The 10 Best Audio Interfaces in 2020

Need a top audio interface for music production? Check out our review on the top 10 best audio interfaces for PC, Mac, Thunderbolt and USB-C users in 2020.
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PRODUCT
PRODUCT DETAILS
Our #1 Rated

The mic preamps are some of the best we’ve ever come across and sound amazingly natural with stellar low latency. Even when ran at the highest sample rate!

A pocket-sized interface powerful enough to suit a beginner’s home studio needs, and perfect for any vocalists/musicians looking for a basic solution to record and playback music on the move.

The bus-powered Komplete Audio 6 is a 6-channel low-latency interface with 4 analogue inputs and outputs.

The DP88 and Studio 192 Mobile were an absolute dream to work with and we loved the fact it remembered the gain settings for each input and output.

Not only is it a fantastically built, compact piece of gear which is perfect for mobile use, the sound quality is pretty exceptional considering its simplistic layout and functionality.

Even against its predecessors, the unison-enabled mic preamps emulations allow for ultra low-latency performances which our vocalist said were heavenly.

We’ve tried a few interfaces that claim to be the masters of Thunderbolt in the last few months. This one hands down did it for us in terms of what you get with the overall build quality and features.

The DSP FX come across incredibly smooth and transparent in this device, and we were able to add some nice reverb when recording vocals. Even without phantom power enabled!

Aside from the all-embracing amount of inputs and outputs which make it a great fit for a band or live act, it’s clear Focusrite directed their attention into the preamps on this model.

Slick and compact design which makes portability a breeze. The sheer amount of ports and connectivity options makes it a highly versatile piece of gear to suit a range of different uses and setups.

For musicians, vocalist and producers, an audio interface can prove to be one of your best friends when it comes to accurately monitoring sound. Though many computers have reasonably good soundcards built in these days, they can still be prone to issues like latency and radio interference. That’s why if you’re planning to record any kind of audio; be it a microphone for recording vocals, live instruments, MIDI devices, etc, an audio interface is probably one of the best investments you could ever make.

How Should You Choose

If you’re a DJ, you’ll want to look at an audio interface with at least 2 inputs. This is so you can cue up a track in your headphones while the main mix plays through speakers or monitors.

A band on the other hand, would need something capable of recording multiple instruments/devices at once.

Then there is the question of things like:

  • Portability – If you want something you can just chuck into your backpack, weight and size will play a big factor.
  • System Compatibility – Not all devices are compatible with every computer. If you’re looking to use your audio interface with an iPad or similar, the connections and ports will need to meet your system requirements.
  • Budget –We’ve included some great audio interfaces for under $200 in this list, but if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you’ll get much better quality, features and functions.

We tried and tested, then hand-picked our top 10 best audio interfaces of 2020 to suit the needs of everyone from PC, Mac and iOS users, bands, best audio interfaces for vocals, best DJ interfaces, those looking for a basic monitoring device, and audiophiles who may be on the hunt for something more professional from the top end of the market.

Our Recommendation:

Smart Choice

Focusrite’s Scarlett 18i8 (2nd Gen) is one of the latest stars in their range to have a shiny, new revamp. You’ll find 4 combi inputs at the front with their own dial, along with phantom power switch and XLR inputs for mics, instruments, or anything line-level sourced like synths, drum machines, etc.

At the back, there is a monitor dial for controlling the stereo line output and 2 headphone outputs with their own dials. There are also line-in inputs with S/PDIF In/Out and Optical input which can hold up to 8 extra channels.

The 18i8 is compatible with both Mac and PC and comes complete with an extensive bundle of software including Pro Tools first focusrite, Ableton Live Lite, a 3-month Splice Sound Subscription and more.

Quality
5/5
Price
5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why we recommend: Focusrite are practically the kings of audio interfaces, and although we can hardly fault any of the scarlett range, the i8i8 is much classier, with a noticeably cleaner sound compared to the 1st generation. In addition, the mic preamps will ensure any sounds you play sound amazingly natural, and you can safely forget about any delay due to the stellar low latency. You can pretty much run this interface at the highest sample rate and hardly experience any lag or feedback.  

The fact that there is no DC power could be a minor inconvenience for some, but it does come with the perfect amount of inputs to suit a room of producers, small band, and cater for all your home studio needs. We personally think this is a beautifully built piece of kit which ticks all the boxes in terms of portability, affordability, sound quality, inputs/outputs and ease of set up.

