In this article, we are going to talk about how to find the best audio interface for beginners and what you need to look for when picking one. The device is elementary, yet complex. If you think about it, it's basically an advanced sound card that you plug into your computer.
On top of that, you get to plug in your devices, add necessary power to condenser mics, calibrate your speakers, and a lot more!
Now when you are more clear on what the interface is, let's start the list.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface For Beginners
Check out Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review.
This beginner's audio interface is so prominent in the interface market – it's close to ridiculous. These guys also make preamps, consoles, analog EQs and Channel Strips. However, if you were to google Focusrite and just go to images, 95% of the results, if not more, are going to be their Scarlett audio interfaces for beginners.
Oh yeah, they are also geniuses when it comes to marketing. They are like Apple but in the world of interfaces. Don't get me wrong – the quality is also amazing. The very first interface I've bought was the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. And it's pretty much everything you would've asked for.
Okay, let's finally talk about the product itself. Focusrite Scarlett has 4 analog inputs: 2 mic preamps with gain knobs attached, and two instrument inputs designed for your guitar. I can also note that the device has some amazing conversion and sample rates, up to 192 kHz / 24 bit. I wouldn't say it's something extraordinary, but it's definitely something great considering the price, you feel me?
With Scarlett 2i2, the latency is measured to be at around 2.74 ms, with a 32 samples buffer, and at 96 kHz. Speaking simply, it's a small bugger length. It means there is a lot of pressure on the computer processors (really depends on your PC though). Most of you won't be able to run it at 32 samples all the time.
Honestly, you only need to decrease the buffer length when recording, so it's easier to monitor with a very low, almost unnoticeable latency. In the back, you get the 1/4″ jack to plug your studio monitors in. Moreover, there is a studio headphones output with a knob to increase/decrease gain.
In your profile, you will have cool plugins and sample packs showing up once in a while. This alone actually amounts to a lot of money, if you buy all this stuff separately. They also sell bundles with microphone and headphones included, but I wouldn't suggest buying it.
You can also check out our full in-depth Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review to learn more about the portable USB audio interface.
2) PreSonus AudioBox Portable Beginner Audio Interface
This bad boy is a little cheaper than the Focusrite beginners USB audio interface, but don't let the price trick you – Audiobox is an excellent interface with a lot of features.
The sampling goes up to 96kHz, compared to 192 kHz Scarlett sampling rate limit. The resolution stays at 24 bit, which is pretty much a standard these days. You get 2 combo mic and instrument inputs, and the ability to control the gains and the mix control knob. It basically lets you control the input between the computer playback and the input signal. As a result, more comfortable monitoring experience.
It's not a big deal when you have the USB MIDI, because you can simply connect it to your PC though. It also has a 48V power supply included. It's claimed the AudioBox is zero latency! When your sample size is the lowest possible (usually 16), the lag ends up being just around 1 ms, which is pretty much unnoticeable.
I've actually watched the video of their Road Tough Test, where a truck just went over the interface. Then they went to the studio and recorded something on it, and the quality was just as good, “minus some dusty tire tracks”. I guess it just shows that its built is of high quality and durable materials. Good advertisement too, have to admit that. After you register the product, you also get a ton of plugins and samples with it (6 GB+).
3) M-Audio M-Track C-Series USB Audio Interface For Beginners
This interface has a unique design comparing to the previous two. Looking slick and professional, it's also cheaper than most beginners interfaces on the list but less durable. Therefore, M-Track isn’t a good fit for people who travel or tour often.
If you don’t travel much and spend a ton of your time making beats and recording, this M-Audio USB portable audio interface is a fantastic investment. The recording process is a breeze now! It comes with a high-quality preamp and easy to use knobs to adjust gain and switch between inputs. The design is pretty cool as well – the beginners portable audio interface definitely looks a lot more expensive than what you pay for it.
