One of the most crucial decisions you can make as a home producer is to choose one of the top audio interfaces. In most cases, an audio interface is a necessary component of any home recording setup, and if you spend any time composing music on a PC or Mac, you should invest in one. One of the best audio interfaces will allow you to get high-quality audio into and out of your computer, as well as connect other important studio gear and instruments during your recording sessions.
There will be no stopping you once you’ve chosen the correct audio interface. You’ll be able to record electric and acoustic guitars, microphones, synthesisers, and any other musical instrument with an output directly into your preferred DAW.
Universal Audio Apollo x4 Heritage Edition
- A special edition of UA's acclaimed Apollo x4 interface — with a premium suite of 10 award-winning plug-in titles from Helios, Fairchild,...
- Elite-class A/D and D/A conversion derived from Apollo X rackmount interfaces paired with 4 Unison mic preamps deliver stunning models of classic tube...
- 4 Unison mic preamps offer stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps and guitar amps
If you want famous UA sound quality and processing but think Apollo X interfaces are beyond of your price range, reconsider. The performance of the Universal Audio Apollo x4 is comparable to that of its larger siblings, but it foregoes features like 5.1 surround monitoring and +24dBu operation in favour of a streamlined, desktop design that’s ideal for project studios. Thanks to UA’s powerful QUAD Core CPU, you can track and mix with spot-on emulations of tried-and-true studio classics. The Apollo x4’s improved elite-class AD/DA converter delivers top-shelf sound quality for audio resolution. You can track through models of some of the industry’s most iconic gear thanks to four Unison preamps in this usb audio interfaces.
The Apollo x4 Heritage Edition includes a premium suite of ten award-winning plug-ins, as well as the Realtime Analog Classics Plus package, which provides faithful emulations of vintage analogue gear. Aside from that, with to the Apollo x4’s ultra-fast Thunderbolt 3 interface, you get sub-2ms latency and plenty of expandability. Finally, the Apollo x4 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. Now is the moment to upgrade to an Apollo if there was ever a time.
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 the 4-core QUAD Core CPU from UA comes in. 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.
The Apollo x4’s AD/DA conversion takes it to the next level. Apollos have always sounded excellent, but the Apollo x4’s AD/DA conversion takes it to the next level. UA engineers tested the newest cutting-edge AD/DA technology when building the latest generation of Apollos, eventually marrying elite-class 24-bit/192kHz converters with reworked analogue circuitry. As a result, the signal route is ultra-clean, with a 127dB dynamic range. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that the Apollo x4’s AD/DA rivals any high-end standalone converter on the market. This is the Best 4-Channel Audio Interface in 2023.
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface
- Pro performance with two of the finest mic preamps – Sound better than ever with 4i4’s two mic preamps. Achieve a brighter and a more open...
- All the inputs you’ll need for your gear – Four balanced line inputs are available for connecting synths or other line level audio that you use in...
- Crystal clear playback in studio quality – Get professional sounding recordings with Scarlett’s high-performance converters which enable you to...
The 4i4 has two combination input preamps, two 1/4″ inputs, four outputs, and occupies a comfortable middle ground. To meet the needs of many home studio setups, it provides a greater number of mic inputs. A separate “Air” setting is available for each preamp, which adds an upper-midrange lift akin to their renowned ISA series preamps. This capability was included to Focusrite’s third generation of interfaces, which includes the 4i4.
Focusrite enhanced the gain range on its preamps for the third generation to better drive dynamic mics. The old 4i4’s preamps had a lot to recommend them, including remarkable clarity, little self noise, and detailed capture. Despite this, I wish they had given this interface’s headphone amp more gain in order to drive my higher impedance headphones a little louder.
Focusrite’s mid-range powerhouse Scarlett 4i4 has features that were previously only found on their Clarett series of higher-end products. If you require a portable, USB-powered, four channel audio interface, this one is a fantastic buy. It has enough inputs, including MIDI, to accommodate several artists. This is the Best 4-Channel Audio Interfaces in 2023.
- 20 x 24 USB Audio Interface with 4 Class A Mic Preamplifiers
- ADAT Connectivity
- 2 JFET DI Inputs
The Audient iD44 MKii is an improved version of the iD44. The iD44 MKii is now in its second iteration, with better audio performance, a 9dB dynamic range for the ADC, and loopback functionality. Four Audient console microphone preamps, two JFET instrument inputs, class-leading converters, ADAT expandability, and a DSP mixer are included in this 20-in/24-out USB interface. The mic pres use the same circuit design as Audient’s acclaimed ASP8024-HE console, resulting in incredibly low noise and distortion with a bit of the analogue character you love. You may even use your preferred low-output ribbon mic on quiet sources with 60dB of gain. The unit’s two DI inputs provide harmonic augmentation that is modelled like a traditional tube amplifier’s input stage.
