Here is a list I put together of what I consider to be the 8 BEST Audio Interfaces under $300 that will give you the best recording experience.
Any of these is a great investment, but they are all different so make sure to check them out and see which one’s the best for you
Nr 1: Audient iD14
The Audient iD14, despite being an entry level Audio Interface, comes with the ASP8024 Class A Mic Preamp Circuit which is the same one used in the Audient consoles and it also has the Burr-Brown Converters.
The sound quality is absolutely fantastic, that is why it’s my top pick of this list.
Even though it only has 2 inputs, each with a mic/line input on combi XLR/jack sockets, it can be expanded through the optical input which allows for an extra 8 channels of ADAT at 44.1kHZ or 48kHz, 4 channels of ADAT at 88.2kHz or 96kHZ, or 2 channels of S/PDIF between 44.1kHz and 96kHz.
Channel one also has a ¼” instrument input.
Both channels have separate phantom power switches and they can increase the gain by up to 56dB.
The Audient iD14 can draw the power it needs to work through the USB port, but that won’t be enough to use phantom power though, you will need to plug in the DC adapter for this.
Taking a look at the outputs you can see that it only has one pair of line outputs which are on the back, and also a headphone jack in the front which is powerful enough to drive various sets of headphones such as the Sennheiser 650HD.
It comes with a great software control panel where you can show and hide different sections of the mixer and have a lot of control over what is going on!
I give the Audient iD14 the first spot on this list because even though it only has two channels, the sound quality is just too good for what you are paying.
Also, the price may seem a bit high for someone who is just starting out, but getting a cheaper one when you know that down the road you are going to want an upgrade, isn’t the best idea.
Plus, if two channels aren’t enough and you need more inputs you can expand by connecting a A-D and D-A converter such as the Audient ASP800 or maybe, if this one is too expensive, a cheaper option like the Behringer ADA8200, to the optical input on the back.
Nr 2: iConnectAUDIO4+
The first thing that stands out from this Interface is that it can be connected to a PC and a Mac simultaneously, or to a PC/Mac and an iPad.
This means that you can record into a DAW in your PC but use the iPad for effects simultaneously without any issues.
It has 4 combi XLR/ ¼” TRS inputs on the front. Inputs one and two are Mic and Instrument level, while three and four are Mic and Line Level.
A huge difference between this interface and the rest is that it only has one knob, the rest is controlled via the touch screen on the front. You can choose which input to activate, then set the level for that input.
This interface provides 48v Phantom Power which can be turned on via the touch screen.
The four outputs are on the back and the cool thing about them is that you can do with them what you want, if you want to send out a mono mix through one you can do that through the software that comes with the Interface.
You can send a DI through another output for re-amping, and so on!
In general, most interfaces only have monitor outputs. This makes this interface a lot more versatile.
The preamps are very clean sounding, and it can record at 24-bit/192kHz.
When buying this Interface, you get Ableton Live Lite and also some free samples and loops by Big Fish Audio.
The iConnectAUDIO4+ is a damn good investment just for its huge versatility alone, but it also sounds amazing!
Nr 3: PreSonus Studio 1810
This is a fairly new Audio Interface that launched in 2018 and I think that you should consider it, especially if you need some extra channels and not just the usual two that most budget audio interfaces will allow.
This one is actually great for small studios since it can record up to 18 simultaneous inputs.
The recording quality can be up to 24-bit, 192kHz and the preamps sound great, very clean and crisp, with a lot of headroom.
These inputs are: 2 combo mic/instrument/line inputs, 2 combo mic/line inputs, which come with XMAX Class A mic preamps and 48v phantom power.
On the back panel you also get 4- 1/4” TRS line Inputs, and optical Input that can support 8 channels at 48kHZ or 4 channels at 96kHz. Lastly stereo S/PDIF inputs.
If you want to be able to use the 8 optical inputs, you’re going to need an A-D and D-A converter such as the Behringer ADA8200.
When taking a look at the outputs you get: left and right ¼” balanced TRS main outputs with level control and mute, four ¼” TRS balanced line outputs and Stereo S/PDIF outputs.
Also, this one has 2 headphone outputs!
