Whether you want to make high-quality audio recordings of yourself singing at home or playing a musical instrument, you’d need to choose from the many audio interfaces available on the market. Looking for a budget-friendly audio interface? Then, you’ll need to go for the best audio interface under $500.
Now you ask, “Do I even need an audio interface for my home recording?” The simple answer…yes. An audio interface is at the heart of a home recording system and so, if you and your band are looking to create a record, a high-quality audio interface will make it more special.
In this article, we have highlighted the best budget audio interfaces that are worth considering for a professional home studio. We’ve also added a comprehensive buying guide to make it easy for you to choose the best audio interface under $500 that will suit your tastes and pocket better.
Top 10 Best Audio Interface Under $500 Reviews:
1. PreSonus Studio 1824 USB Audio Interface
When it comes to audio interfaces, the PreSonus brand gains our respect for their high-quality products and great attention to detail. The Studio 1824 isn’t left out as it has many similar functions with well-known mixing boards. If you’ve got a project studio, this USB audio interface is custom-made for recording multichannel drums and full bands. You’ll also enjoy extra monitoring versatility and have more room for processing external effects.
To make working with virtual instruments easier, this audio interface comes with a MIDI I/O for your keyboard controller. That’s not all…thanks to the PreSonus control room integration included with the UC Surface software and Studio One Artist plus a DSP-based monitor mixer, you’ll get to experience zero-latency monitoring.
Just getting started with the sound recording? Then, the PreSonus Studio 1824c has got everything you’ll need to hit the ground running – – all you need to add is music. If you’ve also been into recording for a while but would like an upgrade to your existing interface for better performance or more I/O, the Studio 1824c won’t let you down as well. So, are you a DJ, mobile musician or an electronic musician and you don’t want to sacrifice build and audio quality for portability? Then, the PreSonus Studio 1824c audio interface will exceed your expectations.
- A 6-in, 6-out audio interface.
- All-metal knobs and chassis.
- An A/B function for switching between mixes.
- It comes with high-quality XMAX microphone preamps.
- It comes with recording software; Studio One Artist, Studio Magic Plug-in Suite.
2. Focusrite Scarlett [3rd Gen] 18i20 USB Audio Interface
Focusrite’s Scarlett audio interfaces always merge superb sonics and audio versatility at a budget-friendly price point, and the 18i20 helps to prove this further. With the 3rdGen 18i20, you’ll get a rack-mountable interface that helps to serve as the brains behind an admirable production studio. On the front panel, you’ll find a speaker switcher, dimmer, the dual headphone outputs and a talkback button. We like the fact that Focusrite was able to neatly place the solid knobs and buttons on the 18i20’s front panel without having anything looking out of place
On the front is an easy-to-read LED metering which is a nice touch for you to check and set levels quickly. For the inputs, there’s a total of eight pres along with two combi jacks on the front that can also double as dual instrument level-in and six extra combi jacks on its rear. With this audio interface’s 18 inputs and 20 outputs, you’ll get a crystal-clear and distortion-free sound for your vocals, voiceover, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, drums, and other string instruments.
The 18i20 has been built to handle everything you throw at it and so, you can set up a band recording session, powerful project studio or complete production studio for a radio or TV commercial work at an affordable price.
- It comes with 8 best performing mic preamps with an adjustable Air mode.
- It features 2 high-headroom instrument inputs for synths, bass or guitar plug-in.
- It comes with 4 monitor outputs with anti-thump technology and speaker switching.
- Onboard talkback functionality with a built-in, front panel talkback mic.
- It comes with 8-balanced line inputs for connecting synthesizers, drum machines, and other line-level sources.
- High-performance converters for recording and mixing up to 24-bit/ 192kHz.
3. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 Audio Interface
The U-PHORIA UMC1820 from Behringer helps to show that you won’t need to break the bank just because you need a high-quality audio interface. It features eight XLR/TRS inputs and high-quality Midas preamps with two on the front panel and six on the rear. Each of these inputs also comes with signal and peak LED indicators, a PAD button switch, a line/instrument button switch, and a gain control knob. There are also additional controls that you can use for monitoring on its right side that makes for a more flexible lineup.
