Best Audio Interface for 2019 [Guide]

Best Audio Interface

Do you need to record into your computer?

But you don’t know exactly what you need to get the job done…

Here’s what I advise:

Don’t buy what you don’t need!!

You want the best audio interface for your project studio…period!!!

Although an high-end audio interface boast impressive capabilities,

it doesn’t mean that your sound will be equally impressive.

I’m just going to be writing about the best ten of them.

Any of these audio units have their own charm, and all of them are of high quality sound and analogue circuitry.

1

What is an audio interface?

First of all…

What’s the difference between a sound card and an audio interface?

Well, a sound card is only used on onboard computer chips and internal cards can be connected for example to a PCI-slot.

When talking about external sound cards it’s usually referring to audio interfaces.

Besides your computer and DAW the audio interface functions at the heart of your home recording studio.

It’s primary function is to translate analog signals to digital signals.

Thus the quality of your recording is heavily depended upon the quality of the chips within the interface.

2

Types of Connections

It comes down to what you are going to use it for.

To record a signal, you need an input.

And if you want to record a microphone, you will need an input with a preamp.

To record instruments, you will need a dedicated instrument input.

However..

You can choose an audio interface with only line signal inputs (line-in and line-out) but then you will have to invest in an external preamp and/or a direct input box.

If your working with MIDI you would probably want to have MIDI-I/O.

Most of the interfaces today offer these already.

It’s good to know that most MIDI-controllers can be connected through USB.

When you have determined how much inputs and outputs you need it’s time to look at another factor, mainly the converters.

The converters manage the quality of the recordings.

Converters are electronic components that are responsible of converting analog audio to digital signals (AD-DA circuits).

There are 3 ways a computer can be connected to an audio interface:

  1. Internal sound card trough PCI(e)
  2. A Firewire Interface (external) and a…
  3. USB interface (external)

3

Price, Quality and Quantity

“Should It Be Cheap Or Should It Be Expensive?”

High-end interfaces often have more ins and outs then low-budget interfaces.

Usually these high end products also have better microphone preamps and dedicated internal routing capabilities.

When you’re a mobile recorder/producer you will probably won’t have the need for all those inputs and outputs.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a high-end product that specifies your needs.

These specifications are the ones to look at when you’re deciding to buy your audio interface:

  • analog I/O
  • digital I/O (ADAT 8: Channel digital audio & S/PDIF: Digital Stereo )
  • instrument inputs with High-Z
  • microphone inputs with phantom power (48+ volt)
  • MIDI I/O
  • USB, firewire, thunderbolt connections
  • headphone monitor outputs
  • wordclock I/O
  • Windows or Mac (depending on the unit)
  • Compatibility with your DAW (again, this is very important)

Let’s have a breakdown of what you’re missing out when you buy a cheap one:

  • a great interface build (possibly loose inputs, knobs. Plastic chassis, poor ergonomic design, portability)
  • no independent DSP (for VSTi use. Essential for bedroom producers) which would kill your CPU if it’s weak as soon as possible.
  • More clutter at home (expensive AI’s are huge and occupy more space)
  • Expandability (limited channels)

But if you’re buying something expensive, you also miss out on:

  • Paying less (for what you really need especially if you couldn’t maximize your equipment)
  • portability (some large rack interfaces are not for the frequently-traveling audio engineer)
  • low maintenance (you’ve got tubes to take care of. Clean your interface regularly.)
  • Poor quality sound (you will always record at 24bit rates and you’ll feel your CPU run hot, but you get a decent sound!)

4

DAW Compatibility

Now you’ve got a great audio interface.

You immediately bought that little Focusrite interface and you couldn’t stop shaking.

Then you load your DAW and everything seems to load fine.

But you couldn’t find the right driver to make your interface work for you.

That’s a big problem. But that can be fixed with a little research.

However, the point is, if your DAW does not agree with your audio interface, you could see that your audio interface is a huge waste of money.

Always make sure that your DAW can work with your Audio Interface.

I repeat, make sure that it’s as compatible as food to your mouth when you buy that audio interface.

Especially if you’re buying expensive equipment because you don’t want to regret making a poor investment and having a difficult time reselling incompatible equipment.

5

Interface Connectors

Apple has Thunderbolt, a 30-pin connector that is the equivalent of USB.

Meanwhile, Windows will always have USB.

Apple said it is limited to the 5-pin that micro USBs (the same size as Thunderbolt) have and find larger USB plugs to be quite bulky for its taste.

Thunderbolt was specifically designed to carry “audio and transmit and receive”, meaning it intends to cut all latency introduced by the universal Serial Bus plugs because they have to go through so much information before they can process it.

The ability of audio interfaces to use DSP technology as well as sync VSTi recordings through a line-in instrument effectively is due to TB, which is why plenty of AI manufacturers try to go for a Macintosh approach to things.

TB allows transmission of video signals, not just charge and synchronize, which the USB 2.0 is capable of.

While Windows DAW’s have delay compensation and latency modes.

But these aren’t enough to resolve the bigger issue at hand.

6

Outputs Explained

Cheaper audio interfaces may only have four inputs and about two outputs, which usually go straight to your monitors.

