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Best USB Audio Interfaces For Podcasters & Video Creators

Best USB Audio Interfaces For Podcasters & Video Creators

Podcasts and videos with bad audio quality are headache-inducing. You are less focused on the ideas the presenters are sharing since their muffled vocals or obnoxious humming noises are constantly getting in the way.

Audio production quality matters. It's time to step up your game.

If you want your message to be heard loud and clear, you will need a professional quality audio interface. These devices are simple to get started with and greatly improve your recording quality. 

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about audio interfaces, including a list of our favorite devices.


What is an audio interface? 

Also referred to as a soundboard, audio interfaces allow you to achieve things in your recordings that would just not be possible with your computer and microphone alone. 

When you connect any audio device to your computer, it needs to be able to process the sound produced. You can connect microphones, headphones, guitars, and more. While some of these automatically convert audio into a readable format on their own, some require an external device to help. An audio interface is an external device that turns your audio input into a format your computer can recognize. 

These devices have a variety of unique features that you can't get with any other type of recording setup.

What is a USB audio interface?

There are a few different input options for interfaces, but the most common is through a USB port. This makes audio interfaces simple to use and accessible. Most USB audio interfaces will need a USB 2.0 port or above since they need USB bus power to function. This means they are able to function without an external source of power, like an AC cable connecting to a wall outlet.

Are USB audio interfaces good?

Audio interfaces are great for musicians, podcasters, and video creators. Without one, the sound quality is significantly decreased. They make setting up your recordings incredibly easy. All your inputs and outputs will be connected to one device that your computer will recognize.

You will also have control over your audio levels with dials or sliders right there on the device. No more hunting through your computer’s sound settings to raise or lower the gain of your mic. You can also listen to your live recording as it's happening through the playback signal, making it easier to hear any errors in the process.

To get more technical, with some USB interfaces, you can use your condenser mics with phantom power, amplify your sound through mic preamps, monitor your outputs with zero-latency monitoring or direct monitoring, and so much more.

USB interfaces are a great tool for easily upgrading your sound quality through a variety of methods, giving you a more dynamic range of sounds via analog and digital inputs.

Do you need an audio interface? 

An audio interface or a soundboard is an excellent addition to a home studio or professional digital audio workstation. If you are managing multiple audio inputs and outputs on your device, getting a USB interface to make sense of it all would be a great investment.

Interfaces are also important to reduce delay- ideally down to zero latency. Many devices come with zero latency or latency-free monitoring, which is a great help for making sure your audio is recording without delay.

A USB interface is not required for all audio recorders, but if you find yourself recording a lot of audio for personal or professional tasks, an interface will make things so much better and easier.

How many inputs and outputs do I need?

The amount of inputs depends on the projects, how many people are involved, and how many devices will need connectivity. If you are working with multiple people, you should factor in inputs for all their needs and a headphone socket for each user.

If your recording project is just a microphone and a pair of headphones, then that is all you need. You will still record better audio than you would without a soundboard managing it. 

If you are a musician, you may be looking for more inputs and different forms of them. There are specific inputs for different types of instruments, such as MIDI for keyboard and electronic drum kits.  In these cases, You may want to look for combo inputs, since these inputs can accept different types of audio cables. Combo inputs can help you connect all the gear you need with a lot less hassle.

What types of inputs and outputs do I need?

The bare minimum you may need is:

Additionally, for music, you may need an instrument input: 

  • MIDI connectivity for piano keyboards, synthesizers, or drum machines.
  • TS cable for guitar.

Most audio interfaces have 1/4” jacks for your headphone outputs, since they are oftentimes line outputs, and most headphones are 3.5mm, so you may need to get an adapter if you want to use your favorite pair. 

If you have condenser mics, you will want to get a soundboard that offers phantom power. This is basically just a power supply and usually a setting that can be turned on and off, but it is needed for condenser mics to function properly.

The audio interface will require 1 USB port to connect to your computer. Whereas, the rest of the audio inputs and outputs will be plugged directly into the audio interface. Since the audio signal goes directly to the device, there is no need to connect your headphones to the computer's headphone jack.

Many interfaces are bus-powered, meaning they get their power from your PC. But, some devices require an external power supply.

Should I get a USB interface or a mixing board?

An audio mixing board, or a mixer is similar to an interface but with a lot more features. Mixing boards have many dials or sliders to manage each input. Audio interfaces generally only offer gain controls and a few other limited modifications, while mixing boards allow you to alter the sound and add effects such as reverb and delay. 

