Best iPad Audio Interfaces - Lightning Compatible
You're probably wondering: "Can I use audio interface with iPad?" Yes, and you can get one with convenient lightning cable connectivity. Below are the top rated iPad audio interfaces that allow for convenient out-of-the-box use, forgoing the need to purchase USB to lightning adapters separately.
IK Multimedia iRig HD 2 Guitar Audio Interface
- One trick pony - only for guitar
- Easy to set up and use - no external power required
- More convenient for guitar than a regular interface
- Turns your iPad into a headphone amp with lots of effects for practicing
When the original iRig hit the scene, it revolutionized guitar tone possibilities. It enabled guitar players to use their mobile devices as music production platforms, effects units, and even as live performance tools.
The iRig HD 2 is the successor to this legacy with an upgraded 96kHz sampling rate and a 1/4" output jack for connecting your virtual rig to a real amp or P.A. system.
When you want to use your iPad just to practice guitar, the iRig is a lot more convenient than setting up a regular interface. But it's not limited only to practice duties, it has a pretty good sound recording to the iPad as well.
Even though it only comes with the cut-down version of AmpliTube, you can still spend hours enjoying different effects through the headphone output. As a bonus, it also works as a plugin for your DAWs like Pro Tools, Reason, Logic, and more.
The combination of the iRig with AmpliTube means you can use your iPad as a versatile guitar headphone amp with more sounds than you typically get from regular ones.
Although I haven't tried this myself, I've even heard good reports about using it live with the iPad acting as an effects unit.
If I had a complaint it would be that it's a one-trick pony, you can use it for guitar but nothing else so it's a piece of gear that's more of a guitar accessory than an iPad device.
The IK Multimedia iRig HD 2 is a great audio interface for guitar-specific uses. With AmpliTube bundled in, the combination gives a lot of freedom for tonal exploration for the tone-chasing guitar player.
- A/D Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
- Connectors: 1 x USB Micro-B (also includes lightning cable)
- Simultaneous Channels: 1 x 1
- Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (instrument)
- Outputs: 1 x 1/4" (amp processed/amp thru)
- Features: High-quality, instrument-level 1/4" Hi-Z input jack, Adjustable input gain, 24-bit A/D conversion.
- Power: Bus Powered
- Phantom Power: None
- Bundled Software: AmpliTube SE
Focusrite iTrack Solo Lightning
- Needs a separate USB cable for power when used with the iPad
- Gain adjustments are tricky
- Great for mobile recording - particularly for speech
- Solidly built - it's safe to carry on your travels (reasonable care assumed)
- Perfect for your first 'serious' interface
The Focusrite iTrack Solo Lightning is a versatile iPad audio interface that comes in a mini-rack form factor.
As the label implies, this version comes bundled with a lightning cable. This connects it with the latest iPads and modern iOS devices out-of-the-box.
Note that lightning cables don't provide power so you need a separate USB power adapter. Another issue is that this will not charge the iPad while in use. You don't however need the adapter when running it off your laptop or PC.
The iTrack Solo Lightning is meant for the entry-level market. It's great for recording speech in addition to music demos, which makes it a good piece of podcast equipment to have.
If you're going to record songs to release commercially, then I recommend going for the Scarlett Solo instead. That is, if you don't need the Lighting connection. I prefer the preamps on that model, they also provide more gain.
One thing you'll notice is that gain adjustments can be a bit tricky at first, but that's a non-issue once you've got the settings dialed in just right.
If you're accustomed to the sound of Focusrite preamps and want something portable, the iTrack Solo is a good pick. Even if it's your first or only interface, Focusrite's preamps have a reputation in the industry as being one of the best. If good raw tracks are what you need, get it.
- A/D Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
- Connectors: Lightning, USB
- Simultaneous Channels: 2
- Inputs:1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Instrument input
- Outputs: 1 x RCA Monitor Outs, 1 x 1/4" Headphones
- Power: USB
- Can charge IOS unit: No
- Phantom Power: Yes
- Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Novation's Bass Station, Focusrite Scarlett Plug-in Suite, 1GB Loopmasters Samples.
Best iPad Compatible USB Audio Interfaces
These are top-rated USB Audio interfaces that can work with the iPad via Apple's Lightning to USB adapter, or Camera Connection Kit. These interfaces work with the iPad because they are USB audio Class Compliant which means they don't need proprietary drivers.
The standard USB adaptors won't be able to charge your iOS device and generally won't supply enough power to these interfaces so they will need a dedicated power supply.
