The Best USB Audio Interfaces: 4 / 6 / 8 / 12 / 16 Channels & More

The Highest Rated USB Audio Interfaces

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Everyone's bound to outgrow things they have: the cheap guitar from the department store, the small practice amp, or your studio gear. As you do more on your home recording setup, you eventually realize that you need more features such as inputs or MIDI especially when your solo home recording hobby gets more serious. Bands get started, maybe you take in clients or do more instruments. For this, your basic 1 or 2 input audio interface may need to be replaced with one with more inputs.

Here we inspect the current best stand-alone audio interfaces with 4 or more analog inputs, based on the most current reviews and ratings data up to December of 2019.

In this update, we have several new entries like the newer third-generation Focusrite Scarlett interfaces that quickly secured a top spot replacing the previous generation. Other entries include products from Roland, Audient, Steinberg and RME.

Ready to take your project studio to the next level? Read on to find the Best USB Audio Interface for you.

NB: We have separate guides devoted to 2 Channel & Budget and iPad audio interfaces.

The Best USB Audio Interfaces

4 Channel - 4 Inputs

4-input audio interfaces offer portability while having more input and output options than 2-channel interfaces. These are great for beginners and are also affordable options for those who want to expand their home recording without spending too much.

Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 1150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$178
Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD 4-Channel USB Audio Interface

Behringer is not one to pull punches, rather they bring out their big guns, as seen in this affordable audio interface, packing it with features that helped make it a favorite in the entry to mid-tier market.

With its 24-bit/192kHz resolution, four MIDAS (a preamp and mixer console manufacturer acquired by Behringer) designed preamps, and its impressively wide complement of controls, this audio interface easily outclasses others on paper - and what's more impressive is how it performs in the real world, as proven by the many positive responses that it continues to rake in.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 4 x 4
  • Inputs: 4 x XLR/TRS Combo, 4 x 1/4" Inserts
  • Outputs: 6 x 1/4". 2 x XLR, 2 x Stereo, 1 x 1/4" Headphones
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 4 x MIDAS-designed mic preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Low latency monitoring
  • Bundled Software: Tracktion 4

Pros

The Behringer UMC404HD continues to be popular, thanks to its affordable price tag in comparison with other 4-channel interfaces. Some even favor it over more expensive units. Years after its first release, sound quality still gets a lot of praise, thanks to its built-in MIDAS designed mic preamps. The flexibility of capturing up to four sound sources simultaneously also gathered a lot of thumbs up. Finally, the UMC404HD's small footprint and USB bus powered operation makes it very portable, viable for both home studios and mobile recording situations.

Cons

There was one user who cautioned that the phantom power switch controls all four channels, so you have to be careful when recording mixed sources. Others were let down with the lack of instructions, but they still gave high ratings because the learning curve was not too bad.

Overall

If budget is limited, or if you're looking for an affordable backup, the 4-channel Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD is highly recommended.

Steinberg UR242

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
Steinberg UR242 4-Channel USB Audio Interface

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated 4-Channel/4-Input USB Audio Interface along with the Steinberg UR-RT4.

People mostly know Steinberg for music production software products, which includes the popular DAW - Cubase. They have since branched out to produce good quality hardware, and have been successful with their audio interfaces.

To be specific, the 4-channel UR242 continues to gain traction in the market with its two class A D-PRE microphone preamps, 24-bit/192kHz resolution, multi-operating system compatibility and Loopback functionality for live internet streaming.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 4 x 2
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS Combo, 2 x 1/4"
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4". 1 x 1/4" Headphones
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0, iOS
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 2 x D-Pre Class A preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Zero latency monitoring
  • Bundled Software: Cubase AI

Pros

Good build quality gets mentioned a lot, while others are impressed by the Steinberg UR242's intuitive controls. Easy installation process and intuitive operation also help make it well received. Many experienced musicians and sound engineers liked the D-PRE preamps' quiet operation and clarity, with some stating that it exceeded their expectations.

Cons

Most concerns point to software and driver issues. There are also some users who reported having issues installing the bundled software Cubase AI.

Overall

With its iOS compatibility and solid build, the Steinberg UR242 is definitely worth checking out.

