thing is for sure. You’re going to require a professional industry leading audio interface. Something that will perform with the precision and stability needed for larger more demanding sessions. Cue in the Avid HD I/O. A high-performance Pro Tools HD|Seris 8 x 8 x 8 analog and digital audio interface. One that’s designed to completely integrate with Pro Tools HD|Systems. The interface features premium A/D and D/A conversion and advanced circuitry. Giving you pristine sound quality and clarity and the lowest possible latency.

The Apollo offers a huge improvement on Universal’s audio interface predecessors. HD I/O features premium A/D and D/A conversion. Allowing you to experience improved audio fidelity and a sweeping dynamic range. Not to mention ultra-low jitter and the lowest possible latency in your recording sessions. With specific configurations, you can make use of built-in sample rate conversion. As well as a soft clip tool for hassle-free recording.

The Apollo I/O is delivered in three arrangements, so you have the option of picking the interface that best fits your connectivity needs. Additionally, you can increase your digital or analog I/O. By simply installing an HD I/O option card into one of the unused bays. You can install a single option card in HD I/O 8x8x8. Or a maximum of two additional cards in HD I/O 16×16 Digital. Although the HD I/O 16×16 Analog arrives with the max number of four cards, you can optimize your I/O by switching any card.

The Apollo audio interfaces completely integrate with Pro Tools|HD. You can achieve high levels of dependability, performance, and command of your outputs, inputs, and routing. Straight from within your Pro Tools interface. You’ll also experience an increased production quality and improved workflow fluidity than with any previous interface. If you desire to use your interface with Pro Tools| HD and alternative DAW software, you’re able to do so with ease.

Finding a great audio interface will improve the capability of your production setup and the quality of your sound. Let’s recap how you should choose the correct mac audio interface thats right for you. Start by gaining a general understanding of how you would want to connect your setup. Then consider the live instruments that you will be using. There are lots of audio interfaces on the market that are affordable, durable and support a wide array of amazing features that will get you on track to capture your required sound.

Desktop compatible interfaces are a great option for Entry and Mid-Level Producers. Rack-mounted interfaces are perfect additions to Mid-Level and Pro-Level producers. Producers who have vast audio production knowledge and are looking to ramp up their output to the max.

Making music with a simple setup of headphones and a laptop can only get you so far. At some point audio production becomes an issue. Having a well routed and professionally optimized production setup will greatly enrich your sound design, production and workflow.

RME Audio Fireface UFX II

RME Audio Fireface UFX II

  • ✔ Ultra-low latency operation with USB and FireWire
  • ✔ All inputs and outputs can be used at the same time
  • ✔ Direct USB Recording
  • ✔ Best low latency performance
This is one of the most reliable and fully featured interfaces on the market.
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This is one of the most reliable and fully featured interfaces on the market. It runs on good old USB so there’s no trouble running it on MacOS. It’s quite striking how Steinberg has reflected the look of the UFX II in the AXR4. The Fireface UFX has 60 channels of audio! Digitally controlled high-end preamps, reference class converters and full 192 kHz operation.

The Fireface UFX II has 30 ins and 30 outs with 4 digitally controlled mic preamps on the front, another 8 analog on the back and the rest in ADAT, AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital. The latency and performance of RME’s USB technology are second to none and supports audio resolutions up to 192kHz. Along with the excellent monitoring screen, MIDI I/O and wordclock features, you can also plug in a USB stick in the front and record directly to it. Imagine taking an instant mix from a recording session or live show. The internal TotalMix FX software gives full routing access and hardware mixing with DSP effects.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)

  • ✔ Handles processing, instead of overworking your PC/Mac
  • ✔ Built-in talkback microphone
  • ✔ Less than 2ms round-trip latency
  • ✔ Ultra high-quality audio interface
Ultra high-quality, low latency audio interface
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The Apollo Twin MKII Solo by Universal Audio can be accurately described as the creme-de-la-creme of audio interfaces when it comes to the quality of its components and its overall build. The unit provides 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs, an optical input, as well as 4 line outputs, making it decent for musicians who only need a few inputs for simultaneous recording.

