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: June 09, 2021
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
If you use a computer to playback, record, or create music, you would be better off improving the sonic capabilities with an audio interface. Of course, since these devices also allow for the connection of other musical devices, they can be useful in more ways than one. Also, looking for one of the best audio interfaces under $500 kills off two birds with one stone. You get to expand your musical capabilities without breaking the bank.
Listed below are eight great offerings with the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 topping our chart. Despite its simplistic design, it manages to cram in four input and four other output ports. It even includes a MIDI in/out port as well as a three-year warranty with the purchase, just to name a few of the benefits. However, this does not take away from the fact that the other seven products listed are great offerings as well. They might even fit your needs to a tee.
Nevertheless, we did spend quite a bit of time looking at the different manufacturer websites as well as Amazon to bring you in-depth information about the eight products mentioned. As such, we were able to rank all products according to the features and value for money. Our primary consideration points were connectivity, MIDI in/out, dimensions, audio resolution, and weight. Some of these features even determine what you can and cannot do with your device. Nonetheless, we have organized all the information we got in the writeup below that consists of three sections. You have a table, detailed product reviews, and a buying guide to top it off. As such, there is no longer an excuse not to buy the best audio interface under $500 for your needs.
The image provided above shows that the device has a simple interface with well-labeled controls and ports. The same is the case for the backside of the invention as well. Consequently, most people should find this a breeze to connect to their computers as well as to other musical devices.
With regards to the input ports to the device, you get four in total. Two of them are for musical instrument connection. The other two input ports can be connected to a host of other devices such as drum machines and synthesizers.
As to the output, you get four analog ports. There is, however, an additional headphone jack that can be considered an output port as well. You do have to remember that MIDI in/out connection is also present on this device. This will, of course, expand the capabilities of the audio interface as well as those of the computer it is connected to.
Also, with the mic preamps, you should be able to record great vocals in addition to a few other benefits. As well you have access to software that allows you to control your music from a myriad of devices. Add all these benefits to a three-year warranty, and you will understand how many people choose this as their first pick.
There is, however, the downside of the weight where this seemingly compact device weighs a little more than most. This, we are sure you can get past if you love the benefits enough.
What do we love it for?
Has four input and four output ports excluding the headphone and MIDI connections
Easy to use
The device comes with a three-year warranty
The tool also comes with 24-bit/192 kHz audio resolution
What were we disappointed with?
A few people seem to have issues with the drivers required to run the device competently
The tool also appears to cause computer audio to crash for some users
Our next offering is one that bears a lot of similarity to the editor’s choice, albeit it is from a different manufacturer. It offers 24-bit/192 kHz audio resolution and should thus be on par with its predecessor in this area.
Concerning the input ports, you get the same set up as that of the device above it in the lineup. There are two mic/instrument ports complemented by two-line ports. You find as well that the output is the same since it allows for one headphone jack in addition to four line outputs.
One component that’s missing from this setup is the MIDI in/out connection. As such, if you want to be able to attach a MIDI controller, this is not the machine for you. It nevertheless has a slim profile and even weighs less than three times the weight of its predecessor.
The manufacturer does try to make up for the lack of MIDI connectivity with a few extra features as well. Among them is the 118 dB dynamic range that should allow you to capture different sounds accurately.
This tool, as well comes with software that should give you control and allow you to monitor various inputs and outputs. As well, this is coupled with a USB 3.0 for an easy connection to your computer as well as a one-year warranty. As such, the only possible reasons to pass up this device could be the high cost of the tool as well as maybe the lack of MIDI support.
Another option to seriously consider purchasing is the Behringer UMC404HD. Despite its complex outlook and the high number of components, the manufacturer is still able to keep the weight of the device under 3 lbs. This is quite an impressive feat to pull off and makes the tool more portable.
Nevertheless, most users will first look towards performance and useful components before looking at the weight. However, even before you get to that, you might as well look to see the number and types of available ports. The main ports are eight in total and are equally divided between input and output. Also, you have a single USB port and a headphone jack.
In addition to the above, you can as well add to the list of benefits the fact that this tool has zero latency. As such, you will be able to experience sounds with no lag, and that will allow you to tweak the signal for optimal results.
