Being a music composer, your world revolves around the accurate representation of the sounds. Even the slightest fluctuation in quality downgrades the overall vibe of the music. What you need here is an audio interface — hardware that not only expands input and output but also improves the computer’s sonic capabilities. It is, without a doubt, an indispensable need of composers, allowing them to take sound quality to another level. Whether you want to record or listen, it will produce purer and more refined music. Having said that, you must have the best audio interfaces available this year.

Best Audio Interfaces for High-Quality Sound

1. Focusrite Clarett 2Pre

Out of the whole Clarett family, Clarett 2Pre is a highly-praised member, giving out some interesting features. Two mic/line instrument inputs, an 8-channel optical ADAT digital input, are present on the front panel. With the help of ADAT optical input, you can expand the overall number of channels up to 10. 

The back holds 5-pin MIDI out and in ports, four-line outputs, and a Thunderbolt port. Finally, this device comes with a wonderful software package, having Softube Time, Ableton Live Lite, and Tone Bundle. And you know how software can make or break even the best audio interfaces.

You can expect everything good for this unit, and you surely won’t be disappointed. It provides the hottest pickups and its ability to deliver clean vocals isn’t second to none. The preamps with the Focusrite’s Air circuit give out a huge gain but don’t fix the excessive noise and distortion. The only negative thing we could find was the absence of enough analog inputs.

Pros

  • It is capable of incredibly low latency
  • The construction is of good quality.
  • The preamp with added “Air” is a great addition.

Cons

  • Doesn’t have enough analog inputs.
  • It needs an external power supply to work.
  • The package doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable.

Focusrite Clarett 2Pre best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

2. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

Packed with upgrades, 2nd generation Scarlett features a very low latency, allowing you to monitor and record with incredible software effects. You can now play at sample rates up to 192 kHz with its latest USB audio interfaces. Plus, the mic preamp exhibits a better gain than all of its previous models. It allows you to set your levels accurately and have confidence in your performance.

Moreover, it features evolved input channels to handle hot pickups from heavy instruments. It gives loads of separate stereo headphone mixes, pristine sound quality, I/O, round trip latency, and extensive expansion options — all in one small body.

The best audio interfaces are known for their functionality. As for 18i20, the performance is top-notch and it can handle anything your studio throws at it.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

Scarlett 18i20 comes with essential software — Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools| First Recording Software, and others. It works perfectly with the majority of Digital Audio Stations (DAWs) on PC and Mac. If you have been asking yourself “Which is the best audio interface in 2021 near me?” Then this device is one of the first models you will come across as it is readily available in the market.

Pros

  • It is very easy to set up.
  • It gives out the sound quality of high standard. 
  • It has a great resolution.
  • It has lots of software add-ons.

 

Cons

  • The phantom power is weak.
  • The presets have connectivity problems.
  • It may crash the system sometimes.
 

3. Focusrite Clarett 8PreX

In a single glance, anyone can tell the manufacturing quality is outstanding —the fine anodized finish, clear LED display, and the knobs feel sturdy. This is one of the reasons why 8Prex is among the best audio interfaces manufactured by Focusrite. 

The device only takes up two rack space and gives out eight analog inputs which are switchable between line or mic. From the front panel, two out of eight channels offer instrument direct input.

Focusrite Clarett 8PreX Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

The same number of channels exist in the previous model — 8Pre – having combi Jack-XLRs connections. In addition to that, 8PreX offers a high pass filter, phantom power switches, and separate phases. 8Pre, on the other hand, only provides two phantom power switches, allowing you to witness the difference in performance.

Further, it features SPDIF, ADAT connections (in and out), MIDI connections, and world clock (in and out). Adding them up, there are 28 outputs and 26 inputs in total.

Pros

  • The low latency and audio quality are impressive.
  • Air mode is a unique feature.
  • Clarett’s preamp performs best.
  • The manufacturing quality is great.
  • It maintains good speed even while running multiple channels.

Cons

  • Connection cables aren’t included in the package.
  • There are complaints about its compatibility with Mac. 
 
 
 

4. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

One of the reasons why this unit is on the list is the presence of not one but two preamps. It just can’t go wrong as the manufacturer — Focusrite — is known for producing great preamps. The overall body is gorgeous, having an anodized finish and a sturdy aluminum body. The strong body makes it reliable and a suitable candidate for rugged use. Not just that, but it sounds incredibly beautiful as well.

