The best audio interfaces to buy in 2020: 12 best audio interfaces under $300

Break fresh ground with your music, not the bank.

If you’re picking out your first proper audio interface, but don’t necessarily want to break the bank, it’s a great time to be in the market. The boom of affordable home recording gear has led to fierce competition between brands, which, much to the benefit of music-makers, has led to more affordable devices and some impressive bundled third-party software.

From home recording stalwarts to great throw-in-your-bag options, here are our top picks for the best audio interfaces you can buy this year for under $300.

The best audio interfaces under $300 at a glance

  • Audient EVO 4
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)
  • Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
  • PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
  • Mackie Onyx Producer 2×2
  • Motu M4 4X4
  • Behringer UMC404HD
  • Solid State Logic SSL 2 2x2m
  • Novation Audiohub 2×4
  • Steinberg UR22mkII
  • Audient iD4
  • M-Audio 192 | 4

Audient EVO 4

Audient Evo 4
Image: Audient

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Seasoned engineers working on more complex setups might have forgotten how daunting even the most basic recording tasks can be to a beginner. Even setting levels for the newbie can seem like a step you can get wrong. The Audient EVO 4 is a compact, no-nonsense interface ideal for those wanting to get into recording quickly without worrying about the more technical aspects, at least yet.

It’s a two-input/two-output interface, which means you get two dual-function sockets for your XLR and quarter-inch inputs, and a pair of quarter-inch outputs for your speakers. The way that this interface combines its intuitive layout with auto gain setting makes it especially straightforward. Also, for its very affordable price tag, this interface boasts some serious audio quality, coming from console and interface makers, Audient.

Read our full review here.

Price: £99 / $129 / €119
Inputs: 2x combo inputs (XLR / 1/4″),
Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4″)
Preamps: 2x Mic, 1x Instrument
Mic Pre Gain Range: 58dB (-10db Pad for Line)
Connection Protocol: USB Type-C (USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen 1)
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen
Image: Focusrite

For several years now, Focusrite’s Scarlett interfaces have been considered the modern songwriter’s best friend. They’re well-built, easy to take around and sound great. Now, in its third generation, the home recording stalwart gains some new features that make it more versatile than ever before.

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The Scarlett 2i2, as its name suggests, gives you two inputs, and both are capable of accepting mic inputs and instrument or line-level signals if you toggle the INST button. This iteration of the interface also adds a secondary choice in preamp voicing via AIR mode, which alters the frequency response of the input stage to sound closer to that of the Focusrite ISA’s transformer-based microphone preamps.

Read our full review here.

Price: $159.99
Inputs: 2x combo inputs (XLR/1/4”)
Outputs: 2x TRS outputs (1/4”)
Preamps: 2x Mic
Mic Pre Gain Range: 56 dB
Connection Protocol: USB 2.0 Type C connector
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

NI Komplete Audio 6
Image: Native Instruments

Not only does this interface come with some solid sounding preamps, but it packs great software to kickstart your plug-in collection as well. Native Instrument’s Komplete Kontrol keyboards demonstrate that the company is on a mission to bring great hardware and software bundles to music production newcomers, and the Komplete Audio 6 follows strongly in this vein.

On the interface itself, you’ll find two mic/line combo inputs in the front, two 1/4” inch inputs in the back, a pair of jack outs, headphone out, as well as level and input selector controls. On the software side, you get Cubase LE 5 and Traktor LE 2 and Komplete Elements. For under $300, that’s a lot to get you started.

Price: $249
Inputs: 2x combo inputs (XLR/1/4”), 2x 1/4” inputs, 2x digital inputs
Outputs: 4x TRS outputs (1/4”)
Preamps: 2 Mic
Connection Protocol: USB-B
Headphone Outputs: 2x 1/4”

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

PreSonus Audiobox
Image: PreSonus

Packaged with PreSonus’s Studio One Artist DAW, along with a collection of plug-ins from the likes of Maag Audio, Lexicon, Arturia and Brainworx, the AudioBox USB 96 gives you most of what you need to get your feet wet – nay, drenched – in music-making.

On the interface itself, it’s a two-channel, USB 2.0 powered interface with dual-purpose inputs for XLR and quarter-inch connectors. All in all, a solid package for the beginning music-maker, and a superb throw-in-your-bag option too.

Read our full review here.

Price: $99
Inputs: 2x combo inputs (XLR/1/4″)
Outputs: 2x 1/4″ outputs
Preamps: 2 Mic
Mic Pre Gain Range: 35db
Connection Protocol: USB Type B
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Mackie Onyx Producer 2×2

Mackie Onyx Producer 2x2
Image: Mackie

If you’re looking for a straightforward interface to take out on the road with you – or maybe to an artist’s house for a quick session – consider Mackie’s Onyx Producer 2×2. This is a two-in, two-out interface equipped with Mackie’s transparent sounding Onyx mic pres (which show up in the brand’s ProFXv3 mixing boards, too).

Of course, should you decide to keep this interface in one place, the Onyx Producer 2×2 is home studio-trained as well. Each input has a Hi-Z option for recording guitars or bass direct. Plus, it has a set of MIDI ins and outs for producing with your favourite synths, controllers or sequencers.

Price: $209.99
Inputs: 2x combo input (XLR/1/4″)
Outputs: 2x 1/4″ (monitor out)
Preamps: 2 Mic
Mic Pre Gain Range: 55dB
Connection Protocol: USB-B
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Motu M4 4X4

Motu M4 4x4
Image: Motu

Screens are on most devices these days, so it’s strange that so few interfaces have considered replacing the red clip indicator with something a bit more intuitive. In the case of the Motu M4 4X4, the inclusion of an LCD screen not only gives the device a great look but offers an accurate way of monitoring your levels at a glance.

