Top 7 Best Audio Interfaces Under $200 (July 2020)
The best audio interfaces under $200 offer fantastic opportunities to record high quality audio from several sources with minimal latency.
Audio interfaces under $200 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 $200 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 $200 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 $200 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 $200 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 $200 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 $200.
Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2 Audio Interface
- ✔ High-resolution 2 in x 2 Out 24-bit/192kHz recording
- ✔ Bus-powered for easy mobile recording with no power adapter needed
- ✔ Built-Like-A-Tank design to survive day-to-day abuse
- ✔ Compatible with Windows and Mac
With high-quality Onyx mic press, balanced analogue connectivity and operation up to 24-bit/192kHz, the bus-powered Onyx Producer is more than capable of getting clean signals in and out of your DAW. There are two identical mic/line inputs with combination XLR/jack connectors. Each has a manual green backlit switch to select a Hi Z instrument, and there’s a global backlit switch for 48V phantom power.
Input signals can be monitored with zero latency using the Input/DAW Mix knob, and rounding off the front panel are a large Monitor level knob and headphone output with level knob. Round the back you’ll find a pair of 1⁄4-inch jacks for the monitor output, and also a pair of MIDI connectors (In and Out), which is very handy. Throw in the robust metal case and you’ve got a compact, workhorse device that should last for years. You get a DAW – Tracktion T7 – in the box as well.
The multitude of compact 2-in/2-out USB interfaces can be bewildering, not least because, for such a simple concept, there are a lot of variants and price points.
Mackie’s latest units, the Artist 1.2 and Producer 2.2 (which we have on review), are at the simpler and more affordable end. Even so, with high quality Onyx mic pres, balanced analogue connectivity and operation up to 24bit 192kHz, they’re perfectly capable of getting clean signals in and out of your DAW. Throw in the robust metal case and you’ve got a compact workhorse device that should last for years.
The Onyx Producer 2.2 features two identical mic/line inputs with combination XLR/jack connectors. Each has a manual green backlit switch to select a Hi Z instrument, and there’s a global backlit switch for 48V phantom power. The unit itself is USB bus powered, and there’s no option to use an external PSU, which keeps things simple. Input signals can be monitored with zero latency using the Input/DAW Mix knob and rounding off the front panel are a large Monitor level knob and headphone output with level knob. Round the back you’ll find a pair of 1⁄4” jacks for the monitor output, and also a pair of MIDI connectors (In and Out), so the Producer 2.2 also doubles as a MIDI interface, which is handy.
The Onyx Producer 2.2 uses the built-in OSX Core Audio drivers and there’s a downloadable USB driver for Windows 7 or later. Once up and running you’ve got a bunch of green and green/red LED indicators (signal level, MIDI input activity and USB connection), so you can see at a glance what’s going on.
The unit is pretty compact and the layout self-explanatory. We particularly like the rubberized gain knobs as they’re easy to grab even though the knobs are quite small. The headphone output is also nice and loud. The unit has rubber pads on the bottom and this combined with its weight makes it nice and stable when you’re plugging up leads or adjusting settings. If you’re new to recording there’s also a bundled copy of Tracktion T7 with the DAW essentials plugin pack so you won’t need an additional DAW to get started.
So, any annoyances? First up, the Input/DAW Mix control influences both the headphones and Monitor output. Not a biggie, but the balances we need for headphones and monitors are often quite different, so if you’re recording someone else and want your own blend in the monitors, that’s not an option. Furthermore, staying on the subject of the Mix control there was also a bit of bleed through from the DAW output even when the knob was turned totally to Input. Again, not unusual in this sort of device, but worth mentioning.
Nevertheless, we think Mackie have done a pretty good job here, delivering a no-nonsense, robust interface, capable of excellent fidelity that you can still slip into your satchel. Bravo.
- ✔ 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. 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.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- ✔ Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass
- ✔ Record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
- ✔ Two balanced line inputs, suitable for connecting line-level sources
- ✔ Air mode to give your recordings a brighter and more open sound
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is, what Focusrite consider, “The world’s best-selling audio interface”, at least that’s what they state on their website.
Now, we believe them! Why exactly, well because Focusrite has been an industry-leading audio interface manufacturer for years on end, and their Scarlett range has been particularly successful. You only have to take a look at the number of positive Amazon reviews [which we’ve linked to further below] to see how popular the 2i2 interface is.
