6 Most Portable Audio Interfaces – Make Great Music Any Place, Any Time!

  • Last updatedLast updated: Oct 04, 2020
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Are you just now figuring out how hard it is to select a portable audio interface? You are not alone. Other buyers like you have bought such devices and either liked them or felt they made a mistake. You no doubt want to add your name to the list of people who liked theirs. Luckily, with the information we are about to provide you, selecting the best portable audio interface would be relatively easy.

For any audio interface, you should look at the various devices it allows you to connect to. They may vary from microphones, MIDI controllers, guitar cables, and more. The more connectivity the device has, the better for the user. Additionally, top-notch sound quality is a plus. As such, checking audio resolution in potential audio interface purchases should be a priority. Lastly, for a product to rank as the best portable audio interface, its portability is paramount. This is where the weight and dimensions come in. On the list of portable audio interface devices below, these features have all been considered in the rankings.

Editor’s Choice

An audio interface with great compatibility and a high audio resolution

  • 24-bit/192 kHz resolution
  • Weighs 1.32 pounds
  • Improved sound
Read Our Review
9.8
PrimeScoreTM
?
PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Best with MIDI In and Out

An excellent quality interface with a unique design and HDDA Mic Preamps

  • 24-bit/96 kHz resolution
  • Mic input with professional XLR connector
  • MIDI interface
Read Our Review
9.6
PrimeScoreTM
?
PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Best Connectivity

A sleek device featuring a world-class converter and 8-channel ADAT input

  • 24-bit/96kHz resolution
  • Impressive converter
  • Expandable to a 10-input configuration
Read Our Review
9.4
PrimeScoreTM
?
PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Best Value

A compact interface compatible with iPhone and iPad mobile devices

  • 24-bit/96kHz resolution
  • Works with AA batteries
  • Optional accessories expand usability
Read Our Review
9.2
PrimeScoreTM
?
PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Most Lightweight

A tiny device with studio quality inputs and outputs

  • 24-bit/96kHz recording
  • 8.8 oz. weight
  • Zero latency with the push of a button
Read Our Review
8.9
PrimeScoreTM
?
PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.
Best Beginner Audio Interface

A pocket audio interface compatible with iOS, Android, PC, and Mac

  • 24-bit/48kHz resolution
  • 5 DSP preset modes
  • Touch panel
Read Our Review
8.7
PrimeScoreTM
?
PrimeScore is a unique scoring system designed by our editors and experts. With the help of it, we can combine all the rankings based on product’s characteristics, statistics, and even feedback about the manufacturer’s customer service into one, all-encompassing score.

Top 6 Portable Audio Interfaces Review 2020

Features
  • Audio resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
  • Inputs: 2x XLR-1/4″ combo
  • Outputs: 2x 1/4″ TRS
  • MIDI I/O: no
  • Dimensions: 1.9” x 6.9” x 4.3”
  • Weight: 1.32 lbs

Other features: bus-powered, compatible with all major DAWs

People have been getting professional recording results from the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 since its debut, and there isn’t any reason you can’t get the same as well. Audio engineers will especially appreciate the resolution of 24-bit/192 kHz, which gives them more sound processing options.

Also, the two-line/mic/instrument inputs will probably be handy. Remember that you have two mic preamps with this purchase as well. As such, even if you use the microphones to record audio from your various instruments, you are still guaranteed excellent sound quality. Nevertheless, connecting your bass or guitar straight in isn’t out of the question either.

You have a similar number of output options, excluding the PC connection. Connecting the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 to a computer reveals additional benefits in terms of free music software. Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite, and others can be availed to you after purchase and registration. Compatibility with all major DAWs is a plus as well.

Remember that the type-C USB connection lets the device connect to PCs and Macs alike. A con is that if you have a MIDI controller, it may not be feasible to use Scarlett 2i2 with it since connections for the same have been exempted from the device.

The air mode also features on the list of pros for the 2i2. After all, it does do its job of improving sound recorded on microphones as well.

Pros
  • Buyers can use the device with most major DAWs
  • The product is both Mac and PC compatible
  • High audio resolution
  • Air mode leads to improved sound
Cons
  • No MIDI in/out
  • Some users have issues with the availed software and drivers
2.