Now, the main selling point of this audio interface lies in the unit’s internal circuitry and the connectivity type (being thunderbolt), which mean that it can provide sub-2ms round-trip latency, which is extremely low! The audio interface comes with a Universal Audio Plugin Bundle, which includes: Legacy versions of the LA-2A, 1176LN, Pultec EQP-1A, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, Raw Distortion, 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ, and more

Additionally, the interface has some other useful features, such as a built-in talkback microphone, which is ideal for a professional studio environment.

The Apollo Twin is an EDM industry favorite. In fact, in a recent NGHTMRE Snapchat he can be seen using this great interface while teasing one of his newest releases. With a sturdy build and unique look, the Apollo Twin is also an excellent interface with the tone feel and flow of an analog controller. This interface differs from most of the others that we have covered as it requires a Thunderbolt connection to be used with your computer. If you’re looking for an industry leading interface for a professional sound, look no further than the Apollo Twin.

A scaled-down alternative to Universal Audio’s flagship Apollo 8 and 16, the original Apollo Twin has been giving ‘the rest of us’ access to those mythical Unison preamps, first-class I/O and swanky UAD plugins for three years now.

The new Apollo Twin MkII is essentially more of the same, but with a few minor improvements, and an optional DSP upgrade. Let’s start with what’s stayed the same.

The top panel centers on a satisfyingly oversized knob, controlling Monitor or Preamp input levels, as selected with the two buttons flanking it; and six Option buttons, contextualised by an LED icon strip, that again change function depending on whether the unit is in Monitor or Preamp mode. Input and output metering are provided by four five-segment LED ladders.

The back panel and front edge house two combi Mic/Line inputs. It also has a Hi-Z quarter-inch guitar input (overriding Mic/Line 1 when occupied), four quarter-inch output jacks (two Monitor, two Line). Not forgetting the stereo S/PDIF out, Headphones out and a TOSLINK port. This last port is for adding up to eight analogue inputs via ADAT.

Still a desktop-format 2-in/-6-out interface with 24-bit/192kHz capabilities, the Apollo Twin MkII would be almost indistinguishable from the original were it not now black rather than silver. It connects to your Mac or PC via Thunderbolt, but it has to be powered from the wall; and while the original Twin (still available) could be had in a USB 3 version, it’s not clear whether the MkII will follow suit.

Also a ‘DSP box’ for powering UAD plugin effects (VST/AU/AAX/RTAS), the Apollo Twin MkII features the same game-changing Unison preamps as its predecessor, fed by the Mic/Line and Hi-Z ins. These enable a gradually expanding subset of UA’s classic hardware emulation plugins to be inserted directly into each input path. Physically reconfiguring the preamp’s impedance and gain staging. As an alternative to the regular algorithmic modeling of valves, transistors, amps, EQ. This results in near-zero-latency monitoring and/or recording through them.

When we first reviewed the Twin, there were only three Unison plugins available – the UA 610-B (bundled), the UA 610-A and the API Vision. Since then, they’ve been joined by the Manley Voxbox, Neve 1073 and 88RS; eight guitar and bass amps by Ampeg, Fender and Marshall; and three distortion stompboxes, including the bundled Pro Co Rat emulation, Raw. All of them sound and feel great, and Unison remains a huge and unique selling point for the Apollo Twin MkII.

So, apart from the color change, what else is new? Well, UA has apparently beefed up the AD/DA converters, for even more dynamic range and less distortion, but the MkI was so outstanding in this department that you’ll be hard pushed to tell the difference – it’s still the cleanest, most transparent-sounding interface in its price range.

Other than that, the MkII sees a refinement of its studio workflow with the addition of a talkback mic and front panel access to a few of the monitoring functions of the Console software (see It’s not just the hardware).

