If you're in the market for one of the best audio interfaces under $200/£200, you might be quite surprised at the quality of the models you can get. We’ve tested a range from big audio hitters including SSL, Audient and Focusrite for this buyer's guide. And pretty much all the interfaces in our round-up offer exceptional sonic quality considering their relatively low prices.
With two-hundred notes, you can now also expect to get decent additional features as well as that great sound quality. Indeed most of the interfaces in this guide go well beyond the very basic connectivity you get just by spending double digits. Those cheaper interfaces will offer you one or two inputs and outputs to allow you to record voice and instrument into your DAW and play the results out to some decent speakers. Up the budget to 200 bucks, as we have here, and you can expect extras like decent software bundles, better input quality (for better recordings), and extra inputs to allow you to record more than one instrument or voice simultaneously.
We’ve listed all of the main specifications like audio recording quality and the number of ins and outs, but also detailed some of the software bundle highlights as these could be important in your buying decision. There’s extra buyer's advice below so you can skip to the bottom if you want to know more about interface options and how we test audio interfaces. Now, before we get into the detail of each interface, we’ll pick our favourites.
Best audio interfaces under $200/£200: MusicRadar’s Choice
The Presonus Studio 24c (opens in new tab) won out in our budget audio interface buyer's guide and is still one of the best low-priced option here. It offers superb sound quality and comes with a well-stocked bundle of software audio tools.
However, now we've upped the budget to $200/£200/€200, we can get some additional sonic clout and connectivity from some of the biggest names in music production. SSL makes arguably the best mixing desks used in studios the world over. Its SSL 2 (opens in new tab) interface offers some of the sonic quality from these desks for silly money.
Audient too has made some excellent studio desks and has similarly delivered some of their flavour in its audio interface range. Our favourite, though, is the Audient EVO 8 (opens in new tab) which offers an amazing amount of connectivity for the price. Universal Audio has made some great audio gear over the years too, and its Volt range delivers some of that expertise at a great price.
Finally, in what is a very crowded part of the interface market, Focusrite delivers some of the best connectivity with its Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen (opens in new tab), right at the top end of our budget range.
Best audio interfaces under $200/£200: Product guide
The compact Evo range was launched at the NAMM Show 2020 to much acclaim.
You’ll find two combi mic/line inputs around the back of the EVO 4, and one instrument level input at the front for connecting guitar or bass (which then overrides the first input around the back). The more expensive EVO 8 doubles the inputs to four.
Two speaker-outs complete the connections and a central main dial controls the level of that output, plus a number of other levels determined largely by which buttons on the top of the panel you press. These are 1 and 2 (for the input levels), and output (bottom right) plus a final button that means the dial adjusts the mix between the input and DAW. Using the headphone socket means the main dial controls this level. EVO 8 allows two people to monitor with studio headphones.
The one-dial solution is beautifully implemented and designed to help make both the EVO 4 and 8 clever, compact desktop solutions that sound great.
Read the full Audient Evo 4 review
The SSL 2 is the cheaper of two compact audio interfaces from console legends Solid State Logic. Both offer the forward and more aggressive sound from the company’s 4000 E console as a switchable ‘Legacy 4k’ enhancement.
The 2 lacks a second headphone output and extra phono-outs found on the 2+, so not much less if you are just wanting that legendary sound for your instrument recordings. Other than that you get a 2-in/2-out set-up, MIDI in/out and a +48v option to connect both dynamic and condenser mics.
SSL 2 delivers crystal clear recording with that subtle 4k enhancement should you wish. Its monitor output is right up there with interfaces that cost twice as much, better in fact. It also features one of the best software bundles. Overall it’s a cracking interface with that sprinkling of extra SSL dust. The ‘Solid State Logic’ name and sound from a piece of gear costing less than $/£200? Somebody pinch us, this isn’t happening…
Read the full SSL 2 review
Universal Audio used to focus on the high-end market with interfaces that boasted both a quality signal flow and also acted as hosts and accelerators for the company’s very well regarded plugin range. That changed with the Volt range, a set of four units that eschew the plugin hosting in favour of value and more standard features. The more expensive 176 and 276 fall just outside of our price cap but the Volt 1 and 2 offer most of what they deliver bar their extra 1176-style compression.
Both Volts 1 and 2 are plug-and-play USB-C interfaces that offer UA’s excellent preamps on their combi inputs, with one input available on the Volt 1 and two on the Volt 2. These offer a great vintage tube sound on your inputs, giving recordings a richness rarely heard in this price range.