Tascam US-1x2Best with MIDI In and Out

Features
  • Audio resolution: 24-bit/96 kHz
  • Inputs: 2 x mic/line 1/4″
  • Outputs: 2 x balanced line
  • MIDI I/O: yes
  • Dimensions: 7.32″ x 2.56″ x 6.3″
  • Weight: 2.43 lbs

Other features: bus-powered, up to 57dB of gain, two DAW applications, two mic preamps 

As for the Tascam US-2×2 USB Audio/MIDI Interface, 24-bit/96 kHz audio resolution is what you get. Consequently, the product won’t be as taxing on your computer as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. For the most part, people can’t often tell the difference between the two, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

You get two line input slots that can be used with microphones or with your guitar and bass. As for your outputs, you get two balanced line options. This is in addition to a MIDI in/out option as well.

Noteworthy is the USB 2.0 connectivity of the device. This guarantees usability with both Macs and PCs. Further, if you use Apple’s camera connection kit, you can link this portable USB audio interface with iOS devices as well.

This music tool was also made to work with digital audio workstations, and as such, it’s compatibility with major DAW software is guaranteed. That being said, you are only provided two DAW software upon purchase of the product.

Furthermore, if you add headphones to the setup, you may appreciate having volume controls for both line outputs and the headphones as well. Finally, the mic preamp with a gain of 57 dB is nothing to scoff at.

Pros
  • 57 dB gain
  • Compatible with most major DAWs
  • Offers MIDI in/out as well
  • Easily connects to PCs, Mac and iOS devices as well
  • High audio resolution
Cons
  • Like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, drivers and software seem to be problematic for some
3.

Audient iD14Best Connectivity

Features
  • Audio resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS Combo, 1 x 1/4″ (DI), 1 x ADAT/S/SDPIF
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4″
  • MIDI I/O: no
  • Dimensions: 6.8″x 4.7″ x 1.6″
  • Weight: 3.26 lbs

Other features: 2 Class A Mic preamps, Burr-Brown converters, 8-channel ADAT input

The Audient iD14 is a portable audio powerhouse that doesn’t disappoint as well. The backbone of the travel-friendly audio interface is a world-class converter that the manufacturer strives to put into all their devices. As such, you may never have to deal with crosstalk, distortion, and even poor clocking as you use the machine.

Additionally, with the 8-channel ADAT input, the sound is amplified via the device to acceptable levels hence guaranteeing high-quality recordings.

Remember that you get a JFET D.I input as well with this purchase. This allows you the option of plugging a guitar, keyboard, drum machine, or bass to the device directly.

Also, an optical input connector is available as well. Consequently, you have the expandability option where you can get even ten inputs if you combine it with the 8-channel mic preamplifier.

Finally, the scroll wheel availed can be used for various functions. Among them is adjusting DAW hosts, controlling the iD14’s mixer app, and tweaking plug-in parameters. If you want to use it to scroll through your iTunes music library, you may do so as well.

Pros
  • Mac and PC compatible
  • You get a versatile scroll wheel
  • The audio interface features an impressive converter
  • Excellent dynamic range
  • Expandable to a 10-input configuration
Cons
  • Getting the interface to work with some wired headphones is a problem
  • Occasionally, the software may have some bugs
4.

Zoom U-44Best Value

Features
  • Audio resolution: 24-bit/96 kHz
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS combo, S/PDIF optical or coaxial
  • Outputs: 2 x RCA and 2 x TRS line, S/PDIF optical or coaxial
  • MIDI I/O: yes
  • Dimensions: 7.25″ x 3.75″ x 1.5″
  • Weight: 10

Other features: standalone AD/DA conversion, requires 2 AA alkaline batteries or optional AC adapter

As for the Zoom U-44, you get four inputs and four outputs as well. These include two XLR/TRS combo in addition to S/PDIF optical inputs. The output options include two RCA and two TRS options. Again with the output, you can still use the S/PDIF optical or coaxial connections if you want.

Portability is enhanced in the interface by the fact that you can use AA batteries for power. Purchasing an optional AC adapter is acceptable as well. It is also refreshing seeing that you don’t have to use a computer if you don’t want to. With the iPad camera connection kit, using this machine with your iPhone or iPad is within reach.

