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: August 11, 2023
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Embrace the future of sound recording and production with our definitive guide on the best USB-C audio interfaces.
As the demand for high-quality audio has surged, so has the need for advanced and user-friendly equipment. USB-C audio interfaces are at the forefront of this movement, providing unmatched speed, power, and versatility to every music professional.
With a plethora of options available, choosing the right USB-C audio interface can be a daunting task. Hence, we’ve combed through the industry’s top offerings, analyzing their features, capabilities, and performance. Our mission is to equip you with all the information you need to make an informed decision and, ultimately, enhance your audio production experience.
The RME Babyface Pro FS is an absolute beast packed in a small package. Its robust design and lightweight structure make it a portable professional studio that can fit in your backpack. This device, perfect for on-the-go musicians and producers, incorporates the finest German engineering to deliver uncompromised audio quality.
When it comes to performance, the Babyface Pro FS outshines the competition. With extremely low latency, high-end AD/DA converters, and SteadyClock FS, it assures precise audio recording and playback with immaculate sound quality. The improved mic preamps with +76 dB gain offer the highest signal integrity, capturing every minute detail with absolute clarity.
This interface serves as an ideal companion for producers involved in high-resolution audio recording and mixing. The TotalMix FX software mixer supports seamless blending of multiple audio sources, with the option to add effects such as EQ and reverb on the fly.
Its unparalleled flexibility and impressive feature set sets the Babyface Pro FS apart. The 12 in and out interface connectivity provides the liberty to connect a wide range of instruments and devices, offering unparalleled versatility. Plus, it’s compatible with both Mac and Windows, ensuring a broad user base.
Despite its outstanding performance, it’s worth noting that the Babyface Pro FS sits at a higher price point compared to other interfaces. However, considering its top-of-the-line features, it’s worth investing for dedicated musicians and producers.
The Focusrite Clarett 2Pre sets the standard when it comes to delivering pristine vocals. This small powerhouse boasts an aluminum unibody chassis that houses state-of-the-art preamps, offering ultra-low noise and distortion. The Clarett 2Pre is designed to deliver the cleanest signal from your microphone to your DAW.
Performance-wise, the Clarett 2Pre impresses with its Air-enabled preamps, replicating Focusrite’s original ISA mic preamp’s input impedance, clarity, and frequency response curve. The result is a rich, open sound that captures every detail of your performance.
This interface is ideal for solo artists or duos, offering two mic/line/instrument inputs for simultaneous recording. The high dynamic range converters capture more detail in your recordings and deliver high-quality output.
What sets the Clarett 2Pre apart is its emphasis on achieving the best vocal recordings possible. Its standout feature, the ‘Air’ mode, adds unique high-end detail to your vocal track, emulating the sound of Focusrite’s classic transformer-based ISA preamps.
While the Clarett 2Pre is excellent for vocals, users looking to connect multiple instruments simultaneously might find it limiting due to its fewer input channels.
The Apogee Duet 3 combines superb sound quality with a sleek design. Housed in an elegant aluminum chassis, this device is a visual treat and a high-performance tool. With a reputation for pristine sound quality, Apogee once again hits the mark with this latest offering.
The Duet 3 stands out with its excellent AD/DA conversion and preamp quality, ensuring top-tier audio recording and playback. It offers low-latency performance, allowing seamless recording and editing, even with multiple tracks and effects. The interface is equipped with two inputs and four outputs, providing adequate connections for a home studio setup.
Designed for musicians and producers seeking a seamless balance of studio and streaming applications, Duet 3 also features an integrated hardware DSP. This allows users to record and mix with Apogee FX Rack plugins, achieving ultra-low latency recording and high-quality effects processing.
One distinct feature of the Duet 3 is its user-friendly touchscreen interface. It allows you to control input and output levels, muting, and headphone volume, making it incredibly intuitive to use. Despite these advantages, the Duet 3’s price might not align with the budgets of beginners or hobbyist musicians.
What are its best features?
Premium AD/DA conversion and preamp quality
Sleek, intuitive design with touchscreen interface
Built-in hardware DSP for ultra-low latency performance
Designed for mobility without compromising sound quality, the MOTU M2 stands out in the compact audio interface market. Its striking green and black design and top-facing metering make it a compact unit that performs well above its weight class.
In the realm of performance, the M2 impresses with its exceptional audio quality. It features ESS-driven headphone output for low noise and plentiful power. The loopback function makes it ideal for live-streaming, podcasting, or any situation where you must mix computer audio with your microphones.
The MOTU M2’s adaptability shines through when it comes to specific applications. Its compact size and feature set make it perfect for home studios, mobile recording, and podcasting. The interface features 2 mic/line/Hi-Z guitar inputs with an individual preamp gain and 48V phantom power, ensuring versatile connectivity.