Also, despite this tool being lightweight, it happens to feature a metal body that should be able to take a beating without damaging any internal components. As well, the fact that this tool also happens to have mic preamplifiers is impressive. This ensures that weak signals from your microphones can be upgraded to suitable standards.
The product guarantee covers you for three years, which is as well impressive by audio interface standards. You might also love the fact that the tool is compatible with a few different versions of recording software. This makes it one very versatile tool to feature on our list.
What do we love it for?
Compatible with different software
Comes with Mic preamplifiers to keep your sound signals strong
Multiple input and output ports including MIDI connectivity
Comes with a three-year warranty
What were we disappointed with?
Some users noticed the direct monitoring volume was so low that they couldn’t hear themselves
There also seems to be some static and EMF interference when some people use the device
If you want the capacity and capability to record input from even more channels at once, you should consider purchasing the M-Audio M-Track 8X4M. The ability to connect lots of different devices makes this a gem in the market and worth the price you pay for it. Nevertheless, you can get it for even less than $300.
You as well get assignable auxiliary output ports. Of course, there are still a few other output ports with designated functions as well.
With a high-speed USB connection, communication between this device and your PC should be seamless as well. Also, you get multiple software packages to use with the device as well.
You likely want to get the best sound results from your microphones, which is why the manufacturer has opted to include preamps. In addition to that, you can get 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution out of the device.
Body-wise you get a durable metal chassis that is practically weightless. As such, putting it in your bag and carrying it around all day should be a piece of cake.
What stands out?
High-speed USB connection
Up to eight input ports
High-quality audio resolution
Durable but lightweight
What cons did we manage to find?
Working with windows 10 PCs may prove to be a bit of a problem
The Mackie Studio 3×2 is another tool that professional music makers looking to make the most use of their PC can utilize. This device can be applauded for having the audio resolution of a pro device. This feature, when used in conjunction with the dual Onyx mic preamps, will give you superb sound capabilities.
As well you get a 2-Track A, line level, and DAW mix input ports to make sure that different sounds can find their way to your PC from various sources. You as well have your pick of output options, which include Studio, phones amp DAW, and a few others.
Again you don’t have to worry about purchasing additional software if this is your device of choice. The manufacturer provides you with a copy of Tracktion, which means you can install the software, plug in the machine, and get to creating music as soon as you receive the purchase.
Another benefit you might like is the inclusion of two different headphone jacks. These even allow for individual level control. Also, you get a built-in mic in the body of the device. This will enable you to communicate with artists during the recording session as well.
What do we love it for?
The tool comes with free professional software
A mic is built into the device for communication with artists
You might as well decide that the Steinberg UR-RT2 is your go-to device when it comes to solving your audio interface needs. This tool is one of the pricier ones on the list with a tag of about 350 dollars. As such, if you are willing to spend this amount of money on such a device, you can then get into the features. This will tell you whether the price point is worth it or not.
Among the highlights of the tool is the inclusion of Class-A D-PRE mic preamps. These serve to raise and amplify sound input from the microphones to a suitable level. As such, even with multiple sources, no sound will be overly amplified above the rest.
As well, you have three main options to choose from with regards to the device that you pair with the Steinberg UR-RT2 audio interface. These include Windows PCs, macOS, and even iOS devices if you are looking to use the tool on the go.
Also, you are guaranteed no lag on the device due to the latency-free FX monitoring. You should note that the two output jacks are somewhat limited when compared to other devices featured on this list.
Why are we impressed?
Compatible with multiple devices
Includes preamps to bring up the level of sound to acceptable levels
The Device is MIDI compatible
What negatives must you be aware of?
Has a limited number of output ports
The tool is relatively expensive
Installation of the required software is no walk in the park
This tool is one that can be used by different music professionals, including beatmakers, and producers as well. With the combi-xlr/jack, you can connect different types of gear that will make recording music into your PC a lot easier. This is inclusive of equipment like synths.
Also, you have two stereo jacks as your output options. Despite fewer jacks than most of the other machines listed, you still have the benefit of high power output from this device. You as well have a USB 2.0 port to link this tool with your PC.
There is also a big volume knob on top of the device. This is the component you use while adjusting output levels.
Also noteworthy is that this tool comes with various software packages. Once you install them on your computer, you will be able to do just about anything you can imagine with the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2.
