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.
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
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 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 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
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
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
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
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 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.
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