The sampling rate is at 192 kHz / 24 bit, which is the same as Scarlett 2i2. This audio interface is also “zero latency”. Most interfaces make the latency unnoticeable, so a lot of them claim to have no latency whatsoever. 1 XLR input for the microphone, one 1/4″ for your instruments recording, and 2 outputs for your studio monitors and headphones. That’s everything you’ll need to plug in all your equipment and start producing!
Also has a bunch of plugins and sample packs included. The cool thing is Xpand!2 / Mini Grand / Strike plugins. They have literally thousands of sounds for your drums and synths. It’s a pretty good add-on for the beginner audio interface at no extra cost in my opinion.
4) Alesis MultiMix Mixer with USB Audio Interface For Beginners
This is clearly something different from what you've seen on the list so far. I've decided to include this as it's a very cool mixer with a built-in audio interface for beginners. You’ll probably have to get a preamp if you plan on using one of them, but it’s a worthy investment! The price of MultiMix is actually lower than most interfaces on the list.
The signal stereo is 48 kHz, and it’s very low latency. You just plug it in with a USB cable which is the most convenient setup for most beginners! You have 2 XLR inputs for your microphone and instrument with a gain trip and complete control over high and low passes and panning.
If you ever want to use Garage Band or Beatmaker 2 on your iPhone or iPad, you can do that with MultiMix. Unlike most beginner audio interfaces, you can efficiently manage to use your iPad as your computer for music production with MultiMix. The feature is not used enough by most beginners, so be smart and don’t underestimate it. If you are ever on the road and can’t use your laptop, iPad and your mixer with a built-in audio interface for beginners will do the job just as well!
As I said in one of my articles about the best DAW software, I advise using your PC at all times when producing. The built-in effect knob is something that also caught my eye. Alesis included it's own DSP effects such as reverbs, delays, and phasers. If you are looking into adding special effects manually when recording, MiultiMix offers you a ton of phasers, reverbs, and delays with different settings based on Alesis DSP. These are all incredibly high-quality and can be used to make your track even more exciting and unique!
5) Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 Portable Beginner Audio Interface
If you are looking for quality audio interfaces, Behringer is a good music production gear brand to consider. Similar in shape and functionality to Scarlett 2i2, it comes at half the price! It’s one of the cheapest quality interfaces on the market that is worth considering if you are an aspiring musician who makes very little with his or her music.
This portable audio interface for beginners is perfect for a musician who tours or travels a lot because it’s light and incredibly durable. You can use it as your to-go interface because of how affordable and sturdy it is! You can connect any microphone you want, and it will work because of the phantom power switch that supplies condenser mics with enough power!
The Behringer audio interface for beginners lets you monitor your track without any latency, which is crucial when recording in your music studio! U-Phoria beginner audio interface works in both Windows and Mac operating systems and is compatible with every DAW on the market.
The preamp of Behringer U-Phoria is a popular MIDAS which is well-known for its highest-quality sound reproduction in every environment. It doesn’t matter if you are playing live or recording at a studio anymore! You can easily connect your studio monitors to it as well to keep the quality at maximum and mess at a minimum.
6) Universal Audio Apollo Twin DUO USB Audio Interface For Beginners
Apollo is one of the best and highest-resolution USB audio interfaces for beginners and professionals on the market. The only thing that keeps every music producer from owning one of those is the price. Of course, the portable USB audio interface also offers a ton of features that will make your life easier which its competitors lack.
It has 24 bit / 192 kHz audio conversion, and one of the highest in the industry speeds with USB 3.0 connection. Apollo’s definitely set new standards for audio interface developers with its own processor dual-Sharc. Now you are able to track and mix in real time without the need to run everything through your computer for music production.
The USB audio interface comes with a few expensive and high-quality plugins included such as Softube Amp Room, LA-2A, 610-B Tube preamp, and more! You get a sweet bang for the buck here. The audio is full resolution which means the mixing experience will become more comfortable than ever.