The original iD44’s high-performance AD/DA conversion was one of its defining features. With its increased ADC performance, the iD44 MKii ups the ante. Audient’s engineers went to great lengths to improve the THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion Plus Noise) value by 9 decibels. With its increased THD+N number of 112dB, you’ll find that your signal has more headroom, less audible distortion, and less noise. All you have to do is press Record to take advantage of its exceptional conversion capabilities. The iD44 MKii takes care of everything else.
The iD44 MKii offers excellent expandability thanks to its two optical input and output ports. It adds up to 16 channels of mic pres to your rig and supports both ADAT and S/PDIF for seamless interface with your outboard gear. Two completely balanced insert points make it simple to integrate your outboard gear before conversion, allowing you to rapidly plug antique mic pres, compressors, and EQs. Do you have any extra time to host a livestream? You’ve come to the right place! The built-in loopback capabilities of the iD44 MKii makes livestreaming a simple. iD44 MKii has your back whether you’re working on new music or entertaining your fans.
PreSonus Studio 68c 6×6
- Compact and feature-rich 6-in/6-out USB-C audio interface (USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables included)
- Loaded with 4 pristine XMAX Class A mic preamps to capture every detail.
- Studio-grade converters allow for up to 24-bit/192 kHz recording and playback (limited to 4 tracks at 192kHz).
Four XMAX preamps in the Presonus Studio 68c are built for saturation without clipping. The XMAX preamps were created with the intention of being pushed for greater richness and depth, unlike other interfaces at this level. More than just marketing, the XMAX preamps’ performance, especially with unfinished recordings, is impressive. In some well-known “red” interfaces, I even prefer them to the preamps.
You can set your gain to the ideal levels for any instrument or vocal with the help of a brilliant LED meter. This assists in finding the right balance between sharp cutting and pleasant saturation. Also, the Studio 68c has a S/PDIF out so you can connect your vintage MIDI or modern digital rackmount equipment to it.
Higher gain levels produced a level of richness that reminded me of how analog consoles often drive. Cymbals and other high-frequency instruments don’t have a brittle or harsh sound. Although the saturation can be a bonus, I discovered that the preamps have a tendency to overly tint the sound in various circumstances.
In addition to 4 Preamps and a large amount of I/O, the Studio 68c features excellent latency. This makes it a fantastic option for podcasts or live performances on the internet. The Presonus Studio 68c is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a small audio interface that gives your recordings a hint of the mood and spirit of a big studio.
MOTU M4 4×4 USB-C Audio Interface
- Speed: The M4 provides best-in-class speed for monitoring live inputs (mic, guitar or keyboard) through your computer, thanks to MOTU's expertly...
- Metering: When recording and mixing, nothing is more critical than achieving optimum levels. The M4 is the only audio interface in its class with a...
- Loopback: The driver provides convenient loopback channels to your host computer, so you can easily route computer output back to the computer, where...
M4 is a 44 interface, which means it can handle 4 inputs and outputs at once. The two combo jacks on the front offer a preamp with 1/4′′ Hi-Z and XLR connectivity for microphones. A pair of Line Ins on the back of the interface complete the inputs. The Motu M4 has two sets of DC-coupled 1/4′′ balanced outputs, one of which is marked as Monitor and the other as Line Out. Line Out can be sent to a different set of monitors, a PA system, or somewhere else. Your DAW will identify each pair of outputs as independent by labeling them as such.
There are also two sets of mirrored RCA outputs. In this instance, mirrored refers to the fact that they receive the identical output as both the Monitor outs and the Line Outs. They can be connected to additional speakers or an audio source with RCA inputs. The capabilities of this interface are further increased by MIDI in and out.
At its budget, this interface is the only one that offers full color LCD meters for all connected I/O. It’s a function that is usually only seen on interfaces that cost much more money, but Motu managed to make it available to everyone. The Motu M4 also has a USB-C type connection on the device itself and provides bus powered USB connectivity to your computer. It comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable, which is a little strange because you need an adaptor to utilize it with your computer’s USB-C ports. Alternatively, a USB-C to USB-C cable must be purchased separately.
