The Best Audio Interface under $200 – Updated 2019
Why do you need an audio interface? Can you find cheap, portable and good audio interface? Our article with the best audio interface under $200 will give you the answers.
One of the essential tools of a home recording studio is the audio interface. The external sound card should be one of the first additions in your home recording studio. It is what stands out in a home, semi-pro or pro music studios.
In this post, we will help you find the best cheap audio interface that fit your needs but also spending the minimum possible budget.
What is an audio interface?
Audio interfaces or “sound cards” will get the sound in and out of your computer. Your computer probably has a built-in sound card, but there is no way it can handle studio work in any possible way. The external audio interface will convert the analog signals from recording vocals, synthesizer, drum machines or instruments, into digital signals in your computer. Then it will convert the digital signals into analog audio so that you will hear it from your speakers and headphones.
If you are not experienced in the market of home recording studio equipment, then the choice of an audio interface is not an easy job. The many features, dozens of models and the significant price differential that can go from $100 to more than $4000 for professional recording studios make this choice quite special.
The most important features to consider when buying an audio interface
- Input/Output count: How many sound sources are you planning to record at once? You will find cheap interfaces that offer from two to dozens of input/output ports to connect your sources. In a home recording studio, an audio interface with 2-4 inputs/outputs will get the job done. In pro studios, producers will probably need dozens of inputs to cover their needs. Mic pre-amp are essential to connect your studio microphone.
- Interface connectivity: USB is the most common, FIREWIRE offers minimum possible latency, and there are also THUNDERBOLT and PCIe connection for premium interfaces. In our budget, we are exclusively looking for USB connectivity interfaces. But we have already made for you a list with the best Thunderbolt audio interface.
- Input/ Output channel types: You can connect synths, guitars, microphones, instruments, headphones, and monitor speakers, to an audio interface. LINE, MIC, OPTICAL, DI for your recordings. As well, as MIDI IN/OUT to connect your MIDI keyboard and controller.
- DAW compatible: How useful can it be an audio interface that is not compatible with the DAW(Digital Audio Workstation) you are using. Most models come with a lite version of the software for you to start. All our picks below are compatible with all the major DAW softwares. For more details about DAWs, check the best music production software.
- Sound quality: This is where your money mostly goes. Almost everyone out there can understand the need for an audio interface that will offer superb sound quality for your recordings. The brands such as Focusrite, NI, and Steinberg are well known to the general public that will deliver the job as a professional tool.
On this list, we recommend from 2 to 6 inputs audio interfaces that are excellent start-up addition for home recording studios. For semi-pro studios, it requires more inputs to record multiple tracks at the same time.
We will stay on budget with all our picks for the best DJ turntable for around or under $200. The choices are made according to build quality, features, value-for-money, popularity, personal experience, and of course sound quality.
Time for the best audio interface for home recording studios, music production, and live performances:
6 BEST AUDIO INTERFACE UNDER $200 REVIEWS
- Focusrite Scarlett 2I2
- PreSonus Audio Box iTwo
- Steinberg UR22 MKII / UR242
- Tascam US-2X2
- Native Instruments Audio 6
- Focusrite Scarlett 6I6
All audio interfaces you will see below are compatible with both Windows and MAC operating systems. They will fluently work with FL Studio, Ableton Live, Cubase, Logic Pro, and all major music production software.
1. FOCUSRITE SCARLETT 2I2 USB / 2I4 USB AUDIO INTERFACE
Scarlett 2i2 by Focusrite is one of the most popular and the best seller audio interface in the market. The reason for success is the attractive price range, quality build, and a beautiful and distinctive design.
As the title gives away, Scarlett 2i2 has USB connectivity and offers two mono inputs (with mic pre) and two outputs. To the inputs, you can connect two mono instruments or one stereo, and your monitor speakers are connected straight to the two mono outputs, along with a separate output for your headphones. Where this model wins is at the build quality, which is sturdy and will last hardship. The package comes with Ableton Live Lite, and if you go for the 2nd gen. model, it also includes Pro Tools.
There are so many electronic music producers that use the Scarlett, that can easily be one of the best audio interfaces for EDM production.
Scarlett 2i2 is missing MIDI ins/outs, a quite useful feature for music producers. A note for those who want to plug in a guitar into one of the inputs, they won’t succeed because it lacks dB padding. However, you can find a way out of it, send me an email, and I will respond with detailed instructions and guidance.
