Best Audio Interfaces Under $500
Record at Studio Quality

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There are so many options when it comes to picking an audio interface, and while you may not be shopping for the most expensive tools money can buy you don’t want to waste your hard-earned money. We love audio production and genuinely spend our lives living and breathing this stuff, so it’s only natural that we love to share our experience with others. We’ve trawled through our favorite audio interfaces under $500 to bring you what we think might just be the best options.

Our top pick for an audio interface under $500 is the M-Audio AIR 192|14. This interface provides incredibly good value for money, a really nice selection of IO options, and produces absolutely fantastic sounding recordings. While there are other options on our list that are a little cheaper or offer more features, we think the AIR 192|14 presents the perfect combination of utility and price point.

Recommended Audio Interfaces Under $500

ImageAudio InterfacesConnectivityInputsOutputsSoftware Incuded
M-Audio AIR 192|14 -...
Our Pick

$329.00 at Amazon
USB type C4x XLR / jack combo inputs, 2x 6.3mm instrument line-in, 2x 6.3mm TRS line in 4x 6.3mm TRS line outPro-Tools & Ableton Live, Plus Studio-Grade FX & Instruments
Focusrite Scarlett...$219.99 at AmazonUSB 2.0 over USB type C2x 6.3mm line input, 2x XLR mic input4x 6.3mm line outPro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite, 3-month Splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive Keys virtual instrument
Native Instruments...$214.41 at AmazonUSB 2.02x XLR / TRS combo socket line input, 2x 6.3mm TRS line input, 1x SPDIF digital input4x DC-coupled TRS line out, 1x SPDIF digital line outAbleton Live Lite 10, MASCHINE Essentials, Monark, Replica, Mod Pack, Solid Bus Comp, Traktor LE 3, Complete Start

M-Audio AIR 192|14

Computer connectivity: USB Type-C
Inputs: 4x XLR / jack combo inputs, 2x 6.3mm instrument line-in, 2x 6.3mm TRS line in
Outputs: 4x 6.3mm TRS line out
A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
Phantom Power: Yes, +48v (4 channels only)
Power Supply: AC power supply

What’s good: Really good value for money, The control interface is a pleasure to use

Not so good: A lack of USB bus-power prevents it from being truly portable

The M-Audio Air 192|14 is M-Audio’s current flagship USB audio interface. It provides excellent value for money with tons of great features for the price.

The Transparent Crystal preamps in this box are super clear. We were really impressed with the quality of recording through them. Latency is very good, with a latency over a round trip measuring in at 2.59ms.

We really like the user-friendly control layout, all of the knobs and switches are assembled to allow for intuitive control of the interface. The giant volume knob is reminiscent of the Komplete Audio 6 mk2, which we’re big fans of.

IO is excellent and has more than enough inputs and outputs for most people. You get four combo XLR/Jack inputs, two 6.3mm TRS line ins, and four 6.3mm TRS line outs. There are MIDI in and outs over 3.5mm too. Two 6.3mm headphone outputs allow for seamless monitoring.

When you unbox this interface you’ll immediately notice how good the build quality is, it feels strong and well made in your hands. We were really impressed with the professional looks too.

Connectivity is over USB type-C, which probably helps account for that blazing fast latency, although unfortunately, this unit doesn’t have USB bus-power. Instead, you’ll need to plug it into the wall using the provided AC adapter, which does hamper portability a bit.

Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Generation

Computer connectivity: USB 2.0 over USB type C
Inputs: 2x 6.3mm line input, 2x XLR mic input
Outputs: 4x 6.3mm line out
A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
Phantom Power: Yes, +48v
Power Supply: USB bus-powered

What’s good: Ultra-portable size, Excellent recording quality

Not so good: We’d have liked to have seen a USB 3.0 connection

The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 is a serious piece of kit, perfect for the budding audio professional.

This is the mid-range audio interface in the Scarlett lineup, a step up from the smaller Scarlett Solo. You’ve got 24-bit/24 kHz recording, two XLR inputs, two 6.3mm line inputs, zero-latency direct monitoring, a high-speed USB-C connection which offers ultra-low latency recording and there’s MIDI in and out for those that need it.

The fact that this is a USB bus-powered unit means that you can run it over a type C connection from your laptop. This makes the Focusrite 4i4 an incredibly portable bit of kit for the working musician.

The 3rd generation Scarlett sees the introduction of Focusrite’s proprietary “Air” mode. Previously only seen in the high-end Clarett interfaces, “Air” introduces a wonderful vintage tone, inspired by the original Focusrite ISA amplifiers.

Build quality is just what you’d expect from a professional piece of audio gear. This is a workhorse unit that is made to last a lifetime of studio sessions and life on the road.

It’s a little annoying that the Scarlett doesn’t yet have USB 3.0, but we didn’t notice the USB 2.0 speeds affecting performance negatively. As you’re probably aware, USB type C is very fast.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2

Computer connectivity: USB 2.0
Inputs: 2x XLR / TRS combo socket line input, 2x 6.3mm TRS line input, 1x SPDIF digital input
Outputs: 4x DC-coupled TRS line out, 1x SPDIF digital line out
A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
Phantom Power: Yes, +48v
Power Supply: USB bus-powered

What’s good: Our favorite volume knob returns, Great selection of IO

Not so good: Included software isn’t the best

The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 is a beautifully designed audio interface with a decent amount of IO.

The original Komplete Audio 6 was a firm fan favorite for many years. Now that Native Instruments have blessed us with an MK2 unit we’re happy to see that they’ve built upon that much-beloved foundation. We’re sure users will be pleased to see the giant tactile volume knob has been retained in this iteration.

