Top 10 Best Budget USB Audio Interfaces for home studios!

best budget audio interface
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An audio interface is the first thing you need while building your recording studio. It lays the foundation of high-quality audio recordings spanning different pieces of equipment. This article will take you through some of the best budget audio interfaces.

All these audio interfaces have high audio quality, provide standard recording features and are extremely portable.

Furthermore, the kind of interface you choose depends on the type of artist you are and will become clear as you see the features of different budget audio interfaces.

QUICK AUDIO INTERFACE BUYING GUIDE

Below are three points that must always consider while buying an audio interface.

We have not included audio quality in this list as all of the audio interfaces in our article have none or less high audio quality with very low noise levels.

1) Inputs and outputs

The number of inputs you need depends on the instruments you own and what types you are looking to buy in the future.

For example, if you have a guitar, you must get an audio interface with Hi-Z or instrument level inputs. You will not be able to record guitars without instrument input.

There are different inputs and outputs on an audio interface. Each one of them plays an essential role in recording a specific type of instrument. Look for at least one mic, line, and instrument-level input in an audio interface.

The same is the case with outputs. But, for a beginner, I would recommend getting at least two line-level outputs and one headphone output.

2) Input dynamic range

Dynamic range refers to the total headroom you get while recording instruments. It is essential to have enough headroom or dynamic range to record instruments or vocals without clipping or distorting the audio.

A dynamic range above 100 dB is recommended. A higher dynamic range means that you can record expressive vocals without losing the harmonic quality of the sound.

3) Basic and additional features

Each interface should have the following essential features.

Some interfaces may have additional features that are exclusive only to that particular brand. For example, air mode is present in Scarlett 2i2, smart gain in Evo 4, Legacy 4K in SSL 2, and other interfaces may or may not have their specific features

Related: Top 15 Things to know before buying an audio interface!

Best budget USB audio interfaces

Here is a quick reference table that shows out top ten best budget audio interfaces.

Best budget audio interfacesinput/
output
Mic/line comboHi-Z/Instrument inputsMIDI I/ODynamic range Mic input(dB)
SSL 22/222No110.5
AXE I/O solo2/311Yes113
Scarlett 2i22/222No110.6
Komplete Audio 64/422Yes109
Motu M22/222Yes115
M-Audio AIR2/222No103
Steinberg UR 22C2/221Yes102
Presonus Studio 24c2/222Yes107
Audient Evo 42/221No115
Behringer UMC204HD2/222Yes100

Now, lets have a deeper look at each audio interface, one by one.

Related: Here are the Best Audio Interfaces For Home Studio that professionals use!

1) Solid State Logic SSL 2 USB Audio Interface

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2 combo Mic/Line/Hi-Z/instrument input,
  • +48V Phantom powered,
  • 2 SSL designed mic preamps,
  • No MIDI I/O to connect MIDI instruments,
  • Legacy 4K for analogue colour enhancement,
  • 4 line-level/ Studio monitors outputs,
  • Instrument input dynamic Range – 110.5 dB,
  • 24-bit resolution,
  • Ultra low latency,
  • LED panel to meter input gain levels,
  • 2 Headphone output with separate gain control and capability to have separate audio mix,
  • Supported sample rates – 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz,
  • One USB-C port to connect to laptops/Desktop PCs,
  • Secondary USB-C port allowing reverse-charging
  • Upto 8 additional inputs via ADAT or SPDIF,
  • A wide range of software plugins included(more discussed below),
  • Windows/Mac/ M1 Mac compatible.

View the price of Solid State Logic SSL 2 USB Audio Interface on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

The SSL 2 comes with two inputs and two outputs. It has a crystal clear audio quality with low noise mic preamps. Furthermore, the mic inputs have a dynamic range of 110.5 dB, providing enough headroom for vocal or instrument recordings. A high dynamic range like one given in SSL 2 makes sure that the input signal does not clip or distort.

Not to forget, it is one of the best audio interfaces for Shure SM7B due to its extremely low noise mic preamps.

There are two combo inputs in the SSL 2. These inputs are suitable to record mics, Hi-Z instruments like guitars, and line-level inputs like a drum machine. In addition, both inputs have dedicated gain knobs to adjust the gain levels of either input individually.

The direct monitoring feature is engaged with the mixer knob. The mixer knob adjusts the sound coming from DAW and the audio being recorded from the inputs. You also get the option to record the audio in mono as well as stereo.

