15 Best Audio Interfaces for 2022

best audio interface

Fed up of your home demos sounding no better than voice notes recorded with your phone? Want to capture the richness of your voice as you take your first steps into the world of podcasting? Looking to take the leap from audio dabbler to bonafide home producer?

Sounds to us like you’re in the market for an audio interface – the missing link between the stellar performance you give and the high-quality home recording you produce on your computer.

Your audio interface sits at the heart of your studio or home recording set-up, converting the sounds picked up by your microphone into a digital signal so you can edit it on your computer, then converting that digital signal back into sound so you can hear it through your monitors or earphones. A decent audio interface will be able to preserve the quality of that signal both on the way in and on the way out – with as little ‘latency’, or lag between the note you play and the sound you hear, as possible – meaning you should get near enough as good as you gave.

We’ve taken a look at the best audio interfaces that 2022 has to offer – read on to find out which one best suits your home recording needs:

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

This is the best-selling interface on Amazon for a reason. Not only does its affordable price tag make it an attractive choice for first-timers, but the third generation of Focusrite’s entry-level Scarlett series can also match the quality of much higher-end units.

‘Air’ button for mid/high frequency boost

Supports both TRS and RCA outputs

No MIDI I/O

Lack of markings on gain knobs

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£134.99Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$179.99Visit Site
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2

A step up from the Komplete Audio 1, this simple, smart black box features 2 balanced combination inputs rather than 1, and 2 balanced ¼ inch TRS outputs for you to hook up to professional studio monitors rather than RCA outputs.

Large dial on the top of the unit, freeing up front-facing space

Ultra-lightweight at 360g; easy to transport

Plastic casing rather than metal

No MIDI I/O

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£109Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$136Visit Site
MOTU M2

MOTU M2

MOTU stands for ‘Mark of the Unicorn’, and their M2 interface is a rare thing indeed. When you can achieve the same sound quality that usually costs thousands for under £200, you know you’ve found something special.

LCD level display 

MIDI I/O

May not be compatible with older computers

No direct monitoring function

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£189Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$199.95Visit Site
Solid State Logic SSL 2

Solid State Logic SSL 2

A very highly-regarded interface found at the upper end of the budget range, the SSL 2 brings back the warmth of Solid State Logic’s analogue consoles in the form of the Legacy 4K analogue enhancement button.

Large Blue dial for monitor level

Powerful 62dB preamp

Heavy unit at 1.16kg

Plastic buttons are of lower quality

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£159Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$370Visit Site
PreSonus Studio 24c

PreSonus Studio 24c

This excellent interface from PreSonus comes with some equally excellent freebies, including both a USB-C to C and a USB-C to A cable to suit a range of devices, Ableton Lite Live recording software, and a suite of virtual plug-ins worth over 1,000 USD!

Clearly visible ladder-style level monitor

MIDI I/O

Small dials can be difficult to use

Headphone input at the back of the unit can be difficult to access

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£119Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$169.95Visit Site
Audient Audio Interface iD4 MKII

Audient Audio Interface iD4 MKII

In January 2021, Audient waved a sad goodbye to the original iD4 – and an excited hello to the better-in-every-way MKII! This compact, stylish, all-metal interface wastes no space – and also lets you listen via ¼ inch headphones, 1/8inch headphones, or, if you’re listening back to your handiwork with a bandmate or friend, both at once.

Durable metal housing

USB-C 3.0 connection

Only one XLR/TRS combo input

No MIDI I/O

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£129Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$199Visit Site
Universal Audio Volt 2

Universal Audio Volt 2

The Volt 2 is the perfect marriage between the classic and the cutting-edge. In addition to supporting the modern USB-C connection, you can also add a little tube amp magic to your recording via the ‘Vintage’ button.

Compatible with PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone and more

MIDI I/O 

Small dials can be difficult to use

Small LED level monitors can be difficult to see

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£188Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$TBCVisit Site
M-Audio AIR 1924

M-Audio AIR 192|4

This very affordable interface boasts some very high-end features, such as M-Audio’s patented ‘Crystal Preamp’ – which sounds just as clear as the name would suggest.

Large central dial

Solid metal body

Only one XLR/TRS combo input

Larger unit size is less convenient for home set-up

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£87Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$119Visit Site
Universal Audio Apollo Solo Heritage Edition

Universal Audio Apollo Solo Heritage Edition

One of the best audio interfaces for podcasts and voiceovers out there – as well as for singers and musicians – this entry-level model from Universal Audio’s legendary Apollo series is a little pricier than the other entries on our list. However, you’re getting industry-standard converters which give you an unbelievably clean sound, plus a whole host of premium plug-ins as part of the package.

