I always say that declaring a product or another to be the best of its kind is misleading. There is no such thing as a general best. The best audio interface is the one that best suits your needs and setup. However, to make this an objective evaluation we will be looking for i/o format and flexibility, A/D D/A conversion, preamp quality, connectivity, and integration. I believe these qualities factor in the most in telling how good a certain product is.
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The Best Audio Interface Under $1000
There are a lot of audio interfaces out there today. It is quite hard to sift the pile and just pick the golden apples. We tried to do this for you with this shortlist of amazing products:
Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo
- Desktop 2x6 Super Speed USB 3.0 audio interface for Windows 7/8 with world class 24 bit/192 kHz audio conversion
- Real-time UAD Processing for tracking through vintage compressors, EQ's, tape machines, mic preamps, and guitar amp plug-ins with near zero latency.
- Unison technology gives you the tone of the world's most sought-after mic preamps - including their impedance, gain stage "sweet spots", and component-level behaviors. Compatible VST, RTAS, or AAX 64 plug-in host DAW software
- Runs UAD Powered Plug-Ins via VST, RTAS, and AAX 64 i8n all major DAWS. Includes the "Real-time Analog Classics" UAD plug-in bundle. All other plug-ins are sold separately via the UA Online Store. All trademarks are property of their respective owners.
- 2 premium mic/line preamps, 2 line outs, front panel Hi-Z instrument input and headphone out, 2 digitally controlled analog monitor outs for full resolution at all listening levels, up to 8 channels of additional digital input via Optical connection
*Price from: 2022-08-19 at 10:59 EST
This compact unit is a high-end desk-sized design that empowers any home studio owner with amazing sound and quality without occupying all that precious desk space. It only has 2 mic/line combo inputs but the preamps are incredible and you get an extra high impedance line input and a total of 4 line outputs (+ 1 headphone output). It converts to digital and back at 24 bit, 192 kHz with 118 dB of dynamic range on the preamp. The big attraction is that it uses DSP cards to take the load of the CPU and do all the processing in the device itself for all the included plug-ins. S/PDIF / ADAT is also included so you can extend the number of inputs if necessary. It integrates smoothly with DAW’s and a USB version is also available on the market.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
- Pro performance with eight of the finest mic preamps – Sound better than ever with 18i20’s eight mic preamps. Achieve a brighter and a more open recording thanks to the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen. A switchable Air mode will add extra clarity to your acoustic instruments when recording with your Scarlett 18i20, replicating the revered Focusrite console.
- All the inputs and outputs you’ll ever need – Record multiple instruments at once directly through the eight available line inputs, allowing you to multi-track and capture the live performance. Enough inputs to make any space into a fully fledged recording studio. With super low latency and class-leading drivers, you will have no problems capturing audio in the moment that is well-polished and true to the original source.
- Crystal clear playback in studio quality – Get professional sounding recordings with Scarlett’s high-performance converters which enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/192kHz. Your recordings will retain all of their sonic qualities so that you can hear all the details in your track on playback.
- Get the perfect guitar take – There’s no need to sacrifice your tone with two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Capture your sound with clarity and have your audio stand out in all its glory without any unwanted clipping or distortion thanks to our Gain Halos.
- All the tools you need to start recording right, now – In the form of Hitmaker Expansion, we’ve partnered with our favourite industry partners to provide you with plenty of sound content and software so that you can create and record music right away. Create powerful guitars, luscious keys and huge drums. Get studio quality vocals with the aid of Antares Auto-Tune Access that allows natural sounding, near-real-time pitch adjustment for getting the best vocal takes.
*Price from: 2022-08-19 at 15:56 EST
The Scarlett series from Focusrite is quite amazing. So much quality for so little money – it really shows how democratized music-making has become. The build quality and the components are what you would expect to see in something that’s tagged as “professional”. All the products in the series feature 8 pristine and neutral mic preamps and up to 24 bit, 192kHz, 106 dB dynamic range digital conversion make sure that your recordings will sound off the hook. Midi, S/PDIF and ADAT i/o (8 in/ 8 out) are big pluses for this interface. It has a total of 12 outputs. (8 general + 2 headphone outputs + 2 main outputs). It integrates seamlessly with any DAW set up and it comes bundled with a whole bunch of quality plug-ins. While the first generation did not offer AAX support for the bundled plug-ins, this has changed for the second generation so Pro Tools 11+ users can take into consideration the valuable bundled plug-ins when considering a buy.
- Analog 8 in and 8 out with 8 D-Pre Class-A mic preamps supporting +48 V
- 2 pairs of ADAT optical I/O (doubles as S/PDIF) provide 16 in and 16 out (S/MUX compatible, 8 in and 8 out @ 96 kHz)
- Latency-free DSP-powered monitoring with one REV-X reverb and 8 Channel Strips with any DAW by using the latest dspMixFx technology
- Native VST 3 plug-ins of REV-X and Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip, 2 separate headphone buses with individual outputs, Word clock I/O, plus JetPLL ultra-low jitter support
- 24-bit/192 kHz support & JetPLL
*Price from: 2022-08-19 at 10:59 EST
The UR 824 is a very respectable player in the audio interface arena. It is equipped with very neutral and low noise Yamaha D-Pre mic preamps and can convert to and from digital audio at 24 bit, 192 kHz with 105 dB of dynamic range. It comes standard with 8 analog inputs and 8 outputs but you can extend that to 24 by 24 if you connect external mic preamp modules via the two pairs of ADAT i/o. On top of that, it features clocking i/o and S/PDIF (via ADAT).
The above-mentioned audio interfaces are all great options. The trick is finding out which one works best with your setup. If you have a tiny home studio you probably do not want a 2U interface eating up all your space and the UAD Apollo Twin Duo will be a far better match. Or, for example, maybe your system does not have a Thunderbolt port. It is factoring in all the details of your system and your needs that contribute the most to making the right decision.