In the previous two decades, audio interfaces have advanced by leaps and bounds. They’ve gotten more competent, smaller, and less expensive, and the gap between consumer and professional interfaces has narrowed significantly.
Some of the best musicians, producers, and engineers use 2-channel audio interfaces to work on ideas and mixes from their hotel rooms or backstage during a tour in today’s truly mobile environment. Beginners are naturally drawn to these all-in-one recording solutions because of their low cost and fantastic features.
In this review, we’ll look at some of the best pro-level, small-format interfaces on the market. We’ll limit our list to those that start with two mic preamps, but because this is such a big market, the overall number of inputs, outputs, and other specifications will vary.
Apogee Symphony Desktop – Pro Audio Interface with Touch-Screen Display
- FLAGSHIP SOUND QUALITY: Get the sound of Symphony Mk ii right on your desk with our legendary A/D and D/A conversion that delivers ultra-low...
- INTUITIVE TOUCH SCREEN: Hands-on processing with Symphony’s touch screen that allows you to dial in your perfect setting.
- POWERFUL MIC PREAMPS: Symphony Desktop’s preamps provide up to 75dB of clean gain.
The Symphony Desktop combines Apogee’s acclaimed AD/DA conversion with hyper-realistic preamp emulations and strong DSP in a desktop interface. Up to 24-bit/192kHz digital sound quality is available, with cutting-edge analogue components ensuring clear, low-distortion performances. To add roughness and character directly at the source, track through Apogee’s Alloy Mic Preamp emulations. Apogee FX plug-ins spruce up your recordings in a variety of flexible, low-latency processes, driven by the interface’s built-in DSP or natively within your DAW.
Integrating this interface with your studio is a breeze thanks to a variety of analogue and digital I/O choices, and a dynamic touchscreen display allows for straightforward operation right from your desktop. You can also control everything from within Apple’s Logic Pro X software, offering you the world’s most simplified DAW workflow. This fantastic interface also includes the ECS Channel Strip plug-in, which has been tuned by Bob Clearmountain. In a word, the Symphony Desktop delivers Symphony I/O performance in a DSP-enhanced desktop machine. If you want to take your studio to the next level, this is an excellent way to accomplish so.
The Symphony Desktop features Apogee’s famed AD/DA converter, which is widely regarded as the industry’s reference standard. This audio interface’s A/D converter stage, like its rackmount precursor, features ultra-low distortion, a high slew rate, and fully differential analogue op-amps, as well as a cutting-edge A/D converter in a performance-enhancing dual-sum configuration. You’ll capture every source with hyper-realistic quality and transfer it seamlessly into your DAW thanks to our exceptional design.
The D/A converter stage on the Symphony Desktop is as excellent, delivering uncompromising performance thanks to an ultra-low-distortion, high-current output driver. The Symphony Desktop will provide a transparent window into your project, whether you’re mixing, mastering, or listening critically. Sweetwater has long considered Apogee conversion to be the gold standard, and the company’s Symphony AD/DA is their best design yet. You’ll never settle for anything less after having experienced it. This is the Best 2-Channel Audio Interface in 2023.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition
- A special edition of UA's acclaimed Apollo Twin X interface — with a premium suite of 5 award-winning plug-in titles from Teletronix, Pultec, and UA...
- Elite-class A/D and D/A conversion derived from Apollo X rackmount interfaces paired with 2 Unison mic preamps deliver stunning models of classic tube...
- 2 Unison mic preamps offer stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps and guitar amps
Place the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO in the heart of your studio, and your productivity will skyrocket. The Twin X DUO’s performance is comparable to that of UA’s rackmount Apollo X audio interfaces, but it foregoes unnecessary capabilities like 5.1 surround monitoring and +24dBu operation in favour of a simplified, desktop design tailored for project studios. Thanks to UA’s powerful DUO Core CPU, you can track and mix with spot-on emulations of tried-and-true studio classics. The Apollo Twin X DUO’s improved elite-class AD/DA converter delivers top-shelf sound quality. You can track through models of some of the industry’s most iconic gear thanks to dual Unison preamps.
The Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition includes a premium suite of five award-winning plug-in titles, as well as the Realtime Analog Classics package, which gives you accurate emulations of historical analogue gear. Aside from that, thanks to the Apollo Twin X DUO’s ultra-fast Thunderbolt 3 interface, you get sub-2ms latency and plenty of expandability. Finally, the Apollo Twin X DUO is compatible with Universal Audio’s LUNA software, allowing you to create a fully integrated recording, editing, and mixing environment that includes full software-based control over your interface’s parameters, global console and tape emulations, and advanced real-time tracking.