A mixing board works as the name suggests — you get more mix control over your audio with a mixing board.

A mixer may be the choice for you if you need more options handy. These devices have the necessary instrument input options but with more control over their sound. This is vital for some musicians, but it can also assist with video creation and podcasting depending on the content.

If you are making podcasts or video content, a mixing board is likely unnecessary and an audio interface will do all the things you need. 

How does an audio interface work?

This is a hub for all your input and output devices at your digital audio workstation. It communicates with your computer to record quality audio from your input devices, such as microphones, guitars, and MIDI keyboards, to the recording software. 

For example, let's look at microphones. Microphones create analog sound and this needs to be converted into a digital format to be read by a computer. Audio interfaces do this conversion. They capture the analog sound from the microphone and convert it to a readable digital format before sending it through to your computer.

How an audio interface converts analog sound from a microphone to digital sound for a computer to read.

(Image source: Samson; Focusrite; Apple)

There are a variety of ports on audio interfaces that capture your audio and allow for playback. There are also usually dials or sliders corresponding to each port for gain controls or playback volume control.

To begin working using an audio interface, most devices have a power switch for you to turn on. Some will power on alongside your computer. In these cases, you may want to keep your audio interface unplugged when not in use. This will protect the device’s battery and prevent it from draining power from your computer unnecessarily. 

Some devices come with a software bundle to help you record and improve your sound quality. The contents of the bundled software may have an impact on your interface buying decision.

How to connect your audio interface?

After plugging your USB audio interface into your computer and powering it on, you will need to change your computer’s audio input and output settings. This will allow your device to fully manage the incoming and outgoing audio on your computer. You may also need to change the sound input and output settings in any specific recording software you are using. 

In order for your audio interface to connect properly, you may need to search the manufacturer’s website for a device driver to install onto your computer. This will also help you to get the software bundle installed, if applicable.

How to choose the best audio interface?

The ideal audio interface is the one that completes your goals simply and effectively. When selecting an audio interface, ask yourself a few questions: 

  • How many inputs and outputs do I need?
  • What types of inputs do I need? 
  • What is my budget? 
  • How many people will be recording with me? 
  • Where do I want to put an audio interface in my recording setup?

Figuring out your goals for your recordings will make choosing the best audio interfaces a lot easier.

Many audio companies include a software suite with their device. If you know you like a certain company's software bundle, it may be a good idea to buy your device from them. If you are already comfortable with software like Pro Tools, you can seek out similar options or find a device that communicates well with it.

Now, with the stipulations you have, let’s check out the best devices and find the right choice for your projects. 

20 Best USB Audio Interfaces of 2022

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

  • Price: $209.99
  • Input/Output: 2 in, 2 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

As Focusrite’s best-selling audio interface device, it’s no wonder this is part of our list. It is compact, affordable, and powerful. Like many interfaces, this one features an easy access phantom power button for quick switching. With two mic inputs, RCA outputs, and a headphone output, this device is great for ensuring you get your recording done correctly.  

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

  • Price: $149
  • Input/Output: 2 in, 2 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/96kHz

If you’re looking to budget, this is a great option that comes with a recording software bundle, including Studio One Artist, Ableton Live Lite, and the Studio Magic Plug-in Suite. It offers two inputs and two independent headphone outputs or line outputs. This AudioBox also includes phantom power.

Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre

  • Price: $1149.99
  • Input/Output: 18 in, 120 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

This is a very professional audio interface that may be worth the hefty price tag. It features a super flat design with eight input options. It is bus-powered through a USB-C cable. It also offers phantom power for your mic inputs. This works great for a small studio or a group of podcasters. 

PreSonus Studio 1824c

  • Price: $529.95
  • Input/Output: 18 in, 20 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

This is a sleek-looking audio interface with eighteen inputs. There is a small screen to monitor outputs to ensure no peaks in incoming audio. This device also offers phantom power options for their mic preamps at +48 volts. PreSonus has a lot of models like this one, with this version being their biggest. 

Rode Rodecaster Pro

  • Price: $599
  • Input/Output: 4 in, 4 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/48kHz

The Rode Rodecaster Pro is a unique audio interface with more capabilities than a lot of the competitors. It is specifically designed for easy podcast creation. It can be used as a computer-based USB audio interface, or it can be used as a standalone recording device with a microSD card slot. With 4 XLR inputs with corresponding headphone jack outputs, this device is great for a 4 person podcast. 

