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Best Audio Interfaces For Mac Laptops

Top 3 Best Audio Interfaces For Mac Laptops (July 2021)

The Best Audio Interfaces For Mac Laptops - 2021

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 Type-A, 2.0, & Micro USB through to the latest 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.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII) Image

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

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII) - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

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

Steinberg UR242 Image

Steinberg UR242

  • ✔ Compatible with mac and windows
  • ✔ MIDI input/output & iPad connectivity
  • ✔ USB2.0
  • ✖ Some complaints regarding the latest mac software compatibility

Steinberg is a well-known brand that caters to professional musicians around the world.

Steinberg UR242 - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

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.

The UR242 offers musicians and producers far more than just a portable I/O device, or even an audio interface; the UR242 is a mobile production solution. That’s because it combines fantastic-sounding I/O and durability with advanced DSP-based FX that can be used with your DAW software, and that at a price point that is still easily affordable.


BEHRINGER UMC 404HD Audiophile Image

BEHRINGER UMC 404HD Audiophile

  • ✔ Audiophile 24 - bit/192 kHz resolution
  • ✔ Midas designed mic preamplifiers
  • ✔ Compatible with popular recording software
  • ✔ 4x4 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI interface

Easily one of the most versatile audio interfaces you can find on a tight budget.

BEHRINGER UMC 404HD Audiophile - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

The Behringer UMC404HD is a great audio interface when you want to record high quality audio. This interface allows you to record up to four tracks simultaneously. You can plug in your microphone into the XLR input or you can plug in your guitar or bass directly into this device. This audio interface has a built-in mixer and you can set the volume of each channel individually.

The BEHRINGER UMC404HD is the perfect interface for your computer-based home studio. The UMC404HD is a low-noise, high-headroom, true analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog converter. It delivers pristine 24-bit/96kHz audio quality and plenty of connectivity. Two combo mic/instrument inputs with XLR/TRS connectors and a hi-Z input on the front panel are complemented by two balanced TRS outputs. The UMC404HD has both digital (S/PDIF) and analog (RCA) outputs and comes with a copy of Tracktion 2 Music Production Software for video-free recording and editing.

It provides four studio-quality microphone preamps with phantom power and excellent RFI rejection, plus four balanced analog outputs with Level control for the ultimate in recording flexibility. The UMC404HD offers a complete professional recording studio at a budget price. A powerful DSP (digital signal processor) engine works with new digital converters for superior audio quality. With its ultra-low latency, you can capture audio with no delay, allowing you to record and monitor with software effects in real time.


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