This website takes a closer look at the best-selling computer recording audio interfaces and is designed to give you an inside look at some of the more popular models on the market. This site will help you to determine which model features the capabilities you need in order to record and mix tracks and vocals on your PC or Mac. Some models are Mac only while others are more versatile. Using the information we provide can help to narrow down your search for the right model because it gives you solid information regarding pricing and how each interface works.
There are many different types of computer recording audio interfaces to choose from, so it can be kind of overwhelming to find the one you really need. You’ll need to consider all the different types of connection types, input and output configurations and the different formats available. Usually, the more diverse a model is, the better.
A computer recording audio interface is a device that connects different types of audio gear to your computer. The standard type will convert an analog signal into digital audio info. Next, it sends the signal to your comp using a USB cord. Most models typically include line level analog outputs and inputs. More expensive models also include ADAT connections.
When it comes to choosing your model, no factor will be as important as the output and input configuration. The type and amount of inputs you need will depend heavily on what you want to record.
If you sing, then you may not need many inputs. If you want to use condenser mics with your interface then you need to make sure that the preamps feature phantom power. If you want to use your model to plug in a guitar, then the interface you purchase should feature Hi-z.
There are a variety of audio interface connections available. Standard connections include FireWire, Pcle and of course, USB. Most computers feature 2.0 USB ports. FireWire is more commonly found on Macs. Both protocol types feature the same speed.
When using FireWire, the data tends to transfer at a consistent rate, which makes it more reliable than USB. The downside is that there are not many interfaces that use FireWire when compared to USB. Most interfaces are designed for USB power, which is the best choice if you plan on recording on the road using a laptop. There is also PCMCIA card based interfaces which are designed for laptop use. The internal card based interface is called PClE. You won’t be able to use this type of interface with a laptop.
You can also choose to use the type of interface that allows you to install to your motherboard, which gives you a type of advantage because you can bypass certain data conversion processes that will take up bandwidth or promote latency during a recording. Most types of PClE interfaces are made to handle high track counts and they’re actually much faster than USB or FireWire. But many users prefer USB over other connection types because it means more versatility.
To sum it up, be sure that the interface you choose is compatible with the type of computer you use, whether it’s a laptop, Mac or PC. Some models may be PC or Mac specific, while other models will allow you to connect to many different kinds of devices.
Price will also be a factor. Consider what you need the computer audio interface for before you decide on a model. If you need a model for vocals and instruments be prepared to fork over more cash.
Steinberg UR44 Audio Interface Review
The UR44 audio interface by Steinberg features portability, both input and output capabilities and impressive component quality. With a total of four analog combo inputs with V phantom power this device offers a ton of versatility for a number of electronics including mics, headphones and guitars. No DI box is required thanks to the switchable V support.
Steinberg UR44 Audio Interface Review: What this Interface can do
All together there are a total of six inputs, including the two additional lines for audio and four mic preamps, which makes this model perfect for large recording sessions.
Equipped with latency-free monitoring and DSP powered FX, the user has the ability to record with compression, reverb or they can choose to use guitar amp simulation.
All of this power is portable, providing you with the perfect, versatile and flexible interface. With this model the options are pretty wide open in terms of what you can record. You won’t need to worry about quality sound, regardless of whether you’re recording vocals or a guitar. The model’s phantom power is an important feature that gives the user the ability to connect to a number of monitors for A/B-ing mixes, utilizing a variety of speaker combos. The Hi-Z input allows you to record an instrument on the go using DSP FX. This portable interface also allows you to record any digital instrument and connect to a MIDI controller in order to integrate all your recording components into a more portable interface.
How the UR44 can Change the way you Record Tracks
The aspiring artist or producer often needs a dependable, versatile interface when first starting out. Recording and mixing a quality track often requires a ton of gear, but with the UR44 interface, you can simply take it and go. Do you need to travel to another bandmate’s home to perfect a guitar solo on a specific track? Or Add backup vocals to a new piece? The UR44 is the tool you need to get these jobs done because it offers the user seamless handling, impressive audio quality and above all, portability.
This model is the portable interface solution for live performances and recording. Each headphone output features individual volume control so that one user is in charge of switching tracks while the remaining line outputs can be used for two additional stereo mixes. This package also comes with an AC adapter, carrying case and improved stable drivers, which makes it perfect and durable enough for live performances.