Compatibility with the manufacturer’s capsules is also a plus. The capsules are optional accessories that can be used in various recording scenarios. This includes recording interviews, performances, and more.

Low noise mic preamps are also part of the reason the machine can achieve 24-bit/96 kHz, and this is impressive in itself. Finally, fans of Ableton DAWs will get the Ableton live 9 lite version for free.

Pros
  • Comes with Ableton Live 9 Lite
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Compatible with iPhone and iPad mobile devices
  • Can work with AA batteries enhancing portability
  • Optional accessories are available to expand the usability
Cons
  • Bugs in software can pop up once in a while
  • Construction isn’t the most durable
5.

Apogee Jam PlusMost Lightweight Audio Interface

Features
  • Audio resolution: 96kHz/ 24-bit
  • Inputs: 1/4″ (instrument)
  • Outputs: 1/8″ (headphone or powered speaker)
  • MIDI I/O: no
  • Dimensions: 5″ x 2.2″ x 7.8″
  • Weight: 8.8 oz.

Other features: 3-in-1 instrument input, A/D and D/A converter and headphone output

Another portable USB audio interface that you can throw into your pocket as you head out of the house is the Apogee Jam Plus. Controls are minimal, and so are the inputs and outputs. As for the output, you might have to settle for either a powered speaker or headphones.

Also, with a direct connection, you still get 96kHz/ 24-bit high definition recording. Purchasers needn’t worry about batteries or looking for an external power source if the device is connected to a mobile device or computer.

Do not forget that you can connect guitars and bass with your computer, iPhone, or iPad through this device. If you include the microphone adapter in your purchase, you can connect even more musical equipment to this device.

Finally, you can achieve zero latency in your sound just by activating the blend feature.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • You can get zero latency with the push of a button
  • High-resolution audio
  • Features compatibility with mobile and computer platforms
Cons
  • An adapter is needed to unlock the full capabilities of the tool

6.

Shure MviBest Beginner Audio Interface

Features
  • Audio resolution: 24-bit/48 kHz
  • Inputs: combo XLR and 1/4″ TRS jack
  • Outputs: 1/8″
  • MIDI I/O: no
  • Dimensions: 2.8″ x 4.6″ x 3.6″
  • Weight: 11.3 oz.

Other features: 5 DSP preset modes, touch panel

Carrying the Shure Mvi in your pocket as well shouldn’t be a problem. After all, it is lightweight and small enough to fit. Further, it is one of the more affordable travel-friendly audio interface options available.

Noteworthy is how the Shure Mvi works just as well with iOS devices as it does with a computer. Also, to make the use of the machine more comfortable, you get five digital signal-processing presets.

Of course, the preset mode you pick will depend on what you are recording. The presets are also named according to the situations where they would prove most useful. They include “acoustic instrument,” “speech,” “loud,” “singing,” and “flat.” Also, for manual control, you can tweak settings on your iPhone if you want.

Furthermore, for superior audio, a mic preamplifier is necessary. This is a fact that the manufacturer seems well aware of hence its inclusion. Finally, for in-body control of headphone volume, gain, and mute, you have a touchpad available.

On this portable audio interface list, Android compatibility isn’t prominent. However, this option is ahead of the pack in that regard.

Pros
  • Compatible with iOS, Android, PC, and Mac
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Presets are availed for easier control of sound
Cons
  • When used with your iOS/Android phone, the interface doesn’t have multi-track capabilities
  • Minimal input and output options
  • Audio resolution is a notch below the rest

Buying Guide

With portable audio interfaces, it is understandable that some of you may get overwhelmed by some of the options you come across. After all, there are a few things you need to understand about these devices before you can make the right decision. They may include connection types, input/output options, audio resolution, and more.
For that extra bit of understanding that will be crucial in your portable audio interface selection, read the section below.

What makes an audio interface portable?

Of the many audio interface options on Amazon and on the market in general, not all of them are portable. You can determine if the machine is portable or not by its size and weight. If it can fit in your bag and is light enough to carry, the tool is a portable audio interface.

Some options, for example, the Apogee Jam Plus, take it a step further in that you can carry them in a jacket pocket as you go about your day.