Microphone preamp sounds like a solid-state preamp for $500-$1000 dollars you’d find in a professional recording studio. If you don’t feel like adding a ton of gear to your recording studio setup, then you should go for all-in-one powerhouse Apollo Twin. The USB audio interface comes with a plugin for your DAW for beginners to monitor and control everything digitally. You can’t do much better than this!
7) Mackie Onyx Producer Portable Beginner Audio Interface
If you are looking for a great beginner USB audio interface for your DJ gigs and haven’t found one yet – Onyx Producer may be the one for you. It’s durable and effortless to set up and connect to your digital audio workstation. Moreover, the portable USB audio interface for beginners come with 2 highest-quality mic preamps designed by Mackie.
Onyx Producer will be an irreplaceable asset to your home music studio! If you are in need of a high-quality beginner audio interface to record up to two microphones or instruments – Onyx will go above and beyond to impress you. Each preamp has the phantom power switch that is required for most condenser microphones. On top of that, Hi-Z instrument switches will make recording session a lot easier and more flexible.
Besides the gain knobs, every audio interface for beginners offers, you are also introduced to the Mix button. With that, you’ll be able to regulate input and DAW signal resonance. If you know what you are doing, the knob will ease the music production process drastically. The developers surely overdeliver for the price.
It comes with Traction digital audio workstation which can be a great start if you haven’t picked your DAW for beginners yet. It’s intuitive and has a simplified workflow to make sure every beginner feels comfortable. Onyx Producer beginner audio interface offers zero-latency monitoring feature to make the recording sessions easier on both the music producer and the singer.
8) Avid Fast Track Duo with Pro Tools Express Audio Interface For Beginners
Pro Tools developers came up with this beginner audio interface to let every producer be able to create music on the go – even with an iPad. It’s actually been made specifically for iOS to be used with Pro Tools Express to produce, record, mix, and master on the go with your iPad.
It can also be used on your Mac or PC as well. Being created by the same company (Avid), the USB audio interface for beginners integrates the best with Pro Tools. If you are using another digital audio workstation, you’ll be fine as well. Usually, you’ll have to do the integration manually, but this wouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
This portable audio interface for beginners has an ability to record vocals and an instrument simultaneously with 2 preamps built-in. It records in 48 kHz resolution which is more than enough for most producers who are starting. It’s light and compact which means Avid Fast Track Duo will do fantastic in the studio and on-the-go!
Pro Tools Express will let you start producing right away with an easy setup, tons of built-in plugins and presets, and an intuitive workflow. If you are new to the music production game, Pro Tools Express can be one of the easiest DAWs to begin producing with.
9) Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Portable Beginner Audio Interface
This beginner's audio interface is another gem introduced to us by Native Instruments Komplete developers. Audio 6 works fantastic for music production, DJ gigs, and more! Besides a great and robust design, it also offers you an amazingly flexible and pleasant recording experience without any clicks even if you have many virtual instruments on.
Low-to-zero latency is another amazing feature that lets every producer monitor the recording which is incredibly useful when performing live. Audio 6 portable USB audio interface has 2 XLR inputs with a built-in preamp with gain knobs in both inputs. The beginners USB audio interface comes with 48V phantom power that you need to use with your condenser microphones and most DI boxes.
It comes with Cubase LE 6 that will let you start producing right away. If you are a beginner, then you don’t need all the flexibility Pro Tools or Logic offer. That’s why starting with a bundled software like Cubase LE 6 will help you learn and master the fundamentals before moving to something more complex that requires extensive knowledge.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s perfect as a DJ audio interface for beginners because of its superb audio quality, ease of setting up, and sturdiness. If you are interested in DJing, Audio 6 is also bundled with Traktor LE 2 DJ software that will be the best head start you could’ve asked for. It’s easy to use and has an intuitive workflow, so every beginner will be comfortable using Traktor LE 2 with their DJ beginner audio interface!