For the price, this interface’s internals are rather impressive as well, as it comes equipped with the same ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC tech found in interfaces such as the Apogee Duet 2 and Symphony I/O, which lends to its excellent audio quality.

Price: $219.95
Inputs: 2x Combo (XLR/1/4″), 2 x 1/4″ (line)
Outputs: 2x 1/4″ TRS (DC coupled, monitor), 2x 1/4″ TRS (DC coupled, line), 1x Dual RCA Stereo (monitor), 1 x Dual RCA Stereo (line)
Preamps: 2x Mic
Connection Protocol: USB-C
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Behringer UMC404HD

Behringer UMC404XD
Image: Behringer

While most of our picks for this list typically offer two inputs, the UMC404HD supplies twice that. What can you do with two extra inputs? Well, quite a lot. For starters, you could add dimensions to your acoustic guitar tracking sessions with a secondary close mic or maybe even a room mic; or, you could use the famous ‘Glyn Johns’ minimal miking technique to record a drum kit.

For the price, this interface will undoubtedly get the job done. You get four MIDAS preamps, input monitoring capabilities and, for integrating with your setup, MIDI ins-and-outs and a pair of TRS inserts, for putting any existing hardware into your recording chain after the preamps.

Price: $268.50
Inputs: 4x combo inputs (XLR/TRS), 4x inserts (1/4”)
Outputs: 6x 1/4″, 2x XLR, 2x Stereo,
Preamps: 4x Mic
Connection Protocol: USB 2.0
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4″

Solid State Logic SSL 2 2×2

SSL 2x2
Image: Solid State Logic

As we’ve seen from its widely celebrated hybrid consoles, combining analogue with digital technology is certainly one of Solid State Logic’s strong suits. The highlight of the SSL 2 2X2M is that it draws from the company’s design strengths – namely on its two preamps and ‘Legacy 4K Mode’ – and packs it into a neat, compact and bus-powered interface.

Engaging the 4K button on either input introduces more of the characteristics found on the SSL 4000-series. Meanwhile, you also get a bundle of very usable software, including SSL’s Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip, Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools First, which comes with an additional 23 plug-ins.

Price: $289.99
Inputs: 2x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z)
Outputs: 2x 1/4″ TRS (L/R)
Preamps: 2x Mic
Mic Pre Gain Range: 62dB
Connection Protocol: USB 2.0
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Novation Audiohub 2×4

Novation Audiohub 2x4
Image: Novation

Novation is best known for its MIDI controllers, keyboards and synths, so it’s only natural that their standalone audio interface plays well with others in the product line. The Audiohub 2×4 is an audio interface designed exclusively with electronic musicians in mind, combining a powered USB hub for your devices with an intuitive way to control output and monitoring levels.

We’ll admit, it would have been nice to have at least one XLR input, or even MIDI I/O, but the Audiohub 2×4 picks its battles, and if you have a range of USB devices in your setup, this could be right for you.

Read our full review here.

Inputs: 3x Powered USB, 2x RCA line inputs
Outputs: 4x Line outputs
Connection Protocol: USB 2.0
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Steinberg UR22MKII

Steinberg UR22MKII
Image: Steinberg

The UR22MKII is as straightforward as audio interfaces get, and that isn’t a bad thing. This is a two-in, two-out interface with a Hi-Z function on the second input. Housed in a rugged chassis, and powered via USB, it’s an ideal portable interface. Its preamps are Yamaha’s D-PRE design, and are capable of supplying up to 60dB of gain, too. So, if you’re recording a podcast and you’re working with the notoriously gain-hungry Shure SM7B, this is a great pick.

Price: $219.99
Inputs: 2x combo (XLR/1/4”)
Outputs: 2x 1/4”
Preamps: 2x Mic
Mic Pre Gain Range: 54dB
Connection Protocol: USB 2.0
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”

Audient iD4

Audient iD4
Image: Audient

Audient equips their entire product line – from its consoles to its iD interfaces – with the same class A mic preamp design, meaning you’re free to consider your other needs in an interface such as form factor and I/O. While the EVO4 is ideal for throwing in a bag and taking around, the iD4, which similarly has two-inputs and two-outputs could be better suited for the home studio because of its multi-function volume knob.

By using the virtual scroll wheel mode, dubbed Scroll Control, you can use the iD4’s volume encoder to make adjustments in your DAW and plug-ins by merely hovering over a parameter, and rotating the knob to tweak it. You can also assign a function to the iD button on the front panel, so you have quick access to mute, dim or talkback.

Read our full review here

Price: $199
Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x TRS (DI)
Outputs: 2x 1/4″
Preamps: 1x Mic, 1x Instrument
Mic Pre Gain Range: 58dB
Connection Protocol: USB 2.0
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4”, 1x 1/8”

M-Audio 192 | 4

M-Audio 192 | 4
Image: M-Audio

The compact two-in/two-out interface category is a highly competitive one – and many manufacturers, like M-Audio have chosen to add value by bundling impressive third-party software with their hardware.

To be completely clear, the M-Audio 192 | 4 is a perfectly reliable audio interface on its own, and its ability to record at sampling rate up to 192kHz is impressive for the price. But it’s a big plus that it comes bundled with both Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools First; Eleven Lite, Xpand2!, Vacuum, Boom and 2GB of Touch Loop content.

Price: $199
Inputs: 1x combo inputs (XLR/1/4″), 1 x 1/4″ (Hi-Z)
Outputs: 2x 1/4″ (L/R)
Preamps: 1x Mic, 1x Instrument
Mic Pre Gain Range: 55dB
Connection Protocol: USB Type-C (USB 2.0)
Headphone Outputs: 1x 1/4″

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