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Looking for the best budget audio interface to complete your home studio setup? We’ve compiled our favorite picks for every budget in this detailed guide.
Audio interfaces are the key to building a better home studio. After all, this is what truly ties the entire setup together. No audio interface, no way to connect your physical hardware to your DAW.
The breadth of options in this category is unparalleled. You can buy $50 starter interfaces or you can splurge on $3,000 pro-tier interfaces and they’ll both get the job done. What you essentially pay for is the clarity, fidelity, and I/O options the interface brings to the table.
Apart from budget, you should also pay attention to the use case (live or studio) and DAW. While nearly every audio interface will work with nearly every DAW, some are specifically designed for certain DAWs. Focusrite’s Scarlett series, for instance, has universal compatibility thanks to the USB protocol, but it does perform better on Ableton than on, say, Reaper.
With this out of the way, let’s take a closer look at our top picks for the best budget audio interface you can buy right now:
Behringer UMC22 – Best Entry Level
- 2 x 2 USB
- 48 kHz resolution
- 2Input / Output streaming
- 4 MIDAS Mic Preamp
Behringer is a popular manufacturer of musical instruments and equipment. The brand makes a large plethora of equipment, and most of them are known for their impressive quality and performance. It has some options in the audio interface line, and the Behringer UMC22 is the best entry-level model at this price. It might be a budget option, but it comes with nice features that make it a good pick for anyone that is starting to learn how to use an audio interface.
First, let us consider the design of the Behringer UMC22.
It comes in an all-black build and boasts of decent-grade materials of construction. While being a budget option, it is impressive that it sports an all-metal construction. While it isn't the most durable on the market, it is sturdy enough to last for a long time of use. The compact nature also allows you to set it up in your small studio or have it on the go with you.
All the controls and inputs are designed to lie on the front panel of the unit. Some of these are the gain knobs, monitor switch, headphone jack, line, and more. You will find all that you need in the front, except the 48v phantom power one.
If you check the back, you will also discover that the manufacturer has moved the USB port there too. This overall layout makes it much easier to handle the audio interface.
It is important that the controls are not only easy to access but that they are also sturdy and feel great to touch. Well, that is what we got from this unit. The knobs do not feel cheap and offer a good feel. Therefore, you should not be bothered that the knobs will fall off after some time of use.
Using these MIDAS preamps, you can easily record different sounds, even if these are played at low levels. It picks up the frequencies and will play them back with a crisp, clear sound.
Other than the design and build, you also get interesting features under the hood, so to speak.
Unlike several cheap models on the market, this unit does not suffer from the clipping cheap units are known for. With a recording quality of 48 kHz at 24-bit, you have a unit that will serve you in the studio.
When choosing an audio interface, headphones are very important to consider. That is why we are pleased that the Behringer UMC22 has enough power to drive the headphones.
What We Didn't Like
Although you get excellent overall performance, we did not like that installation support is nearly non-existent with this product.
Behringer UMC22 is recommended for anyone looking for a budget, entry-level audio interface.
- Excellent build
- Nice layout
- Impressive preamps
- Powers all types of headphones
- Poor installation support
Presonus Studio 26c 2×4 – Best For Live Performance
- 2 Mic Line Outs
- 192 kHz frequency
- MIDI I/O
- 2 ¼” TRS Line Outputs
While the unit reviewed above is an excellent option for studio use, the PreSonus Studio 26c 2×4 is more versatile and is excellent when used for live performances. Apart from coming with a beautiful design, this entry-level option packs quite a punch in terms of software installed.
This latest offering from one of the most popular makers of audio interfaces on the market comes with several features that will certainly appeal to beginners and intermediate music producers and singers.
The design and build itself indicate that this is a high-quality option. The PreSonus Studio 26c 2×4 arrives in a well-packaged box that reduces any chances of damage during transportation. Inside the package, you find the compact and sturdy audio interface with all its ports and connectors. The layout includes headphones and MIDI connectors, phantom power, line ins, and more. Just like the Behringer that we reviewed above, this model is a USB-bus powered model that offers similar recording capability.
