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: March 10, 2021
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Beginners make the most mistakes in their choices, especially when purchasing their first audio interface. Remember that a bad first experience can put you off from pursuing any other audio interface options in the future. Nonetheless, the possibility of buying the best beginner audio interface can be exciting.
With a beginner-friendly audio interface, most people hope for excellent connection options that support their audio equipment. They also need something that will ease them into audio interfaces in general. Finally, the audio quality needs to be top-notch. With this, the primary audio interface features you need on your checklist are ease of use, audio resolution, and connectivity. Of course, the best beginner audio interface will have more benefits as well.
A singer-songwriter will have all they need to make the best of their craft if they have this Focusrite Scarlett Solo plugged into their computer. Excellent results in your music are still guaranteed if you use your iPad pro with this device as well.
While the audio resolution and sample rate are already impressive, you get air circuits for use with the mic preamps. This is the reason you get more open sound with the device. The high-quality 3rd generation Scarlet mic preamp is nothing to scoff at either.
Another pro is the super-low latency. If you can hear everything in real-time, you will know where you are making mistakes. You will also know where you are doing a bang-up job.
Healthy signal levels as well seem essential for recording. You may thus appreciate the halo indicators that tell you when it is time to cut back on the gain.
Of course, you will use the tool better if you have the right DAW to work with it. Luckily buyers get a DAW software bundle with the purchase as well. This includes Ableton Live Lite, which needs no introduction, Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack, and five other different software.
What we liked: For a beginner device, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo seems like the complete package. High-quality sound is there because there is the 3rd generation Scarlet mic preamp, which incorporates air circuits as well. Aside from that, monitoring is easy since there is almost zero latency. Additionally, you can even tell when the gain is too much by looking at the halo indicators. The software bundle is also amazing. iPad compatibility is a plus.
What could be better: Users would be happier with separate volume control for both the monitor and headphone outputs. Drivers and software may also test the user’s patience during installation.
The PreSonus Studio 24c comes with top-notch audio resolution that may need a little more computing power than other options. However, with enough computing power, you will appreciate what you can achieve with this tool.
To make full use of the audio resolution, professional-grade XMAX-L mic preamps are part of the setup. Also, the line inputs for your line-level devices ensure positive results as you can record your guitar, bass, and other musical devices.
Of course, you may want to monitor what you are recording as well, and the mixer knob has been provided to allow you to do that. Also, with the input metering identifying potential problems, recording will be easy.
Lastly, you can expect Studio One Artist DAW software in this PreSonus model as well.
What we liked: With this tool being bus-powered, you needn’t worry about connecting it to a power source. Being connected to a computer is enough. Also, for optimum audio quality, you have professional-grade XMAX-L mic preamps supporting your inputs. Furthermore, the full use of the inputs is possible since you have 24-bit/192 kHz audio resolution. Free DAW software is always welcome.
What could be better: If you encounter any use issues, you may not be able to count on manufacturer support while troubleshooting the device.
A budget-friendly beginner audio interface for recording can also be found in the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96. The quality is still there to make it worth your while. Also, a connection to a computer is easy due to the USB support.
Mic inputs are included in the design, and so are line-level outputs. What’s more, the mix control availed can help with controlling the playback from your PC. Also, with the MIDI in/out, you can expand the capabilities of your whole setup by adding a MIDI controller or synth.
Just in case you rely on the mic inputs for most of your recording sessions, the Class A mic preamplifiers help maintain the standard of high-quality sound. Taking this machine on the road is also feasible due to the easy connection with PCs. The rugged audio interface body would also be needed on the road.
Finally, purchasers get Studio One 3 Artist DAW software.
What we liked: Getting a free Studio One 3 Artist DAW software is highly appreciated by many users. Also positive is the travel-friendly nature that is enabled by the durable chassis and the easy USB connectivity of the device. If you have your laptop and this audio interface, you can make music anywhere. Also, excellent sound quality is achievable thanks to the Class A mic preamplifiers.
What could be better: The device may experience issues when plugged into a USB 3.0 device since it is designed for 2.0 ports.
With USB-C support, you are guaranteed a relatively fast connection with this M-Audio AIR 192|6 device. Also, both the connections and controls are relatively easy to figure out hence the product’s beginner-friendly nature.
If you combine the ultra-pristine A/D converters and the two low-noise Crystal preamps, you get superior audio recording quality. You also have the USB-C to thank for the minimal-latency that affords you the ability to monitor your session in real-time. This is in addition to the monitor mix control.