Roland Rubix 44 USB Audio Interface 4 in/4 Out
- 4-in/4-out USB audio interface
- 4 low-noise mic preamps with XLR combo jacks
- Hi-Z input for guitar and other high impedance sources
The Rubix 44 from Roland is a versatile 4-channel USB audio interface that helps you capture clean, clear audio even in less-than-ideal conditions. Roland designed this interface to be as portable as possible. You can throw the Rubix 44 in your bag and go, and it connects through class-compliant USB, so you can leave your laptop at home and track straight on your iPad. Four microphone preamps provide clarity not usually found on such a low-cost interface, and added features like ground lift and internal dynamics processing make it simple to capture high-quality audio on the move.
When it comes to noise reduction, the Rubix 44 begins with a pair of microphone preamps that work in tandem with its well insulated design. In most circumstances, these passive noise-reduction strategies are effective, but bad power can ruin your day. Roland addressed this issue by including a system-wide ground-lift switch on the Rubix 44, allowing you to turn off any hum originating from the power supply. Sweetwater recording engineers have rarely, if ever, encountered that feature on an audio interface, and it’s highly beneficial for recording live sound.
The Rubix 44 is clearly meant to be a superb mobile audio interface, with its class-compliant USB, rugged build, and low-noise performance options, but it also has several tricks up its sleeve that make it a perfect start or addition to your home studio. First and foremost, it includes a 6-month subscription to Roland Cloud Pro. MIDI I/O also makes keyboards, controllers, and other devices compatible. Selectable headphone output sources allow you to construct a different recording monitor mix, which is very useful if you cooperate with other musicians. Loopback recording allows you to record your computer’s output sources, which is especially useful for podcasting and other related applications.
Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB Audio Interface
- 4x4 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI interface for recording microphones and instruments
- Audiophile 24-Bit/192 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
- Compatible with popular recording software, including Avid pro tools, Ableton live, Steinberg Cubase, etc.
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC404 USB 2.0 audio interface is worth considering if you’re putting together a home studio. The U-Phoria UMC404 is a fantastic choice if you’re a self-recording musician with limited outboard gear. It has four inputs and four outputs. Add in four incredibly pure, world-class Midas-designed mic preamps and studio-grade 24-bit/192kHz converters, and you’ve got yourself a complete studio in a box – right on your desktop. Make no mistake about it: the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB 2.0 audio interface is a bargain.
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB 2.0 audio interface mix control provides zero-latency input monitoring, allowing you to clearly experience your performance with no lag or delay in the returned signal. It’s a proven fact that if you can’t hear yourself well, you’ll do poorly. Fortunately, the U-Phoria UMC404HD is built to bring out the best in you.
Focusrite Clarett+ 4Pre 18-in / 20-Out USB Audio Interface
- Four professional quality Clarett+ preamps - Hear every nuance and capture clear and powerful audio with preamps that bring masses of headroom, low...
- 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 - Create tighter mixes and make more accurate recordings with extremely high-performance, independent A-D and...
The Clarett+ 4Pre audio interface from Focusrite is a solid basis for any studio or mobile recording setup. It has four great-sounding Clarett+ microphone preamplifiers, improved conversion, a wide dynamic range, and USB-C-enabled ultra-fast, low-latency performance. The Clarett+ 4Pre’s magic begins the moment you plug in your microphones: the mic preamps contain Focusrite’s switchable Air effect, which transforms into an analogue copy of the company’s famous ISA transformer-based mic pre. The Focusrite Clarett+ 4Pre is ready to integrate into practically any recording rig thanks to its flexible connectivity, which includes analogue and S/PDIF I/O.
The four newly built mic preamps in the Clarett+ 4Pre give a genuinely amazing dynamic range. The Clarett+ 4Pre is ideal for your home recording setup, with analogue, S/PDIF, and MIDI I/O, as well as an ADAT input, all housed in a sleek desktop form factor. The Clarett+ 4Pre is an outstanding value because to its aural prowess, cutting-edge round-trip audio latency, and ease of use.
You can record and monitor in real time with your favourite DAW plug-ins thanks to the Clarett+ 4 Pre’s extremely low round-trip audio latency over USB-C. There is no need for any additional processing or DSP. Choose any plug-in and build your ideal recording chain on each channel. The Focusrite Classic Red 2 and Red 3 AAX, AU, and VST plug-in suite comes standard with every Clarett+, and precisely simulates Focusrite’s classic Red range EQ and compression hardware.
The Focusrite Clarett+ 4Pre offers versatile I/O in a compact desktop chassis. There are four mic/line inputs on the front panel (the first two are also instrument inputs), as well as four analogue line inputs and outputs, stereo S/PDIF I/O, and eight channels of ADAT optical input on the back panel. For ultimate flexibility, the ADAT input can be utilised to bring in eight extra digital mic preamp channels, such as the Focusrite OctoPre. Two convenient headphone ports with volume controls are also located on the front panel.