We also like that the UMC1820 is compatible with both Windows, Mac systems and all major DAWs includingAvid Pro Tools, Ableton Live and Steinberg Cubase. As one of the best audio interfaces under $500, the UMC1820 displays solid performance and can handle hot instrument pickups quite easily. For a clean, flawless and distortion-free vocals, its MIDAS preamps ensure this is possible and delivers on its promise of zero-latency direct monitoring with no noticeable delays or lags.
Although it might not deliver the same crystal-clear audio like the other entry-level audio interfaces on our list, it offers the most inputs and outputs making it an ideal choice if you’re looking to multi-mic some instruments or put some band demos in place for your live recordings.
- An ADAT I/O for recording instruments and microphones.
- An Audiophilic 24-Bit/96 kHz resolution for a professional sound quality
- It’s compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase and so on.
- It can stream 18 inputs and 20 outputs of ultra-low latency audio to computer systems.
- It comes with 8 state-of-the-art, MIDAS designed Mic Preamplifiers with a +48 V phantom power.
4. Roland OctaCapture USB 2.0 Audio Interface
Among the many special features of the Roland OctaCapture are its 10 audio inputs of which 8 out of them are well-balanced microphone inputs. When used with your PC, it can record all the available inputs of your tracks allowing for extra versatility in post-production. This means you can re-adjust the volumes, mute a cough or perform any kind of equalization without having to affect the other recorded audio at the same time.
The OctaCapture also allows for gating and onboard compression and you can route its four virtual monitor mixes to any of its analog outputs. Take advantage of its in-built 40-bit DSP [digital signal processing] and use it to custom monitor mixes to your speakers, headphones or recording devices. You’ll quickly appreciate the control and speed you get with the Octa-Capture to configure your channels and monitor mixes despite its gentle learning curve. If you’re someone who recognizes the value of templates in your DAW, then you’ll instantly see the benefits of programming the Octa-Capture accurately.
Have you ever wondered if you could have the same audio interface on the road and also for your home studio? Well, the great sound quality and excellent versatility the Roland OctaCapture offers will make this a reality.
- It comes with 8 Premium Mic Preamps and Compact I/O for clear audio quality.
- It features an Auto-Sens function that brilliantly sets optimal input levels for all preamps
- An extremely low-latency and streaming driver.
- Features 4 independent software-controlled Direct Mixers for creating custom monitor mixes.
- It supports all major DAW platforms on Mac or Windows.
5. M-Audio AIR 192 USB Audio Interface
You deserve a crystal-clear sound production no matter how big your recording studio is and thanks to its excellent crystal preamps, the M-Audio AIR 192 audio interface delivers on this guarantee. The Crystal preamps leave you guaranteed perfect performance capture and the best sound possible from your microphone. This audio interface uses very clean A/D converters for a 24-bit resolution digital audio and with its huge dynamic range, it picks up on every nuance of your recording. It doesn’t matter if you plug your guitar directly into it or you plug in a microphone, you can rest assured of amazing sound quality.
Looking at this sleek audio interface, you’ll see that it was designed with high quality and portability. Besides its beautiful recordings, you’ll also enjoy clean audio outputs with zero-latency monitoring through either your headphones or stereo outputs. It’s also quite easy to use with a nice and solid central knob and responsive onboard gain controls. With its fast USB connection, you won’t be held back with clicks or pops when you’re recording and there is even a direct monitor mode that helps keep you in time.
This is a perfect audio interface choice if you’re looking for a professional-standard recording that allows for synths, microphones, instruments and MIDI gear without the troubles of renting a full-sized studio.
- Features a 24-bit/192kHz resolution for professional recording and monitoring.
- It comes with Crystal preamps and ultra-pristine A/D converters for unmatched audio recording quality.
- Features LED meters for dialing in the perfect level.
- It comes with a MIDI input/output for connecting any external MIDI gear.
- Features a rugged metal chassis for easy volume adjustment.
- A USB/Direct knob for balancing between the input signal and the computer signal.
