Modern music production is very accessible nowadays, and any artist can produce their music at home.
As a musician and music producer, it is a good time to be alive.
Because of modern technology, anyone can produce music with just a laptop or computer (with the right specs of course).
Although you can record and program musical instruments, full tracks, and full-length albums using a computer alone, you still need other hardware if you want to record real instruments and vocals.
If you want to capture analog sound or audio tracks and store in your computer as a digital format, you will need an audio interface.
An audio interface is responsible for recording vocals and instruments and translating them into a language your computer can understand.
In other words, an audio interface is an external sound card with an analog to digital converter.
Whether you are a Mac or PC user, you will need an audio interface to capture sounds in high-quality.
You can also try your laptop's built-in mic to record vocals, but it wouldn't sound as good as using a microphone.
However, even with how surprisingly good the built-in mic is on your iPhone, using a real condenser or dynamic microphone is still the best for producing pro-quality audio tracks.
Recoding tracks using your computer's built-in soundcard is possible, but not as effective as using an external audio interface.
There are a lot of budget audio interfaces in the market, and some of them are as low as $100.
However, in this article, we will be looking at intermediate and pro-level audio interfaces that are in the $500 and under price range.
All right, let's continue!
In this price range, the technology is way more advanced.
It will open a few doors of new features you probably thought you didn’t need when you were a beginner.
If you are a beginner and reading this article, I will add some options for you on this list as well, so keep on reading.
In this article, I will show you some of the best audio interfaces you can get for under $500. The best audio interface should have:
- Multiple input options, so you can connect different devices
- Multiple types and number of outputs
- Low latency
- Built-in DSP
- USB connection
- Built-in phantom power
- Onboard effects and more….
Most items on this list are the best USB audio interfaces you can get for a very good price of $500 and below.
I curated these products myself and did some research on gear that I haven't tried yet before including them on the list.
12 Best USB Audio Interfaces Under $500 of 2021
Now, let's look at our contestants:
#1 Steinberg UR44
The Steinberg UR44 Audio Interface is one of the best choices on this list.
Since Steinberg is a company well-known for creating some of the best pro audio hardware and digital software like Cubase, the UR44 does not disappoint.
For just a little under $300, you can purchase this one of a kind audio interface and use it in your music studio to create and record tracks in the highest quality.
The UR44 features a DSP based USB audio interface that works for both studio and live recording.
It is equipped with enough input and output options that can record two to four instruments at the same time in high-quality.
It is equipped with four Class-A Yamaha D-Pre XLR mic preamps that ensure transparent and clear audio with excellent detail.
Because of its XLR Hi-Z instrument inputs, you can eliminate the use of preamp or DI units.
Aside from the two XLR inputs, it also includes two TRS 1/4″ inputs for instruments such as electric guitars, bass, or keyboards.
The internal DSP provides latency-free monitoring, and it also adds ample dynamic control.
It also comes with onboard effects such as the Yamaha REV-X reverb.
It is an excellent choice for recording guitar as well, thanks to its four built-in guitar amp models.
You get clean, crunch, lead and drive effects all in one device.
For the best audio quality, the UR44 provides 224-bit/ 192 kHz recording quality.
This audio interface works well with Cubase, but you can use it for any DAW of your choosing.
Aside from your computer, this option also works with your iPad or iPhone, and it also provides MIDI ins and outs to enjoy most MIDI controllers.
This audio interface is the best choice for solo musicians, duos, trios, and up to a four-piece rock band.
At a very affordable price, you get to enjoy the features of a professional audio interface.
#2 Mackie Onyx Artist 1.2
This next audio interface is one of the best budget-friendly audio interfaces for beginner music producers and singer/ songwriters.
It has the essential number of inputs and outputs you need to record a full album in the studio.
Mackie is becoming well-known in the pro audio and home studio industry.
Aside from audio interfaces, they also make high-quality studio monitors and mixing boards made for pro and beginner studio setups.
This audio interface is a quiet choice with less hum and feedback considering its price range.
For a little over $100, you can get started and record the songs and compositions you have piled up.
The audio quality of the Mackie Onyx Artist 1.2 is superb.