The Talk button activates the talkback mic (the tiny hole below the knob), which can be sent to the outputs of your choice for control room communication or quick recording of notes and cues. The Dim button lowers the monitor output level, the Mute switch kills it entirely, and the Mono button switches between stereo and mono output for playback system compatibility checking. Very nice.

In Monitor mode, four of the Option buttons – which weren’t used at all by MkI – now come into play, necessitating the addition of a new row of icons to the LED strip, which has been made a bit deeper to accommodate them.

Apollo’s creed Apart from the Quad Core option, the Apollo Twin MkII is the very definition of an iterative upgrade. If you’re already a happy owner of MkI, the talkback mic and extra monitoring control alone aren’t reasons enough to reinvest. If, however, you’ve been hankering for more DSP than your existing Twin affords you, your day has come – have at it. And, of course, newcomers to the world of Apollo and UAD now get even more for their money, which can only be a good thing.

Given how much we loved the original Apollo Twin, it’ll come as no surprise that the MkII again wins our highest possible recommendation. Far more than possibly the best audio interface ever made. This is a musically empowering hardware/software hybrid. Capable of elevating even the humblest of home and project studios to genuinely professional-quality heights.

Compatibility
  • Mac & PC
  • Supports all major DAWs
Features
  • 2 x 6 audio interface
  • Highly reputable brand
  • Rather compact, metal chassis
  • Near to zero-latency (2ms according to reports)
  • SHARC DSP for running UAD plug-ins without burdening the computer CPU
  • Unison technology providers classic tube and transformer-based preamp models
  • Talkback microphone
  • Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturers Warranty
Technical Specs
  • Thunderbolt connectivity
  • 2-in / 6-out
  • 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs
  • Optical In
  • 4 line outputs
  • Powered by a 12v power supply
  • 24-bit/96kHz resolution
  • 48v Phantom power
Pros
  • Ultra high-quality audio interface
  • Rather portable
  • Handles processing, instead of overworking your PC/Mac
  • Built-in talkback microphone
  • Less than 2ms round-trip latency
  • Comes with full UAD plug-in bundle
  • 1-year manufacturers warranty
Behringer U-PHORIA UM2

Behringer U-PHORIA UM2

  • ✔ 2x2 USB audio interface
  • ✔ Audiophile 48 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
  • ✔ Compatible with popular recording software
  • ✔ State-of-the-art, +48 V-powered XENYX Mic Preamp
Don’t let its small size and extremely low price deter you from the fact that this audio interface is the real deal.
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Don’t let its small size and extremely low price deter you from the fact that this audio interface is a realistic option. For beginners who are working with a limited budget. Even professionals who move around a lot and want an inexpensive device to add to their arsenal.

Behringer UM2 offers a silver and black casing. What shouldn’t surprise anyone, is that at this price you won’t get a top-notch metal chassis. This budget audio interface is entirely made of plastic – there are no metal parts on the outside of the device. Chassis seems surprisingly well built with nothing left feeling lose.

The plastic knobs are positioned at the top, which is not a popular place in most audio interfaces, even those from Behringer, which are located at the front of the devices. Probably Behringer wanted to keep the size of the device as compact as possible. This location seems to be a very intuitive place for the knobs, which are easily reached for adjustments.

The Behringer UM2 offers two inputs on the front. One of them is an XLR / TRS ¼ inch (6.35 mm) combo, and the second connector is ¼ inch (6.35 mm).

The XLR connector is used to connect a professional microphone. The TRS connector is used for electronic devices and instruments, such as keyboards, bass guitars or electronic drums. Each input has two associated LEDs on the front panel, which are located to the right of them. The green one indicates that a signal has been detected and the red one shows when the signal is clipping. There are two other LEDs. The orange one tells you whether the device is on. The red one, called +48 V indicates whether the Phantom Power is on. Phantom Power is used to power the dynamic or condenser microphone.

