The best audio interfaces in 2024

You're never boxed in working in-the-box when you have an interface that delivers the best audio conversion for the cost.

Best overall

PreSonus Quantum 2626

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Best for livestreaming

Focusrite Scarlet 2i2

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Best budget

PreSonus AudioBox USB

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You’ve got microphones, guitars, keyboards, a computer, and tons of cables—now you just need an audio interface to get them talking. As the conduit between the analog and digital worlds, your audio interface is possibly the most important equipment in the content creation chain. Whether you’re recording or livestreaming, your interface determines the signal quality you capture and the amount of creative flexibility you have. Conversion rates, inputs and outputs, and portability/expandability are just some considerations when picking an interface. But you don’t have to scroll through all the specs trying to make sense of everything; all you have to do is trust us to help you find the right gear, no matter the scale of your project or budget. We’ve surveyed the market and picked some of the best audio interfaces for folks who want to sound professional without paying pro prices.

How we chose the best audio interfaces

Audio interfaces come in a vast array of configurations, and we selected models based on the most common needs of content creators, musicians, livestreamers, and podcasters. Many of our selections are outfitted with super-versatile combo inputs that accommodate XLR and 1/4-inch connections compatible with most microphones, instruments, and line-level devices like keyboards. Connectivity is also an important factor in determining the usefulness and system compatibility of audio interfaces; we selected a variety of units that use either USB, Thunderbolt, Lightning, or some combination thereof.

Interfaces with fewer inputs are naturally smaller and better suited to portable use. In contrast, interfaces with more inputs are ideal for large-scale studio use and usually have designs that reflect this. This list represents the whole spectrum, with the most portable single-input interface at one end and the most expandable 26-input, 26-output interface at the other. We used our experience as working musicians and general audio enthusiasts to narrow the options and offer something for every scenario, whether on-the-go recording or within a perfectly soundproofed room.

The best audio interfaces: Reviews & Recommendations

High analog-to-digital conversion bitrate and recording quality are essential for selecting the best audio interface for professional use. If you intend to use audio recorded through your interface for any production-level application, be it streaming, podcasting, recording song vocals, or various styles of music production, industry standards favor using the highest-available quality of audio, generally a depth of 24 bits and sample rates of either 96 kHz or 192 kHz. We’ve selected sound investments to capture your sonic creativity.

Best overall: PreSonus Quantum 2626

Best for the Home Studio

Highly Expandable

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Why it made the cut: This rack-mountable interface from PreSonus offers capacity, expandability, and a feature set rivaling that of interfaces twice its price, making it an appealing choice for small and home studios.


  • Inputs: 2 x Microphone/Instrument combo; 6 x Microphone/Line combo; 2 x ADAT optical; 2 x Line return; S/PDIF; MIDI; Word clock
  • Outputs: Stereo out; 2 x Preamp out; 8 x Line out; 2 x ADAT optical; S/PDIF; MIDI; Word clock
  • Connection Type: Thunderbolt
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Up to 24-bit/192 kHz


  • Great value for a pro-level feature set
  • Expandable via ADAT to 26 inputs and 26 outputs
  • Line returns for integration with outboard gear
  • Extremely low latency
  • Includes DAW software


  • Only two instrument inputs
  • Thunderbolt cable not included

PreSonus has a way of engineering pro-quality gear and making it available at a reasonable price point, and the company’s Quantum 2626 may be the best example yet. Rack-mountable and decked out with BNC word clock, ADAT, Thunderbolt, 48-volt phantom power, 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA conversion, and a host of analog I/O for multi-mic configurations and playback with reference-grade mixing headphones to professional studio monitors, this is one of the best audio interfaces for home recording due to its sheer ability to integrate with other audio gear and expand along with the changing needs of most studios.

Importantly, the Quantum 2626 comes bundled with digital audio workstation (DAW) software, including Ableton Live Lite and PreSonus’s own Studio One Artist, making this an ideal option for jumpstarting a new recording setup. It features a total of eight microphone preamps, two of which are compatible with instruments and six of which are compatible with line-level signals. Its ADAT and S/PDIF inputs allow users to expand to a whopping total of 26 inputs and 26 outputs, making this an easy and cost-effective choice if you have aspirations to grow your studio down the line. The unit also includes its own dedicated line returns for inline interfacing with outboard gear line compressors and equalizers.

