Best USB Audio Interface under $100
Over the past year I have helped many set up small recording and portable set ups. Most are for people starting and only need something simple that can fit in their laptop bag. That’s what’s great with so many audio interfaces, they are portable, simple to use and sound awesome. When I started recording there wasn’t much in terms of portability. I had a delta 44 sound card ( which wasn’t a pre amp). There are many awesome USB Audio interfaces on the market so what is the best USB Audio Interface under $100? Here’s a few you should check out.
So what is an Audio Interface
An audio interface is a piece of hardware that combines your preamps (which is a gain stage for the microphone or instrument) and your AD/DA converter ( converts the analog signal to digital and digital to analog). So you can plug your microphone, guitar and speakers into this one device and you are all set, you just have to connect your audio interface via usb.
Check out my video about building a home studio on a budget.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Before I get into it, I just want to point out that all the pre amps in the interfaces I’m going to talk about are very transparent. That means they aren’t adding any harmonic distortions at an audible level so what you hear is what they are tracking. It also means they all sound basically the same which is totally fine. It seems at this price point a common question is ” what is a better buy PreSonus or Focusrite”. Lets start with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
I’m a big fan of the Scarlett line. These interfaces feel sturdy and are great for the musician on the go. The Solo has a XLR input with phantom power for a condenser mic as well as an instrument input for your electric. They also boast about their low latency which is great. Mind you I find I’m cool with setting my buffer low in my DAW to 128 samples when tracking anyways. If you want to connect monitors to your solo you can use the provided RCA connectors which a lot of media speakers are equipped with. Check out my review of some affordable media monitors here
I’m a Pro Tools guy so the fact that it comes with a Focusrite bundle of Pro Tools First is pretty awesome. However, all the interfaces are PT compatible and Pro Tools First is free. This interface is awesome for artists who like to write and track on their laptop and work with headphones. The casing is durable and can take getting shoved in your bag while on the go.
- up to 192kH
- low latency
- pro tools first bundle
- rca and headphone connection
- transparent preamps
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96: 2×2 USB 2.0 Recording System with Studio One
The next best USB Audio Interface under $100 on my list is the PreSonus AudioBox. PreSonus has come a long way and are a great option for entry-level artist. This box doesn’t record at 192kH like the focusrite but honestly who cares. If you’re just doing music recording than 96k is more than enough. 192kH is overkill unless you’re tracking for film. Anyways another feature that I really liked was the midi connector. This is great if you want to use a midi controller of some kind and don’t have anymore USB inputs on your laptop or PC. It also has TRS connections on the back for your monitors. Which is great if you want to connect more professional monitors like KRK 8’s or Yamaha’s.
Oh and another great point is this interface has 2 preamp inputs so if you like to record stereo tracks you’re ready to go.
It comes with Studio One the full version so you can track more tracks than if you were to use Pro Tools First. With that said I’m still not a fan of Studio One but that’s just a personal thing and if you’re starting out then who cares what I think. 😀 ( yes I just happy faced in a blog) However if you want to use other daw’s like Pro Tools it will work just as well.
BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC404HD
My third pick I chose to review the U-phoria UMC404HD. Out of the 3 audio interfaces Behringer U-Phoria is the one I would would probably get. I grew up with Behringer, it was what I bought starting out because it was dirt cheap. and it used to be just that, cheap. It got crackly and things were always breaking. Nobs felt cheap….cheap cheap cheap. But Behringer has really changed how they build and market their products. When I messed around with this USB interface it blew my mind. Behringer built something that can easily compete with Personus or Focusrite. In fact it gave me much more.
For starters 4 inputs that xlr/instrument inputs all with Midas preamps. If you are looking to record your band you can do a lot with 4 inputs. It also has connections for 2 pairs of monitors and Midi connections on the back. It also lets your record up to 192kH like the Focusrite. And it doesn’t feel cheap anymore. It feels like a quality piece of gear that I can take with me and record quality usable tracks. These reasons are why I would put it on top of my list for best USB audio interface.
It is also works great with your standard DAW’s. I’ve heard of people having driver issues with Windows so you can get the behringer u phoria umc404HD driver HERE. Mac users no need to worry about a driver. Just plug and go.
So as for the Presonus vs Focusrite question what’s a better buy? well both are great but I’d have to say Behringer. I know there will be people who will hate me saying that but oh well 😀 Another happy face in a blog….Classy