M-Audio AIR 192|14

  • Price: $329
  • Input/Output: 8 in, 4 out 
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz 

This device comes with eight inputs and four outputs. It has a MIDI input, TS input, and +48V phantom power, making this a great interface for musicians. M-Audio also provides a variety of recording and audio editing bundled software. This is a great device for a small band or group of content creators using various input methods. 

Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820

  • Price: $279
  • Input/Output: 18 in, 20 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/96kHz

If you’re in need of a lot of input and output slots, this Behringer audio interface is for you. It is a wildly affordable audio interface considering it has 18 input options and 20 outputs. There are a variety of XLR and instrument inputs as well as many headphone outputs. It has a long and short design, making it easily fit on a desktop. This is a great budget option for a studio. 

Solid State Logic SSL2+

  • Price: $349.99
  • Input/Output: 2 in, 4 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192 kHz

The SSL2+ has 2 channel inputs with a unique retro feature. The Legacy 4k button modifies the incoming audio to create an analog recording. The SSL sound quality relies on their internal analog mixer to produce professional-grade audio.

RME Babyface Pro FS

  • Price: $999
  • Input/Output: 12 in, 12 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

This ultra-compact USB interface comes with a big price tag, but with good reason. The Babyface Pro FS has 24 channel options and a wide variety of effects and features to give you the perfect audio output for any project. 

Universal Audio Volt 476

  • Price: $369
  • Input/Output: 4 in, 4 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

This is a USB-C audio interface designed to work best with Apple products like Macs, iPhones, and iPads. It is still suitable for PC users, however, and offers four inputs and four outputs in a unique-looking wood case. 

Cranborne Audio 500R8

  • Price: $1,799
  • Input/Output: 28 in, 30 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

The 500R8 is for very large-scale projects. With 28 inputs and 30 outputs, this massive USB audio interface is packed with dials and features for the most robust audio projects. 

Audient iD4 MkII

  • Price: $199
  • Input/Output: 2 in, 2 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/96kHz

This is a compact budget option. The iD4 has two inputs and two line outputs, perfect for podcasting or video creation with a friend or co-host in your home studio. It features +48v phantom power in their mic preamps and USB-C connectivity.  

Universal Audio Apollo Solo Heritage Edition

  • Price: $699
  • Input/Output: 2 in, 4 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

This is an audio interface with a very simple design. Universal Audio sweetens the deal on this device by offering a massive bundle of software and plugins to improve and edit your audio. It features Thunderbolt connectivity and a direct monitor switch.

Apogee Symphony Desktop

  • Price: $1,495
  • Input/Output: 10 in, 14 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

The Symphony is a very high-tech audio interface with USB-C connectivity. It features 10 inputs and 14 outputs with an ergonomic design for ease and comfort. With this many ports, it does cost a pretty penny, but the results may be worth the cost. 

Antelope Audio Zen Go

  • Price: $549
  • Input/Output: 4 in, 8 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

If you’re an Apple user then the Zen Go uses USB-C connectivity, making it ideal for you. There are four inputs and eight line outputs. This is Antelope Audio’s first fully portable audio interface. 

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1

  • Price: $109
  • Input/Output: 2 in, 1 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

This is one of the most affordable audio interfaces on this list. With only 2 XLR inputs and 1 headphone output, this is great for beginners or for a small home studio. Native Instruments also provides a software bundle and a +48V phantom power option. 

Arturia AudioFuse Rev2

  • Price: $599
  • Input/Output: 14 in, 14 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

The AudioFuse is super tiny but totally filled with features. This is perfect for projects on the go that need professional sound. It’s hard to believe that this little box holds 14 inputs and 14 line outs. A unique feature of this device is a built-in talkback microphone for discussions between people recording in a sound booth and others monitoring on the outside. 

PreSonus Studio 24C

  • Price: $169.95
  • Input/Output: 2 in, 2 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

This is a USB-C bus-powered interface for a budget price. It features a minimalist-style screen to show if your inputs are peaking. The PreSonus Studio 24C has two inputs and two headphone outputs. This makes it great for 2-person audio recording sessions. 

Universal Audio Apollo Twin USB

  • Price: $1199
  • Input/Output: 10 in, 6 out
  • Converter: 24-bit/192kHz

Universal Audio loves giving the sound of its audio interfaces a retro style. This simple and easy-to-use interface has 10 inputs and 6 headphone outputs with digital analog capabilities. The Universal Audio Apollo Twin is a well-known and popular choice for soundboards.

