The Best iPad Audio Interfaces

iPad Audio Interfaces

The iPad has become a popular tool for audio recording, making music production more convenient and mobile, without compromising quality.

There are a wide range of audio interfaces available for the iPad ranging from single instrument analogue interfaces right up full blown 24 track recording setups. Here we've chosen to focus on what most musicians are looking for which is high quality digital inputs with both mic (XLR) and instrument (TRS) connections available. We've also decided to stick to single and two channel audio interfaces because of their balance of functionality, portability and affordability, which complement the iPad really well for home and mobile recording studio setups as well as live performance applications.

One important point to keep in mind is that because of Apple's proprietary connectors, adapters and policies, not all audio interfaces work with the iPad. So to help you find the best audio interface for your iPad, we have scoured the market for ones that actually work with the iPad, and as usual we pick those that get good reviews, ratings and recommendations.

What to Look for in an iPad Audio Interface

  • iPad Compatibility

    While most USB audio interfaces can work with the iPad, it is still important to check if the product actually specifically mentions iPad compatibility. Thankfully, many of the recent releases now have direct compatibility, some even come with lightning cable, however, the downside of being new is that they don't have as many reviews. Still, they are safer bets than their predecessors if you want to avoid compatibility issues.

    In case you are eyeing USB interfaces (not lightning compatible), you'll need Apple's "Lightning to USB Camera Adapter" which is sold separately. If you're using older iPads with 30-pin connections, you'll need Apple's CCK (Camera Connection Kit). Older iPads can also be used with newer interfaces via the Lightning to 30-pin Adapter.

  • Power Consumption

    The iPad is designed to limit the amount of power used by external devices, but this doesn't stop bus powered audio interfaces from draining the battery faster. This is the reason why most audio interfaces that connect to the iPad are self-powered, with some even capable of charging your iPad, making them ideal for long recording sessions. Any bus powered interfaces have to contend with the limited power available which can limit their capabilities and the only option to make this list is the mono channel Shure MVi (and it only offers 12V phantom power when connected to an iPad).

    For USB devices connected via the lightning or CCK adaptors you should be aware that when manufacturers say the item is iPad compatible they often mean when the device is externally or battery powered. Ordinary 'computer' USB provides much more power than the iPad will so you can't assume that it will operate the same unless specified. Powered USB hubs can be used as a workaround when external power isn't available for an audio interface.

  • Input Compatibility

    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 and basses other instruments have different impedance, as such they require specialized inputs to get good input levels. A workaround for this is to use DI Boxes before going into the audio interface. Another important consideration is 48V phantom power capability, which is the standard when you're planning to use condenser microphones. In our list below the externally powered devices are all 48V phantom power, but the Shure MVi only operates at 12V when powered via iPad as do some other interfaces not in the list. This voltage may not work optimally with some condenser mics.

  • Mic Preamp Quality

    Thankfully, many of today's affordable audio interfaces come with the same mic preamps as their expensive counterparts. This means that even at the entry level market, you are getting really good sound quality. If you're looking for tried and tested preamps, brands like Focusrite, Apogee and Roland have iPad friendly interfaces that provide top notch sound recording, worthy of being included in the final mix.

  • Budget

    If you'll mostly be doing basic recordings of vocals and familiar instruments, then you won't have to shell out that much, a 2 channel audio interface would be great, but even a single channel one can get the job done. And this is where the list below centers, excluding the Apogee Duet, the price range of the audio interfaces in this list range from $120 to $200. If you want to go for advanced multi channel recording, there are a number of premium audio interfaces and even mixers with built-in recording capability that can be used with the iPad, but for now they are not featured here.

Best Audio Interfaces for iPad

Below are the top audio interfaces for iPad users, as expected the list is dominated by those that offer lightning connectivity to cater to the more recent iPad versions. As mentioned above, the list is currently limited to single and dual channel audio interfaces, since these offer a good balance of cost and functionality. Also, majority of the audio interfaces included below come with quality mic preamps.

Focusrite iTrack Dock

87
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$150
Focusrite iTrack Dock iPad USB Audio Interface

Focusrite continues to dominate the entry level market with their great sounding and reliable audio interfaces, and their main selling point is their premium quality mic preamps. Realizing the potential of the iPad as a true music production tool, the company designed the iTrack Dock, with a form factor that's especially configured for iPad use, while carrying the same studio quality mic preamps found on their more expensive interfaces.