Universal Audio Volt 276 USB-C Audio Interface
- Takes two USB Ports in use
- "Vintage" mode feels like a gimmick
- Having the comp printed into a recording might not be for everyone
- 76 Compressor built in is a standout
- Gets you better raw tracks than most interfaces
- Great build quality and aesthetic
- VU meter gives great insight on gain levels
Universal Audio (UA) enters the entry-level audio interface market with the Volt 276, a unit that seamlessly blends style with innovation. The Volt 276 features a striking mid-century design, a built-in UA 1176-inspired compressor, and a UA 610-inspired preamp.
While audio interfaces often aim for a minimalist appearance to keep users focused on their digital audio workstation (DAW), the Volt 276's wooden and metallic aesthetic offers a refreshing departure from the typical tech-centric look in this category.
In practical use, the Volt 276 delivers clean input signals with minimal latency to your DAW, making it ideal for direct electric guitar recording. However, its real standout feature is its very high quality sound, thanks to its vintage preamp and compressor when miking an electric guitar.
These features introduce subtle yet discernible character, making the Volt 276 an invaluable tool for budget-conscious musicians looking to elevate their recordings without overburdening their DAW.
One standout con is having to use two USB plugs. While it isn't a problem when using the power plug with a USB outlet adapter, it limits mobile use. Another con is the vintage mode. It might feel like a gimmick for those who prefer mixing in-the-box or already have good outboard gear going into the interface.
Despite being priced somewhat higher than competitors, the Volt 276's design, user-friendliness, and tone-enhancing capabilities make it a compelling choice for entry-level users seeking an affordable yet powerful audio interface.
- A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
- Connectors: USB 2.0
- Simultaneous Channels: 2 x 2
- Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/instrument)
- Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/R), 1 x 1/4" (Headphones)
- Power: USB bus powered / 5V DC power supply (sold separately)
- Can charge IOS unit: No
- Phantom Power: Yes
- Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Melodyne Essential, UJAM, Softube Marshall, Plugin Alliance Ampeg, Relab LX480 Essentials
|Premier Guitar||Charles Saufley||93/100|
RME Babyface Pro FS 24-channel USB Audio Interface
- TotalMix Fx might not be for the less intuitive
- Impressive round-trip time for real-time monitoring
- Great internal routing options
- Top class headphone amplifier
RME's Babyface Pro FS continues to excel in desktop audio interfaces. Initially introduced in 2010 and later updated with the Babyface Pro in 2015, this latest iteration remains faithful to its winning formula while incorporating meaningful enhancements.
The Babyface Pro FS maintains its sleek desktop design, intuitive metering, and user-friendly large dial. Its rugged plastic case ensures durability, reminiscent of industrial tools. Physically, it resembles its predecessor, retaining XLR microphone inputs, line inputs, instrument inputs, headphone outputs, and more.
Under the hood, the Babyface Pro FS introduces the SteadyClock FS circuit from RME's ADI-2 Pro FS. This technology reduces jitter to an astonishingly low level, promising pristine audio quality with minimal noise and distortion. Furthermore, it boasts improved signal-to-noise ratios, enhanced headphone outputs, and reduced input latency.
The headphone amplifier can drive even the most gain-hungry cans—a boon for those using high-end audiophile headphones to mix and master. This makes it great for direct monitoring.
The Totalmix FX, however, is the unit's Achilles heel. It doesn't feel easy to use and might get in the way of those who want a proper plug-and-play solution.
The Babyface Pro FS offers remarkable audio fidelity, output flexibility, and low latency. It is an excellent choice for professionals and musicians who demand top-tier performance from their audio interfaces.
- A/D Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
- Simultaneous Channels: 4 x 4 (analog), 8 x 8 (digital)
- Inputs: 2 x XLR (mic), 2 x 1/4" (Hi-Z/line), 1 x Optical Toslink (ADAT, S/PDIF)
- Outputs: 2 x XLR (+4dBu/+19dBu), 1 x Optical Toslink (ADAT, S/PDIF), ,1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
- Power: External
- Can charge IOS unit: No
- Phantom Power: Yes
- Bundled Software: RME TotalMix FX, Total Mix Remote (iOS, Mac, PC), Brainworx Plug-ins, Scuffham S-Gear Amp Collection
|Audio Science Review||amirm||90/100|
|Sound On Sound||Robin Vincent||96/100|
Things to Consider When Buying an Audio Interface for the iPad
While many USB audio interfaces can work with the iPad via Class Compliant mode, they need certain accessories to work. They tend to be a bit complicated to setup. There are interfaces built to work connecting with the iPad. They sometimes incluide Apple's proprietary Lightning Connectors. They are the best choice if you want to avoid the complications of having to buy adapters, which can help reduce your music equipment clutter.
