The best audio interfaces in 2022

You’ve got the microphones, guitars, and keyboards. You’ve got the computer. Now you just need to get them talking. That’s where the best audio interfaces come in. As the conduit between the analog and digital worlds, your audio interface is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the chain of content creation. Whether you’re recording or livestreaming, your interface determines the signal quality you capture and amount of creative flexibility you have. Conversion rates, inputs and outputs, and portability/expandability are just some of the considerations when picking an interface. But you don’t have to scroll through specs trying to make sense of it all. We’ve surveyed the market and picked some of the best audio interfaces to meet your needs no matter the scale of your projects or budget.

This compact interface from Apogee offers high-headroom microphone preamps with switchable phantom power and high-fidelity analog-to-digital conversion in a design that’s outwardly minimalist yet highly expandable.
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$ 1001

Apogee Element 88

The Element 88—the flagship model in Apogee’s most affordable line of sub-$2,000 pro studio audio interfaces—is our pick for the best professional audio interface. It comes with a number of appealing design features to help users work with speed and flexibility. Most importantly, its minimalist front and back panels are free of switches, knobs, and other tactile elements

The compact Scarlett 2i2 from Focusrite sports an intuitive layout and two versatile input preamps that make it ideal for running a basic recording or livestreaming setup.
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$ 1001

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Even the most minimalist recording setups require gear that’s robust enough to deliver high-quality audio. The Scarlett 2i2 is a compact USB-powered workhorse that offers pro features like combo inputs, 48-volt phantom power for condenser microphones, and 24-bit/192kHz analog-to-digital conversion at an affordable price point, making it the best audio interface for live streamers, mobile recordists, voiceover artists, and more.

This rack-mountable interface from PreSonus offers capacity, expandability, and a feature set rivaling that of interfaces twice its price, making it an appealing choice for small and home studios.
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$ 1001

PreSonus Quantum 2626

PreSonus has a way with engineering pro-quality gear and making it available at a reasonable price point and the company’s Quantum 2626 may be the best example yet. Rack-mountable and decked out with BNC word clock, ADAT, Thunderbolt, 48-volt phantom power, 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA conversion, and a host of analog I/O, this is one of the best audio interfaces for home recording due to its sheer ability to integrate with other audio gear and expand along with the changing needs of most studios.

PreSonus Studio 1824c 18x20, 192 kHz, USB Audio Interface with Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAW Recording Software
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$ 1001

PreSonus Studio 1824c 18x20, 192 kHz

High-definition 24-bit/192 kHz audio with 114 dB dynamic range
8 pristine XMAX Class A mic preamps
2 high-headroom instrument/line inputs, plus 6 balanced line inputs to record guitar, bass, and your favorite synths
DAW Recording Software – Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite
Over $1,000 of computer recording software plug-ins – Studio Magic Plug-In Suite
Expandable up to 18 simultaneous inputs and 20 outputs

A special edition of UA's acclaimed Apollo Twin X interface — with a premium suite of 5 award-winning plug-in titles from Teletronix, Pultec, and UA — a $1,300 value Elite-class A/D and D/A conversion derived from Apollo X rackmount interfaces paired with 2 Unison mic preamps deliver stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps and guitar amps
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5
$ 1001

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition

2 Unison mic preamps offer stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps and guitar amps
UAD DUO Core Processing for tracking through vintage compressors, EQs, tape machines, mic preamps, and guitar amp plug-ins with near-zero latency
Produce with LUNA Recording System — a fully-integrated recording application made for Apollo (Mac only)

Eight of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable Air mode to give your recordings a brighter and more open sound. Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Four monitor outputs with anti-thump technology and speaker switching, and onboard talkback functionality with built-in, front panel talkback mic. Eight balanced line inputs for connecting synthesizers, drum machine and other line-level sources
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$ 1001

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz.
Easy start tool to get up and running easier than ever
Includes free software from Antares, Relab, Softube, XLN Audio, Brainworx, Splice, Focusrite, Ableton, and Avid, all available via download upon purchase and registration
LIMITED TIME OFFER: Get Fuse Audio Labs’ FX plug-in Bucket-500 and VPRE-2C for FREE upon registration and download

