We all know how expensive recording gear can be, and when you are just starting out, should you really spend a lot of money on it?
In today’s market I honestly think that you can get great gear at a very low-price range and still sound great, since almost all Audio Interfaces come equipped with more than decent preamps, even the cheaper ones.
Of course, it depends on what you are planning to record, if it’s just a two-track recording or way more, like a whole band. The more tracks you need, the more expensive it is going to be.
In this article we will be comparing the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 2nd Gen to the Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD, two extremely affordable Audio Interfaces that sound great.
We will be doing a general overview of both Interfaces, their features and tech specs and at the end I’ll give you my conclusion.
If you’re looking for an Audio Interface with more inputs without breaking the bank, then make sure to read this comparison between the Scarlett 6i6 and the UMC404HD.
Let’s start with the most affordable option of them both, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD;
Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD
This Interface is great for home recording and it’s a pretty good place to start. It’s ideal for singer-songwriters and musicians who need to record at home and don’t really want to invest a lot on the gear.
It’s a surprisingly good piece of tech, specially for what it costs. If you are just starting out, this one is a good option.
It comes with the MIDAS designed mic-preamps, which give you the same sound quality as their popular mixers, but at an affordable price and in a much more portable form.
It has two Combo XLR and ¼” inputs on the front, capable of recording two Microphones or Line/Instrument level signals through USB directly into your DAW, while on the back it also features MIDI I/O.
The highest recording quality you can achieve with this Interface is a 24-bit/192kHz resolution.
It also has the Direct Monitoring function which provides latency-free monitoring, should you need it.
Not only is it a good option for recording at home, but since it’s small and light it will certainly work well for travelling musicians who need to record at different locations.
The UMC204HD can be powered through the USB bus, making it ideal for musicians who are on the road.
Each channel comes with the essential controls that you could need; there’s the gain control for each individual input, an attenuation pad, and a switch that lets you choose between line and instrument level.
Then there’s a Stereo/Mono button, a Mix Knob, Main Out Knob, the Phantom Power On/Off Switch and the Headphone Knob, for monitoring.
Also, to make everything easier to monitor, it comes equipped with multiple LED indicators.
Another great feature is the Mono/Stereo switch on the front, which will allow you to quickly switch to mono while mixing, since this is an essential part of the mixing process.
I wrote an entire article on the topic about checking the mix in mono which you should definitely check out!
Let’s take a look at its performance;
Considering its extremely affordable price, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD actually surprised me.
The MIDAS Mic preamps on this unit are clean and sound incredible at this price point.
While searching on forums I found quite a lot of people complaining about driver issues and some (but not really that many), complained about having to disconnect and re-connect it because of unwanted noise issues.
This luckily didn’t happen to me since everything worked like a charm. Other than that, the general reviews were extremely positive.
- Quality 24-bit/192kHz 2-channel USB 2.0 recording interface for your Mac or Windows PC
- Combo inputs with MIDAS preamp lets you plug in any mic-, line-, or instrument-level gear
- +48V phantom power lets you use studio condenser microphones
- Switchable input pads accommodate even extremely hot line-level signal
- Tip-send/Ring-return 1/4″ insert points let you incorporate outboard processors
- MIDI In and Out ports let you connect keyboard controllers and other MIDI gear
- Stereo 1/4″, RCA, and headphone outputs with latency-free monitoring make tracking easy
- Includes Tracktion DAW and 150 downloadable instrument/effect plug-ins
You can find the Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD on Amazon at a great price, which makes it ideal for anyone on a budget or who is just starting out.
Next is one of the most famous two-channel Audio Interfaces, and for good reason.
Focusrite Scarlet 2i2
The Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 2nd Gen is one of the most popular USB Audio Interfaces currently on the market. This is mainly due to its great construction quality, performance, and really affordable price.
It has 2 XLR inputs and 2 outputs.
All Scarlett preamps are of great quality and feature an even gain structure, which allows for accurate gain level setting. The instrument inputs are designed to be able to handle really hot pickups for recording electric guitar.
The channel controls are fairly simple; Gain knobs and Line/Instruments switch for each channel, 48V Phantom Power, Direct monitoring On/Off Switch and Headphone Knob.
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!
The aluminum casing is very well put together and when holding it doesn’t feel cheap at all.
The knobs on the device are pretty easy to rotate, they aren’t stiff at all and seem like they are built with to last.
One cool thing about this Interface is that it comes with Pro Tools, Ableton Live and a suite of software and samples so you can start recording straight away.
If you are like most home recording musicians, then this one will suit you well!
It’s easy to use, works well and also comes with those added downloads, which I think is just great!
The included Plugin suite sounds great and only adds to the good value this package offers.
If you are in need of a mobile recording solution, or are on a tight budget for home-based projects, this one I would consider a great investment.
One BIG issue is that it doesn’t have MIDI input/output! Take that into account.
At first I was amazed at the low price is, but when you actually think about it, you only get 2 inputs and the speakers Output, plus the headphone output of course… but no MIDI In/Out, which kinda sucks!
The Vast majority of reviews I found online while researching this AI were extremely positive; it was almost impossible to find a negative one. This goes to show it’s a great Interface to consider.
Let’s take a look at its performance;
The latency while monitoring is surprisingly low, about 6ms. But should you have some issues with it, you can always switch the direct monitoring on, which will give you true direct monitoring with zero latency.
As for the sound performance, I can confirm that this box is money well spent. Sounds extremely clear and crisp with a slight added warmth to it, no cracks whatsoever.
- Two natural-sounding Scarlett microphone preamps
- Up to 192kHz audio resolution with super-low latency
- Compact, lightweight and sturdy enough to take with you anywhere
- Includes Pro Tools | First, Ableton Live Lite and a suite of software and samples
- Free XLN Addictive Keys license with purchase
- Red 2 & 3 Plug-In Suite, Softube Time & Tone Bundle and 2GB of Loopmasters Samples are included as a free download.
- Focusrite offers a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty
The Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 2nd Gen is an good option (Link to Amazon), both for beginners and experienced musicians who need a reliable and affordable Audio Interface for Home Recording.
This one is definitely better than the Behringer Interface, but it does cost a bit more…
Even though it doesn’t have the MIDI I/O.
Update: Focusrite Released the new Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Version of this interface.
It’s basically the same audio interface but it comes with an “Air Boost” switch which boosts the “Air” and upper frequencies, brightening up the sound.
Additionally it comes with a USB-C port.
They both sell for almost exactly the same, so get the 3rd Gen instead of the 2nd Gen.
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD has MIDI I/O as well as the Mono/Stereo switch which the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 doesn’t provide.
However, when it comes to the overall recording quality, the Scarlett 2i2 has the UMC204HD beat.
If none of these tickle your fancy, may I recommend you read this article I wrote about the best Audio Interfaces Under $300?
Both of these Audio Interfaces are quite good in relation to what they cost. In my honest opinion the winner is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, simply because of the added value from the Softwares you get.
BUT, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD has the MIDI ins/outs which could come in handy at some point!
However, if you want something even better for the same price, read more about the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD here.
This again is one of those situations where it comes down to your needs. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong with either of them!
I Hope you have a wonderful day!
I've worked in a music studio a couple of years back and now I mostly record at home and try to learn as much as I can about producing music and about the gear that is required to do so.
This is something I really enjoy doing.
The whole point of this Website is to help you and others learn more about how to produce music, especially from home.
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