The MusicRadar Best in music tech 2019 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. We gave you a list of some of the finest I/O boxes to have come to our attention in 2019; it was up to you to decide which one of them deserves to be crowned the best of the year. Let's see how you voted...
1. Focusrite Scarlett Gen 3
Focusrite’s Scarlett USB interfaces combine excellent sonics and audio flexibility at an affordable price point. The third generation units landed this year, and didn't disappoint.
Topping the bill of new features is the third-generation mic pre, which is the best ever to feature in a Scarlett audio interface and can reproduce the Air effect from Focusrite's original ISA mic preamp, which is designed to add brightness and space to the likes of vocal and acoustic instrument recordings.
There’s also a slicker front panel with LEDs and the halo-style input level meters sitting below a shiny surface, while the excellent Focusrite Control software delivers an upgraded user experience.
Read more: Full Focusrite Scarlett 3rd Gen review
2. Universal Audio Apollo X4
The Apollo Twin X and quad-core Apollo x4 launched simultaneously this autumn. The Twin X is an evolution of the Apollo Twin MkII, with two Unison-enabled preamps that model the impedance characteristics, gain stage “sweet spots” and unique circuit behaviours of a wide range of sought-after tube and solid state preamps, guitar amps, and stompboxes.
Our runner-up in the poll, the quad-core Apollo x4 takes things further by offering more I/O - it’s a 12-in/18-out audio interface - four of those Unison preamps, two Hi-Z instrument inputs and two independent headphone outputs.
3. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 mk2
Promising both style and substance, NI launched a revamped Komplete Audio 6 audio interface back in May. A larger sibling for the Komplete Audio 1 and 2 boxes that were announced earlier this year, the Komplete Audio 6 Mk 2 follows the same design blueprint as its little brothers, but ups the ante with a glass and aluminium housing. This makes the interface more durable, though the original version was actually pretty bombproof anyway.
The Mk2 certainly looks slicker than its predecessor, while controls, connections and the new LED VU-meters are designed to be positioned where you need them to be. Enhancements have been made on the inside, too: you can now record at 24-bit/192kHz, while the all-new preamps offer improved gain range and higher dynamic range for lower noise floors when recording.
4. Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre
The AudioFuse 8Pre is serious piece of kit. An eight-channel dual-mode interface/ADAT expander that comes in a rack format, not only does it enable you to expand your ADAT-enabled audio interface with eight channels of DiscretePRO analogue audio, but you can also use it as a dedicated USB-C audio interface.
5. Steinberg AXR4
When the AXR4 landed, we were instantly enamoured of its stunning audio quality, with ultra high-resolution recording rates and gorgeous preamps designed with involvement from the legendary Neve team.
Like Universal Audio’s Apollo range, effects (a bundled effects suite is provided by Yamaha) are processed on the AXR4’s internal chips, removing the load from your computer’s CPU.
Just as Apogee’s preferential status within Logic Pro X means its preamps can be configured per channel within Logic’s mixer, so Cubase users will love the ‘immediate’ relationship they can enjoy with the AXR4, with per-channel channel strips directly controllable within Steinberg’s DAW.
Quality oozes from every pore here.
Read more: Steinberg AXR4 review