Audio interfaces are a critical component in any home recording setup. If you want any degree of quality to your sound, you simply cannot rely on built-in microphones, be they on your laptop or your phone. We’ve picked the IK Multimedia iRig Pre HD as our best portable audio interface, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so read on to see if any of our other picks suit your needs better.

Top Portable Audio Interfaces

IK Multimedia iRig Pre HD

Computer connectivity
1 x Input Channel
XLR Input
1 x Output Channel
1 x 1/8″ Headphone Out
96 kHz / 24-Bit
Powered by USB

What’s good: Compact; very portable, Multicolor LED make setting gain easy

Not so good: No stereo monitor output, Only one input channel

In perhaps the most dedicated of use-cases on this list, the IK Multimedia iRig Pre HD is a portable audio interface with laser focus. You will not find any bells or whistles on this device, which may be a blessing or a curse depending on what you need.

There is one solitary input; a phantom-powered XLR connection. And one output in the form of a standard 1/8″ headphone jack. This is a device intended for recording a single microphone, likely aimed at podcasters or similar fields. The audio quality is good, though not the highest on this list. You can find some settings to play with in the form of volume, gain, and the ability to switch direct monitoring on and off. It is compatible with iOS, Mac, and Windows devices.

iRig Pre HD is a reliable device; however, its lack of features and functionality make it more suited as a beginner interface. Or, due to its small size, it could serve as a backup for your daily driver.

Rode SC6-L Dual TRRS for Apple iOS Devices

Connects via Lightning Port
2 x Input Channels
2 x TRRS Inputs
1 x Output Channel
3.5mm Headphone Output
48 kHz / 24-Bit
Powered by iPhone TRRS Socket

What’s good: Great sound quality, Includes two SmartLav+ microphones

Not so good: Limited features, Apple devices only

The SC6-L is a simple mobile audio interface with a very particular purpose in mind. With the SC6-L, you can hook up two microphones and a set of headphones, and that’s all.

The device comes complete with a lightning connector for plugging into iOS devices and has a couple of SmartLav+ microphones, making it ready to use right out of the box. The microphones are small, omnidirectional condenser capsules with reinforced cables, making them well suited to life on the go.

The SC6-L is explicitly designed with run and gun interviews in mind. For reporters, entertainment correspondents, and podcasters who may find themselves with a chance opportunity to give an impromptu interview, this interface is compact and easy to use, and perfect for getting that all-important scoop.

It is optimized for use with the RODE Reporter app, giving the user some extra functionality such as the ability to enable and disable direct monitoring, alter boost gain, and more.

There aren’t many features to the RODE SC6-L; however, the audio quality is crystal clear. This interface only tries to do one thing, but it aims to do it very well.

Zoom U-44 4-Channel Portable Audio Interface

Connects via USB
2 x Input Channels
2 x Combo XLR – 1/4″ TRS Inputs
1 x Zoom Capsule Connector
2 x Output Channels
1 x 1/4″ TRS Headphone Output
2 x Stereo RCA Line Output
2 x 1/4″ TRS Unbalanced Output
48 kHz / 24-Bit
Power Supply – USB Bus-Power or 2 x AA Batteries

What’s good: Lots of input/output options, Compatible with Zoom input capsules

Not so good: No Android compatibility, Can be fiddly to get working on an iPad/iPhone

The U-44 is a handheld 4-in / 4-out interface. It is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers, and can also be connected to an iPad with the help of an external power source.

It has a rugged look, a solid build-quality, and plenty of inputs and outputs, including a Zoom connector for adding a Zoom input capsule if you need that little extra connectivity. There are two XLR-1/4″ combo inputs, as well as a stereo S/PDIF input, making this an excellent interface if you need options at the moment.

The main stereo and headphone outputs each have independent level controls and mute buttons. MIDI in and out ports, RCA out, and S/PDIF outputs all add to the mix to make this one of the most versatile portable audio interfaces in this article.

And the ability to add Zoom input capsules makes it an incredibly capable interface, able to hand a huge variety of situations. The MIDI controls and XLR-1/4″ combo ports, in particular, make the U-44 well-suited to music on the go. Just pack up a small midi-keyboard, instruments, and a mic, and you’re all set to record music no matter where you find yourself!

Apogee Duet-iOS-Mac

Connects via USB
2 x Input Channel
2 x Microphone Preamps
1 x Output Channel
2 x Stereo Headphone Out
Balanced Speaker Out
192 kHz / 24-Bit

What’s good: Looks great, Easy to use

Not so good: Breakout cable can make things a little cluttered, Lightning cable not included, Price

The Apogee Duet is an extremely user-friendly audio interface. From the slick appearance to the simplified controls, the whole package is designed to make the process of recording whatever you want as simple as possible.

In keeping with this simple ethos, the Duet itself is kept minimalist, with just an LCD screen a large control dial adorning the face of it. The sides are kept sleek and clutter-free thanks to a breakout cable, rather than putting all the inputs and outputs on the Duet itself. This may look nice in pictures, but it can be a little messy when you set everything up.

Still, with that breakout cable, you can connect microphones, instruments, line-level devices such as external preamps and mixing boards. The Apogee Duet is great for musicians, and in particular for live performances.

It connects via USB to Windows, Mac, and iOS devices, though you will need to purchase additional cables to connect to the latter. The audio quality offered by the Duet is higher than many on this list, so be sure to factor that in when comparing the somewhat sparse feature list of the Duet to other audio interfaces.