Under the hood, there is a lot of power that ensures that you get the best from this model. For example, the unit offers you limitless MIDI and audio tracks, 26 instruments, and large storage of samples and other sounds to help you make all the music that you desire.
Set up is pretty easy and straightforward. And switching between modes is fast as well. The preamps on the PreSonus Studio 26c 2×4 are high quality and will help you get an excellent sound.
Aside from all of these benefits, this unit also has a Studio Magic plug-in suite. The benefit of this suite is that you get a bunch of software that similarly price options will not offer.
Overall, this is a compact, durable, and highly reliable interface that will serve you whether in the studio or on the go. The software is a class apart and gives you a plethora of options that others simply cannot compete with.
What We Didn't Like
The PreSonus Studio 26c 2×4 is a quality model, however, you have to be careful with the levels. During testing and even from the reviews of other users, we observed that the headphone levels can run hot.
The PreSonus Studio 26c 2×4 is an excellent choice for any musician that wants a small home studio and a few connections on the interface to get going. It is versatile enough to also be used for a live performance.
- Durable build
- Highly versatile
- Headphone level runs hot
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – Best Overall
- Bundled Software
- 2x 2 Audio Interface
- 24-bit sound resolution
If you are done with searching and just want to settle for the absolute best budget option, then you cannot go wrong with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
Focusrite is arguably the best makers of audio interfaces on the market today, and this model is the latest in their list of high-quality, high-performance audio interfaces. For less than $1000, you can have this high-quality option that gives a sound performance that rivals those of more expensive options.
It has a nice, attractive design that will certainly look great in your studio. If you are a music producer or singer that is frequently on the go, you'll appreciate the sturdiness of this model. It has a metal build that aids durability. Aside from the build, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 offers more than previous competitors. For example, it boasts of a 2 x 2 interface.
One issue with many budget audio interfaces is latency. As this is the best overall option, though, it isn't surprising that this issue is non-existent on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The levels do not get too hot and the Phantom Power is a good addition to an already impressive setup.
If design and sturdiness are important to you, then the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 will be an ideal option.
However, choosing an audio interface goes beyond how it looks or durability. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 also impresses when put to test.
First, there are incredible preamps on this unit. These are better than any other on this list and even rivals preamps in more expensive audio interfaces. During our test, we noticed that the sound is simply rich and crisp.
There is a gain control with an indicator for when the gain has reached high levels.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is class-compliant with Apple and MAC OS, thus you don't have to install any drivers.
What We Didn't Like
There is no MDI I/O, which is very surprising when you consider how impressive the unit is. You cannot record from different sources at the same time too.
If you do not require a MIDI I/O, then the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is all you'll ever need in an audio interface.
- Beautiful design
- Sturdy and compact
- Powerful sound performance
- Impressive preamps
- No MIDI I/O
Audient Id4 – Best Low Latency
- Main speaker output
- All-metal build
- 24-bit/ 96 kHz
- JFET DI Input
There are several advantages to having the Audient iD4. The main reason why many love it, though, is that it offers the lowest latency level of all budget audio interfaces on the market today.
Despite the low price, the build quality here is superior to what you'd expect a model of this price to cost. Audient is a renowned maker of audio interfaces, and the Audient iD4 is the smallest yet from the maker. It might be a small unit, but it packs quite a bunch. In this compact unit, you find a mic preamp, DI, headphone, and stereo outputs.
Aside from these, the Audient iD4 also has an endless rotary encoder that takes up a large part of the unit. This rotary encoder is a versatile control because it works as a control for the volume and software.
Although the Audient iD4 is the smallest option from the manufacturer, it has the same JFET input stage and mic preamp found in the larger consoles from the maker.
As stated above, this is a very portable unit. It sports a pair of inputs that will serve different types of musicians. As it is one of the most compact, yet powerful audio interfaces on the market, it is an excellent companion to take on the go.
One reason why many have not adopted small interfaces like this is the quality of features like the preamps. Although small, it has the parts of larger options.
The recording is sweet and easy on this unit. While it certainly needs phantom power and plenty of gains, the ability to choose a null point is excellent. After recording, playback and you will be surprised by the clean, crisp recording that you get. If you are a vocal artist, you will be pleasantly surprised by the clean sound and realistic playback.
