M-Audio M-Track 2X2M
As 2016 draws to a close, we've been reflecting on the year in hi-tech music-making gear, asking you to vote for the best new hardware and software products to have been released over the past 12 months.
Now it's time to bring you the results of our polls. We drew up the shortlists, but the rankings and overall winners in each category have been decided exclusively by your votes.
Here are the best new audio interfaces of 2016 as voted for by you. We start the countdown to number one with M-Audio’s latest low-cost 2in-2out box, the M-Track 2X2M...
We said: “As far as compact and affordable interfaces go, it’s hard to go wrong with M-Audio’s 2-in 2-out box. It has great mic pres, runs on buss power and features latency-free monitoring. The ‘M’ version also features MIDI I/O, along with additional controls for the inputs. It comes bundled with some solid Air effects plug-ins too.”
Keith McMillen K-Mix
We said: “K-Mix manages to squeeze an awful lot into its frame and there's much more here than immediately meets the eye. If you're on the lookout for a hybrid audio interface, control surface and mixing environment, K-Mix offers all of the above at an attractive price point.”
Focusrite Clarett 4Pre
We said: “Focusrite have a number of excellent small format interfaces but with the new Clarett range of Thunderbolt- only units they have taken advantage of higher data transfer rates to get the latency as low as 1.67ms on the round trip. The Clarett 4Pre is an excellent unit that punches well above its weight in audio quality, functionality and ease of use.”
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd gen)
We said: “Focusrite’s second generation 2i2 has changes under the hood that mean improved mic pres, lower latency and higher sample rates (up to 192kHz). Both channels handle mic, line and instruments, and input levels are indicated by the backlit gain knobs. There’s separate monitor and headphone level control, and simple zero latency hardware monitoring (though no balance control). Finally, you get a software bundle including Pro Tools First, Ableton Live Lite and Focusrite’s Red and Creative plug-in suites. Overall, a solid performer.”
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (2nd gen)
We said: “Recording quality is very good, with a clear, open 'Focusrite quality' sound offered via the onboard preamps. The front four channels are easily configured due to each having its own gain dial, while having the option to add an additional eight channels of audio input via digital I/O means that the Scarlett will readily fit into bigger rigs, when required, for more demanding users. In short, there's an awful lot to like here.”
We said: “The iD4 is a USB2.0 buss-powered 24-bit/96kHz interface with one mic/line and one DI input. It features Audient’s well-respected class A console mic pre, and a J-FET based DI. You get stereo monitor output on the back and twin headphone outs on the front. Zero latency monitoring is via a simple input/DAW balance knob, and the inputs can be stereo spread or mono’d to aid your headphone blend. The main volume knob includes a push action for monitor dim, and also doubles as a software scroll wheel when the iD button is engaged. A straightforward design with excellent build quality and audio fidelity.”
Antelope Orion Studio
We said: “The quality of the mic pres and converters is excellent as you would expect from a company with Antelope's reputation. As with any piece of complex gear you are going to have to spend time to figure out how to get the best from it, but as the centrepiece of a music production system it will give you all the flexibility you need.”
Antelope Audio Zen Tour
We said: “Antelope has a very good reputation for sonic quality and the Zen is no exception. It stands up very well against the other interfaces in our studio but it is its incredible flexibility which is the real winner.”
Winner: UAD Apollo Twin USB
We said: “At this price the Apollo Twin is the cleanest and one of the best-sounding desktop interfaces available, in part thanks to the 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and Unison technology, which imitates the characteristics of tube and solid-state hardware. Best of all though is that it is now available for Windows, and on behalf of all the PC users out there, thank you UA.”