Meanwhile, expensive audio interfaces can have multiple input/output for simultaneous recording.

Expensive interfaces, usually found in bigger studios where a single-shot recording is often likely, will have more features.

It would often have its own DSP for audio processing even before the audio reaches the DAW.

These input/output may be limited in number because they may have their own tube preamps, which are not cheap to manufacture.

Hi-Z stands for high impedance and refers to a max signal of 500 ohms.

Which is good for electric guitars and bass guitars.

Phantom Power is used for regular XLR cables which delivers 48+volt to for example a condenser microphone.

Some interfaces offer phantom power that can be switched on and off different input channels.

Your choice of audio interfaces will depend on what you need to record, which simultaneous recordings you need so that you know how many input/output you will need.

7

What about the Form Factor

I won’t be a hypocrite.

The size of the audio interface I need depends on what need I have for it.

For example, a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is useful for me when I’m traveling with my laptop.

I’d say people who love traveling and are creating pod casts would benefit from using a Focusrite interface rather than going with an eight-channel DSP rich interface.

Form factor is important for me as it will indicate portability.

The heavier the device is for me, the more I dislike it if I’m going out.

In my home recording studio, however, the heavier the better.

Part of the form factor for audio interfaces include the connectors and where they are located.

For example, I’d hate it when the master volume settings are located behind the unit when all inputs and outputs are out front for smaller units.

8

What Professional Interfaces Have To Offer

You’ve probably come across famous videos of audio interfaces claiming that they’re the best. Immediately, we ogle towards the screen.

Well, I remember myself doing that when I saw trials on the i-net of some artists using the Avid Fast Track One.

It was simply amazing, the way they make it look easy to operate an interface.

Well, not that it’s difficult, but it’s not all the time that the latency will work for you, or the audio is thoroughly ‘clean’ with its signal or that your guitar won’t have noise when you run it through an amp VST.

You’ll be facing these troubles. But first.

9

There’s No Best Audio Interface

“You wanted to see the professional way of audio production and what professional audio interfaces could do for you”

Contrary to popular opinion, there’s no single “best” audio interface, not even for professional-level audio interfaces.

There are only ones that fail their purpose either by having some jitters or they have workflow troubles.

People often rate down certain audio interfaces in the market because they did not spend enough time to learn about its architecture.

If one spent much time reading the manual and experimenting, they would do a fine job with almost any audio interface.

For example, you might have been using FireWire, but maybe your interface works better with less and thus low latency when connected through a USB while you have delay compensation turned on.

Small tweaks like these guarantee there’s no best audio interface.

You’ll find glitches here and there, but you’ll find your own solution anyway.

10

Jitters And Little Noise Problems

Jitters and noise problems are probably the first things you’d notice with poorly-made audio interfaces, or at least ones that are cheaper, have very poor clocking.

This is when it syncs with your CPU. The more jitters, the more latency problems.

Sometimes, it causes pitch problems.

Even professional audio interfaces suffer from these troubles.

You could lose some small details in a reverb when you have heavy jitters.

Of course, these can be difficult to hear through a normal room setting where there is lots of bounce going on.

Noise is easier to detect. Equipment noise is likely caused by poor circuitry.

It might be a defect. Make sure that when you run either low budget or an high end interface with 60 channels, you look for that noise floor. Or else you make a bad investment.

Yes, even the professional interface can fall victim to this little problem.

11

Best Budget Interfaces

Antelope Discrete 8

Antelope Discrete 8

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General

Picture this.

An audio interface with a rich sound filling your studio, integrated with remote control options and real-time effects.

It has an expensive feel and the chrome knobs just draw you in.

That’s what you get with the Antelope Discrete 8.

Discrete 8 Back & Front

The vintage design infused with 26 outputs and 32 outputs is sure to hit a cord in any musicians heart.

As the name suggests, it comes with 8 console mic discreet preamps with classic gear from Lang, Gyraf Audio among others.

Features

Thanks to the FPGA technology, latency levels are almost NIL.

The front panel conveniently, allows you to control recordings and monitor levels as you perform.

With the ability to handle a dynamic range of 121 dB, the built-in FPGA FX engine will blow your mind away with stunning effects.

Antelope Discrete 8 Full Image

And the best part?

It comes with over 50 real-time effects.

The AFX collection powers the Accusonic microphone, tube FX, and guitar amp, to name just but a few.

Did I mention the Acoustically Focused Clocking?

Now get this: it’s a 64-bit, 4th generation technology applied in world-class products like Orion, Zen, and Goliath.

The world clock lets you distribute external clock signals to other digital gear connected either through S/PDIF or ADAX.

This keeps all your gear in sync.

Discreet 8 allows expert monitoring that can be expanded up to four separate mixes with talkback mic.

This allows the engineer to customize mixes for each band member.

Sounds impressive, right?

Set up presets in seconds with the volume knobs and knobs assigned for individual headphone outputs.

Pros & Cons
  • Legendary Antelope Clocking
  • 4 mixers to create individual headphone mixes
  • Has remote control feature for easy navigation
  • Comes with three world clock outputs that sync all your digital gear
  • Discrete design with 8 console transistor preamps
  • 50+ real-time effects
  • Comes with Thunderbolt and USB audio interface for use both on Mac and PC
  • Lacks proper manual
  • The power cord looks out of place
Conclusion

To sum up, the Discreet 8’s versatile monitoring and effects during mixing will surpass your expectations.

