One of the most important devices in your studio setup is the interface between the real recording world and your virtual one. Here’s six of the best interfaces we’ve looked at recently in MusicTech…
Best Budget: Audient iD4
It may be small but Audient have taken care to ensure the iD4’s sound quality is still excellent. Though it may initially appear to be pretty minimal, it actually contains a single Audient Class A microphone preamp from their console range, a JFET DI, a stereo output and twin headphone outputs. The iD4 is buss powered making it easy to take on the road if you’re a travelling music maker or find yourself on tour. The addition of the ‘iD’ button adds extra use for controlling plug-in parameters physically using the ScrollControl function.
We Said: If you’re looking for a small audio interface that doesn’t compromise audio quality for recording while on tour, the iD4 is an excellent solution. It’s 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 Flexibility: Sound Devices MixPre-6M
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When is an interface not an interface? When it’s a mixer, recorder, hardware DAW and interface, that’s when! Yep, this beauty – and it is quite stunning in looks – does pretty much everything bar making your tea.
We said “The bottom line is that the MixPre-6M is fantastic at all of what it sets out to do. Those three main functions – interface, mixer and recorder – are brilliantly realised, and the ‘musician’ extras really do open up a fourth multitrack DAW option. This thing really can do it all, and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a unit this small that punches so big. From getting your initial recordings together, to getting them in your DAW or layering them together, it’s quite brilliant – and looks fantastic, too.”
Best Neve Sound: Steinberg UR-RT4
Steinberg’s new UR-RT range stands out because it features both a pristine set of mic preamps and the option to bring in some lovely Rupert Neve Designs colour, courtesy of onboard transformers. Of the two we’ve looked at, the RT4 is most definitely our favourite…
We said “Steinberg’s UR-RT4 is a lovely interface, pure and simple. We criticised the RT2 for having an issue with Logic where you had to reboot, and that still occurred with this. However, we forgive it, because that extra sonic flexibility on both input and output more than makes up for it. This is a great-sounding and highly flexible older sibling of the RT range and deserves an extra mark for that routing clout. And at just £170-odd quid extra, we think this is definitely the one to go for.”
Best Sound: Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB
We actually looked at the smallest (2Pre) and the largest (8Pre) in the Clarett range, but we’ll pick this one for its 18-in, 20-out spec and for just being bigger all round. The Clarett range focuses on sound quality, pure and simple. You get a pristine in and some great ‘Air’ sound if you want it and with this range, the fantastic Clarett quality comes to the cheaper USB format.
We said “The Clarett USB range certainly brings that high-quality sound to those lacking Thunderbolt connectivity and also brings low-latency recording and the Air feature, too. The 8Pre is a fantastic option for those in need of more connectivity: bands and medium-sized project studio users. It is very well priced, especially given the software bundle. That fine Clarett quality comes to USB with a price and I/O options for everyone. Decades of design excellence is distilled in some of the easiest-to-use interfaces around.”
Best Way to get Into UAD: Universal Audio Arrow
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This 2×4 bus-powered audio interface is something of a revelation, in that it utilises the Thunderbolt 3 format to the max, but is also one of the most cost-effective ways of getting into the renowned Universal Audio powered plug-in world. With the Arrow, you get a bundle of plug-ins and a very well spec’d interface for a relatively low outlay…
We said “Those who want an ‘in’ to the UAD world won’t find any cheaper way. Those who require a great, well-built mobile interface should also take note. Vocalists get real-time, latency-free recordings with effects that will transform their singing, while guitarists can thrash away with an interface that effectively doubles as a stompbox. And the rest of us? Well, we can see and hear what it is those top producers have been going on about for all these years. Arrow has hit the bullseye.”
Best All-Rounder: PreSonus Studio 26
This very sturdy and compact USB 2.0 interface features a combo pair of mic/instrument line-ins, a pair of line-outs, headphones and MIDI connectors. It’s USB buss-powered and can record up to 24-bit, 192kHz audio. With a great software bundle, it’s one of the best ways to start out in music production.
We said “The 26 interface is a great, compact and well-built interface for small studios and mobile-recording scenarios. Shove it in a bag, use it with a laptop and you’re good to go for a variety of tasks. Its recording quality is right up there with some of the more expensive options, so while it might be great for beginners, its results are most definitely pro.”