7 Budget Audio Interfaces in 2019

7 Budget Audio Interfaces in 2019

December 6, 2019 100 By Kailee Schamberger


I’ve got the top seven budget audio
interfaces here and I’ve tested them all. while they’re all great interfaces, they
have some pros and cons that I’m gonna cover today. I’ve run them through all
the tests – vocals, guitars, headphone levels, preamps, and even software
included. and you really should consider the plugins and software these
interfaces come with because that may be the deciding factor for you. you’ll find links to get more info and
purchase any of these audio interfaces in the video description. if you want to
hear how these interfaces sound, I have recorded vocals and guitar samples.
you’ll find them at the end of this video. if you’re new to my channel consider
subscribing for more music production tips gear reviews and some inspiration.
and if you have a question leave it in the comments below. now let’s go over
this similarities first so I don’t have to get into that later. you can buy all
of these audio interfaces for around $100 except for one of them which is
under 60. all of these are two channel interfaces meaning you have two inputs
for external recording. they all have one set of outputs which will go to your
studio speakers. you can use all of these interfaces with a microphone
even a condenser microphone because they have phantom power. and you can plug in
your guitars and external keyboards into them as well. all of these will work with
pretty much any DAW on a Mac or a PC. now note about latency. all of these had
similar latency with my macbook pro but they also feature direct monitoring
which is a great solution for dealing with latency. direct monitoring allows
you to hear at the direct input of your external sound along with the music from
your DAW so you can sing or play in time with the music.
I use my beyerdynamic headphones to test these interfaces and the model number is
DT 770 – the 250 ohm headphones, which are quieter than your average headphones. but
I still highly recommend them. so I will comment about how loud the headphone
outputs are on these interfaces. if you want to buy these headphones, and you
should, I’ll put a link in the video description. now if you don’t know how an
audio interface fits into your studio that’s okay watch my video here where I
share all the essential studio gear you need and give you some budget
recommendations. alright let’s get this started with the newest audio interface
of the seven here it’s the m-audio air 192 4. this is the most unique looking
audio interface of the bunch and you better like that because this thing has
to sit on your desk because of the design. and
it’s huge compared to the rest. the knobs are huge but they feel good. it’s got a
combo microphone and line input and a high Z input for your guitar.
I love the meters on this thing. they’re really big and easy to read. it’s got TRS
outputs in the back. the headphone output was a little quiet with my beyerdynamic
headphone.s the electric guitar I recorded sounded crisp and clear.
finally the included software is excellent. you get Ableton Live Lite, Pro
Tools First, some Avid effects and a bunch of instruments and effects from
Air. if you’re ok with the large size this is a great all-round interface. next
up is an audio interface with an excellent unique software package
it’s the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1. it’s got all the features I
covered with the m-audio interface. now it’s got a dedicated mic input and a
combo line + instrument input. the VU meters on the top are really great and I
really like the placement of the volume knob as well. the convenience of the
volume knob is really important especially if you don’t live alone or if
you’re in an apartment. you’ll be reaching for this all the time. so I love
when it’s easily accessible. the preamps on the Native Instruments were the
warmest of all the interfaces here. I mean it wasn’t overly warm but a nice
warm. the electric guitar I recorded sounded super crisp and clean. if you
like the m-audio layout this is similar in a smaller package. the included
software is Native Instruments centric but excellent. you get the Maschine
software, Monark synth, a bunch of Native Instruments effects and Ableton Live
Lite. now the only issue I have with this interface is that it’s got a
plasticky feel to it. the next audio interface is the Tascam
US 1×2. it’s certainly not as popular as the others in this roundup. but listen
up. it has some unique features. first its iOS compatible along with being
compatible with Macs and PCs. also it’s got mic and instrument inputs in the
front and then another 2 line inputs in the back. you can’t use the front and the
back ones at the same time but it is useful if you’ve got
guitar, a microphone, and a synth. because you can keep them all hooked up
at the same time and with no cable switching. you can just use a switch in
the back of the interface to choose the one you want to use. the metal body seems
strong and the knobs feel excellent. however there are a few issues. there is
no knob for mixing your direct monitoring signal with your DAWs music
which other interfaces have. it’s this knob on the Native Instruments Komplete
Audio 1. that knob is really useful when you’re recording but Tascam forces
you to do it in the software. also there are a lot of switches in the back of the
interface which is kind of annoying. so you’re constantly reaching back there.
the signal meters are kind of sparse. it lights up red if you clip but no meters
like on the m-audio and the Native Instruments. my electric guitar recording
was muffled and low. it just can’t compare to the m-audio and Native
Instruments interfaces. finally the included software isn’t as competitive
as some of the others in this roundup. it includes Cubase LE which is a
scaled-down version of the Cubase DAW. by the way if you’ve got a little extra
cash I’m gonna let you know what you can get if you spend a little more and
upgrade to the next level of audio interface. watch until the end! if you’re
finding this information useful hit the like button and don’t forget to
subscribe. alright up next I want to cover the audio interface that surprised
me the most. it’s the Presonus AUDIOBOX 96. the reason it surprised me
