In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: May 19, 2021
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An audio interface is one of the most crucial things a budding musician will consider to purchase first. Most musicians are usually broke at this point, and affordability is a major factor that affects their choice. Luckily, with technological evolution, it is possible to get the best audio interface for high-quality recording without decimating your bank balance. There are a lot of brands and models of audio interfaces under 100 bucks that choosing one that suits your needs and budget can be a mixed bag of experience.
To help you make the best-informed choice, we compiled a list of the best top-rated audio interfaces on the market. Some of the crucial features we considered in our reviews include: audio resolution, weight, dimensions, MIDI In/Out, and connectivity. For you to get what suits all of your recording needs and convenience you have to put these features into consideration. For instance, if you intend to move around a lot with the unit, then you should get a lightweight and compact model for easy portability.
Are you on the market for something you can use to record your gym sessions, karaoke at your restaurant, or even podcasting in your home studio? This is your best bet. It has all the essential features you would need from an audio interface and a mixer.
The mixer boasts of a solid rock build with steel. All its parts including knobs and potentiometers have been meticulously designed and made with high-grade material.
With the built-in USB interface, you can record onto any DAW of your liking or interface with your Mac or PC for playback. You will enjoy making a super-clear record owing to the clean and low-noise pre-amp mic that comes with the interface.
Your voice will always sound perfect whether you’re singing or doing a podcast, all thanks to the 2-band EQ and panning that allows you to change the sounds on channel 1 to your liking. There’s also an echo that helps improve the sound of your voice.
The most exciting feature of this interface is the Bluetooth playback that allows you to have seamless wireless playback at your restaurant, gym, camping, or anywhere you can’t hardwire your playback device.
The mixer offers unparalleled versatility with its 2 stereo and 1 mono channel. It also allows you to plug in a secondary microphone on the extra 3.5mm mic input. And since it has 18V phantom power, you can use a condenser mic.
Another plus for his mixer AI is that it has clipping indicators that help you set your levels accurately by preventing you from adding gain excessively. Also, you can power it in three different ways, thus highly portable. You can plug it to your computer using the USB cable, or plug it into a wall outlet with an adapter provided or use a 5V power bank.
Why did it make our list? This is by far the most versatile interface under 100 bucks. It is hard to come across all these features and exceptional performance at such an attractive price tag.
What is not ideal about it? With all the multiple features and exceptional capability, this interface couldn’t be any better. We’d only wished to add MIDI connectivity to it.
This scooped the second spot on our list for all the right reasons. First off, it is the pioneer of the famous AudioBox line known for the best entry-level AI units. It is one of the best low-cost solutions with superb combination inputs that offer high-quality pre-amps.
There are no bells and whistles about this unit’s design. It comes in an incredibly lightweight body with a durable aluminum chassis that is bulletproof. The unit features two inputs, two main outputs, and an extra one for stereo headphones. As if that’s enough a full MIDI In/Out is also included in the rear unit. This offers great versatility as you can easily plug in your guitar or mic for smooth recording.
Moreover, you can easily connect the AI to your PC or Mac via USB and if you like Phantom power, there is a 48v switch on the front panel. You will love the high-quality sounds produced by this AI thanks to its impressive range of sampling rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96kHz.
Another plus for this AI is that it offers excellent value for money as it comes with a full version of Studio One with all the instruments and Studio Magic effects.
What we liked: The Plug and Play AI is not only the cheapest but also the oldest of the renowned industry player AudioBox. It has so much to offer for a low-budget AI including the Studio Magic Plug In-suite and the copy of the Studio One Artist.
What could be better: If you don’t own a Microphone or Headphone you will have to dig deeper into your pocket to get a version that comes with them. Some users have also complained that the AI conflicts with some OS’s.
The Behringer U-Control UCA202 has quite the popular following. This is probably because it outperforms its price tag. It is a simple interface that does everything it says it can do and you can depend on it for the best sound quality.
Typical of all Behringer products, this unit has a small lightweight but very solid build that makes it highly portable. It is super easy to use as it requires no setup. All you have to do is plug it into your Mac or PC and get started.
The UCA202 features two analog mono inputs and outputs plus an additional S/PDIF optical output that you can use to convert analog to digital directly. Additionally, it has a stereo headphone output that has a dedicated level control which you can use to monitor both the input and output.
You can trust the UCA202 to give you high-end audio quality owing to its 48kHZ high-resolution converters. You will also enjoy recording without any distractions thanks to its low latency.
To top it all, this plug and play AI comes with a ton of free editing and recording software that you will make the most out of for the best quality sounds.
What makes it special? This is a conveniently small yet ruggedly built Audio Interface that offers the best recording experience at a street price. It is a very straightforward interface with excellent sound quality.
What cons did we find? There aren’t many bad things to say about this interface except that it doesn’t come with detailed instructions for novices or anyone who isn’t completely familiarized with interfaces.
