The best audio interfaces to buy in 2023: 10 best interfaces under $250

These interfaces let you get started with recording as quickly as possible, but typically offer more features than entry-level products

Focusrite, Audient, Universal Audio & PreSonus audio interfaces
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After already dropping cash on a microphone, headphones and maybe even a new DAW, spending even more money on an audio interface with bells and whistles can feel like unnecessary pain for your wallet. However, it’s an essential component in most recording setups if you actually want to plug that microphone in!

These are our picks for the best audio interfaces you can grab for under $250. While most of these sit in the two-channel range, some offer extra ins and outs or something a bit different, from novel hardware features to enticing software bundles.

The Best Audio Interfaces under $250

  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (4th Gen)
  • Audient EVO 8
  • PreSonus Revelator io24
  • Arturia MiniFuse 4
  • Universal Audio Volt 176
  • Solid State Logic SSL 2+
  • Audient iD4 MKII
  • MOTU M2 2×2
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD
  • IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo I/O

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (4th Gen)

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Image: Focusrite

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (4th Gen) is a 2-channel USB 2.0 audio interface renowned for its exceptional recording capabilities. With a 24-bit / 192 kHz resolution and impressive 120 dB dynamic range, it ensures high-quality sound. Featuring two Scarlett microphone preamps with 69 dB gain, +48V phantom power, and the Air function for added brilliance, it’s perfect for vocals and instruments. User-friendly features like Auto Gain, Clip Safe, and Dynamic Gain Halos simplify volume control. Compact and bus-powered with USB-C connectivity for both PC and Mac, it includes the Hitmaker Expansion Software Bundle for comprehensive music production.

Features:

  • Exceptional 24-bit / 192 kHz sound
  • Two instrument/line and two mic inputs (XLR)
  • 69 dB gain, +48V phantom power
  • Easy recording, no clipping
  • Ideal for mobile recording
  • Price: $227

Find deals at thomann.de.

Audient EVO 8

Audient-EVO-8@2000x1500
Audient EVO 8

The EVO 8 from Audient offers the same satisfying, easy-to-use interface and Smartgain feature as its smaller siblings, making it a superb choice for beginners. However, its four quality mic preamps open up a whole host of possibilities that just aren’t possible with two inputs, including stripped-down drum recording or experimenting with multiple close and ambient mics when tracking guitars. Just like other Audient interfaces, there’s a decent (albeit single) DI input with a JFET transistor stage that makes instruments sound less clinical when plugged straight in. As well as support for two pairs of studio monitors, there are also two headphone outputs – pretty rare at this price.

The EVO 8 over-delivers on both quality and quantity of features, achieving a perfect score of 10/10 in our review. Bus-powering via USB-C adds to convenience and portability, and Audient’s ARC bundle is always worth checking out, particularly when Sonarworks’ headphone and room correction software is bundled in.

Read our full review.

  • Price: $229
  • Inputs: 4 mic/line combo inputs; 1 instrument input (6.3 mm)
  • Outputs: 4 TRS line outputs (6.3 mm), 2 headphone outputs (6.3 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 58 dB
  • Notable features: Smartgain; JFET DI; ARC software bundle
  • Maximum sample rate: 96 kHz
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB-C connector

Check out the EVO 8 via thomann.

PreSonus Revelator io24

PreSonus Revelator io24@2000x1500

The PreSonus Revelator io24 is a desktop, wedge-shaped interface that comes as a big surprise at its price point. With two digitally-controlled mic preamps, on-screen feedback and metering and a suite of built-in DSP effects, it makes tracking vocals and instruments a more pleasurable experience. The DSP also provides crucial tools for podcasters or streamers who want to shape their incoming mic sound with EQ, compression and a noise gate, and extensive loopback support is another bonus for this type of user.

Bus-powering makes the io24 a great proposition for music on the move, while the PreSonus Studio Magic software bundle rarely disappoints, including full software instruments, genuinely useful audio effects, and an entry-version of the Studio One DAW.

Read our full review.