This is, hands down, an upgraded equipment that is sure to surprise any musician or engineer, considering its price range.

Steinberg UR-RT2 & UR-RT4

Steinberg UR RT2 & UR RT4

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General

Steinberg could not get enough of it, so they added two more audio-interfaces to their collection.

We have tested the most extensive one; the UR-RT4.

Steinberg UR-RT

What makes this interface so unique?

4 Rupert Neve transformer switches are attached to the front.

How wonderful is that!

When big names (Steinberg & audio legend Rupert Neve) join forces.

On the backside, we come across 2 line-inputs, and 4 line-inputs to create an external effects loop or to connect an extra headphone amplifier.

All rear panel connections are displayed on the top of the interface, so you don’t have to search for them.

With the UR-RT2 you only get two mic inputs and one headphone connection.

But the real magic of these interfaces are the Rupert-Neve transformers.

As soon as you press the transformer switches, they provide a natural saturation and harmonic enrichment (don’t activate them if you want a clean recording).

Features
  • Includes Cubase AI & Cubasis LE for I-pad
  • 4 Rupert Neve design transformers
  • 4 analog xlr combo-inputs: 2 mic/line & 2 mic/hi-Z
  • 2 headphone monitor outputs
  • MIDI-in/out
Pros & Cons
  • Rupert Neve Transformers
  • preamp sound quality
  • No-latency on internal effects
  • Phantom power (+48V) switches are located on the backside
Conclusion

The UR-R14 is a well built, very complete and good-sounding audio interface.

Are the 4 Rupert Neve transformers worth the price?

As far as I am concerned, Absolutely!

For home or project studios, the characteristic sound of a Neve console suddenly comes within reach, and now you can afford to have this quality within hands-reach.

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre

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General

What if you could get an audio interface capable of a powerful performance at an affordable price?

Focusrite Clarett USB

The Focusrite Clarett 8Pre not only delivers a rich sound at a low cost but also comes with a sleek design sporting a red front panel.

And, get this: there are 8 gain control pots placed dominantly at the front panel for easy adjustments.

You also get two headphone outputs, a monitor volume, and two headphone volumes.

You are probably wondering why this audio interface is so popular.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Features

It turns out, Focusrite considered both Mac and PC users.

The Clarett 8Pre comes with standard USB and USB-C cables.

Users looking for 8 top-notch mic preamps in a single rack won’t be disappointed.

The Input Signal Amplifier (ISA) is integrated into this piece of magical sound.

Combined with Clarett’s signature Air effect, the result is pristine vocals and guitars.

The clarity of your recordings with Clarett 8Pre USB leaves a silky air impression.

So, what’s the secret behind Clarett’s superior digital audio dominance?

It is conversion.

Clarett 8pre rear

And, if Focusrite’s 24-bit/192kHz conversion is anything to go by, you can expect the cleanest recording in and out of your DAW.

The Clarett 8Pre comes with 18 inputs and 20 audio outputs.

The rear panel supports up to 8 channel audio transfer via stereo coaxial SP/DIF and ADAT connections.

Add Word Clock input and MIDI I/O and your connectivity is covered.

Pros & Cons
  • Air feature is impressive
  • Easy to set up
  • Generous I/O giving low latency on a USB connection
  • Low distortion
  • Available for Mac and PC users
  • Mute and dim monitor controls
  • ISA concept ensures ultra-low noise
  • Comes with XLN Audio, Loopmasters, Softube, Ableton, and Focusrite software
  • It should’ve been released much sooner!
Conclusion

Clarett 8 pre

Evidently, the Clarett 8Pre’s focus was on elegance and unrivaled performance.

With a compact face, Air circuit, and a simpler routing, what more could you ask for?

Trust me, the dynamic range boost of 10dB from previous versions and ultra-low latency is sure to give other audio-interface manufacturers a run for their money.

MOTU 828es

MOTU 828es Audio Interface

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General

To be honest, no one expected this much of an improvement from MOTU.

The new release, 828s, lets you take full control with a large console-type mixing with 48 channels.

MOTU-828ES

Take it for a spin and experience pure sound with the DSP effects.

This future-proof audio interface uses the highly regarded Sabre32 DAC chipset that will give you a dynamic range of 123dB and Round Trip Latency as low as 1.6 ms.

If that doesn’t convince you to replace your current interface, the following details surely will.

Features

Apart from Thunderbolt and USB, you can use the AVB/TSN Ethernet to connect with a plethora of other devices.

The dual LCD at the front enables you to monitor input and output levels with ease.

You’ll also find XLR-1/4” combo jacks and 2 headphone jacks – each having a volume knob.

And, at the back of the unit, there’s the MIDI I/O in the form of DIN connections, S/PDF Word Clock I/O, and optical.

In addition to that, there are 8 inputs, 8 outputs, two XLR connections as the mains out, and quarter inch dedicated timecode jacks.

You can use the MOTU 828es as a standalone mixer or with a host DAW at up to 24-bit/192 kHz.