One of the main selling points of this interface is the great IO options. As far as inputs go we’ve got two XLR/ TRS balanced combo sockets, two TRS line inputs, and a digital SPDIF input. Outputs are four DC-coupled TRS line outs and a digital SPDIF output. There’s also MIDI in and out.

One great feature that we really love is the ability to connect two sets of headphones to the interface, each headphone jack also has its own dedicated volume control knob. There’s latency-free direct monitoring through these jacks too.

This is an interface designed with utility in mind and it’s equally at home in the studio as it is on the road. USB bus-power means that you don’t have to rely on a separate power outlet. The unit is built sturdily and should be able to survive being thrown into a kit bag and lugged around.

Steinberg UR-RT2

Computer connectivity: USB 2.0
Inputs: 2x XLR / jack combo inputs, 2x 6.3mm line inputs
Outputs: 2x 6.3mm line out
A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
Phantom Power: Yes, +48v
Power Supply: AC power supply

What’s good: Incredibly well built, We love the Nerve transformers

Not so good: It’s a little hefty

The Steinberg UR-RT2 is an interesting beast, it’s technically portable, but also kind of hefty. The supreme quality of the internal components more than makes up for any size and weight issues though.

This interface was designed in conjunction with recording technology pioneer Rupert Neve. Over the years Neve has built up an impressive reputation in the audio engineering world with his high-end preamp designs. Steinberg has integrated two Rupert Neve transformers into the UR-RT2. These two transformers feed into two Yamaha D-class preamps, which results in superb audio quality from the unit.

As far as connectivity goes you get two XLR / jack combo inputs, two line inputs, two 6.3mm line outs, and MIDI in and out. This interface connects to your PC or Mac over USB 2.0 but also supports iOS devices via the Lightning to USB 3.0 adapter.

The full metal construction of the housing feels incredibly durable. This is a hefty piece of kit and while we appreciate the dedication to build quality we did find ourselves wishing it was a little lighter at times. Portability isn’t really the main focus here and that’s evidenced by the fact that this interface requires AC power.

IK Multimedia AXE I/O

Computer connectivity: USB 2.0
Inputs: 2x XLR mic line-in, 2x 6.3mm instrument inputs
Outputs: 4x 6.3mm TRS line out, 1x amp output
A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
Phantom Power: Yes, +48v
Power Supply: AC power supply

What’s good: Lots of features for guitarists, Great tone sculpting ability, AmpliTube 4 Deluxe software included

Not so good: No USB bus-power

The IK Multimedia AXE I/O is an audio interface aimed at the needs of professional guitar players.

The AXE I/O offers a lot of features that guitarists will find useful. You can emulate the qualities of a vintage tube amp at the flick of a switch, sculpt the tone of your performance with the proprietary Z-Tone feature and take advantage of the incredible 1117 dB of dynamic range to get the most out of your instrument.

Unlike many other audio interfaces the AXE I/O features a dedicated amp out. This is a really interesting feature as it allows you to connect up your guitar amp without the need for any additional equipment. Other connectivity options include two 6.3mm instrument inputs, two XLR mine inputs, and four 6.3mm TRS line outs.

As this interface was designed with working guitarists in mind it’s no surprise that the build quality is very rugged and looks like it will stand up to whatever abuse a tour could throw at it.

IK Multimedia has been kind enough to include a copy of AmpliTube 4 Deluxe with the AXE I/O. This box is designed to function with this software seamlessly and allows several control options direct from the interface itself.

PreSonus Studio 1824c

Computer connectivity: USB Type-C
Inputs: 2x front located XLR/ jack combo line-in, 6x rear located XLR / jack combo line in
Outputs: 2x level controlled TRS jack line out, 8x TRS jack line out
A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
Phantom Power: Yes, +48v
Power Supply: AC power supply

What’s good: More than enough IO for any recording situation, XMAS preamps sound great

Not so good: Not at all designed for portability

The PreSonus Studio 1824c is a professional-grade audio interface aimed at serious producers and musicians.

Eight XMAX preamps provide a full and rich tone to your recordings. Zero-latency monitoring allows you to truly feel the mix as you produce your music.

The IO on this unit is absolutely insane, you can easily record a full band using the 1824c. There are two XLR/ jack combo inputs alongside two TRS line outs with level control located on the front of the unit. On the rear You’ll find six XLR/ jack combo inputs and eight TRS jack line outs. There are also MIDI input and output options.

When you buy a PreSonus Studio Series interface you get their proprietary Studio One DAW for free. This software runs on Windows and Mac OS and provides tight integration with the Studio Series units.

Construction is excellent, and while this interface isn’t portable enough to follow you around on the road it definitely feels like it can deal with the everyday wear and tear of studio use.

This is one of the most feature-rich audio interfaces you can get at this price point. It may be a little more expensive than the others on the list, but the extra money upfront is well worth it.

What can I expect at this price range?

When you’re shopping around for a budget (under $200) audio interface you usually have to make compromises in some areas, but bringing the budget up to the $500 level really gives you options.

You’re absolutely going to be able to get something that records great quality in this price range, in fact, all of the interfaces on our list produce recordings up to 24-bit/192 kHz.

IO options are also much better in the $500 and under price range. If you need to record a full band’s worth of instruments or mics then you can definitely get something that fits your needs here. Most interfaces will have at least a few ins and outs at this price point.

Durability and longevity are important things to consider when you’re investing in equipment. Cheaper interfaces can be fragile or have internal components that wear out faster, but most interfaces at this level of investment should last for a very long time given proper care.

Finally, I know this can sound silly but these interfaces definitely look more professional than some of the budget models. If you’re working with clients on a regular basis then this might be an important consideration for you.