It is compatible with recording in a 24-bit/ 192 kHz quality, and it provides a headphone output, two TRS Inputs, and one XLR input with power provided for condenser microphones.
This audio interface can be monitored with zero latency thanks to its direct headphone output.
It has no internal DSP effects and dynamic controls, which is completely understandable considering its low price.
The Mackie Onyx Artist 1.2 is a budget-friendly device that is suitable for beginner singer/ songwriters and beginner record producers.
It may not have as many features and input options as the UR44, but it is perfectly suitable for people looking for an audio interface to record songs at home.
#3 Focusrite Clarett 2Pre
Focusrite is one of the most popular brands of audio interfaces.
The Clarett 2Pre makes an excellent choice for a professional USB audio interface you can get for under $500.
It might only have two channels, but each of the channels provides high-quality recording capabilities.
The reason it is a little more expensive than you would expect for just two channels is that it focuses more on sound quality than the number of inputs.
After hearing sample recordings made with this audio interface, I quickly noticed how full the audio level is, and how clear and crisp the vocals are captured with this device.
The clarity is superb and it provides one of the most exceptional audio qualities from other products on this list.
It is equipped with a preamp that provides low noise and distortion, providing exceptional clarity.
The Clarett 2Pre captures audio with the highest of quality to accurately reproduce them in the fr of audio files.
Just like most of the best audio interfaces, it has 24-bit/ 192 kHz recording, and you can produce music with low-latency for higher recording quality.
This audio interface features a headphone output, two line outputs, and a MIDI output for connecting your MIDI controller.
You can provide more inputs by purchasing a channel ADAT.
This fantastic audio interface is an excellent choice.
If you are a beginner music producer, singers, and songwriters to practice with.
It may be a little expensive, but it does provide everything you need to record any song.
#4 Tascam UH-7000
The Tascam UH-7000 is an excellent choice form home music studios.
It is a compact audio interface that provides excellent performance, making it suitable for any studio.
It costs a little under $400, but once you hear its quality, you will realize that you are getting more than what you pay for and quality doesn't come cheap.
It features two channels, an onboard DSP with little to no latency at all.
It also has onboard reverb, compression, and reverb so you don’t need to rely too much on digital software for tweaking the sound a little.
Overall, the Tascam UH-7000 provides very detailed and pristine playback.
It can be used as an audio interface or a stand-alone preamp for live shows.
I recommend this product for people looking for a low-noise, high-quality audio interface for recording music and more.
#5 Behringer U-Control UCA222
This audio interface is an ultra-compact and ultra-flexible audio interface.
It includes software bundles with over 150 virtual instruments.
It works on both Mac and PC, and with the right adapters, it is small enough so you can use it with your phone.
It features RCA inputs and outputs that are perfect for DJ turntables, cassettes players, and more.
I recommend the U-Channel UCA222 for people who want to sample vinyl or cassettes and convert them to digital copies with the use of your DAW.
#6 Roland OctaCapture
Roland is also known for creating the best musical instruments such as synthesizers and electric drums.
If you were looking for the best brand for making digital instruments, Roland stayed on top of their game for so long up until now.
The OctaCapture is one of Roland's best creations yet.
It is a top-notch audio interface created by a top-notch company, and you guessed it, this audio interface is fantastic.
It is equipped with 8 high-quality XLR inputs with built-in preamps and 8 1/4″ TRS outputs for a clearer signal going to your speakers.
For such a compact interface, the OctaCapture packs a lot of features.
One of the best features of this audio interface that is worth mentioning is the auto-sense feature that automatically sts the level for each input.
This incredible feature will save you a lot of time trying to get the best level mix.
It is equipped with DSP, reverb effects, a preamp and 40-bit processor alone, even without connecting it to your computer.
It is an excellent choice for live recording.
Overall, this audio interface is one of the most high-tech products on the list, and if you are looking for an audio interface that works great for capturing live performances, the Roland OctaCapture makes a great choice.
#7 Presonus Audiobox USB 96
The Presonus Audiobox USB 96 is an excellent high-quality compact USB audio interface for singers, songwriters, and home music producers looking for a reliable audio interface that does the job.
For a cheap audio interface, the Presonus Audiobox USB 96 features some of the best qualities that you wouldn't find in any other device in its price range.
