If you’re a musician, a podcaster, or anyone else who needs to record high-quality audio to a computer, phone, or tablet, you need a USB audio interface that lets you connect any microphone or electric instrument.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen offers the best combination of features, build quality, user-friendliness, and affordability for musicians. Beginning and experienced podcasters should check out the Focusrite Vocaster Two.
This USB interface features an almost-industry-standard design that’s user-friendly and affordable, but its iOS compatibility is limited.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen is the latest version of the interface that has become something of a standard for home-studio recording and has long been our top pick for musicians. The Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen is compact, yet it’s sturdy and bulky enough to stay put on a desktop, and all of its knobs and jacks are in the right places for comfortable operation. The LED gain indicators’ design makes setting record levels especially easy.
However, the Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen has limited iOS compatibility and lacks a MIDI connection (which is useful only if you want to use a very old keyboard, drum machine, or sampler).
This interface is similar to our top pick, but it adds a MIDI connection and a more powerful headphone amp. However, it has a slightly less-user-friendly design.
The Universal Audio Volt 2 has a few features that certain people may find appealing, including a MIDI interface, compatibility with iPhones, and a more powerful headphone amplifier than most USB interfaces offer—which can be helpful if your monitoring headphones require a lot of power to drive to satisfying volume levels.
The Volt 2’s level meters are small, though, and we prefer the layout of inputs and indicator lights on our top pick.
This larger, pricier interface has a sturdy, intuitive, knobs-on-top design, as well as a built-in compressor that makes it easier to get pro-quality sound.
The Universal Audio Volt 276 is a great step-up model for musicians who are more serious about recording. It has all the features and benefits of the UA Volt 2, plus an onboard compressor that can quickly and safely smooth out the highs and lows of a recording and make it a little easier for you to set recording levels.
The Volt 276’s larger chassis takes up extra space on a desktop but provides a sturdier control surface, as well as a convenient knobs-on-top design and large input and output level meters.
It’s over 50% pricier than the Volt 2 and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen, but recording enthusiasts are likely find it worth the extra investment.
This affordable model makes setting input levels easy, which is especially helpful for beginners. But the control configuration is unusual.
The Audient Evo 4 is an ideal choice for beginning music producers and podcasters, thanks to its affordable price and automatic gain-setting feature. Setting input levels correctly is the most difficult part of using a USB audio interface, but the Evo 4’s auto-gain feature makes the task easy.
The box has a compact, lightweight design with a plastic chassis, so it may move around a bit on a desktop. It also has an unusual, single-knob control configuration, but we got used to it.
The control layout on this interface is designed for podcasting rather than music recording, and it includes features that add a professional polish.
For those who create podcasts, a few minutes spent with the Focusrite Vocaster Two will reveal the huge advantages it offers for podcasting. It’s set up for a host-and-guest situation, with large headphone-level knobs that are easy to adjust. It includes a mute button for each mic, plus a voice-enhancement button that you can set for one of four modes. You can easily bring in callers or background music from a phone through the Bluetooth interface or cable.