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Why I Chosen These Interfaces ?

Howdy music lovers, This is a special “best of” style post and this time I am reviewing the Best 6+1 Audio Interfaces if you are in a budget. Under $100 to be exact.

I've got the top Seven budget audio interfaces and tested them all on various verticals like vocals, guitars, headphones levels, preamps, connections, I/O, and the bundled software with interface.

You may be wondering why the Softwares ?

Audio Interface softwares are one of the core element of audio interfaces.

And you really should consider the plugins and software these interfaces come with because that may be the deciding factor for you.

While all of the interfaces included in this list are beginner friendly and good.

But some of them lack some special touches and this is where I came IN to highlight the cons and help you in making a better decision.

And if you think I missed something or have a question leave it in the comments below and I would be more than happy to help you out.

(We also have listed 10 Best Audio Mixers to mix music like Pros.)

Before starting with list, I would like to highlight the features that’s common on all of the audio interfaces.

What's common In These Audio Interfaces

what audio interface do i need
  1. All of these audio interfaces are around $100 except for one of them which is under 60 (at the time of this writing).
  2. All of these interfaces are 2 channel interfaces. Meaning you have two inputs for external recording.
  3. They all have one set of outputs which will go to your studio monitors
  4. You can use all of these interfaces with a microphone, even a condenser microphone because they have phantom power
  5. You can plug in your guitars and external keyboards into them as well.
  6. All of these will work with pretty much any DAW on a Mac or a PC.
  7. Latency - all of these had similar latency with my Mac Book pro but they also feature direct monitoring which is a great solution for dealing with latency.
  8. Direct Monitoring - Direct monitoring allows you to hear at the direct input of your external sound along with the music from your DAW, so you can sing or play in time with the music.

I used my beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro, 250 ohm headphones to test these interfaces. As you might know DT 770 is quieter than your average headphones. But I still highly recommend them.

So I will also let you readers know about how loud the headphone outputs are on these interfaces.

Now let’s dive in to the detailed analysis of the best budget audio interfaces under $100.

Alright let's get this started with the newest audio interface of the seven.

M-Audio Air 192|4

M-Audio AIR 192|4 - 2-In 2-Out USB Audio Interface with Recording Software

M-Audio Air 192|4 is the most unique looking audio interface on this list. And you better like that because the interface has to sit on your desk in front of you because of the design.

And it's big in size when compared to the rest.

The knobs on the interface are huge (especially the center volume control one) but they feel quite nice when operated.

Talking about input M audio Air 192|4 got a combo microphone and line input option on the back side of the interface and a high Z input for your guitar on the front low end.

Personally speaking I really love the meters on this audio interface. They're really big and easy to read. Making the whole user interface side quite easy to understand and use.

As far as output are considered, it's got TRS outputs in the back of the panel. You will also get Stereo 1/4th out /// 1/4th inch Headphone out (with independent control).

I felt that the headphone output was a little quiet with my beyerdynamic headphones.

And the electric guitar I recorded sounded crisp and clear.

And finally the included software with M Audio Air 192|4 is excellent.

You get Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, Avid effects and a bunch of instruments and effects from the parent organization AIR Plugin.

If the size of the audio interface is not bothering you then it might be a good option to consider in the $100 price range.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 Two-Channel Audio Interface

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 Two-Channel Audio Interface

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 is a decent audio interface with an excellent unique software package. And all this comes at a very genuine price tag.

It's got all the features I covered with the above M-Audio AIR interface review.

Now what’s make it different from the m-Audio is the dedicated mic input and a combo Line/Instrument input option.

The VU meters on the top are really great and I appreciate the placement of the volume knob as well.

May be you are not faced the issue but convenience of the volume knob is really important especially if you don't live alone or if you're in a close apartment. I am sure you'll be reaching for this all the time. So I love when the volume knob is easily accessible.

Coming to Preamps, the preamps on the Native Instruments were the warmest of all the 7 interfaces I tested here. Don’t get me wrong, I mean it wasn't overly warm but a nice warm.

The electric guitar I recorded sounded super crisp and clean.

If you like the M-audio AIR layout then you will also like the Komplete Audio 1 interface as both are nearly identical but this one is in a more compact body compared to the later.

The included software are Native Instruments centric but are really excellent.

You get the Maschine DAW, Monark synth, a bunch of Native Instruments effects and Ableton Live Lite.

Overall Native Instrument Komplete Audio 1 is an admirable audio interface and does not give space to complain about. The only issue I have with the interface is that it's got a plasticky feel to it.

