Best Audio Interfaces Under $500 (Buying Guide For Mid-Range Devices)

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Any performer, artist, singer, songwriter, or any other person who is talented and creative enough to have music as her or his profession, knows exactly what tools to use while creating their art.

Any tool holds its importance and serves for a specific purpose, which can be essential for a great result.

Audio interfaces are as important as they can be for any type of art creating. Every artist knows exactly what kind of an audio interface needs, with all of its specifics and requirements.

This article is going to be dedicated to audio interfaces, or if I have to be a little more specific, in this article you will be reading about 5 of the best audio interfaces under $500, and also at the very end, I’ll make sure to include a buying guide. So, let’s not waste any time and just start!

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Best for Small Studios 
Tascam US-16 x 08
Tascam US-16 x 08
10
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Best Value 
Steinberg UR-RT2
Steinberg UR-RT2
9
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Best Runner-Up 
PreSonus Studio 68c 6x6
PreSonus Studio 68c 6x6
8.5
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Best Audio Quality 
M-Audio AIR 192|14
M-Audio AIR 192|14
8.8
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Best Overall 
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen
8.6
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Top 5 Best Audio Interface Under $500

5. Tascam US-16 x 08 – Best for Small Studios 

The TASCAM US-16×08 audio interface captures 16 mic and line inputs with crystal-clear audio quality and cutting-edge functionality to handle large sessions to your computer. Eight Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps give up to 56dB of gain while operating with the cleanest and quietest performance in their class.

This audio interface has eight additional line inputs, two of which can be switched to instrument level for direct guitar or bass recording. Additionally, this audio interface has eight balanced line outputs available, including two with front-panel level controls for monitoring.

The tilted shape of this audio interface greatly improves desktop viewing and use. All other audio interfaces need you to hunch your neck to read the knobs and switches because they are on the front or top of the device. Operation is simplified by the US-16×08 controls’ natural angle.

Specifications of Tascam US-16 x 08 Audio Interface: 

  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Form Factor: Desktop/Rackmount
  • Simultaneous I/O: 16 x 8
  • Number of Preamps: 8
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
  • Effects: Yes
  • Analog Inputs: 8 x XLR, 2 x 1/4″ (line/instrument), 6 x 1/4″ (line)
  • Analog Outputs: 8 x 1/4″ (line)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/4″ (stereo)
  • MIDI I/O: In/Out
  • USB: 1 x Type B
  • Power Supply: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Height: 2.32″
  • Width: 17.51″
  • Depth: 8.62″
  • Weight: 6.11 lbs.

Why Should You Buy It?
TASCAM developers built a brand-new driver architecture exclusively for the US-16×08. With just a few simple on-screen steps, the Windows driver software can be installed without the audio interface being connected. Mac users don’t need to install any drivers in order to use the interface. Installing the control panel software is all that is necessary to alter device settings.

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4. Steinberg UR-RT2 –  Best Value 

The UR-RT2 audio interface is the solution if you require a high-end four inputs, two outputs USB 2.0 MIDI and audio interface that is equally productive at home in the studio or on the move. The small UR-RT2 produces the most dynamic results with premium D-PRE microphone preamps and the expressive, musical sound of switchable Rupert Neve Designs transformers.

The switchable Rupert Neve Designs (RND) transformers found on the front inputs of the UR-RT series contribute excellent musicality, expressiveness, and rich harmonics for the purest sound quality possible.

The RND transformers produce iconic, high-end studio sound quality from real hardware, a revolutionary development for portable audio interfaces. The name Rupert Neve is intimately linked with exceptional quality.

High-speed USB 2.0 is a feature of UR-RT interfaces, enabling quick, dependable, and seamless connectivity to Mac and PC computers, iPads, and iPhones. The UR-RT series gives you piece of mind wherever you are recording thanks to the improved low latency of our SSP2 chip and the most recent drivers.

You may create a fully mobile audio recording solution by combining UR-RT units with an audio app like Steinberg’s Cubasis for iPhone and iPad. When connected to an iOS device, all UR-RT interfaces instantly change to Class Compliant (CC) mode, offering a naturally intuitive, ultra-portable production experience.

D-PRE preamps produce incredibly transparent and clear sound quality with a rich bass end, a high end that is remarkably nuanced, and an exceptional dynamic response. D-PRE is a very unique, class-leading preamp that has received praise from both industry insiders and the press.

