Best Audio Interfaces For Recording Drums

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  • Wondering how to choose an audio interface for recording drums?
  • How many inputs/outputs do I need?
  • Find out which interface offers the best value for money

5 Best Audio Interfaces For Recording Drums

When it comes to recording drums, choosing the correct audio interface can be a challenge.

Although there are many great products on the market, the search can often be confusing and relatively time-consuming.

How do you decide which is the correct interface for your requirements and budget?

Within this round-up, we review 5 suitable audio interfaces for recording a full acoustic drum kit, compare specific features relating to drum recording and cover the pros and cons of each.

What Are The Best Audio Interfaces For Recording Drums?

  1. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen)
  2. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen)
    $549.99

    The rack-mountable 18i20 gives you 18 inputs and 20 outputs of incredible sound quality. Enough to turn any space into a fully-fledged recording studio.

    Why We Love It:
    • Mic preamps renowned for their clarity
    • USB-C Connectivity
    • Competitive price
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  3. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
  4. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
    $279.00

    With 18 inputs and 10 outputs, the U-PHORIA UMC1820 gives you plenty of options for connecting your synths and outboard gear.

    Why We Love It:
    • Well-equipped for the price
    • ADAT provides I/O expansion
    • High-quality audio reproduction
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  5. MOTU 8pre-es
  6. MOTU 8pre-es

    Experience pristine audio playback, with an outstanding 123dB of dynamic range. The 8pre-es makes a fine centerpiece for any studio.

    Why We Love It:
    • Exceptionally versatile
    • 24 simultaneous inputs
    • Unrivaled software control
    View Price On Guitar Center View Price On Sweetwater

Our pick for the best drum recording interface is the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen). Providing the ultimate balance between cost, quality, and features, the beautifully presented 18i20 will provide a versatile platform for acoustic and electronic drum recording alike.

For those on a budget, or diving into the world of drum recording for the first time, the Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 packs a punch for the price.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for the best money can buy, the Motu 8pre-es is the premium contender.

Here are 5 of our top-class candidates:

  1. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen) (Our Pick)
  2. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 (Best Value)
  3. MOTU 8pre-es (Premium Option)
  4. Tascam US-16×08
  5. PreSonus Studio 1824c

1. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen)

OUR PICK
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd Gen)
$549.99

The rack-mountable 18i20 gives you 18 inputs and 20 outputs of incredible sound quality. Enough to turn any space into a fully-fledged recording studio.

Why We Love It:
  • Mic preamps renowned for their clarity
  • USB-C Connectivity
  • Competitive price
View Price On Guitar Center View Price on Sweetwater

Focusrite has been manufacturing the popular Scarlett range of recording interfaces for over 11 years.

They are well known for producing reliable, robust, and great-sounding products, the Scarlett interfaces are now 3 generations ahead and they’re sounding better than ever!

Features:

  • 8 mic/line inputs with natural-sounding preamps.
  • I/O expansion via ADAT.
  • 2 headphone outputs with separate routing and volume controls.
  • 24-bit / 192kHz converters.
  • ‘Air’ function for adding instant high-end
  • Built-in talkback mic.
  • Connectivity via USB C.
  • Compatible with Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
  • Competitive software bundle included.

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is extremely versatile, making it the perfect interface for recording a drum kit.

In total, the 18i20 has 18 inputs and 20 outputs, including 2 headphone outputs that can be utilized independently, each with individual mix and volume controls.

The interface also features a main monitor volume control with handy ‘mute’ and ‘dim’ buttons for convenience.

The upgraded 3rd generation Scarlett 18i20 preamps are a big seller.

With the addition of a pad on each of the 8 mic/line inputs, these particular preamps are designed to operate with plenty of gain and a wide dynamic range.

This will allow ample boost or cut without overloading, or working the preamp too hard – perfect for recording soft and hard-hitting drummers alike!

