Buying Guides, Reviews, and More for Today's Musicians

Top 7 Best Audio Interfaces for Beginners (2021 Review)

*If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

BEHRINGER Audio Interface, UMC404HD (UMC404HD)
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2 USB Audio Interface with Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAW Recording Software
Apogee One - Audio Interface for Vocals and Instruments with Built In Studio Quality Condenser Microphone for iOS, Mac & Windows PC, Made in USA (Silver)
MSRP
$214.99
$165.99
$229.99
$99.95
$275.00
Our Rating
94
91
89
88
86
Dimensions
11.5 x 5.1 x 1.8 inches
2.09 x 7.68 x 1.32 inches
1.87 x 7.28 x 4.72 inches
1.8 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches
6.4 x 0.8 x 2.2 inches
Weight
2.65 pounds
1.1 pounds
15.9 ounces
2.01 pounds
0.8 pounds
Frequency Response
20 Hz - 20 kHz
20 Hz - 20 kHz
20 Hz - 20 kHz
20 Hz - 20 kHz
Not Specified
A/D Resolution
24-Bit/96 kHz
24-Bit/192kHz
24-Bit/192kHz
24-Bit/96kHz
24-bit/96kHz
Power
48 V Phantom power supply
48v Phantom power supply
48v Phantom power supply
USB bus powered
USB bus powered
BEHRINGER Audio Interface, UMC404HD (UMC404HD)
MSRP
$214.99
Our Rating
94
Dimensions
11.5 x 5.1 x 1.8 inches
Weight
2.65 pounds
Frequency Response
20 Hz - 20 kHz
A/D Resolution
24-Bit/96 kHz
Power
48 V Phantom power supply
More Information
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
MSRP
$165.99
Our Rating
91
Dimensions
2.09 x 7.68 x 1.32 inches
Weight
1.1 pounds
Frequency Response
20 Hz - 20 kHz
A/D Resolution
24-Bit/192kHz
Power
48v Phantom power supply
More Information
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
MSRP
$229.99
Our Rating
89
Dimensions
1.87 x 7.28 x 4.72 inches
Weight
15.9 ounces
Frequency Response
20 Hz - 20 kHz
A/D Resolution
24-Bit/192kHz
Power
48v Phantom power supply
More Information
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2 USB Audio Interface with Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAW Recording Software
MSRP
$99.95
Our Rating
88
Dimensions
1.8 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches
Weight
2.01 pounds
Frequency Response
20 Hz - 20 kHz
A/D Resolution
24-Bit/96kHz
Power
USB bus powered
More Information
Apogee One - Audio Interface for Vocals and Instruments with Built In Studio Quality Condenser Microphone for iOS, Mac & Windows PC, Made in USA (Silver)
MSRP
$275.00
Our Rating
86
Dimensions
6.4 x 0.8 x 2.2 inches
Weight
0.8 pounds
Frequency Response
Not Specified
A/D Resolution
24-bit/96kHz
Power
USB bus powered
More Information

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!

How To Choose The Right Audio Interface?

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 in 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

Three Different Audio Interfaces

There are many different types of audio interfaces, some are specifically for PC audio interfaces, audio interfaces for Mac and iPad audio interfaces, and then some have specific connectivity types including Thunderbolt, Firewire and the more commonly used USB, and we haven’t 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.

So let’s get to it, – what are the best audio interfaces for beginners in 2021?

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2 USB Audio Interface

Compatibility

  • Mac & PC

Features

  • Durable, heavy-duty steel chassis
  • 2 inputs (for Microphones and Guitars/Bass)
  • Low Latency

BUNDLE

This audio interface is also available in a full recording equipment bundle, which includes the following:

  • Presonus Audiobox USB 96 audio interface
  • M7 large-diaphragm condenser microphone
  • HD7 Headphones

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

To get a good overview of the Prosonus USB 96 and a vocal demo using the interface, take a look at the video below:


Focusrite Scarlett Solo [3Rd Gen]

Compatibility

  • Mac [Mac 10.12 and onwards] / Connectivity via USB

Features

  • A very popular & best selling audio interface on Amazon, with over 21,000 reviews, averaging 4.8 stars
  • Solid metal chassis for high-quality protection
  • Incredibly simple to use, with a clear display user interface
  • 2 inputs (1 microphone and 1 instrument input),
  • 2 outputs (left and right output)
  • Has a switchable air setting, which can give your vocal recordings a richer, brighter, more open sound
  • Comes with the following software
    • Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack
    • Ableton Live Lite
    • Focusrite Control
    • Softube Time and Tone Bundle
    • Focusrite’s Red Plugin Suite
    • 3 Month Splice Subscription
    • One free XLN Addictive Keys Virtual Instrument
  • Lowest latency of any audio interface on the market

Bundle

This audio interface is also available in a full recording equipment bundle, which includes the following:

  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface and Recording Bundle with Pro Tools | First
  • Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm
  • Microphone Shock Mount
  • Pop Filter

Technical Specs

  • Class-leading conversion & sample rates up to a 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
  • 1 XLR (Microphone) Input, 1 Line (Guitar) Input for singular or simultaneous recording.
  • Provides 48v Phantom power for active microphones
  • Does not need a power supply, runs and is powered directly from the USB connection
  • 3-Year Purchase Warranty
  • Designed in England and manufactured in China

For a 1st-hand view of the amazing recording quality of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Generation) take a look at the video demonstration below:

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 its inexpensive price.