Behringer U-Phoria UMC22

  • Price: $59 
  • Input/Output: 1 inp, 1 out
  • Converter: 16bit/48kHz

This insanely affordable audio interface by Behringer has just enough features for beginners and people interested in purely solo recordings. With one XLR input, with a +48V phantom power option, it is perfect for your home studio or office. This is a great choice for your first audio interface.

What is the best budget USB audio interface?

The cheapest of the devices we have covered is the Behringer U-Phoria UMC22, but this is for setups that only need one mic input.

If you are looking for a budget option with more than one, check out these professional-quality budget options: 

  • Audient iD4 MkII
  • Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1
  • PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

A general rule of thumb is the more inputs an audio interface has, the more expensive it will be. 

What is the best USB audio interface for professionals?

For a large studio space with a lot of audio input needs, you will want to look at something like the RME Babyface Pro FS or the Cranborne Audio 500R8.

A bigger and more capable interface will deliver the best results for superior sound quality. 

Best USB audio interfaces for streaming

Most streamers will only need 1 XLR input for their mic and 1 output for playback. For streamers, some of our favorites are:

  •  Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC22
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Best USB audio interfaces for podcasters

If you are working on a solo project, then a small soundboard with 1 or 2 XLR inputs and a headphone jack will suit you just fine.

If you plan on having a group podcast with a lot of guests, you will want to get an interface that has enough mic inputs and headphone outputs for each of your hosts or guests.

The Rode Rodecaster Pro is an audio interface designed for podcasting, but you can also do great with something like an Antelope Audio Zen Go or an M-Audio AIR 192|14. 

Best USB interface for video creators

If you are making videos alone, a simple USB interface with 1 or 2 XLR inputs and 1 or 2 headphone outputs will do the job just fine like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1, and the Behringer U-Phoria UMC22.

Although, if you are creating video projects with more audio input needs, then you may want to check out something like the Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820. 

Best USB audio interface for musicians

The best audio devices for musicians require the right instrument inputs and communicate well with software like Pro Tools. If you are recording guitar audio, you will need a device that has a guitar jack input. If you want to record an electronic keyboard, you will need to make sure your interface has a MIDI input. Here are a few of our favorite audio interfaces that offer both: 

  • PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
  • M-Audio AIR 192|14
  • Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
  • RME Babyface Pro FS
  • Cranborne Audio 500R8
  • PreSonus Studio 24C
PreSonus AudioBox USB Audio Interface
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

Best USB audio interface for Mac

Since modern Apple products have made the switch to using USB-C ports, the best audio interfaces for Mac users are USB-C powered. Some audio interfaces offer Thunderbolt power as well. 

Our favorite interfaces for Mac users are:

  • Antelope Audio Zen Go
  • PreSonus Studio 24C
  • Solid State Logic SSL2+
  • Universal Audio Volt 476

If you purchase a USB-C to USB-A converter for your Mac, you can use a wider variety of audio interfaces on your computer. 

Best audio interfaces for PC

Fortunately, most audio interfaces are designed to work with a PC, especially for Windows users, so you have a wide range of options for high-quality audio. To choose the best soundboard for your PC, find one that matches your projects and your budget the best. 

Bonus: Audio Interface Software

A lot of audio interfaces come with software, but it may not be as user-friendly as you may have hoped. Even if it is popular recording software, it may be slow and confusing for even experienced audio engineers.

If you are looking for the best recording software accessible through your web browser, then check out Riverside. You can record the highest quality video and audio by yourself or with a group. You can work remotely, knowing all the audio and video will be backed up with no compression. Then, you can edit your project with ease and upload it to your favorite platform.

Features:

  • High-quality recordings. Record in up to 48kHz for crystal clear audio.
  • Uncompressed files. Choose between WAV or MP4 files.
  • Easy fine-tuning. Automatically suppress unwanted background noise.
  • Remote recording. Riverside’s recordings don't depend on internet connection and you can record with up to 8 participants no matter where they are. 
  • Separate Tracks. Download separate (audio and video) tracks for all participants.

Head over to our guide, to check out other audio software options. 

Where should I buy my USB interface?

There are multiple online vendors that sell audio interfaces. You can check out Sweetwater, B&H, Guitar Center, or you can choose to go directly through the manufacturer’s website.

Final Thoughts

Setting yourself up with a high-quality USB audio interface will get your recordings started easier and with better final results. There are many great options for soundboards and audio devices that will fit perfectly with any of your audio projects.

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