An audio interface is a vital piece of equipment for those who are serious about making quality music. This is true whether you are a singer, guitar player, or producer. This is a device you need to put thought into before you purchase and we are here to help. We've put together our top 10 list of best audio interfaces under $500 to point you in the right direction.
If you have never had to purchase an audio interface in the past, you don’t have to worry. Our guide will make this overwhelming and confusing process all but easy. Audio interfaces come in all different sizes, price ranges, and with feature sets. So what should you get? We will help answer all those questions throughout this article. Along with our best audio interfaces under $500 list, we will provide you a buying guide at the end. This guide will let you know exactly what to look for in an audio interface.
There are some instances where audio interface comes in bundles with microphones and headphones included. But, a lot of people choose to purchase those individually, so we will only focus on the interfaces itself. So, without further ado, here are our top 10 ten picks for best audio interfaces under $500. Check them out!
The lowest priced interface on our best audio interfaces under $500 list is the IK Multimedia AXE I/O Solo. This is considered one of the best audio interfaces available for direct guitar recording. It is packed full of features such as active and passive pickup selectors, pure and JFET inputs, class A mic preamps, an AMP out for re-amping, ultra-low latency, and two individual pedal switch ports. On top of all that you get their award winning Amplitube 5 software free of charge.
The AXE I/O Solo supports up to 24-bit/192 kHz recording and has 2 inputs and 5 outputs. It has a wide frequency response which is great for instrument recording and has some of the best analog to digital converters in this price range. It also has a ultra-low noise floor which high-gain instruments will benefit from.
The Axe I/O Solo was designed and made in Italy. If the Italians can make audio interfaces half as good as their wine, then we know the Axe I/O Solo is a hidden gem. If nonetheless, it's definitely worth a look!
Universal Audio is renowned as a high-end recording studio equipment producer. But, with the bedroom studio culture’s popularity they have entered the home studio sphere in the past years. This is why they their home studio catalog of products has been increasing of late. One of them is the Universal Audio Volt 476 audio interface.
This state-of-the-art model comes with 24-bit/192 kHz audio converters as well as a UA 610 tube preamp built-in. It is integrated with 4-ins/4-outs, Midi in/out, monitor outs, and a single headphone out. It also comes with an onboard 1176 compressor. This is not a plugin but actually hardware built into the circuitry of the interface.
This unit is USB bus-powered so you are able to power it with your desktop or laptop. This is great if you are on the go or short on plugs. It makes mobile recording a breeze.
To address or meet your audio interface needs, you must consider the Steinberg UR-RT2. It has amazing features not seen in other audio interfaces in this price range. Features that only boutique products have which make it easy to add it to our best audio interfaces under $500 list.
What sets the UR-RT2 apart from its competition is its integration of high-quality D-PRE microphone preamps and switchable Rupert Neve Designs transformers. With these preamps and transformers your sound is going to be analog, warm, and rich. Being able to get anything Neve related in this price range is absolutely crazy!
The UR-RT2 boasts 24-bit/192 kHz audio converters and has 4 inputs and 2 outputs. Like all the other interfaces we've since so far it supports MIDI and has a single headphone out. It also has a built-in DSP chip guaranteeing a zero-latency monitoring experience.
Back Lion Audio originally made its reputation customizing and upgrading other manufacturers hardware. They have since then started their own line of products making hardware devices such as compressors, mic preamps, converters, and much more. Probably their most notable product is the Bluey compressor modeled after Chris Lord-Alge's Blue 1176 compressor.
The Revolution 2x2 is no exception to quality. It has some of the most high-end A/D and D/A converters you can put in a unit of this size. As in its title, the unit comes with 2 inputs and 2 outputs and supports recording up to 24-bit/192 kHz. It doesn't support MIDI so you will need an additional unit or keyboard that supports USB.
Probably the most exciting feature of this unit under-the-hood is its use of “Macro-MMC” Clocking technology. This is based off of Black Lion Audio's numerous clocking products and modifications. Macro-MMC’s circuit implementation brings converters to new levels. These levels definitely make it easy to put it on our best audio interfaces under $500 list.
Tascam is infamous in the audio recording world for their 4-track recorders to their high-end digital consoles. Their Series 208i was designed to be a flexible and compact USB interface made for on-the-go tracking. Whether you want to do live or studio recording, you can't go wrong with this little guy.
The Tascam Series 208i supports recording up to 24-bit/192 kHz. It comes with 4 inputs, 8 outputs, MIDI, ADAT optical, Word Clock, and multiple headphone connections. It comes with TASCAM's Ultra-High Definition Discrete Architecture (HDDA) which guarantees you extremely low noise when recording.
The Tascam Series 208i is the most ruggedly designed audio interface on our best audio interfaces under $500 list. If durability is your main need then this in the interface you want.
Related Article: The Top 5 Best Audio Interfaces For Podcasting In 2023
The iConnectivity AUDIO4c was designed for streaming, playing, and recording. Though it can be used as a studio interface, it is more geared toward those looking to produce great streaming audio. It is definitely one of the more unique interfaces on our best audio interfaces under $500 list.
The AUDIO4c is integrated with 3 custom-tailored modes which instantly configure the interface’s 4 XLR/ ¼ inches TRS combo analog inputs, USB-MIDI, 6 outputs, as well as DIN MIDI for your particular requirements. This 4 channel interface supports all platforms as it works great on iOS, PC, and Mac devices. It is even compatible with Android devices which is rare for an audio interface.