Highlights:

  • A/D resolution up to 24-bit/96kHz
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4" TRS, 1 x 1/4" | Analog Outputs 2 x 1/4" TRS, 1 x 1/4"
  • 48V phantom power capable
  • iPad friendly "dock" form factor
  • Supplies power to your iPad, and can even connect and provide power to a MIDI controller

Being especially designed for the iPad, Focusrite was able to address the battery drain problem by having the iTrack Dock charge the iPad while serving as an audio interface at the same time. This is the reason why we, and many reviewers consider this as the best tabletop audio interface for those that want to make their iPad into their core music production tool. The downside however is that since it does not run on battery, you can't use it when there are no power outlets available. Still, this is easily the best audio interface if you're looking to put serious time into recording and production with your iPad.

PreSonus AudioBox iTwo

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
PreSonus AudioBox iTwo USB Audio Interface

The AudioBox iTwo expands the compatibility of Presonus' popular two channel interface design, to work with iOS devices. Reviewers agree that the two Class A mic preamps included in the iTwo provide the same professional level clarity and headroom found on their desktop audio interfaces. With this, you can turn your iPad into a viable option for studio quality recording.

Highlights:

  • A/D resolution up to 24-bit/96kHz
  • Input: 2 x XLR/TS Combo | Analog Output: 2 x TRS
  • 48V phantom power capable
  • Bus powered USB audio interface, can trickle charge your iPad
  • Bundled with Studio One Artist DAW software
  • Also works with PC and Mac

Connectivity is not an issue with the iTwo, thanks to its stereo capable input and output options, with phantom power option. While it can draw power from the USB port, the PreSonus AudioBox iTwo can be configured to be self powered when working with an iPad, so you can have longer recording sessions. It can even trickle charge the iPad to slow down battery drain. There are some reviewers that expressed concern over the reliability of the knobs, but it's not something that proper handling and use can address. Finally, this versatile audio interface has modest price, giving you more than what you paid for. Highly recommended if you need a 2 channel interface for your iPad.

Apogee Duet

86
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$595

Known for their premium music gear, Apogee digital audio interfaces continue to be among the most sought after in the market, which is quite surprising considering their high price point. The Apogee Duet is their entry into the iPad recording realm, carrying with it the incredibly transparent and clear sound of their mic preamps along with the high quality analog to digital conversion technology that is present in their more expensive products.

Highlights:

  • A/D resolution up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs and 2 TRS outputs
  • Charges your iPad
  • Bundled with Maestro 2 software.
  • Also works with Mac, Not compatible with PCs

What's even more impressive is how the Apogee Duet has gathered quite the number of positive ratings and reviews, especially when considering its price tag. A common theme among the reviews we looked at is the word "wow", which expresses the users unbelief at how something so small could sound really good. And it's not just about sounding good either because the general consensus is that the Apogee Duet is super durable and reliable. It also helps that it looks really nice and slim, making it easy to carry around and pleasing to the eye. If you have the budget, then is a worthy investment that you should consider.

Roland Duo-Capture EX

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$179

Roland requires no introduction, and their budget audio interface Duo-Capture EX continues to get rave reviews from users and experts alike. This one connects to your iPad via the Apple CCK (Camera Connection Kit), and brings with it the same high quality V-Studio Preamps as found on their expensive digital mixers. While there are some concerns over its lower sampling rate, majority are impressed with the results, some even commented that the quality is so good, they ended up transferring their recordings to their desktop Pro Tools and using them in their final mixdowns.

Highlights:

  • A/D resolution up to 24-bit/48kHz
  • 2 x XLR/TRS Combo
  • 48V phantom power capable
  • Works with iPad via Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Powered by USB, 3 AA batteries, or optional AC power supply
  • Also works with PC and Mac

Another interesting and useful feature of the Roland Duo-Capture EX is its power options, allowing you to power it via USB, an optional power supply or via 3 AA batteries. This is heaven sent if you are planning to record outdoors where power outlets are not available - and makes it a great compliment for the mobility of the iPad. It would have been nice if the price was a bit cheaper, but this unit's sound, durability and reliability makes it a worthy investment.