As with many interfaces designed by Focusrite, the 18i20 has a unique ‘Air’ function that conveniently adds additional high-end to your desired input.

Although this could speed up your workflow, I don’t believe this to be a massive selling point.

Focusrite has future-proofed their 3rd generation of Scarlett interfaces by upgrading from USB-A to USB-C.

This smart addition not only makes the 18i20 compatible with USB-A computers via the supplied USB-C to USB-A cable but also advances compatibility with current iOS devices.

Although Focusrite doesn’t officially support products with a Lightning port, they do state that it ‘should work‘ if connected with the correct Apple USB-C to Lightning adaptor.

Similar to rival interfaces, the 18i20 features an ADAT input for adding an additional 8 mic/line inputs via a secondary interface or preamp.

Ingeniously, the 18i20 features S/MUX II. This practical addition allows you to record with ADAT sample rates of 96kHz over 8 channels.

A perfect solution for expanding a further 8 channels of inputs at high sample rates!

Verdict

The 18i20 is a fantastic audio interface for recording drums. It has a great list of specs, incredibly dynamic mic preamps, and USB-C connectivity. To top it all off, it’s built like a tank!

For more information on the full range of Scarlett interfaces, check out our full in-depth Focusrite Scarlett (3rd Gen) review.

2. Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820

BEST VALUE
Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
$279.00

With 18 inputs and 10 outputs, the U-PHORIA UMC1820 gives you plenty of options for connecting your synths and outboard gear.

Why We Love It:
  • Well-equipped for the price
  • ADAT provides I/O expansion
  • High-quality audio reproduction
View Price On Sweetwater View Price On Amazon

The Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 is by far the most cost-effective audio interface on our list.

Despite its exceptionally low price, this unit has some incredible features that are usually reserved for higher-priced products.

Features

  • 8 mic/line inputs with Midas designed preamps.
  • I/O expansion via ADAT.
  • 2 headphone outputs with separate volume controls.
  • 24-bit / 96kHz converters.
  • Individual pad for each input.
  • USB A connectivity.

Review

The UMC1820 has 8 mic/line inputs with preamps that were designed by Midas, an award-winning company, known for designing and producing world-class professional audio equipment.

This 1U rack-mountable interface features 2 powerful headphone outputs, split phantom power switches between channels 1-4 and 5-8, a dedicated pad for each input, and an option to add 8 additional inputs via the ADAT port situated on the back of the unit.

All 8 inputs are fitted with XLR/TRS combo sockets to facilitate a range of input sources. That’s a lot of stuff for such a budget-friendly piece of hardware!

This is especially beneficial for drummers who are looking to record electronic triggers and samplers simultaneously with acoustic drums with microphones.

In addition, each input can be conveniently switched to accept line or instrument signals. A perfect option if you’re tracking live with a guitarist or bassist!

A drummer with multiple triggers might also benefit from the MIDI ports on the rear panel.

Not only will this enable greater use of the 8 mic/line input channels, but also add additional flexibility with re-sampling and post-production editing.

Although Behringer has included separate ‘signal’ and ‘clip’ indicators on each preamp, the absence of multi-stage hardware metering forces you to utilize your DAW for accurate gain staging.

This could be a big consideration if you’re looking to lay down your drum tracks quickly and efficiently.

Verdict

There’s no denying that the UMC1820 will facilitate multi-channel drum recording right from the box.

The combo sockets and additional ADAT inputs make this unit a desirable choice. Despite the lack of sufficient hardware input metering, this interface is a great option for users on a budget or getting into drum recording for the first time.

3. MOTU 8pre-es

PREMIUM OPTION
MOTU 8pre-es

Experience pristine audio playback, with an outstanding 123dB of dynamic range. The 8pre-es makes a fine centerpiece for any studio.

