The MusicRadar Best in music tech 2020 polls received thousands of votes, and we're rolling out this year's winners.
Your audio interface is the forgotten hero of your studio. You might not think about it too much, but it sits there dutifully doing its essential job, never getting a word of thanks in return.
As such, we thought it only right and proper to invite audio interfaces to our gear of the year party.
Let's see how you voted...
1. SSL 2+
This year's triumphant winner is a compact interface with pro features and connectivity, which delivers an affordable version of ‘the SSL sound’, bringing the feel of a gazillion recordings made in 7-figure recording studios within our reach.
This is the big brother to the standard SSL2, the main difference being that the 2+ adds two outputs to the 2-in, 2-out configuration of the 2, MIDI In/Out plus an additional independent headphone out (with both being able to monitor different mixes). There's also the 4k button which adds some extra presence and high-end zing (and, more importantly, makes you feel that little bit more 'pro').
2. RME Babyface Pro FS
A 24-channel, 192kHz bus-powered USB 2.0 device that sits on your desktop, the Babyface Pro FS features RME’s SteadyClock FS technology, which is designed to bring self-jitter to “new lows” and improve audio quality.
You also get increased headphone power in comparison to the previous Babyface Pro, while plugins from the likes of Scuffham Amps, Gig Performer and Brainworx come included courtesy of Plugin Alliance.
3. Arturia Audiofuse Studio
One of the most future-proof interfaces we’ve seen in a while with plenty of options for all your studio needs, even the ones you didn’t think you had.
The desktop unit features four Discrete Pro preamps fed by four front-mounted mic/line combi ports. While channels five to eight are served by TR ports around the back, with channels five and six also giving you the option of phono ports, should you need them.
The analogue inputs don’t stop there, the unit is equipped with four line-level inserts on the first four channels. In terms of outputs, channels one to four are reserved for two sets of speaker outputs, while five and six double as aux outs but can also be switched for reamping guitars and effects.
4. Apogee Symphony Desktop
Symphony Desktop is a DSP-toting 10-in/14-out audio interface that promises to blend the sound quality of the existing Symphony I/O MkII with the simplicity of Apogee's more affordable Duet and Quartet interfaces. This is the most affordable Symphony product ever, but still packs in flagship A/D converters and mic preamps, a dynamic touchscreen and a single control knob.
One of the big highlights is the hybrid Alloy Mic Preamp emulation, which uses both analogue circuitry and DSP processing to create what Apogee calls “the richest, most authentic audio modeling available in an audio interface”.
5. Audient EVO 4
Having previously wowed us with the quality of its iD4 audio interface, Audient made another play at the budget end of the market with the EVO range. Focusing on making recording easy, this contains two models: EVO 4 and EVO 8.
The EVOs feature a new mic preamp design with 58dB gain range, converters with 113dB dynamic range, a JFET instrument input, speaker/headphone outputs, low-latency performance, monitor mix and loopback functionality and class-compliant USB-C connectivity. There’s also the new Smartgain feature, which automatically sets the gain level when the user starts playing or singing.
6. Universal Audio Apollo Solo
Essentially a repackaged Arrow, with dual Unison mic preamps, realtime UAD processing (enabling near-zero latency tracking through the famed UAD plugins) and a selection of studio compressors, EQs, reverbs, and guitar amp emulations included as standard (all part of the Realtime Analog Classics bundle). You get a copy of LUNA - UA’s software recording platform - too.
7. Antelope Audio Zen Tour Synergy Core
Zen Tour is a wonderfully compact yet impressively powerful interface that delivers flexibility and sonic finesse in equal measure - an incredibly capable unit that is pretty easy to use and sounds fantastic. Yes, it’s expensive but you’re certainly getting a lot for your money.
8. PreSonus Quantum 2626
Looking to record and monitor multiple audio streams at once? USB may not be robust enough.
The most reliable plugin system is Thunderbolt and Presonus’ new Quantum 2626 is their first interface to support the latest Thunderbolt 3 protocol. Lightning fast latency and quality Class A mic pres in a truly affordable package make the Quantum 2626 a highly desirable interface.
9. CEntrance MixerFace R4B
Touted as a mobile interface, the MixerFace R4 was a great solution for anyone wanting to have a studio-quality audio interface that could fit in their pocket and worked well with both iOS and Android devices.
CEntrance has since taken the logical step of adding onboard recording capabilities and even better still, added the PodMic PM1 removable XY mics for a truly all-in-one recording solution.
10. PreSonus ioStation 24c
If you’re not sure whether to buy a new audio interface or DAW controller next, maybe you don’t have to choose, because PreSonus offers the ioStation 24c.
Lifting functionality from the Studio Series USB-C 24-bit/192kHz audio interfaces and the FaderPort USB production controller, the ioStation 24c includes two of PreSonus’s XMAX Class A analogue preamps, simple transport controls and a 100mm touch-sensitive motorised fader. As such, it can help you out at both the recording and mixing stages of the creative process.