Best Portable Audio Interfaces in 2021

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 2021.

What are the Best Portable Audio Interfaces?

Presonus Audiobox iOne Review

PreSonus AudioBox iOne 2x2 USB/iPad Audio Interface for Windows, Mac, and iOS Bundle with Blucoil 10-FT Balanced XLR Cable, and Pop Filter Windscreen
  • PROVIDES MOBILE RECORDING SOLUTION - The USB bus-powered PreSonus AudioBox iOne Audio Interface allows you to capture your voice or instrument directly to your computer. It is compatible with Windows 7/8.1/10, macOS 10.11+, and iPad (iOS 10+).
  • DELIVERS CRYSTAL-CLEAR RECORDINGS - AudioBox iOne is equipped with an outstanding Class A mic preamp and premium A/D converters, which provides 24bit resolution and 44.1/48/88.2/96kHz sampling rates.
  • OFFERS LOW-NOISE OPERATION - This USB audio interface is equipped with a premium mic preamp that provides up to 48V phantom power. It offers a 0-52dB Gain Range and high headroom for recording vocals and instruments.
  • TAKES YOUR RECORDING INTO THE NEXT LEVEL - The downloadable Studio One Artist provides 20 Native Effects plug-ins, unlimited track count, +6GB of loops and samples, and more. You can also download the Capture Duo from the App Store to record stereo tracks from your iPad.
  • INCLUDES - PreSonus AudioBox iOne USB Audio Interface with 48V Phantom Power; USB Cable; Downloadable Studio One Artist and Capture Duo App. Blucoil 10-Foot Balanced XLR Cable - Premium Series 3-Pin Cable for Microphones, Speakers, and Pro Devices (Male-to-Female). Blucoil Audio Microphone Pop Filter Double Layer Mask Shield for Studio Recording and Broadcasting with Stand Clip Stabilization Arm, Swivel Mount.

*Price from:  2023-03-29 at 14:53 EST

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 do 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 a signal and if that signal is clipping or not.

Steinberg UR22 Review

Steinberg UR22mkII USB 2.0 Audio Interface with Dual Microphone Preamps with R100 Stereo Headphones (Black)
  • 2-Input / 2-Output
  • D-PRE Mic Preamps with Phantom Power
  • MIDI I/O
  • Latency-Free Hardware Monitoring
  • Loopback Function

*Price from:  2023-03-29 at 14:53 EST

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 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

Apogee Jam Plus - Portable USB Audio Interface for Guitars, Bass, Keyboards and Instruments, Works with iOS, MAC OS and Windows PC, Made in USA
  • PRO INSTRUMENT TONE: Jam + is a professional, USB instrument input and stereo output. Connect your electric guitar, bass, acoustic instrument with pickup, dynamic mic, or keyboard to your iOS device or computer and capture every detail in high-quality audio.
  • PUT IT INTO OVERDRIVE: Transform your pristine direct signal into a rich, warm overdrive that can provide everything from a clean boost to a thick distortion in the tradition of the most coveted vintage amps and stompboxes.
  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO JAM: Included with Jam + is the desktop version of BIAS FX Jam software for FREE from Positive Grid. The bundle includes a premium selection of 3 amps, 6 effects, and a collection of essential pedals. No additional software is needed to plug in and play with professional amp emulations.
  • PRISTINE SOUND QUALITY: Capture every detail with 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution audio.
  • PLUG-N-PLAY: Compatible with Mac, Windows, and any iOS device. No external power is necessary.

*Price from:  2023-03-29 at 17:36 EST

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.

Final Thoughts

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 shows 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.