On the right side of the front panel, there is a headphone jack for monitoring. The normal signal goes from the plugged in microphone. To the interface through USB, to the software and back. This creates latency. To avoid this, you can use the direct monitor button. It gives you a signal directly from a microphone, so if you are recording with software there is almost zero delay.

The UM2 interface is a low latency device, which is surprising. It’s very important for someone who records a lot of vocals and guitars. At this price point, you can’t beat Behringer in regards to it’s recording ability and features. The higher 24-bit device is required if you desire to hear the samples in your DAW with much more depth. It’s worth noting here that there are noticeable differences in comparison to 16-bit lesser interfaces.

There is something that I feel is going to be a major disadvantage, that other devices don’t have. Namely the UM2 is limited to 16-bit / 44 kHz. Which is ok for streamers and podcasters, but a serious musician should look for 24-bit devices (Scarlett Solo vs Behringer UM2). Normally the headphone outs on low-cost devices are cheaply made and underpowered. However in this case the UM2 headphone amp is quite loud. It would be great if there was a separate knob where you could control the volume of the headphones. If you really have to have this, you have to pay at least twice as much for UMC202HD.

UM2 is a top class audio interface for an amateur musician, podcaster, or streamer. It’s cheap, light and has a decent build. The biggest disadvantage is that it offers only 16-bit/48 kHz playback which is not enough for professional musicians.

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2

  • ✔ Compatible with almost all recording software for Mac
  • ✔ Bus-powered USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface
  • ✔ Frequency Response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • ✔ 2 combo mic/instrument inputs
PreSonus has long offered decently-priced yet reasonably high-quality audio interfaces.
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PreSonus has long offered decently-priced yet reasonably high-quality audio interfaces. This year we’ve seen a number of them. The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 comes as one part of the PreSonus AudioBox 96 Studio. The other parts being a pair of headphones, a microphone, and not forgetting, an XLR cable.

USB audio and MIDI interface with 2 combo mic/instrument ins with Class A mic preamps.

24-bit resolution, 44.1, 48, 88.1, & 96 kHz sampling rate.

M7 large-diaphragm condenser mic.

HD7 headphones with High neodymium resolution drivers.

PreSonus Studio One Artist with unlimited audio tracks, MIDI tracks, virtual instruments, buses, and FX plus 10+ GB of third-party software and loops.

The first thing we noticed when we took the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 out of the box was its size. It’s a little smaller than we expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It features the blue and silver aesthetic you would expect from a PreSonus interface, and in general it looks quite nice.

Under the hood, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is relatively powerful, and while you won’t get all that many inputs and outputs, that doesn’t mean that the ones that are there don’t sound good — in fact, they do. While some purists may beg to differ, one of the things that we’ve always loved about PreSonus’ preamps is that they’re quite transparent — which makes them versatile. You could really use the preamps here to record anything — vocals, guitars, drums, you name it. The limiting factor here doesn’t come from how the preamps sound, but rather how many of them there are.

With more and more people needing small interface set-ups for song writing, YouTube videos or recording podcasts and commentaries. An increasing number of companies are putting out bundles that offer everything in one box. This one has headphones, a mic, interface and software bundle.

Firstly you get a sturdy interface with two combo mic/line ins, two outs plus headphone and MIDI connections. You could plug a guitar and mic in and sing away, or use it with a simple mic combo. As with all PreSonus hardware you’re best off registering it. You’ll then get a list of available software including any drivers you might need.

Next are the HD7 headphones. They’re a little lightweight which is not necessarily a bad thing. They’re not especially rugged either but they stood up reasonably well next to our reference phones. They have lots of detail, a little harsh, but with an extended bass response that doesn’t colour as much as we thought it might. Not bad. The mic is not quite a match for them, but while there are better, it’s still good for this price point.

Perhaps most impressive on the music production side and often included in PreSonus’ bundles is Studio One Artist. Now this is an impressive DAW. You get 26 plug-in ‘ready to go’ effects and instruments, unlimited audio tracks, it works with Mac and is easy to use despite a fairly cluttered GUI.

