The 10 Best Audio Interfaces 2019

Looking for the best audio interfaces? Check out our review on the top 10 best audio interfaces to help you decide.
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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 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 2019 to suit the needs of everyone from 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
  • Top-of-the-range build quality
  • Highly impressive sound
  • Very low latency
  • Quick and easy set up
  • Pro Tools included
CONS
  • One main stereo analogue output

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 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! 

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 producers, a small band, and all other home studio needs. Overall, we thought this was 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
  • Air Mode for brighter, clearer sounds
  • XLR for bass, guitar, synths or mic
  • Mega low-latency
  • Huges software bundle
  • Headphones incl.
CONS
  • None

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 sounded amazingly pristine. And when we plugged in the guitar with the Air switch engaged, we were even more astounded. All in all, we thought this pocket-sized interface is more than powerful enough to suit a beginner’s home studio needs, and is perfect for any vocalists/musicians 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
  • Great DA conversion
  • Strong and rugged build
  • Beautiful mic preamps
  • Separate volume controls for monitoring
  • Excellent low-latency
CONS
  • Initial problem registering the hardware
  • NI’s customer support isn’t the best

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

The converters were a great choice for this model, and it comes with just the right amount of inputs. NI have also chucked in Cubase LE 6, Traktor LE 2 and Komplete Elements to make it 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
  • Super portable
  • Amazing Logic Pro latency
  • Remote-controlled preamps
  • USB 2.0 & USB 3.0 compatible
  • DSP Effects with monitoring
CONS
  • None

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 were an absolute dream to work with and we loved the fact it remembered the gain settings for each input and output. For recording in particular, this was a massive advantage. We had drums, 3 guitars and 2 condenser mics hooked up simultaneously with no distortion and plenty of natural headroom. The Presonus recording package includes a Studio Magic bundle which contained some very tasty plug-ins. Integration of Studio 3.0 was speedy and effortless.

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
  • Super sonic performance
  • Great build quality
  • AD/DA converters
  • Easy plug-in and play
  • ScrollControl function for easier navigation
CONS
  • Not the best for iOS users

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 was also a big benefit for us and made playback in our DAW so much easier with zero-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 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
  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Beautiful design
  • Superb dynamic range
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Real Time monitoring
  • Great UAD-2 plugins incl.
CONS
  • Only works with Thunderbolt
  • No thunderbolt cable incl.

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. This is especially useful for those who might need to expand their setup from time to time, or those wanting to hook up multiple audio sources at once.

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
  • Beautiful sounding preamps
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Easy to set up
  • Connect with other Apogee devices
  • Control mic gain directly through Logic
CONS
  • Volume control can’t be assigned simultaneously

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 absolutely amazed by the sound quality. We used a couple of Beyer dynamic mics to test the preamps, and boy did they sound exceptionally clean and well balanced. In addition, the line input for instruments produced some nice, punchy tones with hardly any low-noise. 

The fact you can control the entire unit from your tablet was 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. This one hands down did it for us in terms of what you get with the overall build 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
  • Outstanding mic preamps
  • Latency-free monitoring
  • Cubase AI, Basic FX Suite incl.
  • Strong and rugged build
  • Can be used as a mixer
CONS
  • Driver installation a bit finicky
  • No S/PDIF

Why We Recommend: Steinburg interfaces are rarely under the 200 mark, and we were incredibly impressed with the low latency in this little unit. Almost non-existent! 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! The mic preamps gave off some nice, clean tones with minimal distortion. We also found them to be a lot better quality compared to many high-end soundcards were the gain needs to be whacked up.

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 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
  • Plenty of ports
  • Ultra low latency
  • Beautiful, clear preamps
  • Switchable ‘Air Mode’ for next level vocals
  • Thunderbolt connection
CONS
  • Bulky but worth it

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 which provide a huge deal of headroom and clarity in all aspects. 

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 Focus rite directed their attention into the preamps on this model. And we can vouch that they certainly didn’t disappoint. We were using a Shure 55SH to play around with the Air mode. Even without it turned on we found it gave an immense quality to the highs in our vocals, but when we did actually activate this mode, the quality was in another league.

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
  • Professional sound quality
  • Great amount of ports
  • Easy setup and configuration
  • Sleek and rugged design
  • On-screen software for easier control
CONS
  • Expensive
  • Got a bit warm after many hours of use

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 2019.

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 this year. Let us know what you’re using to fuel your home studio needs in the comments!

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