10) Lexicon Alpha USB Audio Interface For Beginners
If you are looking for a cheap beginner audio interface that will satisfy your needs, it’s worth your time to look at Lexicon Alpha. It’s a small interface with one XLR mic and two TRS line that will be a great addition to every bedroom music studio. It records in both 16 and 24-bit resolution and comes with a low-noise must-have preamp that will enhance your recording quality.
Weighing just over a pound, it’s perfect to travel with! The only drawback is the lack of phantom power switch, so some condenser microphones may not work with it. If you record instrument and dynamic microphones, you don’t have anything to worry about most of the time.
If you haven't picked a beginner digital audio workstation – you are in luck. Lexicon Alpha comes with Cubase LE software that will let you learn the fundamentals of how to make beats, record, mix, and master. Its intuitive workflow and wonderful VSTs for hip hop production always make sure every beginner feels comfortable producing music in the way they want.
The TRS balanced studio monitors outputs will ensure the smoothest recording monitoring experience. It works perfectly with both Windows and Mac operating systems and integrates seamlessly with any beginner DAW.
Things To Consider When Picking The Best Budget USB Audio Interface
Why do you need an audio interface in your music studio setup?
Firstly, it accepts a broader range of input types. Most of the microphones use the XLR input, rather than USB. Guitar jacks are usually 1/4″, which generally doesn’t fit into your computer. Moreover, it's a lot more convenient to have an audio interface on your table and all your devices connected to one piece of gear.
It’s so much easier to have all your wires in one place as opposed to all over the place. Moreover, there is a lot more control and flexibility that producers must crave. Control your speakers, microphones, and instruments with a slight move of your finger.
Why would you ever want it any other way?
Plus there is a very high chance your computer/laptop doesn't even have that many inputs, not mentioning the various input types. Secondly, interfaces tend to have a better and higher sound quality audio cards and preamps, comparing to the built-in sound cards you get with your computer initially. Therefore, you can expect a rapid increase in recording quality if you add a beginner USB audio interface to your music studio setup.
Lastly, there is a lot more flexibility. Interfaces come with a bunch of knobs and switches that let you control the output of the signal, increase/decrease the gain, switch between mics/instruments, and a lot more.
What's the Power Supply button?
Do You Need Power Phantom?
For most condenser microphones, you need the power supply (so-called power phantom), which I talk about a lot more in-depth in my article about the best condenser microphones for beginners. Basically, you need this electric power to charge the plate in the condenser microphone. And most interfaces have this button or switch that will let you turn the power supply on.
So even if you managed to find an XLR to USB converter, your condenser microphone wouldn't work as it needs the power supply. Hopefully, this is clear. It's a big deal to have an interface if you have the rest of the equipment ready to connect everything.
What Are Different Types Of Audio Interface?
Audio interfaces come with different connectivity types – Firewire, USB, and Thunderbolt. Most portable beginner audio interfaces come with USB connection and plug-in into your computer for music production. Thunderbolt and Firewire are more complex and advanced – they are mostly used in professional studios. Audio interfaces with such connection tend to cost more and are more complicated to connect to your DAW for beginners.
If you are a beginner and have started making music recently, portable USB audio interfaces are your best bet! If you are a musician, you should know the sizes and uses of cables. The video below will help you a ton!
Conclusion: Best Audio Interface For Beginners
Do your research and just make sure it is compatible with your DAW. Even though more than 90% of beginner audio interfaces support all of them, you can always spend 2-3 minutes to double-check at no cost to you. Also, I tried to keep this list short. I would've written a list of 20-50 best interfaces, but the more choice you have, the more frustrating it is to pick one.
It's literally up to what you are looking for in an audio interface! Hopefully, you found this article helpful! If you are looking into building your music recording studio from scratch, take a look at my overview guide of the process here.
P.S. I found the video I mentioned when talking about PreSonus, so have a look, guys!
Last update on 2021-01-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API