Rating and Feedback for this Steinberg Interface
Users gave this model a rating of five out of five stars, which makes the UR44 our top rated product. Versatile and portable, Steinberg didn’t skimp on quality, making this model the go-to interface for all of your recording and live performance needs.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 Interface Review
The 18i8 by Focusrite is their newest interface that carries many of the same features as the previously released 2i2, right down to the vivid red color scheme and wraparound case that’s made from well-constructed anodized aluminum. The 18i8 also comes with free use of Ableton Live Lite, the Scarlett plugin suite, a gig of Loopmasters samples, MixControl and Novation Bass Station.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 Interface Review: Package Details and Software Information
Inside the box you get the user’s manual, the Loopmasters sample pack, USB cable and a variety of software.
The features for Ableton Live Lite are somewhat restricted, so it’s basically a demo that shines a little light on what this program can really do. There are still enough features available to play around with and make some basic tracks. This may be a little disappointing for some consumers, however, there’s no limit for the length of time you can use this program.
The Scarlett Plugin Suite features gate, EQ, compressor and reverb plugins. The plugins themselves are of great quality and will definitely come in handy when it’s time to mix your tracks.
The MixControl software program can be used to control any output for this model.
The free VST synth is called Novation Bass Station and it’s perfect for all your synthesizing needs.
This model can connect to an iPad, iPhone or Mac.
Scarlett 18i8 Features and Design
Clipping lights have been built-in to the gain knobs, which light up green once it’s safe to record and turn red if the signal’s clipping. This is a great feature that’s necessary during a recording session. You’ll no longer have to worry that the recording was clipping without your knowledge.
The 18i8’s four preamps produce sound that’s clear and clean, while each one offers 60 DB of gain, while most other preamp gain is around 40 DB, making the 18i8 that much more impressive.
This mode is powered with +48 V, like most interfaces of this size. A downside for many users is the fact that preamps share the phantom power. Ideally each preamp should have its own phantom power source.
This model is equipped with an assortment of digital and analogue outputs and inputs for a total of eight outputs and eighteen inputs.
Located on the front of the device you’ll find two outputs for headphones, both of which feature a gain knob.
The device also includes four XLR instrument/mic inputs that allow you to quickly plug or unplug your equipment. There is also an option for an ADAT connection.
Located on the back of the device you’ll find input and output connections for a MIDI. While not considered the most accessible, this number of connections will definitely come in handy.
How this Focusrite Interface Rated with Consumers
This model received a rating of four and a half stars out of five stars. While the layout of the interface and phantom power options could use a little tweaking, this device still provides you with the mixing capabilities you need for quality sounding tracks.
Quad Capture Audio Interface by Roland Review
The Quad Capture by Roland offers 24 bit-192 KHZ ultra-low latency performance. This portable USB 2.0 audio interface is a great device for music production on the go. This model features two digitally control mic preamps, two XLR/TRS combo inputs and independent phantom power, which is a huge bonus for artists and engineers.
Quad Capture Audio Interface by Roland Review: Features and Product Overview
The graphical control panel software for both PCs and Macs is what controls the VS preamps. To set input levels correctly start by activating the Auto-Sens feature, begin playing the connected instrument and the device will set the best recording levels for each input automatically. With pro level quality this device is also great for beginners.
This is considered a very stable interface due to the low-latency capabilities. Overall, the interface has been designed with wide ranging power supply, with the ability to provide clean and balanced output and input. Which is what makes this model so reliable.
This is a 4×4 channel interface with headphone outputs that don’t use dedicated channels and instead the main output signal is split inside the hardware. This works to feed both of the outputs. However, this doesn’t seem to affect the quality of the monitor, but for some users this can be somewhat irritating.
This device also lacks ADAT connectors, but for many users this isn’t a problem.
Product Design for the Quad Capture
The front plate of the interface is made out of plastic, while the rest of the housing is black metal. The chrome binding surrounds the front panel which gives it a touch of quality. Weighing it at just a little over 1 ½ pounds, you can tell that the metal used for the housing is pretty thin.
On the front panel you’ll find headphones and monitoring controls on the right, while both inputs are located on the left. The mono button allows the user to investigate any type of phase issues and simplify tracks when mono sources are used.
A downside is the lack of independent controls to adjust levels for the headphones or main. This can be very impractical when using active speakers.
Settings for the input is split between the rear and front panels because of the aforementioned setup.
The gain settings are also found on the front panel.
The Auto-Sens switch is an auto gain. During a recording, you can push the Auto-Sens button and begin to play. The gain is then automatically set for each channel. If you push the Auto-Sens another time you can store these settings. Consumers love the Auto-Sens feature because it can save a lot of time and is a great feature to have if you want to record an instrument.