Note that older iPads use older 30-pin connectors, so be sure to check whether the interface you're buying support these. On the flipside, newer iPads and iPhones now come with a USB C port, so they won't need Apple's proprietary lightning cables. Soon, the best audio interfaces can connect with iPads and iPhones via USB C.
These are audio interfaces that utilize industry-standard USB drivers to work. They work seamlessly with multiple operating systems, including iOS. While being able to switch between your iPad and your computer is a good thing, they will need you to buy an Apple USB Camera Adapter to connect to the lightning interface on your iPad.
The main accessory people use is Apple's Lightning to USB Camera Adapter or the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit (for older 30 pin devices). The Lightning to USB 3.0 Camera Adapter offers faster connection, but it's a bit pricier. This adapter does allow you to charge you're iPad while connected to USB which isn't possible with the other two.
Note that USB interfaces generally won't be able to draw enough power via USB port / USB adapter. This means that you may need multiple USB cables to operate the interface and power it up.
See the following section on power consumption.
The iPad is designed to limit the amount of power supplied to external devices. While this can preserve iPad battery life it also presents challenges for said external devices. This is the reason why most audio interfaces made specifically for the iPad need dedicated power though a few are capable of charging your iPad.
This makes them ideal for long recording sessions. Those interfaces that are 'bus-powered' have to contend with the iPad's limited power. They tend to be small one channel interfaces and features like phantom power are scaled-down, if not turned off. That said, they are the most convenient and portable options you find.
When it comes to compatible USB interfaces connected through a lightning adapter, you will need another supply of power. Interfaces that are USB bus-powered will usually not get enough 'bus power' via the lightning adapter to function. This is where interfaces that can use a dedicated power supply can come in handy.
The solution for interfaces that can only be USB 'bus-powered' is to use a powered USB hub. Although this works it does add another box and cable to your setup which can reduce the portability and convenience of the setup. Check out the video below on how to connect bus-powered interfaces with the iPad:
The USB audio interface is an integral studio equipment for home and mobile recording. If you're planning to record vocals and other instruments, you'll want one that comes with both 1/4" and XLR inputs. Note that electric guitars, basses, and other instruments need a higher impedance than line-level inputs. Even though they use the same 1/4" connection. So look out for connections or switches labeled 'Instrument' or 'Hi-Z' to see if an interface can handle these properly.
A workaround for this is to use a DI Box before going into the audio interface. Another important consideration is having a 48V phantom power switch. This is the standard when you're planning to use condenser mics. Another workaround is to connect a mixer to your audio interface, this will expand your input options for plugging in more dynamic and condenser microphones.
Some interfaces also provide ADAT connections to allow you to add up to 8 extra tracks via a separate ADAT audio interface.
Many of today's affordable audio interfaces come with the same mic preamps as expensive audio interfaces. This means that even in the entry-level market, you are getting good sound quality with low Equivalent Input Noise (EIN). These preamps also generally work well with instruments like guitars, bass, and keyboards. This is a big plus for those who prefer real instruments vs virtual instruments.
You can also expand your inputs and preamp options by using a Mixing Console.
Lightning Compatible Audio Interfaces
Class Compliant USB Audio Interfaces
Mic Preamp Quality
Best iPad Audio Interface Selection Methodology
The first edition was published in 2016. The current edition was published on Sept 29, 2023.
We changed our eligibility criteria and selection methods for this edition with only interfaces priced under $200 being considered. We selected the 2 highest rated interfaces compatible with Apple's Lightning cable and the 2 highest rated iPad compatible USB audio interfaces - while technically any USB class compliant interface can be used with the iPad, we made our own determination as to which non-lightning ones were eligible.
Note that Apple is in the process of switching their devices to USB C. This means that in the future, audio interfaces won't need to be lightning cable compatible to work with the latest iPads and iPhones.
We collected rating and review data from store ratings, forum discussions, user videos, expert reviews and similar feedback sources to process with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 that you see above that were the basis for our selection. During this process we collected data about 52 eligible interfaces from over 59,600 sources. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.
About the Author and Contributors
Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.
Lead Author & Researcher
I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.
Some of the recording gear I regularly use in my studio includes the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Samson QH4 Headphone Amp and Cloudlifter CL-1. My main mics include Aston Origin, Aston Element, Shure SM57, Rode NT1, Rode PodMic and MXL V67G.
The video has been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.
The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers except for the UA Volt 2 Speaker and Headphone Controls which was photographed by the author.