Modern recording setups are built on low latency audio interfaces. An interface is a crucial piece of equipment whether you want to record a whole band in your home studio or just have a means to upload your own demos online to share with your bandmates. The act of recording can become far less enjoyable than it should be due to high latency. You should therefore pick your recording equipment wisely, and we can assist you in doing so.
Naturally, like with any digital recording, you want to find something with a minimal amount of latency to prevent feeling as though you’re playing behind the music or encountering a phantom slapback delay effect for buffer size during music production. Every interface on this list has audio latency below 7ms, or roughly the time it takes for sound from a guitar amp to travel from a distance of 7 feet to your ears for audio performance.
Table of Contents
Universal Audio Apollo Twin USB Heritage Edition
- A special edition of UA's esteemed Apollo Twin USB interface — with a...
- UAD DUO Core Processing for tracking through vintage compressors, EQs, tape...
- World-class Apollo A/D and D/A conversion and USB 3 connection for modern...
It is praised for its extremely low latency audio, real-time plugin-in processing, and a ton of dynamic processing, after all. The chassis for this 2-in/6-out small interface is made of durable perforated steel and aluminum. It has two mic/line/Hi-Z line inputs for 24 bit 192khz, two line outs, and a USB-3 interface. To maximize your bit depth, it also has monitor outputs that are digitally controlled and have an analog attenuation for sound drivers.
The fact that every I/O is built-in is the best feature. No risk of cable fallout exists. The multi-function rotary knob, visual metering LCD, and related buttons are all located on the top panel. When using the controllers, the UAD-2 DUO DSP processing unit and Console software provide a lot of versatility with combination inputs for guitar inputs as well.
Its circuitry is identical to that of the flagship Apollo, and its uncompromising preamps provide the highest-caliber sound. The Unison-enabled plug-ins allow you to track through “preamp emulation.” A number of Classic UAD plug-ins, including Lexicon 224, Oxford EQ, AMS RMX16, and 1176LN, are included with the interface. Although some of them may be outdated versions, there are plenty of timeless sounds available for your consideration.
The best low latency audio interface is the Universal Audio Apollo Twin USB. There aren’t many issues with the interface, aside from a potentially exorbitant pricing. It has the clearest audio and one of the lowest latency performances of all the Windows alternatives. It’s a triple whammy for studio owners now that Unison technology and UA plugins have been added at this price point. This is the Best Low Latency Audio Interface 2023.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface
- Elevate your recordings with studio-quality sound using our upgraded 3rd...
- Unleash the magic of our Air mode, inspired by the legendary ISA mic pres,...
- Say goodbye to clipping and hello to pristine guitar and bass recordings,...
The third-generation Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is not merely an upgraded version of the model from before. Dynamic range, maximum input level, and gain range all show noticeable improvements. The third generation also uses Type-C connections and offers much improved headphone amp performance along with upgraded drivers and firmware for the headphone jack.
The stronghold Focusrite has over this market is mostly due to their excellent preamps and substantial software bundles. The preamp gain structure, mic preamps, speaker outputs and AD/DA converters are of the highest caliber. Oh, did I also mention that the third offers an Air Button and a control-switch for stereo and mono summing called the air feature? Your recordings sound bright and open when you use the “Air mode,” which initiates an ISA mic preamp emulation. Although it’s a welcome addition to the specs, it has a slightly gimmicky feel.
Pro Tools First and Abelton Live Lite are included in Focusrite’s software bundle. Focusrite’s included content is the most generous collection of plug-ins and loops. A monthly giveaway subscription to Plugin Collective has also been included. An already affordable and pleasantly low latency audio interface gains a ton of value from it regardless cpu speed.
With a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or the more capable 4i4 interface, you can hardly go wrong. A good thing has been improved by third generation technology towards latency performance with direct monitoring. After using it for a while, it’s simple to understand why it’s the best low latency audio interface in 2023.
Steinberg UR22C 2×2 USB 3.0 Audio Interface
- Industry leading converters providing up to 32-bit/192 kHz audio resolution
- Super speed USB 3. 1 Gen 1 with USB-C for fast and reliable Connectivity to...
- Class-a D-PRE mic preamps to capture all the subtleties and expressiveness...