MIDI gear compatibility is also catered for in this purchase. If you have a MIDI controller or plan to buy one in the future, rest assured you can use it with this tool as well.
Ableton Live Lite and First M-Audio Edition are the two DAWs you are guaranteed to get for free with this purchase. You even have effects plug-ins included. Further, the technology used will likely guarantee you excellent sound quality to cater to the sound resolution you have with this purchase.
What we liked: Being able to use this tool with a MIDI device may come in handy. You can as well use the availed DAWs and included plug-ins to get the musical results you want. As for real-time monitoring, it makes recording excellent audio so much easier.
What could be better: If you have an AMD based computer, it may not work with the M-Audio AIR 192|6.
Beginners can as well consider the Audient iD4 as a purchase option. The small form of the device makes it more portable, although you will probably need to carry it in a bag.
As for the high levels of performance you get with the iD4, the inbuilt AD-DA converter is partly to blame. For guitar users, the JFET D.I input makes the iD4 a plug and play option.
Also, with zero latency and monitor control functionality, you can check out different input components to ensure mic pre and D.I input is just right. You can even monitor a blend of DAW playback and the various inputs.
Furthermore, the Audient iD4 sets itself apart by having dual headphone output. With this, you can get a second pair of ears to tell you what you are getting right or wrong.
Additionally, if you have an iOS 10 device, you don’t need a computer to use this beginner audio interface for recording. You can as well use the scroll wheel for a variety of purposes, including controlling DAW hosts, plug-in parameters, and more.
What we liked: The versatile scroll wheel may be highly appreciated in some circles. Also, compatibility with iOS devices is a warm welcome. You even get dual headphone jacks.
What could be better: The Audient iD4 is pricier than other beginner audio interface options listed.
The Audient EVO 4 has an easy to use interface as a key selling point. If MIDI connectivity is a function that you want in your beginner device, the EVO 4 isn’t for you. Also, singer-songwriters will find this tool perfect as a portable option.
As for the input ports, they are similar to a few other beginner audio interface options mentioned above.
With the accuracy of the two transparent Audient EVO preamps, you shouldn’t be worried about losing sound quality. Also, a 58 dB gain range works to your advantage as well.
Your guitar and bass are also catered to by the inclusion of a JFET instrument input.
Users may also be appreciative of the loopback functionality that can help record computer audio, gaming audio, and video calls. Furthermore, like the competing products mentioned above, you can get professional music recording software in addition to the EVO control app that is specific to the device.
What we liked: The Audient EVO 4 is probably one of the easiest audio interfaces to use with its simple button layout. The dedicated EVO control app may help a great deal, as well. Also, you still get multiple music software for use with the device. Additionally, the audio loopback gives you more choices on how you can use the interface.
What could be better: The makeup of the interface could be more durable. Also, the EVO 4 may lose connectivity when the PC goes into hibernation. In some instances, a full reboot is the only solution.
Things to Consider
Even if you’ve gone through the audio interface options listed above, you may still not know enough to pick a model comfortably. We understand your predicament, and that’s the reason the buying guide has been included below. After reading through it, you will still be a beginner in terms of using these machines. However, you will be able to differentiate the potential benefits of each model. Choosing the interface to buy will then be a walk in the park.
Features to consider when buying an audio interface for beginners
Just looking at audio interface features can tell you whether it is worth your funds or not. Nevertheless, getting lost in audio interface jargon, especially for beginners, happens a lot. You may need to google some terms so that you can make sense of it all. An easier way is to read the section below. Also, there is no hurry to retain all the information below. Remember that referencing this write-up as you come across varying audio interfaces isn’t against any rules.
Inputs/outputs and connectivity
You are bound to have plans for your audio interface once it is in your hands. You may want to record something with no music, such as a podcast where you will be talking throughout the process. In such a case, a microphone input is enough. Guitar and bass inputs may prove excess to requirements. The same would be the case for a MIDI I/O.
However, if you are recording music that includes singing, playing the guitar, playing the piano, using a MIDI controller, and more, then you need connectivity that supports this as well.
The quality of the input/output ports also varies. If, for instance, your ports support an XLR connection, you can get better sound since the signal is protected from interference.