There’s even a 10GB bundle of extras by third parties including samples, loops and other goodies. It might be overkill for just recording a podcast but what the heck, make it a super musical podcast, or a very dramatic and cinematic one! All the effects and sounds you need are right here to soundtrack whatever you want.

Apogee One

Apogee One

  • ✔ Built-in microphone
  • ✔ Usb 2.0 connection for Mac
  • ✔ Die Cast aluminum chassis
  • ✔ Direct monitoring
Make no mistake, this audio interface is fantastic.
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There’s not too much to say here, besides from the fact that Apogee create really high sound quality audio interfaces. However, from the research done, where Apogee lack, is in their customer service. Which isn’t necessarily something you want. Considering you may have questions regarding the interface if things were not to work! On a more positive note, Apogee has a great website, with plenty of information, and video tutorials on how to set up the device and even recording tips & tricks.

Make no mistake, this audio interface is fantastic, it was one of the best, highest sound quality audio interfaces I’ve ever used.

Apogee One for Mac is essentially the same interface as the previous generation’s Apogee One. This newest version has a silver design (which, admittedly, looks pretty sleek) and eschews the iOS connection cables to save the purchaser $100. The converters are the same, the features are the same, and physically it sports the same dimensions.

If you’re not aware of the Apogee One concept, allow me to enlighten you. It’s an incredibly compact audio interface that sports an XLR input. it also sports a 1/4” input tuned for instrument level sources. The XLR input can push out phantom power as needed, and you can utilize both inputs at once. These 2 inputs are accessible via breakout cable, cutting down on the clutter when you’re not using them as you can stow the cable elsewhere.

The Apogee One for iPad, iPhone and Mac is the best portable DAC and headphone amp I’ve tested. By portable, I mean one that plugs into an iOS device and needs no external power to play. It’s the best because it has the most and cleanest output, it’s the best made (all metal), and it has the best ergonomics: a big volume knob right where you need it.

The One comes at a bit of a premium compared to other 2-channel audio interfaces, and it’s pretty clear why. The products finish is stellar, and the dynamic range for the microphone input is far beyond your standard 2-channel interface’s level of excellence. The XLR input on the One is incredibly clean. It has plenty of headroom, and sounds a lot better than it should.

The Apogee One is quite possibly the best interface for the price you pay. Since most interfaces at that price range are almost all the same. The Apogee One stands out for its professional finish and the fact that is has an outstanding microphone.

Forget about everything you know about internal mics. This microphone has amazing frequency response and clarity even for vocals. The Apogee website has demonstrations of all the different applications of the ONE with the internal mic. The end product will surprise you.

Not only does it sound fantastic; it’s super easy to use. Plug it in, and the big knob controls volume in 1 decibel clicks over a wide range. I have no idea why consumer gear makes it so hard to control levels; this piece of gear does it right with a big knob. This metal beauty is well padded and isn’t going to slide around your desk. It’s the perfect combination of sturdiness and lightweight. It’s a solid bar of precision, and the volume control is a dream to spin.

Should you change your mind after owning the One and wish that you purchased iOS/Mac edition, don’t worry—Apogee will sell you an iOS interface kit for $99. The interface itself is not limited or hobbled in any way, it’s exactly the same as the One for iOS/Mac, just minus the cables. It’s nice to know the option is there should you want to exercise it down the road.

Audient iD4

Audient iD4

  • ✔ Zero-latency monitoring with monitor mix and pan
  • ✔ iD4’s Monitor Pan - create a balanced headphone mix
  • ✔ Monitor Mix feature lets you monitor a blend of both inputs and playbacks
  • ✔ Clean, punchy and musical character
The iD4 is a serious upgrade for any personal project studio or mobile setup.
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Packing large-format console performance into a petite desktop chassis. The Audient iD4 audio interface fortifies your studio with one of Audient’s renowned Class A console mic preamps and a discrete JFET DI. As well as industy-leading conversion technology, two headphone jacks, and console-style monitoring control. Also onboard is the company’s intuitive ScrollControl virtual scroll wheel. This lets you use the iD4’s big volume knob to tweak your DAW and plug-in parameters and even scroll your iTunes library. Simply press the knob to dim the monitors. The iD4 is a serious upgrade for any personal project studio or mobile setup.