Roland Rubix 44

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Roland Rubix 44 USB Audio Interface

For many people, Roland isn't the first name to come to mind when deciding to get a USB Audio Interface. Roland released the Rubix series in 2018, to much critical acclaim.

It includes 4 mic preamps via 4 XLR/1/4" combo jacks and built-in compression to catch sudden peaks while recording.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 4 x 4
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line/Hi-Z), 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line)
  • Outputs: 4 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" Headphone out
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 4 x mic preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Low latency monitoring
  • Bundled Software: Tracktion 4

Pros

Users praise its solid build quality which, for the price, is to be expected. What delighted a lot of users was the compression as some have mentioned it was implemented well and prevents sudden spikes in gain that are a pain to remove during a mixing session.

Cons

Reports of a high pitched ringing noise when using higher gain settings was a common complaint from some users but this is because of the loopback direct monitoring feature. It feeds back if paired with software monitoring and should be switched off when not in use. For one user, noise was coming from a faulty unit which was promptly replaced.

Overall

The Roland Rubix 44 is another pebble in the pond that is USB Audio interfaces. While it does what so many others do, it adds compression, a great layout and solid build quality into the mix at not a lot of cash. Get it if you want an interface for live performance recording and need onboard compression preventing clipping.

Steinberg UR-RT4 w/ Rupert Neve Transformers

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$600
Steinberg UR-RT4 USB Audio Interface with 4 Rupert Neve Transformers

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated 4-Channel/4-Input USB Audio Interface along with the Steinberg UR242.

Rupert Neve is a name that's always closely associated with audio engineering. His designs for preamps, consoles, and EQs are near-ubiquitous in the professional recording world and many top-tier audio engineers swear by his designs.

Steinberg brings a slice of the engineering genius to the table with the UR-RT4: A collaboration between Steinberg, Yamaha and Rupert Neve Designs that promises to bring big console sound to project studios.

At the core of the UR-RT4 are 4 custom transformers from Rupert Neve Designs that give character to your input signals.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 6 x 4
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (Hi-Z/mic/line), 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line), 2 x 1/4" (line)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (main), 4 x 1/4" (line out), 2 x 1/4" (headphones)
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 4 D-PRE Class A preamps with switchable Rupert Neve Designs input transformers
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Bundled Software: Cubase AI, Cubasis LE

Pros

The UR-RT4 gets universal praise from users with many of them noting that the transformers designed by Rupert Neve really adds to the character of their tracks.

Cons

None that we could find from user reviews but the lack of any additional outputs limits the expandability of the device.

Overall

The UR-RT4 is a great audio interface featuring top-tier technology at an affordable price. If you run a project studio and believe the Neve magic, there's no reason not to get it. If you need expandability, you might have to let off a sigh and look elsewhere as the UR-RT4 has nothing to add additional inputs.

4 Inputs + Extended Channels

These interfaces offer 4 built-in channels plus the capability of expanding these with an additional preamp unit.

Audient iD44

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$699
Audient iD44 20 x 24 USB Audio Interface - 4 Analog Inputs

"For the Creatives". That's Audient's tagline for the iD44. With a layout inspired by mixing consoles, The iD44 sits neatly on a typical home/project studio desktop.

Several expansion options are also available via Optical I/O. 2 Channels also have dedicated sends and returns for connecting outboard gear.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 20 x 24
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic), 2 x 1/4" (Hi-Z), 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line), 2 x Optical Toslink (ADAT), 2 x channel inserts
  • Outputs: 4 x 1/4", 2 x 1/4" (headphones), 2 x Optical Toslink (ADAT)
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: no
  • Preamps: 4 x mic, 2 x instrument
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Bundled Software: Audient iD Mixer

Pros

Many satisfied users call it a "Game Changer" with its multitude of features that are more often seen in large format consoles. The presence of send/return inserts on 2 channels is generally unseen in most audio interfaces of this size in the market. It also drives bigger headphones easily with no separate headphone amp needed to push higher.

Cons

No Midi Port. It's a dealbreaker for some users.

Overall

Whether it's a gamechanger or dealbreaker for you, the Audient iD44 packs some serious features for those accustomed to big studio workflow and controls but want something similar in a compact and uncompromising package; If you can live without MIDI I/O.

