A short while back, we took a look at the best USB audio interfaces for home studios on a budget. The idea behind the list was to compile some of most tried-and-true interfaces for the home recorder likely needing no more than 2 inputs. Many of these interfaces were in the $150 to $200 price range, with the absolute maximum costing right around $300. Not too shabby!
Many of the market’s most popular audio interfaces (your Scarletts 2i2s, etc.) fell into this category, showing how you can get fantastic results for very little money. All things considered, there are even less expensive options out there providing great results–all at $100 or less!
The Best USB Audio Interfaces on a Shoestring
1. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD
Far and away one of the best bang-for-your-buck interfaces available, the UMC404HD packs a whopping 4-in/4-out punch–with MIDI I/O–for just $99. Most competitors don’t reach 4 inputs for less that $200, but Behringer has brought a versatile interface to users at an incredibly low price.
Definitely at the top of list for project studios with heftier I/O needs, you can track at 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and take advantage of 4 MIDAS-designed preamplifiers.
2. Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Probably closer to what you’d expect to get for only $99, the Scarlett Solo is a simple, single-input interface. While it may be hard to justify the hundred bucks on such a minimalist unit based on what competitors offer, Focusrite produces quality equipment that you can trust.
Low latency, 192 kHz sample rates, a phenomenal Focusrite preamp…it’s all there, just in a tiny footprint! If your needs are bare minimum, the Solo is a nice choice.
3. M-Audio M-Track 2×2
This interface was featured in our original list and it found its way into this one as well, all for being an incredible unit priced at just $99. To reiterate, the best USB audio interfaces can be very, very affordable!
With impressive 24-bit/192 kHz support, the M-Audio M-Track 2×2 is a fantastic interface when utmost quality is desired.
The 2×2 unit has a single hybrid mic/line input and a 1/4″ instrument input, with standard TRS outs. Additionally, a feature overlooked by competitors is the M-Track’s “future-proof” design. The M-Track is USB-C supported!
4. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC202HD
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because only a couple of digits have changed since you saw it last!
As the name suggests, the 202 is a 2-in/2-out version of the larger 404. With a price tag of $59.99, the UMC202HD is one of the most affordable 2×2 interfaces on the market. Cost considered, this is one of those pieces that isn’t only a great first interface, but an awesome backup as well.
5. PreSonus AudioBox USB
$99 is the magic number, and the PreSonus AudioBox delivers. In the company’s own words–“simple, reliable, and portable”–this 2-in/2-out interface supplies everything you need to make quality recordings at home or on-the-go.
A handy mix control allows users to adjust the level between the input signal and your computer’s playback, and MIDI I/O lets you connect a synthesizer or a controller. You’ll probably find the AudioBox has it all, whether you’re in the studio or on the road.
6. Steinberg UR12
Straightforward and rugged, Steinberg’s UR12 interface is purposefully designed with beginners in mind.
A single D-PRE mic preamp and line input provides minimalist I/O for musicians’ first foray with recording, or for a frequently-flying producer. Cubasis LE, part of the bundled software which allows you to record on iOS devices, ensures maximum portability. At $99.99, the UR12 is a direct competitor to the previously featured Scarlett Solo.
7. IK Multimedia iRig Pre HD
IK Multimedia makes some of the coolest portable interfaces for iOS or desktop devices. The iRig Pre HD is perhaps the most niche interface listed here, but its nonetheless worth mentioning at the $99.99 price point.
A single, pocketable mic pre lets you record directly to your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC. The Pre HD may be ideal for vocalists who frequently track while traveling, or who may not produce their own music at home. It’s also an excellent option for boom operators capturing production audio on film or TV shoots.
Of course, you can use it with any microphone to capture any source you’d like, but these are just a pair of scenarios which particularly suit this interface. It’s far from the most versatile USB audio interface on the list, but it does one thing remarkably well, and with a very elegant design.
The Most Affordable USB Audio Interface
Behringer strikes again! Comparable to the Scarlett Solo or Steinberg UR12, the UMC22 does what the others do for right around $50. Skip your morning coffee for a week, and you’ve pinched enough pennies to jump in the home recording game.
It’s a silly cliché, but you almost can’t afford not to own one of these. Though it’s limited to 48 kHz sample rates, it still contains the MIDAS-designed preamp that its bigger brothers have, and a 1/4″ input for directly recording guitar, bass, or other line-level instruments.
On an absolute shoestring, the UMC22 is the clear winner here. It just goes to show, the best USB audio interfaces hardly have to cost a thing.