This interface has a cool space age design that supports DI and XLR mic input, with quarter inch to RCA speaker output. Another interesting feature of this interface is the Monitor Pan, which allows you to mute your speakers without having to physically turn them off. Not to mention, the iD button on this interface can be used as a hardware function key which allows such options as ScrollControl, Mono, Mono + Polarity, Dim, and Talkback. These configurations can be made within the master section of the iD mixer.

When designing the iD4, Audient went against the grain compared to many audio interfaces in this range, making this device feel quite unique. The majority of the action takes place on the top of the device as opposed to the side, meaning it’s easy to work with while sitting at a desk.

Aesthetically it is quite simple, with no overly-complicated designs or branding – just a sturdy all-metal chassis which is gently curved at the front, along with a solid black control panel. As for the build, this compact interface oozes excellence. It’s designed in the UK, but made in China, although this takes nothing away from the rock-solid feel – certainly capable of surviving both a busy studio as well as regular voyages into the outside world.

The USB-powered iD4 is packed with features. Starting with the connections, the iD4 sports two inputs in the form of an XLR with phantom power for condenser mics, while plugging in a guitar or bass is easy with the discreet JFET instrument-level DI. As for outputs, you get standard L/R TRS main speaker ports around the back.

Clearly there’s not as many inputs as other interfaces on our chart. However some additional features help set the iD4 apart in other areas. This includes the monitor mix knob, which allows blending of the input signal with the DAW playback for close to zero-latency monitoring, while the monitor pan feature gives you the choice to pan your mic pre-input and your DI input from left to right. This gives a great headphone mix. While the two headphone ports (jack and mini jack) allow for two sets to be connected at any time.

There’s also ScrollControl, where the volume encoder can be switched to act as a virtual scroll wheel, which proves a very useful feature. Finally, Audient promise more than $600 worth of free software, which instantly puts this interface in a good value zone. On closer inspection, this includes Cubase LE and Cubasis LE 2, as well as a host of sample packs, synths and plugins.

Because Audient install the same Class A mic preamp design as used in their higher-end interfaces, the iD4 is a solid performer, punching well above its price tag. As we have mentioned, the build is excellent and finetuning things with the responsive aluminum control knobs is a pleasure. Finally, the fact that this interface is compatible macOS and iOS means it’s a perfect option.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB Audio Interface

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB Audio Interface

  • ✔ Highly reputable brand
  • ✔ Very impressive technical specs
  • ✔ Tried and tested, as it’s the 3rd Generation of the product
  • ✔ Ultra-low latency
Made by Focusrite, the industry leaders in music technology

The Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen) by Focusrite is their third iteration of this phenomenally successful series. And with each generation, Focusrite seems to iron out any flaws and add functionality.

It is an 18 input unit, with 8 XLR/TRS combination inputs, as well as a MIDI input & output, S/PDIF input & output, and the ADAT inputs/outputs.

The reason that this interface features two sets of ADAT inputs/outputs as it requires both sets to be used simultaneously when running the unit at 96kHz.

The unit itself is very physically pleasing, and can be rack-mounted. It also includes a range of software, which will delight any musicians who may be starting out.

As for the technical capabilities of the unit, as expected, it can provide a 192kHz sample rate, which is very impressive.

Overall, since it’s extremely new, there are few customer reviews in existence. However, when taking into account the previous versions and their customer reviews, it definitely suggests that this is an interface to look at.

