7 Best Audio Interface for Beginners (2018 Review)

best audio interface for beginners

So you’re a beginner when it comes to home studio recording, and you’re looking for an audio interface to help your recording vocals, guitar, bass, drums and any other instrument you so desire!

I remember when I was starting out, and now looking back, I can clearly see what the two most important factors were in choosing the best audio interface for a beginner;

  • One, choosing an audio interface that has quality hardware, which will in-turn provide you with those high quality recordings.
  • Secondly, (Counter-intuitively, I would argue the most important aspect), the audio interface must be simple enough to use; as overcomplicating the recording process, especially for a beginner, can not only dishearten, but can result in lapses of creative and intuitive thinking, killing the main goal of any recording, to create a wonderful sonic landscape that represents the artist/engineer and producer’s vision. Therefore, any audio interfaces listed within this article, will be simple enough to use, with a little time and effort, but make no mistake, simplicity does not constitute to you having to sacrifice on sound quality, it will merely allow you to focus on the creative process more in detail, without worrying about the technicalities and complexities of sound engineering.

Different types of Audio Interfaces

There are many different types of audio interfaces, some are specifically for PC, Mac or Ipad, and then some have specific connectivity types including Thunderbolt, Firewire and the more commonly used USB, and we havent even talked about size and budget requirements.

However, rest assured that all of the information surrounding each interface’s compatibility will be clearly displayed in bullet points.

Best Audio Interface for Beginners

So let’s get to it, what are the top audio interfaces for beginners in 2018?

 

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 [2nd Gen] Editor’s Recommendation

(4.8 / 5)

 

Focusrite-Scarlett-2i2-[2nd-Gen]

Before talking about the features or specifications, this Scarlett 2i4 is very similar to the Scarlett 212, except it has 2 additional line outputs, and 2 additional balanced outputs… Not only does this make it an ideal, high quality device for recording, but also live performance.
Compatibility

PC  (Windows 7, 8.1 and 10) and Mac (Mac 10.10 and onwards)

Features
  • Amazon’s most popular & best selling audio interface, with over 1000 reviews averaging 4 stars
  • Solid metal chassis for protection
  • Incredibly simple to use, with clear display user interface
  • 2 inputs/4 outputs
  • Comes with the following software
    • Pro Tools
    • Focusrite Creative Pack
    • Ableton Live Lite
    • Focusrite Control
    • Softube Time and Tone Bungle
    • Focusrite’s Red Plugin Suite
    • 2GB of Loopmaster’s samples
  • Lowest latency of any audio interface on the market [Source:Focusrite.co.uk]
Technical Specs
  • Class leading conversion & sample rates up to 192kHz/24 bit.
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz 0.1dB
  • Super-low latency for using plug-ins in real-time without the need for DSP (measured at 2.74ms, working at 96kHz with a 32 samples buffer)
  • 2 XLR (Microphone) Inputs, 2 Line (Guitar) Inputs for singular or simultaneous recording.
  • 4 line outputs, 2 balanced outputs
  • Provides 48v Phantom power for active microphones
  • Does not need power supply, runs and is powered directly from USB connection
  • 2-Year Purchase Warranty
  • Designed in England and Manufactured in China

Being an Amazon Best Seller, it’s clear that this audio interface is a fantastic prospect for the someone requiring minimal latency, high quality recordings and several outputs.

For a 1st-hand view of the recording quality of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (I could only find a video of the 1st generation, but it gives you a good impression to the sound quality) take a look at the video demonstration below:

 

Focusrite Scarlett Solo [2nd Gen]

(4.8 / 5)

best audio interface for beginners - Focusrite Scarlett Solo

Compatibility

PC  (Windows 7, 8.1 and 10) and Mac (Mac 10.10 and onwards)