RME Babyface Pro

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$749

At time of publication this was the highest rated 4 Analog Input USB Audio Interface.

The RME Babyface Pro is more than just another pretty looking interface. Despite its minimal exterior, It features 4 inputs with 2 XLR preamps, expandability and MIDI I/O.

It's smaller than it looks and how it's able to pack all these features neatly inside an all aluminum enclosure is a marvel of engineering.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 12 x 12
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 1 x ADAT toslink
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (Headphones), 1 x ADAT toslink
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out via breakout cable
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Bundled Software: TotalMix FX

Pros

The Babyface Pro gets high marks on transparency and signal purity. It doesn't add much in the way of coloring but handles input in a way that doesn't interfere with your perception of the sound. Many report very little coloring but a few feel it is noticeable. The inclusion of MIDI is a great advantage over similarly priced and spec'ed interfaces.

Cons

While listed as capable of 12 in, 12 out, many users were disappointed that only 2 xlr preamps are present. To use the full capacity of the Babyface Pro, you will need an external preamp via ADAT. The included software was also unintuitive for many users.

Overall

Need a desktop audio interface that is small and durable enough to be transportable while being expandable? Get the Babyface Pro if you alternate between mobile and home setups with additional inputs and need MIDI I/O. The software has a learning curve to get over but after that you're golden.

6 Channel

6 Channels is the middle ground between portability and inputs. Most interfaces in this range still have compact enclosures and USB Bus power.

Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 3rd Gen

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

The Scarlett 8i6 is an "in-betweener" interface, bridging the gap between the 4i4 which has no S/PDIF capabilities and the 18i8 with additional I/O options at a price jump.

The 8i6 has 2 Preamps, 4 line inputs, MIDI I/O and S/PDIF I/O for 8 maximum simultaneous inputs. The 3rd Gen 8i6 features the new "Air" switch and revamped preamps with more headroom.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 8 x 6
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/Hi-Z), 4 x 1/4" (line), 1 x Coax (S/PDIF)
  • Outputs: 4 x 1/4" (line out), 1 x Coax (S/PDIF), 2 x 1/4" (headphones)
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 2 x 3rd-generation Scarlett mic preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First Creative Pack, Red Plug-in Suite, Focusrite Collective access

Pros

Reviewers that use the 8i6 are home producers with external gear that doesn't need a lot of inputs. Several positive reviews note that given the price and functionality, there is no need to make the jump to the next interface in the lineup.

Cons

Routing software is clunky. The 8i6 also is the most niche product in the lineup since it barely adds anything to the 4i4 but loses to the 18i8 in terms of features. The middle ground isn't always the best compromise.

Overall

The 8i6 caters to a very specific crowd: One that prefers to use S/PDIF but don't want to be bothered by additional inputs they aren't likely to use or are on a fixed budget. Get it if this is you. If not, it only takes a bit more to get the 18i8.

Steinberg UR44

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$330
Steinberg UR44

Drawing from their mother company's (Yamaha) hardware manufacturing expertise, Steinberg's audio interfaces have become quite the market favorite.

The UR44 is their representative in the 6-Channel category, featuring 4 class A D-Pre preamps, iOS compatibility and built-in Digital Sound Processing capabilities. This makes the UR44 a versatile interface that can handle both home and mobile recordings.

As expected, this interface integrates well with Steinberg, but it can also be used with other DAW software.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 6 x 4
  • Inputs: 4 x XLR/TRS Combo, 2 x 1/4"
  • Outputs: 6 x 1/4" 2 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Headphones
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0, iOS Compliant
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 4 Class A D-PRE preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Onboard DSP with Built-in Effects
  • Zero latency monitoring
  • Bundled Software: Cubase AI, Steinberg FX Suite VST 3 Plugins

Pros

Many reviewers report that reliability, software compatibility and audio quality are the best traits of this compact USB audio interface. Most are impressed with its solid construction and low-latency operation, especially when used with Cubase DAW software. The built in reverb, channel strip and the bundled mixing app also get a lot of thumbs up.

Cons

Some wished for a digital output for easy expansion, but this is a reasonable limitation given the price. While it does work well with any DAW software, there a few that had issues using the UR44 with their Pro Tools setup. Finally, there were a few who complained about the initial setup being more complicated than what they are used to, but they still appreciated its overall performance.

