Which audio interfaces do the pros use?

Three images side by side of Finneas, Grimes and Jacob Collier
(Image credit: Getty Images/David Linvingston/Theo Wargo/Lia Toby)

Of the great many thrilling pieces of hardware you can buy for recording, audio interfaces rarely rank high on the excitement scale. Their job is a relatively unglamorous one, being more a catalyst for creativity than an instrument of it. They are, nonetheless, an essential tool for modern recording purposes.

It’s only natural, then, that in service of choosing your first or next interface, you’d want to look to the professionals for inspiration. After all, if it’s good enough for a ‘real’ musician or producer, it’s surely good enough for you too? 

Of course, we’re all real musicians and producers here – and the truth is that the playing field for good interfaces is more level than it might initially seem. As you’ll discover, even the highly successful amongst us are content with some surprisingly accessible interfaces. 

There’s still a lot to learn from the chosen recording environments of the pros. With this in mind, we’ve selected from a wide range of lauded professionals, from songwriters to producers, and sniffed out their audio interfaces of choice.

1. Finneas

SPACES: Inside the Tiny Bedroom Where FINNEAS and Billie Eilish Are Redefining Pop Music - YouTube SPACES: Inside the Tiny Bedroom Where FINNEAS and Billie Eilish Are Redefining Pop Music - YouTube
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Known for: producing/songwriting with/performing with/being the brother of Billie Eilish; solo singer-songwriting

Their sound: Finneas is the producer powerhouse behind Billie Eilish’s incomparable rise to the upper echelons of pop, whose sonic fingerprint is unmistakable. Finneas’ productions are at once whisper-quiet and bodaciously loud, embracing dynamics and contrast by way of some supremely smart mix decision-making.

Interface of choice: Universal Audio Apollo x8p, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 

In a YouTube mini-doc from distribution company AWAL, Finneas’s home studio (where Billie Eilish’s debut album was largely tracked) is shown to have a Universal Audio Apollo 8p (more on which shortly), but also a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20.

The 18i20 is a decidedly lower-budget interface, but one which earned its place thanks to its quiet, clean and plentiful mic preamps. The low noise-floor of the Scarlett series’ preamps makes it possible to capture the sotto-voce-ness of someone like Eilish without losing sonic ground to hiss or hum.

2. Claire Boucher (a.k.a Grimes)

Known for: producing forward-looking techno-pop as Grimes; ill-fatedly marrying Elon Musk

Their sound: Claire Boucher’s production output as Grimes runs the gamut, from the sweetvoiced synthy-indie of 2011 album Oblivion to the tech-hellscape industrialism of 2021’s We Appreciate Power. The common thread is daring electronica.

Interface of choice: Universal Audio Apollo Solo

In a recent Instagram post, Boucher shared that she was cutting vocals for some new material. The picture shows what seems to be a mobile studio set-up in a Paris hotel, Boucher having furnished herself with some monitor speakers, a Shure SM57 and what appears to be a Universal Audio Apollo Solo interface. 

This portable interface is the ideal option for tracking individual sources like vocals on the move; its small form factor and tactile control surface also make it hugely useful for production and arrangement. 

3. Andrew Scheps

Mix Challenge with Andrew Scheps - YouTube Mix Challenge with Andrew Scheps - YouTube
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Known for: seminal rock production for Red Hot Chili Peppers/Audioslave/The Mars Volta/many more besides

Their sound: Andrew Scheps is a rightfully venerated engineer and producer, whose expert ear has guided some of the best rock albums of the last fifty years. Scheps’ mastery of parallel compression techniques has gifted him with a punchy, full-bodied aural fingerprint of which most producers can only dream; listen to Intertiatic ESP by The Mars Volta, and see.

Interface of choice: Avid HD I/O, Universal Audio Apollo x8p, Universal Audio Apollo Twin 

Scheps is a famed advocate of mixing ‘in the box’, having divided fans and the wider audio engineering industry with his playful, no-nonsense opinions on the analogue-vs-digital ‘debate’. His Pro Tools rig is centred around Avid HD I/O units, which provide a humongous array of ins and outs for big tracking sessions.

In a 2021 Q&A on music and audio forum Gearspace, Scheps also revealed that he uses Universal Audio interfaces for his D/A conversion – more accurately, an Apollo x8p for his monitors and an Apollo Twin for his headphones. Universal Audio’s top-flight converters and quiet, expressive amplifiers put them in high esteem for producers like Scheps, and are worth the investment even without considering their powerful onboard preamps and seamless in-line plugin processing capabilities.

4. Emily Hopkins 

Using vintage gear on my harp - YouTube Using vintage gear on my harp - YouTube
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Known for: Harp-centred pedal reviews on YouTube; composing film scores and video-game soundtracks

Their sound: Emily Hopkins is a classically-trained harpist with an ear for contemporary soundscaping. Her early experiments with combining harp and guitar effects pedals led her to an acclaimed career composing for video games, soundtracking for Dreamworks films and otherwise goofing around with pedal reviews on YouTube.

Interface of choice: Universal Audio Apollo x8p

Hopkins’ own YouTube videos reveal a kitted-out desk, with a Universal Audio Apollo 8p at the centre of her rig. This Apollo 8 is an older model in UAD’s lineage, but still possesses eight powerful channels capable of receiving line-level signal – a god-send for recording instruments DI, and for using external preamps to colour said instruments, as Hopkins does with an array of API preamps.

5. Annie Clark

St. Vincent on All Born Screaming, oversharing, and working with Tori Amos - YouTube St. Vincent on All Born Screaming, oversharing, and working with Tori Amos - YouTube
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Known for: St. Vincent/The Polyphonic Spree/collaborations with David Byrne 

Their sound: Annie Clark is one of few people to genuinely earn the honorific ‘guitar god’, with her unique and learned approach to shredding that colours her music with chaotic maximalism. She’s no stranger to weirdness, whether via an enviable Eventide-heavy pedalboard or her off-kilter collabs with the likes of David Byrne. 