Below the input control section, there are two legacy 4K buttons for each input. Engaging this legacy button makes the audio loud and exciting, giving impressions of a classic retro sound. It adds a hint of frequency boost to mid and high ranges.

Solid State Logic SSL 2 USB Audio Interface

In terms of outputs, you get a single headphone output and two monitor outputs. The two monitor output connect to external speakers like studio monitors using 1/4″ TRS cables. Both these outputs have a dedicated control knob to adjust the sound according to the producer’s preference.

Also check: Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces under $500 – Affordable & Powerful!

Pros

  • Cost effective,
  • Clean and clear LEDs for input gain metering,
  • Solid State Logic is well known for its superb sound/audio quality.

Cons

  • Design may seem to be an issue for some people,
  • The gain meters vary by a gain level of 10,
  • No MIDI port available.

2) IK Multimedia AXE I/O SOLO USB audio interface

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 1 Mic/Line inputs,
  • 1 Advanced input with Z-tone with pickup selection,
  • MIDI Port included,
  • 2 external pedal/switch control,
  • 2 Clear LED Metering dispays for gain metering,
  • +48V Phantom powered Mic Preamps,
  • 1 Headphone output,
  • 2 line-level/ Studio monitors outputs,
  • One monitor Mix Knob for direct monitoring,
  • Line output dynamic Range – 113 dB,
  • 24-bit resolution,
  • Supported sample rates – upto 192 kHz,
  • A wide range of softwares included for guitarists.
  • Windows/Mac/ M1 mac compatible.

View the price of IK Multimedia AXE I/O on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

The AXE I/O solo is a perfect budget guitar recording interface. Although it inclined towards guitar recordings, the AXE I/O solo also features a MIDI port and a single mic input. It also incorporates two ladder style LEDs for input gain metering.

The high versatility makes this interface perfect for different use cases. It can record mics, connect to MIDI instruments, routed to external pedals.

Let’s have a closer look at why AXE I/O solo is one of the best interfaces for guitarists.

The instrument input in the interface features a Z-tone knob. The Z-tone knob allows a guitar player to increase or decrease impedance levels. Thus, it opens a vast range of possibilities to craft different unique sounds.

IK Multimedia AXE I/O SOLO USB audio interface

Below the Z-tone knob, two switches allow you to explore your sound even further. You can choose between active or passive pickups, and with the help of a second switch, you can change the audio quality to either pure or JFET. The pure signal is the mostly uncoloured sound of your guitar, whereas JFET adds a crunchiness to the overall quality.

Also check: Best Audio Interfaces for Guitar Recordings – A Full List!

There are two line-level outputs in the AXE I/O solo. These outputs are great to connect external speakers to the audio interface due to their low noise pickups. In addition, there is a single headphone o/p with a dedicated control knob.

Related: IK Multimedia AXE I/O Review – A guitar friendly interface?

Pros

  • Best audio interface for guitarists,
  • Highly versatile with MIDI port, external pedal control, and Z-tone control.

Cons

  • There is a single mic input.

3) Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2-input / 2-output,
  • Two Mic / line / Hi-Z inputs,
  • Air Mode Feature,
  • Direct monitoring available,
  • Dedicated control knobs,
  • Two Phantom boosted MIC preamps(+48V),
  • One headphone o/p with dedicated control knob,
  • No MIDI I/O available,
  • Mic input dynamic range – 110.6 dB
  • Ultra low latency,
  • USB Driven,
  • Compatible with Windows / Mac,
  • 24-Bit/192 kHz audio resolution.

View the price of Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is one of the best audio interfaces under $200.

The Scarlett 2i2 is the most popular audio interface out of all the other interfaces mentioned in this article. What makes 2i2 popular is its super compact design, various helpful features and eye-catching colour scheme. In addition, the interface incorporates two of the best mic preamps that you’ll find in an under $200 interface.

The 2i2 is packed with two mic/line/instrument level inputs. Both these inputs can record most of the instruments out there. The two inputs are designed to connect mics, keyboards, mixers, drum machines, and any type of guitar.

Both the inputs are phantom-powered, which makes them suitable for the condenser as well as dynamic mics. The direct monitoring is available in mono and stereo setting which allows a vocalist to hear their own voice while recording.

Related: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Review – Is it Best in Class?

Surprisingly, the interface has a dynamic range of 110.6 dB on mic inputs, allowing a singer to record vocals filled with emotions. The high dynamic range makes sure that the audio does not distort or clip.

