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As a beginner, if there is a single “essential” piece of hardware in your studio, it's an audio interface. Without one, you can't practically produce any music. So to help you buy your first audio interface, we put together this guide to the best audio interface for beginners. You'll learn what are some key features to look for in audio interfaces as a beginner, and what are the best options to choose from.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo
- Easy to use
- Compatible with all DAWs
- Great mic preamps
- Affordably priced
- Distortion-free recording
- Highly affordable
- Decent build quality
- Good support & integration
I've long been a proponent of the minimalist home studio setup. Thanks to modern software, you can get 90-95% of the performance of a pro studio with little more than a DAW and some basic hardware.
One of these essential pieces of hardware is the audio interface.
As the name implies, an audio interface connects your computer to external hardware, i.e. it is an “interface” between the software (your DAW) and your hardware (mics, headphones, instruments). Without an interface, you are limited to the I/O capabilities and latency of your computer's built-in sound card. In nearly every commercial computer, these are absolutely unfit for recording and producing music.
For example, without an audio interface, my current computer's soundcard has a latency of nearly 100ms. This means that there is a very palpable lag between pressing a key and hearing it back. This makes real-time playback impossible.
Once I plug in my audio interface, however, this latency drops to 6ms each for input and output (for a total of 13ms latency). This is near instantaneous and allows me to play music in real-time – an absolute necessity for music production.
Besides latency, an audio interface also allows you to add multiple instruments as input. On my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, for instance, I can plug in a microphone and electric guitar simultaneously. This makes it possible to record myself singing and playing guitar at the same time.
This is why I consider an audio interface to be the single most importance piece of hardware for any aspiring musician. Get a DAW, an audio interface, and a decent set of studio headphones and you're on your way to start creating music.
Read on to discover the best audio interface for beginners you can buy right now.
About your reviewer
Ryan Harrell is the founder of MIDINation and an experienced producer/DJ. His first experience with electronic music production dates back to Cubase 3.0 in the summer of 1997, and he's been a fan ever since. He prefers Ableton as his primary DAW these days, though he is still partial to Cubase and Pro Tools. He lives in San Diego and freelances as a producer and part-time DJ.
The 6 Best Audio Interfaces for Beginners
Let's take a closer look at the best audio interfaces for FL Studio you can buy right now, starting with our favorite option in this category:
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen
This Focusrite unit has been at the top of the audio interface charts since it was launched. And for good reason. It offers everything a beginner would want – great integration with virtually every DAW. Two balanced inputs. Decent Scarlett mic preamps. And easy USB connectivity.
For all practical purposes, this is easily the best audio interface for beginners on the market right now.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen audio interface makes music creation very easy. This device is suitable for singers and songwriters. Scarlett Solo features the renowned Focusrite preamp and a crystal-clear DI for the guitar, keys or bass. Its intuitive halo indicators make this audio interface not only unique, but also easy to watch on your levels. Additionally, it comes with a large volume dial, headphone jack, and Direct Monitor switch, which makes monitoring a simple task.
In this third-generation audio interface, Focusrite has improved the fading low latency feature, with 192kHz sample rates, boosted structure for preamp gain, as well as instrument input which handles sizzling hot pickups. Additionally, they also comprise of the much-admired Air circuit which models the ISA console transformer, thus giving your voice as well as the instrument recordings an open and brighter sound.
This Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen is the best audio interface for beginners for many reasons. First, it conveys a professional sound quality. It also comes with a plugin, exclusive software bundle. These and much more makes it a ready to rock devices for newbies.
What we don’t like:
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen switches to a USB C connector using lightning that requires a separate driver, and this causes the system not to boot when you plug in the device.
Recommended for:Ideal for professional-tier sound recording on a budget.
- Low noise
- Great sound
- Sturdily built
- Some operations can only be done using the software
- Discrete JFET DI input
- High-performance AD/DA converters
- USB 2.0 bus power
- iD ScrollControl Mode
- Monitor control
- Main speaker output
The new Audient iD4 is part of the Audient’s iD range of USB powered audio interfaces. It is suitable for solo musicians recording their music at home or on the go using iOS devices, Mac as well as Windows PC. The iD4 comes with two distinct inputs including one microphone and line input, a combination of XLR or jack connector and a switchable phantom power of 48V.
Other features that make the Audient iD4 unique include the J-FET DI input, with dedicated gain control. The remaining I/O include the headphone output on mini and quarter-inch TRS jacks as well as a pair of TRS jack loudspeaker outputs.
Apart from the input gains, all the front-panel functions are executed by the Monitor Mix knob which comprises of two push buttons that lighten when active, Input signals with DAW return, volume encoder which consists of a latching push-switch, and twin five-LED arched ladder meters.
What we don't like
There is only one mic preamp, which is a dealbreaker if you want to record multiple instruments at the same time.
Recommended for: Best used by musicians who record their music at home or want something mobile for their work.
- Console grade mic preamp
- iD ScrollControl
- Has only one mic preamp
- Audiophile 48 kHz resolution
- MIDAS design
- +48V phantom power for mic preamps
- Seamless Integration with Popular DAWs
- Dedicated instrument-level input
Nothing beats the quality of sound recorded in Windows or Mac computers home studio with a Behringer UMC22. As the best audio interface for beginners, Behringer presents to you a piece of elegant equipment that captures ideas and liven your music career. Behringer UMC22 USB audio interface is easy to use and comes with all that you need to get started.
Additionally, the audio interface features a dedicated instrument input to enable recording of your voice while singing and playing the guitar or keyboard. Behringer UMC22 comes with a full version of a Tracktion, which means you can start recording your music from day one.
