Web Analytics

5 Best Budget Audio Interfaces For Home Recording Studios

5 Best Budget Audio Interfaces For Home Recording Studios

Are you new to music production, recording, beat-making, or DJing? If so, investing in a good audio interface is crucial for seamlessly inputting and outputting sounds to your computer. The market is brimming with options, ranging from high-end choices to more budget-friendly alternatives that can deliver equally impressive results.

What is an Audio Interface?

In straightforward terms, audio interfaces empower you to record external audio, such as guitars, vocals, instruments, beats, and more, directly into your computer. This audio can then be incorporated into your musical compositions, with playback facilitated through the same interface via your studio headphones or audio monitor speakers.

What does an Audio Interface do?

An audio interface plays a pivotal role by converting incoming analog audio signals, often described as “sound as electricity,” into digital audio signals during the recording process. These digital signals are stored on your computer’s hard drive in the form of zeros and ones.

Additionally, the audio interface performs the reverse conversion, turning digital audio signals back into analog form, allowing you to listen to your mixes through studio speakers.

While your computer’s integrated microphone and headphone jack can handle these tasks, a good audio interface enhances the process with a professional signal path, various connections, and superior audio conversion.

The Best Budget Audio Interfaces

Quality often comes with a price tag, but the good news is that affordable audio interfaces, priced around $100-150, have become increasingly accessible. We’ve curated a list of the best-rated budget audio interfaces from renowned brands like Focusrite, Presonus, Steinberg, Audient, and Universal Audio.

In this guide, we present five of the best budget audio interfaces tailored for home recording studios:

1. Focusrite Scarlett 4th Gen Solo

Focusrite Scarlett 4th Gen Solo Best Budget Audio Interface USB

The Scarlett series by Focusrite includes USB audio interfaces from the budget class, available in various sizes and configurations. The red boxes have become quasi-standard in home recording over the years.

With 12 years in the market, the company now presents the fourth generation. In this review, we take a closer look at the smallest interface in the series, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen.

However, the preamps of the 2i2 and 4i4 are better, sounding more open even without the Air feature. In comparison, the Solo remains relatively muted by default. However, the Air feature can effectively counteract this, so it should always be turned on.

A similar situation arises with the (headphone) output, which, while sufficiently loud, appears more stereo-constrained and reveals fewer details than the 2i2 and 4i4. This is surprising, as per Focusrite measurements, only the 4i4 should sound better – at least that’s my interpretation.

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a simple, compact audio interface that packs plenty of power into a cute small, and prominently red aluminum box. It comes with an excellent software package, which is more than sufficient for beginners to engage in solo activities for a long time.

The fourth-generation Focusrite Solo also features a good preamp for mono recordings with a microphone. While the Scarlett 2i2 and 4i4 perform comparatively better, they are also notably more expensive.

Nonetheless, all three interfaces are very affordable. The Solo is, therefore, a well-rounded product!

2. Universal Audio Volt 176

Universal Audio VOLT 176 - Best USB budget audio interface

Universal Audio is renowned for incorporating DSP effects into their proprietary UAD platform, boasting the most extensive library of authentic plug-in emulations of classic recording hardware.

However, the Universal Audio Volt 176 audio interface takes a unique turn by omitting the usual DSP effects. Instead, it introduces a distinctive feature in its preamps: the “Tube-Emulation Circuit” and “1176-inspired” analog compressors. Bold claims, and it’s certainly piquing our interest!

All preamps in the Volt series come equipped with a Vintage Mode, designed to simulate the distortion characteristics of tube preamps. Additionally, the pricier 76er models boast an analog compressor named “76,” inspired by the legendary 1176 compressor, offering three fixed timing constants: Guitar, Vocals, Fast, and, of course, Off.

This marks the most significant feature difference in the series, with the rest focusing on wood aesthetics, tactile feel, and a distinct layout.

The Volt 176 features 1-In/2-Out, a preamp, Vintage Mode with a compressor, a stereo monitor output, and a headphone amplifier with separate volume controls but sharing a D/A.

3. Audient iD4 MkII

AUDIENT iD4 MK2 Good Audio Interface For Home Recording Studio

The Audient iD4 MKII USB 3.0 audio interface is a robust desktop device featuring a USB-C port for seamless compatibility with Mac, PC, and iOS devices. The interface comes equipped with a combined XLR-TRS input, featuring switchable Phantom Power for recording mic and line signals.

Additionally, it boasts a JFET-instrument input tailored for capturing the nuances of E-Bass and E-Guitar. In terms of technical and qualitative aspects, the analog inputs align with its larger sibling, the iD14, with the only distinction being the iD14’s superior I/O capacity.

