- IK Multimedia AXE I/O USB Audio Interface
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin Mk II
- Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2
- Universal Audio Volt 176
- Presonus Audiobox USB 96
- SSL 2+ Audio Interface
- Apogee Symphony Desktop
- What Is An Audio Interface?
- The Benefits Of A Good Audio Interface For Your Guitar
In the rapidly evolving world of music technology, finding the best audio interface for guitar can seem like locating a needle in a haystack. Are you tired of sifting through countless reviews and technical jargon that only leaves you more confused? Consider this article your beacon of enlightenment! We’ve handpicked the top contenders, sliced through the technical faff, and delivered the pros, cons, and unique benefits of each device.
Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned guitar maestro, this guide will empower you to make an informed choice, save time, and most importantly, get back to doing what you love—making music. Let’s twist some knobs and tune in!
The IK Multimedia AXE I/O is a USB audio interface crafted with guitar players in mind. Supporting up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, the interface boasts a two-in/five-out configuration. It includes a dedicated guitar input with adjustable input impedance to suit various pickups, alongside a re-amping output for easy re-recording of guitar tracks with amp tone. The AXE I/O comes with some impressive software, namely AmpliTube 4 Deluxe, 10 T-RackS 5 processing plug-ins, and Ableton Live 10 Lite.
You can connect this interface to your computer via USB, and it provides several monitoring choices, such as line outputs and a headphone output. It even accommodates the recording of microphones or line-level inputs through XLR/6.4mm combi sockets, with optional 48-volt phantom power for condenser mics.
- Specially designed for guitar players with a dedicated guitar input
- Variable input impedance to optimize the interaction with different pickups
- Reamping output for easy re-recording of guitar tracks with amp tone
- Comes bundled with AmpliTube 4 Deluxe software, 10 T-RackS 5 processing plug-ins, and Ableton Live 10 Lite
- Connects to a computer via USB and offers multiple monitoring options
- Accommodates the recording of microphones or line-level inputs
We suggest checking the official retailers of the IK Multimedia AXE I/O USB Audio Interface for current pricing.
As a user-friendly and high-performing tool, the AXE I/O offers a clean, high-quality signal path for recording guitars, compatible with both passive and active pickups. The built-in tuner and a Z-Tone knob allow for tonal shading and impedance adjustment. The reamping feature is a standout, letting you connect directly to a real amplifier or stompbox. This interface also supports amp simulations for practice and includes controller inputs for real-time control of virtual rig parameters.
On the more compact side of things, the AXE I/O ONE is likewise straightforward and easy to use. It shines with LED indicators for signal monitoring and control software for adjusting audio levels and settings. In terms of sound quality, it stands up to more expensive models without any latency issues.
However, it’s important to note that the specifics of the pros and cons can vary depending on individual needs and the specific model of the AXE I/O interface being used.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) is a highly accessible and cost-effective audio interface designed for recording and mixing music and podcasts. This unit offers compatibility with both Mac and Windows operating systems and connects via USB-C. The Scarlett 2i2 features two XLR/TRS combo inputs, a headphone jack, and balanced outputs.
To ensure studio-quality recordings, it supports a sample rate of up to 192kHz and a resolution of 24 bits. Moreover, its unique Air mode adds a delightful touch of brightness and character to vocals and acoustic instruments.
- Provides clear stereo recordings for XLR mics and quarter-inch inputs with low-latency monitoring.
- Easy to set up and operate, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced users.
- Compact and portable, ideal for on-the-go recording.
- High-quality microphone preamps for clean and quiet signals even at high gain levels.
- Direct monitoring feature for latency-free monitoring.
- Durable build quality that prevents noise or hum.
- Performance stability even at low buffer settings, avoiding pops, cracks, or dropouts.
- Halo signal indicators to indicate a good signal or clipping.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen), is known to be an affordable option within its category, providing significant value for its array of features. We suggest checking the official retailer for up-to-date pricing.
As a user of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen), I appreciate its transparent stereo recordings, easy setup, and portability. Additionally, its compact size allows for easy transport, making it a great option for recording on the move.