Rating and Final Say for the Quad Capture Audio Interface
Consumers gave this model a rating of three out of five stars due to the lack of versatility. The Auto-Sens feature alone is definitely worth the purchase, however, the lack of independent controls for the main and headphones levels is a big minus for some users.
The JAM 96k guitar input by Apogee is a portable device that allows you to capture the richness of your guitar playing on a few different types of Apple devices including Mac desktops, iPhones and iPads. This is perfect for the musician on the road.
Apogee JAM 96K Guitar Input Review: Product Overview
No setup is required for this model, just plug it in and start playing. For a high definition recording you’ll need a digital connection of up to 24 Bit/96 KHZ using your Mac or iOS device. The device’s class A input will provide you with a sharp amp tone that can have your guitar sounding its best. The Pure Digital circuit design works to eliminate signal noise.
The device is topped with a nickel-plated finish and the small compact design allows for ultimate portability, just be sure not to misplace it. This model offers tube amp emulation and includes a lighting cable and USB cable for iOS devices.
Layout for this Guitar Input by Apogee
In order to plug your guitar into an iOS device or computer you’ll need an audio interface, but converting guitar signals to digital will all depend on the quality of the A D conversion. The power for the input is derived from a device or comp. A multi-colored LED light will light up blue to show the user that everything is in perfect working order.
Located on the side of the input you’ll find a knurled wheel. The knurled wheel will allow the user to set the guitar gain, which will cause the LED to turn green, then red. Once you begin playing, if the light turns red this indicates too much input level, at which point you’ll need to make some adjustments to the gain level.
How this Guitar Input by Apogee Rated with Consumers
This guitar input by Apogee allows the user to connect a guitar or other instrument to an iPhone or iPad for on the go playing. Depending on the type of software you use, you can really rely on this device for quality sounding recordings. You can use this device for any type of guitar. When used with an acoustic you’ll be surprised to learn that there’s no color of the natural tone, only a fresh, organic sound. When used with a bass you won’t get a lot of fuzz and instead you’ll experience only a deep and solid sound. When used with an electric guitar you’ll get only clear tones. Consumers noted that the frequency in which they needed to adjust the gain heavily depended on the output of their guitar. Consumers gave this model a rating of four out of five stars for ease of use, quality, performance and pricing. This is definitely a handy gadget to have for the newbie guitar player.
The iConnectAudio4 by iConnectivity allows you to plug in almost anything into a single interface. This MIDI and audio interface supports a variety of devices including PCs, iOS devices and Macs. This model also allows you to use your iPad as a touch controlled plug for your DAW. Additionally, you can send a number of digital audio channels and MIDI between different computers or choose to record or operate your studio using the device of choice, allowing you to create an integrated workstation.
iConnectAudio4 MIDI Interface Review: Multitasking like a Pro
This interface is designed to streamline the music recording process by providing more convenience. Because the user can use two types of computing devices at once you can take advantage of advanced digital routing function, sharing your recordings between a number of devices. Use the iConnectAudio4 interface between devices using a USB connection. This comes in handy when recording or sequencing. Routing can be accomplished using your smartphone. To route you’ll need to use iConfig software, which is included in the package.
Additionally, this model will also allow you to use several MIDI peripherals in order to work with an iOS device at the same time, an ability that’s not available with most models.
Aside from the USB routing functions this device also works as a straightforward interface and MIDI. This model is equipped with four inputs that feature 48 V phantom power, five pin MIDI, and four TRS balanced outputs.
Everything iConnect Can do for You
You can also control any type of music program or virtual instrument, from one device to another. MIDI and audio is able to go back and forth, without any additional cables required. These connected devices function like a single integrated device.
When you use iConnect, you’re virtually eliminating most types of limitations that you’ll typically experience using a basic interface or MIDI. You can connect up to eight class compliant MIDI devices at once with a standard USB cord.
This device can also be used during a live performance as a stand-alone, no computer required. Relax as it merges or mixes your audio tracks.
Rating and Final Say for iConnectAudio4 by iConnectivity
Users gave this innovative interface a rating of four out of five stars for ease of use, convenience and performance. For some consumers the price is set too steep, however, if you need an interface that allows you to multi-task then this is definitely the device for you. Perfect for bandmate use, you can also connect with other members of the band and easily share recordings and mixes, making it much simpler to share files and collaborate on tracks.