High-quality range of emulators and plug-ins

Durable metal build

Expensive 

Thunderbolt 3 cable not included

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£TBCVisit Site
Amazon.comUSA$699Visit Site
Tascam US-2x2HR

Tascam US-2x2HR

Tascam offers you everything you want from an entry-level interface – 2 balanced combination inputs, up to 56dB of preamp gain and a dial to blend your input and computer signals for direct monitoring – all wrapped up in eye-catching red and black casing.

MIDI I/O

Angled design to suit desktop use

Heavy unit at 1.1kg

Small LED level monitors can be difficult to see

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£129Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$TBCVisit Site
Behringer UMC204HD

Behringer UMC204HD

Behringer are the undisputed champions of delivering competitive products at unbeatable prices. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the UMC204HD is the lowest priced interface on our list, at under £100 – and it’s hard to find many features its more expensive peers offer that it doesn’t.

MIDI I/O

Very affordable

Small dials can be difficult to use

Small LED level monitors can be difficult to see

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£77Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$109Visit Site
Roland Rubix22

Roland Rubix22

In the world of digital audio, Roland is a name you can trust – and the tiny yet powerful Rubix22 lives up to that trust. Plus – if you register your Rubix22, you’ll get 6 months of Roland Cloud Pro membership for free, which will give you access to loads of classic Roland sounds.

Small, compact size

MIDI I/O

Small preamp gain dials may be difficult to use

Small LED level monitors can be difficult to see

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£118Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$189.99Visit Site
Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2

Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2 

The strong, black, ‘Built-Like-A-Tank™ design lives up to the Onyx half of the name – and the free complete version of Waveform OEM by Tracktion that comes with it more than lives up to the producer part!

Rubberised dials easy to grab and turn

MIDI I/O

Small LED level monitors can be difficult to see

The preamp gain only makes a difference in the last quarter

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£104.25Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$179.99Visit Site
Steinberg UR22 MKII

Steinberg UR22 MKII

A very well put together interface at a surprisingly low price, the portable Steinberg MKII has a pair of great sounding preamps and is compatible with PCs, Macs and iPads.

MIDI I/O

Quality Yamaha components

Small dials can be difficult to use

Small LED level monitors can be difficult to see

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£103.99Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$169.99Visit Site
Apogee Symphony Desktop

Apogee Symphony Desktop

If your budget can take the strain, the Apogee Symphony Desktop boasts many high-end features that the other makes and models on our list just can’t match. With a dynamic touchscreen and ADAT connectivity for easy input expansion, purchasing the Symphony Desktop marks the dawn of your home studio empire.

Amazing 75dB of preamp gain

Outstanding audio quality

Headphone output at the back difficult to reach

About 10 times as expensive as most other entries on our list

Where to Buy?CountryPrice
Amazon UKUK£1199Visit Site
Amazon.comUSA$1495Visit Site

Do I need an audio interface to record?

Strictly speaking, you can record with just a laptop and a microphone – or even just the microphone on your smartphone or mobile device. USB mics are also becoming more and more popular, with the advent of podcasting, voiceovers and streaming.

However – and it’s a big however – these devices cannot produce professional-sounding recordings by themselves.

As far as laptops and smartphones have come in recent years, their in-built microphones are nowhere near up to the standard of microphones even at the more affordable end of the market – see our list of the best condenser microphones and the best dynamic microphones to find out which is the right choice for you.

Furthermore, even though a high-quality microphone may be capable of capturing your performance to a professional standard, this doesn’t count for much if that signal is lost on its way from your microphone to your computer, then from your computer to your speakers or earphones. This is where the audio interface comes in.

What is an audio interface?

An audio interface is a unit which houses a far more powerful sound card than a typical home computer, the sound card being the device which converts natural sound waves into digital information, allowing your computer to understand them.

Audio interfaces also feature a range of inputs, which you can plug your microphone, guitar or MIDI instrument into, and outputs, which you can plug your speakers or earphones into.

How do I know which audio interface to buy?

There’s a wide range of interfaces out there, varying not only in price and in quality, but also in what they can do. The best way for you to choose is by first deciding what it is you want to achieve – and once you have that goal in mind, here’s what else you need to consider:

Device compatibility

The main purpose of your audio interface is to connect your computer – so it’s important that you choose an interface that’s compatible with your PC or Mac! Fortunately, most modern interfaces will work with both operating systems – but do check this before you make your purchase.

It’s important to understand that not only do these connector types differ in size and shape, but they also differ in the amount of information they can send, which is measured in ‘bytes per second’ and you’ll see written as ‘mbps’ (megabytes per second) and ‘gbps’ (gigabytes per second).