Not to forget, there is one headphone o/p on the front side of the interface and two line outs on the rear side of the interface to connect external speakers. Both outputs have a separate gain knob.

Pros

  • The scarlett 2i2 is loaded with features,
  • Best in class mic preamps,
  • Exclusive air mode to add depth to input recordings.

Cons

  • No MIDI I/O available.

4) Native Instrument Komplete Audio 6 mk2

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2 combo Mic/Instrument/line inputs,
  • 2 balanced line inputs,
  • MIDI port available,
  • 2 Headphone output with dedicated gain knob,
  • 4 balanced line level outputs,
  • Four LED level input meters
  • +48V Phantom powered Mic preamps,
  • Direct Monitoring using mixer knob,
  • SPDIF ports available,
  • instrument input dynamic Range – 109 dB,
  • 24-bit resolution,
  • Supported sample rates – 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz,
  • One USB-C port to connect to laptops/Desktop PCs,
  • Wide range of softwares included,
  • Windows/Mac Compatible.

view the price of Native Instrument Komplete Audio 6 mk2 on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

Native instruments incorporate some great features that an audio interface can have in Komplete Audio 6.

Besides having all the standard features, Komplete audio 6 houses a MIDI port, SPDIF input and ladder style LEDs for input and output gain metering that looks out of this world.

I am impressed by the overall build quality and colour schema of this highly portable audio interface. The design of the interface will easily blend with the overall theme of any recording studio.

On the top of the interface, you can observe LEDs that are helpful for metering gain levels of inputs and outputs. There are indicators as well to show which features of the interface are engaged.

Native Instrument Komplete Audio 6 mk2

There are two mic/line/instrument level inputs at its core in NI Komplete audio 6. These inputs can connect all the basic instruments that a recording artist may possess. The mic inputs have a good dynamic range of upto 109 dB, providing enough headroom to record expressive vocals or instrument recordings.

In addition, there are two line-level inputs on the back of the interface that is suitable for line-level instruments like a drum machine, samplers and synthesizers.

Related: Top 7 Best Audio Interfaces under $400! – A Genuine list!

Native Instrument Komplete Audio 6 mk2

There are four outputs on the back of the interface right next to the line-level inputs. These line-level outputs can connect to an external studio all at once or can be used to route audio through a different channel for further effect processing.

Furthermore, the two headphone outputs with a dedicated gain knob make it easier for artists to collaborate. It opens up the opportunity to collaborate extensively and with much ease.

You can also connect various instruments through the SPDIF I/O.

Pros

  • It has clear LED meters for input gain metering,
  • Versatile, portable and extremely durable,
  • Co-producing is very much possible with this budget audio interface.

Cons

  • Driver issues at time of initial installation.

5) MOTU M2

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2-input / 2-output,
  • Two Mic / line / Hi-Z inputs,
  • Air Mode Feature,
  • Direct Monitoring,
  • Dedicated control knobs,
  • Two Phantom boosted MIC preamps(+48V),
  • One headphone o/p with dedicated control knob,
  • MIDI I/O available,
  • Ultra low latency,
  • USB Driven,
  • Compatible with Windows / Mac,
  • 24-Bit/192 kHz audio resolution.

View the price of MOTU M2 on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

The Motu M2 is truly a beginner-friendly audio interface. Motu M2 has a clean LCD that shows the input and output gain levels and is a very tough material.

It feels very sturdy, and the knobs feel pretty strong as well. In terms of features, it is quite similar to Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. But, M2 offers a lot more than 2i2 in terms of quality and certain specifications.

The Motu M2 has got two mics/line/instrument combo inputs. These inputs allow a producer to record mics, keyboards, drum machines and high impedance instruments like guitars.

It has a mic input dynamic range of 115 dB, the highest among all the interfaces mentioned in this article. It is good to have a high dynamic range to stay clean and crisp the mic input audio.

MOTU M2

Talking about outputs, the M2 has got one headphone output and four line-level outputs, of which two are unbalanced. The four outputs can be used to connect to external speakers or route audio to a separate channel.

Also check: Best High-End Audio Interfaces, According to Professionals!

Pros

  • Motu M2 has got LCD display,
  • MIDI port is also available,
  • Superb build quality.

Cons

  • Drivers may cause issues for some users.