The Round Trip Latency (RTP) gives 1.6 ms over Thunderbolt and 1.9 ms over USB.

The added control room features instantly give you full control of recording sessions.

They include A/B monitor to check mixes of your connected speakers and a talk button for the built-in talkback mic.

Another interesting fact is the flexibility and convenience of the web app.

This means you can control the audio interface using any mobile device.

Pros & Cons
  • Operates in standalone mode over Wi-Fi control
  • AVB/TSN audio networking to expand to your studio needs
  • Transparent preamps
  • A foot switch for hands-free punch-in during a recording session
  • Independent 28 inputs and 32 outputs
  • Ultra-low latency
  • Universal connectivity including USB2, Thunderbolt, iOS connectivity using camera adapter, and AVB/TSN Ethernet
  • Easy one-click audio routing
  • Comes with AudioDesk workstation software for both Mac and Windows
  • The setup can be complicated for a novice
Conclusion

All in all, the touch console is what really makes controlling this audio interface fun and enjoyable.

MOTU in its signature style encased the 828s in an aluminum alloy chassis.

This makes it light to move around and durable.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII

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General

How about an audio interface that allows you to run over 90 UAD plug-ins in real time?

From tracking bass through Fairchild to tracking vocals through Studer, Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII has it all.

This 2 x 6 Thunderbolt advanced sound equipment, upgraded from a previous version, is reliable and dynamic enough to serve your studio creativity.

What’s more, it’s integrated with Unison technology that let’s you track through emulations from Manley, Neve, Fender, and Lexicon among other renowned technologies, with near-zero latency.

Features
Features

Picture an audio interface that gives you in-depth recording capabilities and sound clarity via a high dynamic range of 24-bit/192kHz audio conversion.

Now, add to that the Console software.

What you get is a world-class sonic experience.

Plus, more control and functionality options for real-time tracking and monitoring with the countless UAD Powered plugins.

The A/D and D/A conversion, redesigned for top performance, and two high-resolution Unison enabled mic preamps can only be described as “next generation.”

With Unison, choose either the Single core, Duo or Quad Core DSP acceleration.

This reconfigures the impedance of your interface through the Console software.

The result?

Solid state preamps, bass and guitar amps with gain stage sweet spots characteristics.

In terms of connectivity, Apollo Twin MKII’s front panel has a headphone output and a Hi-Z instrument input.

At the back, there are two Unison mic preamps which act as line inputs, TRS jack for monitor outs, Thunderbolt port, and ADAT optical connection.

Sounds impressive, right?

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • Redesigned with new features maintaining the same price (for the single and duo core processors)
  • There’s a new version with a quad-core processor
  • Real-time tracking and monitoring via the Unison technology
  • Absurdly high audio quality
  • A talkback mic to communicate with the musicians
  • Countless set of UAD Powered plugins
  • Thunderbolt only connection
  • Thunderbolt cable to be purchased separately
Conclusion
Conclusion

The bottom line is this. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII is the premium solution for tracking and mixing.

It’s all you’ll ever need to elevate your studio needs to professional audio production.

The level of audio quality is unrivaled and its ease-of-use, even if you’re a novice, is remarkable.

If you are looking for an audio interface with endless possibilities in your recording sessions, you’ve found your match.

Universal Audio Arrow

Universal Audio Arrow

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General

It’s not often you find an audio interface this affordable with premium features and pristine audio quality.

UAD Audio Arrow is powered by onboard UAD plugins and Thunderbolt 3, which is the world’s first, to deliver first-class audio recordings.

Now you have the power to take professional mixing sessions wherever you go.

Setting up is super easy and it gives you all the tools to get audio into and out of your DAW.

Let’s take a closer look at the technical bits.

Features
Features

To be honest, for an audio interface this size, it’s easy to dismiss the overall power output.

Thunderbolt 3 connection means you can receive power and shuttle data via the same cable.

Arrow is all about speed. And, evidently, Thunderbolt 3 is faster than Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.

It comes with two combo XLR mics and line inputs, two quarter inch master outputs, an instrument output for plugging in your guitar and one headphone output.

On the face of the Arrow, there are two level meters.

One for the headphone and monitor outputs and the other for the mic and Hi-Z instrument inputs.

Above all, this unit is equipped with a suite of classic analog plugins including Pultec EQs, Teletronix LA-2A, and Tube Preamp for vocals.

To add effects to your DAW is the Console software.

It makes it easy to adjust inputs and outputs within your computer.

The UAD plugins that come with Arrow are 14 and the unit uses a Solo Core processor to power up the plugins.

But, make no mistake, this doesn’t compromise its functionality.

And, the design couldn’t be complete without Unison technology.

Exclusive to UA, Unison gives you a direct access to the world’s famous mic preamp emulations from API and Neve, and guitar amp emulations from Marshall and Fender.

Here’s what to expect from UAD Audio Arrow.

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • A compact, light and portable design
  • Power to create quality audio on the go
  • UAD-2 plugins suite
  • Competitive price compared to the features you get
  • Near-zero latency
  • Built-in Unison technology
  • For both Mac and Window users
  • Thunderbolt 3 cable is not included
  • Your computer has to have a Thunderbolt 3 port, which is not common
Conclusion
Conclusion

With solid performance, clarity of sound, fast connectivity, and the UAD plugins that come with the UAD Audio Arrow interface, what’s stopping you from grabbing yours today?

