What’s the Best Audio Interface for Pro Tools Right Now?

Last Updated on October 28, 2020 by Ryan Harrell

Get better recordings and control over your music with our pick of the best audio interface for Pro Tools

Our Top Picks

Best for beginners: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
“While the preamps are not best-in-class, the affordable price tag and compatbility make the 2i2 a winner”

Best rackmounted: RME Fireface UFX II
“Tons of I/O options and incredible preamps make the UFX II a sure bet for pro studios”

Best mid-range: Audient iD14
“Limited I/O options aside, the preamps in the iD14 make this a mid-range beast”

Best for small studios: UA Apollo Twin MKII Duo
“A constant favorite among small studios for its clarity and finesse”

If you’re using Pro Tools, I can guess a couple of things about you.

One, you’re serious about this music production thing. No one picks up Pro Tools casually. It’s rarely, if ever, someone’s first DAW (that would be Garageband or FL or maybe Ableton). Pro Tools is meant for studios and it shows in the general unfriendliness of the UI/UX.

Two, you need better quality hardware. Pro Tools is pretty unforgiving as far as compatibility is concerned. While you can plug in practically any audio interface into Ableton and get up and running, if it doesn’t explicitly support Pro Tools, you’re unlikely to get great performance. This, again, is because of Pro Tools’ studio heritage. A cheap starting M-Audio interface might do for a beginner, but for people using Pro Tools, the latency and fidelity would be too low for studio use.

These are important factors to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a Pro Tools audio interface. Better hardware isn’t just a “nice to have”, it’s a “must have”.

Based on these assumption, let’s do a deep dive into the world of Pro Tools audio interfaces. I’ll look at six different interfaces and tell you which is the best audio interface for Pro Tools for your needs.

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The Best Audio Interface for Pro Tools in 2020

Let’s take a closer look at our favorite Pro Tools audio interfaces for different budgets and needs:

UA Apollo Twin MKII Duo

Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin is one of the bestselling audio interfaces for small studios, despite its price tag. You can attribute this to the Apollo’s exceptional preamps, analog design, and quality components. As far as clarity, fidelity, and latency goes, the Apollo Duo is easily the best audio interface for Pro Tools for small studios.

The first model on this roundup is the excellent Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo. It comes with plenty of useful features, including Unison preamps and complete access to the UAD catalog. These, along with other features ensure that it gives you the best sound quality for a small studio.

It comes from the Universal Audio brand, a brand that is renowned for the ability to combine hardware and software and give you some of the best performance that you could ever hope for. This particular model shows just how good Universal Audio has become at this. Although it comes as an entry-level product and is the smallest and least powerful in the Apollo line of products, it is still better than whatever else you might find in this category. It boasts of a two-input design which makes it an excellent option for any budding desktop musician.

This model is different from other audio interfaces in a variety of ways. Apart from giving you the typical layout and design of a regular audio interface, this unit also comes with a DSP processor. It allows you to record via the interface and also lets you use the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo as an external DSP processing system. The advantage of this is that your computer will not work as hard.

Another notable feature of this model is the Unison technology integrated into the model. This technology vastly improves the performance and versatility of the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo. You can enable a wide plethora of plug-ins, amps, and more.

Although the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo does not offer you dedicated switches, it comes with enough control on the panel. First, there is a large knob that is used for controlling pre-amp gain, for monitoring levels, and so on. Another notable feature is the provision of controls like your DIM, Mute, and so on.

Console operation is one of the most important things in the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo, and that is well catered for by the unit. If you are an expert user, you will have a grand time with this feature. On the other hand, if you are just starting, the console operation might be a tad difficult at first. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll certainly enjoy using it.

What I don’t like

The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo comes with many features that you’d want to have in your audio interface. The only drawback I observed is the steep price tag and limited I/O options.

Recommended for: Overall, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo is an excellent option that is recommended for everyone. It is a premium product that gives excellent audio quality regardless of the studio space. If you don’t need a ton of I/O options, the Apollo Duo is the best audio interface for Pro Tools for small studios.

Best for Beginners: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

If you felt the Apollo reviewed above comes with too many features for you as a beginner, then you’ll likely enjoy using the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. This audio interface is a great-looking model that is excellent for any beginner. While it comes with entry-level machinations, it is still an excellent option that will help you to enjoy clear audio quality at every stage of sound production.

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes at an excellent price and is one of the cheapest on this roundup. One of the concerns many buyers have is that cheap interfaces often come with cheap performance and features as well. Many give a hiss and noise as you increase the gain or some other parameter. However, after testing the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, we can boldly say that you will not experience such issues.

