How To Choose an Audio Interface | Best Audio Interface | Guide

Universal Audio, Focusrite, Presonus, Audient, Steinberg, MOTU, Antelope, Apogee. They are all here for the Audio Interface super episode If you’re in the market for a new audio interface then join me for the next episode of IDHAB. Right Now! Welcome to episode 14 of IDHAB I’m so excited to bring you this ultimate buyer’s guide on Audio Interfaces brought to you by Canada’s largest musical instrument retailer, Long and McQuade. If you are in the market for your first interface or perhaps you are looking to take a step up and grow your studio, stick around, I’ve got a a range of products here from about 200 up to under 1400 CDN dollars. I’ve been a customer of Long and McQuade for over 25 years and I’m super excited to be collaborating with them. The awesome staff at the downtown Toronto location has curated this incredible list of products here. So a big thank-you to Long and McQuade for providing all of the gear. Now, this is not a shoot out With the volume of products that I’ve got here that would be all out warfare. My goal here is to highlight the key features of each interface to help you zone in on the type of device that would work best for you. This Marshall 4×10 Cab is one of the first of many purchases I made at Long and McQuade over the years and I think it might just come in handy for this video.OK, let’s jump in and get started In our Budget group we are going to take a look at 3 interfaces well under $500 with a diverse set of features Let’s start with the Presonus Studio 2|4 This is the cheapest interface on our list At under 200 bucks this little powerhouse packs quite a few features in it’s small form factor. It is a USB-C interface but it can connect via standard USB as well. Cabling for both comes right in the box. It has 2 mic/line/instrument inputs with XMAX-L Class A mic preamps, 2 balanced 1/4″ TRS main outputs and 1 stereo headphone output with independent mix control. This device is ultra-portable and great for recording on the go since it is bus powered. I love the meters on the front This is a feature many devices in higher price classes don’t include. With midi I/O, phantom power and a bundle of software and plugins this is a great starter kit or if you simply need portability Next on our list is the Audient iD 14 This is a great example of the start small and grow as you require solution. At just under 400 dollars you can introduce Audient to your studio. The iD14 gives you two inputs with the same Class-A preamps available on all of their gear, including their big consoles You’ve got independent phantom power and Burr Brown Ad-Da converters. Plus a Discrete JFET Instrument Input on the front and single stereo headphone out. The back sports 2 main outs and an optical in that will allow you to expand this interface to 10 inputs by connecting an 8 channel mic Pre like Audient’s ASP800 There is no midi I/O on this interface. The iD14 connects to your computer via USB. And onboard visual meters. You will find this is a theme with me. This is often compromised in budget interfaces. The id14 with its virtual scroll wheel and intuitive meters gives you great control and visualization of your input, playback, monitor and headphone levels. The id14 is a great choice if you are looking for that Audient world-class sound, don’t need more than 2 inputs to start but plan to expand later on The third interface on our budget list is the Stenberg UR-RT2 This is quite an interesting player. At $429 the Ur-RT2 gives you 4 inputs and two outputs It is a USB interface that offers 2 D-PRE Class-A discrete mic preamps from Yamaha And Neve anyone? This interface comes with switchable Rupert Neve Designs transformers on the front inputs. These deliver a musical, more expressive sound. 2 of the inputs have XLR/TRS combo jacks and one Hi-Z switchable input for electric guitar. For outputs, you

