USB Audio Interface

USB Audio Interface: Official Guide

Top affordable USB Audio interface

Are you looking for an affordable USB audio interface?

They come in so many shapes and sizes that finding the right one for your needs is bound to present a challenge, especially if you are taking factors like DAW compatibility, form factor, and input channel types into account.

While different people will gravitate towards different audio interfaces depending on the objectives they have in mind, the following brands tend to stand out:

1). Focusrite Scarlett

The original Scarlett USB Audio interfaces were popular but also quite flawed.

People criticized them for the clunky control software and the unimpressive low-latency performance of the drivers.

Focusrite’s later models were identical to their predecessors in many ways. But the company also made significant improvements.

The newer models look and feel a lot more expensive than their modest price tags suggest.

The audio specifications are superior.

You won’t find as much bunching at the top of the dial because of the new mic preamp circuitry.

There are Scarlett models that don’t have inbuilt control panel software.

In such cases, the drivers you have to use will depend on the operating system of your computer.

You can also choose an optional utility people have started flocking to because of the reduction in operating latency it offers.

Some people probably remember Mix Control, the control panel utility that older Scarlett interfaces were equipped with.

If you enjoyed its functionality, Focusrite has since replaced it with Focusrite control which offers a cleaner, simpler experience.

They have also eliminated the Mono Button, not to mention the separate L-R mutes, which is a problem for people that made frequent use of them.

But Scarlett is still a fan favorite.

The company takes great pride in the fact that more records have been made using Scarlett than any other range of interfaces you can think of.

Scarlett has wormed its way into the hearts and minds of musicians and producers the world over by offering high headroom instrument inputs and six configurations of ins and outs.

Pros

  • You can control some models using iOS devices
  • The Focusrite Control utility is more intuitive than many competitors
  • It offers great results at very low latency

Cons

  • Some people are not impressed by the replacement of the old Mix Control Utility and some of the features it brought to the table.

Scarlett Solo: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Scarlett 2i2: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Scarlett 6i6: Amazon

Scarlett 18i8: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

2). PreSonus Audiobox

This is a powerful USB audio interface that allows you to perform recording, monitoring, and processing tasks in real-time during a recording session or a live show.

The interface allows you to deliver studio-quality results using a laptop and little else.

You don’t require much in the way of wiring and neither are hardware mixers or outboard effects racks necessary.

Some people were worried about potential delays.

The interface has several effects plugins for the DAW.

Some voices argued that the people who placed the DAW effects in studio monitors were bound to hear the original sound an instant before the processed signal and this would create problems for studio recording sessions.

But the processing capabilities of PreSonus are so much more dynamic. Delays of this sort have been reduced significantly.

PreSonus’ biggest attraction is the fact that their interface simplifies everything significantly even though their price tags are so friendly.

The ‘Drag and Drop’ function is so convenient.

Pros

  • The device has a compact but rugged design
  • Highly convenient
  • Great sound
  • Class-A circuitry and high voltage that delivers more headroom, deeper lows, and smoother highs.

Cons

  • Can’t take line-level inputs which is a problem for people that want to use synthesizers
  • More expensive than rival interfaces with similar functions

Audiobox USB: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Audiobox iTwo: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Audiobox 44VSL: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

3). Focusrite Clarett

The Clarett was a game-changer when it debuted.

It was targeted towards project studio owners and it was affordable even though it had the sorts of specs you normally find with expensive interfaces.

Unlike other Focusrite interfaces, this one showed an unexpected interest in low-latency performance and that automatically made it stand out.

You can get the Clarett with either USB or Thunderbolt connectivity.

Though, there are no significant differences between the USB and Thunderbolt models.

You still have the two combi mix/line/instrument sockets and six mic/line inputs at the front and rear respectively.

Because the USB interfaces debuted some years after their Thunderbolt counterparts hit the market, any differences you notice can be imputed to the natural advancements Focusrite has made in its technology and production process during those years.

This explains why some people have compared the USB models to Thunderbolt Claretts that adopted the driver performance you see in Scarlett models from the second generation.

Everyone agrees that the USB and Thunderbolt interfaces have no significant weaknesses.