What sets the MOTU M2 apart from its competitors is its full-color LCD, which provides crystal-clear metering for all inputs and outputs. This feature is usually found on high-end interfaces, giving the M2 an edge over its competitors.
While the MOTU M2 does deliver high-quality audio, it may fall short of delivering the audio depth and color that higher-end interfaces offer.
Why are we impressed?
Compact and highly portable
Impressive full-color LCD for clear metering
Versatile connectivity options
What negatives must you be aware of?
Might lack the depth of audio color found in higher-end interfaces
Audient iD4 MKII is a compact and rugged audio interface offering top-notch sound quality. This interface is highly versatile, and ideal for musicians, producers, and songwriters who need a portable solution without compromising sound quality.
The iD4 MKII’s performance features top-quality mic preamps, the same found in Audient’s flagship consoles. It ensures clean, low-noise operation for excellent audio fidelity. Moreover, the iD4 MKII has a JFET D.I input designed to replicate the input stage of a classic valve amplifier, making it perfect for plugging in your guitar or bass and recording high-quality direct signals.
Why might you choose the Audient iD4 MKII? Its primary advantage lies in its versatility. With features like scroll control, mono mode, speaker switching, and dual headphone outputs, it’s designed to fit into any recording or production scenario.
Audient iD4 MKII stands out for its high-quality converters offering up to 126dB of dynamic range on the DACs. This ensures audio is delivered accurately and beautifully, making every detail audible.
While it is a highly versatile unit, it only offers two inputs and two outputs, which might limit its usability in more extensive setups.
The Steinberg UR22C is the ideal choice for beginners stepping into the world of audio recording and production. Its robust build quality, intuitive operation, and top-notch sound offer an excellent foundation for developing high-quality home studio setups.
The UR22C provides solid performance with its Yamaha D-PRE preamps, offering a rich, detailed, and open sound. It features 32-bit/192 kHz audio resolution, ensuring high-definition audio recording and playback.
Perfect for beginners and home studio enthusiasts, the Steinberg UR22C offers two inputs and two outputs, alongside MIDI I/O for connecting synths, drum machines, and controllers. The interface also provides latency-free monitoring with DSP effects, making it great for recording and mixing.
What sets the UR22C apart is its robust build and top-tier preamps at an affordable price. The interface’s compatibility with iOS devices also makes it stand out, allowing for mobile recording and production.
While the Steinberg UR22C is excellent for beginners, professionals might find its features a bit limiting compared to other higher-end interfaces.
What are our favorite features?
Excellent price-to-performance ratio
Solid Yamaha D-PRE preamps
Compatible with iOS devices
What could be better?
Features might be limiting for professionals
Things to Consider
The vast world of audio recording can appear quite complex, especially if you’re a newcomer. One of the key components of any recording setup is the audio interface, a device that might seem straightforward but in reality, has many nuanced aspects to consider. In this guide, we will take a deep dive into the intricacies of audio interfaces, particularly those with USB-C connectivity, to assist you in finding the ideal match for your recording needs.
The Role of Audio Interfaces
An audio interface is a hardware device that serves as a conduit between your recording instruments—be it microphones, guitars, keyboards—and your computer. Its primary function is to convert the analog signals from your instruments into digital signals that your computer can process and vice versa. In simpler terms, it’s a box that lets your computer understand the “language” of your instruments and ensures your recorded audio sounds are as clean and professional as possible.
Audio interfaces like the RME Babyface Pro FS or the Audient iD4 MKII provide a range of features and connections, allowing you to tailor your recording setup to your unique requirements. The choice of interface can drastically affect the quality of your recorded sound, the ease of your recording process, and the overall capabilities of your setup.
The Significance of Inputs and Outputs (I/O)
The number and type of inputs and outputs an audio interface possesses are crucial aspects that directly dictate its compatibility with your recording setup. Depending on the complexity of your recording needs, the required number of inputs can vary.
For instance, if you’re in a band and plan to record multiple instruments simultaneously, you’ll need an interface that can handle multiple inputs. The Focusrite Clarett 2Pre, boasting a multitude of I/O options, can facilitate this. Conversely, the need for numerous inputs lessens if you’re a solo artist or podcaster. An interface like the Audient iD4 MKII, which offers fewer but high-quality I/O options, may suit you perfectly.
Additionally, the outputs of your interface can play a pivotal role in monitoring your audio. You’ll want enough outputs to connect your studio monitors and headphones and possibly send audio to external hardware effects.
The Importance of Audio Quality
The key goal of any recording process is to capture high-quality audio. The role of the audio interface in achieving this goal is indispensable. The audio quality an interface can provide is generally determined by two crucial aspects: bit depth and sample rate.
