So, you want to do what every budding musician and DJ is trying to figure out – record your demos to a high standard, without having to fork out an absolute fortune. You may even want your audio interface for collaborating with other artists, or simply karaoke. Using a cheap audio interface for this can really help, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t suck before you splash out.
Here, we’re going to talk you through a few of the best cheap audio interfaces so you can start creating demos that you’re proud of!
The PreSonus AudioBox is described by the brand as simple, reliable, and portable – and I do tend to agree! It’s just the right size for travel, and you also get a pair of balanced line-level outputs, along with an ultra-loud, crystal-clear headphone out. I was quite impressed upon using this for the first time.
This USB audio interface is 24-bit resolution;44.1,48,88.2 and 96kHz sampling rates. It presents 5 dedicated dials 2 for line in gain control modules, one for monitor level, one for the DJ mixer, and one for mains.
It’s well built, and for this reason it can stand some knocks when you’re taking it out and about with you – It definitely withstood some bashings in the back of my van. It’s also USB 2.0 bus-powered, so you can record with it anywhere you can use a laptop.
- + MIDI in/out.
- World-class recording software included
- + Suitable for most DAWS
- Seriously durable
- Perfect for travel
- Takes a up a lot of your time when you have to register
- Many people don’t like the included software
- Can be fiddly to use at times
Ultimately, this option is great for travel but has no ease of use – but not ideal for those who may be starting out and want something simple. I must admit, the sign up process is quite tiring and I was almost ready to give up with it for this reason. I know many other people who have felt the same.
This one was fine at first, but after using it for a few months I found more and more problems with it. The cable is particularly troublesome – I find myself constantly having to unplug it and plug it back in, even if it moves just a tiny bit. Sometimes, it even stops working altogether for no apparent reason at all.
It’s pretty great when it works, with 24 bit/192kHz resolution for professional recording and monitoring with all new Crystal Preamps that deliver pristine, transparent sound. It also features +48v Phantom Power accommodates all microphone types. That being said, it’s just not reliable enough for my needs and I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with this model.
- Great when it works
- Doesn’t always work
- Not right for mics that need phantom power
If I were you and thinking about buying this, I’d save my money. However, if you are using it for monitor outs, go ahead as it seems to be only good for that reason alone. This model could be more trouble than it’s worth.
As somebody who has tried numerous Mackie products, it’s the brand I tend to reach for first. I’ve found over the course of many years that you just can’t go wrong with it – they don’t build equipment by halves and I always find myself pleased with what I buy from them. However, I have tried to use this one with a neutral mindset and go about the review as unbiased as possible.
With this audio interface, you get a boutique-quality onyx mic preamp with class-leading fidelity and dynamic range 48V phantom power for use with Studio condenser mics ¼” TRS input with Hi-Z switch for connecting guitar, bass, and more. There’s also a high-resolution 2 in x 2 Out 24-bit/192kHz recording zero-latency direct monitoring of Analog inputs dedicated outputs for connecting studio monitors powerful headphone output.
What I truly love about this one is the responsive design. I find it so easy to use and far more enjoyable than other audio interfaces I own.
- Nobs are heavy
- High quality build
- Responsive design
- Indestructible (I’ve dropped mine three times)
- May show signs of wear after a few months
This is probably the best interface you could get for the price. Although it shows signs of wear after just a few months, that may be my own fault as I seem to have a habit of dropping mine!
I found that this model works really well on a Linux. It features a high-quality Ultra-HDDA microphone preamp as well as a 1/4” line input–switchable to instrument level for guitar or bass. Plus, the unique design of the bio-cell side panels angles the US-1×2 up from the desktop for easier usability.
When I opened this, I had it up and running in mere minutes, which isn’t something you can say about most cheap audio interfaces. In fact, I have read numerous reviews stating that other people have struggled to set this up, which surprised me. Once it’s working, it’s a really good model. I found using it for karaoke particularly satisfying, although that was just a bit of fun and nothing serious.
Seems too good to be true? Unfortunately, yes. I had mine for one year and it broke. I hadn’t even dropped this one for a change!
- Easy to set up (for me personally)
- Ease of use
- Great when it works
- Some find it difficult to set up
- May not work outside of one year
This product was one of my favorites until it up and broke for no reason at all. Buyer beware!
