5 Best Audio Interfaces on a Budget | Our Top Picks (2022)

“What’s the best audio interface I can buy for my home studio without breaking the bank?”

Whether you’re a beginner setting up your home studio, or an advanced producer looking to make some upgrades, choosing a high quality audio interface is essential.

When creating music, your audio interface will be the glue that holds everything together. Trust me, the difference using a good audio interface will make to your sound quality alone is instantly noticeable.

The main benefits of an audio interface includes:

Improved sound quality: The difference between hooking up your system through an interface as opposed to using routes like USB mics and headphone jack inputs is night and day.

Provide phantom power: Most condenser mics require phantom power, and audio interfaces can provide this through XLR connectivity.

Control and organisation: No one wants to deal with a messy, cluttered home studio, and nothing kills your creative flow like struggling to figure out if your devices are all plugged into the right place. Audio interfaces give one central “hub” for your speakers, mics, instruments and computer to all connect to.

Latency: One of the most important benefits of audio interfaces is the reduction (or even complete disappearance) of latency.


The best audio interface for your home studio: What to consider

Functionality: Inputs / Outputs

When making your decision, the main factor you should be considering is the functionality of the interface. Or rather: what you need it to do.

Some audio interfaces have a large amount of XLR inputs, 1/4 jacks and a number of other functions. Whereas others have maybe one or two XLR inputs and a very basic level of connectivity.

If you’re looking to record a full band in your home studio, you should consider options with a higher number of inputs and outputs. Think about what musical elements you’ll actually need to record simultaneously, and what connectivity options you’ll need to do so.

On the other hand, if you’re home studio is probably going to consist of just you, a MIDI keyboard and maybe even a studio mic, you can consider a lightweight, more fundamental option.

Compatibility

Please read: It is essential you consider the audio interface’s compatibility as you could end up purchasing your ideal interface, only to find out it can’t actually connect to your laptop or computer. Trust me, it happens.

There are 3 options for compatibility:

1. USB – A USB audio interface is a very standard choice and can be found on almost every PC, Mac or other computer. Many of these audio interface are USB bus-powered, so will only require the power from your laptop or computer to function. It’s still worth checking if an interface is Mac / PC compatible, but most USB audio interfaces will work for both.

2. Thunderbolt – Thunderbolt offers an incredibly fast 10Gbps connection, resulting in a much quicker transfer rate in comparison to Firewire. This connection is manufactured by Apple, so Windows devices are VERY unlikely to have thunderbolt inputs. There are certain adaptors that exist to bridge this technological gap, but from my experience they are very unreliable.

3. Firewire – Firewire Audio Interfaces have been used by professionals for years. It is another connection widely used in the Apple universe. However, recent Apple models haven’t included firewire inputs, instead opting for a Thunderbolt input. So make sure your device has firewire connectivity before purchasing an interface.


Budget

The last thing that you’ll consider is, of course…price.

Like most audio equipment, audio interfaces are available at a wide range of budgets. There are models out there anywhere from $50 to $2500. In this list I’ll mainly be including budget interfaces.

So let’s get started, here is my rundown of the best audio interfaces on the market for your home studio.



The Best Audio Interfaces on a Budget (2022)

best audio interface on a budget: 
 Scarlett 2i2

1. Focusrite Scarlett Series

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Price

From $79.99

Model shown above: Scarlett 2i2

If you’re looking a tried and tested, award-winning, highly acclaimed audio interface, you can’t go wrong with the Focusrite Scarlett Series.

These interfaces are perfect for beginners, as you get a fantastic value for money as well as a fantastic sound quality. The mic pre-amp quality is incredible, and could easily hold it’s own when compared to high-end audio interfaces.

The smaller models have a sturdy, lightweight design and have great portability. These models are also USB bus powered so can be taken anywhere with only a USB cable.

The 2nd generation of Scarlett models can record up to 24bit/192khz resolution. They also have an incredibly low latency level.