In terms of portability, the Steinberg UR22C Audio Interface is nearly ideal; if you wish, you can even attach it to your iPad. It produces sounds of exceptional build quality while being housed in a compact and durable chassis. Practically anywhere can be recorded with this device. Simply connect the necessary components, and you’re ready to go. When compared to other devices in the industry, it is one of the best because of its 31-bit/192 kHz audio. Additionally, the audio production interface provides loopback noises, enabling you to add amusing and unusual sounds while live broadcasting.
You won’t need to look far and wide to locate some cool ripple effects because the device also comes with a collection of effects and DSP plugins. The gadget was designed to provide you the highest sound quality when you’re on the go or recording studio. By purchasing this device, you also have access to Cubase AI and Cubasis LE, two top-notch sound apps regardless computer hardware or operating system. Since playback of prior recordings has very minimal delay, listening to them is equally simple.
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 Two-Channel Audio Interface
- Easily record audio into your computer
- Choose from two flavors – same pristine audio quality, different ways to...
- The full package for creating – All the software you need to record and...
Although not prohibitively expensive, NI audio interfaces are a little more expensive than the preceding two. Today, we are examining the Komplete Audio 1 interface, which is the least expensive and versatile model in NI’s Komplete series. This device is ideal for simpler home recording setups using a laptop and one guitar mic.
The Komplete Audio 1 interface includes a USB cable (Type-B to Type-A) and a recording software package, just as the first two interfaces. In comparison to Focusrite Scarlet and PreSonus, NI’s software package is a bit larger and of superior quality. The UI has a minimalistic but appealing appearance. A chassis made entirely of aluminum in black. The majority of the inputs and controls are on the front. There is one 6.35mm line-level input and one XLR input. There is a separate gain dial for each input. A 48V phantom power button, an input/host mixer dial for direct monitoring, line level inputs, a high-power headphone output, a headphone volume dial, and a LINE/INST switch selector are also located on the front panel.
Two input gain meters, two indicators, and a sizable volume knob for the monitor volume control are all located on the top of NI Komplete Audio 1. (power indicator and 48V indicator). The simplest panel is the back one. You have two RCA output ports for connecting displays, one USB type-B port (also utilized for power supply), and one USB type-B port.
Through the input/hose mixer dial, Komplete Audio 1 makes zero-latency monitoring possible. The maximum bit-depth/sample rate that is supported is 24bit/192kHz. The unit requires some work to set up. Before installing anything, NI needs that you install the drivers and register your device using the Native Access software.
Audient iD4 USB 2-in/2-out High Performance Audio Interface
- High Performance Converters
- ID ScrollControl Mode
- Zero Latency Monitoring with Monitor Mix & Pan
The Audient iD4 provides almost everything a serious novice would require without breaking the bank. It fits well on even the smallest tables and is one of the smallest audio interfaces available. Even yet, it packs a powerful punch because it has the same Class-A mic pre as all of Audient’s high-end audio interfaces. It also includes two inputs and two outputs, which is excellent for a solo performer who wants to simultaneously record an instrument and microphone.
The Audient is a powerful portable device. This is one of the greatest low latency audio interfaces available, especially considering the price, if you’re searching for an audio interface at a reasonable cost and want high performance. It works with Mac OS devices even though it is a USB-powered gadget like a usb c connection. In fact, the iD4 runs significantly better on Mac than it does on Windows in our experience for audio processing. The smooth, spacious Class-A mic pre is a plus. Even when the gain is cranked all the way up, there is little to no hiss. We discovered little distortion and a low noise floor in our experiments using the Shure SM57 and Rode NT1 microphones.
The JFET DI input output is a fantastic addition. This line input resembles a valve amplifier’s input stage. As a result, the sound is deeper and warmer right out of the box. The iD4 lacks several of the capabilities seen in more expensive audio interfaces. For example, it lacks functionality included in several of the high-end audio interfaces on our list, such as polarity inversion, a high-pass filter, and a pad. However, 48V phantom power is at least provided.
Although the range is listed at 115dB in the specifications, we did notice some distortion at the very top of this range. But I don’t think many of you—if any—will drive the iD4 to its breaking point. The device’s front-mounted iD button is a useful feature. This button activates the ScrollControl feature, which enables you to navigate settings, parameters, and even iTunes playlists with the rotary wheel. Imagine it as a sizable physical desk-mounted scroll button that eliminates the need for a mouse or trackpad. We discovered ScrollControl to be especially helpful for managing EQ, compressor thresholds, and faders.