Conclusion: It won’t be easy to find a better and more affordable audio interface than Focusrite Scarlett. If you are a beginner and you are satisfied with two inputs, then Scarlett 2i2 is the perfect tool for you. If you spare a few extra bucks you can go for the Scarlett 2i4 with two extra RCA phono outputs but most important it comes with MIDI IN/OUT ports. It also features pad switches that solve the problem of guitar clipping.
Musicians who use it: Haywyre, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Maury Lobina
|A/D resolution||24-bit / 96KHz|
2. PRESONUS AUDIOBOX ITWO
PreSonus Audiobox iTwo is the newly developed model of 22VSL. I cannot find a significant difference between those models except the price (Itwo is a few bucks cheaper). Both equally cheap audio interface.
Like Scarlett 2i2, Audiobox iTwo is a simple two input/output interface with USB connectivity. It is also cheaper than 2i2 and also offers MIDI I/O to connect your keyboard or controller. Audiobox iTwo has the headphone jack to the front part which makes it more comfortable than 22VSL where you had to search, and “blind” plug it to the back of the device.
It has a good quality build, metal housing, and it weighs less than two pounds for easy transportation outside of your studio. Audiobox iTwo can also be connected with iPad and work with Studio One Artist, a DAW software that is included in the package.
This light and extremely portable USB audio interface is an excellent choice for any musician on the move.
Conclusion: The ratings of this low latency audio interface are as good as the best seller of this category Scarlett 2i2. I would highly recommend it if you have a limited budget and you want MIDI ports to use MIDI equipment. The studio bundle with a condenser microphone and studio headphones is also in our budget. For more microphone and audio interface packages check the best studio bundles.
|A/D resolution||24-bit / 96KHz|
3. STEINBERG UR22 MK2 / UR242
A happy surprise is the price range of all these audio interfaces, good enough to get the job done in any new home recording studio. With a very attractive price tag, the Steinberg UR22 MK2 is without a doubt a great investment.
Steinberg UR22 MK2 features two inputs/outputs, phantom power for microphone recording and two USB ports. What to do with two USB ports? One is large to connect to your Laptop/PC and get power as well, and the other one is small to connect to your iPad (iPad cannot sufficiently power the audio interface). The MIDI port will allow you to connect your keyboard right away and start recording. In case you hadn’t found your ideal keyboard controller check The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard for Home Recording Studio in 2018.
One of the inputs has a Hi-Z switch that you can engage to accommodate guitar or bass. The construction is tight with good quality metal chassis. Plus the package offers Cubase AI and Cubasis LE.
Conclusion: It is not top-rated and highly recommended by many users by accident. Constitutes an excellent choice for the first audio interface, it is very affordable, with many features, it is portable and interface with Apple iPad devices. You can also go for the UR242 with two more inputs for just a few extra bucks.
|A/D resolution||24-bit / 192KHz|
4. Tascam US-2×2 USB Audio/MIDI Interface
If you are looking for great audio quality and ergonomic design, then this 2-in/2-out USB audio interface might be perfect for you.
The XLR and TRS inputs accept balanced mic and line-level signals, with a high-impedance option to record electric guitar and bass. The two ultra-HDDA mic/line preamps provide up to 57dB of gain with no noise or distortion. This compact interface also comes MIDI in and out to connect synths, drum machines, and controllers.
Tascam US-2×2 is a recommended audio interface for Ableton Live and FL studio.
In the package, you will also receive two DAW softwares; Cakewalk SONAR X3 LE and Ableton Live Lite, to choose and start music production right away.
Conclusion: Modern design, ergonomic, sturdy and stylish, this audio interface has everything you need in your home or portable recording studio. The US series by Tascam also comes with 1-in/2-out, 4-in/4-out, 16-in/8-out, and 20-in/20-out ports to pick the one that fits your needs.
|A/D resolution||24-bit / 192KHz|
5. NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KOMPLETE AUDIO 6
We will take it up a notch and get our budget a little higher. For those who have greater needs for simultaneous recordings, it features four balanced analog inputs and outputs. Except for recording studios, Audio 6 is also commonly used in live performances with a DJ controller and the Traktor Pro by NI. Check out the best DJ controller for Traktor Pro for more info.