This is another piece worth having in your bag of tricks as a budding musician. The Zoom-U-22 is the ideal AI for anyone looking for a cheap mobile solution that’s only 1 in and 2 out.
Weighing a mere 0.33 pounds, the Zoom U-22 is possibly the most compact AI out there. It’s a favorite for many musicians and producers because it can easily fit in a gig bag and is designed to work virtually anywhere you take it. It can be powered by either USB Bus or batteries and this makes it more flexible.
The unit features a mini-jack line input and the XLR/TRS input which functions just as good as a mic preamp with phantom power. The only downside to these inputs is that you can’t use both of them at the same time as one cancels the other. Therefore, you have to carry converters with you all the time.
On the bright side, there are independent stereo outputs for headphones and monitors. The monitor outputs are RCA connectors probably because of the AI petite build and also for the sake of DJs playing music from their laptops. One huge plus for this AI is the inclusion of a zero-latency direct monitoring feature.
What makes it special? This is a gem of a product designed to be adequate for various applications. It is highly portable with power options and a compact yet durable build. It is hard to beat its small price tag and high audio resolution of 24-bit/96kHz.
What cons did we find? Had zoom not restricted this AI’s independent input selection this would have been the best piece of gear to add to your home studio.
This is another exceptional option for a home studio recording beginner or a new musician on the go. The ART USB Dual Pre is a high performing dual preamplifier and computer interface thoughtfully designed to give the ultimate recording experience on a low budget.
The AI comes in a compact but super-sturdy aluminum build that makes it ideal for hitting the road with. Plus, it can be powered by either batteries or USB. If you are a phantom power fan, then you’re lucky as it comes with a built-in and low-noise 48V supply that allows you to power the preamplifier and two mics.
What’s more, the unit features fully balanced low-noise XLR and ¼-inch TRS combo inputs. You wouldn’t need a converter for this as you can use them simultaneously. Also featured are two ¼-inch outputs that you can use as preamplifier outputs or as monitor feed to your powered monitors.
What sets this AI apart the most is the 48dB clean gain controls on each of the inputs with LED indicators. Plus, you don’t need any special drivers as it works pretty well with USB audio device drivers in Windows and Mac computers that have native USB support.
With a 16-bit/44.1Hz audio resolution, you can trust this AI to give you the best audio quality. Plus, it has the free-latency monitoring feature that allows you to record without any distractions.
What makes it stand out? This is an exceptional addition to any new or professional musician’s portable gear. Its clean 48dB gain and three power options set it apart from other AI’s within its price range.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? Nothing could be better with all the multiple features and high portability offered by this Audio Interface. It performs just as great as pricier high-end AIs. The only thing we would wish is that it could be used for live podcasting with some way to send a mic or instrument signal to LR.
This is one of the most underrated interfaces on the market. It probably suffers from a lack of marketing because of the language barrier as it is from a budding company in China. It is packed with better specs than most interfaces with a higher price point.
The Midiplus Studio 2 isn’t the most beautiful interface out there but isn’t anything bad to say about its design either. It has a remarkable lightweight metal build that makes it one of the best portable interfaces.
You can power the interface with either USB or 48v phantom power supply giving you the freedom of using a microphone or a condenser. You are also guaranteed the impressive USB 2.0 interface transmission speed.
When it comes to audio quality, nothing comes close to what this AI offers within its price range. It has an audio resolution of 24-bit/192kHz that offers high-precision sampling.
The Midiplus Studio 2 is a 2 in/2 out interface. The inputs and outputs make recording fast and easier for you. Other exciting features include the headphone gain control knob and the stereo sound monitor switch button.
What are our favorite features? Super-lightweight yet rugged build that is easily portable. Its switchable direct monitoring with mix control and high-precision sampling set it apart from other interfaces within its price range.
What could be better? There are a few complaints from users claiming that the AI is a bit noisy and some had non-functional inputs.
This is a solid choice for any laptop music enthusiast who is always on the go. Unlike most hubs, this M-Audio unit is a very simple easy-to-use big-knob kind of AI. It is rich with incredible features that make it a huge steal at its attractive price point.
The Hub is incredibly lightweight and compact. It can easily fit in your fanny pack. It is durably built with a rugged metal chassis. In case you are wondering, the large knob is the one that controls the volume level to a pair of ¼-inch balanced TRS connectors that are best suited for studio monitors. And, yes it does feel good to have control over everything with a simple turn of a chunky knob.
What’s more, the hub features a separate ¼-inch headphone output that is controlled independently to provide private listening.
Also featured are 3 USB ports that allow you to connect various devices to your PC or Mac including MIDI controllers, flash drives, and other portable devices.
This USB AI is one of the best desktop monitor controllers that professional musicians and producers can get for a professional-level monitoring solution. It offers the best sound quality with its built-in 24-bit resolution and 96kHz DAC.