PreSonus Quantum 2

Presonus Quantum 2

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General

As the first Thunderbolt in their line of products, PreSonus went all out to create a unit with drivers that deliver negligible latency.

It’s the perfect system for multi-tracking music production.

PreSonus Quantum 2 boasts of high speeds and outstanding audio quality thanks to Thunderbolt 2 and ADAT optical I/O.

With up to 22 inputs and 24 outputs, you can stack up to 4 Quantum 2 units for a truly monster performance.

If that doesn’t catch your eye, check out its features.

Features
Features

The Quantum 2 comes with a killer package. First off, you get Studio One Artist to get you started recording on your PC or Mac.

A free Studio Magic Plugin Suite is bundled with the package to give you a rare collection of 7 popular plugins cover including Arturia and Lexicon.

To use the Quantum, you’ll need to install the touch-friendly Universal Control software.

This gives you remote access to the system’s units.

And you know what?

With a direct-to-DAW signal path, you can achieve ultra-low latency.

You can expect a spacial dynamic range of 120 dB and an amazing conversion rate of 24-bit/192 kHz considering the low budget.

You’ll love Quantum 2’s recallable XMAX mic preamps which makes it easy to recall your gain settings saved with your projects.

And, as if that’s not all, the highly versatile XMAX preamps allow you to switch between clean, textured, and colorful tones.

Want to expand your I/O with extra preamps?

No problem. Onboard, you’ll find a pair of ADAT optical ports which allows you to connect two additional eight-channel preamps and another pair via the S/PDIF.

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • Comes with Studio One Artist DAW software compatible with both Mac and Windows PC
  • Free Studio Magic Plug-in emulations
  • Thunderbolt 2 ports allow you to easily stack up to 4 Quantums to build a massive 80 channel system
  • Near zero latency via the Thunderbolt 2 connectivity
  • Wireless control via the UC software
  • Competitive price
  • Impressive bus speeds
  • Lacks a built-in software mixer
Conclusion
Conclusion

The ability to extend I/O to meet your studio needs and save preamp gains makes the PreSonus Quantum 2 a studio centerpiece to die for.

If you’re looking for an audio interface that offers stellar performance with a remarkably low latency, then you’re in for a treat.

SPL Crimson 3

SPL Crimson 3

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General

German iconic audio equipment manufacturers, Sound Performance Lab, did it again with the Crimson 3!

This time, they went all the way to maximize the quality of recordings by integrating the Phonitor Matrix feature and the talkback mic.

If you’re a knob guy, then the Crimson 3 will grab your attention.

Presented in two colors, white and matte gray, this is a desktop unit with clear labels and phenomenal transient response.

Features
Features

So, what new additions make this system a fully-fledged recording studio?

For starters, the front panel of Crimson 3 is laid out spaciously.

On the left upper side, you have preamp controls with mic inputs 1 and 2 that provide 48V phantom power and high-pass filters.

At the center, there’s a nice array of LEDs that show Signal Present, monitors DAW return levels, show connected sources, S/PDIF digital inputs and enables the new talkback mic function.

The right-hand side gives you two rotary controls for the two headphones outputs.

Additionally, there’s a Monitor Controller and a prominent rotary labeled ‘Monitor Mix’ for playback volume from your DAW.

The Monitor Mix Control blends the recording inputs, for instance, the instrument, with digital inputs or other monitor sources, for a zero-latency monitoring while mixing.

Sporting SPL’s signature technology, Phonitor Matrix, now you can experience natural, speaker-like sounds via the headphones.

This is a cross-feed function that gives you a full spread stereo while mixing on headphones.

Even more interesting is the talkback mic that makes for easy communication between the producer and the artist.

The new Artist Mode feature automatically dims speakers A when you push the talkback button.

This makes speech audible without having to connect an external mic.

One fascinating thing to note on the Crimson 3 is that every part is labeled making it easy to know what goes where.

This includes the clear labels indicating the 7 to 60dB range on the gain control and -6 to 31dB for the instrument inputs.

Now, let’s check out some of the pros and cons of Crimson 3.

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • LEDs provide an attractive aesthetic feel
  • The desktop design is compact with a straightforward user-interface
  • Can be used as a standalone unit
  • It has two discreet mic preamps
  • The new Artist Mode functionality enables easy talkback
  • Ultra-low latency
  • Easy to install drivers
  • The size is a bit large for some users
Conclusion
Conclusion

So, is SPL Crimson 3 worth it? Absolutely.

This sturdy multi-channel audio interface comes with all the major built-in components that make it a music powerhouse for your home or postproduction studio.

12

Best Professional Audio Interfaces

RME Fireface UFX II

RME Fireface UFX II

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Product Review
General

RME Fireface UFX II audio interface offers good monitoring of sound.

It has low impedance (a measure of the resistance in audio interfaces).

It makes for a stronger signal.

Fireface UFX II RME

Consumer reviews rank this audio interface as high.

Its longevity of 20 years makes it known.

Its ease of use does not keep it from producing a high quality digital sound.