What’s more, it can be used with moving coil, condensers, ribbon mics, and offers phantom power, making it suitable for most mics. Plus, it allows you to record in high definition (24-bit quality) along with a sample rate of 96 kHz. No doubt, it is one of the best audio interfaces in 2021 to compose the highest quality recordings. On the con side, it isn’t suitable for recording multiple sources (instruments or vocals).

Moreover, it comes with the authorization codes of popular software such as Novation Bass Station, Scarlett Plug-in Suite, Ableton Live Lite, and more. It’s a bit pricey device but worth your investment. To get a discount, look for seasonal audio interface sales.

Pros

  • It offers one of the best preamps.
  • It allows you to record in high resolution.
  • It offers real-time monitoring of your vocals.
  • It has a sturdy body.

Cons

  • MIDI outputs and inputs are absent.
  • It doesn’t record multiple sources well.
  • The USB-only power source can be problematic.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

5. Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2

Another manufacturer is known for its highly functional and best audio interfaces. If you are a singer or a songwriter, you can’t just overlook this masterpiece. Onyx 2.2 allows users to record two inputs. For example, if you want to record a guitar and microphone at the same time, this product lets you do that. All thanks to the XLR/TRS inputs.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is designed to record straightforwardly. That is why the unit comes with phantom power (48v), allowing you to power microphones without relying on external power. As for the Onyx preamps, the manufacturers have done a great job designing a portable audio interface with studio-level quality. It offers transparency and superior headroom.

This audio interface bundle includes DAW Essentials Collection and Tracktion T7 software. With these, you can record, compose, mix, and edit your audio with utmost perfection. Each software package holds a variety of creative tools to make sure you compose a unique collection of music every time.

Pros

  • The recording is high-resolution.
  • The build quality is robust with a small footprint.
  • It comes with MIDI output and inputs.
  • The package includes some interesting and useful software.

Cons

  • Having no latency controls affects the headphone and monitor output.
  • The inputs and outputs are limited.
  • There is no input mute or power off option.

 

Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2 Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

6. Behringer U-Control UCA222 USB Audio Interface

Designed to record right out of the box, Behringer uca222 is bus-powered, which means it doesn’t require batteries or an external power supply. Also, it doesn’t rely on drivers. All you require is to plug in the USB port and start composing. The device, being highly versatile, allows you to connect a range of audio gear with your computer. This surely makes the recording many times easier.

It features two analog inputs on which you can attach any line-level gear such as a mixer or a tape deck. You can also connect active speakers and studio monitors using these inputs. Additionally, there is a S/PDIF output to convert analog to digital. As for the headphone output, the dedicated level controls let you listen to the output and input. 

To get the most out of your recordings, the purchase includes much free software, each having creative tools. With over a hundred virtual instruments and fifty plug-ins, you can transform your computer into a high-end studio. Calling it one of the best audio interfaces won’t be much farfetched.

Pros

  • The construction is durable enough.
  • The high-resolution recording offers excellent sound quality.
  • It doesn’t have a latency problem.
  • It is easy to set up and use.

Cons

  • It makes a buzzing sound during composing.
  • The interface is outdated.
  • It sometimes gives out a base tone distortion.

 

Behringer U-Control UCA222 USB Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

7. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo

Turn your musical ideas into reality using Apollo Twin MKII Duo — one of the best audio interfaces in 2021 present today. It has an unusual look that doesn’t resemble any of the devices we discussed above, making it pretty unique. It features a boutique-style but attractive outlook. When compared with others on the list, it is portable. The body is crafted with a fine-quality yet thick aluminum, which is why it is highly durable.

In terms of connection choice, it uses Thunderbolt — meaning you can expect ultra-low latency and high bandwidth. However, the package doesn’t include Thunderbolt cable, which can be a huge deal-breaker for many buyers.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo Best Audio Interface- Hollywood DJ

As you would expect, there aren’t enough inputs as you would see in other devices. The reason is simple portability. Still, it offers three analog inputs — Hi-Z TRS and two XLR/TRS combos. Also, the device has ¼” line outputs and a pair of ¼” monitors.

To enhance the flexibility to some degree, the manufacturers have thrown in a single ADAT digital input. Further, high resolution (24 bit/ 192 kHz) and smoother performance ensure the highest level of sound quality. The quality of sound is what makes an ordinary interface to the level of top audio interfaces.

Pros

  • The audio quality is outstanding.
  • It offers Unison plug-ins.
  • It allows real-time monitoring and tracking of your work.
  • It is outfitted with excellent UAD-2 plug-ins.
  • The model has a brand-new quad-core option

Cons

  • It doesn’t include Thunderbolt cable.
  • It lacks enough analog inputs.
  • It cannot be bus-powered.
 