Features
  • Amazon’s most popular & best selling audio interface, with over 1000 reviews averaging 4 stars
  • Solid metal chassis for protection
  • Incredibly simple to use, with clear display user interface
  • 2 inputs (1 microphone and 1 guitar input)
  • Comes with the following software
    • Pro Tools
    • Focusrite Creative Pack
    • Ableton Live Lite
    • Focusrite Control
    • Softube Time and Tone Bungle
    • Focusrite’s Red Plugin Suite
    • 2GB of Loopmaster’s samples
  • Lowest latency of any audio interface on the market [Source:Focusrite.co.uk]

Focusrite Scarlett Solo [2nd Gen] Recording Bundle

Focusrite-scarlett-Solo-Studio-Bundle

This audio interface is also available in a full recording equipment bundle [Link to Amazon], which includes the following

  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface and Recording Bundle with Pro Tools | First
  • Dragonpad USA Pop Filter
  • Studio Microphone Mic
  • Wind Screen Pop Filter
  • Swivel Mount 360 Flexible Gooseneck Holder
Technical Specs
  • Class leading conversion & sample rates up to 192kHz/24 bit.
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz 0.1dB
  • Super-low latency for using plug-ins in real-time without the need for DSP (measured at 2.74ms, working at 96kHz with a 32 samples buffer)
  • 1 XLR (Microphone) Input, 1 Line (Guitar) Input for singular or simultaneous recording.
  • Provides 48v Phantom power for active microphones
  • Does not need power supply, runs and is powered directly from USB connection
  • 2-Year Purchase Warranty
  • Designed in England and Manufactured in China

Being an Amazon Best Seller, it’s clear that this audio interface is a fantastic prospect for beginners looking for their 1st audio interface. Looking into the specifications of this audio interface, it’s clear why it’s so popular, especially considering it’s inexpensive price.

For a 1st-hand view of the recording quality of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Generation) take a look at the video demonstration below:

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 [2nd Gen]

(4.7 / 5)

 

 

 

Compatibility

PC  (Windows 7, 8.1 and 10) and Mac (Mac 10.10 and onwards)

Features
  • Amazon’s most popular & best selling audio interface, with over 1000 reviews averaging 4 stars
  • Solid metal chassis for protection
  • Incredibly simple to use, with clear display user interface
  • 2 inputs/2 outputs
  • Comes with the following software
    • Pro Tools
    • Focusrite Creative Pack
    • Ableton Live Lite
    • Focusrite Control
    • Softube Time and Tone Bungle
    • Focusrite’s Red Plugin Suite
    • 2GB of Loopmaster’s samples
  • Lowest latency of any audio interface on the market [Source:Focusrite.co.uk]

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 [2nd Gen] Recording Bundle

The Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 audio interface is also available in a full recording equipment bundle [Link to Amazon], which includes the following

 

  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface and Recording Bundle with Pro Tools | First
  • Dragonpad USA Pop Filter
  • Studio Microphone Mic
  • Wind Screen Pop Filter
  • Swivel Mount 360 Flexible Gooseneck Holder
Technical Specs
  • Class leading conversion & sample rates up to 192kHz/24 bit.
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz 0.1dB
  • Super-low latency for using plug-ins in real-time without the need for DSP (measured at 2.74ms, working at 96kHz with a 32 samples buffer)
  • 2 XLR (Microphone) Inputs, 2 Line (Guitar) Inputs for singular or simultaneous recording.
  • 2 Line Outputs
  • Provides 48v Phantom power for active microphones
  • Does not need power supply, runs and is powered directly from USB connection
  • 2-Year Purchase Warranty
  • Designed in England and Manufactured in China

Being an Amazon Best Seller, it’s clear that this audio interface is a fantastic prospect for beginners looking for their 1st audio interface. Looking into the specifications of this audio interface, it’s clear why it’s so popular, especially considering it’s inexpensive price.

For a 1st-hand view of the recording quality of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Generation) take a look at the video demonstration below:

 

Apogee ONE for Mac

Apogee One for Mac [usr4.5]

 

Compatibility

Mac (find out more information on connectivity here – Apogee.com)

Features
  • Die cast aluminum chassis
  • Legendary/World Class Apogee Hardware for incredible recording quality – Sounds Fantastic!
  • Very Low Latency
  • Not to mention, this device has a Truly Incredible in-built microphone, one that has turned heads and converted the Neumann, Shure fanatics to using the Apogee built-in microphone instead.
Technical Specs
  • 2 inputs x 2 outputs audio interface
  • USB 2.0 connection with 24-bit / 96kHZ AD/DA conversion
  • Designed in California, Built in the USA.