Interface of choice: AVID HD I/O 16x16 (x3), Universal Audio Apollo Twin

In the background of a May 2024 interview with Tom Power, part of Clark’s home studio is visible – including a rack containing three AVID HD I/O units. Each HD I/O unit represents 16 channels of audio in and out; by Clark’s own admission, her home and studio are one and the same, which goes some way to explaining the outrageous number of inputs and outputs this rack represents.

On the smaller end of the interface spectrum, Clark also has some familiarity with Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin. The Twin is featured prominently in her Masterclass course on composition, Clark having used the interface to demonstrate at-home writing and development.

6. Will Putney

ToneHub - Will Putney 20x10 Interview - YouTube ToneHub - Will Putney 20x10 Interview - YouTube
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Known for: pre-eminent production of heavy and hardcore artists, including Knocked Loose, Stray From The Path and Every Time I Die

Their sound: Though hardcore music never really went away, there’s no doubting that it’s having its moment right now – and that Will Putney is one of the major catalysts for this moment. Putney’s raw, unpretentious approach to capturing heaviness has made him the producer du jour for hardcore’s most exciting bands.

Interface of choice: Motu 2408, 24I/0, Universal Audio Apollo Interfaces

In a 2015 interview, Putney shared that his studio set-up utilised a combination of well-heeled Motu 2408s and Motu 24I/Os, which together gave him dozens of ins and outs for tracking and outboard processing. However, since this interview, Putney moved studios – and, per a press release from SSL, upgraded his setup with Universal Audio Apollo interfaces. Apollo’s Thunderbolt connectivity makes harnessing I/O a cinch, allowing Putney to more easily access his mojo-imparting outboard equipment.

7. Jacob Collier

Known for: viral a cappella arrangements/breathless multi-instrumentalism/writing maximalist fusion-musik that pushes the boundaries of music theory

Their sound: Jacob Collier is an irrepressible force of musical nature, whose prodigy presents in harmonically-rich arrangements and an appetite for oddity. Collier’s musical output ranges from lush, choral a cappella to mangled orchestral hugeness, all in service of an experimental jazz-fusion result.

Interface of choice: Focusrite Red 8Line, Grace Audio M905 Monitor Controller

Collier is a huge self-producer, recording and mixing most all of his releases from his home studio. He gave a tour of said studio to Caleb Simpson in April 2024, where – amongst his characteristically esoteric collection of instruments and object d’art – you can spy a rack-mounted Focusrite Red 8Line. The Red 8Line features a truly stunning amount of ins and outs, with Dante capabilities that open up 32 channels alone. 

The Red 8Line feeds XLR snakes and junction boxes around Collier’s room, enabling him to hop from instrument to instrument with minimal set-up or delay. Additionally, Collier has a Grace Audio M905 – a deeply-featured standalone monitor system, with a first-class DAC and overkill connectivity. This is a favoured system for many studios – including Rick Rubin’s Shangri-LA.

8. Mac DeMarco

Mac Demarco | Behind the Scenes Interview - YouTube Mac Demarco | Behind the Scenes Interview - YouTube
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Known for: breezy avant-slacker hits as Mac DeMarco; bizarre Vaseline-soaked studio-recording instructionals

Their sound: Mac DeMarco is the producer many of us yearn to become, having successfully built a career on exactly the DIY experimentation that attracts the average home producer to buying broken things off eBay. DeMarco’s woozy, irreverent indie hip-shakery is as infectious as it is idiosyncratic, and was largely achieved via an impressive collection of old and colourful studio hardware.

Interface of choice: Lynx Studio Aurora(n) 8

Mac Demarco’s 2023 instrumental album Five Easy Hot Dogs was recorded while travelling the US – and, according to a recent interview, recorded via a Lynx Studio Aurora interface. Given DeMarco also brought eight API preamps along with him, we can assume it was an eight-channel AD-DA converter like the Lynx Studio Aurora(n) 8.

The Aurora interfaces do not have their own preamps built in, making them lean converters ideal for interfacing analogue outboard with your digital session. The converters you get are top-notch, and the units are blissfully free of blips or artefacts when recording too.

9. Yvette Young

Known for: heavy math-rock riffing with Covet; pop-tinged solo heartbreakers 

Their sound: Yvette Young is truly a guitarist’s guitarist, having shredded ears and minds with her technically-adept brand of loose math-y riffery in her band Covet. She’s also a prolific songwriter outside of math-rock, with an immaculately-produced pop-songwriter streak as evidenced by recent sessions with sad-folkster-supreme Novo Amor.

Interface of choice: Universal Audio Apollo Twin/Quad/8p/x8p

Pinning down Young’s home setup past pedals and amps is tough, but Young has spent a great deal of time realising her recent songwriting through collaboration with Novo Amor at his studio – where a number of Universal Apollo interfaces can be seen. A desktop-borne Apollo Twin handles monitor and headphone control, while there’s also an array of rack-mount Apollos – including a silver Apollo Quad, an Apollo 8p and a newer Apollo x8p.

James Grimshaw
Freelance writer

James Grimshaw is a freelance writer and music obsessive with over a decade of experience in music and audio writing. They’ve lent their audio-tech opinions (amongst others) to the likes of Guitar World, MusicRadar and the London Evening Standard – before which, they covered everything music and Leeds through their section-editorship of national e-magazine The State Of The Arts. When they aren’t blasting esoteric noise-rock around the house, they’re playing out with esoteric noise-rock bands in DIY venues across the country; James will evangelise to you about Tera Melos until the sun comes up.

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