What makes it stand out? This is a thoughtfully designed AI with a compact yet sturdy body. Its 3-in-1 professional monitor controller and big-knob set it apart as one of the best USB audio interfaces under 100 dollars.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? In addition to USB, the M-audio Hub requires wall wart for power. You can live with it but it would’ve been much better if the USB bus could power everything.
Things to Consider
Apart from the multiple brands and models of audio interfaces available in the market, there are a couple of factors you have to put into consideration for you to make the best choice. This section has all the information you need to know before choosing an audio interface under 100 dollars including; what to expect from one and the features to consider before buying it.
What to expect from audio interfaces under $100?
Anyone who has picked up recording as a hobby or is looking to become world-famous from the comfort of his bedroom or on the go can do so by getting an affordable and highly functional audio interface under 100 dollars.
Most audio interfaces under 100 dollars can work with virtually all the modern and significant operating systems like Windows, Android, iOS, and Linux without needing drivers. Therefore, you can use them on your PC or Mac anywhere. They are also powered by USB bus and some have other power options including power bank, batteries or wall power outlet.
Some interfaces under the 100-dollar mark have a phantom power supply which allows you to use a condenser microphone. As for inputs and outputs, most AIs within this price range have a maximum of three inputs and two outputs. They vary across brands and models but they offer an adequate number that allows you to plug in as many devices as possible for fast and easy recording.
Also, some interfaces come with recording software to help you create the best quality records. The audio resolution ranges between 16-bit/44Khz to 24-bit/192kHz which is pretty impressive for such an attractive price point.
Additionally, the interfaces have a super-lightweight yet sturdy construction that is ideal for transporting from one place to another.
Features to consider when buying an audio interface
Here are some of the key features that you must look out for when buying an audio interface.
Desktop vs. rack-mounted model
This is a matter of personal preference. It also depends on the amount of space you have for the interface. If you intend to use the audio interface in your home studio you can choose the rack-mounted model and if you need one to use on the go, then you best choose the desktop model which you can place on any surface wherever you will be.
It is not the number of inputs and outputs that make an audio interface great. You need to consider the flexibility and versatility that the inputs and outputs on an AI offer. Most AI units under 100 dollars come with the basic two inputs and two outputs but you have to ensure you choose one that suits your recording intentions. For instance, you may need to record your guitar or piano along with your vocals and that needs more than one input that will capture everything in full detail. The ART USB Dual Pre is a prime example.
This is the compatibility of your existing hardware. You have to ensure that you choose an audio interface with peripheral ports that are compatible with the ones on your computer. You have to check that the mini-jack connections, ¼-inch, or XLR will work with your current set up.
Bitrate and audio resolution
These are critical factors as they determine the ability of the audio interface to capture sound precisely. The best audio interface should be able to capture all the four characteristics of sound which are frequency, dynamic range, amplitude, and phase. An interface with a 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution like the Midiplus Studio 2 above will capture your vocals or instruments with the highest precision and transparency.
DAW and device compatibility
What would you do with an interface that is not compatible with your computer? Compatibility is paramount though most interface hardware is compatible with both PC or Mac you just have to be keen because some rare brands only cater to PC or Mac.
Also, choose an interface that is compatible with several major DAWs as it offers flexibility and you can try all of them to pick the one that suits your recording needs best.
Dimensions and weight
This is another matter of personal preference. You should pick an interface with the size and weight that suits your recording needs. If you need the most flexible one that you can use even when you hit the road, then pick a compact and ultra-lightweight one like the Zoom U-22 above.
Warranty is essential as you are likely to encounter problems when using the interface especially if you intend to record regularly. With a warranty, you can reach out for the manufacturer’s help and sometimes even get free repairs in case of damage.
To avoid out-of-the-pocket expenses, go for a model that comes with a ton of accessories including USB, Mic, and mini cables.
No. Audio interfaces are designed to accept balanced inputs and outputs while headphone amplifiers are designed to accept unbalanced connections.
The tips on this guide are enough to give you the buyers’ confidence you would need to buy the best audio interface under 100 dollars. Choosing any of the ones we have reviewed wouldn’t be a bad idea as they are the best you can get within the 100-dollar price bracket.
Our editor’s choice, Rockville RockMix 5 Channel Pro Mixer with USB Interface is the best versatile interface you can get under 100 dollars. It sets itself apart the most with the impressive 24-bit/192kHZ audio resolution offering you the most accurate and transparent sounds.
Our premium pick, PreSonus AudioBox USB Audio Interface, is the best you can get that offers such great value for money with superb features high-quality sound, 2 ins, and 2 outs, a lightweight but rugged build and bonus Studio One Artist DAW software to enhance your recording experience.
Our third pick, the Behringer U-Control UCA202 is the ultimate interface to get if you want to avoid latency in your recordings. It is incredibly compact and lightweight yet very sturdy and its 3-band parametric EQ together with the 16 audio tracks it comes with makes it one of the best audio interfaces under 100 dollars.