 

Compatibility
  • Mac & PC
  • Supports all major DAWs

 

Features
  • Newly released audio interface
  • 18 inputs and 20 outputs
  • Eight high-quality mic preamps
  • Made by Focusrite, who are leaders in the music tech industry
  • 3rd Generation of the Scarlett 18i20
  • Durable metal chassis which is rack-mountable
  • Sleek aesthetic design
  • Includes software
    • Pro Tools, Ableton Live Lite, Softube time and tone bundle, Focusrite’s Red plug-in Suite, 3-month splice subscription and 1 free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument
  • Requires power adapter
  • Warranty: 2-Year Manufacturers Warranty

 

Technical Specs
  • USB C connectivity
  • MIDI input/output
  • 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs (on the front)
  • 6 XLR/TRS combination inputs (on the back)
  • 2 TRS/Headphone outputs (on the front)
  • 10 TRS/Line outputs (on the back)
  • S/PDIF input & output
  • 2 x ADAT input & output
  • 24-bit/192 kHz resolution
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz Frequency Response
  • 48v Phantom Power

 

Pros
  • Highly reputable brand
  • New technology, with it being a new release
  • Tried and tested, as it’s the 3rd Generation of the product
  • Ultra-low latency
  • 2-year manufacturers warranty
  • Very impressive technical specs

 

Cons
  • Phantom power can only be applied to bulk inputs (i.e 1-4, 4-8)
Apogee Duet USB Audio Interface

Apogee Duet USB Audio Interface

  • ✔ Very reputable brand
  • ✔ The most portable audio interface on the list
  • ✔ Beautifully engineered, with fantastic aesthetics
  • ✔ High-quality preamps and sound quality
The Apple of the Audio Interface world
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The Apogee Duet 2 is the world’s best-sounding and most convenient computer DAC for desktop audio. It’s also a professional monitor controller and headphone amplifier. The best part is it all sits on your desk with one big, beautiful knob for easy fingertip control. Building on the success of the original Duet, while taking into consideration customer feedback, Apogee has set a new standard in A/D conversion for home and project studio with the Duet 2. Simply put, after several years of working at home with an original Mbox, opening my first session with the Duet 2 was akin to listening to the song with brand-new ears.

The Apogee Duet is the Apple MacBook Pro of the Audio Interface industry. It’s sleek design is highly attractive, very durable and extremely portable. Perfect for the professional musician who wants high-quality recordings in the studio and on the road.

The Apogee Duet is the perfect audio interface for anyone looking for more inputs/outputs than the Apogee One. Whilst it doesn’t feature the same in-built microphone that the Apogee One has. It has legendary status microphone pre-amps and internal circuitry, for that high-quality sound.

There are cheaper audio interfaces than those provided by Apogee across their range but the first thing to note is that if you’re Mac-based, you’ll struggle to find a company whose approach is so tailored to Apple’s product-range, with rock-solid integration guaranteed. While we always think break-out cables don’t provide the most professional-looking solution. We’re aware that this is simply personal taste. The implementation of a combined cable here makes perfect sense, allowing the Duet 2 unit to fit snugly in a laptop bag.

The audio quality of Duet 2 is extremely good too, blowing most of the competition away not just among the array of cheaper interfaces available but also out-performing some of those retailing for higher prices.

The Apogee Duet is a stylish, AD/DA audio converter that provides 2 analog inputs with mic preamps and selectable 48 volt phantom power for connecting microphones, instruments or line-level equipment. 4 analog outputs including 2 balanced 1/4” outs for speakers or outboard gear, 1/4” stereo headphone output. A USB 2 connection to connect to a Mac; a MIDI port; and a digital connection for iOS devices.

Apogee units are pricier than similar interfaces from companies like Edirol, Steenberg, ProSonus. However the Apogee claim to fame is outstanding audio quality and great build quality. I found the Duet easy to set up and configure. The controls and the built-in screen simplify adjustments and the Duet looks great on the desktop. The only downside is that the Duet costs about twice as much as competitive units.

A big benefit of the Duet is that it works on both Mac and iOS devices. Giving you the ability to capture high-quality audio on your phone.

