The US-2x2 also has onboard MIDI support so you can plug in electronic instruments such as keyboards or drum machines without additional hardware. Audio interface manufacturers typically include software with hardware, and that selection can help to sway a decision in favor of one box over another. If you simply want to record vocals, the Icicle is an affordable way to transform any regular microphone into a USB microphone. The Blue Microphones Icicle is a no-frills interface that lets you plug in a standard microphone of your choosing and then converts analog signals to a digital format for transfer to a computer over a USB connection.
Despite being smaller, it still provides the volt phantom power output that's needed to attach condenser mics.
The Best USB Audio Interfaces for $100 or Less
One downside: As a longtime dabbler in electronic music production, I have extensive familiarity with the tools of the trade, including recording interfaces, MIDI controllers, and the other gear used in desktop studio environments. Jenece Gerber , the artist we collaborated with for our recording tests, is a professional musician, vocalist, and composer.
And the participants in our listening panel included: Michael Berk, an electronic musician and executive editor at The Wirecutter; Adam Kendall, a jazz and electronic musician with extensive studio recording experience; Phil Metzler, a multi-instrumentalist member of LA-based indie rock band Just Off Turner; and Jack Smith, an avid audiophile and producer at The Wirecutter. It also has an easy-to-use interface that lets you record live instruments and vocals via inexpensive USB microphones that plug directly into your computer. Recordings can be noisy, and you are typically limited to capturing only one instrument or vocal track at a time.
For all these reasons and more, a USB audio interface will benefit musicians looking to expand their recording capabilities.
The 5 Key Features to Look For
Many also provide onboard MIDI capability, which minimizes the hardware footprint on your desktop by using the same interface to route data from external MIDI controllers such as a keyboard or drum pad through to the recording software. Along with these basic requirements, when we surveyed the field it became clear that models capable of capturing audio at bit bit depth and a 96 kHz sampling rate have become the norm. The reason we use a rate of 44 to 48 kilohertz is that human adults are incapable of hearing higher frequencies.
We eliminated products that had received complaints in user reviews about insufficient gain input volume when using phantom power with condenser microphones. In these cases, users even described having to connect outboard microphone preamps to achieve acceptable levels. During our research, we came across models with identical features to the ones that made the cut, but that cost twice as much or more.
The main advantage seemed to be a more attractive design, along with features like multicolor LED meters for monitoring signal input levels. To evaluate their audio performance, design ergonomics, and ease of setup, I spent time with each model in my home studio, recording both vocal and electric guitar samples using GarageBand on my MacBook Pro, and Cubasis LE on my iPad. I then recorded samples of vocals and acoustic instruments—in this case, harp.
Plug straight in to record your guitar and vocal simultaneously on independent channels so they can be mixed separately.
Connect your headphones and home speakers or studio monitors, turn up the volume and totally immerse yourself in sound. The second generation Scarlett range is packed full of upgrades. New metal gain controls and a sleeker red metal chassis underscore its improved industrial design, built to go anywhere. The Scarlett range also now operates at sample rates all the way up to kHz.
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen is the most iconic of the audio interfaces - a main stay for many a recording artist or producer. This updated 2nd generation features upgraded mic preamps and super low latency making your workflow You can also opt in to their Plugin Collective.
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Its special circuitry is optimised to make the amps and effects in any guitar or music creation app sound their best. You will notice the sonic difference between JAM and other similar products immediately. Additionally the two class-A D-PRE microphone preamps offer a transparent and detailed sound perfect for capturing dynamic and natural vocal performances. Combining an extremely compact design, extraordinary build quality, full iPad connectivity and the outstanding D-PRE mic preamp, the UR12 redefines qu If you're a DJ, you'll want an audio interface that lets you cue-up tracks on headphones while the main mix plays out through your speakers.
Then there's the issue of how the interface connects to your computer. A majority of models work over USB 2, but you'll also find ThunderBolt interfaces that promise better performance but typically cost a little more.
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We're also starting to see USB-C audio interfaces coming to market. You also need to decide if you want DSP Digital Signal Processing in your interface, which will enable you to use dedicated plugins that won't place any load on your computer. Universal Audio, with its UAD products, is the undisputed king of this market, but there are other options, too.
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Form factor is a consideration, too: Audio interfaces comes in all shapes and sizes; some are designed to sit in a rack or on a desk while others can be stuffed in a laptop bag and taken anywhere. Finally, but crucially, there's the issue of price. So, there are lots of great audio interfaces, but which one you should buy depends on your requirements and budget. Launch price: USB 2 Audio resolution: However, the studio devilry is in the detail; Audient has really thought about everything with value and usability in mind, making what is a budget solution feel anything but inexpensive.
Read full review: Audient iD4. Mackie Onyx Producer 2.
USB 2 Thunderbolt also available Audio resolution: They also required a Thunderbolt-equipped computer - fine for Mac users, but not for Windows. Meanwhile the eight outputs comprise four line-level and two stereo headphone outs. The Pro Duo also feels more robust than some of its predecessors. The unit comes complete with a plethora of cabling for connecting to your devices of choice, including MIDI breakout cables. One thing we did notice was that, as the batteries ran down, the unit became less stable.
This is, of course, only a minor gripe, but if you're out and about, remember to bring spares.