We want you to find a USB audio interface under 500 that is seemingly tailor-made to fit your needs. However, for you to be able to do this, you might need to take in and internalize the information provided in the buying guide below.
What to expect from audio interfaces under $500
On the higher end of this price range, you will find reliable tools that professionals can use to make music. They include multiple ports, high-quality audio resolution, numerous controls, and sometimes even multiple software packages. Of course, for products priced higher, you will find that they have more benefits and features. Similarly, the lower you go in this price range, the less the features the devices will have. Construction and audio quality may also suffer. As such, you should be prepared with a sufficient budget to ensure you get the best gear possible.
Features to think about when buying an audio interface under $500
As you have seen with the products listed above, features differ from product to product. Rather than have you select products blindly, we have provided a guide on the same below. As such, you will be able to tell which features are essential to your use scenarios and which ones aren’t.
Desktop vs. rack-mounted model
Desktop versions are the most common audio interfaces for mac and windows under 500 and will tend to take up a little space next to your computer. The Behringer UMC404HD is a prime example of such a device. In contrast, rack-mounted models don’t often fit in this price range. As well they are often larger and need a separate stand of their own.
Of course, the number of outputs also matters to many users as well. Nevertheless, solo users will not be able to use multiple ports at the same time. As such, a range of about four ports, both input, and output, should suffice for their needs. Those who work in teams will need more ports to work with. Consequently, it is up to you to gauge your needs in this area and purchase your device accordingly.
Here you have connections such as MIDI in/out in addition to the other ports available that will expand your capabilities with the device. Also, the type of USB port might matter here as well. Nevertheless, products like the M-Audio M-Track 8X4M with a high-speed USB connection are preferred since they affect the musical output as well.
Bitrate and audio resolution
You as well want the highest audio resolution available, since it will significantly improve the quality of your music.
As such, products with a rating of 24-bit/192kHz are guaranteed to give you high-quality audio results.
Of course, you will have to connect the machine you buy to your personal computer. Unfortunately, some of these devices are outdated and thus won’t work with Windows 10 as well as updated versions of macOS. You as well have other products that are exceptional in this area that are compatible with Windows, macOS, and even iOS devices such as the Steinberg UR-RT2.
Dimensions and weight
Remember, this is a desktop tool and thus should be light as well as take as little space as possible. You can often tell the size by looking at the dimensions while the weight is provided for you in the features listed above. However, if a small and lightweight device is all you want, you can get by with the Audient iD4 that weighs even less than 2 lbs.
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 comes with a three-year warranty. Other manufacturers may not be so generous. As such, always check to see the duration of the warranty for the product or if there is even a warranty at all. This will tell you the support you will get from the manufacturer should your device suffer any defects or even damages.
Extra features such as LEDs and large volume knobs as well are not uncommon. After making sure your device has the right features for you, only then can you check for extra features. This will help you avoid getting carried away and purchasing a product with a lot of features that you don’t need at the expense of those that you do need.
A sound card and an audio interface can be described as two sides of the same coin. They both have the same purpose, which is to convert analog sounds to digital ones. The soundcard does this inside your computer while an audio interface does the same thing then transfers the digital signal to the computer via USB. Nonetheless, while a soundcard will work for light jobs, you are advised to get an audio interface if you want to do professional-grade recording.
As mentioned above, if you want to do professional-grade recording, you might want to get an audio interface. Nevertheless, if you do have analog equipment that can connect directly to your PC, you might not need to buy one. One example of this is a microphone with a USB port. This acts as both the source of the analog signal and the audio interface as well.
While some audio interfaces are capable of reducing CPU usage while you run your DAW, you are better off not relying on it to do so since that is not its primary purpose.
Our top three picks from the list above include the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 device with a simple design but tremendous value. This is seen in the pricing, as well as features included. The warranty is also impressive when compared to other devices on the list.
The Presonus Studio 192 Mobile as well is pricey, but the dynamic range, converter inclusion as well as multiple in and out ports make it worth the money. However, some people may feel they can’t afford it and hence will go for other options.
Another great tool is the Behringer UMC404HD. If nothing else, you will be glad to have the tool since it is compatible with multiple software options. If these three options strike your fancy, you can go ahead and purchase them. If not, there are five other products listed and reviewed that you can pick from.