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Top 10 Best Audio Interface Under 500 Reviews [Buying Guide] 2021

Are you looking for the best audio interface under 500? Read on to this comprehensive article to get the most suitable product as per your needs. Here is everything that you need to know about the best-selling products in the market before investing your hard-earned money.

If you use a desktop PC/laptop to make, record, and playback music, you need to buy the best audio interface under 500. This device is undoubtedly an essential piece of equipment for a studio setup so the user can get rich audio quality in and out of the computer. Unless you own any other high-end outboard mic converters or preamps, there is no other budget-friendly way to make your recordings sound so good.  

In this article, we will discuss some of the best audio interfaces under 500 with their features, pros, and cons to help you make a wise and well-informed decision. There is a buyer’s guide at the end of the list so you can decide which interface to purchase.

List of Top 10 Best Audio Interface Under 500 Product Reviews in 2021


1.Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface

With its easy setup and professional quality sound, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface is a great choice for every novice and advanced music recording fanatic. It has all the upgraded features, capturing ambiance, detail, and a true sense of space, which is not possible with some of the most high-end models in the market.

This best audio interface for home studio comes with indispensable waves musician 2 software for all your mixing and mastering requirements. A new Air mode is present to augment high-end details along with a USB-C port to reduce latency and improve headroom. It has a 2-in/2-out interface with a combination XLR1/4 inch input jack. There is a preamp again knob, instrument/line level switch, and an Air switch for every input.

It features a 48-volt phantom power switch, direct monitor mode switch, monitor level knob, 1/4inch TRS headphone jack with the level control knob, and 1/4inch TRS left/right line outputs. There is an impressive selection of supporting software like Avid pro tools, and Ableton live lite.

Key Features

  • Six indispensable audio plug-ins
  • Fresh filter effects
  • Best performing mic preamps
  • High headroom instrument outputs
  • High-performance converters
  • Avid pro tools
Pros
  • Best performing mic preamps
  • High-performance converters
  • Quickstart tool
  • Studio quality results
Cons
  • Some operations can only be performed through software

2.Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools

This generation of the product line is showing big improvements everywhere. It has great quality and advanced options for even the most challenging studio tasks. It is the best-selling range of interfaces in the industry, so a boasting product for beginners and professionals.

The build quality is great, thanks to the aluminum chassis on every side of the unit. The dials are neatly attached and work smoothly. The buttons have a preemptive click to them, so you know what you are doing. There is a light to indicate when a button is pushed. There are two of the best performing mic preamps the world will ever see.

The unit features a switchable air mode to give your sound an open and brighter impact. It includes two high headroom instrument inputs to plug in bass or guitar. Also, there are two balanced line outputs appropriate for connecting line-level sources. The high-level converters allow you to mix and record up to 24bit-192KHz.

Pro tools include First Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite.

Key Features

  • Switchable air mode
  • Balanced line inputs
  • Quickstart tool
  • XLN addictive keys virtual instrument
  • Tone Bundle and Ableton live lite
Pros
  • Clean preamps
  • Adequate headroom for the user
  • Addition of a stereo switch
  • Strong construction
Cons
  • Lacks physical mix dial

3.SSL SSL2 2-In/2-Out USB-C Audio Interface

Portable and reasonably priced, the SSL SSL2 2-In/2-Out USB-C Audio Interface comes with an intuitive console-style workflow to assist musicians, music recorders, and music singers with their work. It is a great choice for everyone looking for a quality product on a very tight budget.

It includes two SSL-designed preamps that are accessible through XLR1/4 combo inputs. The unit features class-leading gain, noise specs, and headroom to track electric instruments, mic, and line-level signals. A legacy 4K button is present to add a high-frequency boost and even harmonic distortion to your sound. Both input channels provide 5 segments of LED metering with a selectable 48V phantom power per channel.

It is equipped with a couple of monitor outputs and a high current headphone with independent level control, dynamic range, and selectable stereo monitor mix. The layout features a prominent monitor level knob and smaller controls. The monitor mix knob counters latency while recording at high buffer rates. Mic preamps offer 62DB gain to ensure ideal recording levels.

The best audio interface for mixing and mastering is loaded with high-grade Alps pots, Nutrik connectors, and knobs of iconic SSL consoles.