6. IK Multimedia iRig Stomp I/O USB Audio Interface
The IK Multimedia’s iRig Stomp I/O is the brand’s latest addition to its audio interface products that merge an MFi-certified audio interface with a MIDI input/output for your devices with a flexible floor controller unit. That’s not all…it also comes packed with many vocal, guitar and recording apps that provide you with enough room for in-depth creative capabilities from the beginning. With its wide variety of effects, virtual amps and more, you’re guaranteed an impressive sound quality that could even seem better than most expensive audio interfaces.
On the top half of its upward-facing front panel is a solid, non-slippery rubber surface that holds your device in place. The iRig Stomp I/O unit can even function as a standalone MIDI controller without you having to use it with your computer or iOS device and so, you can get to control other MIDI devices in your rigs without hassles. Indeed, this audio interface is easy to use and might look quite simple but it’s quite versatile and amazingly powerful.
So, if you love the sound of IK’s virtual amps and effects but would want them to sound their best on stage then you should go for the iRig Stomp I/O as it delivers crystal-clear studio audio quality even on stage.
- Features 4 stomp switches and an in-built expression pedal.
- A 24-Bit, 96 kHz audio interface with neutral combo input.
- It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC.
- It comes with optional expansion jacks and MIDI I/O for more advanced setups.
- Extra two 1/4 inches switch/pedal controller inputs.
7. Apogee One Audio Interface
The Apogee brand is well-known for excellent sound quality and the One isn’t any exception with its 24‑bit audio that’s up to 48kHz and mic preamp with a phantom power of 48V. One interesting feature of this audio interface is its in-built omnidirectional microphone which automatically means you won’t need to buy or carry a separate microphone around plus it’s ideal for recording a jam-session while recording the direct instruments as well.
The One audio interface’s mic preamp is based on the brand’s best technology that’s mostly found in its more expensive interfaces with great phantom power and 62dB of gain. We like the fantastic output from the headphone/speaker and how it provides plenty of headroom and volume to allow you pleasurably listen to high-resolution audio. Apogee’s DACs are considered to be of the highest quality and to be at the front line and although the One audio interface doesn’t have the same DACs or preamps as the rest of Apogee products, it still delivers high quality that makes it better than other audio interfaces at this price.
The One is an ideal choice if you’re a music producer in a recording studio that wants to focus on getting down song ideas as they come and also hear the sound on multiple speakers when mixing.
- A 2 in x 2 Out audio interface with an in-built microphone.
- A USB 2.0 connection for Mac or PC with a 24-bit/96kHz AD/DA conversion.
- It allows for direct monitoring and complete input/output control.
- Features die-cast aluminum chassis.
- It delivers Apogee’s renowned sound quality.
8. Native Instruments Komplete 6 Mk2 Audio Interface
The Native Instruments brand is known for always modifying and updating its range of audio interfaces and the latest is the Komplete Audio 6 audio interface which is meant for you if your monitoring and recording needs are varied. On its upper surface is a large output volume dial that you’ll find helpful when you want to change the monitor volume without using its front panel knob. You might find the 5-LED meters of this audio interface a little unsophisticated but we believe the absence of complex dancing lights has to do with power efficiency.
This audio interface has two headphone outputs with separate gain controls which is ideal if you’d like to do some recording, monitoring and also hear what’s going on at the same time. You also get to record up to 192kHz/24-bit resolution with very low latency. The result? An impressive, crystal-clear sound. Bundled with NI’s software; Monark, Komplete Start, Replika, Mod Pack, Solid Bus Comp, Live 10 Lite, Maschine Essentials, and Traktor LE3 – – you’ll get to cover all the performance and recording bases you need when making beats, DJ’ing, producing tracks or doing all three.
So, if you’re looking for a decent amount of I/O without leaving a hole in your pocket then, the Komplete Audio 6 is your must-have.
- Record audio in flawless quality up to 192 kHz/ 24-bit.
- Allows for connecting a whole setup of 4 analogs in/out, 2-digital in/out and MIDI in/out.
- It comes with all the software needed to record and build tracks, plus synths, effects and so on.
- A 2x headphone out with high-power output and individual volume controls
- Features USB 2.0 Bus-Power with no need for additional power supply.