Overall

If you're using Steinberg's Cubase then you should take advantage of the extra mileage that you can get out of the UR44.

8 Inputs + Some With Extended Channels

When you're planning on recording over four sound sources simultaneously, like when miking an acoustic drum kit, a singing group, or a band - you'll need a capable audio interface with more inputs. Here are the top rated interfaces that you should look to when you're considering further expansion of your recording capabilities.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

The 18i8 represents the first real jump in terms of inputs for the Focusrite Scarlett 3rd Gen range.

With 4 mic preamps, 4 line inputs, S/PDIF, MIDI I/O and an ADAT In, it carries the potential to provide 18 total inputs when you connect an 8 channel preamp like the Focusrite Scarlett Octopre (or the cheaper Behringer ADA8200) into the 18i8. This makes it perfect for having a mobile interface that you can connect at home to maximize the full input range or on the road if you want to take your recording ability anywhere.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 18 x 8
  • Inputs: 4 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/Hi-Z), 4 x 1/4" (line), 1 x Coax (S/PDIF), 1 x Optical
  • Outputs: 4 x 1/4" (line out), 2 x 1/4" Headphones, 1 x Coax (S/PDIF)
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 4 x mic preamps
  • Power Source: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First Creative Pack, Red Plug-in Suite, Focusrite Collective access

Pros

Mobility is the name of the game for some and the 18i8 has a dedicated fanbase of users that prefer the best of both worlds: Being able to travel with a compact interface and being able to expand the inputs at home or in the studio.

Cons

Some compromises have to be made to fit the price bracket such as only having ADAT in but no output.

Overall

The 18i8 is in a more broad segment in the Focusrite range. It has the expandability of a full audio interface while remaining as compact as possible for road use. It doesn't have all the inputs of the 18i20 but is a definite step up from the 8i6.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

The 18i20 is the flagship of the Scarlett range. It features 8 mic preamps, 1 S/PDIF in, 2 ADAT ins, and MIDI I/O.

Additional inputs can be patched in via ADAT for 18 simultaneous inputs.

The 20 outputs can be used to rout to outboard gear or additional monitoring in your studio.

It has enough inputs to record a full band on its own. It also features a built-in talkback microphone.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 18 x 20
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/Hi-Z), 6 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line), 1 x Coax (S/PDIF), 2 x Optical (ADAT)
  • Outputs: 10 x 1/4" (line out), 1 x Coax (S/PDIF), 2 x Optical (ADAT), 2 x 1/4"
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 8 x mic preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Low latency monitoring
  • Bundled Software: Tracktion 4

Pros

The 18i20 is the centerpiece of many users' recording studios. They chose this interface for the number of mic preamps available on the unit itself and when combined with additional preamps like the Focusrite Scarlett Octopre, has more than enough to record a full band and more. Many users say this is their first "serious" audio interface with good reason: the 18i20 makes sure you're ready to handle bigger sessions.

Cons

Clunky routing software. Some problems with the drivers on early units that is resolved by updating.

Overall

The 3rd Gen 18i20 brings a lot to the table. Sure, there are other interfaces that offer the same amount of preamps but what sets the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 apart is time-tested reliability and quality. With the new generation having better gain handling and the new "Air" feature trickled down from Focusrite's ISA series preamps, the 3rd Gen 18i20 is a sure winner.

Roland Octa Capture

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$520
Roland Octa Capture

The Octa Capture audio interface is true to its name, having eight combo XLR/TRS inputs with 8 Roland designed VS preamps that direct the signal to its 24-bit/192kHZ AD/DA converters.

The VS preamps are designed to deliver increased headroom and dynamic range while keeping noise levels low, making it applicable for louder instruments like acoustic drums, guitar cabinets and more.

The first two combo inputs are compatible with both microphones and Hi-Z sound sources.

