The Best Cheap Audio Interfaces Under $200

Budget audio interfaces

Originally published on Dec. 20, 2015 and last updated on June 12, 2018.

Gearing up for recording has never been easier, all you need is your computer, instrument, microphone, and a good audio interface. With so many cheap audio interfaces available, we taken it upon ourselves to present you with a reliable list of current market favorites, updated for 2018. Featured here are top rated audio interfaces that do not exceed the $200 ceiling price.

We're happy to be able to say that all the devices in this list are (or can be) USB Audio Class Compliant so they can work with all the significant modern operating system operating systems (Windows, MacOs, iOS, Linux, Android) without needing drivers. This means that you don't need to rely on the manufacturer releasing new drivers going forward into the future to avoid your interface turning into an expensive brick. Most of these also provide proprietary drivers for Windows and Mac and they may allow you to use enhanced features. iPad/iOS users should be aware that they need to use the Apple lightning to USB adaptor to connect to their device and the interfaces in the list will require some form of external power or a powered USB hub because the iPad doesn't provide sufficient USB Bus power.

NB: We have separate guides for interfaces with 4-Channels and more and for iPad interfaces.

Contents

The Best Cheap Audio Interfaces

Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD 4-Channel USB Audio Interface

The Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD is an affordable 4-channel audio interface with a wealth of input/output options. It is a true standout in the sub-$100 market, with its impressive specifications and features. At its core are four combo jack inputs with Midas Designed preamps, which allows for simultaneous recording of up to four sources. Each channel comes complete with dedicated controls that include Pad switches, Line/Instrument switches and Gain knobs. To make monitoring even more convenient, Behringer equipped the UMC404HD with A/B monitor switching, stereo/mono switch and monitor mix - all of which are ideal for auditioning your mixes with different studio monitors. Other noteworthy features include multiple LED indicators and MIDI compatibility. It comes with a suite of recording software and plug-ins that you can use for recording and mixing.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Preamp: 4 x Midas Designed Preamps
  • Channels: 4
  • Inputs: 4 x XLR/TRS Combo, 4 x 1/4" (Inserts)
  • Outputs: 6 x 1/4", 2 x XLR, 2 x RCA Stereo, 1 x 1/4" (Headphones)
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • Power: AC Adapter, USB Bus Powered
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Bundled Software: Tracktion, 150 downloadable instrument/effect plug-ins

With its four dedicated preamps and 4-in/4-out configuration, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD simply gives you the best value for your money, and this is reflected in many reviews. But it's not just about feature count, because overall sound quality does get a lot of love. Many describe the preamp as being very quiet and transparent, with some comparing its performance to more expensive interfaces. Users who gave their thumbs up include podcasters, voice over artists, guitarists, bassists, keyboardists and other musicians.

There are some users who had to update the driver before getting it to work with their DAW software, so we do recommend to first download the latest drivers from Behringer's website before setting up the unit. A few users experienced interference issues, probably due to external factors because most users find the UMC404HD to be super quiet.

If you want the best value for your money, or you want to future proof your home studio without breaking the bank, then the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD is for you.

Shure MVi

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$129
Shure MVi

Mobile users will appreciate the portability and plug and play compatibility of Shure MVi with the iPad and other iOS devices. It's also compatible with Android, Mac & PC. Being a compact audio interface, it comes with a single XLR combo jack, but it does offer phantom power (12V powered by an iPad and 48V when USB Bus powered) via its class A preamp. Other features include DSP preset editing via software and quick loading via built-in controls, and it comes bundled with a lightning compatible cable for convenient connectivity with your favorite iOS device.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Preamp: 1 x Class A Shure Preamp
  • Channels: 1
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR-1/4" Combo (Line/Hi-Z Level)
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/8" Headphones
  • MIDI: USB
  • Power: Bus Powered (by IOS or USB)
  • Phantom Power: 12V (when using iPad power), 48V when using standard USB power
  • Bundled Software: ShurePlus MOTIV app (Downloadable)

This audio interface continues to gather rave reviews for its combination of quality and portability. There are also many who commend its solid build, which have proven to be reliable for many. While most reviews are from musicians, there are also a good number of podcasters and voice actors who found the Shure MVi to be a great tool for their craft.

There are some concerns about the durability of the bundled Mini-USB to lightning cable, prompting some to recommend getting a back up cable as a precaution.

With its high ratings and big brand backing, the Shure MVi is highly recommended for those who are into mobile recording.