From my experience, these are the absolute best budget audio interfaces on the market for a home studio.

Compatibility for Windows / Mac.

The Line-up: Specs

Scarlett Solo

Inputs: 1 x XLR mic input with 48V phantom power and Air, 1 x balanced line/instrument input | Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ balanced line outputs, 1 x stereo headphone output

Price (Approx): $79.99Check price on Amazon here.


Scarlett 2i2

Inputs: 2 x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs with 48V phantom power and Air | Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ balanced line outputs, 1 x stereo headphone output

Price (Approx): $119.99Check price on Amazon here.


Scarlett 4i4

Inputs: 2 x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs with 48V phantom power and Air | 2 x 1/4″balanced fixed line inputs | 1 x 5-pin MIDI input | Outputs: 4 x 1/4″ balanced line outputs, 1 x stereo headphone output, 1 x 5-pin MIDI output

Price (Approx): $229.99Check price on Amazon here.


Scarlett 8i6

Inputs: 2 x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs with 48V phantom power and Air, 4 x 1/4″balanced fixed line inputs, 1 x S/PDIF digital inputs, 1 x 5-pin MIDI input | Outputs: 4 x 1/4″ balanced line outputs, 2 x stereo headphone outputs, 1 x S/PDIF digital outputs, 1 x 5-pin MIDI output

Price (Approx): $269.99Check price on Amazon here.


Focusrite do have larger, more expensive Scarlett models, but as we’re looking at budget audio interfaces, I won’t go into the specs in this article. More info can be found on the official Focusrite website here.


best audio interface on a budget: presonus

2. PreSonus Audiobox

Sound Quality

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Price

From $129.95

Model shown above: PreSonus Audiobox iOne

PreSonus AudioBox is another USB interface that is a fantastic device to explore high-resolution mobile recording on a budget.

PreSonus has an excellent reputation in the industry for audio interfaces, mixers, control surfaces and even music software. Their DAW “Studio One” is a popular choice for many music producers and engineers (this software comes included with this interface too).

The Audiobox has clean, clear, 24-bit, 96 kHz digital converters and an ultra-loud, crystal-clear headphone output so get a high quality, detailed response.

This audio interface is one of the cheapest devices on this list, meaning there are some limitations. For example, using sound inputs that are likely to go over 35 decibel of gain isn’t recommended.

Compatibility for Windows / Mac.

PreSonus Audiobox: The Specs

AudioBox iOne

Inputs: 1 mic XLR input , 1 x 1/4″balanced fixed line inputs | Outputs: 2 ¼” TRS Mains, 1 ¼“ Headphones

Price (Approx): $129.95Check price on Amazon here.


AudioBox iTwo

Inputs: 2 x combi mic/instrument/line XLR inputs | Outputs: 2 ¼” TRS Mains, 1 ¼“ Headphones

Price (Approx): $199.95Check price on Amazon here.


best audio interface on a budget: apollo twin

3. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Price

$679.00

Universal Audio Apollo Twin is an incredibly powerful, professional quality audio interface with a thunderbolt connection.

This interface has state-of-the-art converters, pre-amps and other components, and with up to 24-bit/192kHz audio recording and playback, the results are immediately obvious.

Now, you’ve probably already noticed the price. While this is probably not considered a “budget” audio interface, it’s always important to compare the cheaper models against higher-end examples. Especially considering the Apollo Twin is still one of the most popular audio interfaces for home studios.

If you have the money, this interface’s processing speed is superb and will give you a rapid, clear, zero-latency sound.

Fun fact: This interface was used to record landmark records: Kendrick Lamar’s “Damn” and Post Malone’s “Beerbongs and Bentleys”.

Does the Apollo Twin work on Windows?