Budget

Presenting the dinkiest out of Scarlett’s 3rd Gen range the Solo. It features high impedance 24-bit/192kHz sample rate, AD-DA converters, and a DI input for a single guitar bass or synthesizer with levels for monitoring.

The latest upgrade now sees new focusrite solo drivers, and it’s now equipped with a sleek, new preamp complete with a switchable Air mode. There is an independent headphone jack with Direct Monitor switch and gain control dial. An XLR cable is included, plus black Tacam headphones and a unique Scarlett recording package; Pro Tools First Focusrite, Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite, 3-month subscription to Splice Sounds and Focusrite Plug-in collection access.

Quality
4/5
Price
5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: Focusrite themselves claim that this interface has the best-performing preamps in their entire range, and we couldn’t agree more! They now go up to 56dB and sound noticeably more balanced than before. We thought the sound from one of our top-end mics sounded a bit average compared to what other users had praised the built-in preamp for – until we tried the Air mode! BIG difference! 

The mids sound amazingly pristine, and when we plugged in the guitar with the Air switch engaged we were even more astounded. If you’re looking for a basic interface with a single input, highly accurate gains and a bit of effect to touch up your guitar or vocals as you play – this is more than powerful enough to suit a beginner’s home studio needs, and is perfect for anyone looking for a basic solution to record and playback music on the move.

Beginners
Best All-Rounder

The bus-powered Komplete Audio 6 is a 6-channel low-latency interface with 4 analogue inputs and outputs.

It features 2 top-end preamps with 48v phantom power capabilities, a MIDI in/out, headphone output with independent volume control for simultaneous monitoring, along with Cirrus Logic converters. To accompany the Komplete Audio 6 drivers, NI is a software bundle inclusive of Cubase LE 6, Traktor LE 2 and Komplete Elements.

Quality
5/5
Price
4.5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: Regardless of whether you’re looking to record vocals or an instrument, this bad boy makes both sound amazing, and eliminates any need for using an external preamp. When we hooked it up to a Cascade M20u mic and enabled phantom power, we found it to deliver an even cleaner, low-latency sound which is hard to match in comparison to many high-end audio interfaces above this price range. 

The Komplete Audio 6 has just the right amount of inputs, but the converters are a great choice for this model because you get the sonic advantage of using hardware. This allows you to make more forgiving and precise adjustments with the dbfs levels as a result! NI have also chucked in Cubase LE 6, Traktor LE 2 and Komplete Elements to make this unit a highly worthy edition to any DJ or producer setup.

With it’s rackmount design and a myriad of controls, Presonus.com have developed the 192 as a portable, high-definition interface with a range of flexible uses. It features a combination of digital and analogue options for 25 inputs and 32 outputs with a maximum sample rate of 192kH and up to 24-bit resolution.

There are 8 remote-controlled preamps with Fat Channel Processing and Studio One Universal Control which enables you to add effects like compression, reverb, delay and gate while recording in your DAW. The UC Surface control software allows you to use all of the functions with third-party recording software. Computer integration supports Windows, Mac and iOS.

Quality
5/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: We were pretty blown away by the 192. We’d used the Presonus rack mount mixer for testing mics in the past, and this interface easily tops that for the price. The Fat Channel Processing ability was a huge step up for us compared to the 1818VSL during playback. And the XMAX preamps were beautifully clean with incredibly low latency.

The DP88 and Studio 192 Mobile are an absolute dream to work because they remember the gain settings for each input and output. For recording in particular, this is a massive advantage. Even if you needed to hook up drums, 3 guitars and 2 condenser mics simultaneously,  you’ll get plenty of natural headroom and minimal distortion from the Presonus. Plus, you can integrate Studio 3.0 with all DAWs effortlessly.The recording package includes a Studio Magic bundle with some other very tasty plug-ins to utilize with your recordings too.

Audeint’s iD4 is another portable, bus-powered interface with 2 inputs and 2 outputs. Like its larger counterparts, the iD4 features a Class A mic preamp and a DI input for a guitar or bass.

This port also comes complete with iD control for self-assigning a controller of MIDI device to the knobs and faders on your computer screen. In addition, there is a phantom power switch for using a condenser microphone, a dual headphone output for 2-person monitoring as well as a main output for connecting speakers.

Quality
5/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
4/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: We’d heard about how powerful this little guy is for a while, and after months of anticipation, we finally decided it needed our own verdict. Not only is it a fantastically built, compact piece of gear which is perfect for mobile use, the sound quality is pretty exceptional considering its simplistic layout and functionality. 