have 1 stereo headphone jack with independent level control and 2 ¼ inch main outs. It also has midi/io and switchable phantom power This unit is not expandable but 4 inputs is a decent amount for many home studios. With the D-Pres and the Neve transformers, you’ve got a high-performance interface for well under $500 If you need a little bump in the number of inputs and high-quality input functionality on a limited budget then definitely check out the UR-RT2 Tier 2 In our Tier 2 class, we are going to look at interfaces priced between $549 and $825 In this class, you will need to pay particular attention to what is most important to you Let’s jump in so you can see why To start we’ve got the Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB Focusrite has laid down the gauntlet with their 2Pre. On the surface, this is a simple 2 input USB interface. Looking under the hood you will discover much more. It features 2 high performance, low-noise mic pres with super low distortion and Gain Halo meters to ensure your record levels are in check With 119db of dynamic range, you will get super clean and transparent recordings from condenser mics to guitars with hot pickups And both Pres have Focusrite’s Air effect which adds air and clarity to vocals and acoustic instruments. The low-latency design delivers low latency that rivals Thunderbolt interfaces via USB. The 2PRe also has an ADAT connector allowing you to expand this interface up to 10 inputs. And not to be overlooked, this device has 4 outputs and midi I/O. Add in a stereo headphone, out with dedicated volume control and you have quite the comprehensive package in a small frame. With future expandability up to 10 inputs, Focusrite’s famous, high-quality Pres and 4 outputs, the Clarett 2PRE is a solid choice for serious home studios The next interface in our Tier 2 group is the Apollo Arrow from Universal Audio This is a very interesting entry in our lineup For one, it is the only Thunderbolt 3 interface UA is known for high-end studio grade interfaces that price out of our list in this video But the Arrow is the lowest priced interface that UA has ever released. It gives you two genuine Unison enabled Mic Pres, UA’s world-class audio conversion and a UAD-2 SOLO Core processor that lets you monitor and record through the full library of UAD Powered Plug-Ins at near-zero latency. The beautiful onboard display gives you clear metering for inputs and outputs as well as onboard and software functions At 659 dollars the Arrow packages up a condensed version of the best UA has to offer in a rugged and portable device. It is a 2 input, two output interface with one stereo headphone jack and one ¼” Hi-Z input for guitar So you are trading in connectivity for quality While the Arrow itself is not expandable on its own, it can be combined with Apollo Thunderbolt interfaces to increase the I/O channel counts and DSP processing. This will take a bit of an investment and should be considered if you need more inputs and outputs. However, UA’s quality is world-class and the Arrow gets you their famous analog emulations, Unison enabled preamps and a whole bundle of plugins and amp simulators. Plus it is designed to be portable as Thunderbolt 3 is bus powered If quality takes priority over inputs and outputs, the Univeral Arrow delivers pro-grade recordings in an ultra-portable form factor that is just as powerful in the studio as it is on the go The last entry in our Tier 2 category is the Apogee Duet This is another great interface where trade-offs will be a consideration. In Apogee’s own words they aimed to create the industry standard in professional, portable audio recording Portable is the key word. They jammed 2 high-end preamps, USB Midi I/O and their ESS Sabre32 Digital Audio Conversion technology into a tiny frame. Apogee gear is seen in many top-shelf studios. So there is great value in an interface that delivers this technology with a tiny footprint. The Duet is a USB device with 2 inputs and 4 outputs so you have some flexibility in connecting two sets of monitors or outboard gear. Plus it has a separate headphone out The high-resolution OLED display gives you exceptional metering for such a small device

and the controller knob and touchpads gives you hands-on access to numerous assignable functions and volume controls. At $825 this device is the most expensive unit in our Tier 2 class and will cater to a very specific type of user who demands Apogee quality in a very small form factor. Portability is prioritized over connectivity. So while this unit will perform exceptionally well in a small or home studio environment where you don’t need a lot of inputs, this device really shines on the road Our last category is the V I PRE. See what I did there?. Here we are looking at interfaces that offer quite radically different features in a just under 1200 to over 1300 dollar price range. You’ll be spending a bit of money in this category so pay particularly close attention to the different features each one has to offer Our first interface in our top tier is the Motu 828x As we inch up the price scale the number of features increases exponentially and the Motu doesn’t disappoint. The 828x is a Thunderbolt device offering near Zero latency and onboard Digital mixing with their CueMix system. The front panel provides detailed metering and a deep menu display. Out of the box, the 828x is packed with connectivity options to scale this device up to 28 inputs and 30 outputs It has two XLR inputs with studio-grade mic preamps and dedicated sends Plus an additional 8 TRS analog ins and outs. The front panel combo jacks also provide hi-Z 1/4 inch guitar inputs and there is switchable phantom power and pad. You can connect any optical device like Motu’s 8 Pre with the ADAT ports and add 16 more channels. And there’s way more! You’ve got separate XLR main outs, S/PDIF, MIDI in/out, word clock I/O, time code in/out, and two front-panel headphone jacks. Phew And there is even a USB port if you need to connect this interface with a system where Thunderbolt is not available. With all of these specs, I have barely scratched the surface with this device. The 828x is all about connectivity, flexibility and expandability. And what is incredible is this is all available for under 1100 dollars. And this device is made in the US. Quite a rarity these days. If quality synonymous with MOTU, incredible connectivity and expandability is what you demand. The MOTU 828x is a stellar choice Our second Universal Audio entry is the Apollo Twin Mk II Duo-Core According to UA the Apollo platform is the world’s most popular, professional desktop recording interface. There is no question these devices have a reputation for quality This Thunderbolt 2 interface has two Unison™-enabled mic preamps and stellar A/D and D/A conversion borrowed from their higher end, pro studio grade Apollo interfaces. On the front is a Hi-Z instrument input and a single, stereo headphone jack. On the back, you’ll find 2 monitor outs and an additional two ¼’ output jacks plus an optical input to link additional UA Thunderbolt devices to expand the I/O count and DSP processing. And speaking of DSP the Twin has UAD-2 DUO core processing providing built-in hardware acceleration for all UAD plugins. This means tracking through vintage compressors, EQs, tape machines, mic preamps, and guitar amp plug-ins with near-zero latency. There is even a built-in talkback mic so you can communicate with talent or record cues. This interface has great visualization tools offering displays for all of your inputs and monitoring as well as onboard and software functions. The Apollo Twin is a great entry point into the UA Ecosystem. You get the same quality as you would in UA’s larger interfaces and you have the ability to EXPAND as your needs grow. You are definitely entering a Pro Studio solution with this interface Antelope Discreet 4 Welcome to the world of Antelope with the Discreet 4. Antelope is known for super high-end