The Volts are a radical departure for UA, offering an affordable taste of the brand’s key ingredients. They’re incompatible with plugins from the UAD store but they absolutely deserve to shake up the sub-$200/£200 interface market with a great design, a plug-and-play workflow and hard-to-beat audio conversion.
Read the full Universal Audio Volt review
Focusrite’s Scarlett USB interfaces have traditionally combined excellent sonics and audio flexibility at affordable price points, and the third generation units keep up the good work.
All units in the range have been upgraded with improved preamps (up to 56dB gain), balanced connectivity throughout, and the inclusion of Focusrite’s ISA transformer preamp emulation option (delivering Air – see below). On the bus-powered Scarlett 4i4 you get two mic/line/instrument inputs with gain, two line-level TRS inputs and four TRS outputs.
The 4i4 supports Focusrite’s Control application, which means that a number of settings can only be made in the software. The app also handles low-latency monitoring.
In practice the sonics are neutral and the drivers reliable. The Air option tilts the frequency response towards high frequencies, and this can be great for taming undesirable proximity or adding high frequency lift. It works particularly well on vocals.
With a decent software bundle included, this is a solid upgrade and a great, affordable audio interface.
Read the full Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen review
There are audio interfaces that aim to support specific musical disciplines such as, for example, guitarists (check out our best guitar audio interfaces guide for more of that). And then there are jacks-of-all-trades, which try to do a bit of everything, from speech to music. The Presonus Studio 24c is firmly in the latter camp, offering exceptional quality regardless of what you’re trying to record or produce.
We particularly like the included Universal Control software, which enables the interface to ‘loop back’ on itself virtually. This provides great flexibility for routing audio between different applications without requiring extra cables, making it ideal for streamers and musicians alike. Build quality is solid, and the MIDI connectivity to the back of the unit is a great touch.
Steinberg pimped-up its UR range of audio interfaces, introducing USB 3.0 models for PC, Mac and iOS. The UR22C, on test here, is the most affordable. It offers USB Type-C connectivity (or USB 3.1 Gen 1 SuperSpeed, to give it its official title) and operates at 32-bit/192kHz audio resolution. There’s MIDI I/O, too, as well as DSP that provides zero-latency effects that can be used when monitoring. These can be accessed via the dspMixFx mixer.
Unsurprisingly, the UR22C is a 2-in/2-out audio interface. You get a couple of balanced Neutrik combo inputs, each of which sports a Yamaha D-PRE mic preamp, and two balanced line outputs.
With its rugged metal casing, the UR22C is a reliable audio interface if you want something that can be slung in a backpack without fear. It also includes a good bundle of software called Steinberg Plus which includes apps, sounds and loops.
Read the full Steinberg UR22C review
MiniFuse is French company Arturia’s compact interface range and we have the mid-sized MiniFuse 2 on test here. It has its own Control Centre software and also has one of the best bundles of software of all the interfaces here. You get Arturia titles (naturally) alongside Ableton Live Lite and Auto-Tune Unlimited.
The MiniFuse 2 sounds pretty good, with nice clean main outputs and plenty of volume from the headphones. The instrument inputs also sound great and it’s good to see two identical mic/line/instrument inputs. But it’s the overall functionality that wins through, with plenty of backlit buttons and illuminated controls so it's obvious what’s going on.
MiniFuse 2 is a feature-rich device with extras that you don’t always get at this price. Factor in the impressive software bundle, generous five-year warranty and a choice of colours and you have a pretty decent package for the money.
Read the full Arturia MiniFuse 2 review
The iD4 MkII is, on the face of it, a simple two-input/two-output, offering a mic preamp complete with phantom power for using condenser mics. There’s also an instrument level DI for plugging in your guitar or bass, plus a smart scroll wheel enabling you to tweak settings in your software. On top of this, there’s a main output for your speakers and dual headphone outputs.
The whole thing is powered via USB-C and, with Apple’s camera connection kit, it can also work with an iPhone/iPad. However, for us the studio devilry is in the detail: Audient has really thought about everything with value and usability in mind, making what is a budget solution feel anything but inexpensive in use. The Audient iD4 MkII is one of the best USB audio interface we’ve tried and also features a very decent software bundle.
Read the full Audient iD4 MKII review
The follow-up to the original iRig Pro Duo, the I/O offers two analogue combo inputs so that you can connect and simultaneously record your favoured combination of instruments and mics. These inputs come with updated Class-A preamps, adjustable gain and phantom power. There’s MIDI I/O, too, along with two balanced 1/4-inch outputs and a headphone output.