Our major complaints, aside from the limited I/O options (we would have loved more than one mic preamp), were with the software. The ASIO drivers included are problematic, especially on Windows. Additionally, the included software is awkward and burdensome. Its usage is annoying due to small annoyances like the need to right-click the app icon to access settings (clicking the icon has no effect).
This is unquestionably one of the top low latency audio interfaces available in 2020 if you’re seeking for a cheap audio interface. It’s a terrific pick for serious novices thanks to its fantastic Class-A preamp, useful ScrollControl feature, and excellent DI input.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Latency in Audio?
The interval between a stimulus and a response is known as latency. As an illustration, consider how long it takes for our brains to process sound before we hear it and respond to it. This is the amount of time that it takes a sound to get from its source to our ears in a piece of music.
An analog to digital converter (ADC) included into a low latency audio interface performs just that—it transforms an analog signal into a digital signal so that our computer can store the audio information. Our DAW processes the transformed signal after that, and we can then see the singer’s voice represented as a waveform. The input latency is the interval of time between the singer’s voice and the waveform that our DAW records and displays on the computer.
After then, the digital to analog converter (DAC) in the audio interface will convert the digital signal to an analog one and deliver it to the output device, such as studio monitors, speakers, or headphones. The output latency is the time it takes for the audio to appear on our speakers or headphones after our DAW has finished playing it.
When we talk about latency, we refer to the delay produced by all the processing involved. Round-trip latency, which is measured in milliseconds, is the total of the input, processing, and output latencies. It is important to take into account latency because it will play a key role in the low latency monitoring of our audio recordings.
A high latency audio interface will make monitoring difficult because we will be forced to endure an agonizing delay when listening to our singer’s voice, guitar, or MIDI instruments. We should always search for the best low latency audio interface for this reason. Fortunately, even for home studios, practically all of the audio interfaces now available on the market offer minimal latency.
What Affects Latency?
Now that you know what latency is, you may be asking how to prevent it. We are aware that our signal passes through numerous layers, which adds to the latency between operations, but this is not the only factor.
A computer is the first thing you’ll need in addition to a low latency audio interface; the slower your CPU, the more latency you’ll experience. You will be able to process more effects and plug-ins on your DAW with a faster Processor.
DAW Buffer Size
Your computer’s buffer is the memory utilized to store audio while it processes the audio coming from your audio interface.
You can alter the buffer size in your DAW; the bigger the buffer, the longer it will take your computer to process audio.
You can utilize more plug-ins and have greater performance and stability in various systems if your system is larger.
Yet, longer processing times result in slower response times and increased latency.
There is no ideal buffer size; there will be moments when you require the least amount of latency, but other times you will have to choose between performance and latency.
Your needs and finding a balance between stability and low latency are your responsibility.
Sound Quality of a Low Latency Audio Interface
Latency may be impacted by the audio interface’s quality.
Less expensive audio interfaces will have fewer parts that contribute to audio quality and reduced latency.
Latency can also be impacted by the type of connection.
Thunderbolt, USB-C, Firewire, and USB-A are the most widely used connectors. Thunderbolt 2 and 3 are available, as well as USB 2.0 and 3.0. Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.0 offer the lowest latency and are the quickest connections.
When the audio signal travels over the interface’s cables, the lowest latency will result from the fastest connection.
But for this to happen, it’s crucial that every piece of your recording setup works with the others, enabling a quick, seamless data transfer.
Using a computer requires familiarity with its operating system, programs, and drivers.We must ensure that our DAW is computer-compliant, that the drivers for our audio interfaces are current, and that everything is compatible with one another. Lack of hardware and software compatibility can significantly increase delay.
How to Reduce Latency?
Regardless of the low latency audio interface you use, there may be some latency present when recording or playing live. After all, achieving zero latency is essentially unattainable, but that’s alright.
Here are some methods to lessen latency, though:
minimize the buffer size.
When recording, avoid using plug-ins (you can add them later in post-production.)
Update the drivers for your low latency audio interface and DAW.
Employ a direct monitoring audio interface.
The best low-latency audio interfaces are now the focus. We’ll provide you all the details you need to decide what’s ideal for your projects, requirements, and existing gear.