Steinberg UR22 MK2

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Steinberg UR22 MK2 USB Audio Interface for iPad, Mac and PC

More popularly known for their music production software, they are becoming known for recording hardware as well. And since Steinberg is owned by Yamaha, Steinberg's software know-how and Yamaha's hardware expertise combine to produce highly rated interfaces with improved DAW compatibility. This includes the Steinberg UR22 MK2 which features two Yamaha D-Pre mic preamps, the same ones found on more expensive mixing consoles. Complementing the preamp section is the unit's high-quality analog to digital converter, with up to 192kHz sampling rate at 24-bits. It also comes equipped with Class Compliant mode for improved compatibility with different platforms. Other noteworthy features include MIDI connectivity, zero-latency hardware monitoring, and Loopback mode for live streaming audio while recording.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Preamp: 2 x Yamaha D-Pre Mic Preamps
  • Channels: 2
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" Combo (Mic/Line, 1 input switchable to Hi-Z/Instrument)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4" Line Out, 1 x 1/4" Headphones
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Bundled Software: Cubasis LE (iOS), Cubase AI (Mac/PC)

The Steinberg UR22 MK2's sound quality continues to satisfy, if not exceed, the expectations of many. Build quality along with its intuitive controls and operational stability are also well appreciated. While it is specifically designed to work with Steinberg's Cubase, it's right at home with all the other DAWs, including Audacity, Pro Tools, Logic Pro and many more.

There are some concern over driver installation and the bundled software, but these are probably due to user inexperience rather than design fault. Of course those using the unit in class compliant mode have no complaints. Sound drop outs are reported by some users on specific computers/laptops, but it's hard to pin these problems on the UR22.

If you are primarily a Cubase user, or if you switch between multiple DAWs, then you might want to consider the Steinberg UR22 MK2.

Yamaha AG03

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Yamaha AG03 3-Channel Mixer Audio Interface for iPad / Mac / PC

Instead of conventional front mounted controls, the Yamaha AG03 sports a mixer like interface where controls are mounted on top, complete with knobs and faders. It comes with two channels, with the first one sporting Yamaha's D-Pre mic preamp with phantom power support and a dedicated fader for volume adjustments. The second channel supports high impedance input (passive pickups from electric guitars, electric bass etc) and line level input. This unit is USB bus powered, and comes with DSP effects that include filtering, reverb and compression, along with loopback for use with online audio/video streaming platforms.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Preamp: 1 x Yamaha D-Pre Mic Preamps
  • Channels: 2
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR-1/4" Combo, 1 x 1/4" Hi-Z, 2 x 1/4" Line Input
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4", 1 x Stereo RCA, 2 x 1/4" Headset
  • MIDI: USB
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Bundled Software: Cubase AI (Mac/PC), Cubasis LE

Thanks to the Yamaha AG03's intuitive mixer interface, most users applaud this unit for its ease of use. There are also many who report that the Yamaha AG03 helped improve their productivity by simplifying their setup, while others are happy with its sound quality.

Other than the few who wish for a MIDI input/output, there aren't any notable concerns with the Yamaha AG03.

With its intuitive interface, great sound quality and build quality, the Yamaha AG03 is very easy to recommend.

PreSonus Studio 2|6

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$200
PreSonus Studio 2|6 USB Audio Interface

With its 2-in/4-out configuration, the PreSonus Studio 2|6 allows for two channel realtime recording and versatile monitoring. At its core are two XMAX-L solid-state preamps, both of which run on standard USB bus power while providing good headroom. For monitoring, PreSonus equipped this unit with Cue Mix A/B functionality, wherein you can switch between two sound sources conveniently. Finally, it comes with 5-pin MIDI connectivity for compatibility, a feature that many users request.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Preamp: 2 x XMAX-L Preamps
  • Channels: 2
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (Mic/Line)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4", 2 x 1/4" (Line Out), 1 x 1/4" (Headphones)
  • MIDI: In/Out, USB
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Bundled Software: PreSonus Studio One Artist, PreSonus Studio Magic Plug-in Bundle

Thanks to its balance of quality, functionality and pricing, the PreSonus Studio 2|6 continues to be well received. Superlatives like fantastic, best and great are often used to describe its overall value, with special mention of its preamp quality. A lot of users are also satisfied with its versatile output and monitoring options.

Most of the complaints point to issues installing or setting up the bundled software, which may be user error. Thankfully, the hardware itself gets no serious complaints.

If you're looking for a budget friendly 2-channel audio interface with versatile output monitoring functions, then the PreSonus Studio 2|6 is highly recommended.