We recorded a drum machine and had several vocal sessions with this interface, and were amazed at the pristine quality of the vocals. The DI is also a big benefit for making playback in your DAW cleaner and with next to no latency. If you’re a vocalist or one-man band looking for something simple, built to last with easy-to-use features and great sound quality during recording as well as playback, this will more than suffice.

A smaller, more compact version of its ancestors the Universal Audio Apollo 8 and 16; the Twin MKII keeps the same 2-in/6-out with Unison preamps.

There is a large dial for monitoring the levels complete with a contextualized LED strip. Emulation plugins are included which allows the user to reconfigure the impedance of the preamps as well as the gain staging. On the rear panel, you’ll discover Mic/Line inputs, a Hi-Z 1/4 “ guitar input, plus 4 ¼” jacks, a stereo S/PDIF output, headphone output and 8 ADAT analogue inputs.

Quality
5/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: The Apollo audio interface Twin MKII will prove a worthy asset to anyone serious about the craft. As it’s Thunderbolt, we thought Apollo would at least include a cable. This was the only major quarm we really had with this interface, but it is easily solved and doesn’t take any points away from the overall verdict (cheap Thunderbolt cable here).

In terms of sound, the quality from the apollo twin outputs is incomparable. Even against its predecessors, the unison-enabled mic preamps emulations allow for ultra low-latency performances which our vocalist said were “heavenly.” The talkback mic option was an extremely nice touch, as is the fact you can cascade up to 4 other Apollo interfaces at once in case you wanted to add more instruments, audio sources or generally expand your setup. 

Apogee’s Element series of Thunderbolt interfaces have been specifically designed for Mac and iOS users. The 46 edition comes with 4 analogue combi inputs with mic preamps each with 48V phantom power.

There are 2 outputs for L/R XLR plus stereo headphone output for monitoring. Also included are 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters for recordings, Element Control Software for the gain levels on the ins/outs and low-latency monitoring, plus the ability to control the interface wirelessly via iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

Quality
4/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
4.5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: We have always been fans of Apogee, but this was the first time we’d tested any of the Element series. When we first plugged it in, we were pretty impressed by the low-noise, punchiness to the sound quality. We used a couple of Beyer dynamic mics to test the preamps, and they sounded exceptionally clean and well balanced. In addition, the line input is ideal if you want to connect a keyboard, synth, drum machine or another outboard preamp.  

The fact you can control the entire unit from your tablet is a feature that proved to be exceptionally handy when we were at a distance from the computer. We’ve tried a few interfaces that claim to be the masters of Thunderbolt in the last few months, and this one did it for us in terms of transfer speed and what you get for the smooth quality and features. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any iOS users looking for a top solution to add to a mobile-based recording studio or Thunderbolt-powered gear.

The Steinberg UR242 is a bus-powered interface with 4 analogue inputs that feature Yamaha’s signature D-PRE preamps for guitars, dynamic/condenser microphones and dedicated TRS line inputs for keyboards, MIDI devices, decks and other audio equipment.

There are 2 outputs, built-in DSP-powered FX, as well as the ability to connect the unit directly to a PC, Mac, iPad and other iOS devices. Ports are available for speaker monitors and headphones. In addition, the UR242 has 48V phantom power and includes a big plug-in bundle; Cubase AI, REV-X reverb, Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip and Guitar Amps Classics amp simulator.

Quality
4/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
4.5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: Steinburg interfaces are rarely under the 200 mark, but the low latency in is top level in this little unit and practically non-existent. The DSP FX come across incredibly smooth and transparent in this device, and we were able to get some nice tonal reverb on our vocal recordings – even without phantom power enabled. The mic preamps produce clean his and lows with minimal distortion too. Unlike many high-end soundcards where the gain needs to be whacked right up, you can make noticeably more precise EQ adjustments on this one. 

Admittedly, we found the software a bit tedious to boot up in the beginning, but once installed and configured correctly it worked flawlessly with all our applications. We also appreciated the fact that there’s no extra apps or too much space required.

The Clarett 8Pre is an 18-in/20-out channel audio interface with 8 high-impedance preamps (one of which is ISA mic pres with low-noise and distortion performance), a 6-segment LED meter strip and dedicated ‘Air’ mode.

There are ports for XLR/1/4” combo, MID inputs, ADAT and S/PDIF for setup expansion, 2 x stereo monitor outputs with individual gain control, 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters, plus Focusrite Control with plugin suite to configure with PC, Mac and iOS. Software bundle includes XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument software, Softube & Tone effects bundle, Ableton Live Lite and 2GB Loopmasters sample pack.