At the rear, you’ll find two TRS ports for connecting the iD4 to studio monitors or a monitor controller. Meanwhile, the front of this entirely metal-crafted device hosts a dual headphone jack (3.5 mm and 6.3 mm). Though the headphone jacks aren’t independently adjustable in volume, it’s still an excellent feature for an interface of this size and price range!

Beyond a more appealing design (subjective, of course), significant improvements have occurred under the hood. The key differences from the previous version include enhanced converters with increased dynamics and a more linear frequency response.

Additionally, the upgrade from USB 2.0 to 3.0 (featuring a USB-C port) brings along a multitude of advantages. Aside from a higher data transfer speed, the stronger power supply, thanks to the USB 3.0 upgrade, ensures a more confident output level at the bus-powered interface’s headphone output.

With a successful preamp-converter combination, the Audient iD4 MKII facilitates high-quality microphone, line, instrument, and vocal recordings, delivering professional-grade monitoring quality at an affordable price, all encapsulated in an extremely compact chassis.

4. Presonus Studio 24c

Presonus Studio 24c budget audio interface

The Presonus Studio 24c, a USB audio interface seamlessly blends refined design with compact dimensions, making it an ideal companion for setting up compact digital music workstations.

This feature-packed interface follows a functional 2-in/2-out architecture and is compatible with both PC and Mac systems, connecting effortlessly through a USB-C port that also serves as the power supply source.

At the heart of the Presonus Studio 24c are its two inputs, each equipped with proprietary XMAX-L Class-A preamplifiers and high-quality AD/DA converters capable of operating at 24-bit/192kHz. This ensures a pristine audio signal capture and reproduction, meeting the demands of professional audio production.

Now, let’s delve into what sets the PreSonus Studio 24c apart from the competition. Priced just under $/£100, it not only provides a budget-friendly option but also delivers a host of features tailored for high-definition audio and creative versatility.

The two inputs accommodate XLR, instrument, or line-level inputs, each with independent gain controls to ensure optimal signal integrity.

Designed with usability in mind, the Studio 24c offers two main outputs for studio monitors, allowing for precise mixing and mastering of your tracks. Additionally, a dedicated headphone output provides a private monitoring option, catering to your individual recording and playback needs.

This audio interface is not only suitable for musicians but also finds a sweet spot for game streamers and podcasters, thanks to its thoughtfully integrated features.

One standout feature of the PreSonus Studio 24c is its inclusion of Loopback functionality and MIDI connectivity. With the Loopback feature, users can enjoy versatile internal routing options, enabling seamless audio routing between different applications.

This proves especially valuable for content creators, game streamers, and podcasters looking to streamline their workflow and enhance their production quality.

In an era where users expect more than just plug-and-play functionality, the PreSonus Studio 24c stands out by offering additional features that elevate the user experience.

Whether you’re a musician, content creator, or podcaster, the Studio 24c proves to be a valuable and affordable tool for bringing your creative vision to life.

5. Steinberg UR12

Steinberg UR12 good budget audio interface

The Steinberg UR12 USB audio interface stands as the compact entry in the UR series, featuring two inputs and two outputs. While these specs alone may not initially captivate the musician or sound engineer, it’s worth noting that this device offers a lot for its modest price.

As the introductory model from the German manufacturer Steinberg, the UR12 is positioned both in terms of features and price below the Steinberg UR22. Competing directly with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, this interface proves itself admirably, particularly within the entry-level category characterized by a single microphone preamplifier and the absence of a MIDI interface.

Priced at less than 100€, the Steinberg UR12 USB Audio Interface provides an excellent option, catering primarily to beginners and casual users. For those embarking on larger projects, the UR22 or even the UR44 would be more fitting choices.

True to its name, the Steinberg UR12 features two inputs and one output (excluding the 6.3mm headphone output). Notably, these inputs are not two combo inputs but comprise a separate XLR input and a line input.

Each input has independent gain control, and an additional rotary knob on the front adjusts the output volume. Direct monitoring can be toggled on and off via a button next to the headphone output.

The Steinberg UR12 serves as an excellent entry-level device for music production and proves to be an ideal audio interface for speakers and podcasters, offering portability that fits into any bag. Its recording quality and technical features are usually found in more expensive devices.

A notable inclusion in the pack is the Cubase AI software, which provides users with a streamlined and upgradable version of Cubase. The only additional requirements are an existing microphone and cable or the acquisition of these components.

Explore the options and discover the ideal budget-friendly audio interface that meets your home studio recording needs. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, this guide aims to simplify your search for the perfect audio interface.

Disclaimer: Any references to any brands on this website/webpage, including reference to products, trademarks, brands and companies, are provided for description purposes only. We don't have any association with or endorsement by these brands or companies. Some of the links on our blog may be affiliate links. This means if you click on these links and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Need Professional Mixing & Mastering?