6) M-Audio AIR USB audio interface

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2-input / 2-output,
  • Two Mic / line / Hi-Z inputs,
  • One MIDI I/O available,
  • Direct monitoring given,
  • Dedicated control knobs,
  • Two Phantom boosted MIC preamps(+48V),
  • One headphone o/p with dedicated control knob,
  • Dynamic range for mic input – 103 dB
  • Ultra low latency,
  • USB Driven,
  • Compatible with Windows / Mac,
  • 24-Bit/192 kHz audio resolution.

view the price of M-Audio AIR USB audio interface on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

The M-audio air is another audio interface tilted slightly towards guitarists. It may not have features like that included in AXE I/O solo, but it has two separate instrument level inputs to plug and record two guitars simultaneously.

There are two mic/line combo and two instrument-level inputs on the M-Audio interface. These inputs provide enough support for you to record upto four instruments at any given moment.

Surprisingly, the audio quality is quite good and the mic preamps introduce slightest of the noise even with a dynamic microphone. The dynamic range is a bit low but can be worked out with.

Everything is controlled from the top of the interface. You’ll see that two inputs have separate control with individual LED clip indicators. In addition, direct monitoring can be engaged using a mixer knob in a stereo or mono setting.

In terms of outputs, there are six outputs, out of which two are balanced and connect to studio monitors using 1/4″ TRS cables. The other four outputs can channel audio to a separate monitoring channel or route audio to an audio processing unit.

Pros

  • Mic preamps introduce no noise,
  • Two dedicated instrument inputs,
  • Mono and stereo monitoring available.

Cons

  • No MIDI port.

7) Steinberg UR22C USB audio interface

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2 mic/line inputs,
  • 1 Hi-Z/ instrument input,
  • MIDI port available,
  • 1 Headphone output with dedicated gain knob,
  • 2 balanced line level outputs,
  • Clip indicators for each input,
  • +48V Phantom powered Mic preamps,
  • Direct Monitoring using mixer knob,
  • Mic input dynamic Range – 102 dB,
  • 32-bit resolution,
  • Supported sample rates – 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz,
  • One USB-C port to connect to laptops/Desktop PCs,
  • Wide range of softwares included,
  • Windows/Mac Compatible.

view the price of Steinberg UR22C USB audio interface on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

The Steinberg UR22C may seem like a minimalistic audio interface, but the audio quality it provides is simply great when it comes to budget audio interfaces. It offers a sound resolution of 32 bits with sampling rates available upto 192 kHz.

The body of the interface is made up of good quality metal and is quite sturdy, offering very good durability.

Steinberg UR22C USB audio interface

The UR22C has two mic/line inputs, out of which one is instrument-level input. These inputs can be used to connect and record almost all of your instruments. On top of that, both the inputs are phantom powered, which means you can connect any microphone to these inputs.

You’ll see one MIDI port and two line-level outputs suitable to connect external speakers or studio monitors on the back of the interface. You can also connect headphones to listen to audio or to use the direct monitoring feature.

Pros

  • Ultra clean and low noise mic preamps,
  • MIDI port available,
  • Mono and Stereo monitoring available.

Cons

  • Dynamic range is a bit low.

8) Presonus Studio 24c

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2-input / 2-output,
  • Two Mic / line / Hi-Z inputs,
  • One MIDI I/O available,
  • Direct monitoring given,
  • LCD to monitor gain levels,
  • Dedicated control knobs,
  • Mic input dynamic range – 107 dB
  • Two Phantom boosted MIC preamps(+48V),
  • One headphone o/p with dedicated control knob,
  • USB Driven,
  • Ultra low latency,
  • Compatible with Windows / Mac,
  • 24-Bit/192 kHz audio resolution.

view the price of Presonus Studio 24c on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

The Presonus Studio 24c is another great budget audio interface. It has a very compact design and offers most of the features that a modern producer needs. The interface is made up of high-quality metal and feels stable as well.

As most interfaces do, the Presonus Studio 24c comes packed with two mic/line/instrument level inputs. Again, these inputs allow you to record all instruments, be it mics, keyboards or guitars. In addition, both inputs are phantom powered.

Also check: PreSonus Studio 24c USB-C Audio Interface Review

Presonus Studio 24c

The 24c also has ladder-style LED meters that show gain levels for inputs and outputs. It helps to check gain levels and correct them right from the interface if they are clipping or distorting.

However, I feel like the dynamic range of the mic inputs could have been better. Lower dynamic ranges can alter your capacity to record expressive vocals.

Talking about outputs, the Studio 24c has got two line levels and one headphone o/p. Nothing fancy here!