There are instances when your computer’s power and speed are insufficient to handle all of the plug-ins required for your recording session. That’s where UA’s 2-core DUO Core processor comes in handy. This processor allows you to track Neve, Manley, or API channel strips in real time, as well as operate massive UAD plug-in counts while mixing in your DAW. Sweetwater engineers like being able to inject tube warmth into guitars with a Pultec EQ, add musical limiting to a vocal with a LA-2A, and pump up drums with a 1176 or Fairchild 670 – all in real time. It’s the closest you’ll get to having the actual thing. This is the Best 2-Channel Audio Interfaces in 2023.
Focusrite Clarett+ 2Pre 18-in / 20-Out USB Audio Interface
- Two professional quality Clarett+ preamps - Capture clear and powerful recordings with preamps that bring masses of headroom, low distortion and...
- Make vocals shine with all-analogue Air - Premium, relay-controlled analogue circuitry on every preamp emulates the classic Focusrite ISA110 by...
- New and improved A-D and D-A converters - Capture more accurate recordings wherever you are, with extremely high-performance, independent A-D and D-A...
If you don’t need quite as many bells and whistles, Focusrite’s Clarett series offers one of the best values for great sounding front end at an affordable price. The Clarett+ 2Pre has its own brand of impedance switching with its two onboard preamps. This high-headroom, low-distortion, low-noise mic inputs emulate the classic Focusrite ISA 110. Not to be forgotten is Focusrite’s all-analogue “Air” circuitry available on each preamp which adds two cumulative 2 dB high-shelf boosts, for a total of 4 dB extra clarity up top.
In addition to its two mic preamps, the 10-in/4-out Clarett+ 2Pre offers two dedicated JFET instrument inputs (available via combi jacks), a high-power transparent headphone output, four line outputs, MIDI in/out jacks, and ADAT input for additional channels of input. In addition to a 12V power supply it can also operate bus-powered via a 15W USB-C connection. It records at resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz.
Though no processing power on offer here, Focusrite packs its own powerful punch with included software via the Hitmaker Expansion pack, offering a wealth of plugins from industry-leading collaborators like Antares, Brainworx, Softube, and more. And also not to be overlooked is a membership to Focusrite’s Plug-In Collective, which offers ever-evolving discounts and free plugins from some of the industry’s most innovative developers. Lastly, the included Focusrite Control app enables you to adjust levels, monitor mixes, routing options, and more via your Mac, PC, or iOS device.
SOLID STATE LOGIC SSL2
- 2X Class-Leading Mic Preamps (130.5dB EIN / 62dB of Gain)
- Pro-Studio Quality Neutrik Connectors and Alps pots
- High Current Headphone Amp
A two-channel Solid State Logic audio interface for a reasonable price? Yes, absolutely! For over 40 years, SSL has produced some of the most known recording consoles, some of which cost more than your parents’ home! The SSL 2 introduces pro-grade preamps and outstanding 24-bit/192 kHz converters to the home studio at a price that even novices can afford.
The SSL2 audio interface has the same natural sound and high build quality that SSL is known for. The SSL2 offers great quality in a tiny form size, with two class-leading microphone/line/instrument inputs and 24-bit/192 kHz converters from industry-renowned producer AKM. This audio interface has Neutrik connectors and Alps pots and is housed in a robust, stylish enclosure.
Its ergonomically pleasing front panel design provides an intuitive workflow with easy-to-read metres and an ergonomically rewarding feel that will be welcomed in your home studio. A high-current headphone amp is also included in the SSL2 for precise monitoring.
The Legacy 4K function on the SSL2 offers the preamps two fundamental qualities of the 4000 series signal chain just by pressing a button, giving them the sound of the iconic 4000 series recording consoles. The first is a musical high-frequency EQ boost that pushes a vocal or instrument forward in the mix for a richer, more dimensional sound. The signal is then given a mild boost of harmonic distortion, which sweetens the sound and gives it personality.
The SSL2 comes with a comprehensive production pack that includes third-party software from Avid, Ableton, and Native Instruments, as well as over 1.5GBs of Loopcloud samples for those looking for an audio interface that “has it all.”
Overall, this is without a doubt one of the best audio interfaces on the market today, coming from one of the most coveted audio companies in history.
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Two-Channel Audio Interface
- Easily record audio into your computer
- Choose from two flavors – same pristine audio quality, different ways to plug in and play back
- The full package for creating – All the software you need to record and build tracks, plus synths, effects, and more
Musicians, beatmakers, and performers that want to capture ideas, generate, or use high-quality audio in their live sets will love the Komplete Audio 2. The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 interface has a design with LEDs for two input ladder metres, USB connection, and 48 V phantom power on half of the top panel and a large output volume knob on the other.
It’s small and light, weighing only 360 grammes and measuring 140 mm x 52 mm x 112 mm. This audio interface has a single stereo headphone output and two 1/4′′ jack main outputs for connecting professional studio monitors and other devices. The main output level is controlled by the large knob on top, while the headphones have their own volume control on the front panel.