9. Audient iD14 High-Performance USB Audio Interface
The Audient brand is renowned for its extensive mixing consoles with high-quality industry microphone preamps. Many users tend to praise the clarity and quietness of their mic preamps including their excellent digital to analog conversion abilities. The Audient iD4 isn’t excluded as it features one of the brand’s best mic preamps along with a JFET instrument input for simultaneous instrument and vocal recording. It also comes with two headphone outputs which are both helpful and a great feature considering its price.
With the audio interface’s ‘Scroll Control’ technology, you can have hands-on control of the parameters in your DAW by using the control knob to control everything from the audio interface. This unique feature allows for easier command of the controls that are normally difficult to fine-tune using a mouse and together with the ID4’s two Class A microphone preamps, they all come together to deliver an excellent sound.
If you’re searching for a scalable and versatile audio interface with impressive sound quality, then, the Audient ID4 should top your list as it features the best-sounding preamps that you’ll find within this price range. If you’re also a songwriter or singer looking to start your own home studio then this is an excellent choice as well.
- A 2-in/2-out USB audio interface.
- Features a 1 x class-a Audient console mic preamplifier
- It comes with a 1 x discrete JFET instrument input
- Features high-performance converters
- ID Scroll Control mode
- Features zero-latency monitoring with monitor mix and pan
10. MOTU M4 USB-C Audio Interface
MOTU is best known for its classy audio interface hardware and Digital Performer DAW and the M4 is one of their innovations. The M4 audio interface is compact, affordable and powerful and comes with the same ESS Sabre32 Ultra™ DAC Technology that’s usually found in more expensive audio interfaces. This audio interface delivers an amazing Dynamic Range of 120 dB on its main outputs. Its headphone output is driven by the ESS converters, which matches popular dedicated headphone amplifiers that cost hundreds.
Thanks to the brand’s skillfully-made USB drivers which provide world-class, ultra-low 2.5 MS Round Trip Latency, the M4 delivers excellent speed that you can use to monitor live inputs through your computer. You’d agree that nothing is more critical than attaining optimal levels when recording and mixing. The M4 also features a full-color LCD with clear, detailed level meters for all its inputs and outputs. There are also two extra TRS line inputs on the rear, along with an additional pair of outputs and a dedicated blend knob that you can use for controlling the balance between your computer mix and the live inputs.
So, if you’re looking to monitor and capture your audio with flawless clarity and enjoy feedback and professional-level volume control to get the perfect sound then, your search ends here.
- An ESS Sabre32 Ultra™ DAC technology for excellent analog sound
- An ESS-driven headphone output
- A class-leading speed (ultra-low latency) for host software processing
- Class-leading metering for all inputs/outputs with a full-color LCD
- A 2x mic/line/hi-Z guitar inputs on combo XLR/TRS
11. Rode RodeCaster Pro Podcast Production Studio
If you’re looking for a digital recorder and mixer that’s rolled into a brilliant all-in-one audio interface and would deliver excellent sound quality, then the RodeCaster is the one you’re looking for. that delivers superb audio quality. The RodeCaster Pro is a unique audio interface that’s designed with podcasting in mind and merges four monitoring headphone outputs, four XLR microphone inputs, eight programmable pads for sound effects and jingles and Bluetooth plus USB connections for your mobile devices.
There’s a microSD card slot on its rear that allows you to do a whole stereo recording without you having to use a computer. It features a bidirectional USB-C connector as well that accepts input from your computer while sending the sound out to your desired editing software simultaneously. Whether you decide to hook the interface up with your phone using Bluetooth or USB, the RodeCaster makes it quite easy for you to record high-quality interviews with someone else who’s at a remote location.
So, if you’re recording live remotely or want to step into professional audio production and broadcasting then, that’s what makes this portable broadcast production device shines.
- Features an integrated podcast production studio with 4 class A mic preamps.
- It comes with eight programmable pads
- Bluetooth enabled.
- Has 8 faders to control the audio levels.
- Records 24-bit/48kHz audio directly to microSD card or computer via USB.
