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It almost goes without saying that if you want to achieve the best possible computer recording and playback quality, you’re going to have to spend a significant amount of money on your audio interface.
However, it’s equally true to say that you can also get pretty good results without shelling out anywhere near as much: a reasonable quality interface can now be yours for well under £200/$250.
You’ll find evidence of this on the following list. For this kind of money you can expect at least a couple of inputs and outputs (perhaps even more) and 24-bit quality. MIDI I/O is another feature to look for if you’re planning on hooking up an external synth or two.
Before you buy an interface, make sure that it has the input and output types that you require. All of our recommendations operate over USB and are Mac/PC compatible - some will work with your iOS device, too.
Also bear in mind that there are plenty of new interfaces on the way in 2013. The likes of Steinberg, M-Audio, Alesis, and Tascam have all announced new products: we’ll have reviews of these in due course.
For now, though, here - in no particular order - is a selection of the best budget audio interfaces that we’ve tested.