We’ve reviewed many audio interfaces here at Higher Hz, and in this article, we’ll be providing you with what we consider to be the best choices for 2021. We’ll tackle a wide variety of different units for both Mac and Windows users, USB and Thunderbolt, and home and professional studios alike.
While some of our choices are ideal for those of you with a limited budget, we’ve also included several interfaces on the higher end to give you a more well-rounded idea of what’s best.
1. Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen
The most popular
Focusrite’s Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen is easily the best audio interface that you can buy on a budget. The unit offers a tremendous value for its cost in terms of performance, plus it looks awesome.
The Scarlett 2i2 is a 2×2 unit with two XLR/TRS inputs, both of which offer 48 V phantom power. For less than $200, there really isn’t any competition here. It has amazing preamps with switchable Air mode, a max sample rate of 192 kHz, and comes with a pretty sizable software bundle. We really can’t recommend this unit enough.
2. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
Absolute best under $300
The Komplete Audio 6 MkII is an incredibly well-designed interface. For its price range, its performance capabilities are nearly unmatched.
This interface comes with really solid-sounding preamps, and a huge amount of bundled software to get you started. It may honestly be the best audio interface for beginners still learning the art of recording. However, professionals can find a great use for it as well if they’re searching for a cheap unit to manipulate their Eurorack or other modular devices. For its versatility, budget, and quality, you really can’t go wrong here.
Check out our full NI Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 review
3. Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad
The best real-time processing
Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin X Quad is a great option for those looking to take advantage of UAD plugins and real-time processing. At around $1400, the Apollo Twin X Quad is one of the most professional-sounding interfaces for its price range.
The unit is compatible with LUNA software, which grants you a smoothly integrated environment for recording, editing, and mixing. The Apollo’s strengths are vast, allowing you full software-based control over the interface’s parameters, and real-time tracking through UAD plugins.
All this along with its super-fast and low-latency Thunderbolt 3 compatibility make the Apollo Twin X Quad an amazing investment for musicians trying to bring their recordings to the next level.
4. Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre
The solid all-rounder
This unit is an excellent choice for beginners and intermediates looking to take the leap of getting a professional audio interface. While the preamps practically sell the unit themselves, the flexibility and power of the AudioFuse 8Pre currently make it one of the greatest recording interfaces available.
For $800, we highly doubt you’ll be able to find an interface that’s better than the AudioFuse. Even if you’re extremely critical when it comes to audio quality, there aren’t any faults to mention about this interface, especially when considering its capabilities as an ADAT expander. This interface is an excellent choice for both home and professional-grade studios.
Check out our full Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre review
5. Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB
Focusrite’s Clarett 8Pre USB is head to head with Arturia’s AudioFuse 8Pre as far as fantastic interfaces go. As far as we’re concerned, they’re completely equal, but it’s totally up to your preferences.
The Clarett’s preamps are superb and offer Focusrite’s signature Air mode which adds a slight boost in amplitude of higher frequencies around 1 K for clarifying vocals and guitars. The Clarett also offers 18-in/20-out, 8 channels of ADAT I/O, MIDI I/O, and stereo S/PDIF. With all things considered, the Clarett 8Pre USB is possibly the best USB interface for your home studio.
6. RME Babyface Pro FS
The interface for everybody
RME’s Babyface Pro FS is a huge upgrade from the unit’s predecessors. The interface has kept true to everything that made the first iterations so great, with several boosts of performance making it one of the most solid recording interfaces on the market.
RME has a great reputation for making some of the lowest-latency items in audio recording, and the Babyface doesn’t fall short of upholding the company’s name. The unit is a compact, and high-performing powerhouse suitable for professionals, amateurs, and live performers alike.
Check out our full RME Babyface Pro FS review
7. Black Lion Audio Revolution 2×2
The best preamps
This unit might not be everybody’s cup of tea, considering that it was entirely designed by ear. However, the Revolution 2×2 is outstanding as long as your preferences align with it.
Before being put on the shelves, every aspect of the unit’s design was subjected to blind-listening tests while being compared to a huge variety of interfaces by other manufacturers, some of which were in the $2000 price range. The preamps are exceptionally warm and clear, it’s incredibly well built, and its design is elegant and simple.
8. Solid State Logic SSL 2+
For the price, Solid State Logic’s SSL 2+ is an absolute powerhouse. The unit’s simple design and high-quality sound make the SSL 2+ the perfect interface for any budding home studio.
The interface is a 2-in/4-out interface with MIDI I/O, great preamps, as well as a switch to engage Legacy mode which imparts the analog sound of SSL’s highly coveted 4000 console. It requires no drivers for Mac as it’s class-compliant, but for Windows, you’ll find the drivers readily accessible through SSL’s website. This unit is ideal for desktop use and is accommodating for a wide variety of different studio setups.
Check out our full Solid State Logic SSL 2+ review
We’d love to cover every interface, but unfortunately, that feat is next to impossible. While we can only put so many on our list for 2021 in good faith, here are some we didn’t want to skip.
RME Fireface UFX+
The professionals choice
For any engineer looking for a high-end audio interface, the RME Fireface is more than deserving of your attention. Its capabilities have been bolstered with MADI I/O, low-latency Thunderbolt connectivity, and higher digital signal processing.
The sound of the Fireface is impeccably clean. This is largely due to its pro-level AD/DA converters and analog I/O circuits. In any case, this is a fantastic audio interface. The only reason we’re listing it as an honorable mention is because of its high price point, but if you can it’s well worth the money.
M-Audio M-Track Solo
The best cheap option
Even though the M-Audio M-Track Solo is just under $50, don’t be fooled – it’s a great audio interface. For any beginners out there wanting a cheap but solid unit, the M-Track Solo is your perfect bet.
The unit has an incredibly simple design and is extremely beginner-friendly. It comes with one XLR/TRS combo unit and an additional line input. For those just starting out, we can’t recommend it highly enough. However, if you’re looking for something with a little more oomph, you should probably look elsewhere.
Check out our full M-Audio M-Track Solo review
The best metering
The Motu M2 is a super versatile, simple-to-understand interface. It comes with two XLR/TRS combo inputs, and a vibrant LCD screen for easy and accurate monitoring.
At $180, the M2 offers just enough to make the expense worth it. In our opinion, it’s not as great as the Scarlett 2i2, but you could certainly do a lot worse.
Now, don’t get us wrong – this is a great unit to invest in. We even featured it at number 3 on our list for best budget interfaces. However, if we’re talking about which interfaces are best in general the Motu M2 leaves some to be desired. That being said, it’s still a perfectly solid choice for beginners.
Check out our full Motu M2 review
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to record music. Nearly every interface available has the capability to capture sound at the same quality of professional-grade consoles. While this isn’t to say that all interfaces are created equal, high-quality units are more accessible than ever. So, regardless of budget, there’s an interface to serve every recording need.