7 Best Professional Audio Interfaces

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  • Audio interfaces are an essential component in any production setup.
  • Here are the best professional audio interfaces you can buy!
  • New to music production? Read our guide on why you need an audio interface

The audio interface is at the heart of any modern studio setup from home studios to professional recording and mixing houses. With so many choices, where does one even begin?

Well, the right interface varies according to the user and their needs. Here, we give you a variety of options so you can make the choice.

What Are The 7 Best Professional Audio Interfaces?

Our top pick for the best professional audio interface is the RME Babyface Pro FS, as it offers an ideal balance of quality and cost.

For those that seek versatility, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X offers a universe of options and integration with elite UA software.

For cash-strapped musicians, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is our best value option. And finally for those that want the best, the Apogee Symphony Desktop is our premium choice.

Here are our candidates for the best professional audio interfaces. 

  1. RME Babyface Pro FS (Our Pick)
  2. Universal Audio Apollo Twin X (Most Versatile)
  3. Apogee Symphony Desktop (Premium Choice)
  4. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 (Best Value)
  5. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen
  6. SSL 2+
  7. Mackie Onyx Producer 2-2 USB

1. RME Babyface Pro FS (Our Pick!)

OUR PICK
RME Babyface Pro FS
$949.00

The RME Babyface Pro FS is a powerful, yet eminently portable, bus-powered USB audio interface. It features a rugged, low-profile housing with a clean look and easy-to-use interface.

Why We Love It:
  • Super portable
  • Latency-free processing
  • Low-profile but easy-to-use
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The RME Babyface has been one of the top portable interfaces for years.

This FS version surpasses the performance of its predecessor, thanks to a range of design improvements that all but ensure its enduring popularity among discerning professionals.

The Babyface Pro also comes bundled with a number of plug-ins that will be quite useful in your setup. This is our top pick for this list. 

Features

  • 12-in/12-out portable USB 2.0 audio interface
  • 2 digitally controlled microphone preamps 
  • SteadyClock/femtosecond technology for ultra-stable clocking
  • TotalMix FX gives you a fully flexible 288-channel mixer with 46-bit internal resolution
  • Each channel boasts latency-free processing, including a 3-band EQ, low-cut filter, reverb, and echo

Review

The RME Babyface Pro FS is a bus-powered interface that presents an ideal balance of quality, price, functionality, and portability. It features onboard metering with peak and RMS calculation with each channel offering latency-free processing, including a 3-band EQ, low-cut filter, reverb, and echo.

This interface offers simultaneous I/O of 4 x 4 (analog) and 8 x 8 (digital). Additionally, it features TotalMix FX which provides a fully flexible 288-channel mixer with 46-bit internal resolution. 

The Babyface Pro FS takes self-jitter to new lows, improving its predecessor’s outstanding performance with an upgraded analog PLL circuit and referencing both Direct Digital Synthesis and PLL to a low-phase-noise quartz crystal. 

The Babyface Pro FS’s self-jitter reaches levels usually only available in master quartz clock mode, even while running in PLL mode. 

Other improvements featured in this version include microphone preamps with an improved signal-to-noise ratio, from 112.2dB to 113.7dB, and line/instrument inputs from 114dB to 116.3dB.

The line inputs’ THD was improved by 8dB. Additionally, the 3.5mm output impedance was lowered from 2 ohms to 0.1 ohms. 

This RME interface ships with a premium plug-in bundle featuring Scuffham S-Gear, Brainworx bx_opto, and Brainworx bx_masterdesk, plus trial versions of Modartt Pianoteq 6, GG Audio Blue 3 Organ, and Gig Performer.

2. Universal Audio Apollo Twin X (Most Versatile)

MOST VERSATILE
Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO
$899.00

Apollo Twin X allows musicians and producers to easily track, overdub, and mix with elite-class A/D and D/A conversion, two Unison-enabled preamps, and available DUO or QUAD Core realtime UAD plug-in processing.

Why We Love It:
  • Comes with UA’s LUNA software
  • Powerful DUO Core processing
  • Ultra-pristine sound
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Universal Audio is one of the most respected names in audio. They got into the home studio interface game a few years ago with the ever-popular Apollo series. 