Komplete Audio 6 has two balanced line/mic, two balanced lines (1.4″TRS) inputs, and four balanced outputs (1.4″TRS). The two mic inputs are armed with high-end pre-amps and Cirrus Logic converters for an original sound. This interface from Native Instruments connects with USB and also have MIDI IN and OUT ports to connect your MIDI keyboard. One big plus that you won’t find on an audio interface of that budget is the 15 status LEDs which provide visual feedback for all signals.
By looking at this sound card, you will notice the sleek, rugged metal casing that will guarantee a long-life product. Many users, including myself, find the big main volume knob on top of the tool very useful. But I’m most excited with the softwares that it comes with, Cubase LE 6, Traktor LE 2 and Komplete Elements with over 1000 instruments and effects sized 3GB. I love those packages that offer everything you will need to start DJing or produce music.
Audio 6 is one of the best audio interfaces for live performance in 2019.
Conclusion: NI Komplete Audio 6 is not only one of the best audio interfaces for home recording studios, but it can also perform great in semi-pro studios. It is a bit over our budget but worth every penny and if you can afford it, go for it. Audio 6 would fit better in a list with the best audio interfaces under 500 dollars. It is superior to the above we met so far with low-latency performance, high-quality pre-amps plus professional NI products and software.
Musicians who use it: Madeon, Savant, Carnage, Haywyre
|A/D resolution||24-bit / 96KHz|
6. FOCUSRITE SCARLETT 6I6
We start and finish our list for the best audio interface with Focusrite Scarlett. I would prefer not to have two same brand names in the best audio interfaces list, but after a big search, Scarlett 6I6 overcomes to its competitors. AKAI EIE Pro, Tascam US-4X4, Roland UA-55 Quad-capture are suitable interfaces, but they barely missed the list.
Let’s see the additions and differences of Scarlett 6i6 to the smallest models. It features six inputs, four balanced outputs able to connect two different sets of monitors and two headphone outputs with separate volume control. The two different headphone outputs are handy if you are planning to work with a friend in a studio.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 has USB connectivity, same design, sound and build quality and it also features MIDI IN and OUT ports. The 2nd generation model comes with Pro Tools software and Ableton Live Lite. If you find a 1st generation model, you will save a few bucks.
Not only, Focusrite produces one of the best audio interfaces for electronic music production, but the majority of musicians seem to love its sound and features. Hip hop producers, music bands, drummers, singers, and composers choose it.
Conclusion: Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 is probably the best value for money purchase of our list. It’s perfect for home recording studios; however, it can also stand decent in a semi-pro or even pro recording studio (DEADMAU5 uses one). The almost excellent reviews and the 25 years of audio excellence by Focusrite makes this purchase gold.
Musicians who use it: DEADMAU5
|A/D resolution||24-bit / 96KHz|
Check this out: There are also Focusrite audio interfaces with Thunderbolt connectivity.
The audio interface is a vital studio tool for creating high-quality recordings and mixes. Have in mind that professional ‘sound cards’ could be one of the most expensive appliances in a professional recording studio.
The ultimate question you have to ask yourself is which audio interface is right for me?
If you go for any of the models from the above list, you can now sleep tight. Our picks were out of a couple of dozens of possible options that are available on the market today, and no choice was made randomly. But, the final decision is yours. Just because one tool is the best seller in its category, it doesn’t mean that it is ideal for you as well. Be sure the audio interface connections.
For example, if you require MIDI ports in your studio, then you should avoid Scarlett 2i2 by Focusrite. If you are using Traktor DJ or Cubase, then the NI Komplete Audio 6 will “sit” perfect in your home recording studio and DJ desc. And this is how you should proceed when you are looking for the best audio interface.
People also ask:
What is an audio interface used for?
An audio interface is used to record high-quality sound with the lowest possible latency. All our choices with the best audio interface under 200 dollars include models by Focusrite, Steinberg, NI, and they will get the job done perfectly.
Can I connect a mixer to audio interface?
Yes, you can. That way, you will control the mixer when DJing with a DJ software and controller. Or you can also connect them to record your DJ set into your music software.
How to use your mixer as an audio interface?
There are plenty of DJ mixers out there, that comes with a built-in audio interface. In our latest article, you will find some of the best professional mixers for DJs.
Does a MIDI keyboard need an audio interface?
No. MIDI keyboard can be directly connected to your computer.
If you want a complete studio, check how to build a home recording studio with under $600.
If you have any questions about our list of the best audio interface under $200, leave your comment below…