Key Features

  • USB-C audio interface
  • SSL designed microphone preamps
  • Legacy 4K button
  • High-current headphone output
  • Balanced monitor outputs
  • Easy monitor mix control
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • 4K analog enhancement effect
  • Smooth rotatory controls
  • A solid collection of software
Cons
  • Unimpressive push buttons

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

The SSL SSL2+ 2-In/4-Out USB-C Audio Interface is one of the most popular products on the market. It is an ideal choice for people looking for an efficient level of audio performance and a professional-level microphone. It is jam-packed with a set of professional-grade preamps, amazing, 24bit-192KHz converters, and helpful I/O options (such as four line outputs, two headphone jacks, and five-pin DIN MIDI I/O)

It is a functional yet compact soundcard focused on a basic understanding of recording workflows. There is a simple front-facing panel with typical inclusions of an audio interface. It has integrated preamps and boasts low-noise transistors/isolated circuits to deliver standard clarity. Thanks to additional unbalanced RCA outputs, it gives professionals an easy connection by putting itself in the accessibility range.

The 4K button outdo the analog circuitry of the SSL series consoles. It features an SSL production pack including Vocalstrip, Drumstrip plugins, native instruments hybrid keys, Ableton live lite, ProTools lite, and a 1.5GB sample pack from LoopCloud. You will find 5 segments of LED metering and gain knobs on console-style channel strips. The rear panel consists of 1/4inch jacks for stereo monitor outs and dual NJM headphone amp outputs.

Key Features

  • 24bit-192KHz AKM converters
  • 4000 series analog console sound
  • USB 2.0 Type-C connectivity
  • Neutrik connectors
  • Two balanced outputs
  • Four MIDI I/O
Pros
  • An all-in-one professional studio
  • SSL designed microphone preamps
  • 4K analog color enhancement
  • Professional headphone outputs
Cons
  • Lacks hardware insert

5.M-Audio AIR 192|4, 2-In/2-Out USB Audio Interface

Another best-selling product on the list is M-Audio AIR 192|4. If you own a project studio, know that this audio interface is made solely for recording multichannel instruments and full bands. With this best budget audio interface, you can even enjoy added monitoring versatility while having ample room for peripheral effects. It can create flawless 24bit-192KHz studio-quality recordings with a spontaneous and easy-to-use arrangement.

You can record up to two channels at a time with its dedicated XLR1/4 balanced combination input. The 1/4inch instrument input has a specially designed gain and an impedance stage to deliver a suitable representation of bass/guitar plugged into the interface. It comes with a complete software package to help you get started right away. Pro tools include First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, Eleven Lite, and the Avid Effect Collection. You will also find AIR’s Creative FX Collection, 2GB of sample content from Touch Loops and Xpand! 2, Mini Grand, Vacuum, and  BOOM from AIR Music Tech.

You can enjoy a high-speed USB connection and monitor mix control for direct listening of your inputs. With its crystal preamps, you get transparent and low-noise working that guarantees the best results.

Key Features

  • Premium component selection
  • 2.5ms low latency
  • Ultra-pristine A/D converters
  • Independent level control
  • VU LED meters
  • USB/Direct knob
Pros
  • Pristine A/D converters
  • High-speed USB connectivity
  • Premium layout and components
  • Best software
Cons
  • Lacks GUI for controlling the knobs

6.Tascam US-16×08 Rackmount USB Audio/MIDI Interface

This best audio interface for guitar is known to capture 16 mic and line outputs to your PC with advanced features and clear sound quality. It is a powerful interface lodged in modern industrial design to be both stylish as well as ergonomic.

It has 8 UHDDA microphone preamps to deliver quiet and clean working while giving up 56DB of gain. Additional 8 input lines are given where 2 are switchable to instrument level. 8 balanced line outputs are also given where two have a level control on the front panel for monitoring. Every channel features 4-band EQ and compression for polished sounding mixes.

The unit has Mac and Windows drivers along with a USB class complaint 2.0 driver for tablets. The mic preamp design has an amazing EIN rating of -125dBu, which shows that the noise level is below the hearing range. Its angled design works best for excellent usability, viewing, and working on a desktop PC. There are separate volume controls for line output and headphones. A pair of ear racks is included for better use in a 19inch equipment rack.