The Komplete Audio 2 additionally has two phantom-powered combo XLR/jack inputs that can be switched between instrument and line levels individually. The Komplete Audio 1 and 2 are both 2-in/4-out USB 2.0 boxes powered by the bus, with the only difference being the nature of the ins and outs. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll concentrate on Audio 2 in this article.
With this interface, you can record two mics at the same time, or bass and guitar, or a synth’s left and right outs, and so on. The delay is typical of a USB 2.0 interface, ranging from 7.55 milliseconds round trip at 44.1kHz with a 32-sample buffer to 51.8 milliseconds at 1024 samples.
RME Babyface Pro FS USB Audio Interface
- 12 in/12 out USB Audio Interface with 24 total channels
- 2 microphone preamps and 2 instrument preamps
- Full SteadyClock FS circuit as in the ADI-2 Pro FS for lowest jitter and highest jitter immunity
The RME Babyface Pro FS is a bus-powered USB audio interface that is both powerful and portable. It has a tough, low-profile housing with a clean design and simple controls. Two digitally controlled microphone preamps provide reference-quality recording, while abundant analogue, digital, and MIDI connectivity makes integration with your studio simple. The Babyface Pro FS uses the same SteadyClock FS circuit as RME’s reference-quality ADI-2 Pro AD/DA converter, assuring ultra-stable clocking and a significant performance jump over its predecessor.
RME’s TotalMix FX engine provides a completely adjustable 288-channel mixer with 46-bit internal resolution, as well as latency-free processing including a 3-band EQ, low-cut filter, reverb, and echo. The remarkable capabilities of this state-of-the-art audio interface are rounded out with clear onboard metering. The RME Babyface Pro FS supports USB-C and includes a premium plug-in bundle as well as USB-2 and USB-C connections.
When you first see the Babyface Pro FS, you’ll be astounded by its incredible power and versatility. Its low-profile metal case has a very clean aesthetic to it, but it still gives you a lot of control over levels, sub-mixes, and gain structures. Two digitally controlled reference mic preamps, two balanced line outputs, line/instrument inputs, ADAT/SPDIF I/O, a MIDI port, and two headphone outputs are all included. Onboard metering is also included, as well as peak and RMS calculations. Best of all, the Babyface Pro FS accomplishes all of this while remaining simple and attractive on your desk.
The Babyface Pro FS, in addition to its improved SteadyClock FS circuit, boasts a slew of significant enhancements over its predecessor. The signal-to-noise ratio of its microphone preamps has improved from 112.2dB to 113.7dB, while the line/instrument inputs have improved from 114dB to 116.3dB. The THD of the line inputs was reduced by 8dB. The Babyface Pro FS uses the same ADI-2 Pro’s high-quality output op-amps. The THD of both headphones outputs has been improved by up to 10dB, and the 3.5mm headphones output power has been increased from 70mW to 90mW.
In addition, the impedance of the 3.5mm output was reduced from 2 to 0.1 ohms. A +19/+4dBu switch lowers the interface’s output level, enhancing signal-to-noise ratio for sensitive active monitors, avoiding overloads and distortion, and allowing you to keep TotalMix FX’s faders close to 0dB rather than at high attenuations. On the A/D side, you receive six samples less latency. And all of this was accomplished without increasing the power consumption of the audio interface!
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface Bundle
- Pro performance with the finest pre-amps - Achieve a brighter and a more open recording thanks to the best performing mic pre-amps the Scarlett range...
- Capture studio-quality recordings for music and podcasts - The included large diaphragm condenser mic enables you to capture studio-quality recordings...
- Comfort and quality for mixing and streaming music - Truly hear your music with the upgrad-ed HP60 MkIII closed-back headphones. With studio sound...
Two updated Scarlett mic preamps, high-performance 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters, optimised preamp gain structure, reduced latency, and instrument inputs that can handle hot sources are all included in the third-generation Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
To top it off, the mic preamps now have Focusrite’s Air mode, which adds a brighter, more open sound to your voice and instrument recordings by modelling the Air effect after the company’s iconic ISA console transformers.
This USB bus-powered interface has two mic/line/instrument inputs for recording and playback of up to two channels at the same time. All of this is made possible through headphones and monitor outputs that can be controlled independently. Focusrite announced support for iPad Pros with USB-C connectors as a direct response to its consumers. Simply connect your iPad Pro to the adapter and launch your music-making app. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that!
The Scarlett 2i2 also has halo indicators that let you know when your recording signal is at its best. If the halo turns red, your signal is clipping, and you should reduce the gain. As the level rises to a suitable level, the halo will turn amber before turning green. This ensures that you’re always recording at the highest quality!
This interface is also perfect for mobile recording, and it comes with a software bundle that includes Ableton Live Lite and the Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack, among other things. You’ll also get the Time and Tone Bundle from Softube, as well as the Focusrite Red Plug-In Suite and access to the Focusrite Plug-In Collective. As a result, the Scarlett is an excellent alternative for those seeking for their first interface.