Things to Consider when getting a 4 Channel Audio Interface Buying Guid
Number of Inputs vs Channel Count
It sounds simple, but this is the number of analog inputs that can be sent through to different tracks on your computer. To present a greater channel count, certain manufacturers, in our opinion, slightly fudge the number.
Although SP/DIF or ADAT require another piece of hardware operating as an audio interface (e.g., some mixers and mic preamps also perform A/D conversion), many of them include digital input channels for their devices in the channel count. Thus, a “16 channel audio interface” can be limited to 8 analog inputs.
The amount of analog channels that can be input and sent as distinct channels via USB is how we have categorized the interfaces in our guide. These additional digital input channels are not particularly helpful when looking to expand, but they won’t help you if you don’t have access to an additional audio interface that is compatible. Keep in mind that an audio interface for rack mounting may not always have 8 XLR inputs.
You must be aware of the sort of inputs accessible, whether they are instrument level (high impedance) or line level (low impedance), in addition to the quantity of inputs. Line-level inputs can be used to connect keyboards, amps, and other electronic instruments, whereas instrument level ports are for electric guitars and basses without active pickups or preamps.
A preamp is typically present with XLR inputs to handle microphones. Preamps are typically built into combo XLR/TRS inputs, making them mic ready. For some ports, some devices offer flexible line level and instrument level switching.
Phantom Power and Preamp
Built-in preamps let you attach microphones and, if necessary, they can give condenser mics phantom power. But they’re not simply for connectivity because they can also change the sound’s character and are in charge of suppressing noise.
Luckily goodness, preamp quality is rarely compromised by manufacturers, who frequently use the same preamp on all of their audio interface models. It is vital to take into account the real number of preamps available because not all inputs will have one, especially when recording with condenser mics.
The complexity of the circuitry and its power consumption rise as the number of channels does. As a result, you may anticipate that the majority of the devices on this list will need wall power adapters to function. Yet, there are several that can be USB bus-powered from a computer. Keep in mind that none of them can be charged by an iOS device via USB; in this case, you need a wall converter that draws power from the mains or a powered USB hub.
Sample rate and Bit Rate
The resolution of your converted digital audio is described by these specs, and the general rule is that the greater the sample rate, the more details are caught. The highest frequencies that can be recorded are determined by the Sampling Rate, whereas the maximum dynamic range (difference between loudest and softest) is determined by the Bit Depth.
Although 24-bit/192kHz is currently the highest standard, there is much discussion surrounding sample rates. For further information, read The Science of Sample Rates (When Greater Is Better — And When It Isn’t). The most important thing to know is that all of the frequencies that the majority of people can hear are covered by a sample rate of 44.1 kHz. Additionally keep in mind that the preamp typically has a greater impact on recording quality.
Drivers, connectivity, and operating systems
The majority of audio interfaces have unique, low-latency drivers that are designed specifically for Windows and Mac that enable you to use the audio channels in your recording software and frequently manage built-in hardware functions like effects and DSPs. But, we’ve discovered time and time again that a small percentage of owners who are unable to get these drivers to function properly are the source of the majority of serious customer complaints concerning audio interfaces.
But, there are certain instances when it seems there are real issues with the drivers on some systems. Usually, these may be ascribed to people not setting things up properly. Also, a lot of consumers complain that the manufacturer offers little assistance when there are driver issues, and some of them take a while to deliver solutions.
Although we have generally chosen the interfaces with the fewest issues, few are completely impervious to criticism. Check if drivers are available for your operating system version and discover whether other owners have experienced issues with systems similar to yours to lessen the likelihood of running into these issues.
Using a USB Class Compliant interface (audio and maybe MIDI) that can use the common drivers that are typically already present in your system is one approach to avoid manufacturer driver problems. In the event that the manufacturer stops producing drivers for later operating system versions, this will also “future proof” your device. The disadvantage of utilizing these drivers is that you might not be able to access some of the additional hardware functions, but the fundamental audio/midi channels will function.
The device must be USB Class Compliant in any case if you want it to work with iOS devices like the iPad (through the Apple USB adaptor). Nonetheless, it is still advised to confirm that compatibility is clearly mentioned by the manufacturer. It’s critical to recognize the differences between an audio USB interface and a MIDI USB interface. Audio tracks cannot be recorded using MIDI interfaces. MIDI I/O may and is frequently included in audio interfaces.
The majority of audio interfaces contain software in their bundles, some of which are “lite” versions of well-known DAW programs like Cubase, Ableton Live, and others. Others even include features like samples, virtual instruments, detailed software control over the user interface, and more. For beginning users, these features ought to be adequate.