Key Features

  • 16 mic and line inputs
  • 8UHDDA microphone preamps
  • 56DB gain
  • DSP mixer for low latency digital mixing
  • Four band EQ and compression
  • 8 balanced line outputs
Pros
  • Guitar/bass inputs
  • Low noise and low distortion
  • Sleek industrial design
  • Standalone mode
Cons
  • Lacks noise gate

7.Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen 2-in, 2-out USB Audio Interface with Mic Cable

The Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface with Mic Cable is one of the most famous audio interfaces out there for artists across all genres. Thanks to its 2 pro-quality preamps, 2 mic, and 2 instrument inputs, this unit is quite versatile as compared to its competitor models with a  similar price range.

This third-generation unit delivers 2 mic/line/instrument inputs for simultaneous recording/playback of up to two channels via controllable headphones and monitor outputs. There are two upgraded 3rd generation mic preamps with an optional Air setting to offer the Air effect of Focusrite original ISA mic preamp.

It helps give your vocals and acoustic recordings an open and brighter sound. The unit is equipped with high-performance 24bit-192KHz AD-DA converters to guarantee the same professional sound quality through the 3rd gen range. It is a high-impedance and high-headroom product that enables you to record bass/guitar without unwanted distortion or clipping. It has two comprehensive digital audio workstations, i.e., Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack.

Key Features

  • Two upgraded mic preamps
  • Switchable Air mode
  • Two high headroom instrument outputs
  • Halo level indicators
  • Native plug-in effects
  • Balanced TRS/L monitor outputs
Pros
  • It can be used with multiple artists or a single recorder
  • Direct monitoring
  • High-quality preamps
  • Portable, compact, and highly competitive price range
Cons
  • Stunted Air mode

8.M-Audio AIR 192|8 – 2-In 4-Out USB Audio / MIDI Interface

This boxed pro studio is powerful and portable. The best USB audio interface has almost everything you need to make and record amazing music at home. From excellent preamps to convenient controls, the M-Audio AIR 192|8 – 2-In 4-Out USB Audio / MIDI Interface is all you will ever need for your studio.

There are plenty of inputs and outputs, more than enough to record a complete band. Just plug in the unit to the USB-C port and enjoy clean, crystal sound. It allows you to record into DAW with maximum clarity. You can either record music through a microphone or send line instruments straightforwardly.

Apart from sounding great, the unit is also very easy to use. Its central knob is tactile and agreeable, where onboard gain controls retort well to the change. With superb crystal preamps, you have the best possible sound from the microphone for a perfect performance. Onboard VU meters deliver quick reference of audio levels. Moreover, it has VU LED meters for dialing at a suitable level.

The unit gives out 24bit-192KHzresolution for professional monitoring and recording.  There is MIDI input/output for the virtual connection of any external MIDI gear. Pro-software (pro tools) include First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, Eleven Lite, the Avid Effect Collection, and  AIR’s Creative FX Collection.

Key Features

  • 24bit-192KHz resolution
  • USB-C connection cable included
  • Transparent crystal preamps
  • 5 pin MIDI I/O
  • Large central volume control
  • VU LED meters
Pros
  • Multirole inputs and outputs
  • Wide range of software
  • Stylish
  • Zero-latency monitoring
Cons
  • Cheap plastic feel for some buyers

9.Steinberg UR22C 2×2 USB 3.0 Audio Interface with Cubase AI and Cubasis LE

Unlike other products in the list, Steinberg has stepped up their game by featuring high audio resolution products. It has multiple benefits and bonuses for people who wish to record professional standard music within the comfort of their home.

Its industry-leading converters deliver amazing audio quality, all hail to the maximum sampling rate of 192KHz and 32-bit resolution. The URC-series of the interface features D-PRE preamps to give you stellar recording quality that is still unmatched in this product line. The URCs are compatible with all the other major audio software supporting Core Audio, ASIO, or WDM standard. It delivers a fully integrated, DSP-abased monitoring system despite the DAW you are using.