Also, some of these input ports support multiple devices. Nevertheless, if you want to connect multiple pieces of music gear, you will be limited by the number of ports available. For a beginner, you might not need that many ports. However, as you grow your craft, you may bring in more instruments and more people to play them. As such, the input ports you need may increase in number. Have this in mind as you contemplate your options.
Bitrate and audio resolution
Professionals will also know how to select devices based on their bitrate and audio resolution. The Audient iD4 and the M-Audio AIR 192|6 mentioned above are clearly different. The Audient’s resolution is 24-bit/96 kHz, while that of the M-Audio AIR is 24-bit/192 kHz. As such, you may wonder which option would serve you best.
Professionals prefer at least 144 dB of dynamic range. This, again, may lead to more confusion on your end. However, what you need to know is that the “dB” shows how much dynamic range the product supports. As such, with a higher “dB” rating, even the quieter parts of your audio recording will be clearer and more audible.
Professionals prefer 144 dB audio for the clear audio it presents. Also, since 6 dB is what makes up 1 “bit” of sound, you find that 24-bit audio is also a 144 dB audio.
Further, the sample rate is represented in the resolution as well. In the two examples given, it is displayed as 96 kHz for the Audient and 192 kHz for the M-Audio.
Ideally, a higher sample rate is better depending on how you want to process the audio. Nonetheless, you may even find 44.1 kHz to be enough. After all, that is the sample rate you find in consumer audio. However, for complex music such as when you are recording jazz music or if you are creating unique sound effects, you will realize that a higher sample rate, for instance, 192 kHz is better.
DAW and device compatibility
Also, if you are using a digital audio interface, you will need software that brings it to its full potential known as a digital audio workstation (DAW). There are various DAWs with examples such as Ableton Live, Adobe Audition, Cubase, Garageband.
Having a preference among these is totally fine. After all, picking a DAW that is easy for you to use is in your best interests. You may have chosen a DAW by listening to recommendations from friends, looking at reviews, or even experience with the software.
Do remember that often audio interfaces come bundled with their own DAWs. They may also support additional software as well. The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96, for instance, comes with Studio One 3 Artist DAW software.
How crucial device compatibility is cannot also be understated. Incompatibility between the M-Audio AIR 192|6 and AMD computers, for instance, can be problematic. Some of you want the freedom of using your mobile devices with the interface instead. Few audio interfaces give you this option with the example of the Audient iD4 being one of them.
Dimensions and weight
The dimensions and weight influence how you use the audio interface as well. If you want a device that you can carry around with you and record in different places, a lightweight and compact interface is ideal. If the tool is for sitting in a home studio, buying a bigger and heavier machine may not have any adverse consequences.
Try to learn more about the warranty pre-purchase. How well your purchase is covered will be disclosed in the fine print. A primary consideration is the duration of the warranty. Also, longer coverage is generally better.
You could luck out by finding a device with extra features as well. It could be in the form of unique software like the EVO Control app that expands what the Audient Evo 4 can do. However, be aware that some of these extra features may or may not be beneficial to you.
To use an audio interface, you first have to set it up on your computer. You plug in the power adapter to a socket and use either the firewire cable, USB cable, or thunderbolt cable to connect the device with your computer. Often, DAW software is needed to make use of the audio interface, and as such, you need to download it.
The instructions for how to get and install the software will be included with the product if you get it free with the purchase. You may already have a DAW on your computer as well. In that case, you launch the application and make sure the interface connection is detected on your computer.
Attach the necessary accessories, including musical instruments, microphones, headphones, and monitors. After that, you can use the interface to record better audio. The DAW software you use will dictate much of how you use the interface as well.
Modern MIDI controllers may not need you to use an audio interface. After all, they do come with USB connectivity as well. As such, connecting them directly to a PC is an easy matter.
Our favorite features on the Focusrite Scarlett Solo are the super low latency, high-quality preamps, and the software bundle provided. Having the tool be lightweight and iPad compatible means taking it on the road is also relatively easy.
As for the PreSonus Studio 24c, the professional-grade XMAX-L mic preamps make it worth your money. Furthermore, the price is reasonable in comparison to the benefits; hence you may be getting a lot of value.
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is very similar to the PreSonus Studio 24c. However, it comes at a more affordable price, and there are minor tradeoffs as a result. For most of you, it may still be good enough if you have USB 2.0 ports on your computer.
These three are our top-rated, although the others on the list don’t receive low ratings either. If you know what you are trying to do with your audio interface and your budget limits, you should find a product from the list above that you are content with.