Some interfaces use older USB connectors such as USB 2.0, which can transfer 480mbps and was the most common connector type for PCs and Macs until being phased out by the much faster USB 3.0 (5gbps), then the USB 3.1 (10gbps) and 3.2 (20gbps). An interface that uses USB 2.0 will still be plenty quick enough for you to record multiple tracks at a high bit rate (which we’ll explain further in a minute), so it’s more than adequate when you’re just starting out.

USB connectors are backwards-compatible, so if you have a computer with a newer connector, an audio interface with an older connector and the right cable or adaptor, this will all still work just fine – but it won’t work the other way round. The easy way to remember this is: your computer’s port needs to be equal to or greater than your interface’s port.

Some newer audio interfaces use USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connectors, which are the same shape and size, but have different bandwidths – you can recognise a Thunderbolt port by the thunderbolt symbol above it. The Thunderbolt 3 (which is more commonly found on Apple devices but is found on some PCs) offers the highest bandwidth currently available – an impressive 40gbps – and can help reduce latency to almost zero, so if your device has a Thunderbolt 3 port, you’re in luck!

Bus Power

A term you may come across is ‘bus powered’ – this means that the interface doesn’t need to be plugged into the mains, but rather is powered by being plugged into your device via Universal Serial Bus (that’s our USB connection).

This has also allowed many modern interfaces to become compatible with portable devices, such as tablets and iPads – which is great news if you want to record on the go, because you don’t need to position yourself near a mains socket or at a desktop.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

In order to use your audio interface with your computer, you’re going to need some type of ‘driver’ – that’s the type of software that lets you organise and edit the sounds you record via your interface from your computer. Most audio interfaces nowadays come ready with their own drivers, which are sometimes ‘lite’ versions of leading DAWs such as Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools and Ableton – though some audio interface manufacturers supply their own custom drivers.

If you’re new to home recording, it can be useful to use the recommended driver that your audio interface suggests you install. However, as you venture further down the home recording rabbithole, you will probably find that the free software you got with your interface limits what you’re able to do, so you might want to consider a more premium DAW once you’ve found your feet.

Inputs and outputs (I/O)

The right I/O setup is possibly the most important factor to consider when you’re interface shopping. Not only will you need to take into account the number of inputs and outputs, but you’ll also need to know what types you’ll need. 

Number of inputs

This is fairly straightforward: if you’re only going to be recording yourself singing and playing the guitar, then you won’t need to shell out for an interface with ten inputs. Equally, if you want to record a full live band and be able to mix the individual instruments, two inputs just isn’t going to cut it – so plan out what you want to record, then pick your number of inputs accordingly.

Preamps

The output signals of microphones and of guitars and other instruments are relatively weak, which is why preamps (short for ‘preamplifiers’) are needed. These increase the signals significantly without causing too much clipping, meaning they’ll be boosted from the too-quiet ‘instrument level’ or ‘mic level’ to the workable ‘line level’ you need them to be at without losing any signal quality.

It’s generally agreed that a decent preamp will be able to boost your input signal upwards of 60dB – and that’s without causing any nasty distortion. In the past, separate preamp units were needed to achieve this – but in this day and age, most audio interfaces have internal preamps between their inputs and outputs, so as long as the specs tell you that your preamps are powerful enough, all you need to do is plug in!

Input connector types

If you’re a singer, then you’re going to need an audio interface with an XLR (External Line Return) input so you can connect your microphone to it. If you’re a guitarist and you want to record using your own amplifier, or a keyboardist who wants to record by running a line out, your interface will need a ¼ inch jack input, which is also known as a TRS (‘Tip, Ring, Sleeve’) input.

Just to avoid any confusion: ¼ inch jack inputs also fit TS (‘Tip, Sleeve’, but no ‘Ring’) leads, which are normal guitar leads. However, these can’t carry the balanced stereo signal you need for a quality, noise-free recording, so make sure you get yourself some balanced TRS leads to record with.

Luckily, most modern audio interfaces feature combination inputs, allowing you to decide  whether to use them as either XLR or TRS inputs, depending on what you need to plug in. You may also notice that some of the interfaces we’ve listed have a button marked ‘Instr’ or ‘Hi-Z’ – press this button to increase the impedance when you plug an instrument, as instruments put out a higher voltage signal than microphones.

Many interfaces also have Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) inputs, which will allow you to plug in a MIDI instrument such as a synthesiser or a drum machine. This is a great way for you to access the bank of virtual instruments your DAW has to offer without needing a separate MIDI interface – and you’ll achieve better sound quality with less latency by running your MIDI instrument through your audio interface than you will by connecting directly to your computer via USB.