When you buy the Presonus Studio 1810, you also get the PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW which according to a lot of reviews I read online, wouldn’t load some plugins or VST’s other that the PreSonus ones. These plugins are decent though!
Apparently if you want to be able to run your VST’s and Plugins you need to upgrade the software which will actually cost a bit! But you can still use this Interface with any DAW you like!
If you just plan on doing a two-track recording at home, this one isn’t for you! That’s why it’s not first on the list.
But, if you plan on doing a multi-track recording at some point, the PreSonus Studio 1810 will be a great investment!
You can later connect something like the Behringer ADA8200 to the optical Input and record a massive number of tracks!
- If you think that a Mixer may better suit your needs than an Audio Interface, read this post I wrote about 7 affordable mixers that have USB Multi-Track recording.
Nr 4: Steinberg UR44
The Steinberg UR44 is a 6-in and 4-out Audio Interface and it comes with the D-Pre-Preamps and it offers latency free monitoring with some effects.
The build quality is really outstanding and it’s actually pretty heavy!
This interface, even though it connects to the PC via USB, cannot be powered by it, you need to connect the 12v DC adaptor.
It can also be used with an iPad, all you have to do is use an iPad camera connection kit which will allow you to connect from the USB cable from the Interface to the iPad.
When taking a look at the inputs on the front, we have four combi XLR/jack sockets. The first two ones are set at Instrument level while the last two are line level.
Phantom Power can be supplied to the 4 inputs via two switches, the first one will feed Phantom Power to the first two inputs and the second one will feed the third and fourth ones.
On the front you can also see multi-colored LEDs that show input activity as well as overload/clipping on every channel.
This interface doesn’t have a PAD switch but you can activate a High-Pass filter and phase flip/polarity flip through the software control.
There are two more inputs on the back. You can switch their sensitivity from +4dBu or -10dBu, which comes in handy.
There are also four Line outputs on the back, and two additional main left and right line outputs that carry the same signals as outputs 1–2. This is useful for users wanting to connect a second set of monitors.
When you buy it you get Yamaha DSP bundle, which comprises of the REV-X reverb, the Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip Comp/EQ and the amp simulator “Guitar Amps Classics”.
Lastly you also get Cubase AI, but not the full version.
The Steinberg UR44 is also a good option, you get a lot of Inputs and outputs and you can use it with an iPad.
You might also be interested in reading about the Best USB Microphones available. Here’s the post I wrote on that topic.
Nr 5: Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD
This Audio Interface is by far the cheapest on this list and logically it’s not the best, but for what you are actually spending, you are getting a great product!
This Audio Interface uses the MIDAS preamps on their front 4x XLR/TRS combo inputs. These preamps are actually pretty good and the sound you get from this Interface is pretty damn impressive.
The highest recording quality you can achieve is 24-bit / 192kHz.
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC4040HD mix control gives you zero-latency input monitoring, letting you experience your performance with no delay or lag in the returning signal.
On the Front you have the four inputs, a gain knob for every input channel with a PAD and a Line/Instrument level selector. You also get a Headphone output.
Also, with just the press of a button you can playback in mono or in stereo… Checking your mixes in mono is very important if you want them to really sound the way they are supposed to.
If you’re interested in reading more about mixing in mono you can read this entire article I wrote about it!
This Audio Interface also supplies v48 Phantom power, which can be turned on or off by pressing a single switch (it’s one switch for all channels, it would be a lot better to have individual control for each one).
On the back you can see the MIDI I/O, Phantom Power control, the analog outputs and the 4 inserts. The inserts can be used to add effects to the chain such as Gate, EQ, Compressors, etc.
This one is a great value, it does what it’s supposed to… but you probably won’t get the same sound quality as with any of the aforementioned interfaces.
That being said, if you aren’t used to recording then the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD is a great first buy. A beginner won’t really be able to tell the difference in sound quality between this and a much more expensive one.
Still, if you know that down the road you are going to be upgrading, just buy one that’s slightly more expensive and better.
Nr 6: Roland Quad Capture
The Quad Capture is a 4×4-channel audio interface with 2 analog- plus 2 digital- inputs and outputs.
The inputs are combi XLR/TRS connectors, while the line outputs are balanced ¼” jacks.