Of all the features of the Audient iD4, perhaps the most appealing is the ID button's functioning. This is a simple button that will activate the ScrollControl. With this activated, the rotary encoder works as a controller for software.
During our testing, we found it highly responsive and easy to use. We did not observe any problems with changing EQ, compressor, faders, and other things.
Overall, this is a compact, durable, and highly reliable interface that will serve you whether in the studio or on the go. The software that is included is a class apart and gives you a plethora of options that others simply cannot compete with.
What We Didn't Like
Audient iD4 is great but only has a mic preamp. This preamp is neat and works well, but it would have been better with another preamp added.
If you want a portable, compact audio interface to use on the go, without compromising quality, then the Audient iD4 is designed for you.
- Highly portable
- Functional rotary encoder
- Good sound performance
- Just one mic preamp
M Audio M Track 2X2 – Best For Home Studios
- 24-bit /192 kHz resolution
- +48v Phantom Power
- XLR ¼” TRS input
- Hi-speed USB
The M Audio brand is known for its stylish, quality, and reliable products in its production line. The M Audio M Track 2X2 is no exception. It offers lots of useful features for a low price and is the best budget audio interface for home studios.
It comes with a simple, yet elegant design that will look good among your other music equipment. Instead of the typical aluminum chassis, the M Audio M Track 2X2 comes with a vintage appearance with LED illumination.
This design doesn't make it harder to reach and use the controls though, as the analog gear is easy to handle. Among the knobs and controls, you get a large volume knob dividing the connectors set at the front and rear. Overall, we found the design to be appealing. It isn't all just looks too since the body is strong and will survive falls and bumps.
The features are a bit limited, especially when compared with larger and more expensive audio interfaces. You get a model with one mic line and an instrument line with one ¼” TRS input.
Other than that, everything else is as you'd find on an audio interface. This includes gain control, headphone jacks, and a USB switch.
Performance is our main concern, and the M Audio M Track 2X2 certainly does not disappoint in this regard. Although there is just one mic preamp, it is a high-quality option that gives you pure, clear sound. The other functions are also impressive and you will not suffer issues like coloration from the hardware.
M Audio M Track 2X2 is bundled with useful software too.
What We Didn't Like
We would have loved it if the M Audio M Track 2X2 came with more functions and controls. For example, more monitor controls would have been great.
As this is the best budget audio interface for home studios, it is recommended to anyone looking to use it in such a way.
- Solid build
- Ergonomic design
- Simple to connect
- Pleasing sound quality
- No input monitoring
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 – Best Performance Pick
- 24-bit /192 kHz quality
- USB 2.0 Bus Power
- MIDI I/O
- +48V Power supply
The Native Instruments brand is one you certainly must have heard of as you searched for musical equipment. The brand recently released a trio of portable audio interfaces, and out of the three, the Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 offers the most in terms of performance and design.
It comes with a metal chassis that improves the durability and appearance of the model. While it has a metal body, it isn't a fingerprint magnet and retains its shiny appearance for longer. It isn't very portable or compact, but since it has plenty of powerful features, it doesn't concern us.
These include the mic/line inputs, gain knobs, headphone sockets, and other controls. The rear houses the analog outputs, a pair of inputs, MIDI I/O ports, and a USB socket.
All the controls feel great to use and are durable as well. You will use it for extended periods without any fear of damage.
Performance-wise, the Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 performs admirably. The recordings made are clean and crisp and there is little to no latency. With the DC coupling of the output, you can control voltages from software to hardware.
Overall, the Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 is a joy to use. It is very versatile and offers remarkable performance at this price.
What We Didn't Like
The only monitor outputs that the Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 are the headphones, which is disappointing.
This model is recommended for anyone that wants an affordable audio interface that offers the best performance in its class.
- Stunning design
- Very affordable
- Great driver
- The only monitor outputs are headphones
Top Budget Audio Interfaces, Final Thoughts
If you're looking for an audio interface on a budget the above should give you an idea of what to look for. All options have their pros and cons, but I'm confident you'll find one that's right for you.