 
 

 

8. Audient iD4 USB

It may look small but don’t let the appearances fool you. Even within its compact body, it carries everything to give out high-end performance, including Class-A mic preamps. No matter where you are — at home, studio, or event — the device allows you to maximize its huge Audient sonic library.

Even the best audio interfaces become troublesome if the usability isn’t right. Compared to most products, it is unique in not only appearance but also usability. Now, important things happen on the top instead of the sides. This interesting upgrade makes it easier to work while sitting at a desk.

As for connections, the unit provides two inputs — phantom power for the condenser, and XLR. On the other hand, L/R TRS is present around the back as an output.

Audient iD4 USB Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

It may not have as many connectivity options as other devices. But one thing is for sure; some of its features set it apart from ordinary audio interfaces. The system includes a monitor mix knob that lets you blend the signal with DAW playback.

Another interesting feature is the ScrollControl virtual control wheel, allowing you to make some tweaks on the plug-in settings and DAW by using the volume knob. Lastly, it is compatible with Mac OS and Windows devices. Plus, it also allows the user to scroll on the iTunes library. That is one of the reasons why it deserves to be on this list of best audio interfaces in 2021.

Pros

  • It has excellent sonic quality and performance.
  • The controls are easy to understand and simple to use.
  • It is compatible with iOS devices, Windows, and most Mac.
  • The build quality is fantastic.
  • It has a compact footprint.

Cons

  • When using the iOs devices, you require both USB power and a camera adapter.
  • Connectivity failure is a thing for this model.
  • Sometimes, the interface stops responding.
 
 
 

9. IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo

Pro Duo has a surprisingly portable build, having indicator lights, MIDI input, and phantom power in the center. Whereas on the front, the gain knob is present. The top, however, holds most important as it is where major connections sit — standard USB cable (PC and Mac), micro-USB (Android), DC power, MIDI output and input, and a multi-connector.

The design clearly indicates that the company has tried hard to make it one of the top audio interfaces which are easy to use. And they succeeded in doing so. Whether you are using it the first or the hundredth, the device is super simple, making it easy to understand.

It might be one of the simplest yet best audio interfaces, providing great quality along with unforeseen simplicity. You can record audio in high-resolution (24 bit), and get a flawless composition.

Pros

  • The design is thoughtful and beautiful.
  • It is simple to use and easy to understand.
  • It records audio in high-resolution, preserving the quality.
  • The package is small and can fit inside your pocket.
  • It is easy to carry around and travel with.

Cons

  • When batteries are low, the device doesn’t work properly.
  • The proprietary connector can easily be lost.
  • The casing is plastic (not as strong as other devices)

 

IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

10. PreSonus Studio 192

Looking at the device, it doesn’t take long to realize that the design incorporates all the essential features. It packs 32 outputs and 26 inputs, including ten ¼” outputs and right XLR/TRS combos. As for the preamps, Studio 192 comes with a set of eight XMAS units — each can be remotely controlled. They are effective and provide clarity which is challenging to find in this price range.

Moreover, it is fitted with a Fat Channel DPS, which the company picked out from its flagship model. Just like most of them in this listicle, it offers a high resolution of 24 bit and a sampling rate of 192 kHz. Needless to say, it is compatible with both Windows and Mac and integrates well with most Digital Audio Stations. All the integrated features contribute to making this device worthy enough to be on this list.

Pros

  • It offers an impressive collection of inputs and outputs.
  • Digitally controlled preamps are convenient.
  • It comes with a built-in talkback system.
  • The sound quality is excellent.
  • The overall structure is durable.

Cons

  • The looks are plain and boring.
  • The low-latency performance isn’t up to the claims.
  • The UC surface is counter-intuitive. 
 
 

PreSonus Studio 192 Best Audio Interface - Hollywood DJ

Conclusion

For choosing the best audio interfaces in 2021, you have to consider a lot of factors — connectivity, I/O, portability, sound quality, and functionality. If you are willing to invest well in your music career, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 would be the best option. It has excellent resolution, the right latency for the best sound quality. Plus, it is very easy to set up and use.

However, we would suggest IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo if you are looking for a travel-friendly option. It is a relatively portable interface, allowing you to carry your system around with ease. The price tag is another factor why iRig Pro Duo is a sensible choice. Out of all the options above, you may have already realized it is the best audio interface in terms of functionality in such portability.

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