Never have audio interfaces been so portable. In the past moving a recording rig to a new location meant a big rack with preamps and converters and whatnot but I often find myself fitting my whole recording system in a backpack. This portability is quite amazing but some manufacturers took it to the next level – from backpack-fit to pocket-fit. Combine that with the fact that a lot of products work with ultra portable devices such as smartphones and tablets and you get never before seen portability without losing quality and workflow. I have seen people with entirely tablet based recording systems – which might one day be the future.
In my books if a product is small enough to fit it in a small bag along with whatever other things you need to put the recording system together (i.e a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone) then it can be considered portable. In this article we will take a look at some of the best portable audio interfaces in 2017
What are the Best Portable Audio Interfaces?
Presonus Audiobox iOne Review
This is a very powerful little box – and quite cool looking too. You can use it at home with your PC and Mac or on the go with an iPad. It provides A/D conversion at 24 bits, 96 kHz which is pretty awesome for such a cheap product. What you get for your buck? A class A mic preamp with decent headroom and pretty neutral sound and one 1/4 inch line input along with two balanced line-level outputs. It also has a headphone output with its own control, direct monitoring to avoid latency issues, a big volume knob and some LED lights that show whether there is signal and if that signal is clipping or not.
IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo Review
I mentioned pocket-fit interfaces earlier and this is one of the most popular products that falls in exactly that category. What is awesome about the iRig Duo is that it is compatible across a whole array of platforms. You can use it with a Mac or a PC or if you like working with phones or tablets you can use it with Android devices that support Samsung Professional Audio technology or with Apple products like the iPad/ iPod/ iPhone. It is rare to see products that are compatible with basically every kind of popular platform. And it is pretty much a full fledged audio interface with two combo XLR/TRS inputs that go to a couple of IK mic preamps with individual gain and phantom power. A/D happens at 24 bits, 48 kHz which is really cool for something so small. It has two 1/4 inch outputs and several connections to satisfy all your portable recording needs: MIDI, USB and a special 30-pin to Mini-DIN for connecting to Apple products.
Steinberg UR22 Review
The UR22 is a very strong contender in the portable category because of its fantastic price combined with small size and a lot of power. You get 2 combo XLR/TRS inputs (2 D-PRE mic preamps), with individual gain and phantom power and a fantastic A/D converter that converts at 24 bits and up to 192 kHz. It has two balanced 1/4 inch balanced outputs, a headphone output with controllable level and MIDI i/o. What is cool about the UR22 is that it is very sturdy and well built with a metal housing so it will take transport well. Like all the other products mentioned so far it is compatible with the iPad but can also work as a PC / Mac desktop audio interface.
Apogee Jam Review
While this is a 1 input interface it is fantastically powerful for something that is smaller than a phone. It can convert analog signal to digital signal at up to 24 bit / 96 kHz and the one input you get is a 1/4 inch line level input. As I mentioned in a recent article on our website, it is awesome because it is the definition of being on the go – it is so simple to use, just plug and play. You could use to record guitar or bass or other line level instruments anywhere: at home, in a train, in the park, literally anywhere.
Focusrite iTrack Dock Review
This is one of the products that for me shows how much this branch of the market is going to grow in the future. The iTrack Dock is a beautiful audio interface designed for the iPad. You get two mic inputs and two instrument inputs with Focusrite preamps, individual gain, phantom power and two 1/4 inch balanced outputs. It also has a USB port for MIDI i/o. For monitoring, you get a headphone output and direct monitoring to avoid latency issues. To me this is one of the most elegant designs on the market when it comes to portable interfaces – and one of the few designed exactly for the purpose of using it with a portable device like the iPad.
As time will pass this growing market will see only more developments and more portable audio interfaces. The fact that more and more manufacturers add compatibility for Android devices and iOS devices show that this kind of development is increasingly popular among customers. As everything is getting smaller and smaller and more portable it only makes sense that audio recording hardware does to and the above best portable audio interfaces are all evidence of this.