The UR24C comes with two separate yet switchable monitor modes, i.e., DJ and DAW. DAW mode is used to produce music with a DAW like Cubcase, where you can adjust the balance of signals coming from DAW and the device’s outputs. IN DJ mode, you can customize the work for better performance with DJ software or backing tracks. The integrated DSPs and UR-C interface offer zero-latency monitoring with convenient control of routing and settings.

Key Features

  • 32bit-192KHz audio resolution
  • Connectivity to Mac, PC, and iOS
  • Class-A D-PRE mic preamps
  • Dspmixfx application
  • Compatibility with all major software
  • Zero-latency monitoring
Pros
  • Loopback function for streaming
  • MIDI input and output
  • Compatible with all audio software
  • Excellent mic preamps
Cons
  • DC volt power adapter not included in the package

10.Audient iD4 USB 2-in/2-out High-Performance Audio Interface

It is the smallest and most uncomplicated model of the Audient’s range of audio interfaces. Thisbest audio interface for Mac can keep up with the user’s needs whether you are a solo recording working at home or a professional musician making music in a studio.

It features two separate inputs, i.e., one mic/line input on combo XL/ jack connector with switchable 48V phantom power. There is a J-FET-based instrument DI input with individual gain control. The I/O is made of a headphone output on TRS jacks-mini and quarter-inch with a pair of TRS jack loudspeaker outputs.

The front panel functions are controlled by a monitor mix knob that blends input signals with DAW return. There are two pushbuttons for illumination and a volume encoder that features a latching push switch with twin five LED curved ladder meters. It has a monitor pas function that the user can access by pressing illuminated mute and iD push buttons. It is controlled via a volume encoder so you can create a stereo mix of input signals.

Key Features

  • Audient console mic preamps
  • Class-leading converters
  • JFET instrument input
  • IOS compatible
  • Dual headphone outputs
  • USB bus-powered
Pros
  • Amazing sonic performance
  • Simple to use
  • Excellent build quality and functionality
  • Compatible with Mac, iOS, and Windows
Cons
  • Needs camera adapter and powered USB hub for iOS devices

Buying Guide For Best Audio Interface Under 500

Rather than choosing a product blindly,  there are certain important features,  factors, and parameters that every potential buyer must consider before making a final choice.  In this buying guide,  we will tell you the essential features of a high-quality audio interface.

Input And Output Options

A quality audio interface comes with different types of inputs and outputs.  Therefore it is very important you know what exactly you are looking for. You can decide on the musical instrument you want to purchase, but to attach them to your interface, you must know the types of inputs needed at the moment.

Most of the market models come with two inputs that either work for microphone/instruments and line-level signals. Outputs are also different in terms of their layout. A separate headphone output works well for solo artists, but for a full band, it is better to opt for an audio interface with extra headphone outputs.

Connectivity

One of the most important features to look for when buying an audio interface is the connectivity options. Many economic interfaces work on standard USB 2.0 mode, which is pretty decent. On the other hand, modern audio interfaces claim prompt connections via USB-C, Ethernet, Thunderbolt, and USB-3. Thus, it is better to choose the model that fits your requirement as a beginner or professional. Also, make sure that the PC you use comes with suitable ports to facilitate a convenient interface connection.

Software

For people who want to get professional with their music-making and recording, many advanced DAWs are present in the market, such as Apple Logic, Ableton Live, and Avid Pro Tools. To make your music sound even better, you can opt for virtual instruments and plugins as per your preference.

Sound Quality

When it comes to audio interfaces, you get what you pay for. Many models out there have high-quality components like mic preamps and digital converters to reflect excellence. But for basic pro-level mixing and recording, many worthy models are accessible at a reasonable price rate. The key factors to impact the overall sound quality include Bit depth (a 16-bit standard that delivers a dynamic range of 96DB and a 24-bit pro-audio standard that delivers a dynamic range of 144DB), sample rate, and quality interface work at 48, 96, or 192KHz) and converter quality.


Frequently Asked Questions For Best Audio Interface Under 500


Conclusion

There you go. These are some of our best audio interfaces under 500. Though every product in the list is a best-selling model, the clear winner is Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface. It makes your music sound better, features best performing mic preamps, two high headroom instrument outputs, and high-performance converters. With this product, you can now record, mix and play your audio in studio quality.

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