As for the product specs, it’s a 2-in/2-out interface, which features 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs, making it perfect for those who want the versatility of using the interface to connect either two microphones, two instruments or one of each.
Additionally, it too has some impressive specs, supporting a sample rate of up to 192 kHz / 24-bit.
The interface is also fairly compact, making it ideal for those who may want to take this on the road for recording.
Now, as far as latency goes, we’ve read that it’s around 6ms, from users who have tried it.
Overall, Focusrite is an extremely reputable audio interface provider, known for creating quality interfaces. With that being said, we think that this interface is ideal for the musician/singer who wants a 2-in/2-out interface, with the versatility to be able to plug in both XLR or TRS via each input port. If this is you, why not take a look at the product reviews for yourself, directly below.
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
- ✔ High-performance converters
- ✔ Mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
- ✔ USB-C powered device
- ✔ Compatible with Windows, Mac and iPad
Focusrite’s Scarlett USB interfaces have traditionally combined excellent sonics and audio flexibility at affordable price points, and the third generation units keep up the good work.
All units in the range have received physical and technical upgrades, with improved preamps (now up to 56dB gain), balanced connectivity throughout, and the inclusion of Focusrite’s ISA transformer preamp emulation option (Air). On the bus-powered Scarlett 4i4 you get two mic/line/instrument inputs with gain, two line-level TRS inputs and four TRS outputs.
The 4i4 supports Focusrite’s Control application, which means that a number of settings can only be made in the software. The app also handles low-latency monitoring.
As we’ve come to expect from the Scarlett series, the sonics are neutral and the drivers reliable. The Air option tilts the frequency response towards high frequencies, and this can be great for taming undesirable proximity or adding high frequency lift.
With a decent software bundle included, this is a solid upgrade and a great affordable audio interface.
Focusrite’s Scarlett USB interfaces combine excellent sonics and audio flexibility at an affordable price point, and the third generation units have just landed.
Up for review we have two of the mid-sized units (the 8i6 and 4i4) from a range that starts with the pocket-sized Solo, and tops out at the impressively equipped 18i20. All units in the range have received a physical and technical upgrade, with improved preamps (now up to 56dB gain), balanced connectivity throughout, and the inclusion of Focusrite’s ISA transformer preamp emulation option (Air). There’s now a slicker front panel with LEDs and the halo-style input level meters sitting below a shiny surface. Meanwhile, all units now use USB Type C connectors, although for the foreseeable future will ship with Type C to Type A cables. Finally, Focusrite is rolling out a new onscreen onboarding process that guides you through the setup from the moment you first plug in.
Looking specifically at the review units, both gain a couple of extra inputs over their predecessors (the 2i4 and 6i6). So, for the 4i4 you get two mic/line/instrument inputs with gain, two line-level TRS inputs and four TRS outputs. The 8i6 also has two mic/line/instrument inputs with gain, and gets four line-level TRS inputs, four TRS outputs and stereo S/PDIF in/out. Both units include MIDI in/out. For headphones, the 4i4 has one front panel output with level and the 8i6 two outputs with individual level. The larger interface requires an external PSU which, though understandable, is moderately annoying given it’s pretty compact. The smaller 4i4 is USB bus-powered.Both the 4i4 and 8i6 support Focusrite’s Control application, and this means that a number of settings including pad, line/Hi Z instrument selector, and the Air option mentioned above can only be set via the software. The app also handles low-latency monitoring, so there’s no direct monitoring knob as per the 2i4, although it’s worth noting that the 3rd Gen 2i2 and Solo interfaces continue to use this system. Whether you view this as extra flexibility or unnecessary complexity is personal preference, but I like the software option, particularly when you take into account that there’s an accompanying nifty iOS app that effectively adds in remote control capabilities as well. A further positive is the monitor mix system which allows easy creation of low latency mixes for each output stream. Finally, both interfaces support Focusrite’s Loopback feature, whereby a further mix panel allows you to quickly route inputs, DAW outputs or a custom blend of both back into the DAW.
As we’ve come to expect from the Scarlett series, the sonics are neutral and the drivers reliable, and both units operate at up to 192kHz. The Air option tilts the frequency response towards high frequencies, and this can be great for taming undesirable proximity or adding high frequency lift. There’s also a decent pack of bundled software including Ableton Live Lite 10, Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack, Focusrite Red 2 and Red 3 plugin suite, Softube Time and Tone bundle, XLN Audio Addictive Keys and Focusrite Plug-In Collective. This is a solid refresh and both review models deliver a noticeable upgrade on predecessors.