The Twin X DUO’s performance is comparable to UA’s rackmount Apollo X audio interfaces but does away with extraneous features like 5.1 surround monitoring and +24dBu operation.

As a result, you get a streamlined desktop design that’s tailor-made for project studios. You can also track and mix with spot-on emulations of tried-and-true studio classics, thanks to UA’s powerful DUO Core processor. The Apollo Twin X is our most versatile choice. 

Features

  • 10-in/6-out Thunderbolt 3 audio interface with onboard UAD-2 DUO Core processing
  • World-class AD/DA conversion for ultra-pristine signal path with 127 dB dynamic range
  • 2 Unison preamps to track through models of the industry’s most legendary hardware
  • Fast Thunderbolt 3 connectivity with less than 2ms of latency and ample expandability
  • Includes a suite of 5 award-winning UAD plug-ins, along with the Realtime Analog Classics plug-in bundle

Review

The Apollo Twin X DUO features upgraded elite-class AD/DA 24-bit/192kHz converters and dual Unison preamps to track through models of the industry’s most legendary gear. 

Additionally, there’s the powerful 2-core DUO Core processor which enables you to track in real-time with Neve, Manley, or API channel strips, or run large UAD plug-in counts while mixing in your DAW.

This fantastic interface also comes with UA’s LUNA software, for a tightly integrated recording, editing, and mixing environment, with full software-based control over your interface’s parameters.

(Check out our full review of LUNA here!)

For fast connectivity, the Apollo Twin X comes with Thunderbolt 3, allowing you to work on high track counts with less than 2ms of latency.

If need be, you can network up to four Apollo interfaces over Thunderbolt to add fast, high-bandwidth I/O and DSP to your studio, without having to buy a new computer!

Another great selling point of this interface is the included plug-in bundle, with authentic emulations of legendary gear by UA, Teletronix, Pultec, Marshall, Ampeg, and more. 

In short, the Apollo Twin X Duo gives you a complete recording solution with the highest standards of quality. 

3. Apogee Symphony Desktop (Premium Choice)

PREMIUM OPTION
Apogee Symphony Desktop
$1,495.00

The Symphony Desktop packs Apogee’s flagship AD/DA conversion into a desktop interface, along with hyper-realistic preamp emulations and powerful DSP.

Why We Love It:
  • Supreme sound quality
  • Latency-free
  • One of the best on the market
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The Symphony Desktop features Apogee’s legendary AD/DA conversion, viewed by many as the reference standard in the pro audio industry. Apogee are pioneers in this field, being responsible for many innovations since the early days of digital recording in the 1980s.

Along with realistic preamp emulations, powerful DSP, and other features, this interface is one of the very best you can get for your home studio. If you need the best and are willing to pay the price, look no further than the Apogee Symphony Desktop interface.

Features

  • 10-in/14-out desktop USB-C audio interface
  • Symphony AD/DA conversion yields realistic sound quality at up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • 2 mic preamps with Advanced Stepped Gain Architecture and up to 75dB of gain
  • Variable impedance settings on both mic and instrument inputs
  • Alloy Mic Preamp emulation employs analog circuitry and digital processing for authentic modeling

Review

The Apogee Symphony Desktop interface is the creme de la creme for home studios. It features sound quality at up to 24-bit/192kHz, Apogee’s Alloy Mic Preamp emulations, and Apogee FX plug-ins, powered either by the interface’s built-in DSP or natively within your DAW for low-latency workflows.

As far as the preamps, Apogee’s Advanced Stepped Gain Architecture ensures clean, low-distortion results, with up to 75 dB of gain.

On top of that, the Alloy Mic Preamp emulations employ both analog circuitry and digital processing to create some of the most authentic modeling available, including a Solid State Class A sound inspired by the legendary British console and a gently overcooked American tube sound.

If you’re a Logic X user, you’re going to love this interface as it allows you to take full command from directly within Apple’s software. This is thanks to Apogee’s DualPath Link.

DualPath allows you to dial in your sound l, without printing the effect. You can also save your plug-in settings, so you have the option of adjusting the effect parameters later during the mixing phase.