Tascam US 1x2

Tascam US-1x2 USB Audio-MIDI Interface with Microphone Preamps

The next audio interface is the Tascam US 1x2.

It's certainly not as popular as the others in this roundup but it has some unique features and best part is that comes under $100.

What makes it stand out of among its peers are that it is iOS compatible along with being compatible with Macs and PCs.

Also it's got mic and instrument inputs in the front and then another 2 line inputs in the back too.

You can't use the front and the back input at the same time but it is useful.

How?

Let me explain this, Example- If you've got guitar, a microphone, and a synth (or any other instrument) you can keep them all hooked up at the same time. It will save you from switching cables when required.

You can just use the inbuilt a switch in the back of the interface to choose the line inputs you want to use at the moment. It comes really handy.

The metal body of the Tascam US 1x2 seems strong and the knobs feel excellent.

However there are a few issues which needs to get highlighted.

There is no knob for mixing your direct monitoring signal with your DAWs music which other interfaces in this list have.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 has an input and host knob in the back panel which is really useful when you're recording but Tascam does not have a dedicated knob and forces you to do it in the software.

One more thing that I don’t like is that there are a lot of switches in the back of the interface which is a bit annoying. You need to constantly reach on the back to tweak the interface.

Also the signal meters are kind of sparse. It lights up red if you clip but there’s no meters like on the M-audio and the Native Instruments.

I found that my electric guitar recording was muffled and low. It just can't be compared with the other two interfaced reviewed above.

Finally the included software isn't as competitive as some of the others in this roundup.

It includes Cubase LE which is a scaled-down version of the Cubase DAW.

By the way if you've got a little extra cash I'm gonna let you know what you can get if you spend a little more and upgrade to the next level of audio interface. (This is mentioned in very last of this review)

Presonus AudioBox 96

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2 USB Audio Interface

Now the audio interface that surprised me the most in this “best of” roundup is Presonus AudioBox 96.

The reason it surprised me is because it looks and feels dated, but in reality it is not. AudioBox 96 was launched in the beginning of 2017 and offers bunch of latest features and does not hurt your pocket too.

Let’s jump into it.

Presonus AudioBox 96 has two microphone inputs with the combo as an instrument input as well.

When I record it through the mic it sounded really good - nice and flat which is great.

Another wonderful add-on is that, It is also the only audio interface in this lineup that has MIDI ins and outs. MIDI in/out comes handy if you have an old keyboard without a USB connection.

The headphone output was a little quiet on my Beyerdynamic headphones.

The drawback which screamed at my face is that the headphone jack is on the back of the interface which is not optimal at all (there’s 2 more drawback which I listed below).

The included software is simply excellent.

With Presonus AudioBox 96 you will get the Studio One DAW, and the Studio Magic package which includes lots of great plugins like FX from BrainWorx and Output and even Arturia Analog Lab Lite.

Another little snag is that the clipping light. Which is not as nice as the meter on the other interfaces.

Now the knobs! These are the worst knobs among all of these in my opinion.

They feel scratchy to the touch and the knob placement is really odd to be honest.

They are really weird, You'll see that the first knob in the row actually controls the second input. Why Presonus why?

But otherwise it's one of my favourite audio interface in this list.

Behringer UMC 22

BEHRINGER audio interface (UMC22)

This one is the cheapest audio interface in this list.

And It's the Behringer UMC 22. You can currently find this for around 60 bucks even though it retails for $100!

It is the cheapest option in this list but it does not compromise in terms of quality and feature. It offers most of the feature you expect from a good audio interface.

Behringer UMC 22 has a combo mic line input and one instrument input on the front panel.

it's got a signal and clipping indicator like the Presonus mentioned above, but not as nice as the meters on the Native Instruments in M-Audio interfaces.

The mic recording was not of the world but still sounded okay but just a little closed and tinny to me.

That’s acceptable But;

The guitar recording was the quietest even at full gain.

My electric guitar sounded “OK” but nowhere near the M-audio Native Instruments, and Presonus recordings.

Also this audio interface can only record up to 48 KHz which is fine for most but few others may want the option to record on higher quality too.

I mean a few of the audio interfaces in this list go up to 192 KHz. So UMC 22 still got some room for improvement.

Coming to the included software, The Behringer includes Tracktion Waveform DAW which is a really nice DAW and you get a few free effects and instruments from Behringer’s own Plugins.

UMC 22 is not my favorite audio interface but works just fine and get the job done. And of-course you can't beat the price!

