We have another selection of cheap audio interfaces; this time, we are looking at the best audio interfaces under $100 and $50.
The main thing we want to highlight is that low-cost doesn’t have to mean low-quality. Some of these budget interfaces deliver surprisingly good quality, which makes them incredible value for money. Here are our top picks.
1. M-Audio M-Track Solo
The best under $50
The M-Audio M-Track Solo is an unbelievable buy for under $50. It’s the ideal audio interface for anyone just getting into recording music or anyone looking for a cheap, portable setup. As its price should tell you, it won’t compete with much more expensive interfaces, but it rocks at this end of the market.
One of the best things about the M-Track Solo is that it comes with M-Audio’s awesome Crystal preamp. These Crystal preamps are very transparent and are used in M-Audio’s AIR 192 range.
It has an XLR/TRS combo input and an instrument input, which is pretty great for the money. It’s not quite as well built as the AIR 192 interfaces, but again, it’s pretty solid for the money.
It’s easy to set up, easy to use and comes with two DAWs, some virtual instruments, and over 20 plugins. The software bundle alone is worth more than you pay for the unit.
2. Behringer U-Phoria UMC22
Ideal for beginners
Behringer has done an incredible job with the entire U-Phoria range. The UMC22 is a compact 2×2 audio interface with one XLR/TRS combo input and one instrument input. Like the rest of the U-Phoria range, it’s built to last, too.
Even though it’s an entry-level (one of the cheapest) model, it still features a genuine Midas preamp. It’s a 16-bit/48 kHz interface, and while it doesn’t offer sample rates as high as some competitors, you don’t always need it.
The thing we like most about the UMC22 is that it is designed from top to bottom for beginners. It’s easy to set up, very easy to use, and the software bundle is beginner-friendly.
It comes with the Tracktion DAW, which is a great starting point for new producers that can still deliver professional results. You also get access to 150 virtual instruments and effects plugins. It really is a beginner’s dream.
3. Shure MVi
One for the road
Shure’s MVi is absolutely excellent for mobile recording. If there is one microphone brand name that is truly universal, it’s Shure. So, if you are a singer or podcaster looking for an interface that you can trust, the MVi IOS could be it.
The most significant upside of this interface is that it has an XLR/TRS combo input, and it fits in your pocket; it’s seriously small. It also makes it easy to get started with its five DSP recording modes. Each mode provides suitable settings for different situations, like singing, a live band, or speech.
The downside of this interface is that it’s not the best for home use. If you want an interface that can go between the studio and the road, it’s probably not the one. However, if you are a podcaster who finds themselves in a lot of hotels, it’s perfect; and cheap!
4. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Ready to record anywhere
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is an interface that does have some negatives. But, when you put it in the context of low-priced interfaces under $100, it starts to look a whole lot better.
It’s a 2×2 interface with two XLR/TRS combo inputs. Compared to most interfaces under $100, the AudiBox USB 96 has quite a lot going on. The front panel is pretty busy, but it has a dedicated headphone volume knob and a direct monitoring mix knob. Not all interfaces this cheap have those things.
Performance-wise, it’s 24-bit/96 kHz resolution. On paper, it sounds very promising, but it doesn’t deliver the flattest frequency response. It performs well, just not the best, but it’s top-notch when it comes to build quality. It also has a very good software bundle, including the Capture for iPad app.
5. ART USB Dual Pre
Preamp or interface
ART gets a bit of stick at times from engineers and producers, but they make some fantastic budget products. The USB Dual Pre is a small 2×2 interface that offers huge flexibility under $100.
The ART USB Dual Pre has two fully-balanced XLR/TRS combo inputs, each delivering up to 48 dB of clean gain. Each input provides 48 V phantom power and has signal and clip LEDs. They also have individual channel gain knobs, which is great for a small, portable unit.
On the back panel, there’s quite a lot in a small space, but it’s still very functional. It features balanced TRS monitor outputs and a 1/8″ headphone output. Again, each has an individual level control.
The USB Dual Pre can be powered in three ways: USB, 12 V power supply (not supplied), or 9 V battery. One very interesting thing about the USB Dual Pre is that it’s an excellent dedicated microphone preamp before you even get to the audio interface functionality. The outputs can function as standard preamp outputs or feed your monitors.
It comes with Audacity recording and production software. This choice might not be the obvious one, but it’s most definitely worth a look.
- May 6, 2021: Minor changes. No changes in product picks.