While this unit does connect via the latest and snappiest version of Thunderbolt, it doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable, which must be purchased separately and aren’t inexpensive. This may turn off some users, but the Quantum 2626 is still much more affordable than many of its direct competitors by several hundred dollars, adding to its allure as the best for home studios. Admittedly, its limit of two instrument inputs affects its usefulness as a guitar or bass preamp. However, this can be circumvented by using a direct injection (DI) box like the Whirlwind Imp 2, which allows 1/4-inch connections to be converted into XLR form for use with any microphone preamp.

Best for on-the-go overdubs: UA Volt 2

UA Volt 2

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Why it made the cut: The UA Volt 2 is an all-in-one recording toolkit for the traveling musician, offering a pleasing “vintage” mode that achieves a tube amp-like effect.


  • Inputs: 2 analog combo XLR/¼-inch inputs; MIDI
  • Outputs: MIDI; L/R TRS monitor channels
  • Connection Type: USB-C
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: 24-bit/192kHz


  • Clean, analog-like sound modes
  • Compact design with integrated power supply
  • Price


  • May not have enough inputs for some uses
  • No onboard DSP processing

A clean rectangular chassis measuring roughly 7 x 5 x 2 inches and weighing just 1.4 pounds, the Universal Audio Volt 2 interface offers both panache and portability. The Volt 2’s control panel is straightforward, with clearly labeled gain controls and monitoring options alongside two combo XLR/¼-inch inputs, which accept mic, instrument, and line level signals. A few backlit buttons offer access to 48-volt phantom power, instrument signal selection, and the Volt’s distinctive “vintage” mode, which engages solid-state electronics to add soft clipping and warm saturation to the input signals in the style of the Universal Audio Solo 610 Tube Preamp.

Compared to audio recorded with similar two-input interfaces, the Volt 2’s converters (informed by the flagship Apollo line of interfaces) and its max audio conversion rate of 24-bit/192kHz help the interface sound distinctly “open” in its high-frequency range. There’s a relatively detailed midrange that doesn’t suffer from much of the obscure and “muddy” character that is often a hallmark of its price range. And the “vintage” mode engages a soft clipper to flatten peaks in the input signal in a behavior similar to valves, lending a character that our reviewer found worked particularly well for early rock and Motown-esque bass and guitar tones. In general, UA has been on a real winning streak in 2022/2023, with impressive, expressive releases such as the SD-1 dynamic mic, the UA Sphere DLX Modeling Microphone System, and a series of UAFX portable processing engines/amp emulators for guitarists.

One significant design limitation of the Volt 2 is its lack of onboard DSP processing, which is required to run Universal Audio’s vast library of over 200 plugins. This is somewhat remedied yet further convoluted by the recent introduction of UAD Spark—a subscription service offering access to around 20 of the company’s plugins without an Apollo interface or other external processors. Long story short: you’ll save a lot of money opting for this 2-in/2-out Volt-series interface over an Apollo, but you won’t be able to use it to run most of Universal Audio’s plugins. However, you will get an incredibly flexible and relatively affordable travel interface with the potential to add a distinctly pleasing “pre-mixed” analog quality to input sources.

Best for livestreaming: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Best for Livestreaming

Compact Size, Big Sound

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Why it made the cut: The compact Scarlett 2i2 from Focusrite sports an intuitive layout and two versatile input preamps that make it ideal for running a basic recording or livestreaming setup.


  • Inputs: 2 x Microphone/Line/Instrument combo
  • Outputs: Stereo out; Headphone out
  • Connection Type: USB
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Up to 24-bit/192 kHz


  • Small and portable
  • High-quality converters
  • Simple, easy-to-use design
  • USB bus-powered; no wall wart required
  • Accommodates every type of audio signal


  • Not expandable
  • Only two inputs and one headphone output

Even minimalist recording setups require robust enough gear to deliver high-quality audio. The Scarlett 2i2 is a compact USB-powered workhorse that offers pro features like combo inputs, 48-volt phantom power for condenser microphones, and 24-bit/192kHz analog-to-digital conversion at an affordable price point, making it the best audio interface for live streamers, mobile recordists, voiceover artists, and more.