Here are few other appreciable Interfaces from Behringer - 

Behringer UMC 404HD

Behringer Xenyx Q802USB Premium

Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD

Behringer (UMC204HD)

These are just perfect and worth your consideration if Behringer is your choice like other great artists.

Before we get to the last two I got a little advice.

I love doing these budget articles because so many of you are just starting out with music production and I have been there too. 

For taking better decisions I've reviewed the Best Budget Digital Pianos and Weighted keys keyboard if you are interested check them out too.?

Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) - The Best Audio Interface Under $100

Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) - The Best Audio Interface Under $100

No audio interface comparison would be complete without Focusrite.

These are the best selling budget audio interfaces on the market and for all the good reason.

The Scarlett Solo has a mic input and an instrument input in a metal body with a compact and sleek design.

Good news, Focusrite just recently updated the design of their Scarlett interfaces.

Many people love the halo meters look but I do prefer the other type. (Everyone has their own taste)

The preamps sound fabulous and the new Air feature gives you the sound of Focusrite's more expensive interfaces which is really cool.

Focusrite has made its place in hearts of fellow musicians and has a great reputation and the software doesn't disappoint either.

You will get Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, and the Focusrite collective which gives you frequent access to free plug-ins from different companies.

So much dynamic software add-ons are really nice but you may get a few more instrument plugins right off the bat with interfaces like the Native Instruments one.

You'll notice that the Scarlett Solo, like the Tascam and Behringer model reviewed above does not include a direct monitoring knob.

My another issue with the Focusrite interface is the knob placement.

I tend to hit my fingers against the headphone knob every time I reach for the volume.

Other than this the Focusrite physical interface is very intuitive and looks futuristic.

Overall, Focusrite Scarlet Solo (3rd Generation) is the perfect audio interface and give you best bang for your buck.

Some other Awesome Focurite Interfaces with just a bit $$ more and worth your consideration are Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (2nd Gen) and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen) {Updated 2i2 driver}. Check them out too !!

Steinberg UR12

Steinberg UR12 USB Audio Interface

The final contestant in our list of best audio interface under $100 is The Steinberg UR12 USB Audio Interface.

This interface comes from a well known company that makes the super popular Cubase DAW software and you get Cubase AI bundled with this interface too.

UR 12 from Steinberg has got a mic input and an instrument input and all the basic features of the other interfaces listed here.

What always gets on my nerve are the single light clipping indicator which is similar to the Tascam and Presonus And Behringer models.

And it's missing the direct monitoring knob as well. And the phantom power switch is on the back panel.

It would be much better if they include more softwares from a variety of companies. But don’t get me wrong The included Cubase AI is a pretty complete deal on its own.

Other Yamaha's Steinberg Interface worth your consideration is Yamaha Steinberg UR22MKII 2-Channel USB Interface. Check Them Out Too !!!

My Experience With All These Budget Audio Interfaces

Here are some final thoughts on my favorites.

The M-Audio looks modern, great knob layout, but it's pretty big for just a basic audio interface.

The Native Instruments interface is super small if that's what you need. And I love the layout and included software.

The Presonus really surprised me and is the best value for what you get. MIDI included and great software. But it feels dated and I think Presonus may update this some time soon.

Finally I've been a Focusrite interface user for years. I can attest to its durability and longevity. If you can deal with the lack of that direct monitoring knob, I would stand behind the,Scarlett Solo.

Some Other Suggestions Of Above $100 Interfaces For Your Studio

So what do you get when you pay around $30-$70 more to upgrade to the next level of audio interfaces?

Well in most cases you just get more inputs and outputs.

More inputs are helpful if you record multiple instruments at a time or if you have a band.

I also find them useful if like me you've got a bunch of hardware synths and you don't want to keep unplugging and plugging back in your different devices.

More outputs is useful if you have multiple studio speakers or if you want to route the audio to other external equipment.

These are my pick if you increase your budget a bit.

  1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen)
  2. Yamaha Steinberg UR22MKII 2-Channel USB Interface
  3. Alesis MultiMix 8 USB FX
  4. Mackie Audio Interface, 3x2 (BIG KNOB STUDIO)
  5. Behringer UMC 404HD Audiophile 4X4 24-Bit/192 KHz
  6. Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (2nd Gen)
  7. Behringer Xenyx Q802USB Premium
  8. Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD, 2-Channel
  9. Behringer (UMC204HD)

Maybe it'll be right for you when you decide to upgrade your studio.

I hope you found this information useful and helped you out in taking a better decision

If you have any questions leave them in the comments. I will be more than happy to help you out.


That's all From Our End Now,

Till Than,

Keep Playing and Spread Love. 

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