For many users getting into home recording, a 2-channel audio interface is an essential purchase, being necessary for you to record 2 sources simultaneously. The best investment will combine flexible recording options and high-fidelity preamps at an affordable price point – see also our under $200 and under $500 picks.

With so many great options, it’s hard to choose a clear winner. But for most beginners, the value-packed into the PreSonus AudioBox will set it apart. Its 2 combination inputs put it into competition with the Scarlett 2i2 for flexibility, and the additions of a MIDI input and fully featured DAW are unparalleled. The fact that it does all of this while remaining significantly cheaper than the 2i2 or iD4 is remarkable.

Users who are sure they won’t use Studio One or the MIDI input may prefer to spend the extra money for the 2i2, securing a better sound quality and the online support of its huge community of users.

Recommended 2-Channel Audio Interfaces

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 Channel Interface

What’s good: The best variety of inputs, full DAW included

Not so good: Sound may not dazzle like the Scarlett or iD4

OS: PC, Mac
Computer Connectivity: USB 2
Inputs: 2 combo mic/instrument
Outputs: 1/4″ headphone output; speaker outputs
AD-DA Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz

PreSonus is known for Studio One, a DAW which has managed to impress and convert many audio professionals from industry standards like ProTools. Similarly, their AudioBox (see review) interface not only matches many of the features of the acclaimed Scarlett 2i2 for 2/3 of the price but goes a step further. While the Scarlett comes packaged with 2 freeware versions of popular DAWs, the AudioBox includes a copy of Studio One 4 Artist, a fully-featured DAW which retails separately for the same price as the unit itself.

And PreSonus doesn’t stop there – they’ve also included a MIDI input/output, allowing further flexibility as you can plug your MIDI instruments directly into the interface. This is a rare feature at this price point though, admittedly, it may be unnecessary for many consumers since most popular entry-level MIDI instruments plug directly into the computer via USB – for lower latency look at Thunderbolt interfaces.

Of course, nothing’s perfect at this price point, and discerning audiophiles may find the sound of the AudioBox preamps to be slightly lacking in comparison to the Scarlett. The sound is still great, especially at entry-level – your listeners will not be complaining.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)

What’s good: Sparkling high-resolution sound, flexible inputs

Not so good: Pricier than others, much of the included software is free elsewhere

OS: PC, Mac
Computer Connectivity: USB 2 Type-C
Inputs: 2 combo mic/instrument
Outputs: 1/4″ headphone output; speaker outputs
AD-DA Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz

With the launch of its 3rd generation, Focusrite announced that the Scarlett 2i2 was already the most popular interface in history. It’s easy to see why. Incredible audio quality, 2 flexible inputs for mic and instrument, and a suite of included software make for a deal that’s hard to beat.

Every iteration of this modern classic has improved on the last, and the Scarlett continues to be an incredibly reliable unit: physically durable, easy to install, with low latency and an undeniable sound. Its combo inputs make it flexible for use in any small recording session, and the 192kHz resolution is honestly overkilled for most situations.

ProTools First, Ableton Live Lite, and a set of free plugins come with the interface, making it easy for beginners to get started. To be clear: the two included DAWs are already free for anyone to download, but the package makes them easy to install. And here they come with a set of plugins from many different reputed audio companies, with a variety perfect for anyone trying to expand their collection, and perfectly suited for beginners.

The unit is one of the pricier models on this list, and many users may not find all of the features worth paying for. Nevertheless, this is a popular product for a reason and a trusted entry-level audio investment.

Audient iD4 USB 2-in/2-out Audio Interface

What’s good: Pro audio quality, streamlined design, 2 headphone outputs

Not so good: Only 1 mic input, lack of easy input monitoring, expensive

OS: PC, Mac, iOS 6 or later
Computer Connectivity: USB 2
Inputs: 2; 1 combo mic/instrument, 1 DI
Outputs: 2 headphone outputs, 1/4″ and 1/8″; speaker outputs
AD-DA Resolution: 24-bit/96kHz

For decades, Audient has been designing top-notch mixing consoles for recording studios around the world. With the iD4, they have made their world-class sound available at the lowest price ever, and in a compact format perfect for solo musicians and easy mobile use. Arguably featuring the best sound quality on this list (depending on taste, just edging out the Focusrite with a fuller, punchier low-end), the iD4 also sports the highest price tag.

The iD4 has 2 inputs, a combination mic/line input for XLR or instrument cables, and a DI input for instruments. Along with the 2 outputs for headphones, this is the perfect configuration for solo musicians who want to record a vocal and guitar part simultaneously or duos who want to record together.

From a quick look at the unit, it’s clear that simplicity and ease of use were design priorities, and it really pays off. The small unit can easily fit onto a crowded desk or mobile workstation, and the huge volume knob actually doubles as a mouse wheel, helping to streamline the creative process. It’s also compatible with iOS in addition to PC and Mac, making it the only option on this list that can record directly into your phone (though a Camera Adapter Kit and Powered USB Hub are required).

This interface’s only failing is that it displays input volume only when the input is solo, meaning that the interface will not indicate if there is clipping while you record along to a track.

BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC22

What’s good: Most affordable, good sound for the price

Not so good: Low pre-amp resolution, challenges installing drivers

OS: PC, Mac
Computer Connectivity: USB 2
Inputs: 2; 1 combo mic/instrument, 1 DI
Outputs: 1/4″ headphone output; speaker outputs
AD-DA Resolution: 16-bit/48kHz

This sleek 2-channel interface from Behringer takes the home recording revolution to new heights (or new $$$ lows), with one of the most affordable, quality recording interfaces on the market. Though its features are limited in comparison to some of the competition, and the build quality and design aren’t premium, it’s hard to find a better unit at this price.

Like the iD4, the U-PHORIA hosts 1 combination mic/instrument input and 1 DI-only input. It can’t record two mics simultaneously, but for podcasters or solo musicians on a budget, this could be the perfect purchase.

Unfortunately, some users may have trouble installing the drivers which the U-PHORIA needs in order to run. There have been errors reported with the software, and some troubleshooting may be required. In addition, this unit has higher latency than others on this list and the low output volume will likely need to be boosted in your DAW.

M-Audio AIR 192|4

What’s good: Great sound and preamp resolution, free software

Not so good: Only 1 mic input, MIDI input costs extra

OS: PC, Mac
Computer Connectivity: USB 2 Type-C
Inputs: 2; 1 combo mic/instrument, 1 DI
Outputs: 1/4″ headphone output; speaker outputs
AD-DA Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz

M-Audio designed AIR 192|4 (full review) to unseat the Scarlett – the packaged software (including ProTools First and Ableton Live Lite, as well as a suite of free plugins) gives it away. And it just may do the trick. The high-quality preamp even rivals Scarlett’s pristine 192kHz resolution, at 2/3 of the 2i2’s price.

But there’s one major drawback, which could disqualify this unit for some users: like the iD4, this interface features only 1 combination mic/instrument input and 1 DI. It cannot compete with the Scarlett for the flexibility of offering 2 mic inputs, though for solo musicians this may not be a concern.

Conversely, it can also add a MIDI input if you buy it at the same price point as the 2i2, which is a crucial difference for some musicians.

Unfortunately, the AIR could be confusing for some users, as the large central knob requires some setup, and the drivers and software can be challenging to install.