UPDATED September 2013: This will help you find the best USB audio interface for your current 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.
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
M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8R
The Fast Track Ultra 8R takes the top spot on our list with its extensive functionality, solid build and audio quality. This 8 input phantom powered interface is designed for small to medium scale studio work. Its intuitive controls are conveniently situated on the front making it easy to record drum kits or a small band performance with impressive 24-bit/96kHz audio quality. The eight input Octane preamps continue to be a studio favorite because of its quiet operation and good headroom. Another advantage that the Fast Track Ultra 8R brings is its MX Core DSP technology which allows for professional channel routing, effects routing and monitor submixing, turning this reasonably priced USB interface into a powerful virtual mixer. If reliability and performance is important in your book, then get this. Manufactured by: M-Audio | Retails for $499.00 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
The Tascam US-2000 is sought after for its splendid mixture of affordability, features and quality. It gives you 16 inputs and 4 outputs and can handle them with respectably low latency. You get 8 XLR Mic input ports with phantom power and 6 1/4" TRS balanced Line/Guitar inputs, all of which are more than enough for capturing small band performances or recording acoustic drum tracks. The housing, switches, and over all build is impressive and sturdy, something that others in the same price range would be lacking. Good visual monitoring is provided for by the responsive limiter lights, rounding up the features of this workhorse USB audio adapter. You will simply find it hard to find a better deal. Manufactured by: Tascam | Retails for $299.99 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
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
MOTU Audio Express
If you prefer Firewire connectivity while at the same time appreciate the compatibility of USB, you should check out the MOTU Audio Express. It has 6 x 8 physical input/output channels that operate independently and simultaneously. Its front panel knobs are very easy to use and you can also visually monitor your audio with its indicators and meters. Controls and connections are simplified for quick setups and tear downs, great for those that don't want to waste time learning about every piece of gear they have. It supports sample rates of up to 96kHz and comes with a mixing software called CueMix. Finally the Audio Express 6x6 can double as a portable live mixer, allowing you to use it without your computer in live situations. Manufactured by: MOTU | Retails for $395.00 | Check out the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
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 2i2
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
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
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.
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