This quality is not very surprising, though, because the manufacturer, Focusrite, is known for the high quality of its products. They make some of the best audio interfaces and equipment on the market, and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is no exception. Although it costs a fraction of the price, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes with the same preamps that you would find in far more expensive audio interfaces.

Performance is the highlight of this product. Although you get excellent quality even at low buffer settings, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 does not cause your computer to work unusually hard. During use, we did not notice the usual problems like dropouts or cracks, unlike what we usually experience with audio interfaces at this price point.

Latency is an important consideration when choosing an audio interface, and we are pleased that the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes with very low latency. With the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, you can even enjoy zero-latency monitoring. Another notable feature here is the signal indicators. These come in incredibly handy when you are sound checking and monitoring levels during a recording.

What I don’t like

As this is a cheap offering, there is no surprise that it comes with some downsides. One of the things we did not like is that it is bus-powered. Therefore, it might hog CPU resources if you are using plenty of programs. Another notable downside is the lack of MIDI in/out. And in our opinion, the biggest problem arises when you have to record from different audio sources simultaneously.

Recommended for: If you are a home studio musician, or you are a beginner, you would likely like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The low cost, ease of use, and great support across DAWs makes this the best audio interface for Pro Tools – or any other DAW – if you’re just starting out.

Best Mid-Range: Audient iD14

Next on our roundup is a high-performance audio interface that comes at a great price and still manages to squeeze in some functions and parts found in more expensive audio interfaces. This unit, the Audient iD14, is bus-powered and has the 2 ASP Class A preamps that are found in some of the high-end units from the manufacturer. While these other models come in a large, bulky build, the Audient iD14 is built lightweight, compact, and portable. Therefore, it comes as an excellent option for any producer on the go.

The small, compact size means that most of the physical functions found in older units have been scrapped off. This makes it so much easier to use and makes it a dream audio interface for any beginner. It also makes for a great option for the average user that would likely never have used the functions anyway. Some of the buttons that have been removed include the Dim and Cut buttons. Additionally, function keys have been streamlined from 3 down to 1. As we said, this is a beginners’ dream audio interface.

While the controls are reduced, it replaces them with some better functions. One of the notable features of the Audient iD14 is the Scroll control ID mode. This function comes in handy whether you are a beginner or an expert user. It allows you to have more control over DAW. The knob is a rotary encoder that can be customized to a different function. It also provides access to other functions like Cut and Dim. Therefore, instead of having many buttons for different functions, you have fewer knobs and buttons but still enjoy a similar level of functionality.

The other features found on the Audient iD14 can all be assigned using this Scroll control ID.

Just as controls and knobs have been reduced, the Ins and OUTs have also seen a reduction. The Audient iD14 comes with combined XLR and TRS ins and outs. You also get a JFET DI out and headphone AUX out. While this looks limited, it still offers good functionality. For instance, the JFET DI will make sure that the signal is matched to the instrument for the best recording performance.

Interestingly, if you feel that the inputs and outputs are just too small, you can expand it. This is possible through the optical input. It allows you to set up more preamps when required. Furthermore, the 12V power lets it run more efficiently than similar USB options.

Overall, this is the best mid-range audio interface and one of the best for Pro Tools.

What I don’t like

During our testing, we observed that the phantom powering is only useful when DC power is on. This makes it quite limited.

Recommended for: The Audient iD14 comes with some of the best preamps and converters you will find on any audio interface. The streamlining of functions makes it much easier to use. I recommend it to any beginner looking for an easy to use audio interface.

Most Portable: Apogee Jam Plus

When it comes to audio interfaces for DAW and portable devices, it is pretty hard to overlook the Apogee brand. Their units often come with a lovely design, practical too, that will render low noise.

The Apogee Jam Plus continues this tradition. As the name implies, it comes as an upgrade to the Apogee Jam, which was certainly an excellent audio interface. The updates found in this model make it the best portable audio interface for Pro Tools. Let’s see some of the best features of this excellent unit.

First, it comes with one of the most durable builds at this price and in this category. The entire body is made of metal, which means that it is very durable and is more rugged than other previous versions of the audio interface. If you are a producer that is often on the road, you’ll certainly appreciate such a durable option as this.

As part of the updates to the older version, the Apogee Jam Plus comes with a stereo headphone output. This makes it possible to use the unit with powered speakers thus improving the versatility. It also sports an input gain knob. This control looks great and makes it so much easier to fix the gain. The rotary nature makes it pretty easy to handle. Another advantage of this update is that you can easily recall the previous position of the knob before you made any adjustments.

