On a good night at the club, I like to record the session directly into my laptop or iPad with just a mic and a bass input. Maybe a room mic. Quick, easy, no stress, great sound quality. Time to pull out my 4-channel audio interface. Here are a few options that will get the job done.
4-6 Channel Audio Interfaces We Recommend
Behringer UMC404HD 4-Channel Audio Interface
What’s good: High-quality MIDAS preamps deliver a warm, clean strong signal.
Not so good: Phantom power goes to all 4 channels, even if you are using a dynamic mic. Where is that mystery buzz coming from?
- Inputs– 4 mic’s with preamp
- Power Source– Bus powered
- Software– none included.
Do you want to be able to show up ready to make a professional-quality recording? At rehearsal, the gig, the desktop, anywhere you can take your laptop, the Behringer has got you covered. Record up to 4 tracks at a time with a great quality sound coming through those top of the line preamps.
Near zero-latency (Thunderbolt interfaces) and strong signal to the monitor, headphones are great but come at a price. You will not be able to hear effects while monitoring.
This sturdy, small footprint, rack mount unit is well designed. Inputs are all right up front, with gain control and phantom power for each channel and switches for preamp pad and mic/instrument at your fingertips. Although it doesn’t come with software, it promises to be plug and play compatible with any recording software.
So, take it with you and use it anywhere. Not a lot of effects or emulators. The appeal here is for people who want the best quality microphone recordings. Perfect for acoustic musicians or podcast interviews.
Steinberg UR-RT4 4-Channel Audio Interface
What’s good: Rupert Neve Designs transformers in two of the inputs will add rich harmonics and clean, excellent, really good sound.
Not so good: Small size makes the buttons small and cramped locations for jacks and switches.
- Inputs– 4 mics with preamp
- Power Supply– 12V DC power supply (included)
- Software– Cubase AI & LE
Steinberg has a great advantage in making an audio interface. This is the company that created Cubase, has access to advanced Yamaha technology and the classic high-end Rupert Neve Designs. The UR-RT4 takes full advantage by supercharging your sound quality in two of the inputs with those Rupert Neve transformers.
The sound picks up a tiny amount of distortion which sounds warm and real. Unlikely that any digital emulator can recreate the expressiveness and subtle distortion these transformers provide. Class A D-Pre mic preamps support the inputs. A wide frequency range means it is fine-tuned for any instrument or voice.
A great input signal will be complimented with latency-free DSP chip which will allow high-quality effects to be integrated seamlessly. Rev-x reverb, channel strip with the sweet spot, compressor, and 4 classic guitar amp sounds. If you need the highest-quality sound and are willing to pay for it, this interface will get the job done.
Steinberg UR 242 4-Channel Interface
What’s good: Great quality preamps and Classic Amp emulators from Yamaha modeling technology.
Not so good: Billed as a mobile recording studio, it is not bus-powered so you will need a wall plugin.
- Inputs– 2 mic inputs with preamps, 2 line inputs
- Power Supply– 5V phone battery input to power iPad and interface
- Software– Cubase AI
Pulling back some of the top-end features of the UR-RT4, Steinberg offers up a back to earth model that still boasts some killer features. A nice small unit with a ton of great features.
The 2 mic inputs come with the same D-Pre discrete preamps. A wide range of frequencies allows it to handle any music source. So you can go from a singer to a horn to a fingerpicked style guitar and this preamp is designed to capture the subtleties of each sound.
The UR 242 also has the Yamaha designed classic guitar amp sounds with options such as clean, crunch, drive, and lead. A very good quality reverb with 3 different simulations that can be mixed at any level will further improve the sound of your microphones.
IPad and digital camera connectivity is another added feature.
It has MIDI ins and outs, but if you plan on layering in a lot of effects or tracks, higher latency will be a big limitation. Great sound for your mics, guitar, and bass, at an affordable price – just under $200.
Lexicon Multi-Channel Desktop Recording Studio
What’s good: Easy to use manual controls and functionality at a great price makes this a very good beginner’s model.
Not so good: Software compatibility and complaints about feedback. No option to record in mono.
- Inputs– 2 mic, 2 instrument
- Power– USB bus-powered
- Software– Cubase LE (basic edition)
A very good affordable starter model for home digital recording. The design is standalone, upright, with all your line mic and line level input controls right upfront.
The Lexicon has all the basics. Mics and lines can be mixed separately. Mixed with live input while recording. Balanced and filtered outputs for monitoring and inputs that accept balanced or unbalanced signals.
MIDI in / output with solid sync. Lexicon is the company that invented digital reverb and the VST Reverb sounds great.
There has been trouble with compatibility with other software programs. Drivers are not being updated.
This interface was a great tool a few years ago, but you get the feeling it is starting to fall behind. Simple to use and affordable, this is a fine introductory step into the world of digital recording.
And the Winner Is…
The best value is the Behringer Audio Interface 4 Channel. 4 microphone inputs with state of the art preamps that will provide a clean and warm sound with plenty of gains. In the end, it is the sound quality we are after and this device provides it at a very affordable cost. Maybe a 2-channel interface is what you need.
Forget all the bells and whistles. I want a 4 channel interface to record band rehearsal or an open mic night with professional quality sound and minimal tinkering. This workhorse is a mobile 4-track for the digital era.