There’s not too much to say here, besides from the fact that Apogee create really high sound quality audio interfaces; However, from the research I have done, where Apogee lack, is in their customer service, which isn’t necessary something you want, considering you may have questions regarding the interface if things were not to work! On a more positive note, Apogee have a great website, with plenty of information, and video tutorials on how to setup the device and even recording tips & tricks.

Make no mistake, this audio interface is fantastic, it was one of the best, highest sound quality audio interfaces I’ve ever used.

Without further ado, it’s easier if you are able to hear an audible demonstration of the audio interface in action, which I have featured below!

 

M-Audio – M-Track 2X2 C-Series

M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series [usr4.3]

Compatibility

Mac & PC

Features
  • Beginner-friendly clear user interface
  • Includes DAW Software: Pro Tools | First, Eleven Lite, AIR Creative FX Collection (20 world-class FX AU/VST plugins), Strike, Xpand!2 and Mini Grand
  • High Quality ‘Crystal’ Preamps for professional audio recording
  • Low-Noise, Low Latency
  • +48v Phantom Power Switch for microphones which require it (condenser mics)
Technical Specs
  • 2 inputs x 2 outputs USB audio interface with MIDI (MIDI functionality is optional)
  • 24 bit /192 kHz resolution
  • Two XLR and 1/4 inch TRS combo inputs
  • Two 1/4 inch (Guitar/Bass) instrument inputs
  • Includes standard USB and USB-C connections

This Audio interface comes in three versions, which are shown below

And Finally,

  • In a Complete Recording Bundle [Link to Amazon], for someone looking to have everything they need to record in one package; What exactly does this include:
    • Includes M-Track 2 x 2 USB/USB-C Audio Interface: +  Software Suite
    • M-Audio’s HDH40 Closed Back Headphones
    • Studio-grade Nova black large diaphragm condenser microphone

We’ve featured a good video demonstration of the audio interface below, which gives a fantastic impression to the quality of recordings that you can expect.

 

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 [usr4.3]

 

 

Compatibility

Mac & PC

Features
  • Durable, heavy-duty steel chassis
  • 2 inputs (for Microphones and Guitars/Bass)
  • Low Latency
Technical Specs
  • USB 2.0 bus-powered (no need for separate power)
  • Midi interface
  • Compatible with almost all recording software for Mac and Windows
  • 24-bit resolution; 44.1|48|88.2| & 96 kHz sampling rates
  • 2 combo mic/instrument inputs with high-performance, low-noise, high-headroom mic preamplifiers
  • Includes Studio One Artist DAW software and 6GB+ of third-party software
  • Includes Studio Magic Plug-In Suite
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz Frequency Response
  • 48v Phantom Power

Although I could not find a great demonstration of this audio interface, on it’s own, I’ve been able to find a comparison against the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

 

Behringer UMC 404HD Audiophile

Behringer UMC 404HD Audiophile [usr4.6]

If you’re looking for more inputs, let’s say 4, potentially to an instrument from multiple angles at one time, this interface is the perfect solution, offering high quality hardware without breaking the bank.
Compatibility

Mac & PC

Features
  • USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface
  • 4 or 8 channel inputs (depending on the model you choose)
  • Compatible with most recording software (Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, etc)
  • Low Latency
Technical Specs
  • USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface
  • Audiophile 24-Bit/96 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.
  • Ultra-low latency audio recording
  • 4 or 8 state of the art MIDAS designed Microphone Preamps
  • 48 V phantom power

In the video demonstration below, they are reviewing the 4 input version. The hardware is still the same, and therefore the sound quality will be just as good!

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Best Audio Interfaces for Beginners
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