You can engage the direct monitor switch for latency-free monitoring of the incoming signal, and the iRig Pro Duo I/O comes with a USB-C cable for easy compatibility with modern devices (Lightning and USB-A cables are supplied, too). There are new dedicated PC drivers as well, along with a refreshed rubberised finish.
The iRig Pro Duo I/O can be bus-powered or run on two AA batteries. It ships with a large bundle of software including two bonus IK titles of your choice. It’s compatible with iOS, Android, PC and Mac so could be just the thing if you need to record on the move, as well as in your studio.
Read the full IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo I/O review
Komplete Audio 2 has a two-input, two-output design with two identical mic/line/instrument inputs. Connections are on space-saving combi XLRs with individual selector switches to select between line and instrument. 48V phantom power, meanwhile, is engaged globally via a single switch.
In addition to the inputs, the front panel includes a hardware monitoring balance knob (Input/Host) and headphone output with independent control.
The main output level is controlled from a large output level knob on the top panel. Here you’ll also find the input meters, alongside phantom and USB indicators. Round the back you’ve got the USB-B connector, a pair of balanced outputs on TRS 1/4-inch jacks and a Kensington Security slot.
Komplete Audio 2 makes our best audio interface under $200/£200 list because in action its performance is as slick as its looks. Though the features are basic, it does its job admirably. And when you consider the excellent software bundle, it's great value.
Read the full Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 review
With high-quality Onyx mic pre's, balanced analogue connectivity and operation up to 24-bit/192kHz, the bus-powered Onyx Producer 2.2 audio interface is more than capable of getting clean signals in and out of your DAW. There are two identical mic/line inputs with combination XLR/jack connectors. Each has a manual green backlit switch to select a Hi Z instrument, and there’s a global backlit switch for 48V phantom power.
Input signals can be monitored with zero latency using the Input/DAW Mix knob, and rounding off the front panel are a large Monitor level knob and headphone output with level knob. Round the back you’ll find a pair of 1/4-inch jacks for the monitor output, and also a pair of MIDI connectors (In and Out), which is very handy. Throw in the robust metal case and you’ve got a compact workhorse device that should last for years. You also get a DAW, Tracktion, in the box and an Essentials plugin collection.
Read the full Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2 review
Best audio interfaces under $200/£200: Buying advice
What should I expect to pay for an audio interface?
The best audio interface for you will at least partly come down to price. This buyers guide is for those with a budget of around £200/$200/€200 and, as you can see, you get some great interfaces for that outlay. If you have less to spend, we also recommend reading our guide focused specifically on the best budget audio interfaces.
Interfaces are serious pieces of kit that should keep the audio signal quality high throughout the recording process, but you needn't pay serious money for them. If you are an in-the-box producer, you might only need one input at any one time to record, plus a couple of outputs to your speakers. Even a singer/guitarist can get away with just two inputs, and a decent 1 or 2-input/2-output audio interface only costs from around £50/$50/€50 up to £200/$200/€200. Add more inputs and better quality preamps on these – which will give you a better quality audio recording – and you could pay anything from a couple of hundred to £700/$700/€700 for a medium-sized interface capable of recording all of the outputs from a band, for example.
Pro grade interfaces with fast connectivity, the ability to power software (see Universal Audio) and digital inputs and outputs can tip into four figures – sometimes up to two grand – but you might not need any or all of the extras they offer. Many interfaces support an array of digital ins and outs like ADAT and S/PDIF, for example, two digital standards you only need to take into consideration if you have other audio gear with these inputs and outputs included.
How we test audio interfaces
Audio interfaces are essentially devices designed to record audio into your computer DAW, and play it back out. The key factors when testing them are how easily they do this and the level of audio quality they are capable of delivering while doing so.
Many audio interfaces are 'plug ’n’ play' so will automatically be picked up by your computer and DAW when you first connect them, so setting up should be easy. Your DAW should then list all of the audio interface's physical inputs and outputs, often as selectable options on its input and output channels.
Sound quality is determined by an interface's A-D/D-A convertors, sample rates and frequencies quoted in their specs (24-bit/96kHz, for example).
We test for sound quality by recording several sources via the interface's mic and line inputs, and judging the playback quality against that expected from the specs. We also compare the same material recorded with our reference audio interfaces that we use on a daily basis.
Some audio interfaces come with extra bespoke software that lets you select input and output configurations and might also add other routing options or even effects. How easy this extra software is to use is also an important factor.
We also consider latency when testing interfaces. This is the time it takes for audio to go into and out of your computer DAW via the audio interface. If this is slow, the latency figure is high so can result in a delay between you playing a note and then hearing it. This is obviously not practical if you are recording some playing and attempting to be in time with your DAW playback.