It allows those musicians early in their careers to create high quality recordings.

For commercial audio production, a good basic piece of equipment for studios.

Features
Features

ARC-USB Advanced Remote Control

For the price, the RME Fireface UFX II gives a high level of features with a high level of usability.

Its extensive connectivity gives flexibility in recordings.

Features include:

  • Transfers digital audio data and audio direct to the computer from most sources
  • 60 audio channels divided into 30 input and 30 output channels
  • USB2 connectivity
  • Can integrate with an ARC USB Advanced Remote Control
  • ADAT, AES, and SPDIF standard for recording mixing and monitoring
  • TOTALMIX FX gives unlimited routing and mixing
  • 18 output/input channels
Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • Crystal clear sound
  • Super clean recordings
  • Flexibility
  • Consumers are not pleased with the warranty. If something does go wrong, each distributor of the product implements the warranty.
Conclusion
Conclusion

RME Fireface UFC II has become a global product, so it needs a worldwide warranty.

Other than that, a good reliable product with many features that gives more than expected for its price range.

Features listed here describe just a short summary of RME Fireface UFX II capabilities.

Apogee Ensemble

Apogee Ensemble

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General

So, what makes the Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt so special?

Apogee is arguably one of the high-end manufacturers of first-class converters designed for the modern age.

Ensemble Thunderbold

Capable of adapting to every advancement in Apple computers, it sports a matte black shade that’s incorporated with buttons to give you more physical control.

The eight XLR inputs with mic preamps are an improvement of the Firewire Ensemble which used independent sockets.

It features two rotary controllers for input and output levels with bright LEDs on each.

If you think I’m exaggerating, let’s take a closer look at the details.

Features
Features

Apogee Ensemble Product

For starters, the egornomic interface gives you two Thunderbolt ports, a BNC word clock and S/PDIF connectors for Coaxial connections.

The SMUX and ADAX signals are carried via optical connectors. The logical audio interface is engineered for simplicity in operations.

The two headphone jacks on the front panel are completely independent.

The output encoder lets you adjust the main output or one of the headphone’s outputs.

Ensemble Front

And you know what?

You can mute the Main output and the headphone output by long pressing the output encoder.

The interface features two quarter-inch monitor outputs, two pairs optical outputs and outputs capable of handling 16 channels of ADAT signals with up to 48 kHz and eight channels of S/MUX signals up to 96 kHz.

Ensemble & Element

To efficiently control the Ensemble Thunderbolt, you need Apogees Maestro 2 software.

It’s free and allows you to configure all the settings and hardware inputs.

Nevertheless, the front panel gives you access to all the basic functions with an OLED display

You can use the level indicators together with the Output and Input knobs for adjusting, switching or parameter selection.

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons

If you think you’ve heard it all, there are more interesting facts:

  • High-quality converters
  • Low latency
  • Independent headphone outputs
  • Works seamlessly
  • High-quality sound
  • Speaker switching capabilities
  • Generous I/O
  • Unbelievable guitar DI inputs Cons
  • Only used on Mac
  • Lacks MIDI connectivity
  • D-sub breakout cable not included
Conclusion
Conclusion

2 Ensembles & Push Moog MacBookPro

How can you resist this top-of-the-range converter?

The Ensemble Thunderbolt tremendous preamps ensure top-level sounds for audiophile enthusiasts.

This interface is easy to use and integrates the best audio components with flexible routing via the Maestro software.

No one else combines price and quality features better than Apogee.

So, go ahead and make the switch today.

Universal Audio Apollo X8

Universal Audio Apollo X8 Audio Interface

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General

Get ready to be blown away by a sleek studio masterpiece that gives you a converter with a 7.1 surround sound mixing support.

The Universal Audio Apollo X8 now comes with more power thanks to the HEXA Core Processor.

Whether recording or mixing, the six UAD DSP chips allows running the UAD plug-ins in real time.

So, what does the Apollo X8 has to offer?

Let’s look at the features in details.

Features
Features

Eager to know Universal Audio Apollo X8’s secret?

It’s the unison technology and elite-class AD/DA audio conversion.

Integrated with 4 Unison Mic Preamps and 8 line-level inputs, there’s an improved flexibility to connect external preamps or hardware when mixing or tracking.

This next-level design of Apollo X8 provides a wide dynamic range of 129dB and -119 dB THD+N for world-class sound quality and perfect tone.

Apollo X8 offers an 8-channel ADAT with S/MUX support, a 2-channel S/PDIF I/O ports and Word clock I/O through the BNC jacks.

If you’re not yet convinced, the Thunderbolt 3 connection is surely a winner.

It offers more stability than FireWire or USB.

This gives you ultra-fast connectivity with near-zero latency.

Plus, the ability to combine up to 4 Apollos and a total of 6 UAD devices by allowing Thunderbolt users to expand their I/O and DSP.

The front panel has dedicated controls for Talkback mic, Dim or Mono functions, and Alt Speakers.

It spots dual headphone outputs and a preamp gain knob for easy adjusting and filtering.

With the UAD plug-ins, you don’t need separate racks of gear in your studio.

The UAD powered plug-ins emulate the classic audio equipment analog preamps.