Specifications of Steinberg UR-RT2 Audio Interface

  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Form Factor: Desktop
  • Simultaneous I/O :4 x 2
  • Number of Preamps: 2
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Effects: DSPMixFX software, REV-X reverb, Channel Strip, Guitar Amp Classics FX
  • Analog Inputs: 1 x XLR-1/4″ combo (Hi-Z/mic/line), 1 x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line), 2 x 1/4″ (line)
  • Analog Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ (main)
  • Headphone Output: 1 x 1/4″
  • MIDI I/O: In/Out
  • USB: 1 x Type B 2.0
  • Software: Cubase AI, Cubasis LE
  • Power Supply: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Height: 1.85″
  • Width: 7.79″
  • Depth: 8.18″
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs.

Why Should You Buy It?
Additionally to all amazing features of this audio interface under $500, the UR-RT interfaces provide AD and DA conversion stages with up to 24-bit/192 kHz resolution to accurately record and reproduce that warm, transparent sound.

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3. PreSonus Studio 68c 6×6 – Best Runner-Up 

The Studio 68c audio interface is ideally suited for small productions, electronic artists, and bands looking to take control of their recordings thanks to its incredible sound quality and four of PreSonus  renowned XMAX analog mic preamps, as well as professional metering and monitoring tools.

Flexible output possibilities are provided by two stereo outputs. For live performances, a strong headphone amplifier with A/B switching allows you to hear either mix. The Studio 68c audio interface is a powerhouse for audio creation right out of the box and comes with a Studio One Artist license.

Almost all recording programs for macOS and Windows are compatible with the Studio 68c interface. Studio One is simple to use and allows you to record, and produce without being constrained by track constraints or distracted by the tools.

The Studio 68c audio interface can record and mix in ultra-high definition at up to 192 kHz. You may record intricate musical harmonics smoothly and naturally without apparent distortion thanks to four professional-grade XMAX mic preamps from PreSonus, high-quality converters on every input, and output. In order to hear every breath, transient, and detail in your recordings, XMAX mic preamps are famed for their ability to offer extraordinarily high headroom, deep lows, smooth highs, and a rich overall sound.

Specifications of PreSonus Studio 68c 6×6 Audio Interface: 

  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Form Factor: Desktop
  • Simultaneous I/O: 6 x 6
  • Number of Preamps: 4
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • A/D Resolution: Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Effects: Studio Magic Plug-in Suite
  • Analog Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z), 2 x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line)
  • Analog Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ (main out), 2 x 1/4″ (line)
  • Headphone Output:1 x 1/4″
  • MIDI I/O: DB-9 (In/Out)
  • USB: 1 x Type C
  • Software: Studio One Artist, Studio Magic Plug-in Suite
  • Power Supply: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Height: 1.75″
  • Width: 9″
  • Depth: 5.5″
  • Weight: 2.4 lbs.

Why Should You Buy It?
The Studio 68c pairs with integrated Studio One Artist to provide you a full, affordable recording solution that will make you sound fantastic, making it the ideal companion for any recording program.

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2. M-Audio AIR 192|14 – Best Audio Quality 

The M-Audio AIR 192|14 is an 8-in/4-out USB audio/MIDI interface with a wealth of features that offers all the software required connections to quickly produce studio-caliber recordings.

With its four XLR+14″ TRS combo inputs, two 1″ line inputs, and two 1″ instrument inputs, the AIR 192|14 offers the most realistic depiction of your guitar or bass when plugged directly into the interface.

Additionally, there are MIDI input and output ports so you can connect any MIDI-compatible devices you may own, including external sequencers, drum machines, and controllers.

The software bundle included with the AIR 192|14 contains everything you need to start producing quality recordings straight out of the box. Ableton Live Lite and MPC Beats are included in AIR 192|14 along with a robust DAW to meet your production needs.

You will be motivated to create, record, and share your ideas anywhere in the world at any time with the help of this incredible audio and MIDI recording software.

To meet all of your production demands, integrated in this audio interface under $500, you will find a complete Effects Plugin, Virtual Instruments, and Loop package. With Revalver, 80 effect plugins, and AIR’s Creative FX Collection Plus, you will have all of your effects and needs covered, whether you need a guitar tone, reverb, or delay.