Other features include a 40-bit DSP driven cue mixing feature, built-in reverb, and Roland's Auto-Sens technology which automatically sets the ideal input levels, to make setting up this 8-channel interface more convenient and novice-friendly.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 12 x 10
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS (Hi-Z) Combo, 6 x XLR/TRS Combo, 1 x S/PDIF
  • Outputs: 2 x TRS, 6 x TRS, 1 x TRS Headphones, 1 x S/PDIF
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 8 x Roland VS preamps
  • Internal 40-bit DSP Processing
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Auto-Sens Technology and low latency monitoring
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite

Pros

The Roland Octa Capture gets increasingly good reviews from users of different backgrounds, with many describing it as an A+ quality product, in terms of build quality, sound quality and ease of operation. Experts are pleased with its versatile software and effects routing capabilities, and how it does all that while keeping an intuitive interface. The Auto-Sens feature also gets a lot of thumbs up, said to be especially useful for balancing more input sources, simplifying setup by quite a big margin, compared to other interfaces.

Cons

Most of the few complaints point to driver and operating system compatibility issues, but this is to be expected given the many OS versions and updates. There are some who are taken aback by the price, stating that it should be a bit more accessible.

Overall

If you are looking to expand your recording capabilities for recording things like acoustic drums or singing groups then the Roland Octa Capture should be high on your list.

Focusrite Clarett 8Pre

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$870
Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB 18x20 Audio Interface

You can consider the Clarett 8pre as a "better" version of the Scarlett series. The Clarett range features upgraded preamps with a different sonic quality, additional headroom, a more sophisticated implementation of the ISA "Air" mode and reduced latency with newer technologies making their appearance.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 18 x 20
  • Inputs: 8 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line/Hi-Z), 1 x Optical (ADAT), 1 x Coax (S/PDIF)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (monitor), 8 x 1/4" (line out), 2 x 1/4" Headphones, 1 x Optical (ADAT), 1 x Coax (S/PDIF)
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 8 x mic preamps
  • Power Supply: Standard IEC AC cable
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Bundled Software: Focusrite Control iOS app, Softube Time and Tone, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, Red Plug-in Suite, Focusrite Plug-in Collective

Pros

The primary reason users love the Clarett series is the upgraded preamps carried over from Focusrite's iconic ISA series. Many users note that the preamps alone are worth the cost of the entire unit and that the functionality as an audio interface is only a bonus.

Cons

Was expensive for some users and some feel like it's a matter of diminishing returns as only the keenest ears can notice the difference between the 8Pre and Focusrite's Scarlett 18i20.

Overall

The Clarett series is the Scarlett series taken to the next level by integrating Focusrite's top tier ISA series preamps into an audio interface. Get it if you're a fan of getting great sound straight from the input.

RME Fireface UCX

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1599
RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel USB Audio Interface

At time of publication this was the highest rated 8 Analog Input USB Audio Interface.

The RME Fireface UCX is a feature-packed audio interface that's meant for professional use in both mobile and studio recordings.

It has 8 analog inputs, including two combo XLRs, while also providing more than a handful of output options.

It also opens up your options in terms of digital connectivity, because it can work with USB 2, USB 3 and Firewire 400.

But it's not just about connectivity, because this unit comes with RME's Hammerfall converters, known for their premium sound quality.

Finally, it features TotalMix FX, a dual DSP system that allows for latency-free effects, processing, monitoring.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 8 x 6
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR Combo, 6 x TRS
  • Outputs: 6 x TRS, 1 x Headphones
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0, USB 3, Firewire 400
  • MIDI : I/O
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Zero-latency Monitoring, Effects and Processing

Pros

Reviews are flooded with superlatives like excellent, great, superior - all of which are reflected in the RME Fireface UCX's high ratings. Everything from sound quality, to its solid build, to its reliability got a lot of positive mentions. One user even reported having no problems and not a single instance of software crashing with his almost two years of use. Interestingly, value for money came up several times, from users who feel that the RME Fireface UCX is a great buy. Even Sam Inglis of Sound on Sound is convinced of its performance, saying "the main reasons for buying a Fireface UCX remain its excellent sound and performance".

Cons

There are a few who noted that the interface has some room for improvement, other than that, everyone seems thrilled with their expensive interface.

Overall

If budget is not an issue, and you're looking for a powerful and versatile audio interface, then the RME Fireface UCX is highly recommended.

12 to 16 Channel

16 channels seems to be about the limit of simultaneous audio inputs for a stand alone USB interface before you talk about hooking multiple devices together via connections like MADI or ADAT.