Using the Symphony Desktop and Logic Pro X together allows you to work with just a single window in the DAW.

Additionally, the Symphony Desktop comes with the Bob Clearmountain-tweaked ECS Channel Strip plug-in. In short, it is hard to beat the sheer quality and functionality of the Symphony Desktop.

4. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 (Best Value)

BEST VALUE
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 25th Anniversary Edition
$84.95

The AudioBox USB 96 audio interface’s two front-panel combo mic/instrument inputs make it ideal for singer/songwriters, podcasters, and guitar or guitar-bass collaborations.

Why We Love It:
  • Portable
  • Convenient
  • Easy-to-use
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If you’re as broke as it gets but still want to be able to record, we’ve got a solution for you: the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96. At less than a hundred dollars, this interface delivers impressive results for such a low price point.

If you need a portable, convenient, easy-to-use, and affordable recording solution, then this PreSonus interface is for you. 

Features

  • 2-channel USB 2.0 interface for personal and portable recording
  • up to 24-bit/96kHz digital resolution
  • Dual preamplifiers with combo inputs for microphone- and instrument-level audio
  • Onboard +48-volt phantom for studio condenser microphones
  • Internal analog mixer lets you blend direct input and playback signal for latency-free monitoring

Review

The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is an easy-to-use audio interface that features a dual-channel design. If you’re a singer-songwriter, you’d be able to plug in a mic and your guitar and record both at once. 

An onboard mixer makes it easy to balance between your input and audio playback too, so you never have to worry about latency getting in the way.

In case you’re getting started with recording, this interface also includes the PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW software with over 6GB of third-party content inside the included Studio Magic plug-in suite. These include Brainworx bx_opto compressor, Lexicon MPX-i Reverb, SPL’s Attacker Plus, and more.

5. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen

OUR PICK
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio (3rd Gen)
$279.99

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio recording bundle gives you a great front end that includes everything you need to record.

Why We Love It:
  • Super-low latency
  • Intuitive halo feature
  • Simple, compact, and eye-catching design 
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The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 features two upgraded Scarlett mic preamps, high-performance 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters, optimized preamp gain structure, low latency, and instrument inputs for hot pickups. All of this for a fantastic price that was unthinkable just a decade ago. 

It also comes with “Air” preamp emulation based on the company’s legendary ISA console transformers for a brighter, more open sound. This interface is a great choice for small project studios or mobile rigs.

Features

  • 2 upgraded 3rd-generation Scarlett mic preamps
  • 2 balanced line inputs, suitable for connecting line-level sources
  • Direct monitor circuit for monitoring your input with low-latency
  • Balanced TRS L/R monitor outputs with level control
  • Headphone output with independent level control

Review

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a 2 x XLR-1/4″ combo (mic/line/Hi-Z) USB bus-powered interface that features 24-bit/192kHz converters and low latency.

The third generation features an upgraded chassis and interiors and comes with all the software you need to get you started. These include Ableton Live Lite, Plug-in Collective access, Hitmaker Expansion Bundle (with Antares Auto-Tune, Softube Marshall Silver Jubilee 255, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2, Brainworx bx_oberhausen, Brainworx bx_console, etc) a 3-month Avid Pro Tools Subscription.

The Scarlett 2i2 also features innovative halo indicators that ensure you’re getting a proper signal level for recording.

This is especially useful if you’re starting out with recording. If the halo is red, your signal is clipping, and you should back down your gain. The halo will momentarily turn amber as the level returns to a happy level.

If portability is a must, we’ve got good news: the 3rd Gen Scarlett interfaces can now be used by iPad Pros with USB-C ports. Simply plug in, open your music-making app of choice, and record to your heart’s content just like you would at home. It’s as effective and simple as it gets.

(For the best music apps for iPhones and iPads, make sure you read 14 Top Music Making Apps for iPhone/iPad Of All Time)

6. SSL 2+

SSL SSL2+ 2-In/4-Out USB-C Audio Interface
$348.68

The SSL2+ comes stocked with a set of pro-grade preamps, stunning 24-bit/192 kHz converters, and a host of helpful I/O options, including four line outputs, two headphone jacks and 5-pin DIN MIDI in and out.