The iRig Pro interface by IK Multimedia is a compact model that offers MIDI interface that can be used with guitars, XLR mics, keyboards or other types of line level sources with a MIDI controller. The iRig Pro includes an XLR/TRS combo jack. This jack can be used to connect an instrument or mic to the interface. It also includes the same easy MIDI connectivity that you’ll find with other models produced by IK Multimedia.
IK Multimedia iRig Pro Interface Review: Features
The iRig Pro is designed for ultimate portability for the Mac user. This model also comes equipped with professional grade apps and software. Due to the portability of this model, the user can record and mix on the go. This interface can be used with your iPad or iPhone.
This interface is about the size of a small tape recorder, so it can fit nicely in your laptop bag or purse. But don’t let the small size of this interface fool you, it’s still packing some serious power. This model can handle anything, from mics to TRS instrument cables. This interface comes with three connection cables so you’ll be prepared for anything. With the ability to connect to any of your recording or playing devices, you can actually record on the go. The 30 pin dock is designed for older device connections, while the lightning cable allows you to hook up your interface to your iPhone or iPad. The USB cord can be plugged into the interface and your Mac laptop or desktop.
Also included is an input gain control knob. This knob allows you to control the input gain, which provides your track with the type sound you’re shooting for.
The provided 9v provides the type of power you need for condenser mics, simply turn on the phantom power switch and get started.
Many consumers will be pleasantly surprised to learn that this model also works as an MIDI interface. Use a MIDI cable to connect a keyboard to your iPhone or iPad and use apps, software or play virtual instruments.
Free Software Programs for this IK Multimedia Portable Interface
The iRig comes with free software including AmpliTube and four gear models. Vocal Live is a professional quality vocal recording processor. This program also includes a single track recorder, four track recorder, and twelve effects. Sample Tank is a sound workstation and virtual instrument library that contains a large selection of effects and instruments. It also features forty-eight sounds that work to supplement the twenty original sound effects. iGrand Piano is a program that features a wide variety of piano instruments and is expandable for up to fifteen additional instruments. These apps can all be used while you’re on the road using your iPad or iPhone. At home, you can use the full expandable versions of each program, which features more capabilities in addition to new sound effects and instruments.
How the iRig Interface Rated with Consumers
This is a great gadget to have on the road, because you’ll always be prepared. This tiny, versatile interface features innovative technology that allows you to instantly record and mix tracks when you’re out of the house. Once you take this device home you’ll have access to a more extensive sound library and workstation. Consumers gave this model a rating of four out of five stars for ease of use, free software programs and portability.
The Apollo Twin by Universal Audio is a 2 x 6 Thunderbolt interface for Macs. This device allows you to record tracks in real-time with almost non-existent latency due to the UAD plugins. The model’s smart feature set includes a couple of analog line outputs and two mic/line preamps. The model’s onboard DUO, UAD SOLO processing will allow the user to real-time mixing and tracking within certain mixing software programs.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin Interface Review: Features and Plugins
Overall, the design of the interface appears to be made for easy desktop use, allowing you to take your work home with you, thanks to the durable build and compact design. With the Apollo Twin, you now have access to an analog recording studio right at home.
The Apollo Twin UAD plugins are powered by DUO or UAD 2 processing, which also works to reduce any strain on the host CPU. This model comes equipped with the real-time analog classics plugin bundle. This bundle features a large selection of reverb, vintage compressors, and guitar amps. The user also has the option to purchase additional plugins through the Universal Audio store.
Also included is a PCIe connection which provides faster digital transfer time when used with a laptop, or desktop. Thunderbolt offers the user twelve times the bandwidth of other top programs, which means that you’ll be able to connect a number of devices.
Universal Audio Interface Design and Usability
The Apollo Twin interface is considered very intuitive and the model’s design, which is oldschool analog, allows you to monitor and record tracks in real-time using plugins that are powered with UAD. You also have the ability to save any console setups as presets or your setups can be saved within a session, thanks to the plugin named console recall. This plugin works to recall any settings used on the Apollo Twin, even for sessions that took places several months or years ago. This is a pretty awesome feature to have, especially if this console is used by more than one person or if it’s used for a large variety of recording sessions. This type of instant recall can allow the user to stay very organized, easily and within the system.
Rating and Feedback for the Apollo Twin
Consumers gave this model a rating of four out of five stars for ease of use, plugin variety, sound quality and innovative interface design. A great interface for beginners and pros alike, the Apollo Twin makes mixing and recording fun and easy again. Because you can do all your track mixing at home while also maintaining project organization, this is the perfect choice for the aspiring sound engineer or any individual with the dream of having a home studio.