The Best USB Audio Interface Roundup for 2014

Updated for 2014, this will help you find the best USB audio interface for your current home recording setup with the top adapters from various price ranges and sizes.

The humble USB audio adapter has made recording easier for many music enthusiasts and has helped revolutionize the way music is being recorded and produced. USB audio interfaces are conveniently compatible with nearly all modern computers, be it Windows or Mac, or on the desktop or a laptop - as long as it has a USB port - you can use it for capturing your mic or instrument. These devices are also getting more affordable and are used in many professional level home recordings. Check out our list and find the one that fits your recording requirements and budget.

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Lexicon Alpha

Lexicon Alpha

With the Lexicon Alpha USB audio interface , budget is no longer a valid excuse to create recordings. For its rock bottom price, this interface works surprisingly well for its intended use, as a straightforward and compact interface. Its basic functionality will let you connect your instrument to your computer while staying within your budget. There are not a lot of bells and whistles to expect at this price range, but the humble Lexicon Alpha will reliably get the job done, it delivers what you need without any complication giving you room to focus on the music being captured. Another plus is that it is USB-powered, reducing your desktop clutter and makes it even more convenient to carry around. Manufactured by: Lexicon | Retails for $59.95 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

Alesis IO2 Express

Alesis IO2 Express

The Alesis IO2 Express is a compact and affordable two-channel USB audio interface for home and portable recording setups. It is small enough to fit into your backpack or laptop bag, turning your laptop into a fully functional mini-recording studio that you can use anywhere. Each of the two channels feature an XLR microphone input, a 1/4” TRS insert for external effects units, and a 1/4” TS jack for line-level sources and electric instruments. The housing, switches, and over all build is good and sturdy, with the controls situated on the top panel for easy access and visualization. Manufactured by: Alesis | Retails for $99.00 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

M-Audio M-Track Plus

M-Audio M-Track Plus

M-Audio is known for providing affordable music production solutions for a variety of needs and the M-Track Plus is a good example. This portable and affordable audio interface is designed for basic home recording studios, ideal for musicians that are looking to record bits and pieces without having to spend too much. Surprisingly, this small audio interface packs quite a lot of features, inclduing 2 XLR mic inputs with selectable phantom power for condenser mics, 2 balanced 1/4" line inputs with guitar-level switching, 2 TRS 1/4" inserts, MIDI I/O and many more. Manufactured by: M-Audio | Retails for $134.04 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is among the most popular USB audio interfaces today, thanks to its healthy mix of simple controls, great sound and stylish looks. This affordable and portable audio interface is stripped down to essential recording features, and what it lacks in features, it more than makes up with its solid construction, intuitive operation, quality input preamps and good visual feedback. You can set it up in less than 5 minutes and start recording tracks with ease. You can then control your recording with its simplified front panel controls and while you keep your eye on the levels with its cool halo signal indicators. Being a real looker and easy on the eyes, it has become the interface of choice by musicians and engineers that knows that style can inspire creativity. Manufactured by: Focusrite | Retails for $149.99 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4

While most of the compact audio interfaces tend to target musicians and home studio producers, Focusrite decided to create one that considers the needs of electronic musicians and DJs. The result is the Scarlett 2i4 USB audio interface, which comes with DJ-ready 4 RCA outputs. The extended output options offer a dynamic range of over 105dB to ensure that it works well with your DJ mixer, main speakers or headphones. The same reputable Focusrite mic preamps are used on the unit, and it is housed with the same stylish unibody aluminum chassis. Manufactured by: Focusrite | Retails for $165.34 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

Roland Duo-Capture EX

Roland Duo-Capture EX

Having been just released late 2012, The Roland Duo-Capture EX is a new comer that is gaining popularity, users are pleased with its balance of portability, price and audio quality. Its space saving size and lightweight design makes it a new favorite for home studios and small venue live recording, where desktop space is limited. Although small, this rugged unit does not sacrifice sound, it has Roland's acclaimed VS preamps, which gives your recording a modern, clear and pristine character. The Duo-Capture EX is also easily compatible with Mac and PC, and even with the iPad, allowing for 24-bit/48kHz digital audio recording straight from your iOS device. Finally, the Roland Duo-Capture EX comes at a very reasonable price, confirming the saying that great things do come in small packages. Manufactured by: Roland | Retails for about $210.00 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

