Best Home Audio Interfaces
By: The Gear Dude | Date: 21st April 2020
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite is a Killer reputable company that makes very solid budget gear and boasts arguable the industry’s best-selling product. The Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen audio interface for its price range is a very powerful tool whether you’re looking to record your own music, start a podcast or produce some booty shakin’ bangers.
The Scarlett 2i2 had 2 inputs and 2 output and connects to your computer via a USB C connection. If you’re like the rest of the world though and haven’t caught up (you snooze you lose bud) it includes the cables to connect to the standard USB connection we are all familiar with from the past.
Lets talk more features! The 3rd generation of this unit has a new button on both preamps labeled “air” which you may notice. This is an effect designed to model the Legendary Focusrite ISA Consoles transformer. What does this actually do you ask? It gives the signal a brightness and an airy open sound. Did I mention the preamps? They are very transparent, low noise and quite vibrant sounding. Both preamps have an LED ring around the gain knob (THIS IS MY FAVORITE FEATURE) which changes colors based on the volume level. Green is good, yellow means nearly clipping and red means it is clipping. I find this convenient because you don’t have to dig through menus to see your gain level. The interface also had a direct monitor button which allows you to monitor your signal with extremely low latency.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII Duo
Let’s talk turkey, if you’re looking for an audio interface and want the best portable option with the best features and best sounding preamps on the market. Stop reading this fucking article and click the link below and buy this interface right now.
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII is the top-rated thunderbolt interface on the market for a reason. It has some if the leading best features under its gorgeous brushed metal hood. The twin has two XLR and instrument combo inputs and four quarter inch outputs. Plus you get an optical input for connecting more preamps and inputs to the unit making it capable of driving a whole studio if you want. There is also a built in talkback mic on the front of the unit. You can use to communicate with you’re homie in the booth in a time when they might need some inspirado. People have even used these to track simple vocal melodies as well.
The coolest feature in the interface though is built in UAD Processing. The price of the unit depends on how many UAD cores you get in your interface. A solo, duo or quad core are the current options available at this time. UAD processing allows you to enjoy the fat warm and rich tones of legendary vintage gear through a proprietary software plugin available to you while you are mixing and tracking. Both preamps feature Unison mic preamp technology which allows you to use these plugins with zero latency and get better tones than any software modeling available on the market today. The software 1176 plugin sounds damn near like the real thing! You can leave all your rack gear in storage forever!
When you purchase an Apollo Twin MkII you get the realtime analog plugin bundle included in your price. This includes channel strips, guitar amps, some compressors and EQ’s as well as delay and reverb options. Everything you need to start making music is right in the box.
Bottom line, is that if you want the best of the best and have money to burn get the Apollo Twin. You will never regret it.
Universal Audio Arrow
Universal Audio now has a more affordable interface on the market which trims down some of the features from the Apollo Twin series. This is also their first Thunderbolt 3 interface audio interface. The Arrow is a 2in 4out interface which featured the same UAD solo processor and unison technology on the Apollo Twin. The one cool feature this unit has that the Apollo Twin does not is that it is a bus powered device which eliminates the need for a separate power supply. At $499 these are an excellent product if you need a simple interface for at home or on the go.
Not only is the Arrow a bus powered thunderbolt 3 interface, but it also includes the Universal Audio LUNA recording system. LUNA is an integrated recording platform designed to seamlessly integrate with your UA interface (this works with the entire thunderbolt Apollo line as well) in order to record through DSP powered UAD plugins with no discernible latency as well as provide analog style tracking and overdubbing through their proprietary “accelerated realtime monitoring” technology.
While being the simplest and most barebones Universal Audio interface on the market don’t overlook the Arrow as it packs a punch for its small size!
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
“Hey Geardude! I have $100 and want an audio interface, what should I get?” This is a question I get asked almost hourly. Presonus makes a killer 2 channel USB bus powered interface called the AudioBox USB 96 that meets that criteria. It has two mic inputs that also double as ¼” jacks on the front which both feature phantom power. Flip the unit around and you will fine Stereo ¼” outputs to connect your monitors, Midi in and out as well as a Headphone connection (don’t forget your adapter!) as well.
The Audiobox USB has a burly steel chassis as well. I feel this is important as it makes it so you can throw the device in your bag and record anywhere you can find a place to setup your laptop and some inspirado. Speaking of Inspirado, included in the box is a license for Presonus Studio One Artist DAW. This is a proprietary and very easy to use tool to compose and record your ideas no matter how epic or bombastic they may be.
I am a big fan of Presonus, the Louisiana based company has always made a rock solid and great sounding product and always stand behind it. They have a killer and very responsive customer service platform should you have any issues getting your product up and running.
Solid State Logic SSL 2+
Alright, the chances are that if you have listened to music as all for the last 30 years you have heard something recorded through an SSL (Solid State Logic) console. If youre like me and you want to have this in youre home studio youre not alone, and it was impossible for years. However in the onset of 2020 our SSL desires have been appeased.
Enter the SSL 2+, a 2-in/4-out USB-C Audio interface that aims to put an industry leading console directly into your home studios workflow. This unit has all the I/O I could want in an interface of this size. It features 2 SSL microphone preamps with 1’4in inputs and XLR combo inputs, two ¼’ in outputs as well as a second set RCA outputs for connecting to a DJ mixer. There is also RCA outputs for the main outs as well if you would like. The unit has Midi in an out as well as two headphone outputs that each have their own individual output level control.
The 2+ front panel has a giant knob for monitor level control (I mean, weve all grabbed the wrong knob by accident before, lets be real here) as well as a knob to dial the monitor mix between either listening to the input signal or the session audio. You will also find buttons for phantom power, mic/line for the inputs, and a square red button labeled “Legacy 4k” on each channel. The idea behind this is to give an enhancement effect to the signal in order to add the tonal characteristic of an SSL 4000 series console. To put it into words, this gives a very musical high frequency boost and a subtle sub harmonic distortion both of which an SSL 4K console is known for. This is a great tool to spice up a signal you feel might be a bit boring or dull sounding.