The most important thing to note before you begin using your Steimberg is that you shouldn’t plug it in when you first get it. Instead, go and get the drivers from Yamaha/Steinburg and then install them. You can then turn on the UR12, and then plug it in. You should find that it works really well upon taking this approach.
The UR12 comes with a 24-bit/192 kHz USB 2.0 audio interface, 1 Class-A D-PRE mic preamp supporting +48V phantom power, and cross-platform compatibility with Windows, OS X and iPad (with Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit/Lightning to USB Camera Adapter)
I know many people tend to have issues with windows, but I have had 0 issues on Windows 10 using the UR12. Really happy that I did purchase this interface, as I previously had an old mixer, which was also used as interface for my guitar – this one however, is much better in terms of sound and control over amplification.
- Controls are easy to handle
- Very sturdy build
- No humming (even when the box is close to electrical items)
- Not great with karaoke
- Can be difficult to set up
I loved using this one for making music with my guitar, and found it far superior to others I had used. However, the set up process made it slightly less enjoyable for me.
Conclusion: Which Cheap Audio Interface Should You Buy?
Overall, I believe that the Mackie Audio Interface is the best option for the money. Not only does it feel high quality and can withstand a bashing (I should know), the only issue I’ve found is a few scratches, and they are entirely my own fault.
Although I experienced annoying niggles with the other models in terms of installation and getting everything set up, this one was a dream to set up and use and I would wholeheartedly recommend it, especially for people who may wish to travel with theirs. If you’re worried about your audio interface being bashed around with all of your other equipment, you can have confidence this one will live through it.
Tips And Tricks To Find The Best Cheap Audio Interface
If you want to find the best cheap audio interface, you must do some research to ensure the materials used in manufacture are not low quality – you don’t want to end up having to replace it too quickly. You can still find well built, affordable audio interfaces that will last a long time.
You’ll also want to ensure ease of use so that you can begin the creative process right away – who wants to have to fiddle with multiple knobs when inspiration hits? Durability, and perhaps even portability should also be determining factors in finding the best cheap audio interface for you. It all depends on what you want to use it for most, however.
You can find more pointers on finding the best audio interface for you in the informational video below.
Things To Look For In A Quality Audio Interface
Ultimately, the features you look for in your audio interface are likely going to be unique to you. Think about what kind of features might be most useful to you, enabling you to achieve the best, most creative results. You might want multiple headphone outputs so that you can collaborate with somebody else, for example, instrument inputs, and so on. Other points to consider include:
- An eight input interface may be sufficient.
- It’s better to have extra inputs if you can afford them to allow maximum clarity and control.
- If you want to record with microphones you’ll need as many preamps as you have microphone sources.
- Check the phantom power situation. Ideally, individual phantom-power for each channel gives you more flexibility, so you can use different mixes of condenser mics, ribbon mics, etc. without accidentally torching a ribbon microphone with phantom power.
What Is The Right Way To Use An Audio Interface?
There is no one way to use an audio interface – but having a good idea of the basics of cabling is important if you want to get the best from your audio interface instantly.
Your interface will be packaged with a power cable or power adaptor which obviously has to be plugged into the wall or your power conditioner before you can even turn it on. You’ll also need to make sure it comes with the right kind of cable and that you plug this into your computer before you begin using it.
Why Not Spend A Lot Of Money On Your Audio Interface?
Is there a reason you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on your audio interface? Not really. Even if you are on a budget, if you want great results from your creative efforts, you should buy the best one you can afford. You may be able to find one at a bargain price, but if you can afford to spend a little more on a slightly better model, you should do so. Your creative projects will benefit!
Things To Remember When Using Your Cheap Audio Interface
I have found that portable audio interfaces are always far more practical than those I cannot take with me. Portable audio interfaces make for easier collaboration. It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re recording or live mixing a band, you’ll need an audio interface that is easy to carry and easy to use once the session begins. For me, it’s just not worth buying an audio interface that I cannot easily transport.
Make sure you look for an interface that is well built if you plan on taking it around with you, too – cheap plastic casing smashes easily when dropped. I should know – it has happened to me twice. You might think that you’ll be super careful, but you just can’t be sure.
If you’re using your audio interface on the road, paying extra for an interface that is built to last will be one of the best things you decide to do.