Roland Studio Capture

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$705
Roland Studio Capture 16-Channel USB Audio Interface

Studio Capture is the flagship model of Roland's line of audio interfaces, and as expected, this one carries all the big guns, meant for professional studio use. It has a host of input options, including 12 combo XLR/TRS jacks, 4 TRS line inputs, and 1 S/PDIF input.

The output options are equally impressive, with 8 TRS and 2 XLR outputs, and a S/PDIF out.

The same extra features are available to support the multiple input/output options, including Roland's Auto-Sens technology, and the built-in 40-bit DSP capabilities.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 16 x 10
  • Inputs: 12 x XLR/TRS Combo (Instrument & Mic), 4 x 1/4" Line, 1 x S/PDIF
  • Outputs: 8 x 1/4" TRS, 2 x XLR, 1 x S/PDIF
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 12 x VS Preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Internal 40-bit DSP Processing
  • Auto-Sens Technology and Zero latency monitoring

Pros

Experts appreciate the generous input and output options that this unit provides, and after putting their units to the test with maxed input and output options, they found that the Roland Studio Capture passed with flying colors. Reviews and comments point to its sound quality, solid and reliable build, and easy operation - and these are from people who use different DAW software and operating systems, from those with Cubase on Windows to Pro Tools on Macs.

Cons

There aren't that many complaints, other than sporadic driver and software update concerns.

Overall

If you're looking for a reliable audio interface with 16 analog inputs, then get the top rated Roland Studio Capture.

RME Fireface 802

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1999
RME Fireface 802 USB Audio Interface

The Fireface 802 packs RME's premium build and sound quality into an audio interface with 12 analog inputs. It features four mic preamps that are based on their popular OctaMic II hardware, all of which are paired with RME's brand of premium AD/DA converters.

Other features include DSP-driven TotalMix FX mixer for latency-free effects and routing, and compatibility with USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 protocols.

Finally, it comes with Optical and XLR digital I/O support that allow for up to 18 channels of audio.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 12 x 8
  • Inputs: 8 x 1/4" TRS, 4 x XLR-1/4" combo
  • Outputs: 8 x 1/4" TRS
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 4 x OctaMic II Preamps
  • Latency Free Monitoring
  • Phantom Power: +48V
  • Zero latency monitoring

Pros

Fantastic and wonderful are just two of the many positive adjectives that have been used to describe the RME Fireface 802. Clarity and overall sound quality is almost always praised, while others are thrilled with its versatility and connectivity. Many of the users report that it works well on Macs, but there are also Windows users who are just as impressed. One user described the sound as clear and uncolored, ideal for those who want transparent recordings of instruments and vocals.

Cons

There were a few who wish for added features like, extra XLR combo inputs, while some were not too happy with how the manual describes its operation.

Overall

The RME Fireface 802 is a worthy investment for those who want a versatile and powerful audio interface in their studio.

Additional Option

This one wouldn't have made it into the list based on some user experiences but if you think you can avoid these issues then there's a bargain to had.

Tascam US-16x08

80
GEARANK

80 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Tascam US-16x08

In the US-16x08 Tascam have produced a superb piece of hardware at a great price but it has been hampered by issues with its drivers over time and this is reflected in the mediocre Gearank score. However, if you are prepared to do your research and take the chance that you'll end up troubleshooting driver issues then you'll stand a good chance of ending up with a bargain.

This unit offers a full 16 channels of inputs, 8 of which are Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps plus 8 line level inputs.

It is USB Class compliant so you should be able to use the basic IO features with no need for Tascam's drivers and this also provides compatibility with 'driverless' devices such as the iPad.

Features:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
  • Simultaneous I/O: 16 x 8
  • Inputs: 8 x XLR, 8 x 1/4" Balanced (2 switchable to Hi-Z instrument)
  • Outputs: 8 x 1/4" Balanced. 1/4" Stereo Headphones
  • Computer Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • 8 x Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps
  • Phantom Power: +48V switchable for channel 1-4, 5-8
  • Functions as 8-channel microphone preamp when not connected to USB
  • Onboard DSP mixer with 4-band EQ and compression on each input channel
  • USB Class Compliant

Pros

Most users are impressed with the quality of the preamps, complimenting them for their strong signal and low noise operation. As expected, being affordable and easy to setup came up a number of times.