Why We Love It:
  • Exceptionally versatile
  • 24 simultaneous inputs
  • Unrivaled software control
View Price On Guitar Center View Price On Sweetwater

The 8pre-es was first released in 2018 and is very much in line with the high-end products MOTU are known to produce, making this our premium pick drum recording interface.

Features

  • 8 mic/line inputs with ‘brilliantly transparent’ preamps.
  • 16 additional ADAT I/O.
  • 2 headphone outputs with separate routing and volume controls.
  • 24-bit/192kHz high-end converters.
  • Individual pad and phantom power on each input.
  • Monitor mixes with EQ, dynamics, and reverb plugins.
  • Thunderbolt and USB A connectivity.
  • Wireless software control.

Review

As well as 8 mic/line inputs with exceptionally high-quality preamps, this remarkable 19” rack-mountable unit comes complete with 16 additional ADAT inputs and outputs at 48kHz (8 S/MUX II at 96kHz). 2 dedicated headphone outputs with flexible routing via the wireless control software, and 24-bit / 192kHz high-end converters with ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC™ technology.

To top it off, the 8pre-es also features a dual-screen for detailed input and output metering.

For control software, the 8pre-es is phenomenal. With dynamic, EQ, and reverb plugins on each input, it provides a comprehensive platform for creating high-quality monitor mixes.

For added portability, the software can also be used via a wireless internet connection and is 100% compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android – perfect if you’re the drummer and engineer!

The dual Thunderbolt™ and USB-A connectivity make the 8pre-es an exceptionally versatile interface.

Although the 8pre-es is Thunderbolt™ 3 compatible, MOTU has included the older Mini DisplayPort style connection on the rear panel.

In addition, the 8pre-es is fully compatible with iOS via an Apple USB-Lightning converter.

Verdict

Despite the substantial price tag, the ability to add a further 16 inputs via ADAT to the existing 8 mic/line inputs makes the 8pre-es one of the most flexible 1U audio interfaces on the market.

Combined with the wireless software control, choice of connectivity, and the unit’s surprisingly detailed metering, the MOTU 8pre-es is the Rolls-Royce of audio interfaces for drum recording.

4. TASCAM US-16×08

TASCAM US-16x08

The TASCAM US-16x08 USB audio interface is an excellent bread-and-butter option for anyone looking for enough flexibility to handle a variety of recording setups.

Why We Love It:
  • Attractive price
  • Ergonomic stand-alone design
  • Versatile
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An entry to a mid-level audio interface capable of recording 8 mic and 8 line inputs simultaneously. It’s is full of redeeming features, enabling you to record a drum kit right from the box.

Features

  • 8 mic inputs via the front panel.
  • 8 additional line inputs.
  • 24-bit / 96kHz converters.
  • USB A connectivity.
  • Designed for desktop access.
  • Detachable 19” rackmounts.
  • EQ & compression on each monitoring channel.

Review

Unlike many other interfaces, Tascam have placed all 8 XLR inputs on the front panel.

Great for a quick and convenient set-up, but if you decide to rack-mount, or stack multiple units together, cabling can get in the way of hardware operation.

As well as tediously small and compact level controls, the resulting loss of space on the front panel means there’s a lack of detailed metering and only enough room for 1 headphone output.

Rather than merging mic/line inputs via combo sockets seen on most rival products, Tascam have cunningly incorporated an additional 8 balanced 1/4” line inputs, making the US-16×08 capable of tracking 16 channels simultaneously.

With 8 independent mic inputs, it’s perfect for drummers integrating line-level electronics within their set-up, a bonus for the price!

If recording more than 1 stereo pair at line level, however, the lack of hardware-level controls for line inputs 3 to 8 could be limiting.

Although first released in 2014, the US-16×08 is USB 2.0 class compliant, making it compatible with iPads and iOS devices.

In addition, the interface works with older operating systems dating back to Windows 7 and OS X Mountain Lion (10.8).

A unique and practical feature of the US-16×08 is the angled, stand-alone design.