It provides two audio channel inputs you can use simultaneously with 48-volt phantom power.
It also has two outputs you can either use for headphones or studio monitors.
It is the perfect 2-channel input and output for any home studio producer and singer-songwriter.
It is totally capable of recording any music genre at home.
For the price, you will get one of the best solo audio interfaces.
#8 Audient iD4
This next choice is made by a reputable brand.
Audient is well-known for creating massive mixing consoles that are being used in professional music studios.
They make some of the best mixing boards and microphones used in most professional studios.
Since large scale studio setups are not as widely used as before, they started to make smaller versions of their creations for anyone to get their hands on.
Their products are known for their quality, and the Audient iD4 is an excellent high-quality compact audio interface.
It is equipped with two headphone output and scroll control tech that allows you to control your DAW.
Although this model is not as widely known right now, it is one of the best choices for home recording.
This product is perfect for any singer and songwriter looking for a capable interface to record songs and full-length albums.
It is also suitable for any home music producer and beatmaker.
For something as superb and sleek looking as the iD4, the price is very affordable.
#9 Presonus Studio 1824
PreSonus is another big brand on this list of the best audio interfaces under $500.
This particular brand costs a little less than $400, but it is equipped with more than capable technology that allows you to record pristine high-quality audio tracks.
If you are a Studio One Professional user, you will be able to maximize the use of this audio interface to your advantage.
However, regardless of your DAW of choice, the Presonus Studio 1824 is still one of the best audio interfaces in the industry.
It is equipped with Excellent XMAX Class A mic preamps with phantom power that provides it with impressive audio quality.
It has a total of 18 inputs and 18 outputs, perfect for recording multiple instruments at the same time without compromising quality.
You can also pair it with your phone and use it as a wireless remote.
The Presonus Studio 1824 is an excellent audio interface for music producers, sound engineers, and performers whether you are in a live or in a studio setting.
It is an excellent all-around device for any situation.
#10 Behringer UMC22
Behringer is known for making pro audio devices at a more affordable price.
Whether you are looking for guitar effects, mixers, or microphones, Behringer makes decent quality equipment for a more affordable price.
This model provides two inputs and outputs with built-in Xenyx mic preamps and 48-volt phantom power.
Not bad for something in this price bracket.
For under $200, you can make use of one of the most affordable audio interfaces that are capable of doing the same job as other options.
However, I'm not saying it is better, but it is still pretty decent.
#11 Steinberg UR22
The Steinberg UR22 is a smaller version of the UR44 keeping some of its best features.
If you like all the advanced audio-technology of the UR44, this version has fewer channels and more compact, perfect for minimal studio setups.
It might have fewer inputs, but it is still enough to accommodate vocals and other instruments.
The internal DSP provides different effects, dynamic processing, and reduce latency.
Like the UR44, this audio interface seamlessly integrates with Cubase.
I recommend this unit to people looking for a more compact version of the UR44.
It provides the same performance and clean audio quality built in a more compact frame perfect for simple home studio setups.
#12 Tascam US-16X08
This massive audio interface and preamp has a total of 16 channel inputs and 8 outputs.
It is the perfect rack interface for professional sound engineers and music producers.
Unless you need all these inputs, it isn't necessary for beginner music producers.
However, if you are planning to learn more techniques with recording multiple inputs, you can still purchase it because it is pretty affordable for what it does.
8 of the 16 inputs feature Ultra-HDDA mic preamps with XLR connection and phantom power.
It also includes 1/4″ inputs for other instruments.
This audio interface/ preamp is one of the most affordable options considering its extensive input and output options.
Factors to Consider Before
Buying an Audio Interface
Now let's look at the things one should keep in mind before buying an audio interface:
First off, before choosing an audio interface, you must determine what you will be using it for.
If you are going to use it for recording vocals, make sure it has an XLR output and make sure it has built-in phantom power and gain settings.
Since most items on the list are excellent for vocals, you can also choose something with a built-in preamp and other parameters to have further control of the sound and levels.
If you need something for recording instruments like electric guitar and bass, make sure it has a 1/4″ input for instruments with level settings.
You don't need to worry if you choose one from the list since most of these choices are built for recording instruments and vocals.