Quite a number of people will happily choose the Clarette over the Scarlett. The factors driving this preference vary.

The Clarett boasts a lower noise floor, the converters are superior, the new preamps have a feature called air that has everyone talking, etc.

Pros

  • The emphasis on low-latency performance is appealing
  • The driver performance is worthwhile
  • You can control the interface using a mobile device

Cons

  • If you have the thunderbolt version, you know that the cables are not provided
  • The Clarett 8 PreX doesn’t have a USB equivalent
USB Audio Interface

Clarett 2Pre: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Clarett 4Pre: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

4). Apogee

There are many countries in which Apogee is the industry standard.

The brand has spent the last three decades dominating the field of music.

Just look at some of the biggest Oscar and Grammy performances in history. Quite a number were captured using Apogee’s devices.

Their products are suitable for personal use and studio projects.

They are compatible with desktop applications and iOS devices.

The brand stands out because it places so much emphasis on innovative design.

You can use their usb audio interface to record everything from vocals to keyboards, guitars, and drums, to mention but a few.

And in each case, you are guaranteed studio-quality recordings.

Some Apogee interfaces work exclusively with Mac.

Others are more flexible.

Pros

  • Great converters and preamps
  • The interfaces will integrate seamlessly with your Mac
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Some interfaces are only compatible with Apple technology
USB Audio Interface

Apogee One: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Apogee Duet: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Apogee Quartet: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

5). Avid

Music doesn’t stay the same.

It keeps changing with each passing decade.

The biggest transformation came in the 80s when music production joined the digital age.

As information technology has advanced, musical production has advanced with it, with companies like Avid leading the charge.

Their audio workstation has become the standard in the field of audio software.

They also offer a wide array of interfaces that enable you to access their applications.

They have an interface to suit every need.

The Eleven Rack Processor provides amplification and effects options for guitar enthusiasts.

You can access every amp and pedal you desire via a simple interface.

Sound engineers and producers that want to experiment with their own unique creations will get a kick out of the Pro Tools Quartet.

If you want something more compact, feel free to try the Pro Tools Duet which has so many features and capabilities packed into a small frame.

This is what songwriters and singers flock to when they want to stretch their creative muscles.

Avid’s successes can be imputed to the fact that they are not afraid to partner with companies like Apogee to augment their offerings.

If you have unique audio preferences, Avid probably has an interface or an application to scratch your specific itch.

Just when everyone thinks they have the company figured out, Avid debuts a new and unexpected suit of tools and functions.

Pros

  • Versatile range of interfaces
  • High-Quality audio
  • No lag

Cons

  • A little expensive for some people

Avid Duet: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend

Avid Quartet: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

6). Universal Audio

UA leads the charge in rack and desktop-style USB audio interface technology.

Their products are attractive because they enable hassle-free connections with external tools like instruments.

They have an array of plugins that are used by audio engineers and producers the world over.

Unlike some interfaces, most of Universal Audio’s devices are compatible with Mac and Windows.

People that love classic analog recording will appreciate the real-time workflow of Universal Audio which tries to replicate the experience.

Considering their penchant for providing A/D and D/A conversions, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the sound generated by their interfaces is open and detailed.

You can expect high-speed connectivity for both Windows and Mac, the highest dynamic range you will encounter in the class, a latency that is practically zero, and the ability to access and record through a library of plugins in a manner that doesn’t tax your computer.

Some of Universal Audio’s interfaces are designed for electronic music and to aid in post-production.

Others can be used to track massive projects.

You can get packages specifically targeted towards commercial studios.

Simply put, you can trust Universal Audio with every music and audio engineering-related project that might arise.

They have an interface and a suite of plugins to cater to any need you might bring to the table.

Pros

  • You are guaranteed world-class sound quality
  • Windows and Mac connectivity is quick and seamless
  • You can enjoy access to all the UAD powered plugins you could ever desire.

Cons

  • Some interfaces restrict the number of plugins you can use simultaneously

Twin SOLO: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

Twin DUO: Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, Sweetwater

The end

This is our review on the top affordable USB powered audio interfaces.

Thanks for reading!

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