The plugin bundle comes with options that allow real-time recording.

This includes Pultec EQP-1A EQ on guitars, the Fairchild 670 Compressor on drums, and Precision Reflection Equipment among others.

Keep reading for more details.

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • HEXA Core Processor means more recording horsepower whether tracking or mixing.
  • User-friendly front panel for monitoring functions
  • Professional customer support
  • 7.1 surround sound integration capabilities with selectable +24 dBu operating levels
  • Wide dynamic range with low noise levels
  • Talkback for easy communication
  • A bit pricey
Conclusion
Conclusion

If you’ve been longing to upgrade to an audio interface that can handle any project without a single hitch, Universal Audio Apollo X8 will exceed your expectations.

The ability to expand your studio needs over Thunderbolt is astounding, to say the least.

This is a high-end professional audio converter for real professionals.

Prism Sound Atlas

Prism Sound Atlas

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General

Atlas line of products has improved distinctly with the release of Prism Sound Atlas.

If you’re looking for the go-to audio interface that’s sumptuous, with high-resolution audio quality, you’ll never go wrong with this system.

What makes this interface more interesting is the focus Atlas has put into the research of audio quality conversion.

The end result is reliable and precise converters that require minimal tweaking.

Furthermore, you can expect very low noise and distortion levels.

Yearning to learn more about this state-of-the-art system? Here are the main features.

Features
Features

The inclusion of the MDIO cards enables a variety of expansion options such as connection to an alternative host.

This means you can use Pro Tools | HDX interface and AES3 multichannel.

This flexibility makes Atlas a future-proof digital interface, expected to allow other options such as Thunderbolt.

And, guess what? Prism Sound Atlas comes with Verifile.

If you’re familiar with missed or repeated samples, random clicks or channel swapping, Verifile is the solution.

It ensures reliability during high-resolution recording that is normally not easy to achieve with a computer’s OS.

The use of USB2 interface makes for easy connection for Mac, Windows, Linux among other OS.

Apart from using the front panel to configure specific settings, it comes with a Controller application to control the unit over software.

To top it off, Atlas offers a maximum recording capability of up to 18 input and output channels concurrently, including stereo headphones.

The digital I/O ports support ADAT and S/PDIF formats.

Additionally, the Prism Sound “Overkill” Limiter feature available on all analog inputs catches fast transients.

Now, let’s find out the pros and cons of Atlas

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • Compatible with Windows and Mac OS
  • It has a switchable phantom power
  • MDIO slots enable optional expansion
  • “Overkills” functionality controls signal overloads
  • Built-in sample rate conversion
  • Dedicated USB2 interface
  • 8 high-end mic preamps
  • Latency as low as 0.08 ms
  • The system can operate in standalone mode
  • LEDs for easy viewing
  • Pricey but worth every penny
Conclusion
Conclusion

Without a doubt, Prism Sound Atlas is a professional-level studio interface that provides the flexibility and configurability of its kind.

Whether you’re a musician, a sound engineer, a songwriter or vocalist, you can expect top-of-the-range audio quality with this system.

Pro Tools | HD I/O

Avid Protools HD I O

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General

You haven’t heard the real power of sound if you haven’t sampled HD I/O.

This is a premium Audio interface for Pro Tools HD systems capable of high-level performances even in the most demanding studio requirements.

Redesigned with top-of-the-line audio production in mind, Avid eliminated the need for clipping while you track hotter with the soft clip feature.

By integrating the “Curv,” you can smooth out inconsistent sound levels from incoming sources.

This is a major sonic upgrade from previous versions.

And, that’s not even half of what you can expect from this sound beast.

Features
Features

With audio fidelity that sounds out-of-the-world, the HD I/O has an extended dynamic range and unrivaled AD/DA conversion for ultra-low latency.

The HD I/O gives you three configuration options to adapt to your connection needs.

  • The HD I/O 8x8x8 is a balance of analog and digital I/O
  • The third microphoneThe HD I/O 16×16 offers maximum analog I/O
  • The HD I/O 16×16 digital gives an all-digital interface.

In addition to that, you get complete flexibility to expand the interface by installing the

  • HD I/O AD Option card that adds 8 high fidelity analog inputs
  • HD I/O DA Option for 8 more high fidelity analog outputs, and
  • HD I/O Digital Option that gives you 8 channels each of AES/EBU (192kHz single wire and dual wire) with ADAT which supports S/MUX II and IV.
Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • The HD I/O interface integrates with Pro Tools | HD for unmatched performance.
  • Extremely low latency
  • Adjust your studio needs by installing an option card
  • Comes with Curv, a built-in soft-knee limiter to smooth out irregular sounds
  • Easily sync everything with Word Clock and Loop Sync I/O
  • Audio clarity is next level with the AD/DA conversion
  • 32 4-segment LED to check your metering
  • Built-in sample rate conversion for versatile digital I/O
  • Impressively quiet
  • Up to three years of free upgrades
  • Apart from price, everything seems to work fine
Conclusion
Conclusion

Believe it or not, the Avid Pro Tools |HD I/O is a major facelift of the 192 I/O.

It overshadows most high-end audio interfaces in terms of power and pristine sound.