Pros

  • Ultra clean sound for an interface of this caliber,
  • MIDI Port available,
  • LED Metering display makes the process a bit easier.

Cons

  • The gain knobs are squished at one part of the interface.

9) Audient Evo 4

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2 Mic/Line inputs,
  • 1 Hi-Z/ Instrument input,
  • +48V Phantom powered,
  • 2 EVO mic preamps,
  • 24-bit resolution,
  • 1 Headphone output,
  • Exclusive Smart-Gain Feature,
  • 2 line-level/ Studio monitors outputs,
  • Mic input dynamic Range – 115 dB,
  • Supported sample rates – 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz,
  • One USB-C port to connect to laptops/Desktop PCs,
  • Direct Monitoring available,
  • A wide range of softwares included,
  • Windows/Mac/ M1 mac compatible.

View the price of Audient Evo 4 on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

The Audient Evo 4 is one of the best portable audio interfaces out there. It has high quality mic preamps with low noise levels and is great for newbie producers due to its minimalistic setup. The Evo 4 offers all the standard features that are required to produce high quality music.

This portable interface comes equipped with two mic/line combo inputs. These two combo inputs are suitable to record microphone as well as line level inputs like mics, keyboards, drum machines. It also incorporates a single instrument level input which is suitable for recording guitars.

Also check: Audient Evo 4 Review – Any place where it falls behind?

The smart gain button, present on top of the interface, automatically sets gain levels to the inputs, thus, allowing you to start making music without any hassles. The interface comes with all the basic features like phantom power and direct monitoring.

Audient Evo 4

In terms of outputs, the Evo 4 has two line levels outputs and a single headphone output. There is a single gain knob on top of the interface to control the volume of the outputs.

Furthermore, you can either use external speakers or the headphone output at any given moment. You can use both outputs simultaneously.

Pros

  • Mic preamps introduce very faint noise levels,
  • Provides all the basic features.
  • Extremely portable and is great for touring artists.

Cons

  • NO MIDI port,
  • Plastic body,
  • Not a suitable interface to co-produce music,
  • There is only one gain knob,
  • It may take a while to get used to Evo 4.

10) Behringer UMC204HD

best budget audio interfaces

Product specifications

  • 2 Mic/Line/ instrument inputs,
  • +48V Phantom powered,
  • 2 high class mic preamps,
  • 24-bit resolution,
  • 1 Headphone output,
  • Exclusive Smart-Gain Feature,
  • 2 line-level/ Studio monitors outputs,
  • Mic input dynamic Range – 100 dB,
  • Supported sample rates – 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz,
  • One USB-C port to connect to laptops/Desktop PCs,
  • Direct Monitoring available,
  • A wide range of softwares included,
  • Windows/Mac/ M1 mac compatible.

view the price of Behringer UMC204HD on Amazon

A deeper Analysis

You may not prefer Behringer as a brand, but let me tell you that their audio interface is pretty awesome for their price.

In addition, the features and specifications you’ll see on the UMC202HD are too good to be true. The interface itself feels very sturdy on a table and is made quite powerful.

The UMC202HD is a two-input and two-output audio interface. But you get more than that. In addition to the two mics/line/Hi-Z inputs on the interface’s front panel, the rear side has two separate line inputs.

So, in total, you get four inputs, which is pretty amusing considering the possibilities it offers. Besides, there is a MIDI port available on the backside of the interface too.

Behringer UMC204HD

In terms of outputs, there is one headphone output and six outputs, out of which two are balanced. The two outputs can route audio to separate channels or to a different effects rack altogether.

All in all, the value you get from Behringer UMC204HD is quite high. It may not be the best, but it is worth a try.

Related: Best audio Interfaces under 100 Dollars for a perfect Home Studio

Pros

  • Low latency,
  • The sound is quite clean,
  • MIDI port available.

Cons

  • Least dynamic range out of all other interfaces.

Conclusion

In conclusion, these are some of the best budget USB audio interfaces. The sound quality is almost same on these interfaces due to audio converters being so good and accessible these days due to technology boost.

All these interfaces have very good and studio-like sound quality. The amount of noise on mic preamps is very low as well. In addition, all these audio interfaces offer great portability and numerous features.

However, if you ask me which audio interface I recommend, it will be the Solid State Logic SSL 2. It has great features, exclusive 4K legacy mode, premium build quality and incorporates the best mic preamps ever made.

Lastly, tell me in the comments which budget interfaces are you going to pick?

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