12. Tascam US-16×08 USB Audio Interface
With 16 channel inputs and 8 channel outputs offered by the Tascam US-16×08 USB digital audio interface, there’s enough I/O for full band recording in its price range. 8 out of the 16 channel inputs are Ultra-HDDA mic preamps along with XLR connectors that deliver the quietest and cleanest operation plus phantom power located on the front of the unit with 2 line/instrument inputs. The remaining 6 inputs are ¼-inch TRS balanced line-level inputs that work perfectly for mic preamps, electric drums, keyboards or any other source of line-level.
With its in-built DSP mixer, the audio interface provides a low-latency digital mixing with compression and 4 bands EQ available for each input. It also provides 4 custom stereos mixers if you need to record a whole band.
The US-16X08 audio interface is also versatile and can be used as a stand-alone preamp to provide Midi I/O for your whole studio. It doesn’t matter if you’re you’re mounting it with the included rack ears or using its comfortably-designed angled desktop stand, the US-16×08’s analog I/O is perfect for all music recording applications.
- Comes with 8 Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps
- A 16-in/8-out interface with up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution
- Comes with 8 1/4-inch well-balanced line inputs, 2 adjustable to instrument level
- A DSP Mixer for Low-latency monitoring with EQ and compression
- Comes with high-quality audio components for 125dBu EIN and 105dB S/N ratio
Things To Consider When Buying Audio Interface Under $500
When you’re ready to go for the top-rated audio interface under $500, there are some things you should expect. Here they are:
1. I/O Options
Audio interfaces come with several types of inputs/outputs and so, it’s essential for you to precisely know what you’re looking for. You can help yourself out here by deciding on the number of guitars, microphones, synths, drum machines, samplers, or any other instruments you’re looking to record all at once. To plug them into your interface, you’ll also need to know the types of inputs you’d need to use at any time.
Most audio interfaces come with two inputs at least, that work for line-level signals, instruments or microphones. For example, if you’re looking to use plenty of microphones then, you’ve got to get plenty of preamp-equipped inputs as well. If you need one or two vocal mics and have a synth rig, you can make use of an audio interface with a couple of channels equipped with preamps plus seven line-level inputs or more.
Outputs also differ in their layouts as well, however, it’s possible that if you’re a solo artist, you might need a separate headphone output and at least some stereo outs for your studio monitors. If you’ve got a full band, you should find an audio interface with extra headphone outputs as that will work best for multiple performers or you could decide to buy an extra headphone amp instead.
Besides the I/O options, you’ll need to ensure that your audio interface is as versatile as it can be as this will help you record on the go. You can check if the audio interface you’re considering has got any of these features as well:
- MIDI inputs for MIDI controllers.
- A DI input for your guitars and other live instruments.
- Mic input for your microphone.
- Line inputs for your guitars and other line-level gear.
Among the best things to have in your audio interface is the choice of connectivity. Most budget-friendly interfaces run on standard USB 2.0 which is still quite acceptable. However, some modern interfaces put this USB 2.0 standard to the limit. Some interfaces claim faster connections through USB-C, USB3, Ethernet or even Thunderbolt. However, USB 2.0 is still great for your home studio and any other recording needs you might have as a beginner. All you’ll need to do is to ensure that your computer comes with the right ports that you can use to connect to the audio interface you’re considering.
4. Internal Hardware
Microphone pre-amplifiers and A/D converters are the centers of every audio interface. Most brands use their standard preamplifiers, an example is Roland’s Octa-Capture technology. They took the device straight from their well-known mixers and integrated them into the audio interface. If you’ quite serious about music recording and you’re looking to get the best precise recordings of the highest quality possible then you’ll need to go for a top-rated pre-amplifier.
At this price level, most interfaces have been designed to be used on a computer and so, can be placed next to your laptop without taking up much space. However, there are now audio interfaces that have got rack-mounted designs and can fit perfectly into a rack and then be easily screwed to the sides. So, while shopping in this price range, a rack will be an ideal way to put your audio equipment in order and have everything that’s not a mixer or amplifier put in it. If you’ve got a big studio and you’re running racks, then buying a rack-friendly audio interface will be the best way to go for you.