If you will be using one for recording live shows, it is a good idea to get an audio interface with multiple input options.
You can use a mixer to extend the number of inputs, but it is better to have built-in inputs to divide each instrument into individual channels for better mixing options.
No matter what your budget is and how much you are willing to spend on an audio interface, make sure that you choose one with excellent audio quality.
For studio recording, the best quality has a 24-bit/ 192 kHz frequency.
For live shows, a suitable model should include a DSP with FX for zero-latency for accurate recording.
Audio interfaces in the $500 price range should have everything you need including the best audio quality available for recording instruments and vocals.
To get the best out of your audio quality, make sure you tune your guitar and get new strings.
For vocals, make sure you get a trusty microphone and record vocals in a room with good acoustics.
Number of Input Channels
The number of input channels matters if you are recording multiple instruments at once.
If you are a solo singer and songwriter, you can choose something with at least two inputs; one for recording vocals, and one for recording a musical instrument.
You can choose an option with multiple inputs even if you record solo, so you can configure each channel with fixed settings so that you don't need to keep changing the settings when recording different instruments.
Number of Outputs
If you are working with a sound engineer or you are producing music for someone else, it is a good idea to get an audio interface with at least two outputs for two sets of headphones.
With two headphones, you can monitor the person recording or you can have someone check your sound while you are on the recording end.
If you have already bought an audio interface that has only one output for headphones, you can always buy an extra headphone amp that provides more outputs.
You can use them to connect to your monitors and your headphones so you can keep them plugged in at the same time.
Make sure the audio interface you select has the features you need for the type of music you will be creating.
Having built-in effects and a built-in preamp can improve the audio quality significantly.
Some audio interfaces also have built-in lights that indicate levels to avoid clipping.
These types of features can be very useful to keep track of the overall sound and audio levels.
Having an audio interface with built-in level controls, EQ, gain, and other knobs can be useful for having more control over your audio.
These controls will make you rely better on your hardware instead of fixing the recording in post-production or using plugins.
The key to excellent audio quality is recording the raw tracks sound as clean as possible before you over-digitize them in the mixing stage and mastering stage.
Another important factor is latency.
Some cheap audio interfaces with low-tech drivers seem to have latency, so it is more difficult for you to record vocals and instruments with plugins and effects.
Adding effects such as pitch correction can cause latency, especially when using cheap audio interfaces.
Fortunately, if you are set on buying a $500 audio interface, you will not be running into this problem.
A person's budget will always dictate their decision in buying products.
When choosing the best audio interface under $500, make sure you set a budget before choosing the best one within your range.
If you happen to get short on the budget for the interface you need, don't settle for anything less than you need, you will regret buying something without the features you need.
You can always save up a little more rather than buying something you will regret in the future.
Yes, you can record vocals and other instruments even without an audio interface.
You can use a USB microphone for recording vocals, and you can use that same microphone to record acoustic instruments.
However, if you want to record electric guitar from the amp, you will need a dynamic microphone because they are less sensitive to hi-gain instruments.
There are some USB dynamic and condenser microphones that you can just plug into your computer and start recording.
Yes, the Apogee Jam and the iRig Mobile Audio interface are examples of audio interfaces you can use to record with your phone.
I was amazed by this technology so I did try recording using just my iPhone, and I must say, it is possible to record full-length albums with just your phone.
Aside from an audio interface, make sure you already have a capable computer with at least 8GB of RAM.
Computer recording software and digital audio workstations including the plugins can take a lot of memory.
If you have a RAM lower than 8GB, it can work, but it will crash when too many data-heavy apps are running at the same time.
You will also need a good-sounding microphone as well.
You can also record VST instruments easier if you have a MIDI keyboard, and don't forget to add DAW software and VSTs.
Having all of this hardware and software will allow you to record songs, tracks, and full-length albums, demos, or EPs.
Investing in the right audio interface for your home studio music production is essential.
It is the device that can translate audio signals into waveforms that your computer can recognize and save, which is important in most modern recording situations.
I hope this list helped you in finding the best audio interface under $500 for your studio.
Just remember to get the one you need with the right amount of inputs and controls for creating the best new tracks!
Last update on 2021-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API