How we selected the best audio interfaces

Audio interfaces come in a vast array of configurations and we selected models based upon the most common needs of content creators, musicians, livestreamers, and podcasters. Many of our selections are outfitted with super-versatile combo inputs that accommodate XLR and 1/4-inch connections that are compatible with most microphones, instruments, and line-level devices like keyboards. Connectivity is also an important factor in determining the usefulness and system-compatibility of audio interfaces; we selected a variety of units that use either USB, Thunderbolt, Lightning, or some combination thereof. Interfaces with fewer inputs are naturally smaller and better suited to portable use, while interfaces with more inputs are ideal for large-scale studio use and usually have designs that reflect this. This list represents the whole spectrum, with the most portable single-input interface at one end and the most expandable 26-input, 26-output interface at the other. Finally, high analog-to-digital conversion bitrate and recording quality are essential features to look for when selecting the best audio interface for professional use. If you intend to use audio recorded through your interface for any production-level application, be it streaming, film scoring, or podcasting, industry standards favor using the highest-available quality of audio, which is generally a depth of 24 bits and sample rates of either 96 kHz or 192 kHz.

Things to consider before buying an audio interface

Audio interfaces come in a broad range of input numbers, so it’s important to select a unit that fits the type of content you’re creating. Single- or double-channel audio interfaces should be sufficient for basic streaming and podcasting work, but musicians should opt for four or more inputs to avoid being painted into a corner creatively. An eight-input interface is the best place to start in terms of flexibility, but keep in mind that those units aren’t as portable as a two-input design.

What type of audio are you recording?

Most of the units on this list include specially-shaped combo inputs that can accommodate both XLR and 1/4-inch TRS connectors, allowing a variety of microphones and instruments to be used and which will provide the most flexibility in working environments. Compare the type of audio equipment you’re looking to capture with an audio interface’s inputs can save a lot of headache down the line; for example, the iRig HD 2 is a convenient single-input interface, but it’s not compatible with microphones.

Do you need portability?

The most portable audio interfaces tend to have a maximum of two inputs, with some models offering expansion via their ports. To maximize the portability factor, choose an audio interface that’s powered via its own connection to the computer. This type of design limits the need for extra electrical wiring, and it also allows you to record remotely using only the battery of a laptop.

Do you need expandability?

If you’re aiming to build a studio or expand your production in the future, choose an audio interface with ADAT optical inputs like the PreSonus Quantum 2626. A single ADAT port generally allows interfaces to accept an additional eight channels of audio from another compatible dedicated unit over a simple optical cable, effectively doubling or even tripling the capacity of a base model eight-input interface.

FAQs

Q: Are expensive audio interfaces worth it?

The more you spend on an audio interface, the more likely it is to have high-quality analog-to-digital conversion, efficient design, and expandable I/O. That said, you don’t have to break the bank to achieve good results. The relatively affordable Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, for example, has the ability to record at a very high 24-bit/192 kHz quality (a resolution that satisfies the expectations of mastering engineers and lossless streaming services like Apple Music, etc.). Still, it’s limited to only two inputs. Whether a more expensive audio interface is worth it to you comes down to whether you value capacity, expandability, and futureproof design.

Q: What makes one audio interface better than another?

Audio interfaces combine many critical components in a single unit including analog-to-digital conversion and preamplifiers. The best audio interfaces tend to be the most flexible and can accommodate a range of input types from condenser microphones to keyboards. The more expensive an audio interface is, the more options for expandability it should offer.

Q: How long does an audio interface last?

There’s no real limit on the lifespan of an audio interface beyond the deprecation of its connector type. For example, Apple recently stopped designing computers with FireWire ports, which used to be commonly found on audio interfaces for the better part of a decade. These devices can still be used with an adapter, but if you’re looking for an interface with staying power, pick one with a newer connector like Thunderbolt or USB-C.

Final thoughts on selecting the best audio interfaces

Whether you’re livestreaming, podcasting, making music, or recording voiceovers, an audio interface is an essential piece of gear for connecting analog audio equipment with your computer. When shopping for the best audio interface for your needs, keep in mind the number of simultaneous inputs you’ll require: a two-input unit like the PreSonus AudioBox USB may be sufficient for a streaming, vocal, or podcasting setup, while an eight-input interface like the PreSonus Quantum 2626 is better suited for recording a full band. Mobile recordists may also prefer a bus-powered audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which allows you to record on the go without the need for an external power supply. Regardless of your end goal, it’s important to pick an audio interface that matches the scale of your studio and accommodates your needs for portability, expandability, and audio quality.

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