Current track

Title

Artist

Background

The best audio interfaces to buy in 2021: 10 best interfaces under $200

Written by on

After already dropping cash on a microphone, headphones and maybe even a new DAW, spending yet more money on an audio interface with bells and whistles can feel like unnecessary pain for your wallet. However, it’s an essential component in most recording setups.

These are our picks for the best audio interfaces you can pick up for under $200. Most of these sit in the two-channel range, but you may be pleasantly surprised with some of the software freebies that get thrown in.

The Best Audio Interfaces under $200

  • Audient EVO 4
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)
  • Audient iD4 MKII
  • Tascam US-2x2HR
  • MOTU M2 2×2
  • PreSonus AudioBox USB | 96
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD
  • Mackie Onyx Artist 1-2 USB
  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2
  • iRig Pro Duo I/O

Audient EVO 4

Audient Evo 4

Advertisement

This no-nonsense interface features an intuitive layout and auto gain, making it ideal for beginners looking for a plug-and-play option. The Audient Evo 4 features two combio inputs for XLR and quarter-inch jack, as well as a pair of quarter-inch outputs for your monitors. It’s also compact enough to take with you in a backpack and is bus-powered, meaning it’ll run on power supplied by your computer via USB.

In our review, we said: “With the EVO 4, Audient has created an audio interface that is genuinely simple to use but is in no way simplistic. What’s more, the inclusion of a loopback bus makes it an ideal tool for creating gaming and tutorial videos for posting online, while its iOS compatibility increases flexibility.”

Read our full review here.

  • Price: £99/$129/€119
  • Inputs: 2x combo inputs (XLR / 1/4″)
  • Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4″)
  • Preamps: 2x microphone, 1x instrument
  • Mic Pre Gain Range: 58dB (-10db Pad for Line)
  • Connection Protocol: USB Type-C (USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen 1)
  • Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen
Image: Focusrite

If you’ve scanned some of our other lists on audio interfaces, such as the best ones you can buy under $300, you’ve probably already heard of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Now in its third generation, these versatile red boxes are just as popular as ever with professionals and beginners, thanks to its great sound quality and compact size.

The 2i2 gives you two dual-function inputs that can receive either microphone or instrument-level signals. It also sports a secondary preamp voicing called AIR mode, which is brighter in tone and closer to the tone of the brand’s much more expensive ISA preamps.

Advertisement

In our review, we said: “This generation of Scarletts sees big improvements everywhere. Great quality, great prices and options for everyone and any studio task.”

Read our full review here.

  • Price: $159.99/£139
  • Inputs: 2x combo inputs
  • Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4″), 1x headphone outputs (1/4”)
  • Preamps: 2x Mic
  • Mic Pre Gain Range: 56 dB
  • Connection Protocol: USB 2.0 Type C connector

Audient iD4 MKII

Audient id14 MkII

Audient kicked off 2021 with a refresh of this popular two-input interface. The iD4 MKII offers a single Audient Console preamp and a JFET instrument input for direct recording. New to the interface: it’s now exclusively bus-powered over USB 3.0 (Type C), boasts a 120dB dynamic range and sports a stylish gun-metal grey finish.

  • Price: £138/$199
  • Inputs: 1x combo XLR (XLR/1/4”), 1x instrument input
  • Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4″), 1x Headphone output (1/4”)
  • Preamps: Audient Console Preamp, JFET DI
  • Mic Pre Gain Range: 58 dB
  • Connection Protocol: USB 3.0, Type C connector

Tascam US-2x2HR

Tascam US-HR Series
Image: Tascam

After wading through the technical mumbo-jumbo in the quest for your first interface, the last thing you want is to be perusing the manual every few minutes to find where everything is and actually get down to work. Thankfully, the Tascam US-2x2HR keeps most of the connectors and knobs you need on the front panel and in clear order.

The HR family of interfaces all sport Tascam’s Ultra-HDDA mic preamps and support audio resolutions of up to 24-bit at a 192kHz sampling rate. Plus, it’s also bundled with Steinberg’s Cubase LE DAW for recording; IK Multimedia’s SampleTank SE 4, a 30GB sound library, and a three-month’s subscription to Antares’ Auto-Tune Unlimited.

  • Price: $150/£137
  • Inputs: 2x combo XLR, 1x MIDI in
  • Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4″), 1x headphone output, 1x MIDI out
  • Preamps: 2x Ultra-HDDA preamps
  • Mic Pre Gain Range: 56 dB
  • Connection Protocol: USB 2.0, Type C connector
  • Other software: Cubase LE DAW, IK Multimedia SampleTank SE 4, Antares Auto-Tune Unlimited (3 month trial)

MOTU M2 2×2

Motu M2 2x2
Image: Motu

Healthy levels are a crucial element to recording success and the MOTU M2 2×2 tackles this with a full-colour LCD screen with meters for all inputs and outputs. The interface itself offers two dual-function inputs and direct input monitoring on both channels. Adding on to that, the MOTU M2 2×2 also comes with useful software, including two DAWS: MOTU Performer Lite and Ableton Live Lite. There’s also a 6GB library of loops and sounds to jump-start your music-making.