Most basic livestreaming and podcasting setups require one or two microphones at most for voice capture, so the two-input capacity of the Scarlett 2i2 makes it a lean and fitting choice for such a context. This stripped-down design allows it to draw all its power off of USB, which makes it more compact than some of its competitors that require an external power supply. Its minimal capacity also makes it a solid option for use as a stereo output when using software synths, samplers, and other line-level computer-based sources.

While the Scarlett 2i2’s small-but-mighty design is one of its main strengths, it doesn’t have the capacity nor the expandability of larger audio interfaces. Other competing items like the Audient iD14 are just as small but include ADAT inputs for adding eight more preamps to your setup should the need arise. Suppose you want to record more than three sources simultaneously, whether they’re microphones or instruments. In that case, you might opt for one of these ADAT-compatible interfaces or grab one like the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, which includes eight of its own.

Best for guitar: IK Multimedia iRig HD 2

Best for Guitar


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Why it made the cut: This pocket-sized interface comes bundled with amplifier simulation software and includes a dedicated amplifier output, making it perfect for recording to Mac, iPad, and iPhone while integrating with existing rigs.


  • Inputs: Instrument
  • Outputs: Amp output; Headphone out
  • Connection Type: USB, Lightning
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Up to 24-bit/96 kHz


  • Smaller than a smartphone
  • Includes amplifier simulation software
  • Onboard quick-adjust volume and signal controls
  • Headphone output for easy monitoring


  • Instrument only; no line-level or microphone sources
  • Prevents device charging while in use

If you’re looking for the best audio interface for guitar, the iRig HD 2 is a robust quick-start option that’s small enough to fit on any desk or slip into a gig bag. Though minimal in its design, it sports thoughtful features like onboard level controls, a built-in headphone output, and an optional amp throughput for sending signal to a computer and an amplifier simultaneously. It’s compatible with Mac and PC and connects using either Lightning or USB (cables included).

Besides its portable shape and its ability to capture high-quality 24-bit/96 kHz audio, one of the iRig HD 2’s most significant features is its bundled amplifier simulation software, Amplitube. The program includes a host of virtual pedal effects and amplifier cabinets for creating realistic, studio-quality electric guitar recordings without an amplifier or external FX rig. Not only does the software eliminate the need for bulky recording equipment, but it allows users to record loud electric guitar tones in near-complete silence, making this a good option for recording at night, in shared spaces, and on the go.

The iRig HD 2 is undoubtedly a great choice for mobile recording, minimalist setups, and guitar demo use. Still, it can only accommodate a single 1/4-inch instrument input, so it’s not compatible with microphones or multi-instrument setups. Additionally, when used with an iPad or an iPhone, this interface occupies the device’s Lightning port and eliminates the ability to charge during use. If you are recording for long periods on an iOS device, bring a charger or a battery pack to juice up between takes.

Best budget: PreSonus AudioBox USB

Best Budget

Ideal for Beginners

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Why it made the cut: This simple interface packs two combo inputs, speaker and headphone outputs, and high-quality 24-bit/96 kHz analog-to-digital conversion into an affordable bus-powered unit.


  • Inputs: 2 x Microphone/Instrument combo; MIDI
  • Outputs: Stereo out; Headphone out; MIDI
  • Connection Type: USB
  • AD/DA Conversion Rate: Up to 24-bit/96 kHz


  • Powered via USB
  • Studio-quality analog-to-digital conversion
  • Combo inputs for microphones and instruments
  • Includes recording software


  • Limited to two inputs
  • Phantom power affects both channels at once

If you need a simple, portable audio interface for powering a small podcasting setup or barebones recording studio on a budget, the two-channel PreSonus AudioBox is worth a look. Its two combo inputs accommodate XLR microphones, as well as 1/4-inch instrument inputs, and it has simple stereo outputs for a set of speakers as well as a single headphone output for monitoring. A knob on the front panel allows users to adjust the mix between their prerecorded audio and their live signal, eliminating the common latency and delay issues typical of digital recording.

Our pick for the best budget audio interface, this unit is bundled with a significant amount of recording software, including Ableton Live Lite and Studio One Artist Edition, which makes it a good option for users who are starting from square one. It also has high-quality converters capable of recording at fidelity up to 24-bit/96 kHz, and it includes MIDI inputs and outputs for connecting keyboards and other devices.