In layman’s terms, bit depth relates to the dynamic range of your audio—the difference between the loudest and softest parts of a sound—while sample rate refers to the detail with which your audio is captured. Higher bit depth and sample rate lead to richer and more detailed audio.
The good news is that all our reviewed interfaces, from the MOTU M2 to the Steinberg UR22C, offer professional-standard high-resolution audio, ensuring your recordings carry the depth and detail needed to stand out.
Durability and Build Quality Matter
The robustness and overall build quality of your audio interface can be a key deciding factor, especially if you frequently travel with their recording setup.
Take the Apogee Duet 3, for instance. This device has made a name for itself due to its stellar audio quality and its robust and compact design. Its durability makes it an excellent companion for artists who often find themselves on the road, ensuring your recording process remains uninterrupted, regardless of location.
Recognizing the Value of Additional Features
While the core function of an audio interface is to convert analog signals into digital (and vice versa), modern interfaces often come equipped with an array of additional features designed to make your recording experience more convenient and versatile. These can range from built-in effects to bundled software suites.
The RME Babyface Pro FS, for instance, comes bundled with the TotalMix FX software, granting users an extra degree of control over their mix. Similarly, the MOTU M2 features loopback functionality, making it particularly handy for live streaming or podcasting scenarios.
How to Use an Audio Interface
Setting up and using an audio interface is typically a straightforward process. However, the exact steps can vary depending on the specific model and your individual recording setup. Here’s a simplified step-by-step guide:
Connect your audio interface to your computer using the USB-C cable.
Install any necessary drivers or software that come with your interface. This could be something like the TotalMix FX software included with the RME Babyface Pro FS.
Connect your microphones or instruments to the inputs of your audio interface. Depending on the device, you might need XLR cables for microphones or 1/4″ cables for guitars or keyboards.
If you’re using studio monitors, connect these to the output of your interface.
Open your preferred audio recording software (also known as a DAW – Digital Audio Workstation) and select your audio interface as the input and output device. This tells the software to use your interface for all audio recording and playback.
Test your setup by recording some audio. You should be able to adjust input levels directly on the audio interface to ensure your sound isn’t too loud (which can cause distortion) or too quiet (which may result in background noise).
Remember, each audio interface will have its unique quirks and specificities, so always refer to the user manual or manufacturer’s instructions for the most accurate information.
By now, you should be better equipped with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision when purchasing your next USB-C audio interface. Consider your specific recording requirements, the instruments you’ll be using, and the environment you’ll be working in. Whether it’s the robustness of the Apogee Duet 3 or the multifaceted capabilities of the RME Babyface Pro FS that appeal to you, the ultimate goal is to find a tool that will help you capture your creative impulses in the highest fidelity possible.
Yes, USB-C 2.0 supports audio. The USB-C format allows for data transfer as well as audio signal transmission. It can handle the data bandwidth required for multi-track audio, making it a popular choice for audio interfaces.
The length of a USB-C cable for an audio interface can affect signal transmission quality. For optimal performance, it is recommended to use a USB-C cable less than 3 meters (about 10 feet) in length. Using a longer cable might result in a degradation of signal quality due to increased latency.
Indeed, USB-C 3.1 supports audio. It actually offers better performance than USB-C 2.0 due to its higher data transfer speed. USB-C 3.1 can provide a more stable and faster connection for audio interfaces, ensuring excellent audio quality without latency issues.
USB-C offers several advantages for sound, particularly in terms of power delivery and high-speed data transfer. It supports multi-channel audio formats and delivers superior sound quality. However, the actual sound quality will depend on other factors as well, such as the design of the audio interface and the quality of the audio source.
Thunderbolt, especially Thunderbolt 3 and 4, can provide faster data transfer speeds than USB-C, which can benefit audio interfaces requiring high bandwidth. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean Thunderbolt is “better” than USB-C. Both have their merits and are well suited for professional audio applications. It’s crucial to consider the compatibility of your devices and your specific requirements before making a decision.
After extensive review, we’ve concluded that the RME Babyface Pro FS, the MOTU M2, and the Audient iD4 MKII stand out as some of the best USB-C audio interfaces available.
The RME Babyface Pro FS earns our Editor’s Choice designation for its outstanding audio quality, build, and professional features. Its versatility and TotalMix FX software make it an excellent choice for anyone serious about audio production.
Meanwhile, the MOTU M2, with its unique full-color LCD and loopback functionality, offers great value, particularly for live streamers and podcasters.
The Audient iD4 MKII, with its high-quality preamps and intuitive design, stands out for solo artists and home studio owners. Its compact yet robust build makes it a perfect fit for mobile recording setups.
These selections and the comprehensive information provided should guide you toward your ideal USB-C audio interface to enhance your audio recording and production experience.