Best Audio Interfaces Under $500

Top 6 Best Audio Interfaces Under $500 (January 2021)

Updated - January 1, 2021

The best audio interfaces under $500 offer fantastic opportunities to record high quality audio from several sources with minimal latency.

Audio interfaces under $500 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 $500 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 $500 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 $500 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 $500 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 $500 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 $500.

Best Audio Interfaces Under $500 - Top 6
  1. PreSonus Studio 1824 Audio Interface - The Presonus Studio 1824c 8-channel audio interface is a premium-priced, rack-mountable model.
  2. IK Multimedia AXE I/O - IK Multimedia has one of the most well-regarded software guitar amp systems attainable in AmpliTube.
  3. Steinberg UR242 - Steinberg is a well-known brand that caters to professional musicians around the world.
  4. Roland Rubix24 - The Roland Rubix24 is an audio interface which is really designed for recording and mixing purposes.
  5. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB Audio Interface - Made by Focusrite, the industry leaders in music technology
  6. Tascam US-16x08 - The US-16x08 feature set represents the barest of bones for audio interfaces of this type.

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Sources Researched

42

Reviews Read

11

Hours Invested

22

Products Considered

PreSonus Studio 1824 Audio Interface

PreSonus Studio 1824 Audio Interface

  • ✔ Best-selling audio interface series
  • ✔ Sleek black metal chassis
  • ✔ Rack mountable
  • ✔ Switchable “Air” function
The Presonus Studio 1824c 8-channel audio interface is a premium-priced, rack-mountable model.
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The Presonus Studio 1824c is a premium-priced, rack-mountable audio interface suitable for any professional musician/sound engineer’s studio setup.

It comes with a range of inputs/outputs, including 8 XLR/TRS inputs and 8 TRS outputs (not including the 2 main TRS outputs), as well as MIDI, S/PDIF and ADAT connectivity.

PreSonus is known for producing high-quality audio equipment, and the 1824c doesn’t disappoint, with its high sound resolution (192kHz/24-bit) and XMAX preamps.

Additionally, the unit is compatible with most popular DAWs and even provides iPad/Android compatibility.

Overall, this unit is priced at quite a premium price, and we think that this is a fantastic choice for those wanting plenty of inputs/outputs… However, we personally prefer the next discussed Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen) which is the same price.

Compatibility
  • Mac, PC, iPad & Android
  • Supports all major DAWs
Features
  • Highly reputable manufacturer
  • Sleek metal chassis
  • Rackmountable
  • Low latency unit with high-quality XMAX mic preamps
  • LED monitoring on front of the interface
  • Compatible with iPad* & Andoid*
  • Software included:
    • PreSonus Studio One Artist
  • Warranty: 2 Year Manufacturers Warranty
Technical Specs
  • USB Type C or USB-A connectivity (2 versions)
  • MIDI input/output
  • 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs (on the front)
  • 6 XLR/TRS combination inputs (on the back)
  • 2 TRS headphones outputs (on the front)
  • 8 TRS outputs (on the back)
  • 2 TRS main outputs (on the back)
  • S/PDIF input/output
  • 8 channels of ADAT Optical I/O (4 channels at 96 kHz)
  • Supports all major DAWs
  • 24-bit/192 kHz resolution
  • 48v Phantom Power
Pros
  • Reputable brand
  • Plenty of Inputs/Outputs
  • 2-year manufacturers warranty
  • Impressive technical specifications
  • Rack-mountable
  • Compatible with iPad & Android
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.
Be Advised - Possibly Low Stock
Buy From Amazon.com
or Choose Your Preferred Region

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.

Steinberg UR242

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.
Buy From Amazon.com
or Choose Your Preferred Region

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.

Roland Rubix24

Roland Rubix24

  • ✔ MIDI In/Out ports
  • ✔ Extensively shielded, low-noise design
  • ✔ 2 low-noise mic preamps with XLR combo jacks
  • ✔ Compatible with mac, pc and iPad
The Roland Rubix24 is an audio interface which is really designed for recording and mixing purposes.
Be Advised - Possibly Low Stock
Buy From Amazon.com
or Choose Your Preferred Region

The Roland Rubix24 is an audio interface which is really designed for recording and mixing purposes. It has 2 inputs and 4 outputs. This is more than enough for most home studio recording setups.

Other features include direct monitoring and phantom power, which can be used to power condenser microphones. There are also handy indicators which allow you to monitor your input levels and avoid peaking.

In early 2017, Roland debuted the Rubix line. The Rubix 22, 24, and 44 may not be very exciting to look at, but they are smart choices for up-to-date, mid-range audio interfaces. The Rubix 24, in particular, hits the sweet spot while offering just the right amount of functionality. This is a typical 2-in, 4-out USB interface that’s also class compliant with Apple gear and features MIDI In/Out ports. It handles 24-bit, 192kHz audio and has on-board compressor and limiter effects.