If you want to get more professional with your music recording, there are some professional DAWsout there including Ableton Live, Apple Logic, Avid Pro Tools and so on. You could also consider virtual instruments or plugins to make for more enhanced sound production. Most interfaces come packed with recording software which is usually entry-level versions of plugins and/or DAWs. Let’s take the PreSonus audio interface on our list as an example. It comes with the entry version of the brand’s suite of software plugins like iZotope’s Neutron Elements and DAW. Native Instruments’audio interfaces come with a lot of its sound design tools, effects, software synths and an entry version of Ableton Live 10.
What Is an Audio Interface?
An audio interface is a hardware component that improves and expands the sonic abilities of a computer. Some audio interfaces will give you the ability to connect instruments, professional microphones and any other kind of signals to your computer and also output various signals. Besides augmenting your inputs and outputs, audio interfaces also greatly enhance your computer’s sound quality. Each time you record new audio or listen through headphones and speakers the audio interface helps reproduce a more precise representation of the sounds.
Audio interfaces remain an important component in a computer-based audio production. You can use them for recording voice-overs, podcasts and music, sound design and other video post-production. So, when you need a more efficient level of audio performance from your computer, more expert-level microphones or you need to route instruments and other kinds of signals into or out of your computer, you’ll need an audio interface for that.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Q-1: Is an Audio Interface the Same as A Sound Card?
Well, an audio interface and a sound card do the same basic job which is to get sound in and out of your computer so that you can process, edit and turn the sound into a digital signal and back again. It’s safe for us to refer to an audio interface as an external sound card as you can record and playback with your computer just like you would with a sound card – – the audio interface just takes you a step closer towards sounding more professional.
Q-2: Do I Still Need an Audio Interface If I’ve Got a USB Mic?
It’s easy to get confused here if you tend to think of an audio interface as a box with several inputs for instruments, mics, and outputs for headphones and speakers. However, a USB mic can effectively act as an audio interface too. It’s a mic that comes with an audio interface and so, all you’ll need to do is to plug the USB lead of the mic into another USB port for it to work. That’s all, you won’t need any other equipment. It could feature a headphone or just be a recording mic and then, you’ll have a full input and output tool.
Q-3: What Is the Best Audio Interface Under $500?
When it comes to finding the best audio interface that works for you, you’ll need to know what you want to use it for and also how much you can afford. Fortunately, we’ve listed the 12 best audio interfaces under $500 that you can choose from in this article for you to go through and make the ideal choice for your audio production needs.
Q-4: What Is the Purpose of an Audio Interface?
Among the main advantages, an audio interface has over on-board sound cards is its physical size and easy access plus an extensive range of input types that can be built into the unit. Also, audio interfaces generally have higher audio quality than standard onboard sound cards and some even feature MIDI if you’re looking to connect a keyboard controller as well.
Q-5: How Many Inputs and Outputs do I Need on My Audio Interface?
This will depend fully on the kind of work you’ll like to do with your audio interface. If you want to record with many expert-level microphones, you’ll need to go for an interface that comes with plenty of XLR inputs for your microphone. If you’re looking to record maybe, voice-overs for video production, then you should go for an interface that features only one XLR input.
Also, if it’s DJ’ing with your computer that you’re after, then it’s ideal for you to go for an audio interface that features four line-level of outputs – – two will be used for sending the mix from your stereo to the sound system and the other two outputs will be used to privately signal songs.
Q-6: What is the Phantom Power of an Audio Interface?
Asides being called phantom power; it’s also called “+48V.” Some microphones will need a little flow of electricity to work while others can pick up the sound without using any power. So, when a microphone is plugged into a device that supplies it with electricity, it’s referred to as ‘phantom power’. Many audio interfaces that have mic inputs also supply phantom power but since not all kinds of microphones will need phantom power, these audio interfaces also have a switch that you can use to turn it on and off.
Audio interfaces have a natural price progression which is; the more you spend, the more you get. The audio interfaces under $500 are ideal choices for personal use in your home studio and even if you’re looking to use them on the go. All the audio interfaces that we’ve mentioned in our article are perfect examples of professional audio interfaces and so, there’s no reason to break your bank for an audio interface especially as a beginner.
In the end, we’re sure that whatever your choice of the best audio interface under $500 might be, it will provide you with a flawless recording pleasure for many years.