The AUDIO4c supports MIDI and recording up to 24-bit/96 kHz. It also has 2 host port connections which can be hooked up to multiple computers at the same time. This means two computers can share this interface at the same time which is unheard of!
Audio interfaces from PreSonus have often been considered some of the most durable out on the market. For that reason many artists, producers, and engineers choose PreSonus knowing they'll get a quality product. With that being said, the PreSonus Studio 1810c doesn't disappoint.
The Studio 1810C features a whopping 18 inputs and 8 outputs along with USB-C computer connectivity. It can even record all 18 audio inputs simultaneous which is great for tracking a full band. It features 4 XMAX mic preamps, 4 dedicated line level inputs, MIDI connections, 8 channels of ADAT Optical input, and S/PDIF inputs. It supports recording up to 24-bit/192 kHz.
The Studio 1810C is only the second audio interface on our best audio interfaces under $500 list to come with 2 headphone ports.
MOTU, known as Mark Of The Unicorn, has been one of the longest running audio companies in the business. They are known for their flagship DAW Digital Performer and a host of great audio interfaces. The MOTU 4pre is one of their best budget interfaces to date.
The MOTU 4pre can be described as convenient, simple, flexible, and portable. It supports recording up to 24-bit/96 kHz and is the only interface on our list to have a firewire connection. Now, don't worry it also has a USB connection as firewire is starting to phase out. It supports 4 inputs, 4 outputs, S/PDIF, and multiple headphone connections. The interface doesn't support any MIDI.
The MOTU 4pre also has a flexible integrated mix engine which can be controlled by an iPad App.
Audient is a UK company who was founded with the idea that everyone should be able to afford quality products. They are known for their audio hardware ranging from interfaces to mic preamps to consoles. The iD44 became an instant hit since its arrival and it's easy to see why.
The Audient iD44 has the same discrete circuit design found in the ASP8024-HE recording console. It has 4 inputs, 4 outputs, ADAT, S/PDIF, Word Clock, multiple headphone connections, and supports recording up to 24-bit/96 kHz. It has ultra-low noise and distortion touting some of the best mic preamps in this price range.
The Audient iD44 also come with an all-metal design giving it that premium feel at a budget price. It probably one of the nicest overall designed units on our best audio interfaces under $500 list.
When it comes to audio equipment in general you can't not mention the name Focusrite. They have equipment ranging from consumer all the way up to the "Red" line which is featured in Chris Lord-Alge's recording studio. The Clarett is a great mid-level line with absolutely stellar sound and the Clarett+ 2Pre is the starter model.
The Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre supports recording up to 24-bit/192 kHz and has the most transparent AD/DA converters in our list. It comes with 2 inputs, 4 outputs, ADAT optical, MIDI, and a single headphone jack. It uses the Focusrite Control Software for configuration so that you can customize your workflow.
The Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre also comes with the most worthwhile software bundle on our best audio interfaces under $500 list, with plugins from manufacturers such as Antares, Softube, XLN, and Brainworx.
As promised, here is our buying guide to accompany our best audio interfaces under $500 list. We are here to help answer your questions and give you an idea of what you should look for in an audio interface.
One of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is how many instruments do you want to record at one time. If you're a solo artist then this may not matter to you, but if you're in a band then this is something you need to think about. We always say if you are unsure it's better to error on the side of caution and go with more inputs.
All the audio interfaces on our list come with at least two inputs. That will allow you to record two instruments at one time. For example, you could record vocals and an acoustic guitar for a live or studio performance. This scenario would obviously not work well for recording a drum kit.
You also need to consider if you need MIDI connections for external control. Many modern day keyboard controllers work over USB so that may not be a concern to you. But, there are still many full-size keyboards out there that use MIDI so just be aware of what you have.
For outputs, the main thing you need to consider are your monitors and headphones. All the units in our best audio interfaces under $500 list had at least one set of stereo monitor outputs. Several of them even had additional balanced outputs that could go to a monitor station. For headphones, if you are not using a monitor station then you might to consider an interface with two separate headphone connections.
You also need to think about whether you want to expand your I/O down the road. Interfaces with ADAT and S/PDIF will give you a way to do that. If you are just looking at getting something to start out with then this may not matter to you.
The mic preamps of an audio interface have a direct correlation to the quality of it. The superiority of the preamp will determine how what your record is going to sound. A mic preamps sole job is to take a signal and increase it to line level but do it in a transparent, tasteful way.
If you plan to utilize condenser mics, then you will want the preamps on the unit to be armed with phantom power. This refers to the power transmitted down mic cables to work mics with active electronic circuitry. The power is equal to 48 volts.
If you are going to be using the interface for mostly direct recording with line-level instruments, then the sound quality of the preamps may not matter to you.
Picking a dependable audio interface should only be about inputs, outputs, and preamps. However, many are persuaded by what extras come with the interface including software. If software is important to you then we recommend to pick an interface that comes with a DAW and not just plugins. If you get a DAW, then you have something you can begin recording with for free.
Related Article: The Top 5 Best Studio Monitors On A Budget
If you utilize a computer to record, playback, and create music, then acquiring a professional quality audio interface is absolutely vital. Since an interface also enables the connection of other devices, it can be valuable in many additional ways. It is a great investment for an artist, musician, or producer no matter what level they are at.
Hopefully, buying the best audio interfaces under $500 is now easier for you with the help of this guide. With a quality product, you can worry about the music creation process and just let the equipment do its thing. Good luck in your music making journey and we looking forward to hearing what you create!
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