5 Best USB Audio Interfaces (REVIEW)

Best USB Audio Interfaces

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A good USB audio interface is like 3 ply toilet paper. You probably won’t really notice it while you have it, but the difference between a good one and a bad one is horrible. It’s not the flashiest or most exciting piece of audio recording equipment, but you can’t really do without them.

Finding the Best USB Audio Interfaces is sometimes a little tricky if you don’t know the meaning behind all of the specifications. To make things a little easier, we’ve put together a list of the 5 Best USB Audio Interfaces that will be great for use at home or on stage, and are pretty good for doing everything from recording new tracks to just laying down a podcast.

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best USB Audio Interfaces On The Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying the best USB Audio Interfaces

There are a few specifications you should keep in mind when looking for the best USB Audio Interfaces.

Bit Depth & Resolution

  • At the very least, you’ll be looking for a 24 Bit / 96 kHz for the best recording quality. This does encompass the majority of USB audio interfaces, but extremely cheap options sometimes use lower resolutions.

Portability

  • If you choose a USB audio interface, it’s a given that it will be quite lightweight, as USB can only power relatively small items. Choosing one that’s also got a few tank-like qualities will help keep it working through whatever bumps and knocks it takes on the road.

Input and output

  • For recording needs, 2 combo XLR+¼” inputs will suffice, especially if they provide phantom power. The USB connections will need to be 2.0, but as less and less computers are starting to phase these out in favour of 3.0, it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for these in the future.

Whilst we're on the topic of home recording, check out these excellent articles on MIDI Keyboard Controllers and MIDI Drum Pad Controllers here!

Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...

5 Best USB Audio Interfaces ​

1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Click to learn more / buy from Amazon

A 2 in, 2 out USB audio interface that uses combination inputs on the front with switches for each that allow you to use it with all sorts of equipment.

  • Has two combination inputs that supply phantom power, allowing you to use a variety of instruments as well as mics
  • Works with both Windows and Mac OS, and comes with Ableton and Red 2 & 3 Plug-in Suite software
  • Easy monitoring via two halo light indicators around the gain knobs plus direct monitoring through headphones
  • As a 2 in, 2 out audio interface it’s applications are limited in scope
  • The USB connection is 2.0, dragging behind the much faster 3.0
  • No MIDI connections

Let's take a look at this product...


2. M-Audio M-Track Plus Mk2

M-Audio-M-Track-Plus-Mk2

Click to learn more / buy from Amazon

In many ways this is identical to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, the main difference between the two is the bundled software and the more useful design of indicator lights for monitoring purposes.

  • Packaged with Ableton, Cubase LE and Waves Plug-in
  • Two combination inputs with phantom power
  • Two sets of LED lights for monitoring each channel separately
  • Uses USB 2.0 instead of the superior 3.0
  • Drivers can be tricky to get working correctly

Let's take a look at this product...


3. Roland Tri Capture

Roland Tri Capture

Click to learn more / buy from Amazon

As the name suggests, the Roland Tri Capture supports three inputs. Unlike the previous two models, they are not combination inputs, making it both more and less flexible depending on your needs.

  • Has dedicated mic, guitar and aux inputs with various settings for each
  • Multiple recording modes
  • Small, lightweight design
  • As each of the inputs are different, you won’t be able to use it to record two mics that require phantom power at once
  • Not as rugged as many other USB audio interfaces, making it better suited for use at home
  • Lacks the larger array of bundled softwares

Let's take a look at this product...


4. Alesis Core 1

Alesis Core 1

Click to learn more / buy from Amazon

If you need a budget friendly, no frills USB Audio interface, the Alesis Core 1 is a viable option that also comes with the Cubase LE software.

  • Has a combo XLR and ¼” input
  • Extremely compact design
  • Guitar / Line level switch allowing it to be used with guitar and bass equally well
  • Can’t record more than one track at a time
  • Doesn’t supply phantom power
  • Bit Depth Resolution is only 16bit/48Khz

Let's take a look at this product...


5. Tascam US-2x2

Tascam US-2x2

Click to learn more / buy from Amazon

One of the most best USB audio interfaces thanks to being very user friendly and having high audio recording quality.

  • Good driver design makes it easy to plug and play with everything from a windows PC to an iPad
  • Two combo inputs
  • Angled chassis for easier use
  • Audio output separates each channel into left and right automatically, rather than equally distributing them across headphones
  • The included audio software is extremely stripped down, and requires upgrading to the full versions for anything more than hobby use

Let's take a look at this product...


So what are the best USB Audio Interfaces?

Of the best USB Audio Interfaces our choice is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The large halo indicators make monitoring easy, and it offers most of the features as all other comparably priced USB audio interfaces too.

The Roland Tri Capture, despite having an extra input, is much more situational than the 2 input models as it lacks the combo configuration - which could make it more or less useful for you depending on your needs.

The only one on this list that we would usually not bother with is the Alesis Core 1. However, if you only need something for recording vocals and have a mic that doesn’t require phantom power, then it’s probably one of the most useful options. Likewise, if you only need to record a single instrument such as a guitar or bass, it can be a pretty good budget friendly option.​

Featured image source: Wolfgang LonienCC BY-SA 2.0

Image Credits:​

https://uk.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i2

http://www.m-audio.com/products/view/m-track-plus-mkii

https://www.roland.com/us/products/tri-capture/

http://www.alesis.com/products/legacy/core-1

http://tascam.com/product/us-2x2/images/​

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