  • Price: $199 (although frequently discounted)
  • Inputs: 2 mic/line/instrument combo inputs
  • Outputs: 2 TRS line outputs (6.3 mm); 1 headphone output (6.3 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 60 dB
  • Notable features: digital gain control; onboard DSP effects; MIDI in/out; strong software bundle
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB-C connector

Find out more at thomann.

Arturia MiniFuse 4

Arturia-Minifuse-4@2000x1500

Building upon its success in the synth hardware market, Arturia has gained fans in the audio interface world too with its AudioFuse line intended for pro users. The more recent MiniFuse interfaces include all the essentials, partnered – as you’d expect – by an attractive software bundle taken from the brand’s own, extensive plugin collection.

MiniFuse 4 is a four in/four out interface that has two combination mic, line and instrument preamps, plus a further two line ins for connecting the likes of an external synth or mic preamp. On the output side, there are four line outs, meaning you can drive two pairs of studio monitors or for hybrid mixing, send signals out from the extra line outs to analogue hardware (e.g. returning to the interface via line ins 3 and 4). There are two headphone outs, MIDI sockets, a handy main volume knob, and LED meters on the front. A two-port USB-A hub is another very useful extra, but you need to add an external DC power supply to put this into action; otherwise, the interface will work happily on bus power.

Read our full review.

  • Price: $219
  • Inputs: 2 mic/line/instrument combo inputs; 2 additional TRS line inputs (6.3 mm)
  • Outputs: 4 TRS line outputs (6.3 mm); 2 headphone outputs (6.3 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 60 dB
  • Notable features: USB hub; MIDI in/out; choice of black and white colours; strong software bundle
  • Maximum sample rate: 192 kHz
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB- C connector

Find out more at Thomann.

Universal Audio Volt 176

Universal-Audio-Volt-176@2000x1500

If you only need to plug in a single mic, but you want to max-out on both quality and vibe, then the Volt 176 from Universal Audio has you covered. As well as a Vintage mode switch for saturation based on the brand’s high-end 610 valve preamp, the input includes a characterful analogue compressor modelled on the much-loved 1176. As you’d expect from Universal Audio, conversion is no slouch either; the Volt handles sample rates up to 192kHz.

The significance of the 176’s compressor function is brought home in our review: “Make no mistake – this is a proper analogue compressor that does a fine job of recreating the 1176’s musically sympathetic transparency and responsiveness, and it’s rare to see input conditioning of this sort on any audio interface, let alone one that’s so affordable. It’s a stroke of genius that’s sure to make Volt as popular in home studios as Apollo is for the pros.”

Read our full review.

  • Price: $199
  • Inputs: 1 combo mic/line/instrument input
  • Outputs: 2 TRS line outputs (6.3 mm); 1 headphone preamp (6.3 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 55 dB
  • Notable features: Vintage preamp mode based on 610 tube preamp; onboard 1176 style compressor
  • Maximum sample rate: 192 kHz
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB-C connector

Find out more at thomann.

Solid State Logic SSL 2+

Solid-State-Logic-SSL-2+@2000x1500

Solid State Logic (aka SSL) brings the spirit of its venerable analogue mixing consoles to the home studio desktop. Controls are simple, with an emphasis on fuss-free recording and playback, the Legacy 4K option on each preamp simulating the vibe of the 4000 series console, featuring a flattering high shelf boost plus subtle harmonic distortion. Our money is on the enhanced, ‘plus’ version with its additional headphone preamp, extra line outs and on-board MIDI, however, the standard SSL 2 is also available for around $50 less and has the same preamp options to inject mojo into any mix.

The combination of quality hardware plus the bundled SSL Native plugins is incredibly attractive, as Adam Crute explains in our review: “When the 4K effect is used in combination with the SSL Native plug-ins, your recordings should be blessed with a touch of class, and this is what truly helps the SSL 2 and 2+ stand out from much of their competition.”

Read our full review.

  • Price: $229
  • Inputs: 2 combo mic/line/instrument inputs
  • Outputs: 2 TRS line outputs (6.3mm); 2 additional line outputs on RCA; 2 headphone preamps (6.3mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 62 dB
  • Notable features: Legacy 4K EQ/saturation option on preamps; strong software bundle
  • Maximum sample rate: 192 kHz
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB-C connector

Find out more at thomann.

