7 Best Budget Audio Interface in 2024

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Best Budget Audio Interfaces

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With so many great options on the market, it can be challenging to pick the right interface, especially on a tight budget.

We’ve scoured the market for you and hand-picked the best 7 audio interfaces from the industry’s leading audio equipment manufacturers, taking into account sound quality, versatility, durability, ease of use, and value for money without sacrificing quality. We have also included a buying guide to help you know the exact specs to look for when browsing for a budget interface.

So, whether you’re a musician, podcaster, or streamer, get ready to upgrade your audio setup and discover the best budget audio interfaces in 2023, starting with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen, which is one of the world’s most loved and popular interfaces due to its excellent sound quality and affordable price.

7 Best Budget Audio Interface

1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

Due to its outstanding sound quality, ease of use, and affordability, the Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen by Focusrite has been the company’s top seller and go-to option for many musicians and artists looking to upgrade their home studio.

Main features/specifications:

  • 24-bit/192 kHz A/D and D/A conversion for optimal performance and crystal-clear sound.
  • Two award-winning, Focusrite preamps with “Air mode”, which simulates the company’s legendary ISA console transformer.
  • Super-low latency for a smooth and quick workflow.
  • 1 Stereo headphone output to privately enjoy your music.
  • 2 XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z) analog inputs and 2 1/4″ TRS analog outputs.
  • Exclusive software bundle including Antares Auto-Tune, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, and many more.

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Great build quality.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Exclusive software bundle.
  • Easy to use.
  • Super low latency.
  • Focusrite AIR mode.
  • Powerful and pristine sound.
  • Easy connectivity.

Cons:

  • No MIDI I/O.
  • Doesn’t support ADAT and S/PDIF

Compared to many other audio interfaces in the same price range, the sound quality and functionality of this one are far greater. Setup is a breeze, it is highly versatile and is guaranteed to deliver pristine and powerful sound.

2. Universal Audio Volt 2

The Volt series is an affordable yet high-quality audio interface series from Universal Audio that is designed for fresh music producers or content creators looking for an impressive yet affordable audio interface.

Main features/specifications:

  • 24-bit/192 kHz A/D and D/A conversion for optimal performance and crystal-clear sound.
  • Two preamps.
  • Tube emulation circuitry that offers a full, rich sound.
  • Vintage Mic Preamp Mode.
  • Nearly zero latency and distortion.
  • MIDI I/O for your controllers and synths.
  • 1 Stereo headphone output to privately enjoy your music.
  • 2 XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/instrument) analog inputs and 2 1/4″ (L/R) analog outputs.
  • Software bundle for Mac and PC, including Melodyne Essential, Virtual Drummer DEEP, and many more.

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Nearly zero latency.
  • Powerful and pristine sound.
  • Easy to use.
  • Great all-metal build quality.
  • Industrial, vintage design.
  • Compact and lightweight.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support ADAT and S/PDIF.
  • Not compatible with UAD’S DAW “LUNA.”

Universal Audio is known for creating some of the best audio interfaces in the industry. And the Volt 2 is certainly proof of that. From high-quality converters that provide a transparent sound to robust build quality and compact size, the Volt 2 has definitely earned its spot on our list today.

3. PreSonus Studio 24c

If you’re a musician, producer, or content creator on a tight budget but still want professional-grade sound and functionality, the Studio 24c from PreSonus is a great option.

Main features/specifications:

  • 24-bit/192 kHz A/D and D/A conversion for optimal performance and crystal-clear sound.
  • Two XMAX-L solid-state preamps.
  • USB-C connectivity for easy plug-and-play on your Mac or PC.
  • MIDI I/O for your controllers.
  • 1 Stereo headphone output to privately enjoy your music.
  • 2 XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z) analog inputs. 2 1/4″ analog outputs.
  • Low latency and distortion.
  • PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW and Studio Magic plug-in suite included.

Pros:

  • Good value for money.
  • Robust build quality.
  • Powerful and pristine sound.
  • Compact and portable.
  • Nearly zero latency and distortion.
  • Front-panel metering in real-time.
  • Easy to use.
  • Easy connectivity.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support ADAT and S/PDIF.
  • Headphone port is in the back of the interface.
  • The knobs are jammed together.

The PreSonus Studio 24c is a great-sounding audio interface that is also very portable and lightweight, allowing you to record sessions anywhere you choose. It provides a top-notch, clear sound that is more than enough for use in home studio setups, and it’s packed with useful features that would appeal to aspiring music producers and musicians.

4. Audient iD4 MkII

The Audient iD4 MKII, a successor to the original Audient iD4, is a simple yet high-performance audio interface with a powerful Class-A preamp that is excellent for podcasting, gaming, and music production.