Another notable feature we observed is the blend. This feature comes in pretty handy and is one of the best things about this audio interface. Using this feature, you can mix sounds easily. For instance, you can mix the direct sound from an instrument with the sound from the Pro Tools. This makes it easier for you to monitor the latency. The drive mode is yet another feature, this time, it assists you with overdrive simulations.

Performance-wise, this is a very good audio interface. Previous versions are great, but the Apogee Jam Plus makes improvements in gain control. The blend feature we mentioned earlier also came in pretty handy during our testing.

What I don’t like

There are no preset options on the Apogee Jam Plus.

Recommended for: TIf you are looking for a portable audio interface to use with your mobile device and with guitar and keyboards, then the simple, compact, and portable Apogee Jam Plus might be your best bet. It might not have the same fidelity as, say, the Apollo Duo, but for the price, it’s one of the best audio interface for Pro Tools.

Best Rackmounted (Budget): Focusrite Clarett 8Pre

The Clarett range from Focusrite is an excellent range of audio interfaces that come with different features, but with each one still giving a unique performance that you’ll love. The model under consideration is the Focusrite Clarett 8Pre. This model comes as a rack-mounted unit.

The design is quite appealing, with many users remarking on the red and black colors. It also comes with an aluminum chassis that greatly improves its durability. The layout is straightforward as well. The front panel has the controls and some outputs while the rear contains the rest. Overall, it feels really solid and will last for a long time. Despite the premium appearance, we should note that this is a budget audio interface.

The features are solid. You get plenty of connectivity and functionality with this unit. As it comes in the Clarett range, it boasts of a Thunderbolt connection. This makes it easier and faster to monitor the latency and other functions.

In terms of performance, the Focusrite Clarett 8Pre is one of the best options at this price. The Thunderbolt connection earlier mentioned comes in really handy here and greatly boosts the performance. To that end, it helps to reduce the latency of the unit and gives you direct monitoring capabilities. During use, everything felt easy and straightforward. While it can take some time to master navigation, once learned, using the Focusrite Clarett 8Pre is a breeze.

Overall, this is certainly one of the most versatile and reliable options that you can find at this price.

What I don’t like

The only downside here is that there is only one Thunderbolt port.

Recommended for: This is an excellent audio interface for your studio, especially if you are on a budget. If you need a rackmounted, high-fidelity, low latency audio interface in a reasonable budget, then this is the best audio interface for Pro Tools on the market currently.

Best Rackmounted (Studio): RME Fireface UFX II

Although the RME Fireface UFX II is one of the most expensive audio interfaces on this list, it is certainly worth the price. The features and functions are simply unmatched and will provide one of the most comprehensive and powerful audio performance that you’ll find on an audio interface on the market.

As you check out the specs, you might observe that it doesn’t have the 800 Mbit/s bus speed that exists in older models. While that might be a bummer, the RME Fireface UFX II excels in other ways.

For one, the host interface is now compatible with USB 2.0. This in itself makes it compensate for the lower bus speed. You will not even notice any changes in that regard. Aside from that, it comes with four extra I/O channels.

The design of the rack-mounted unit is beautiful. It boasts of a silvered exterior with light blue highlights. This makes it look really good on your desk. Additionally, the knobs and controls are set out clearly. Each button, knob, and control feels sturdy and durable.

On the front panel of the RME Fireface UFX II, you will find up to four preamp inputs for different functions. There are also MIDI I/O, a pair of customizable headphone outputs, and a USB socket. The back also contains a similarly rich number of inputs and outputs, ranging from eight TRS line inputs, two sets of ADART, USB 2.0 connections, and more.

Unlike some of the options we reviewed, the RME Fireface UFX II comes with a colorful display. Although this initially looks small, you’ll get used to it and it will make it much easier for you to monitor track counts. There are a host of controls on the front panel of the RME Fireface UFX II, with the only exception being the routing function and global hardware settings.

What I don’t like

There is a lot to like about RME Fireface UFX II. If there is a downside, it would be the relatively high price.

Recommended for: With the numerous channels and superb workflow, the RME Fireface UFX II is recommended for professional users. Beginners will find it too expensive and too overwhelming, but if you run a studio, you can’t really get much better than the UFX II.

Over to You

The audio interface plays a crucial role in any studio setup. The better the quality of the audio interface, the better your raw recordings.

Hopefully, this guide will help you find the best audio interface for Pro Tools for your needs.

For more suggestions and recommendations, email us using this contact form.

Check our other Pro Tools recommendations

References:

Changelog
  • October 28, 2020: Article first published

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