Audient iD4 MKII

Audient-id4@2000x1500

Audient’s iD4 MKII remains a firm favourite with those starting out, as well as professionals who want to mix at home with the same sound as their larger Audient studio setups. The interface offers a single Audient console-grade preamp and a JFET instrument input for direct recording. It’s bus-powered over USB 3.0 (Type C) and has really high quality converters that achieve an impressive 126dB of dynamic range in the digital-to-analogue end of the conversion.

Although it doesn’t have two discrete headphone preamps, you can feed two pairs of headphones the same mix using the parallel jack and mini-jack sockets on the front. Audio enthusiasts in the UK and Europe are lucky to be able to go one step further and bag the larger iD14 MKII for around £190/€219 street price!

Read our full review.

  • Price: $199
  • Inputs: 1 combo mic/line input; 1 instrument input
  • Outputs: 2 TRS outputs (6.3 mm); 1 headphone preamp with 2, parallel sockets (6.3 mm and 3.5 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 58 dB
  • Notable features: Audient console preamp; JFET DI; impressive dynamic range; ARC software bundle
  • Maximum sample rate: 96 kHz
  • Connection: USB 3.0, USB-C connector

Find out more at thomann.

MOTU M2 2×2

MOTU M2 2x2@2000x1500

Healthy levels are a crucial element to recording success, and the MOTU M2 2×2 tackles this with a full-colour LCD screen with meters for all inputs and outputs. The interface offers two multi-function inputs and direct input monitoring on both channels. Conversion quality is notable, achieving a dynamic range of 120dB on line outputs for pristine quality playback. Adding on to that, the M2 2×2 also comes with useful software, including two DAWs and a 6GB library of loops and sounds to jump-start your music-making.

  • Price: $200
  • Inputs: 2 mic/line/instrument combo inputs
  • Outputs: 2 TRS line outputs (6.3 mm), mirrored on 2 RCA; 1 headphone output (6.3 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 60 dB
  • Notable features: impressive dynamic range; MIDI in/out
  • Maximum sample rate: 192 kHz
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB-C connector

Behringer U-Phoria UMC 404HD

Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD

Options do start to get limited when you’re looking for a low-cost interface with more than two inputs. The Behringer U-Phoria UMC 404HD fulfils this brief and more. It gives you four inputs, each with sensitivity-pad-equipped MIDAS preamps. For flexible integration with external hardware, there’s also an unbalanced insert point on each input – otherwise unheard of at this price level – as well as MIDI connectivity.

  • Price: $179
  • Inputs: 4 mic/line/instrument combo inputs; 4 unbalanced insert points
  • Outputs: 2 main XLR/TRS outputs; 4 line outs on TRS/RCA; 1 headphone output (6.3 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: unknown
  • Notable features: MIDI in/out
  • Maximum sample rate: 192 kHz
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB-A to USB-B cable

IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo I/O

IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo I/O

Lugging around a clunky interface doesn’t quite make sense if you plan to record through a smartphone or tablet. The pocketable iRig Pro Duo I/O presents a solution to this issue, with multiple inputs, plus Lightning, Type A and Type C USB cables to interface with most devices right out of the box. It’s not the most recently-released product in the list, but nonetheless an enduring, easy-to-use and flexible mobile solution.

You get two analogue combo inputs, both with independent gain controls and phantom power. It also offers 3.5mm MIDI in/out ports, a pair of line outputs and a headphone preamp too. As for power, you can go with bus power via USB, or opt for two AA batteries.

  • Price: $230
  • Inputs: 2 mic/line/instrument combo inputs
  • Outputs: 2 TRS line outputs (6.3 mm); 1 headphone output (3.5 mm)
  • Mic preamp gain range: 50 dB
  • Notable features: MIDI in/out on 3.5 mm mini-jacks; AmpliTube SE & TONEX SE amp simulators included
  • Maximum sample rate: 48 kHz
  • Connection: USB 2.0, USB-A, USB-C & Lightning cables

Find out more at thomann.

For more buyer’s guides, head to musictech.com.

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