However, the interface does have its drawbacks. Its lack of precise gain level matching for dual inputs can be frustrating, and the lightweight body may be easily pulled by cables. Although some users have mentioned it feels slightly flimsy, I haven’t experienced any durability issues so far. Lastly, it being bus-powered can cause recording hiccups if the computer runs CPU-heavy programs, and it, unfortunately, lacks MIDI input/output. Despite these cons, the Scarlett 2i2 still stands as a strong contender in the market for audio interfaces.
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII is designed to cater to your professional desktop recording needs, irrespective of whether you use a Mac or Windows platform. This interface is acclaimed for its emulation of the sound of high-end analog gear such as Neve, SSL, API, Manley, and Universal Audio through its two Unison-enabled mic preamps. The Apollo Twin MkII comes bundled with a suite of analog emulation plug-ins, including the Teletronix LA-2A, 1176LN, Pultec EQs, and the UA 610-B Tube Preamp.
Enhanced by compatibility with LUNA Recording System, this interface provides access to analog sound and workflows as well as inspiring instruments. As a part of the award-winning Apollo range of interfaces, the Apollo Twin MkII is an industry-standard that supports 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion through its Thunderbolt audio interface.
- Near-zero latency monitoring with UAD Powered Plug-Ins, enabling access to vintage EQs, compressors, reverbs, tape machines, and more.
- Enhanced sound quality through improved A/D and D/A conversion, providing increased dynamic range and ultra-low THD.
- Advanced monitor control features including mute, DIM, mono, and ALT speaker switching, and a built-in talkback mic.
- Capable of controlling a larger studio setup by cascading multiple Apollo interfaces and UAD-2 devices over Thunderbolt.
- Comes with the “Realtime Analog Classics” UAD plug-in bundle, and can run UAD Powered Plug-Ins via VST, RTAS, and AAX 64 in all major DAWs.
- Provides free technical support from knowledgeable audio engineers.
Unfortunately, specific pricing information was not provided in the reference material. It is recommended to check the Universal Audio website or authorized dealers for current pricing and any ongoing promotions.
From personal experience, it’s hard not to be wowed by the Apollo Twin MkII. Its sound quality, versatility, and ease of use have earned it positive reviews from professionals in the music industry. It’s even been trusted for recording hit albums by artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Chris Stapleton, and Arcade Fire.
However, it’s important to note that no product is without some drawbacks. Some users have reported issues with customer service and software updates. Despite these concerns, the benefits and professional endorsements this interface offers significantly outweigh the reported negatives. As always, potential users should consider their unique recording needs and budget when evaluating this interface.
Introduced as an upgrade to the Komplete Audio series, the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 is a sleek, compact, and USB 2.0 bus-powered audio interface. It’s lighter and more visually appealing than its predecessor, the Komplete Audio 6. This device is designed with two identical microphone, line, and instrument inputs, each featuring a combination XLR and individual selector switches.
It also has a max sampling rate of 192kHz and supports 48V phantom power. The front panel houses a hardware monitoring balance knob and a headphone output with independent control. The main output, meanwhile, is adjusted by a large knob on the top panel, and input meters, phantom power, and USB indicators are included.
- Compact and visually appealing design, which is smaller and lighter than previous models
- Two identical inputs for microphones, instruments, or line-level signals, with individual selector switches and 48V phantom power offering versatility in use
- Tactile rubberized knobs and clear labels for ease of use
- High performance, promising a robust feel for regular usage
The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 boasts competitive pricing that comes with a solid package of bundled content. Ableton Live 10 Lite, Maschine 2 Essentials, and various software instruments and effects are all included in the bundle, giving users plenty of resources for their audio activities without having to purchase extra software.
From our perspective, the Komplete Audio 2 shines in a number of areas. Its tactile rubberized knobs and clear labelling are a user’s dream, making it straightforward and easy to use. Don’t be fooled by its compact size – it’s robust and slick, capable of standing up to regular use.
