Welcome to the MusicTech Buyer’s Guide, where we round up some of the best products recently reviewed in the magazine. This time, six of the best interfaces – everything from cheap to (ruddy) expensive. We even throw in a mixer…
Best: Soft combo – PreSonus Studio 192
Price £719 (street)
Contact Source Distribution
0208 962 5080
Very often an audio interface is matched with software to interface with your own setup. The software with the PreSonus is no bolt-on; it’s so feature-packed, we suggested that “you’ll end up using it more than most interfacing software, as it makes remote control a proper reality”. For the mid-range money, it also comes with a top-end set of connections: 26 ins and 32 outs with eight mic and line ins, eight line outs, plus main outs, and ADAT and coaxial making up the digital numbers.
We said: “In terms of ease of setup and use, Studio 192 delivers a good audio performance and bags of extras. It’s quite rightly called a Studio Command Centre – you get a lots of connectivity together with a great spec.”
Best: Focusrite! – Focusrite Red 8Pre
To be honest, we could have chosen a few Focusrite interfaces – the company is the master of them, after all – but as Sir Sean Connery might have said: “There can be only one.”
We’ve chosen the Red 8Pre, as it’s twice a 4Pre (also on our list) and at £3,200, really does represent something of a pinnacle of interfacing for Focusrite. Reviewer Mike Hillier certainly agreed, giving it a whopping 10/10.
He said: “The Red 8Pre has everything you’d need to centre your studio around. With integration all built in, for use with ThunderBolt, DigiLink or Dante-equipped Macs, the Red 8Pre is perfectly positioned for any studio upgrade.” He then concluded: “An absolutely incredible interface, which ensures connection possibilities for almost all conceivable studio needs.”
Best: Mobile – Audient iD4
This diminutive interface from Audient is small, portable and cheap, so could be among the best entry-level choices if you’re just starting out. It’s pretty simple feature-wise, but Audient has packed lots into a compact box. There’s a single mic preamp, a DI, stereo outputs and twin headphone outputs – all fitting in the palm of your hand.
Reviewer Mike Hillier got some very clean recordings during his tests and was impressed with the unit overall. “If you’re looking for a small audio interface that doesn’t compromise audio quality for recording while on tour, or simply because the additional channels are not something you’d ever need, the Audient iD4 is an excellent solution.”
He concluded: “The iD4 is a simple and useful tool, which could make an ideal second interface for portable work, or as a quality interface for electronic in-the-box musicians.”
Best: For options – RME Fireface UFX+
Contact Synthax Audio
In joint-first place in terms of power and flexibility – along with the Focusrite Red 8Pre – RME’s Fireface UFX+ is packed full of connectivity, with a total number of 188 inputs and outputs. Reviewer Marc JB was so full of praise for the unit that he actually bought one after the test.
“Having a UFX+ simply helps sell my studio to clients, as it gives a recognised and reassuring stamp of quality – they know that they are going to get a pristine, professional sound. This is a perfect hub for a pro, futureproof studio, and delivers a sublime workflow and crystal audio quality.”
Best: …with added mixer – Allen & Heath
Contact Audio Technica 0113 277 1441
Okay, this is not just an interface but the very definition of interface and mixer is blurring these days, with one doing much of the work of the other. Think of this, then, as a 24-channel USB interface… with faders. Anyway, when it comes to hands-on mixing and interfacing with your DAW, it doesn’t come much better than this.
Reviewer Mike Hillier said: “The Qu-24 is an incredible desk. All the extra features, fantastic effects, traditional mixing features and the fairly fast learning curve mean that it will find many fans. It’s set to become a live favourite and a great addition to any DAW-based recording studio.”
Best: iOS and more – Korg plugKEY
Price £85 (street)
Well, we guess you can’t accuse us of not covering everything in this roundup. We go from £3,200 interfaces through those bolted to full 24-channel mixers, right down to this little beauty, which is more connector than interface – well, that’s what interfaces do, right? plugKEY allows you to plug any MIDI-based keyboard into an iOS device (iOS 8 or later) and play it – hence the name. Essentially, it turns your iPad or iPhone into a standalone sound module by disabling the audio which then routes through its own output.
“Connect up your MIDI and, behold, you’re playing your apps. This is as easy and cool as iOS gets. Easy-to-use, simple concept, no delays, and great audio. Korg’s plugKEY really is a great way to welcome your iOS device to your studio world. ”