Cons

A significant minority of reviewers say they have experienced consistent problems with the drivers, with reports of crashing, high CPU usage, and audio interruption. The problems seem to be more prevalent with Windows, while Mac users have generally fared better. Those who have contacted Tascam support were unimpressed with what help they received (as is a common theme with many manufacturers). That said, most users haven't experienced these problems and a fair few have found them fairly easy to resolve. Some report that they are able to bypass the problems with the Tascam drivers by using Class Compliant drivers instead.

Overall

If you're looking for 16 channels of input on a budget then this is a great option. Most users who buy this are very pleased with the performance it offers and unless you strike driver problems, you will be too.

Things to Consider When Buying an Audio Interface

  • Number of Inputs vs Channel Count

    This is the number of analog inputs that can be transferred through to separate tracks on your computer which sounds simple. However we think some manufacturers fudge the number a little bit to give a higher channel count. Many of them include digital input channels to their devices such as SP/DIF or ADAT in the channel count, even though these would require another piece of hardware acting as an audio interface (EG some mixers and mic preamps also provide A/D conversion) to actually allow them to be used. So an "18 channel" interface might only handle 8 analog inputs by itself. Therefore we've classified the interfaces in our guide by the number of analog channels that can be input and be sent as separate channels via USB. Not that these extra digital input channels aren't a handy option when you want to expand but they won't help you if you don't have another compatible audio interface.

  • Mic Level, Instrument Level and Line Level Inputs

    In addition to knowing the number of inputs, you also have to know the type of inputs available be it line level (low impedance) or instrument level (high impedance) inputs. Instrument level ports are for electric guitars and basses with no active preamp, while you can plug keyboards, amps and other electronic instruments in to the line level input. XLR inputs are usually accompanied by a preamp to handle microphones. Combo XLR/TRS inputs usually have preamps embedded, so they are mic ready. Some units have versatile line level and instrument level switching for specific ports.

  • Preamp and Phantom Power

    Built-in preamps allow you to connect microphones and they also can provide phantom power to condenser mics when needed. But they're not just for connectivity, because they can also effect the character of the sound and are responsible for keeping noise at bay. Thankfully, manufacturers rarely skimp on the quality of their preamps, often equipping their entire range of audio interfaces with the same preamp found on their flagship model. Note that not all inputs will have a preamp, so it is important to consider the actual number of preamps available, particularly for recording with condenser mics.

  • Power Options

    As the channels increase, so does the complexity of the circuit, and its power requirement. So you can expect most of the units listed here to require wall power adaptors to keep them running. Still there are a few that can be bus powered via USB from a computer. Note that none of them can be powered via the USB from an iOS device so thankfully they all have an option to run via a mains power wall adaptor.

  • Analog to Digital Bit Rate and Sample Rate

    This specification describes the resolution of your converted digital audio, and the general idea is that the higher the sample rate, the more details are captured. The current highest standard is 24-bit/192kHz, but there is a lot of debate about sampling rates so if you'd like to know more see: The Science of Sample Rates (When Higher Is Better — And When It Isn’t). The main thing to know is that a sampling rate of 44.1kHz will capture all of the frequencies that most people can hear. Also note that the preamp usually plays a bigger role in recording quality.

  • Operating Systems, Connectivity and Drivers

    Most audio interfaces come with specific custom low latency drivers for Windows and Mac that allow you to use the audio channels in your recording software and often control inbuilt hardware features such as effects/DSPs. However we've consistently found that most of the serious user complaints about audio interfaces come from a small number of owners who can't get these drivers to work properly. Often these can be attributed to people not setting things up properly but there are some cases were it appears there are genuine problems with the drivers on some systems. Furthermore many users find that the manufacturer support in the event of driver problems is lacking and some of them are slow to release fixes for these issues. By and large we've chosen the interfaces that have the least problems for our guide but few are immune to some degree of complaint. To reduce the chances of encountering these problems you should check to ensure that there are drivers available for your version of operating system and check to see whether other owners have had problem with systems like yours.