Main features/specifications:

  • 24-bit/96 kHz A/D and D/A conversion for optimal performance and crystal-clear sound.
  • 1 Audient Class-A console preamp.
  • Ultra-low latency and distortion.
  • USB-C connectivity for easy plug-and-play on your Mac, PC, and iOS.
  • 1 Stereo headphone output to privately enjoy your music.
  • 1 JFET DI input.
  • 1 1/4″ (instrument) and 1 XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line) analog inputs. 2 1/4″ (L/R) analog outputs.
  • Loopback function.
  • Exclusive software bundle including ARC software suite, Cubase LE, and many more.
  • An all-metal body that protects the interface from damage.

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Great build quality.
  • Compact design.
  • Easy to use.
  • Super low latency.
  • Powerful and pristine sound.
  • Easy connectivity.

Cons:

  • No MIDI I/O.
  • Doesn’t support ADAT and S/PDIF.
  • Could be too basic for some.

The Audient iD4 MKII is a well-built, easy-to-use, excellent audio interface with a sleek and compact design that delivers clean, transparent, and detailed sound, making it ideal for recording, mixing, and mastering.

5. M-Audio AIR 192|4

The M-Audio AIR 192|4 represents the entry-level option in the M-Audio AIR line. It’s a powerful yet affordable USB audio interface that delivers pristine sound quality, low latency, and a range of features, making it a perfect choice for home studio setups.

Main features/specifications:

  • 24-bit/192 kHz A/D and D/A conversion for optimal performance and crystal-clear sound.
  • Two Transparent Crystal™ preamps.
  • 1 XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line) and 1 1/4″ (Hi-Z) analog inputs. 2 1/4″ (L/R) analog outputs.
  • Low latency.
  • USB-C connectivity for easy plug-and-play on your PC and MAC.
  • 1 Stereo headphone output to privately enjoy your music.
  • 48V of phantom power. (Selectable On/Off)
  • VU LED meters.
  • Software bundle including Ableton Live Lite and 80 effect plug-ins from Air, and many more.

Pros:

  • Good value for money.
  • Robust build quality.
  • Powerful preamps that deliver pristine sound.
  • Front-panel metering.
  • Easy to use.
  • Easy connectivity.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support MIDI, ADAT, and S/PDIF.

The M-Audio AIR 192|4 is another fantastic and intuitive audio interface that delivers high-quality sound and features at an affordable price. Its Crystal preamps and premium converters make the 192|4 a reliable and easy-to-use choice for musicians and content creators on a budget.

6. Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD

The Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD is an impressive audio interface at a reasonable price, considering it produces high-quality audio and is versatile in a small package. It’s also compatible with most DAWs and is pretty easy to set up.

Main features/specifications:

  • 24-bit/192 kHz A/D and D/A conversion for optimal performance and crystal-clear sound.
  • Two world-class Midas-designed preamps.
  • 2 XLR/TRS Combo and 2 1/4″ (Insert) analog inputs. 2 Stereo and 2 1/4″ analog outputs.
  • Low latency.
  • USB-C connectivity for easy plug-and-play on your PC and MAC.
  • 1 Stereo headphone output to privately enjoy your music.
  • MIDI I/O for your controllers and synths.
  • 48V of phantom power. (Selectable On/Off)

Pros:

  • Good value for money.
  • Solid build quality.
  • Powerful preamps that deliver pristine sound.
  • Easy to use.
  • Easy connectivity.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support ADAT and S/PDIF.
  • A bit limited with no extra features like free plugins or access to DAWs.

The U-Phoria UMC204HD is yet another great audio interface by Behringer topping our list with its dependable performance, reasonable price, lightweight design, and top-notch sound quality thanks to its MIDAS preamps and 24-bit/192kHz resolution. It is an excellent choice for home studio setups.

7. Native Instruments KOMPLETE AUDIO 2

If you’re a musician or songwriter looking to record your vocals or instruments and explore your creative potential, go no further than the KOMPLETE AUDIO 2 from Native Instruments.

Main features/specifications:

  • 24-bit/192 kHz A/D and D/A conversion for optimal performance and crystal-clear sound.
  • USB-C connectivity for easy plug-and-play on your Mac or PC.
  • Two high-quality preamps.
  • Nearly zero latency and distortion.
  • 2 XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z) analog inputs. 2 1/4″ TRS analog outputs.
  • 1 Stereo headphone output to privately enjoy your music.
  • 48V of phantom power.
  • Direct Monitoring.
  • LED VU-meters on the top panel.
  • Included software package. (Komplete Start, MASCHINE Essentials, Ableton Live 11 lite, and many more.)

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Great build quality.
  • Lightweight.
  • Powerful preamps that deliver pristine sound.
  • Super low latency and distortion.
  • Easy to use.
  • Easy connectivity.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support MIDI, ADAT, and SPDIF.

The KOMPLETE AUDIO 2 from Native Instruments is a step up from the AUDIO 1 in terms of features and price, making it a great option for beginners. Even though both interfaces are excellent, you may want to consider buying the AUDIO 2 for a small extra fee to have access to more features.