Even though you could say that this Interface has 6 output channels, 2 analog line-level plus 2 analog headphone outs plus the two digital outputs… It’s not really the case, since the headphone output doesn’t use dedicated channels. The main output signal is simply split in two.
This audio Interface also allows you to switch to mono with just the press of a button.
One huge issue I have with this one is that it doesn’t have independent controls to adjust the main and headphone level…
On the back it has some extra features like a Hi-Z On/Off switch, which only applies to input one (for instrument level, if you want to connect a bass guitar).
The 48v Phantom Power On/off, which is a general control for both channels, again… no individual channel control which isn’t ideal.
The third switch is a very useful Ground Lift to avoid ground loops.
The biggest feature on this Audio Interface is the Auto-Sens switch, which is an auto-gain control.
This means that you can simply press this button and start recording and it will set the gain level on its own. This function sets the ideal gain automatically with peaks at -12dB.
The build quality is quite good, but what about the sound quality?…
The preamps on it are pretty impressive, you can certainly get professional sounding recordings out of it!
The Quad Capture uses a 40-bit Digital Signal Processor providing each input with a compressor, a low-cut filter and a phase inverter.
If it wasn’t for the issue with the main and headphone outputs, I’d put this one higher up on the list!
Still, the Roland Quad Capture is a great investment!
Nr 7: M-Audio M-Track 2x2M C-Series
The build quality of this one is one of the best I’ve seen. The only thing I don’t like is that the top is plastic, but when having a look at the knobs you will see that they have no give to them what so ever.
This interface has two combi XLR/1/4” TRS line level inputs on the top, while on the bottom it provides you with two instrument level ones. It also comes with MIDI I/O.
The preamps on this interface are quite powerful, they can even drive the Shure SM7B which is known to require a lot of power to work properly.
The M-Audio M-Track 2x2M C-Series can also record at 24-bit/192kHz quality which will give you a great sounding recording.
48v Phantom Power can be engaged from the switch on the bottom.
The outputs on this one are a bit more scarce than on some of the others. You only get the main Left and Right- and Headphone outputs.
For the price, this interface is a great value… especially when you also take into account all the free software you get; Cubase LE, The AIR Creative FX collection (20 AU/VST plugins) and Mini Grand, Strike and Xpand! 2.
The M-Audio M-Track 2x2M C-Series is a good, solid audio and MIDI interface that’s well built, easy to use and provides great results.
Nr 8: Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 2nd gen
This audio interface sounds really nice and clean. It has two analog inputs with a mic/line/instrument input on combi XLR/jack sockets and four analog outputs which allows you to run a cue mix straight from the interface for monitoring.
Beside each input channel you have a switch that allows you to select between line and instrument level. That switch only affects signals connected to the 1/4-inch TRS (center part) of the Scarlett’s combo input connectors.
It also has a PAD function which is really useful when recording loud instruments or microphones.
The maximum recording quality you can achieve with this Interface is 24-bit, 192kHz.
The Focusrite Scarlett2i4 2nd gen can run perfectly while only being connected to the PC via USB, no need to connect the DC adaptor.
It’s small, compact and very durable, it looks like a little red brick! Ideal for recording at home or taking it on the road!
When you buy it you also get Pro Tools First, the first Focusrite creative pack, which has some plugins for mixing, and Ableton Live lite.
This Audio Interface sounds pretty damn good, the only issue is that if the buffer size is too low, you might get some pops and clicks. Increasing the Buffer size will solve this though.
After reading a lot of reviews online, they say that it tends to overheat a bit which can cause it to “disconnect” or shut down. Weirdly enough, this seems to be a problem on Windows and not so much on Mac.
The Focusrite Scarlett2i4 2nd gen is a great Audio Interface if you are just starting out, it will do what you need!
Buying an Audio Interface is no simple process mainly because there are way too many. Picking any of these will definitely be a good investment!
If I had to choose, I would definitely get the Audient iD14 simply for its sound quality. You will be able to find it on my recommended gear page.
I you want an interface with a higher amount of inputs right from the get-go, then the PreSonus Studio 1810 is a fantastic choice for you.
If you think that an Audio Interface may not be exactly what you need, you could also take a look at this entire post I wrote about 7 affordable mixers that have USB Multi-Track recording.