Another type of input connector you might see offered by some interfaces is ADAT Lightpipe or Optical Interface. This allows you to connect a separate preamp unit, effectively giving yourself more inputs – so if you want to expand your home studio at a later date, it’s a smart idea to start off with an audio interface that has ADAT inputs.

Output connector types

Most audio interfaces will at the very least have outputs for headphones and for a pair of studio monitors, all of which tend to fit ¼ inch jack connectors. Larger interfaces may offer more pairs of monitor outputs and multiple headphone outputs – this is very useful if you want to send different mixes of the track you’re working on out at the same time.

Some interfaces also support older output connections, such as the red and white RCA connectors. Home speaker systems, rather than studio monitors, often have this connection, so this can come in handy if you want to test out your track on speakers that are more commercial than professional to see if it still sounds the way you want.

Direct monitoring

Another useful feature most audio interfaces offer is called ‘direct monitoring’, which on some models you can activate via an on/off button, or, on others, dial between the input signal and the playback signal. Direct monitoring is handy because it allows your interface to bypass its converters, so it can send the signal from your microphone or instrument input directly to your headphone output without doing anything to it.

This means that, if the switch is engaged or the dial is set all the way to ‘input’, you can listen to yourself singing and/or playing in real time with no latency whatsoever. Alternatively, if your interface has a dial for direct monitoring rather than a switch, you can blend the playback signal and the live input signal.

Audio quality

Once you’ve got everything properly hooked up and you’re ready to give your best performance, you’re going to want your audio interface to be able to capture that magic!

Put simply, your computer has to rebuild a sound wave using tiny pieces of information it receives via your audio interface – and the more information it has to work with, the more accurately it can rebuild the sound wave, resulting in better audio resolution.

The accuracy of digitally reproduced sound depends on the ‘sample rate’ and ‘bit depth’ that your audio interface can work at. These measurements work together to determine how well your computer can digitally represent the analogue sound you’re recording.

Sample rate

The sample rate measures how many samples your audio interface can capture per second, and is measured in Hertz (Hz). The more samples your interface can take, the more accurately your computer will be able to represent the original signal.

Since an analogue sound wave fluctuates between positive and negative air pressure, your computer needs to take two samples – one from the positive stage, and one from the negative stage – to understand one wavelength. This means the sample rate needs to be at least twice the value of the highest frequency (also measured in Hz) found in your audio signal in order to accurately reproduce it.

It’s generally accepted that the average human ear can hear between 20Hz and 20kHz, so to reproduce the highest frequencies we can hear, an interface would need to be able to capture samples at a rate of at least 40,000 per second, or 40kHz.

Bit depth

The bit depth, on the other hand, determines how many bits (pieces of digital information) each sample is made up of, therefore determining how accurately your computer can represent the different amplitudes of your original analogue signal. Whereas an analogue signal is continuous – and in theory has an infinite number of possible amplitude values – the digital signal is rebuilt from those separate samples, with the number of bits in each being set by the rate of your audio interface’s analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs).

The number of bits your ADCs assign to each sample determines the range of possible amplitude values which your computer can then match to those of your original signal. Because this range of amplitude values is finite, even with a higher bit depth, there will be some values from your original signal that can’t be exactly matched.

When this happens, your computer has to round up the value to the nearest known point, which is known as ‘quantizing’ – and results in unwanted quantization noise. The amount of quantizing your computer needs to do to accurately recreate your original signal determines the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), which is the difference between your audio signal level and the level of unwanted noise.

In practical terms, this means that the lower the bit depth, the more noise you’ll get because your computer has to quantize your signal more; the higher the bit depth, the less noise you’ll get, as less quantizing is needed. 1 bit is roughly equal to 6 decibels (dB), meaning that a bit depth of 16 will give you an SNR of around 96dB.

What sample rate and bit depth do I need?

Standard CD quality is set at 44.1kHz/16-bit, which means a CD can reproduce frequencies of up to 22.05kHz and has an SNR of 96dB – so that covers the maximum frequency of 20kHz and sits comfortably below the upper sound pressure level limit of human hearing, which is around 120dB.

However, because higher frequency sounds occur more times per second, an interface with a higher sample rate – which can therefore pick up more samples per second – will be able to pick these higher frequency sounds up, resulting in a much more detailed recording. Likewise, because a depth of 24-bit increases the SNR to 144dB, you can record quieter sounds and boost them without unwanted noise.

For this reason, while recording at the CD standard level may still sound good enough to most ears, even more entry-level interfaces are now capable of converting your signal at 192kHz/24-bit – which is the rate the professional producers prefer to work at. Just be aware that working at this rate will take up more of your computer’s processing power!