Audient ID4

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$199
Audient ID4 USB Audio Interface 2-in/2-out

The ID4 is an audio interface that features Audient's class A mic preamp and JFET circuit packed in a compact unit. As such, it provides all-in-one solution for recording vocals and instruments, two things that most home studios need. And judging by how the Audient ID4 continues to rake in high scoring reviews, they may have found the best balance of features, price and cost in the ID4. In addition to its two distinct input circuits, Audient equipped the ID4 with essential output options that include 2 x 1/4" outs for stereo monitoring, and two headphone outputs. Other practical features include monitor mixing (input and processed sound), monitor mute and monitor panning. Being class compliant, this audio interface works with popular operating systems, including Apple's OSX and iOS, as well as Windows. Note that this unit is USB bus powered, so it will get the power from your desktop or laptop computer. It can also work with Apple iPad and iPhone, but it requires a powered USB hub to work.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
  • Preamp: 1 x Audient Class A Mic Preamp, 1 x JFET DI
  • Channels: 2
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR-1/4" Combo (Mic/Line), 1 x 1/4" DI (Instrument)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4" Monitor, 1 x 1/4" (Headphones), 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
  • MIDI: No
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Phantom Power: 48V

The Audient ID4 continues to get high scores for its sound and build quality, form users of different backgrounds including singers, instrumentalists, voice over artists, home studio owners and more. According to reviews, sound quality is its biggest strength, while its reliability come second. It also helps that the ID4 is easy on the eyes and compact, making it an inspiring tool to use in the studio or while on the move.

There are a few users who do not like the transparency of ID4's mic preamp. There are also a few who gave lower scores for lack of MIDI in/out.

If you're looking to maximize your $200 and want no less than what the market rates as the best, then get the Audient ID4.

CEntrance MicPort Pro

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$200
CEntrance MicPort Pro

The CEntrance MicPort Pro is a top rated plug-and-play USB audio interface that's built to discretely connect to microphones. It has a compact profile that can directly mount to a mic, and housing its mic preamp and A/D converter. It essentially transforms regular microphones into USB mics, which allows you to continue using your preferred mic in recording, and at the same time free up valuable space on your desk. It is meant to be a space saving solution for those who record everything through microphone, be it musical instruments, podcasting, singing and others. Other features of the CEntrance MicPort Pro interface include zero-latency monitoring via its stereo headphone jack and a 48V phantom power for working with condenser mics.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz
  • Preamp: 1 x CEntrance Mic Preamp
  • Channels: 1
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
  • MIDI: No
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Bundled Software: Reaper (Trial Version)

One user put it nicely, "Small package but big in fidelity", and this is probably what most users feel about the CEntrance MicPort Pro. Most of them credit this usb interface for simplifying their setup, which result in improved productivity. While others are impressed with its transparent sound and solid build. Many of the reviews are from those who do voice over work, but singers and musicians are also well represented.

There are a few who felt that it lacked features for the price, specifically tone shaping and EQ, but this is to be expected given its compact and discrete profile. There are also others who are initially not too happy with the lack of instructions, but they end up being satisfied once they get it up and running.

If you have a favorite analog mic and want a convenient way of using it to record digitally, then get the CEntrance MicPort Pro.

Steinberg UR242

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Steinberg UR242 4-Channel USB Audio Interface

Being the developer of the popular DAW software Cubase, Steinberg knows the needs of home studios. This is evidenced by the success of their audio interfaces, to be more specific, the UR242. For the price, this audio interface gives you four simultaneous input channels, two of which feature class A D-Pre mic preamps, and the other two are meant for line level sources. As expected, it has plug-and-play compatibility with Cubase, but it also works well with what the competition offers.

Specifications:

  • A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Preamp: 2 x Class A D-Pre Preamps
  • Channels: 4
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS Combo, 2 x 1/4"
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4". 1 x 1/4" Headphones
  • MIDI: In/Out
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Bundled Software: Cubase AI

It's not surprising that many of the commendations are from Cubase users, but there are also other DAW users who find the Steinberg UR242 to be of high quality. Build quality seems to get the spotlight, with the quality of the D-Pre mic preamps being close second.

There are a few reports of software and driver issues, mostly from users with older systems, or those who have to update the firmware/driver first before being able to use the unit.

If you're a Cubase user, or you want an audio interface with more than two input channels, then check out the Steinberg UR242.

Things to Consider when Buying a Cheap Audio Interface

  • Number of Channels

    2 channel audio interfaces and even single channel ones are good enough for most home recordings because you have the option to record vocals and instruments one by one and mix them down later. But if you're planning on recording more than two sound sources simultaneously, then you'll want to consider those with 4 channels or more.