    One way to avoid manufacturer driver issues is to use a USB Class Compliant interface (audio and possibly MIDI) which means it can use standard drivers that are usually already available in your system. This will also 'future proof' your device in the event that the manufacturer stops releasing drivers for newer operating system versions. Using these drivers you may not be able to access some of the extra features of the hardware but the basic audio/midi channels will work.

    If you're looking for compatibility with iOS devices such as the iPad (via the Apple USB adaptor) then the device will need to be USB Class Compliant anyway. It's still best to make sure the manufacturer specifically mentions compatibility though. You can check out our iPad Audio Interface guide if you're looking for dedicated iPad audio interfaces.

  • Bundled Software

    Most audio interfaces come with bundled software, some of which include "Lite" versions of popular DAW software like Pro Tools, Cubase, Ableton Live and more. Others even come with extras like virtual instruments, samples, in depth software control over the interface and more. All of these should be enough to get novice users started.

Best USB Audio Interface Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on November 29, 2016 written by Alexander Briones and the latest major update was published on December 11, 2019 written by recording engineer Raphael Pulgar with contributions from Alexander Briones.

Our selection criteria was for Audio Interfaces that can record simultaneously on at least 4 channels via built-in analog inputs, use USB to connect with computers (additional connectivity protocols were also allowed) and be available from major USA based retailers.

This led us to compile a short-list of 43 audio interfaces for further analysis - you can see most of them in our Music Gear Database. We then collated and analysed over 5,200 rating and review sources comprised of user ratings, reviews, feedback and forum discussions. Those data were processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 which we used to select the highest rated options in each of the above input/channel categories. We also used those sources to report on the pros and cons of each interface we recommended. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

hi i have a question about

Hi I have a question about the Tascam. to use it with my daw (studio one) would i need to use it's drivers anyways?

Hi nils, You shouldn't need

Hi nils, You shouldn't need to to use drivers to use the core interface capabilities as it can operate as a USB Audio Class Compliant Device. Without drivers however you won't be able to use the DSP functions or Tascam's special software but these are more add-on features. There are people who use the Tascam in class compliant mode on Windows but there's a chance that some fiddling could be required to stop it from wanting to use the drivers.

Regarding the 8 output Tascam

Regarding the 8 output Tascam, will it interface with qlabs on a MacBook pro running version 10.12.6

It looks like no one running

It looks like no one running the exact same setup as you has answered your question, so even though I haven't used that specific combination myself I can let you know that it will function with your computer in it's basic mode without advanced features because it is Class Compliant - the standard USB drivers will take care of that for you. As to the features requiring the Tascam drivers, I don't know.

Try newest Focusrite Clarett

Try newest Focusrite Clarett 4Pre USB - standalone mixing console with ultimate ISA mod preamps and 120dB dynamic and/or 8in USB class compliant interface, great with Cubasis or Auria for iPad user-friendly recordings, but with very high prof studio sound quality. Better specs than RME fireface UCX - the same user interface and use, for a half of price...

Is it possible to link two

Is it possible to link two Tascam 1608’s together to get 16 channels of micrphine preamps available. Or will they work simultaneously and will the software recognize two units? separately? If the answer is no, do you have or recommend an interface that will do this?

Thanks,
Rossi

Is it possible to connect

Is it possible to connect sampler/synth output channels to the xlr inputs on the front? will it work normally? or the mic inputs ar specific for microphones only and will worsen the quality of signal? Can`t seem to find general information on this, seems like quite an important problem. (at the same time mine Focusrite scarlett 6i6 can easily take any instrument or line output in to its front xlr combo port)

I was thinking of buying the

I was thinking of buying the Tascam 16x08 to use it as well as in the studio at home, even in live shows with stand-alone digital mixer connected to my mac book pro: do you think you can do it? With its internal mixer you can work without weighing the PC too much and thus avoiding possible crashes in the live? Finally, using it in stand-alone mode it works only as a preamp or can you use the 4-band equalization of its mixer? Thank you

As a result of our January

As a result of our January 2019 update, the following interface came off our recommended list above, but you can still read our analysis of it:

Hello,

Hello,
Which USB interface among these would you recommend for a basic home theater use (analog 5.1 surround sound) from a pc and a video player like VLC ?

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