The bare-minimum design of the AudioBox comes with some perks and drawbacks. For example, it’s powered via a single USB connection and doesn’t require a separate wall wart, so it’s perfect for remote laptop recording away from electricity. At the same time, it can’t provide independent phantom power to each input, so you can’t use a powered condenser microphone and a sensitive ribbon microphone simultaneously. The single headphone output also requires users to bring their own splitter or headphone amp if they’re working with others. Still, if you can work within its limits, the AudioBox is a great value.

Want something even more compact and inexpensive? If you only need to plug in one instrument and one microphone, the PreSonus AudioBox GO 2×2 USB-C interface offers bus-powered AD/DA in the most pocketable package, all for only $79.

The PreSonus AudioBox GO with a MacBook, mic, and headphones
A MacBook Pro and Shure SM58 paired with the AudioBox GO make for a fantastic minimalist recording rig. Julian Vittorio

Things to consider before buying an audio interface

Audio interfaces come in a broad range of input numbers, so it’s important to select a unit that fits the type of content you’re creating. Single- or double-channel audio interfaces should be sufficient for basic streaming and podcasting work, but musicians should opt for four or more inputs to avoid being painted into a corner creatively. An eight-input interface is the best place to start in terms of flexibility, but keep in mind that those units aren’t as portable as a two-input design.

Type of audio you’re recording

Most of the units on this list include specially-shaped combo inputs that can accommodate both XLR and 1/4-inch TRS connectors, allowing a variety of microphones and instruments to be used and which will provide the most flexibility in working environments. Compare the type of audio equipment you’re looking to capture with an audio interface’s inputs can save a lot of headaches down the line; for example, the iRig HD 2 is a convenient single-input interface, but it’s not compatible with microphones.


The most portable audio interfaces tend to have a maximum of two inputs, with some models offering expansion via their ports. To maximize the portability factor, choose an audio interface that’s powered via its own connection to the computer. This type of design limits the need for extra electrical wiring, and it also allows you to record remotely using only the battery of a laptop.


If you’re aiming to build a studio or expand your production in the future, choose an audio interface with ADAT optical inputs like the PreSonus Quantum 2626. A single ADAT port generally allows interfaces to accept an additional eight channels of audio from another compatible dedicated unit over a simple optical cable, effectively doubling or even tripling the capacity of a base model eight-input interface.


Q: Are expensive audio interfaces worth it?

The more you spend on an audio interface, the more likely it is to have high-quality analog-to-digital conversion, efficient design, and expandable I/O. That said, you don’t have to break the bank to achieve good results. The relatively affordable Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, for example, can record at a very high 24-bit/192 kHz quality (a resolution that satisfies the expectations of mastering engineers and lossless streaming services like Apple Music, etc.). Still, it’s limited to only two inputs. Whether a more expensive audio interface is worth it depends on whether you value capacity, expandability, and future-proof design.

Q: What makes one audio interface better than another?

Audio interfaces combine many critical components in a single unit, including analog-to-digital conversion and preamplifiers. The best audio interfaces are the most flexible and can accommodate various input types, from condenser microphones to keyboards. The more expensive an audio interface is, the more options for expandability it should offer.

Q: How long does an audio interface last?

There’s no real limit on the lifespan of an audio interface beyond the deprecation of its connector type. For example, Apple recently stopped designing computers with FireWire ports, which used to be commonly found on audio interfaces for over a decade. These devices can still be used with an adapter, but if you’re looking for an interface with staying power, pick one with a newer connector like Thunderbolt or USB-C.

Final thoughts on selecting the best audio interfaces

Whether you’re livestreaming, podcasting, making music, or recording voiceovers, an audio interface is an essential piece of gear for connecting analog audio equipment with your computer. When shopping for the best audio interface for your needs and budget, keep in mind the number of simultaneous inputs you’ll require: a two-input unit like the PreSonus AudioBox USB may be sufficient for a streaming, vocal, or podcasting setup, while an eight-input interface like the PreSonus Quantum 2626 is better suited for recording a full band. Mobile recordists may also prefer a bus-powered audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which allows you to record on the go without needing an external power supply. Regardless of your end goal, it’s important to pick an audio interface that matches the scale of your studio and accommodates your needs for portability, expandability, and audio quality.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.