However, it’s not without its drawbacks. It lacks scaling on the controls and meters, which might prove to be a slight inconvenience for some users. Additionally, it doesn’t have an external power supply option, which makes it ideal for mobile and laptop use but perhaps not as versatile as some users might like. Even so, considering its high performance, appealing aesthetic, and competitively priced bundle, these are minor issues.
The Universal Audio Volt 176 is a part of the newly launched Volt series – a budget-friendly line of audio interfaces designed for beginners and hobbyists setting up their home studios. This USB audio interface stands out due to its high-quality sound, sleek design, and range of features.
Its compact, boxy shape allows for easy desk placement, and it comes with distinctive additions like a 5V power jack and an on/off switch. A remarkable feature of the Volt 176 is its ease of installation – it’s compatible with Windows 11 and doesn’t require a driver for use under Mac OS.
- The Vintage mode, unique to the Volt series, recreates the sound of a classic UA 610 tube preamp, adding a distinctive character to your sound.
- Built-in compressor on the 76 models, inspired by the classic UA 1176 compressor, offering three preset settings: vocals, guitar, and fast.
- The Volt 176 handles high gain and pushes preamps without significant distortion, making it a versatile audio interface.
- It comes bundled with software like Melodyne Essentials, Relab LX480 Essentials reverb, Softube amp sim, Ableton Live 11 Lite, and theLABS instruments.
- Designed for ease of use and solid build quality, the Volt 176 is a reliable choice for home recording.
- It provides a louder headphone output than most bus-powered interfaces, offering a better monitoring experience.
While slightly more expensive than similar devices in its category, the Volt 176 offers quality that justifies its price. It is priced significantly lower than other sound cards on the market, making it a great value. However, users should be mindful that utilizing the Volt 176 might require a subscription to Spark, as it is limited to buying UAD plugins.
As a user of the Volt 176, we see numerous advantages to this device. Its affordability and unique features like Vintage mode and direct hardware-handled monitoring make it a great choice for those setting up a home studio. We found that the Volt 176 performs well and delivers low latency measurements. Moreover, the built-in compressor adds a noticeable and dramatic difference to the sound, especially on vocals and drums.
On the flip side, the Volt 176 does not offer extensive control over direct monitoring, with only an on/off switch. Some users might find the included plugins to have limited functionality and the hardware and software to be slightly complex. A few users have also reported technical issues like difficulty connecting to the UA cloud and slow response from UAD support. Despite these minor cons, we believe the Volt 176 is a solid choice for anyone looking to enhance their home studio setup.
The Presonus Audiobox USB 96 is a comprehensive recording and production bundle that offers everything a budding musician or producer might need. At its core is the AudioBox USB 96 interface, PreSonus’ top-selling USB audio interface celebrated for its superior studio-quality recordings. It boasts two impeccably clear, class-A mic preamps and supports condenser mics with +48v phantom power.
Accompanying the interface is the M7 condenser microphone, designed to capture acoustic guitar or vocals with a large-diaphragm design that records the subtleties of the sound. The bundle also contains HD7 headphones, engineered for high-resolution sound quality and extended bass response, along with Studio One Artist software for unlimited audio and instrument tracks, virtual instruments, buses, and FX channels.
- Complete recording and production bundle ideal for beginners and musicians setting up a home recording studio.
- Stellar quality sound capture and monitoring thanks to the AudioBox USB 96 interface, M7 condenser microphone, and HD7 headphones.
- Studio One Artist software provides a comprehensive recording and production environment.
- Notably durable and compact, perfect for travel.
- Class A preamps and 48 volts of phantom power for use with condenser microphones.
- Low-latency performance for live playbacks during recording
- Studio One Artist software offering an intuitive and powerful music production tool.
- Ability to easily transfer recorded files to the Studio One Artist program from the included multi-track recording application Capture for iPad.
- Unrestricted track limitations and 6GB of Studio Magic plug-in suite content.
The Presonus Audiobox USB 96 is known for its affordability, given the vast array of features and components it comes with.