In order to record a microphone or analog musical instrument, we need to convert the analog signal into something the computer can read. Conversely, in order to hear audio stored on our computer or iOS device on something other than the built-in speakers, we also desire to convert the ones and zeros of the computer into something our speakers can play.

Overall, the Apogee Duet is a fantastic audio interface for those musicians who are fine with having only 2 inputs/4 outputs. Ideally, we imagine it’s suited to musicians who are on the move and want to record high-quality audio, as well as those who might not want the larger interfaces and want the premium Apogee preamps at a more affordable price (in comparison to other Apogee products).

Compatibility
  • Mac & PC & iOS devices (including iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, with the lightning and 30-pin cable)
  • Supports all major DAWs
Features
  • Apogee is the ‘Apple of the Audio Interface world’
  • Incredibly beautiful, minimalistic design
  • Impeccable sound quality with 2 fantastic mic preamps
  • Ability to connect to iOS devices
  • Premium-spec build quality
  • Very portable
  • Designed and built in California, USA
  • Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturers Warranty
Technical Specs
  • USB 2.0 connectivity
  • 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs
  • 2 Line outputs
  • 1 Line stereo headphone output
  • MIDI connectivity (USB-A Type)
  • 24-bit/192 kHz resolution
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz Frequency Response
  • Requires power adapter
  • 48v Phantom Power
Pros
  • Very reputable brand
  • Very portable
  • Been utilized for many commercial projects
  • Beautifully engineered, with fantastic aesthetics
  • High-quality preamps and sound quality
  • 1-year manufacturers warranty
Cons
  • Only 2 inputs/4 outputs
  • Need to purchase the 30-pin lightning cable separately, for connection to iOS devices
  • Has been on the market since around 2013, so the technology isn’t exactly new
IK Multimedia AXE I/O

IK Multimedia AXE I/O

  • ✔ 3 different preamp circuits to choose from
  • ✔ Amp output for easy re-amping
  • ✔ Seamless amplitude integration
  • ✔ A professional 2 in/5 out audio interface and controller
IK Multimedia has one of the most well-regarded software guitar amp systems attainable in AmpliTube.
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IK Multimedia has one of the most well-regarded software guitar amp systems attainable in AmpliTube. They have decided to combine that software technology with a new premium audio interface packed full of features perfect for any guitarist. It’s called the AXE I/O — well, of course, it is!

  • 2 in / 5 out 24-bit, 192 kHz audio interface with 2 mic preamps, 2 instrument inputs
  • ACTIVE / PASSIVE pick-up selector matches your guitar’s pickups for ideal gain levels
  • Z-Tone adjustable impedance control coaxes a wider range of tones from your instrument
  • PURE and JFET instrument input channels keeps your sound totally clean or adds subtle saturation
  • Low noise AMP OUT for easy re-amping without the need for additional direct boxes or splitters
  • Register to receive a massive software bundle with AmpliTube 4 Deluxe, Ableton Live 10 Lite and 10 T-RackS mixing plug-ins

AXE I/O is a 2 input, 5 output audio interface in a ruggedized rack style box. On the input, there’s a “Z-Tone” impedance adapting circuit that matches up to your pickups. It is however, switchable between passive and active. The fully discrete input circuit has a choice of Pure or Class A JFET. These take you from transparent to tube-like at the throw of a switch. The unexpected 5th output is an “Amp Out” designed to go straight to a guitar amplifier. You can process your recordings through external gear rather than committing them to your project.

All the guitar amp and cabinet modeling are done in the included AmpliTube 4 Deluxe. With over 140 ultra-accurate models of guitar and bass amps, cabs, pedals, mics and more. You can dial in what you require via the front preset knob. On the back are two pedal inputs for expressive control that can be mapped directly to the software. They’ve even integrated a guitar tuner directly on the front panel.

And, like the Sono, it will do all the monitoring as well as the audio recordings. The AXE I/O also has a handy MIDI In and Out port for connecting keyboards or floorboard controllers.

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