The selectable headphone channel assignments lets you create a separate monitor mix, while the loopback recording feature lets you capture the interface’s main stereo audio output without extra cables or routing. This way, you can easily record live streaming audio from your computer. The Rubix 24 comes with Ableton Live Lite, which is enough of the famous DAW to get you started, but not enough to really appreciate its capabilities.

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)
Tascam US-16x08

Tascam US-16x08

  • ✔ Eight balanced line outputs are also available
  • ✔ Eight Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps
  • ✔ An additional eight line inputs are provided
  • ✔ Captures 16 mic and line inputs
The US-16x08 feature set represents the barest of bones for audio interfaces of this type.
Be Advised - Possibly Low Stock
Buy From Amazon.com
or Choose Your Preferred Region

The Tascam US-16×08 is an 8 channel audio interface, aimed at being an affordable option for those wanting a rack-mountable audio interface with a decent amount of inputs/outputs.

The entry level into the 1U 8 mic pre interface category comes in from Tascam who are well known for developing solid recording gear at competitive prices. On to the 16×08. The Tascam site has all the specs and manuals, just look there if you want to get to know this beast. You can even test-drive the brand-new ASIO driver panel as it works without the unit attached. The US-16×08 feature set represents the barest of bones for audio interfaces of this type. As only one headphone output with a level pot is provided and no ADAT is included for I/O expansion. That said, you may not have to worry about the absence of ADAT here as the US 16×08, as the names suggests, provides 16 analog inputs and 8 outputs.

On the front of the interface 8 XLR mic pres that are claimed to deliver “clean and quiet operation” with up to 56dB of gain along with 2 jack inputs are present with 10 gain pots. On the rear you’ll find balanced line level inputs 11 through to 16 with outputs 1 through 8 along with MIDI I/O. If you find that you require more than 8 mic pres then the extra inputs on the rear could easily be utilized with some outboard channel strips which would make this a great interface for full band recording applications.

This device also provides two options of mounting. Use either the rack ears for mounting in standard 19” racks or screw in the included legs into the side of the chassis for desktop placement.

The US 16×8 may look like it could be from the last decade as the design is a bit bland but it has some modern power under the hood as it includes DSP, though basic it is very usable. Each of the inputs can have a 4 band EQ and compressor applied in tracking. This is adjustable via the Tascam mixer application which also offers near-latency-free monitor mixing and flexible routing.

The unit is compatible with the majority of digital audio workstations that exist, and can be used with Mac and PC. Additionally, it can also be used with iPad, iOS and other tablets, by using the class-compliant drivers that Tascam has available for download on their website.

However, it doesn’t include some of the features and ports that the formally discussed Behringer U-Phoria UMC1820 audio interface has, including ADAT and SPDIF connectivity, and not to mention the MIDAS designed preamps.

None-the-less, the US-16×08 does provide 96kHz/24-bit recording resolution, so it’s definitely a solid unit, and the customer review ratings affirm this.

Overall, the Tascam US-16×08 is a good quality interface and may be a good option for those who require iPad, iOS and other tablet connectivity. However, we don’t see many other selling points of this, when comparing it to other interfaces in the list, for example, the cheaper Behringer U-Phoria UMC1820.

Compatibility
  • Mac & PC
  • Supports all major DAWs
Features
  • Affordable 8-Channel audio interface
  • Tough metal chassis
  • Rack-mountable
  • Eight Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps
  • iPad & iOS device compatible
  • Low latency monitoring via the on-board DSP mixer
  • Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturers Warranty
Technical Specs
  • USB 2.0 connectivity
  • MIDI input/output
  • 8 XLR inputs (on the front)
  • 6 TRS inputs (on the back)
  • 8 TRS outputs (on the back)
  • 1 TRS headphones output
  • 2 ‘main’ TRS outputs (on the back)
  • Supports all major DAWs
  • 24-bit/96 kHz resolution
  • 48v Phantom Power
Pros
  • Well known brand
  • Product is well-reviewed and scores favorably in customer review ratings
  • iPad, iOS & Tablet compatible
  • Impressive technical specifications
Cons
  • No real USPs when comparing against other interfaces
  • Fairly old, was released in 2014

On the front of the interface 8 XLR mic pres that are claimed to deliver “clean and quiet operation” with up to 56dB of gain along with 2 jack inputs are present with 10 gain pots. On the rear you’ll find balanced line level inputs 11 through to 16 with outputs 1 through 8 along with MIDI I/O. If you find that you require more than 8 mic pres then the extra inputs on the rear could easily be utilized with some outboard channel strips which would make this a great interface for full band recording applications.

This device also provides two options of mounting. Use either the rack ears for mounting in standard 19” racks or screw in the included legs into the side of the chassis for desktop placement.

The US 16×8 may look like it could be from the last decade as the design is a bit bland but it has some modern power under the hood as it includes DSP, though basic it is very usable. Each of the inputs can have a 4 band EQ and compressor applied in tracking. This is adjustable via the Tascam mixer application which also offers near-latency-free monitor mixing and flexible routing.

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