M-Audio AIR|HUB

Connects via USB
No Inputs
1 x Output Channel
2 x 1/4″ TRS (left and right)
1 x 1/4″ Headphone Out
96 kHz / 24-Bit
5V DC Power Supply

What’s good: Acts as USB hub as well as an audio interface, Stylish design

Not so good: No iOS/Android support, No inputs

The M-Audio AIR|HUB is aimed firmly at music producers and mixers, working on tracks or other audio work on the move. There are no audio inputs here, this is purely for taking audio from your Apple or Windows computer and listening to it in high fidelity.

There is a headphone jack for you to monitor, as well as 2 x 1/4″ TRS (left and right) outputs for you to connect to something bigger, such as to monitor speakers.

The top of the AIR|HUB sports a large volume dial for you to easily control the level coming out of your main output, as well as a separate dial on the front for your headphones.

There is little more to the AIR|HUB, making it a particular use-case device. The lack of any inputs and portable device support shows that it is aimed firmly at people who are producing things on their computer.

The handy addition of pass-through USB ports only reinforces this, as it allows the AIR|HUB to occupy precious USB real estate without taking up an all-important port that may be needed for something like a portable storage device.

Korg PLUGKEY-BK Mobile Interface

Connects via Lightning Cable
1 x Input Channel
1 x 5-Pin MIDI Input
1 x Output Channel
2 x 1/4″ Output
1 x 1/8″ TRS Headphone Output
48 kHz / 24-Bit
Powered by USB Adapter

What’s good: MIDI input, The micro-USB charging port can be used to power iOS devices

Not so good: iOS only, No audio inputs

Much like the AIR|HUB, the Korg PLUGKEY-BK is designed for a particular use. It provides a quality audio interface in a very compact package, which is excellent for working on the go.

But it also provides you with a MIDI input, making it ideal for electronic musicians who might need to connect a keyboard or other MIDI device up to capture some in-the-moment inspiration.

The device features a built-in Lightning cable, which may prove to be a bit of an issue if the cord went faulty. There is a single volume knob on the front, which is a little small and fiddly, but there is only so much you can do when the overall size of the device is this tiny.

With regards to outputs, you have a standard 1/8″ headphone out, so don’t expect to be using any fancy monitor headphones with this. There are also 2 x 1/4″ outputs, however, which should make connecting to something more substantial easy.

The interface is only compatible with iOS devices, further narrowing the field of people this device would be useful for. But if you are an iPad or iPhone owner who likes to make electronic music on the go, this is a great little tool to have.

MeloAudio TS MINI

Connects via USB
2 x Input Channel
1 x XLR
1 x 1/4″ TRS Input
1 x MIDI Input
1 x Output Channel
1 x 1/8″ Headphone Out
1 x 1/4″ Main Out
192 kHz / 24-Bit
Powered by USB

What’s good: Compatible with Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android, High sound quality

Not so good: May seem a little bulky, No left and right output

MeloAudio doesn’t have quite the pedigree that many names on this list do, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting a strong contender forward.

The TS MINI serves as a great all-round audio interface. It may lack the versatility of the RODE SC6-L, and it may lack the single-purpose simplicity of the M-Audio AIR|HUB. Still, at a very reasonable price, the TS MINI serves as a great tool to have in your portable audio setup.

It features three inputs—an XLR, a 1/4″ jack, and a MIDI input—that can be used for a multitude of recording situations, from music to interviews. The high-quality audio and separate headphone and main outputs also make it a robust production interface.

Perhaps the icing on this audio cake is the compatibility that the TS MINI offers. Unlike so many smartphone audio interfaces, the TS MINI is compatible across the board. From iPhones (5 and later) to Androids, from Macs to Windows.

This interface works with it all. The TS MINI may feel anything but “mini” however; it is definitely one of the bulkier portable audio interfaces.

Saramonic SmartRig+ Di

Connects via Lightning Cable
2 x Input Channels
2x XLR / 1/4″ Combo
2x 1/8″ TRS
1 x Output Channel
1 x Lightning Output Cable
1 x 1/8″ Headphone Out
96 kHz / 24-Bit
9V Battery

What’s good: Individual levels for each input, Multiple options for connecting microphones

Not so good: iOS devices only, Lightning cable built-in, cannot be replaced if broken

The Saramonic SmartRig+ Di is another device that is ideal for podcasters and people who find themselves doing interviews while out and about.

It is a small, battery-powered interface that connects to iOS phones and tablets via a lightning cable, providing two inputs for you to record with. These two inputs have a variety of options for connecting, with both 1/4″ and 1/8″ jacks available, as well as phantom-powered XLR connections.

There is also a 1/8″ headphone out for monitoring your audio. Like the SC6-L, the SmartRig+ has a handheld look to it, though it would be awkward to use an audio interface as a handheld device.

The lightning cable is part of the device, not removable, which could be an issue if the cable ever becomes broken. There is also no compatibility with non-iOS devices, somewhat limiting the scope of people who might find this interface useful.

The SmartRig+ can supply phantom power to your microphone, giving you the option of using a high-quality condenser mic for your recordings. All-in-all, this is probably the weakest offering on this list, but being the weakest on a list of the best portable audio interfaces isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

How Do I Connect an Interface to my iPhone?

In the vast majority of cases, connecting an iOS-compatible audio interface to your iPhone is as simple as plugging the cable into your phone.

There may be some intermediary action, such as adaptors to go from USB or USB-C to Lightning connectors, or perhaps an adaptor for the older style of iPhone connector, but the basic premise is the same. You will likely need to install an app of some kind. Most iOS compatible interfaces will have an app of their own to download; however, they should also work with existing apps that take audio inputs.

If your interface is not working, check that it is being powered somehow. Most audio interfaces require a power source, which can often come from the device it is plugged into when that device is a computer or laptop. For portable devices, the power usually needs to come from somewhere else. This may be an AC adaptor or batteries.

Once you’re all powered and connected to your iPhone, you’re ready to go!