is because it looks and feels dated, but check this out. it has two microphone
inputs that combo as an instrument input as well. when I record it through the mic
it sounded really good – nice and flat which is great. this is also the only
audio interface in this lineup that has MIDI ins and outs which is great if you
have an old keyboard without a USB connection. the headphone output was a
little quiet on my Beyerdynamic headphones. the headphone jack is on the
back of the interface which is not optimal. the included software is
excellent. you get the Studio One DAW, and the Studio Magic package which includes
lots of great stuff like FX from BrainWorx and Output and even Arturia Analog
Lab Lite. the only things I didn’t care for are the clipping light which is not
as nice as the meter on the other interfaces. Now the knobs!
these are the worst knobs among all of these in my opinion. they feel scratchy
to the touch and the knob placement is really odd. you’ll see that the first
knob in the row actually controls the second input. why Presonus, why? but
otherwise it’s one of my favorite packages in the roundup. alright let’s
get to the cheapest audio interface in this roundup. it’s the Behringer UMC 22
you can currently find this for under 60 bucks even though it retails for $100! it has a combo mic line input and one instrument input. it’s got a
signal and clipping indicator like the Presonus, but not as nice as the meters
on the Native Instruments in M-Audio interfaces. the mic recording sounded
okay but just a little closed and tinny to me. totally fine but my least favorite.
the guitar recording was the quietest at full gain. my electric guitar sounded ok
but nowhere near the m-audio, Native Instruments, and Presonus recordings. also
this audio interface can only record up to 48 KHz which is fine for most
but others may want the option to record higher quality. I mean a few of the audio
interfaces in this roundup go up to 192 KHz. the Behringer includes Tracktion
Waveform DAW which is a really nice DAW and you get a few free effects and
instruments from Behringer. not my favorite audio interface but works just
fine. and you can’t beat the price! ok before we get to the last two I got a
little advice. I love doing these budget videos because so many of you are just
starting out with music production. and I’ve reviewed the best budget MIDI
controller keyboards. check it out in a video here. all right no interface
comparison would be complete without Focusrite. these are the best selling
budget audio interfaces on the market and for good reason. the Scarlett Solo
has a mic input and an instrument input in a metal body and a sleek design. Focusrite just recently updated the design of their Scarlett interfaces. many people
love the halo meters but I do prefer the other type. the preamps sound great and
the new Air feature gives you the sound of Focusrite’s more
expensive interfaces. this company has a great reputation and the software
doesn’t disappoint either. you get Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, and
the Focusrite collective, which gives you frequent access to free plug-ins from
different companies. it’s really nice but you may get a few more instrument
plugins right off the bat with interfaces like the Native Instruments
one. my only issue with the Focusrite interface is the knob placement. I tend
to hit my fingers against the headphone knob every time I reach for the volume.
otherwise the Focusrite physical interface is very intuitive. but you’ll
notice that the Scarlett Solo, like the Tascam and Behringer, does not include a
direct monitoring knob. finally we have the Steinberg UR12. this audio
interface comes from a well known company that makes the super popular
Cubase DAW software and you get Cubase AI with this interface. it’s got a mic input
and an instrument input and all the basic features of the other interfaces
here. now I don’t care for the single light clipping indicator which is
similar to the Tascam and Presonus. and Behringer. And it’s missing the direct
monitoring knob as well. and the phantom power switch is on the back. I was hoping
they would include more software – from a variety of companies maybe. but hey
Cubase is a pretty complete deal itself. here are some final thoughts on my
favourites. The M-Audio looks modern, great knob layout,
but it’s pretty big for just a basic audio interface. the Native Instruments
interface is super small if that’s what you need. and I love the layout and
software included. the Presonus really surprised me and is the best value for
what you get. MIDI included and great software. but it
feels very dated and I would put my money on Presonus updating this sometime
soon. finally I’ve been a Focusrite interface user for years I can attest to
its durability and longevity. if you can deal with the lack of that direct
monitoring knob, I would stand behind the Scarlett Solo. so what do you get when
you pay around $30 more to upgrade to the next level of audio interfaces? well
in most cases you just get more inputs and outputs. more inputs are helpful if
you record multiple instruments at a time or if you have a band.
I also find them useful if like me you’ve got a bunch of hardware synths and
you don’t want to keep unplugging and plugging back in your different devices.
more outputs is useful if you have multiple studio speakers or if you want
to route the audio to other external equipment. Maybe it’ll be right for you
when you decide to upgrade your studio. I hope you found this information useful.
you’ll find links to purchase any one of these audio interfaces in the video
description below. if you have any questions leave them in the comments. here are some vocals and guitars I
recorded my vocals using a Slate ML1 condenser microphone. I recorded the
guitar using a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar plugged straight into
the interfaces. this is me testing out the M-Audio 192 4. this is me testing out
the Native Instruments Komplete audio 1 this is me testing out the Tascam us 1
by 2. this is me testing out the Presonus audio box USB 96. this is me testing out
the Behringer UMC 22 .this is me testing out the Focusrite Scarlett Solo. this is
me testing out the Steinberg UR 12 keep making the music you love and hey
check out one of these videos next