Buying Guide

There are a few key factors to consider while shopping for a budget audio interface. You have to check the interface’s compatibility with your operating system and DAW, the number of inputs and outputs, its preamps and audio sampling rate, and of course, durability and price. So let’s explore how to select your perfect interface.

Compatibility

To make sure your audio interface is compatible with your computer’s operating system (Windows or macOS) and DAW, you must review the system requirements on the manufacturer’s website, as well as the connection type, ports, and cables on both your computer and audio interface.

Once you’ve found the interface that’s ideal for your system and bought it, ensure that the most recent drivers are compatible with your computer’s operating system and DAW by downloading and installing them from the manufacturer’s website.

Number of Inputs and Outputs

An audio interface’s versatility and functionality are mostly determined by its number of inputs and outputs. The interface’s inputs let you plug in instruments and microphones, while its outputs let you connect it to playback devices like speakers and headphones.

So if you want to record a band with many instruments, look for an audio interface with several inputs and outputs that allow the simultaneous recording and playback of several audio sources. The number of inputs needed is based on the total number of devices (instruments, microphones, controllers, etc.) that will be connected to the interface at once. (A minimum of 6 inputs is ideal.)

However, 2 inputs can be plenty for a bedroom producer who plans to utilize their audio interface to make music with the help of plugins and VSTs.

Preamps

Investing in an audio interface with a high-quality preamp (or preamps) is essential for creating studio-quality recordings. Preamplifiers are a key component of any audio interface since their job is to boost the low-level signals from microphones, instruments, and other audio sources to line-level signals required for recording or processing.

While shopping for an audio interface, it is crucial to remember that the preamp has a major influence on the final recording quality.

A high-quality preamp will boost the signal without distorting it in any way while retaining the integrity of the original source.

Although higher-end interfaces often have superior preamps, it is possible to find affordable options that provide a decent preamp that delivers detailed and transparent sound.

Bitrate and Audio Resolution

When discussing audio quality, bitrate refers to the number of bits processed per second. The bit depth and sample rate of the audio interface are typically used as indicators of audio resolution. Increasing the number of bits utilized to represent an audio signal improves the dynamic range and accuracy of the original recording.

So it’s best to look for an audio interface that supports up to 24 bit/192kHz if you want high-quality and detailed recordings. While shopping for low-cost audio interfaces, you may come across models with bitrates of 24 bit/96kHz or even 24 bit/48kHz.

However, if you can, try to go for an interface that runs at 24-bit/192kHz for better-quality audio.

Durability and Portability

Are you taking your audio interface on tour with you? or is it staying on your desk in your home or recording studio? While shopping for an audio interface, you must think about your own needs and how you’re planning to use your interface.

Performers and producers who are always on the move, like musicians who play live shows all the time, benefit greatly from portable and durable equipment, as portable interfaces can be easily moved to new locations and set up with minimal effort, while durable audio interfaces can take repeated beatings without breaking down, and they’re less likely to break down permanently after being used frequently. So it’s crucial to go for a compact, durable, and portable audio interface if you’re planning to be on the move.

If you plan on using the interface in a studio environment, durability may be more important than portability. Look for an audio interface with a solid build quality, preferably metal instead of cheap plastic, and pay less attention to the size and weight.

FAQs

Which audio interface is best?

The seven options we highlighted today are some of the best budget audio interfaces available today. However, if money is no object, you can always choose the more advanced, more feature-rich variants of each interface we mentioned or the more expensive series. For example, Universal Audio's Apollo series is a slightly better alternative to their Volt series.

What is the easiest audio interface to use?

Focusrite's Scarlett Solo, Audient's iD4, Universal Audio's Volt 1, and many more are just a few examples of user-friendly interfaces on the market. However, don't let the complexity of a high-end, advanced audio interface overwhelm you, as learning how to use any interface takes no more than a few hours.

What is the difference between USB, Thunderbolt, and FireWire interfaces?

USB is the most common connector type on interfaces, with speeds up to 5Gbps (USB 3.) Thunderbolt is faster, supporting high-end interfaces with data transfer rates of up to 40Gbps. FireWire is older and less common but can still be found on some interfaces, offering speeds up to 800Mbps.

Conclusion

We hope our comprehensive list of the seven best budget audio interfaces and detailed buying guide has provided you with enough valuable information to help you purchase the perfect audio interface best suited for your needs.

If you want your music or content to sound professional, investing in a good audio interface is a must. But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune to get the best equipment. You can still find affordable yet high-quality equipment that will upgrade your sound setup.

All of the audio interfaces we’ve highlighted provide excellent bang for the buck with features such as high-quality preamps, ease of use, reliability, and durability. And they are all guaranteed to deliver the best results. So feel free to pick any of the audio interfaces we mentioned, and we promise you won’t be disappointed.

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