Top 3 Best Audio Interfaces Under $100 (January 2021)
The best audio interfaces under $100 offer fantastic opportunities to record high quality audio from several sources with minimal latency.
Audio interfaces under $100 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 computer and make tracks via an audio interface. Low and zero latency models are considered to be the best audio interface options on the market.
Audio Interface Connection Types
Audio interfaces under $100 come with all sorts of connection types allowing you to connect to your computer 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 under $100 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 under $100 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 under $100 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 under $100 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 computer. 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 computer. This is because your computer 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 computer. 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 under $100.
Behringer U-Control UCA222
- ✔ Ultra-flexible audio interface
- ✔ Stereo Headphone output with dedicated Level control
- ✔ High-resolution 48 kHz converters for high-end audio quality
- ✔ Compatible with Windows 10 and mac, no setup or drivers required
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.
Some other types of interfaces can be hundreds of dollars, but the USB ones are much more affordable. A great USB interface will be high in quality but you won’t have to break the bank to buy one.
One of the reasons people love the USB option is because they can easily be swapped between systems. A great interface will also be small and light so that it can be carried in your bag without weighing you down.
Between trips to and from the studio, interfaces can get knocked around a bit. It is important for them to be able to withstand some knocks and bumps without being damaged. The exterior should be made of a strong material.
Designed to work with your PC or Mac computer, the Behringer U-Control UCA222 is bus powered so it requires no external power supply or batteries. It doesn’t require any drivers. All you have to do is plug it in a free USB port and start recording.
The U-Control UCA222 allows you to connect pretty much any piece of audio gear to your computer. This allows for versatility in your recording.
Featuring two analog inputs, you can connect any line-level device, such as a tape deck or mixer. The two analog mono outputs allow you to connect studio monitors or active speakers. There is an additional S/PDIF optical output for direct analog to digital conversion. The headphone output has a dedicated level control which allows you to listen to the input and output.
Included in the purchase is a ton of free software so that you can get the most out of your recording. You will also get more than 50 effects plug-ins, and over 100 virtual instruments to allow you to turn your computer into a complete recording studio.
The high resolution 48 kHz converters provide excellent sound quality.
The rugged construction makes it durable enough to handle the conditions of life on the road. It is small and compact, making it easy to take along with you anywhere you want to record.
To top things off, the UCA222 is a fraction of the price of other popular interfaces.
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. 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.
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 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.