Steinberg UR22 MK2

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

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

Steinberg is a solid contender when it comes to affordable 2-channel audio interfaces, so it's not surprising to find them in this list with the second iteration of their popular UR22. While this one is relatively new, it does carry over the best features of the first version, most notable of which is the highly acclaimed Yamaha D-PRE mic preamps. Reviews for the UR22 MK2 are consistent with reviews of the first - with many commenting that they are very happy with its professional quality sound without the hefty price tag.

Highlights:

  • A/D resolution up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • Input: 2 x XLR | Output: 2 x 1/4" (line out), 1 x 1/4" (headphones)
  • 48V phantom power capable
  • Bundled with Cubasis LE DAW app for iOS (download)
  • Also works with PC and Mac

This new version is designed to have improved compatibility, specifically with the latest iPad releases. Note that this unit requires to be plugged in to a power outlet when used with an iPad, which means that portability is somewhat compromised, it seems that Steinberg wanted to prioritize sound quality over mobility. Other features include hi-Z input switch, loopback function for live performance and zero latency monitoring makes this even more appealing. And since it works just as well with Macs and PCs, this is a great audio interface if you're looking for a multiplatform one.

Shure MVi

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$129
Shure MVi

Shure's interesting entry into this list is the MVi, a DSP equipped recording interface that's housed in a very compact profile - small enough to fit in your pocket. This single channel audio interface is relatively new and is not yet as popular, but the lucky ones that have tried it have nothing but good words to say for it. From it's rugged all metal chassis to its intuitive interface, the MVi looks the part, with users commenting that it's easy to carry, use and eye catching.

Highlights:

  • A/D resolution up to 24-bit/48kHz
  • 1 x XLR/TRS Combo
  • Phantom Power (48V for USB, 12V when powered via iPad)
  • Bus powered via lightning connection
  • 5 DSP Recording Modes
  • Includes micro-USB to Lightning cable for use with iOS devices
  • Also works with PC and Mac

The most interesting feature of the Shure MVi is the switchable 5 DSP recording modes, which tunes the preamp for use with speech, singing, acoustic, loud and flat recording. This interesting feature makes this one a great grab-and-go recording interface for the iPad, that will work with various sound sources. Some of the reviewers have used the MVi for voice over work and were satisfied with the quality. My only complaint is that it could've been cheaper, but coming from Shure, you can be sure that this compact audio interface is worth its price.

Focusrite iTrack Solo Lightning

85
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$120

Focusrite's second entry in this list is the iTrack Solo Lightning, and this one sports a more conventional rack mount form factor. It carries the same Focusrite mic preamps, but with less features and more importantly, this one is priced cheaper. The iTrack Solo Lightning is relatively new, but it is getting consistently positive reviews, and as such, it is in the running to compete against the market's many entry-level audio interfaces.

Highlights:

  • A/D resolution up to 24-bit/96kHz
  • Input: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Output: 1 x stereo RCA, 1 x 1/4".
  • 48V phantom power capable
  • Bundled with Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station, Scarlett plug-in suite, and 1GB Loopmasters samples.
  • Also works with PC and Mac

For its price, this audio interface does everything it is supposed to do, and does it well. As the label implies, this version comes bundled with lightning compatible cable, and will easily connect with the latest iPads, in addition to connecting to Macs and PCs. It's important to note that the iTrack Solo cannot charge your iPad while in use, which can be an issue if you're looking to do long recording. Other than that, this is a worthy yet affordable audio interface that is highly recommended.

Comments

I'm noticing there arn't any

I'm noticing there arn't any two-channel bus powered interfaces on this list. Are there any out there? I'm at the end of my wits looking for one.

It might be the case that IOS

It might be the case that IOS does't provide enough power for a good two-channel microphone interface via the connection. A few years ago they reduced the power available to USB devices via the adaptor and they don't publicly specify how much power is available for lightning / 30 pin connector.

The only IOS bus powered interface on this list is the Shure MVi which is mono. The best option to get stereo may be to go for something that can be battery powered like the Roland Duo-Capture EX.

Yes, I tend to agree. The

Yes, I tend to agree. The iPad just doesn't have enough "juice" for bus-powering a stereo interface. Personally, I'd be too worried to rely solely on bus power during a recording. I always feel better knowing that I'm plugged into the "wall." If I needed to record something in the field where there were no electrical outlets I would probably use something like a portable "Zoom" recorder or something like that.

meanwhile there is a 'bus

Meanwhile there is a 'bus powered' apple usb camera adapter you can use in connection with audio interfaces. I do this. Works well.

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