Scarlett 18i20 is considered as one of the most sought after multi-channel USB audio interfaces in the market, thanks to its flexibility, durability and sonic quality. It comes with eight Focusrite microphone preamps that are synonymous to good audio, and sends the signal through a 24-bit/96kHz interface that goes straight to your Mac, PC or even iOS. Aside from audio quality, the controls are also intuitively positioned for quick adjustments and visual monitoring. With 18 inputs and 20 outputs, it has enough I/O to handle day-to-day studio duties at max quality, making it ideal for recording acoustic drum kits or even a small band performance. If you are looking to expand your I/O options, the Scarlett 18i20 is highly recommended. Manufactured by: Focusrite | Retails for $399.00 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

PreSonus Audiobox 1818VSL

PreSonus Audiobox 1818VSL

While others have bells and whistles that tend to distract or confuse, the PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL is a full featured audio interface that comes with just the right features, while having the connectivity to be expandable. Essential features include 8 mic/instrument inputs with 48V phantom power and 8 line-level outputs. Reviews are unanimous that it transparently transfers your audio to your computer with very little latency. If you require more, you can expand your setup with 8 more input channels by utilizing its ADAT optical I/O and SPDIF connectivity. 1818VSL features PreSonus' VSL effects and channel compression, which gives you a full channel strip for every input and output. Effects include a high pass filter, limiter, compressor, 3-band EQ and a gate - these effects are controlled via a nifty software mixer that you get for free. Manufactured by: PreSonus | Retails for $499.95 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

RME Madiface XT

RME Madiface XT

RME is a pro-audio brand known for their high-end quality audio gear. One of their latest releases is the RME Madiface XT, which is considered as the first USB 3.0 audio interface in the market. Although USB 2.0 is more than enough to handle typical home studio recording requirements, Madiface XT opted for USB 3 to handle the massive data throughput required by its 196 audio inputs and outputs via three MADI(Multichannel Audio Digital Interface) I/Os. If these technological terms seems foreign seems foreign to you, then you will at least be familiar with its two microphone inputs with built-in preamps. This USB 3.0 audio interface maybe a bit of an overkill for the average musician, but if you are looking to do channel intensive projects - this is the best in the market. Manufactured by: RME Audio | Retails for $2,783 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com

If you feel we've missed something that should be added to our Best USB Audio Interface list, please suggest it in the comments below.

You might also like to check out our DAW Controller roundup.

Related Articles:
USB Audio Interface Recommendations for Under $100
Cheap USB Microphones
The Best Microphones For Home Recording

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Scarlett 18i8

What about interfaces with more than 4 line/mic inputs, which is a common scenario.
6-8 inputs is actually needed for headroom as you grow your home studio.

Why nothing on http://global.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-18i8 for example?

[I'm currently evaluating a replacement for my TC Electronic Konnekt Live which now suffers random BDOS under win 8.1, but was rock solid under XP/Win7]

Hi Paul, Thanks for the

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the suggestion - you'll be glad to hear we're still working on further updates and we plan to include some of the newer interfaces in the 8 to 16 channel range (we had several in the old version but they were getting outdated).

Jason.

Re: Scarlett line

Nice article, Alexander! I'm not sure why you didn't include ANY of the MBox interfaces, but I'm not interested in getting one anyways right now so I ain't really trippin' on that. LOL!!! But I do take issue with you selecting the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 instead of the waaaaay better 6i6 which is only 249.00 US dollars and has so much more value. The Focusrite has much better sounding preamps than the FastTrack Ultra you gave the top spot and it comes with routing software too. If you were looking for an 8 preamp the the 18i20 would be better than the FastTrack. In the future, I'd suggest looking at the full product line of a brand before using one of their products to review/compare. Often times you'll find that it's another piece of gear in their line-up that's the better deal. Also, focusing on one price range OR breaking down at least 2-3 different price ranges(below $400/above $400, budget/mid-level/high-end, etc.) helps to organize and make better sense of a review/comparison report. Overall, a very informative article though. Thanks again!