Unlike most 8 channel interfaces, the unit is supplied with detachable wings that gently lift the front panel for added visual control.

Verdict

The US-16×08 is a simple, yet relatively flexible audio interface that will facilitate many drum recording set-ups.

The amount of inputs vs price makes it a great choice for drummers, producers, and up-and-coming engineers wanting to dip their toes into recording for the first time.

5. Presonus Studio 1824C

Presonus Studio 1824c

Loaded with 18 simultaneous inputs, including eight sweet-sounding XMAX preamps, the PreSonus Studio 1824c is tailor-made for project studios that record full bands, including multichannel drums.

Why We Love It:
  • Accessible layout
  • PreSonus DAW software included
  • Top-tier audio quality
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With an ergonomic front panel, PreSonus have designed the Studio 1824c for a fast and efficient workflow.

The LCD screen offers detailed metering for the 8 mic/line inputs and master output, plus a large output dial provides smooth, precise control.

In addition, the 1824c has a ‘mono’ button to check for phase compatibility in post-production which is a welcome bonus for interfaces within this price range!

Features

  • 8 mic/line inputs.
  • I/O expansion via ADAT.
  • Compact, modern design.
  • 8 stage input metering.
  • Complete with ‘Studio Magic Plugin Suite’.
  • USB C connectivity.

REVIEW

Delivering plenty of headroom, the 1824c features high-gain preamps, beneficial for providing an additional boost to low input sources.

However, if you are looking to incorporate low-powered/passive ribbon microphones into your setup, the global phantom power switch may cause damage.

The 1824c has 1 ADAT port for incorporating 8 additional inputs. The interface offers 24-bit/192kHz conversion for optimum definition, however, the single ADAT port only permits 48kHz over 8 ADAT inputs. This should be taken into consideration if you’re looking to expand to the full 16-input capacity at higher sample rates!

If this is a dealbreaker, the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 might be a suitable option for a similar price.

USB-C connectivity makes the 1824c seamlessly compatible with newer laptops and portable devices. However, if you own a slightly older computer, the included USB-C to USB-A cable will get you connected right away.

If you’re new to recording and looking for a suitable DAW, PreSonus includes ‘Ableton® Live Lite’, as well as their own ‘Studio One Artist’ software.

While not as comprehensive as Cubase or Logic Pro, the included package will certainly facilitate multi-channel drum recordings without additional expenditure!

Verdict

Along with the ergonomic front panel and generous metering display, the PreSonus Studio 1824c is a sleek, highly functional audio interface.

The global phantom power switch is a real downfall if using a selection of condenser and ribbon microphones. But with clean, high-gain preamps, recording sample rates of up to 192Khz and the included software, it certainly offers a great deal for the price.

FAQ’S

How many preamps do I need to record drums?

A preamp is a variable electronic device capable of amplifying low-level signals from microphones and instrument pickups to line input sources.

The number of preamps needed to record drums depends on how many input sources you would like to use. The example below requires 6 inputs, therefore 6 mic preamps are necessary:

  1. Kick – Mic 1
  2. Snare – Mic 2
  3. Tom 1 – Mic 3
  4. Tom 2 – Mic 4
  5. OH L – Mic 5
  6. OH R – Mic 6

All of the interfaces reviewed in this article feature 8 preamps built-in. The example above would still leave 2 preamps spare for a larger drum kit, additional room mics, or a stereo feed from a drum module, etc.

How many inputs do I need to record drums?

Although 6 to 8 inputs have become an industry standard for clear, multi-channel drum recording, the final decision all depends on your budget, the type of sound you’re looking for, and the size of your drum kit.

John Bonham frequently used the Glyn John’s Technique on many of the legendary Led Zeppelin albums which only needs 3 inputs!

Do you need a mixer to record drums?

In short, no. If recording direct to your computer, an audio interface with good quality preamps, a headphone output, and low latency is all you need for a basic, yet capable set-up.