Why We Love It:
  • Value for money
  • Solid build quality
  • Natural sound
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In the world of audio, few companies can match the legendary status of Solid State Logic, attained through their spectacular consoles.

To get with the times, this company jumped into the portable interface game with the SSL2+.

This interface offers an affordable version of the SSL sound. The basic idea is to provide a similar vibe reminiscent of those legendary recordings made in 7-figure recording studios within reach of everybody.

Features

  • 24-bit/192kHz AKM converters
  • Heavy-duty chassis, Neutrik connectors, and Alps pots
  • High-output headphone amp for accurate monitoring
  • 4K Legacy mode imparts 4000 series analog console sound
  • Bundled with Pro Tools First, Bomb Factory plug-ins, Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid Keys, and Komplete Start
  • 4 line outputs, 2 front/back panel headphone outputs, and MIDI I/O

Review

The SSL 2+ is a bigger version of the standard SSL2. The main difference is found on the two added outputs, MIDI In/Out plus an additional independent headphone out. 

The SSL 2+ also features a 4k button which adds some extra presence and high-end kick to approximate that SSL sound.

Additionally, there are two combo mic/line inputs with Hi-Z options for switching between guitar and keyboard signals. Phantom power is also included, with a +48v option to allow for the connection of condenser and dynamic mics.

The SSL 2+ also comes loaded with bundled tools and plug-ins. Here you’ll find software from Avid, Ableton, and Native Instruments, plus over 1.5GBs of samples from Loopcloud. 

In addition to this complete software suite, the SSL2+ comes bundled with two SSL Native channel strips: Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip. If this isn’t enough, Vocalstrip comes with four vocal-specific processors – De-esser, De-ploser, 3-Band EQ, and Compander.

In other words, this compact interface is a solid choice to get your home studio going with SSL quality at an affordable price.

(To help your home recordings sound as good as possible, we rounded up the best acoustic foam panels for home studios!)

7. Mackie Onyx Producer 2-2 USB

Mackie Onyx
$171.35

A pair of boutique-sounding Onyx mic preamps provide excellent fidelity and dynamic range, while their XLR/TRS combo inputs accommodate just about everything. 

Why We Love It:
  • Easy to use
  • Intuitive
  • Built to last
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Onyx interfaces have been around for over a decade thanks to their functionality, durability, and price. The Onyx Producer 2-2 is the latest version of this workhorse of a portable interface.

It comes with everything you need for your home studio. This interface is easy to use and intuitive, allowing you to get down to work with everything you need and nothing more. 

Features

  • 2-in-2-out USB 2.0 audio interface with fast speed and low latency
  • 24-bit/192kHz converters with premium analog circuitry
  • 2 boutique-sounding Onyx mic preamps 
  • Hi-Z switch on each channel for DI-ing guitar or bass
  • Zero-latency direct monitoring and a headphone output 

Review

Mackie’s Onyx Producer 2.2 features high-quality Onyx mic pres, balanced analog connectivity, and operation up to 24bit 192kHz, all for a very affordable price.

These interfaces are built tough with a robust metal case that all but assures that it will last for years

Additionally, this interface features two identical mic/line inputs with combination XLR/jack connectors, each with a manual green backlit switch to select a Hi Z instrument. 

Onyx interfaces have been around for over a decade, and although they have undergone multiple improvements, the large monitor level knob has been kept which helps keep things intuitive.

On the back of the unit you’ll find a pair of 1⁄4” jacks for studio monitors, and also a pair of MIDI connectors (In and Out).

The Onyx Producer 2.2 ships with Mackie’s DAW Essentials Collection. This plug-in bundle includes an EQ, compressor, equalizer, reverb, stereo delay, tape delay, crossover, limiter, gate/expander, ducker, flanger, crusher, phaser, chorus, bus compression, and more. 

Overall, this is a solid choice for anyone who is after a rugged and portable 2-in/2-out audio interface.

Enjoyed this? Make sure to check out Best Audio Interfaces For Recording Drums.