Features to consider when buying an audio interface

6 Most Portable Audio Interfaces – Make Great Music Any Place, Any Time!

The two defining features in a portable audio interface are that the tool is lightweight and compact. Almost everything else that you need to look at will have a bearing on the performance and usefulness of the tool. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you tick all the right boxes feature-wise if you are to end up purchasing a satisfactory product. To that end, you may reference the advice given below on what to look for in certain features mentioned.

Inputs/outputs and connectivity

The input/output configuration will dictate what can be connected to the audio interface. If the machine has a microphone preamp input like most options above,  it can support a microphone connection with relatively high-quality sound recording.

Options with standard ADAT lightpipe I/O like the Audient iD14 support an expandable system that you can take advantage of with the ADAT-equipped 8-channel mic preamp. Additionally, if you plan to attach guitars, bass, and other music tools, make sure the device has the right input/output configuration to support that.

Remember that you can connect any number of devices, including headphone amps, studio monitors, and outboard processors if you have the right input/output connectivity. For this reason, attention to this section is essential in your selection.

Bitrate and audio resolution

Bit rate and audio resolution are crucial as well. The bitrate, for instance, affects dynamic range. With 16-bit audio, you get 96 dB dynamic range. This is because each “bit” consists of 6dB; hence the multiplication yields 96 dB.

24-bit audio is much more preferred by professionals. With it, you get 144 dB, which is enough dynamic range for professionals to use and come out with clean results. 16-bit audio may not yield clean results since the dynamic range is somewhat limited. As a result, the quieter sections of anything you record will be noisier, making processing difficult.

With the sample rate, you should be okay with 44.1 kHz for consumer audio. Higher sample rates lead to higher audio quality. As a result, it may be okay to use 44.1 kHz if you are barely using any instruments. However, with music genres such as jazz, you will be better off picking at least a 96 kHz device.

DAW and device compatibility

You may already have a digital audio workstation that you prefer working with. If you don’t want to change, ensure that the audio interface you pick supports it. An example is that you may use Ableton live with Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. You can also use the same software with the Zoom U-44. The Shure Mvi may not allow the use of similar software.

Also, device compatibility is vital. If you buy a portable audio interface for use with your android phone when the product only supports iOS, you will have wasted your money and time. Doing some homework on compatibility will help you a great deal. Also, we have provided compatibility information for most of the devices above.

Warranty

6 Most Portable Audio Interfaces – Make Great Music Any Place, Any Time!

If you could get warranty protection with your portable audio interface, you would be in an excellent position as well. After all, getting faulty devices seems to be more common by the day. However, warranties give you a bit of protection for your investment, which can be handy in these scenarios.

Extra features

The Shure Mvi provides an example of extra features with the 5 DSP preset modes and the touch panel. With such features, you could realize additional usability or ease of use with your purchase.

FAQ

If you plan on doing professional-level audio recordings with your computer or mobile device, then the audio interface is crucial. With such a device, plugging in instruments, pro microphones, and other music production essentials will be an easy matter. Also, if you add an audio interface, the sound quality is bound to be better than you would get by using the inbuilt sound recording devices.

Some examples of audio interface compatible instruments include the electric bass and the guitar that we have mentioned so many times above. Nevertheless, you can still connect keyboards, electric violins, electric drum sets, and most other electronic musical instruments.

A lot of the audio interface devices above feature a USB connection that you can plug directly to your computer.

Our Verdict

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a high-quality audio device that has been used by professionals and even hobbyists recording music in their garage. When looking through the features, the audio resolution, connectivity, compatibility with DAWs, and the air mode are all impressive.

Following behind the Scarlett 2i2 is the Tascam US-1×2. It may not have the audio resolution of its predecessor but it comes with a MIDI in/out port. Other than that, you get two free DAWs and impressive gain. You may also be excited by the compatibility with iOS devices.

We were all impressed by the Audient iD14 as well. More specifically, the expandability puts it a notch above others. It as well doesn’t feature badly where audio resolution and input/output configuration are concerned.

These three, as well as the other three listed above all have their shortcomings. What’s more, they may or may not be compatible with what you are looking for. As such, we cannot offer more guidance than we already have. Consequently, we leave the final selection for you.

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