interfaces and converters designed for high-end studios at price points not easily accessible for the small studio owner or hobbyist. Enter the Discreet line. The Discreet 4 is a 4 input, 6 output Thunderbolt interface, expandable up to 14 ins and 20 outs through the S/PDIF and two ADAT ports. It also offers a USB connection widening its compatibility. The Discreet 4 is a blend of a studio-grade interface with 4 Console-grade Class A mic pres and hardware modeling through their REAL-TIME FPGA FX platform and 3D microphone modeling technology. Track through a huge selection of vintage gear emulations like preamps, compressors and guitar amps Plus you can add modeling microphones from their available EDGE and Verge series of products and record through incredible emulations of rare and expensive classic microphones. The front graphical display gives you nice metering and detailed visualizations for inputs, monitoring and other functions. And unique to this device is 4 headphone outs! All with their own amplifiers So you have a simple way to reference your mixes on different headphones or you can create up to 4 individual monitoring mixes that you can send direct to headphones or monitor outs Antelope seems most proud of their clocking technology and attributes this to the world-class sound of their devices including the Discreet 4. Again this is another interface that needs its own video with the staggering number of features it delivers. But at its heart the Discreet 4 is a rock solid, studio grade, highly expandable interface with a staggering 121db of dynamic range conversion, high-quality preamps and amazing microphone and hardware emulation technology Enter the big boy on our list with the Focusrite Clarett 8PreX. It may be the most expensive interface on our list, but not by much. When compared to some of the other similarly priced units on our list you are sure to give this device a second look. The 8PreX is a Clarett device and delivers the same high dynamic range and clarity you have come to expect It just delivers more of it in one box. It has eight inputs each with Clarett Mic Pres and Air feature. There are10 analogue outputs, stereo S/PDIF I/O, Midi I/O and 16 channels of ADAT to Connect up to 16 more mic preamps Each channel has individual phantom power, high-pass filter, phase switch and input level control. The device is designed for a permanent studio installation as most of its connectivity is on the back of the unit. It’s quite a large device that will take up 2 full rack spaces. The monitor section displays selectable analogue and digital input levels and main monitor output levels. There is assignable level control, back-lit dim and mute buttons and two high-power headphone outputs with individual control. The Thunderbolt connection delivers incredibly low latency as low as 1.38 ms round trip allowing you to record through more plugins in real time. The 8 PreX delivers features and expandability normally seen in devices twice its price. With 8 channels delivering crystal clear recordings with up to 119db of dynamic range and expandability up to 24 inputs, the 8 PreX is a workhorse audio interface designed to be the centerpiece of any great professional or home studio What I’ve learned: Well that was a lot to get through. I hope you gained some deeper perspective on interfaces I know I did. As I’m in the market to upgrade my current 2 channel Stenberg I was certain I needed a Thunderbolt interface. While I may go in that direction this has opened my eyes to some great USB options. Perhaps we’ll see in a future episode which direction I decided to go. There are a ton of audio interfaces on the market. We just saw a slice of the options here. Recording technology is so advanced and the market is so competitive. And that provides a really great opportunity for more of us to create amazingly good sounding recordings from home at prices that won’t break the bank. Unison, Air, Burr Brown, X-Max, Rupert Neve! Interface manufacturers love names but what’s great about this is many of these interfaces have really great preamps and components built right in. And with each interface trying to outdo the others you end up with a ton of really great sounding devices that come bundled with all you need to get recording So whether you are picking up a starter interface like the studio 2|4 or upgrading to an Antelope, Focusrite or Motu you are going to get clean,

transparent recordings. And just browsing Long and Mcquades website at rough count I think there are something like 200 different interfaces available. So I hope this guide helped you narrow down your list. With 70 stores across Canada and a great website be sure to visit Long and McQuade to take a closer look at some of these products. Their incredibly knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to guide you through all of the options to help you find the device that’s right for you. And with that, I want to thank Long and McQuade for helping make this audio interface experience possible. I could not have done this without your support Be sure to visit long-mcquade.com for all of your musical equipment needs As always, If you have any questions let me know in the comments. And please like, subscribe and ring that bell if you want to stay up to date Remember, you don’t need a band to Rock and Roll. There are a lot of great musical projects you can do by yourself right from your own home Thanks for watching!