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2
- ✔ Flexible input options
- ✔ Premium audio quality at 192 kHz and 24 bit
- ✔ VU Meter for accurately adjusting levels
- ✔ Compatible with mac and windows 10
Komplete Audio 2 is a two-input, two-output design with two identical mic/line/instrument inputs. Connections are on space-saving combi XLRs with individual selector switches to select between line and instrument. 48V phantom power, meanwhile, is engaged globally via a single switch. As well as the inputs, the front panel includes a hardware monitoring balance knob (Input/Host) and headphone output with independent control.
The main output level is controlled from a large output level knob on the top panel. Here you’ll also find the input meters, alongside phantom and USB indicators. Round the back you’ve got the USB B connector, a pair of balanced outputs on TRS 1⁄4-inch jacks and a Kensington Security slot. The performance of the Komplete Audio 2 is as slick as its looks, and though the features are basic, it does its job admirably. And when you consider the excellent software bundle, it’s great value.
PreSonus Studio 24c 2x2
- ✔ Easy-to-use Mixer knob for low-latency direct input monitoring
- ✔ High-powered headphone output
- ✔ USB-C compatible powered 2x2 audio interface
- ✔ Compatible With Windows 10 and Mac
From a physical standpoint, the interface is designed to look very sleek, with its black center chassis, surrounded by deep blue side compartments.
As for the functionality, it features 2 combination (XLR/TRS) inputs at the front of the unit, and five control knobs for general volume/mixer parameter changes.
As for the back of the interface, it has a MIDI input/output, which other cheaper interfaces do not have. Additionally, it has 2 main TRS outputs, alongside a phones TRS output. The unit is bus-powered and connects to both a Mac and PC via a USB-C cable.
Now, when it comes to latency, the company have said that the unit has a roundtrip latency of around 3ms, which is extremely low.
Overall, we think that readers who are looking for a 2-in/2-out interface, with the versatility to be able to plug in XLR or TRS into each port, as well as MIDI input and output capability and a phones output, will most certainly want to take a look at the PreSonus Studio 24c 2×2 interface. Not only does it provide a lot of functionality for an affordable price, but the latency levels are very low.
The Duet is a 2-channel FireWire audio interface that features the amazing sound quality that made Apogee Electronics famous. With control functions built directly into Apple’s Logic Pro, Soundtrack Pro and GarageBand software, Duet empowers you to create professional recordings effortlessly on your Mac.
With Duet, you can plug in guitars, keyboards, and microphones to record your music, or simply experience how much better your favorite tracks in iTunes sound. Duet is compact and powered by FireWire, so you can pack up your studio and go anywhere your music takes you.
Its dual, 1/4″ high impedance inputs allow you to combine and record your two favorite instruments, whether it be two guitars, one bass, one guitar, etc., simultaneously using your favorite Core Audio-compatible application. You can also capture vocals with two microphone inputs that have phantom power and 75dB of gain. Whether you’re noodling out new ideas, completing a personal tune, documenting a podcast, or recording a live performance, your new little buddy can handle it. The flexible breakout cables come with icons to make it easy to know what goes where, keeping everything in order, out of the way, and properly connected for maximum input and output, with minimal mess.
Duet’s bus-powered FireWire interface frees you from the traditional four-wall studio setting. So grab your laptop, find a spot where inspiration takes you, whether it’s in the solace of a park or in the echoey confines of a subway tunnel, turn it on, and start doing your thing.
If you don’t have Logic Pro, Soundtrack Pro, Garageband, don’t panic. Apogee’s includes it’s own Maestro software, so you’ll still be able to work with any Core Audio-compatible application. Maestro allows you to turn the Duet’s multifunction control knob into a one-click manager. Maestro will help you manage all of Duet’s capabilities and settings, including I/O level, source selection, muting, mic/instrument gain mode, assign MIDI function controls to the controller knob, assign meter display, and more. Speaking of meter display, Duet comes with LED I/O meters to help you monitor your levels for maximum effectiveness.
Duet is not only great for it’s input and interface functions, but it delivers amazing sound quality as well. Whether you’re listening to your iTunes collection or latest composition through powered speakers connected to the 1/4″ outputs or via the headphone jack, you’ll not be disappointed by the crystal clear, playback performance.
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.