What makes Behringer UMC22 unique is the genuine MIDAS preamp technology. With this, you will get an ultra-clear sound and plenty of headroom.
What we don't like
It works quite well, but there is no way to power mic without the inbuilt phantom power.
Recommended for: Budget buyers looking for an audio interface at near throwaway prices.
- Great price
- Surprisingly good build quality
- Integrates easily with most DAWs
- Mic preamps aren't the best in class
- Mild hiss when gain is set too high
- No phantom power
IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo 2
- Universally compatible with Mac/Windows/iPhone/iPad/Android
- Two balanced TRS outputs
- MIDI I/O
- Multi-color LED gain indicator
- Lighting and USB cables
- Highly portable
IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo 2 is indeed the best audio interface for beginners. It syndicates the audio and MIDI interfaces that work great across various operating systems, counting iOS 5.1 and above for iPads, iPhones and iPods, Android devices that work with Samsung’s Professional Audio Technology, version 5 is a must, as well as Mac and Windows computers. Mac’s supported version is OS X 10.6 or later, and Windows XP and above and support for ASIO4ALL drivers.
If you love moving aound and want something mobile, then you will love this audio/midi interface because it features an ultra-compact design, lightweight and it’s easily portable. The iRig Pro Duo 2 is the smallest full-featured dual-channel audio/MIDI interface ever made on earth.
When using the iRig Pro Duo 2 with an iPad or iPhone, you are provided with either an optional DC input or 2 AA batteries to power the device. However, when it is connected to the Mac or PC, it is entirely bus-powered.
What we don't like
The interface is made of plastic and isn't the most durable, which belies its portable credentials.
Recommended for: Best for people who are mobile and want something lightweight and easily portable to record their voices.
- Great sound for the size and price
- Highly portable design
- Fragile; can break over outdoor/touring use
- USB 2.0 audio interface with 24-bit/192 kHz
- USB-Powered by Mac or Windows
- Rough Metal Exterior
- Internet Live Broadcasting Loopback Function
- CUBASE AI for Mac and Windows
Most artists think that any audio interface that has multiple I/O are overrated, but the reality is, these extra features bring about a more significant impression. For beginners or musicians who want to record their voice as well as guitar projects, Steinberg UR12 gives you more straightforward, and a better solution.
Steinberg UR12 audio interface features an essential I/O with a resolution of 24-bit/192kHz enclosed in a compacted metal frame. It also comes with one XLR microphone input, two input gain controls, instrument jack of high-impedance, one output level knob, a headphone jack, as well as a switch for direct monitoring that also helps to prevent latency issues.
The rear panel of Steinberg UR12 is simple, with a phantom power switch of +48V, one USB B connector, unbalanced RCA outputs, and power selector which is a standard USB bus power or micro USB. It is well-matched with various platforms since it is compatible with OS X, Windows, and iPad. To top it up, it comes with the Connection Kit for Apple iPad Camera and the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter.
What we don't like
While this is the best audio interface for beginners, it comes with no MIDI I/O or the stereo input configuration.
Recommended for: It is ideal for beginners and musicians who want to record their voice and guitar projects.
- Quality sound
- Easy to use
- Great performance
- Set up process is not easy
- The headphone jack requires a preamp
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2
- MIDI I/O
- Onboard +48 volts phantom power
- Great compatibility with most DAWs
- Portable USB bus power
- Dual preamplifiers with combo inputs
- Zero-latency monitoring
I recommend the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 as the best audio interface for beginners because it caters for the needs of artists, producers, as well as podcaster among others. This audio recording interface is simple yet comprises of all the right features necessary for recording needs, thus allowing for recording up to 24-bit/96 kHz on the go. Besides, it is bus-powered and requires no extra supply.
This audio interface features two front-panel combos for microphone and instrument inputs, making it a perfect choice for musicians, singers, songwriters, as well as guitar or bass-guitar collaborations. It has a stereo system that allows you to connect several microphones, mix control that enables you to control input signal and computer playback level with no frustrating delays.
Even though the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 audio interface is compatible with most audio recording software for Mac and Windows, it also comes with a free PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW software license, which gives you comprehensive recording solution.
What we don't like
It looks good except that some of these products come without the studio one software as indicated.
Recommended for: Ideal for musicians, singers, songwriters, as well as guitar or bass-guitar collaborations.
- Great price
- Low latency
- Lightweight and portable
- Doesn’t work with iOS and iPad
- No convincing reason to choose it over Scarlett Solo
Over to You
Audio interfaces are essential if you're even remotely serious about producing music. From guaranteeing low latency and real-time playback to allowing you to attach mics and guitars to your computer, an interface makes music production possible.
If you're new to production, choose from one of these options for the best audio interface for beginners. We've handpicked these to be affordable, reliable, and compatible with nearly every popular DAW.
For more recommendations and advice, don't hesitate to reach out to me here.
- Need general recommendations for audio interfaces? See our best-of list here
- See all our picks for the best low latency audio interfaces
- Running a home studio? Choose from these options for the best home studio audio interfaces
- Ableton user? Find our best audio Ableton audio interfaces here
- If you use FL Studio, check out our recommended FL studio audio interfaces here
- PreSonus (official website)
- Focusrite (official website)
- Behringer (official website)
- Audient (official website)
- Steinberg (official website)
Where to buy:
I recommend Amazon for their low prices and reliable delivery network. I also recommend that you check out Sweetwater for deals, or try Reverb for used equipment.
- March 20, 2020: Article first published
- September 18, 2020: Article updated