  • Price: $179.95/£168
  • Inputs: 2x combo inputs
  • Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4″), 2x RCA, 1x headphone output
  • Preamps: 2x microphone/instrument
  • Connection protocol: USB Type C

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Image: PreSonus

While not the most exciting looking interface, the PreSonus AudioBox USB provides serious bang for buck. For $130, you also get a neat software bundle that includes Studio One Artist DAW and a collection of plug-ins from Maag Audio, Lexicon, Arturia and Brainworx. The interface has two dual-function inputs for both XLR and quarter-inch connectors and is bus-powered.

Read our review of the AudioBox 96 bundle, here.

  • Price: $129.95/£82
  • Inputs: 2x combo inputs (XLR/1/4″)
  • Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4″), 1x headphone output (1/4”)
  • Preamps: 2x microphone/instrument
  • Mic Pre Gain Range: 35db
  • Connection Protocol: USB Type B

Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD

Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD
Image: Behringer

Options do start to get a bit limited when you’re looking for a low-cost interface with more than two inputs. The Behringer U-Phoria UMC 404D fits this description. It gives you four inputs each with MIDAS preamps. For integrating with external hardware, there’s also a pair of TRS inserts, and MIDI connectivity.

If you’re a drummer seeking out an affordable interface, this could be the one. With just three microphones, you could mic up your kit using the Glyn Johns technique – the same configuration used to record Led Zep’s John Bonham on many of the band’s records.

  • Price: $176/£119
  • Inputs: 4x combo inputs (XLR/TRS), 4x inserts (1/4”)
  • Outputs: 6x TRS (1/4″), 2x XLR, 2x stereo (RCA/1/4″), 1x headphone output (1/4”)
  • Preamps: 4x Mic
  • Connection Protocol: USB 2.0, Type B

Mackie Onyx Artist 1-2 USB

Mackie Onyx Artist 1-2 USB
Image: Mackie

The Onyx Artist 1-2 USB gets its name from the Onyx preamp it has tucked inside – which is the same that stars in many of the brand’s larger mixing boards. These are billed as offering “incredible accuracy” when tracking sources from a voice to a guitar to a synth.

This single-preamp interface also comes with some software to get you started with recording, including Pro Tools First and 23 plug-ins – such as virtual pedals Black Op Distortion and Gray Compressor – that are well-suited to guitar players.

  • Price: $169.99/£80
  • Inputs: 1x combo input, 1x instrument input
  • Outputs: 2x TRS, 1x Headphone out
  • Preamps: 1x Onyx Preamp
  • Connection Protocol: USB 2.0, Type B

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2
Image: Native Instruments

Komplete Audio 2 (right) stacks a bevy of useful software titles atop a solid interface, making for a quick start package geared towards fresh music producers. This bus-powered interface offers two dual-function inputs with phantom power and independent gain controls.

As for software, you get a copy of Ableton Live Lite, 15 synths and sampled instruments, effects and a library of roughly two thousand loops and samples. You also get copies of NI’s Monark synth and Maschine Essentials – not bad for a $139 audio interface.

In our review, we said: “Beginners start here, yes, but the rest of us might be tempted to buy a Komplete Audio interface just to get the software bundle.”

Read our full review here.

  • Price: £109/$139
  • Inputs: 2x combo inputs
  • Output: 2x 1/4″ TRS, 1x 1/4” headphone
  • Preamps: 2x microphone preamps
  • Connection Protocol: USB 2.0, Type B
  • Bundled Software: Maschine Essentials, Replika, Solid Bus Comp, Monark, Komplete Start, Ableton Live Lite

iRig Pro Duo I/O

iRig Pro Duo I/O

Lugging around a clunky interface doesn’t quite make sense if you plan to record through a smartphone or tablet. The pocketable iRig Pro Duo I/O presents a solution to this issue, with Lightning, Type A and Type C USB cables to interface with most devices right out of the box.

You get two analogue combo inputs, both with independent gain controls and phantom power available. It also offers 1/8-inch MIDI in/out ports, a pair of quarter-inch outputs and a headphone output as well. As for power, you can go with bus power via USB or opt for two AA batteries.

  • Price: $199/€199
  • Inputs: 2x combo inputs
  • Outputs: 2x TRS, 1x headphone (1/8”)
  • Preamps: 2x Class A preamps
  • Mic Pre Gain Range: 48dB
  • Connection Protocol: Lightning, USB, Type A or Type C

For more buyer’s guides, click here.

Go to Source
Date: 22 February 2021
Author: MusicTech.net