Max 6 or even Max 5

Do any of these work with Max 5 or Max 6?? Any experience/feedback welcome.

thanks

All of the USB 2.0 interfaces should work with MAX

All of the USB 2.0 interfaces should work with MAX - I've seen favorable reports with the MOTU. (I don't know about USB 3.0)

If you're unsure, just fire an email to support@cycling74.com and they'll tell you if the audio interface you want to buy is fully compatible.

All sucks... where are the

All sucks... where are the damm USB3.0/TB interfaces omg? We like in 20th century of what...

USB 3.0

Although USB 3.0 is now pretty common, audio interfaces have stayed with USB 2.0 because it provides more than enough bandwidth for most, if not all, recording applications. Let me point you to Apogee for details on why they (other manufacturers probably share the same reason) have not been implementing USB 3.0 connectivity.

But since you mentioned it, RME recently announced the first USB 3.0 audio interface, MadiFace XT, and we have included it on the list.

Roland UA 55 Quadcapture

You could add the Roland UA-55 QuadCapture,USB 2.0,which is very affordable and really great, with some nice features like Autosense (automatically settings the audio inputs at their best level regarding the incoming signals). 2mic/line inputs (6.35/cannon connectors), 1 digital stereo in, 2 analog outs and 1 digital, MIDI in & out, very nice and intuitive GUI, 2 excellent pre-amp (the very same as V 700 series),ground lift (!) to avoid hums and ground loops,phantom power. Last but not least,very stable drivers, pristine sound. Really a good challenger to more expensive audio interface. Using it for weeks, I'm impressedbyf this nice looking audio interface, and realky happy with it. It comes with a free version of Sonar X LE for the beginners who want to record directly out of the box. Good deal :)

I've never been a fan of

I've never been a fan of auto-leveling, maybe I'm old skool that way, I'd have to play around with this feature before I could be convinced it's a good thing. In my experience auto-levelers don't adjust quickly enough and the levels go all over the place if you're recording something with wide dynamics.

Have you checked out the Alesis io4?

After doing a bit of research before buying my usb audio interface, strictly for home use, I settled on the Alesis io4. It has 4 inputs which can be for microphone or guitar. It has midi in/out which was also important for me. Cubase LE is included, all for the (relatively) inexpensive price of $150. I am interested in hearing what one of the experts would say about it.

Thanks,

Ed

M-audio vs Presonus

I would really like to know for what reason you decided that the fast track ultra came up ontop of the Presonus 1818VSL since im currently trying to decide between the two.

FYI

Feel free to send a mail with your conclusion to lyhricon at gmail.com

The top three USB interfaces

The top three USB interfaces on this list are quite close to each other in terms of quality so it was really a tough choice. Since one of them had to be the top pick, we went with the Fast Track Ultra 8R because of its great sounding preamps, expanded output options (two headphones monitoring is quite nifty), and ofcourse Pro Tools SE which is great for those that are just building their home studio. Another important factor that helped it get its top spot is its value - if you check with Amazon, you can get it at a very tempting price!

In fairness to the Audiobox 1818VSL, users swear that its preamps sound better than the others, and we do agree on certain applications. Another nifty feature of the 1818VSL is its ADAT capability for expansion, which is useful if you will require more connectivity options in the future. Having said that, good luck with your pick!

My interface :O

Audiobox 1818 vsl is definitely a good value for the price. I've heard the saffire pro that's in the same price range supposedly has better A/D but I haven't had a problem

What about Steinberg UR22?

How you rank that?
Regards!
-Jp

Steinberg UR22

The Steinberg UR22 can match other audio interfaces in terms of audio quality and may even beat them when it comes to ease of use. If you are looking for a bare bones audio interface for quick and transparent direct-to-computer recording, this unit will get the job done. Unfortunately, it did not make it to the list because it lacks some essential features that we would expect from modern interfaces like basic muting, EQ and routing options. To be fair, these features are available in many of todays DAWs so they can be offset by the software you choose to work with.

nothing but noise

nothing but noise

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