The sleek design and the option to expand are added advantages that you can rarely get within audio interfaces of this range.

Apogee Symphony I/O MK II

Apogee Symphony MKII Audio Interface

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General

Admittedly, Apogee Electronics has decided to give us a taste of the future with the re-designed Symphony MK II.

Don’t be fooled by its size.

The solid chassis houses the greatest AD/DA technology out there.

Mk II Pro Studio Close Up

This is a flagship audio-interface for professional engineers, songwriter, and producers.

The superior modules and the dynamic temperature control ensure nonstop marvelous sound without the fear of overheating.

Achieve connectivity through three interface platforms namely Pro Tools or Waves SoundGrid or built-in Thunderbolt.

So, what makes Symphony I/O MK II so special?

Features

Here’s the kicker.

The front panel features an intuitive touchscreen where you can access all the settings including headphone output levels, clock, and configuration settings.

Touchscreen MK II

You can virtually control every parameter or calibration via specific gestures.

The only physical buttons you can expect are the power button and a large rotary encoder placed at the center.

The Symphony MK II offers you four base configurations – 2×6, 8×8, 16×16, and 8×8 with 8 mic pre-amps that’s easy to expand to meet the needs of your studio.

And another thing, latency is at a super low 1.35mS. Combined with the flexibility of the I/O configurations, each unit can comfortably expand up to 32 channels, concurrently.

This means less rack gear with a single Symphony MK II.

The preamps use differential op-amps to control noise and distortion.

High pass filters, polarity, and phantom power allow an 85dB gain range with 1dB adjustable increments from the Maestro software.

Pros & Cons
  • It comes with AD/DA standalone converter that can be used to expand other digital gear
  • DAC technology maintains low distortion to connected headphones while producing massive amplification
  • An optimized circuit for superior bandwidth
  • Digital control allows easy access
  • 1.35mS latency
  • User-friendly touchscreen front panel
  • Setup can be expanded to suit your studio needs
  • Comes with a built-in Thunderbolt connectivity
  • Temperature controls to keep the system cool
  • Supports S/PDIF, ADAX, and SMUX
  • A high price tag
  • Only used on Mac
Conclusion

So what does this all mean?

The decision to include the touchscreen in the design was a superb idea.

The LCD panel is easy to read and the headphone amplifiers will blow you away.

The Symphony MK II combines luxury and unmatched performance to deliver clarity and astounding sound quality.

Do you think you can handle such an elegant audio interface?

I can.

Lynx Aurora (n)

Lynx Aurora (n)

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General

Lynx has been in the game for over 20 years now and one thing that sets them apart is consistency in building top-of-the-line audio converters.

Needless to say, the new Aurora(n) is no exception.

With a myriad of connections through their LSlot technology, you get plenty of connectivity options including Thunderbolt, Pro Tools | HD, USB, and Dante.

So, what does the new Aurora(n) series bring to the table?

Features
Features

Lynx Aurora(n) is a next-generation upgrade.

Integrated with SynchroLock-2 jitter reduction, the clock output is super clean.

And, for the fastest computer connection, it comes with LT-TB Thunderbolt port.

Through the front panel, you can easily access all the major controls, plus an LCD screen for stereo or multichannel metering.

There are two headphone jacks, each controlled separately.

Additionally, there are Play and Record buttons which control a built-in SD card slot.

This ensures you don’t miss any recording session!

Lynx NControl 32 Mixer

With the 32 channel mixer, you have a lot of routing and mixing options.

Think of it this way: you can pan if you select 16 mono channels.

Or you could decide to have 10 mono channels and 6 stereo channels.

Alternatively, if you select 16 stereo channels, you cannot pan.

With the LSlot technology, you can connect your Aurora(n) to Mac or Windows PC or use it as a standalone AD/DA converter via Dante, DigiLink, among other connections.

This means your system is future-proof.

A simple update of the LSlot card will bring you up to speed with the current interface.

What’s more, the unit comes with a built-in power supply and a single chassis capable of hosting up to 6 modules.

Using one such module, the AI08E, you can use a patchbay with DB25 connectors which will provide 8 line-level inputs and outputs.

Pros & Cons
Pros & Cons
  • The system delivers transparent sound with minimum hassle via the Hilo converter technology
  • Comes with a universal power supply and audiophile-grade headphone outs
  • Integrated with Lynx Studio Technology
  • Plenty of connectivity options thanks to the LSlot expansion feature
  • Recording and playback options to or from the SD card
  • Lacks manual for the Lynx software
Conclusion
Conclusion

In essence, Aurora(n) is a masterpiece of simplicity and pure sound clarity.

With pro-level transparency, zero compromises on performance, and the SD card recording function, this should be a top priority for any artist, sound engineer or musician looking for a quality audio interface.

Final Thoughts:

The creme “de la creme” is what I call these audio cards/boxes.

I am so stoked writing about these beautiful beasts. These prices are not for the faint of heart and should only be purchased if they get a special spot within your heart and life.

Unless you have endless amounts of money and you want a super toy to junk around with be my guest.

I will come and visit you! Also check out: (Top 10 best USB audio interface LOW BUDGET)

I hope you’ve got a good taste of these high-end products, and if you like it you can share or comment.