Quality
4/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
4.5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: Focusrite are back on the list again, only this time with Scarlett’s bigger and bulkier brother! The Clarett 8Pre is one for the serious beat makers and instrumentalists out there, with analogue controls to provide a huge deal of headroom and clarity when you’re recording or playing back sounds. 

Aside from the all-embracing inputs and outputs – making it a great fit if you’re in a band or live act – it’s clear Focus rite directed their attention into the 8 squeaky clean preamps on this model. We used a Shure 55SH to play around with the Air mode, and switching this feature on gives an immense amount of color and clarity to your highs.  

Compatible with PC, Mac and iOS, the AudioFuse is a 14-channel USB-2 interface with 2 custom-built preamps with 48v phantom power and 4 combi inputs for line-in and instruments. There are SPDIF/ADAT in/out, 2 stereo monitoring outputs, 2 TRS and a MIDI breakout complete with mini-jack connectors.

The AudioFuse is a plug-and-play unit which doesn’t require any extra drivers, and the software gives full user control over the device’s inputs/outputs, clock rates, sample rates and can configure Cue points for recording. The Control Centre software lets you manipulate the sound directly into your DAW. Also included is a built-in talkback mic with twin panel input strips to add onboard effects like pads and phase.

Quality
4/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
4.5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend: We had to praise Arturia for their great attention to detail on this interface. Not only does it come in a slick and compact design which makes portability a breeze, the sheer amount of ports and connectivity options makes it a highly versatile piece of gear to suit a range of different uses and setups. 

In comparison to some of Arturia’s earlier models, we found this soundcard to give off much less distortion. The overall sound quality comes across a lot more full-bodied and clean compared to it’s older counterparts. The software was easy to configure and allows you to direct the sound more accurately to where you want it. We admit it’s a bit on the pricey side, but for a travelling DJ or mobile producer, this is an interface that provides a lot of convenient recording, mixing and mastering possibilities.

Conclusion

We tried and tested several of the latest and most talked about audio interfaces to make their way onto the audio gear landscape this year, and the above are what we concluded to be the best audio interface 2020.

All of our recommendations are based on quality, affordability, functionality, reliability and suitability, so you’ll be able to find something basic and suitable to playback your mixes, or invest in a larger unit capable of handling a lot of inputs and outputs as needed.

In terms of which one takes the championship title, it’s clear that Focusrite remain at the top of their league for audio interfaces. As they have for several years! Although we’re huge fans of their entire collection, we really cannot fault the Scarlett range. There is a reason why the 18i8 (in all of it’s generations) is one of the best sellers, and not only due to the precision-controlled preamps either. These interfaces can be put to a number of uses despite not homing a huge assortment of features. The best part is that the 18i8 is capable of producing an industry-level sound quality that the majority of expensive soundcards can’t even cut. They can also take a hell of a beating in terms of durability and ruggedness, and are easy to repair if one of the ports becomes dislodged or faulty. This means you’re going to get a good few years of use out of it as a result, even if something goes wrong.  

Hopefully that’s given you a useful overview of some of the best interfaces circulating the market in 2020 so far. Let us know what you’re using to fuel your home studio needs in the comments!

FAQs

What audio interface is best for CPU?

Unless you go for a DSP-based device, most audio interfaces do not dictate much of the CPU in most computers. It might take some of the load or a little bit, but if your computer isn’t even able to manage the bulk of your projects as it is, you’ll still experience the same issues. Universal Audio Interfaces such as the Apollo Twin MKII on the other hand, are built with processors that can handle all the plugins from the interface directly so you get much more breathing space and RAM to play with. 

Will an audio interface improve latency issues?

An audio interface will generally reduce most of it because it can convert the digital signals much easier; however, it won’t have much of an effect on the CPU which can still cause latency issues in DAWs and when using outboard gear. You may still need to play around with the buffer size and sample rate in order to get the right balance with real-time latency. Be sure to make sure your device has the right and most up-to-date drivers installed too.

Can I use an audio interface as a soundcard?

There aren’t too many differences between an audio interface and a soundcard, as an audio interface is essentially an external soundcard anyway. But yes, you can swap your computer’s built-in sound processor for an audio interface, or simply run it along the side since you can alternate between them anytime you need to. If you’re looking to produce music though, we’d say it’s always worth recording and monitoring directly through your audio interface or mixer for the best sound quality.

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