From our perspective, the AudioBox USB 96 offers a host of advantages. Its compact and sturdy build makes it suitable for on-the-go use, able to withstand the rigours of travel and sudden bumps. The class A preamps are a standout feature, providing 48 volts of phantom power suitable for condenser microphones. We appreciate the low latency, which offers live playbacks while recording, and the inclusion of the Studio One Artist software is a major plus. This powerful music production tool is intuitive and easy to use, making it an invaluable asset for any musician or producer.
It’s worth noting that the Audiobox offers 24-bit/96 kHz audio resolution and has a flat frequency response, ensuring top-notch recordings. In addition, the package comes with unrestricted track restrictions and generous 6GB of Studio Magic plug-in suite content.
That said, potential downsides may depend on individual user preferences and specific recording needs. Be sure to consider your exact requirements when choosing this, or any, audio interface and production package.
The SSL 2+ audio interface is an innovative product from Solid State Logic, a reputable manufacturer known for high-quality mixing consoles. This compact and affordable interface serves as a key element of SSL’s transition into the digital recording and home studio market.
With a well-designed layout, sturdy build, and compact footprint, the SSL 2+ is a desktop audio interface that connects to your computer via USB, drawing power directly from the host. The interface is class-compliant and uses a built-in Core Audio USB driver for Mac OS, which means you don’t need to install additional software. On the other hand, Windows users will need to use a third-party driver to operate the SSL interfaces.
- Suitable for both home studios and mobile recording setups due to compact size and portability.
- High-resolution AD/DA converters and dynamic range of up to 110.5 dB ensure excellent audio quality.
- The pre-amps offer a gain range of 62 dB and an EIN of -130.5 dBu, allowing you to capture quiet signals without additional pre-amps.
- The SSL Production Pack software bundle includes virtual instruments, plugins, samples, and a DAW.
- Supports sample rates up to 192 kHz without compromising functionality.
The SSL 2+ is considered a strong contender in its price range, delivering high-quality audio and professional features. This interface provides excellent value for money, balancing impressive specifications with outstanding sound quality. In essence, the SSL 2+ offers a compelling combination of form, features, and audio quality at a competitive price.
This interface features Neutrik Combo connectors that can serve as mic preamps, line inputs, or high-impedance instrument inputs, providing flexible connectivity options. Moreover, the SSL 2+ includes additional features like MIDI In and Out ports, a second headphone output, and two pairs of RCA phonos. There’s also a “Legacy 4K” button that introduces an analogue color enhancement circuit inspired by SSL’s 4000-series console.
Despite these positive aspects, there are a couple of areas where we feel the SSL 2+ could improve. Some users might prefer quarter-inch outputs rather than the RCA phonos offered by this model. Additionally, the second output pair on the 2+ would provide more versatility if it included the option to bypass the Monitor Mix control.
The Apogee Symphony Desktop is a compact audio interface that packs a punch in terms of quality and functionality. This little gadget provides two combi mic/line/instrument inputs, two headphone outputs, and a stereo pair of line-level monitor outputs. You can connect it easily to your computer or iOS device using USB, or tap into additional input and output channels via optical connectors.
The Symphony Desktop also comes with a large rotary encoder and color touchscreen for convenient control. It’s compatible with various recording software hosting Audio Unit, VST, or AAX Native plug-ins, and supports both macOS, iOS/iPad Pro, and Windows 10 or later.
- High-quality sound with low distortion and high dynamic range.
- Two high-powered headphone outputs for enhanced audio experience.
- Intuitive touchscreen interface for easy control of essential hardware and software features.
- Supports Apogee’s Alloy preamp modeling for emulation of vintage preamp sounds.
- Plug-ins suite inclusive of EQ and dynamics processors, as well as reverb.
- Hybrid workflow capability with a switch between native and DSP processing as needed.
- Built-in hardware DSP processing of Apogee FX plugins for flexible and zero-latency plugin workflows.
The Apogee Symphony Desktop is priced at roughly $1495, a worthy investment for those who prioritize high-quality sound and versatile functionality.