Behringer UMC 404HD Audiophile

BEHRINGER Audio Interface

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 states 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!

M-Audio – AIR 192|4 2X2 AUDIO INTERFACE

Compatibility

  • Mac / Connectivity via USB

Features

  • A beginner-friendly, clear user interface
  • Pro-grade metal chassis
  • Includes DAW Software: Pro Tools | First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, Eleven Lite, the Avid Effect Collection, AIR Creative FX Collection (20 world-class FX AU/VST plugins), 2 GB of sample content from Touch Loops, Strike, Xpand!2, Mini Grand, Vacuum, BOOM from Air MusicTech
  • High Quality ‘Crystal’ Preamps for professional audio recording
  • Low-Noise, Low Latency
  • +48v Phantom Power Switch for microphones which require it (condenser mics)

BUNDLE

  • In a Complete Recording Bundle, 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 Audio Interface: +  Software Suite
    • M-Audio’s HDH40 Closed-Back Headphones
    • Nova Black large-diaphragm condenser microphone
    • Shock mount
    • XLR Cable

Technical Specs

  • 2 inputs x 2 outputs USB audio interface with or without MIDI
  • 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 two versions (all shown under the same Amazon listing), which are:

  • Without Midi functionality
  • With Midi Functionality

Although it was hard to find the perfect demo of someone using the M-Air 192, we were able to find this unboxing and demo video of the 192|8, which should give you some idea of the quality of the 192|4:


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 [3Rd Gen]

Compatibility

  • Mac [Mac 10.12 and onwards] / Connectivity via USB

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 a clear display user interface
  • 2 combination inputs (for either mic or instrument)
  • 2 outputs (left and right output)
  • Comes with the following software
    • Pro Tools|Focusrite Creative Pack
    • Ableton Live Lite
    • Focusrite Control
    • Softube Time and Tone Bundle
    • Focusrite’s Red Plugin Suite
    • 3 Month Splice subscription
    • One free XLN Addictive Keys Virtual Instrument
  • Lowest latency of any audio interface on the market

BUNDLE

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

  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface
  • Microphone suspension boom scissor arm with basic microphone shock mount
  • CM25 MKIII condenser microphone
  • HP60 MKIII closed-back headphones
  • Pop Filter

Technical Specs

  • Class-leading conversion & sample rates up to a 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
  • 2 Combo XLR (Microphone) or Line (Instrument) Inputs for singular or simultaneous recording.
  • 2 Line Outputs
  • Provides 48v Phantom power for active microphones
  • Does not need a power supply, runs and is powered directly from the USB connection
  • 3-Year Purchase Warranty
  • Designed in England and manufactured in China

For a 1st-hand view of the recording quality of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Generation) take a look at the video demonstration below:

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 its inexpensive price.


Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 [3Rd Gen]

Before talking about the features or specifications, this Scarlett 4i4 is very similar to the Scarlett 212, except it has 2 additional line intputs, and 2 additional balanced outputs… Not only does this make it an ideal, high-quality device for recording, but also live performance.

Compatibility

Mac [Mac 10.12 and onwards] / Connectivity via USB

Features

  • A very popular & best selling audio interface on Amazon, with over 21,000 reviews, averaging 4.8 stars
  • Solid metal chassis for high-quality protection
  • Incredibly simple to use, with a clear display user interface
  • 4 inputs (2 microphone and 2 instrument inputs),
  • 4 outputs
  • Has a switchable air setting, which can give your vocal recordings a richer, brighter, more open sound
  • Comes with the following software Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack
  • Ableton Live Lite
  • Focusrite Control
  • Softube Time and Tone Bundle
  • Focusrite’s Red Plugin Suite
  • 3 Month Splice Subscription
  • One free XLN Addictive Keys Virtual Instrument
  • Lowest latency of any audio interface on the market

bundle

The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 audio interface is also available in a full recording equipment bundle, which includes the following:

  • Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 audio interface
  • USB Type B studio microphone
  • XLR cable
  • Shock mount
  • Pop filter
  • Mic stand
  • Recording Headphones

Technical Specs

  • Class-leading conversion & sample rates up to a 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
  • 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 a power supply, runs and is powered directly from the USB connection
  • 3-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 someone requiring minimal latency, high-quality recordings and several outputs.

For a detailed review and recording demonstration showing off the recording quality of the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen, take a look at the video demonstration below:


Apogee ONE Audio Interface

Apogee ONE Audio Interface

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.

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!

There’s not too much to say here, besides the fact that Apogee creates really high sound quality audio interfaces.

However, from the research I have done, where Apogee lack, is in their customer service, which isn’t necessarily something you want, considering you may have questions regarding the interface if things were not to work!

On a more positive note, Apogee has a great website, with plenty of information, and video tutorials on how to set up 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.


Similar Articles that you may be interested in

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top