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Best Low Latency Audio Interfaces On The Market

Top 3 Best Low Latency Audio Interfaces On The Market (July 2021)

The Best Low Latency Audio Interfaces On The Market - 2021

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

Low latency audio interfaces 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.

Check out our other review if you're looking for 8 channel audio interfaces specifically.

Low Latency Audio Interface Connection Types

Low latency audio interfaces 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 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.

Low Latency 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 low latency audio interfaces 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 low latency audio interfaces 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.

Low Latency Audio Interface Inputs & Outputs

Low latency audio interfaces 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 low latency audio interfaces 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 low latency audio interface.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB Audio Interface Image

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

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB Audio Interface - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

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, S/PDIF and 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)

PreSonus Studio 1824 Audio Interface Image

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.

PreSonus Studio 1824 Audio Interface - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

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

Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 Image

Focusrite Scarlett 4i4

  • ✔ High-performance converters
  • ✔ Mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
  • ✔ USB-C powered device
  • ✔ Compatible with Windows, Mac and iPad

A great competitively-priced option with plenty of connectivity.

Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

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.


What Does Low Latency Audio Interfaces Mean?

Audio latency is the scourge of the recording world. Wherever there is computer-based recording, you’ll hear talk of it. If you’re new to recording and music tech, you might well wonder what it is, and why it’s such a problem. Put simply, audio latency is a delay or lag affecting digital audio playback. The most commonly noticed occurrence of this problem is when using music software on a PC with the standard, installed soundcard.

Audio latency is caused by delays processing the audio data as it travels from the outside world (or from the triggered note on a keyboard), to the computer’s processor and back out again. The most common, and usually easiest fix, however, is to use an audio interface that is designed specifically for use with audio recording applications.

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