Until recently, this interface was strictly Mac only. Apollo have released the UAD v9.1 driver, which introduces Windows 10 PC mixed multi-unit compatibility with all Thunderbolt-equipped Apollo interfaces. I’ve researched extensively on this update and from feedback online it seems the Windows compatibility seems to be fairly reliable.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII: The Specs
  • 2 premium Unison mic/line preamps; 2 line outputs; front-panel Hi-Z instrument input and headphone output
  • 2 digitally controlled analog monitor outputs for full resolution at all listening levels
  • Up to 8 channels of additional digital input via Optical TOSLINK connection
  • Available UAD-2 QUAD, DUO, or SOLO Core Processing for tracking through vintage compressors, EQs, tape machines, mic preamps, and guitar amp plug-ins with near-zero latency

best audio interface on a budget: kontakt audio series

4. Komplete Audio Series

Sound Quality

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Price

From $109.00

Model shown above: Komplete Audio 6

I’ve been a fanboy of Komplete products for years now. Their expansive range of VST instuments and effects are among some of my favourite virtual plugins of all time.

Which their range of audio interfaces, the key is simplicity. The Audio Series are very compact, portable and lightweight, making them ideal for travel.

A huge benefit of these interfaces is the bundled Kontakt software that comes included. For example, you get Monark, an incredibe, warm analog synth, Replika, Phasis, Maschine Essentials and Ableton Live Lite + more!

These audio interfaces come with a fantastic price tag too. As one of the cheapest audio interface options on the market, don’t expect a staggering level of efficiency or quality. But at this price range, they provide everything you need to create tracks and sound pretty damn good too.

Compatibility for Windows / Mac.

Komplete Audio Series: The Specs

Please note: There is no difference in sound quality between the different models.


Komplete Audio 1

Inputs: 1 x XLR mic in with 48V phantom power, 1x jack input with individual gain control | Outputs: Stereo RCA out, Headphone out with high power output and volume control

Price (Approx): $109.00Check price on Amazon here.


Komplete Audio 2

Inputs: 2 x combi-XLR/jack inputs with 48V phantom power and individual gain control | Outputs: Stereo jack out, Headphone out with high power output and volume control

Price (Approx): $139.00Check price on Amazon here.


Komplete Audio 6

Inputs: 2 x combo-XLR/¼” TRS line inputs with 48V phantom power, and gain control for flexible stereo recording, 2x ¼” TRS line inputs, 1x SPDIF digital stereo input (RCA) 1x MIDI in | Outputs: 4x DC coupled ¼” TRS outputs for modular control*, 1x SPDIF digital stereo output (RCA), 1x MIDI out

Price (Approx): $189.00Check price on Amazon here.


best audio interface on a budget: audient id series

5. Audient iD Series

Sound Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Value for Money

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Price

From $199.00

Model shown above: Audient iD14

Audient’s “iD Series” is a collection of USB powered audio interfaces with ultra-low latency and stunning audio quality.

At first glance, the Audient iD14 has a sleek, striking appearance. The knob layout is clean and simplistic, and the build quality feels extremely durable.

The interface also allows for great connectivity with your DAW. The interface’s volume encoder can be used as a virtual scroll wheel that allows you to adjust various parameters in your DAW or within a specific plugin.

One slight drawback of these audio interfaces is, apart from the iD4, the interfaces aren’t USB bus-powered, so require mains power. This reduces the portability and flexibility when compared to other audio interfaces.

The iD series is far from the cheapest set of audio interfaces on this list, but the sound quality is sensational.

Compatibility for Windows / Mac.

Audient iD Series: The Specs

Audient iD4

Inputs: 1 x combi-XLR/jack inputs, 1 x DI Input | Outputs: Stereo jack out, Headphone out

Price (Approx): $199.00Check price on Amazon here.


Audient iD14

Inputs: 2 x combi-XLR/jack inputs, 1 x DI Input | Outputs: Stereo jack out, Headphone out

Price (Approx): $299.00Check price on Amazon here.


There are a couple of higher versions of this product, but they fall outside of a “budget” audio interface.



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