As a user of the Apogee Symphony Desktop, we’ve found that its main advantages lie in its top-notch sound quality, low distortion, and high dynamic range. The interface comes with two high-powered headphone outputs and supports ultra-low latency recording. We appreciate the intuitive touchscreen interface that provides easy control of all essential hardware and software features. The interface also offers 10 IN x 14 OUT simultaneous channels of audio.
However, like most devices, the Symphony Desktop is not without its downsides. Primarily, the need to connect via USB 2.0 over a USB Type C connector could be a limitation for some users. Nonetheless, the Symphony Desktop largely delivers on its promises and is worth every penny for the serious audio worker.
An audio interface is a central piece of equipment to sound recording and production that allows for the interaction between your computer and external audio equipment. Essentially, it acts as an intermediary, converting analog signals from instruments or microphones into digital data that your computer can process. Conversely, it also converts digital audio data from your computer into analog signals for playback through speakers or headphones. Audio interfaces come in various shapes and sizes, with different types of connections such as USB or Thunderbolt, and a wide range of features tailored to specific recording needs.
In the world of guitar recording, specialized audio interfaces like the IK Multimedia AXE I/O and the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MK II have risen in popularity. These interfaces are usually equipped with dedicated guitar inputs, adjustable input impedance and amp outputs for capturing the unique tone and dynamics of a guitar. Some models, like the Apollo Twin MK II, even offer digital emulation of classic analog gear, creating a wide palette of tonal options for guitarists.
However, choosing an audio interface isn’t solely about the features it offers. It’s equally important to consider the quality of the sound it produces, its ease of use, and its compatibility with your computer and recording software. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen 3 and SSL 2+ audio interfaces, for example, are appreciated for their crystal-clear sound quality and user-friendly design.
In essence, an audio interface is much more than a simple conduit for sound. It’s a powerful tool that can greatly enhance the quality and versatility of your guitar recordings, making it an essential piece of gear for any guitarist.
An excellent audio interface can significantly enhance your experience, offering quality sound that brings out the best of your instrument. The many features of these devices provide diverse benefits to the user. For instance, the IK Multimedia AXE I/O’s variable input impedance allows it to optimize the interaction with various pickup types, offering flexibility to guitarists. Similarly, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2’s low-latency monitoring provides clear stereo recordings, while its portability makes it ideal for on-the-go recording.
Moreover, the ability of an interface like the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII to emulate the sound of high-end analog gear provides the user with top-tier audio quality. An added benefit is the inclusion of a suite of analog emulation plug-ins, enhancing the functionality and value proposition of the interface.
On the other hand, the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 impresses with its compact and visually appealing design, along with its versatility provided by two identical inputs for microphones, instruments, or line-level signals. Its rubberized knobs and clear labels make it easy to use, making it an ideal choice for those looking for a user-friendly interface.
Meanwhile, the Universal Audio Volt 176 stands out due to its unique Vintage mode and built-in compressor, offering users a distinctive sound. This device is also praised for its ease of setup, making it an excellent choice for beginners setting up their home studios.
In conclusion, a good audio interface can significantly enhance a guitarist’s recording experience. From offering high-quality sound to providing user-friendly features, these devices are a valuable asset to any guitarist. The choice of interface would depend on the specific needs and preferences of the user, and it is, therefore, crucial to consider factors such as sound quality, portability, versatility, and ease-of-use when choosing an interface.
Choosing the right audio interface for your guitar is a crucial step in elevating your recording and production experience. Each interface offers unique features and benefits, catering to different needs and preferences. Whether you’re a beginner looking for an affordable and user-friendly option or a professional seeking top-tier sound quality and versatility, there’s an audio interface out there for you.
Consider factors such as sound quality, ease of use, compatibility, and budget when making your decision. Remember, the perfect audio interface is the one that aligns with your individual needs and helps you create the music you love. So, go ahead, strum those strings, and let your guitar’s true voice be heard with the perfect audio interface.