Specifications of M-Audio AIR 192|14 Audio Interface: 

  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Form Factor: Desktop
  • Simultaneous I/O: 8 x 4
  • Number of Preamps: 4 x mic, 2 x instrument
  • Phantom Power: Linked Ch 1/2, 3/4
  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Analog Inputs: 4 x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line), 2 x 1/4″ (Hi-Z), 2 x 1/4″ (line)
  • Analog Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ (L/R), 2 x 1/4″ (3/4 out)
  • Headphone Outputs: 2 x 1/4″
  • MIDI I/O:1 x 1/8″ (in), 1 x 1/8″ (out), USB
  • USB: 1 x Type USB-C
  • Software: Ableton Live Lite, 20 Effect Plug-ins
  • Power Supply: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Height: 3.24″
  • Width: 10.2″
  • Depth: 7.44″
  • Weight: 3.9 lbs.

Why Should You Buy It?
This audio interface will make you conquer any recording session with professional studio quality and features!

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1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen – Best Overall 

With two upgraded Scarlett mic preamps, high-performance 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters, optimized preamp gain structure, vanishingly low latency, and instrument inputs that can handle scorching hot pickups, the third-generation Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 pushes the boundaries of USB audio interface technology.

To give your voice and instrument recordings a brighter, more open sound, the mic preamps now come equipped with Focusrite’s famed Air mode, which offers the coveted Air effect based on the company’s illustrious ISA console transformers.

Focusrite has provided what customers and fans have requested! iPad Pros with USB-C connectors are now supported by the 3rd Gen Scarlett interfaces.

Yes, carrying your Scarlett 2i2 audio interface around on the go is now even simpler. Simply link the device into a compatible iPad Pro, then launch the music-making app to get everything set up.

You may utilize your Focusrite Scarlett 3rd Gen Audio Interface anywhere you are as long as you have your iPad Pro with you.

Specifications of Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen Audio Interface: 

  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Form Factor: Desktop
  • Simultaneous I/O: 2 x 2
  • Number of Preamps: 2
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • A/D Resolution: Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Analog Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z)
  • Analog Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ TRS
  • Headphone Output: 1 x 1/4″
  • USB: 1 x Type USB-C
  • Software: Ableton Live Lite, Plug-in Collective access, Hitmaker Expansion Bundle, 3-month Avid Pro Tools Subscription
  • Compatibility: USB-C iPad Pro
  • OS Requirements – Mac: macOS 10.12 or later
  • OS Requirements – PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later (Scarlett), Windows 10 v1809 or later (3-month Avid Pro Tools Subscription)
  • Bus Powered:Y es
  • Power Supply: USB bus powered

Why Should You Buy It?
Portable studio quality, and now is supporting iPad Pro. An optimized third-generation technology with a super-low latency for better performances.

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Buying Guide

Inputs

How many microphones and instruments do I need to connect to my computer? That’s the first question you should ask yourself when purchasing an audio interface.

You don’t want to run out of inputs before you can complete all of your recordings. Instead of having too few inputs, it is much preferable to have an abundance of them.

Typically, audio interfaces include two inputs or more. Both instruments and microphones can be used with these inputs without any issues. You can have more than two while your spending cap is $500, though.

You’ll need a lot of preamps if you want to use several different microphones at once. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about preamps; I’ll cover that right away.

Make sure the audio interface offers instrument level inputs if you want to directly connect a guitar or keyboard. They are referred to as hi-Z inputs.

Outputs

There are also a variety of outputs needed. There must be a stereo speaker output and a headphone output for each performer.

Some people prefer audio interfaces with outboard processing outputs. An outboard processor is a distinct external device that is not a component of your mixing surface.

Preamps

A preamp can be connected to each mic and instrument input. Preamps boost weak guitar and microphone signals. Given how faint the audio signal from microphones is, this is quite significant.

The sound of your recordings can be significantly impacted by a preamp’s quality. But there is a problem. The price of an audio interface increases with the number of preamps fitted.

Final Words

I am well aware that $500 is not a small amount of money, but if you happen to be on that specific budget, then I’m pretty sure that you will find this article helpful, because you have just read 5 of the best audio interfaces under $500. Hopefully, you liked my choices and you found you found yourself a good option to purchase.

Further Reading

As you might already know, the further reading paragraph is meant to give you more to read, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do, so go ahead and check 6 best headphones for drummers (Buying Guide) if by any chance you happen to be the drummer of the band, but even if you aren’t, it’s worth the while, believe me. You can also check the best microphones for hip Hop Vocals in 2022 .  Read more about the differences between Dac and Amplifiers. Hope you enjoy!

 

Whether you’re looking for information on audio equipment, looking to learn more about how things work in the music field, or looking for reviews of products, we got you covered!

 
 
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