  • Input Ports

    Most audio interfaces utilize "combo" inputs which accept both XLR and 1/4" jacks. Since they are essentially 2-in-1 ports, they allow for smaller form factors and help reduce the cost of the product. They also simplify connections for users, and allow for worry free connection of mics and instruments. Note that some still utilize traditional XLR and 1/4" ports, especially older devices. We have listed the types and number of inputs available for each of the audio interfaces in this list for your perusal.

  • Instrument Level and Line Level Inputs

    Often neglected by beginners, you have to know if your audio interface can handle line level (low impedance) and instrument level (high impedance) sources. Line level sources include keyboards and other electronic instruments, while instrument level ports are for guitars and basses with no active preamp. While you can use a DI box if your interface doesn't support instrument level, it is more convenient to be able to plug straight in to your interface. So if you're planning to record multiple types of instruments and mics, you'll want one that allows for switching the input between mic, instrument or line levels.

  • Mic Preamps and Phantom Power

    • Mic Preamp Quality
      When using mics, the preamps can play a part in the resulting character of the sound. For versatile home recording use, you'll generally ones that are transparent. These aim to reproduce the sound coming in as accurately as possible. Thankfully, this is what the audio interfaces in this list provide, but there are others who prefer preamps that can subtly color the sound.
    • Phantom Power
      If you haven't yet, you will end up using a condenser mic at some point when recording. These mics typically require between 11V and 48V phantom power to operate, and so it is imperative to check if the audio interface that you're buying is capable of providing the required phantom power.
  • Analog to Digital Bit Rate and Sample Rate

    This is the rate at which your analog signal is converted into digital data. The idea is that the higher the sample rate, more of the details are captured. However this does not necessarily indicate good or bad recording quality, rather it is the preamp that dictates this more. 24–bit and 44.1 to 96kHz sample rate is currently the standard, and should be more than enough for home recording use.

  • Computer and iPad Compatibility

    If you want to ensure that your audio interface can work with the widest possible range of operating systems and is 'future proof' then get one that is USB Audio Class Compliant. This is also known a 'Plug and Play' and it means that you won't need to depend on the manufacturer's drivers for it to operate with the widest range of current and future operating systems. Users of iOS, Android and Linux in particular need to look out for this as drivers either can't be used or aren't provided. But even Windows and Mac users can be left stranded when a new OS version comes out and the manufacturer does not make new drivers available. Although the proprietary manufacturer drivers can provide access to extra features it's handy to know your interface can keep working long after the drivers have stopped being provided.

    If you have an iPad and you want to use it for mobile recording, then you should also consider interfaces that can directly connect with them. For USB interfaces you'll need to purchase Apple's camera connection kit (CCK) or Lightning to USB Adapter to convert regular USB jacks into iPad compatible ports. Under this setup you also need to be aware of providing power to the interface. The easiest way to find one suitable for the iPad is to read our guide to:
    The Best iPad Audio Interfaces

  • Power Options

    The ability to be powered via USB is a convenient option that many modern day audio interfaces utilize. While those that use "wall warts" or power adapters are still viable, having the option to get power from the USB is a welcome plus because they can help reduce clutter, and allow for mobile use when there is no power outlet to plug into. Some audio interfaces have the option to be powered by regular batteries, for even more portability.

  • Bundled Software and Drivers

    To be able to use audio interfaces, you will need a good Digital Audio Workstation or DAW. Thankfully, cheap interfaces are bundled with various kinds of DAWs that are quite useful, albeit with some limitations. Still many of these free applications have enough features to handle the recording and mixing needs of conventional music.

Best Audio Interface Under $200 Selection Methodology

We first looked at all audio interface within the $200 price ceiling, which includes single channel, dual channel and four channel audio interfaces. We ended up with a short list of 34 audio interfaces, and we took note of relevant reviews and ratings, including the most current ones. For this 2018 update, the number of review sources that we processed went up to over 11,000, all of which were processed via the Gearank Algorithm. This process gave us the scores that we used to narrow the list further to just the cream of the crop. Finally, we sorted the list by price to make it easier to spot those that fit your budget. In addition, we've included detailed descriptions and specifications for each audio interface, along with noteworthy pros and cons as reported by actual users. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Save your money and get the

Save your money and get the cheaper version two inputs AI.You can only record a vocal and a guitar one at the time. You only need 4 or more if you intent to have the whole live band come to your basement and they all plug their instruments into your Au.interface, and then your computer blows up in two minutes.

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