Shopping for a good audio interface was never so easy – whether you’re searching for the budget or on the premium market. Today we look at those interfaces that are somewhere between the budget and premium class- the Best Audio Interfaces Under $500. In the list below, we have highlighted a handful of the best models in this price range – all worthwhile if you are looking for a quality interface for a professional home studio. In addition, we have compiled a handy buyer’s guide below to help you choose the right unit for your requirements. First, let us dive directly into the list of best audio interfaces under $500.
Roland Octa-Capture 10X10
You do not have to spend a lot of time in the world of audio equipment to hear from Roland – their mixers and keyboards are very legendary. However, this respected brand has produced a graphical interface for creating graphs in the Octa-Capture 10X10. As we discuss more about it, this highly flexible platform provides 10 inputs and 10 outputs, with the choice between the desktop or rack-mounted configuration. The hardware inside is of a high level, especially given that Roland has used microphone pre-amplifiers from their popular professional mixers, which ensures excellent sound quality. Even at the higher price, this interface is one of the best audio interfaces under $500.
Focusrite Clarett 2Pre
Because their Scarlett series has been dominating the market for so long, they show that it is not a one-trick pony with a new generation of high-quality audio interfaces designed for home studio use. The Clarett Busre 2Pre offers almost no latency, with a powerful pre-amplifier that provides a clear and transparent sound. Whether you are a guitarist or a passionate singer, this interface can be a real game changer. It also helps that the Clarett 2Pre is an attractive and robust device that is fully compatible with all platforms and DAWs. Overall, this is one of the best audio interfaces under 500 dollars.
Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820
The U-PHORIA UMC1820 from Behringer is a new item in our chart and proves to be one of the best audio interfaces under $500. For users who are looking for sufficient input for a relatively small budget, this suave impact-resistant rack-mountable unit is worth considering, with eight XLR/TRS inputs. However, this is also a very solid performer – as the other audio interfaces in this list. It has the famous MIDAS microphone amplifiers, while each input has a decent control cluster (everything at the front) and offers good flexibility. No bells and whistles, but still great!
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8
The 18i8 is part of the aforementioned Scarlett series and is a very popular audio interface for home studios. With a stylish aluminum chassis, solid controls, and an intuitive design, it is a piece of professional gear that is packaged in a user-friendly format. The most distinctive feature of this interface is the optical input channel, which allows you to create 10 extended channels using the ADAT input, along with eight analog XLR/TRS ports to bring the total to 18 inputs! The Scarlett 18i8’s performance and durability are also top-notch and deliver a clear sound with very low latency monitoring. Overall, a solid addition to our list of best audio interfaces under 500 dollars.
Resident Audio T4
Sitting at the bottom of this price range is the T4 from Resident Audio, whose headline feature is that Thunderbolt is used for super-fast connectivity, with zero latency – allowing you to do direct monitoring even when you charge your signal with a lot of plug-ins. Moreover, the unit itself is well-built and well-organized, with considerable versatility. It comes with four XLR / TRS combo ports on the front, with decent output options. The preamplifiers supplied to provide a quality sound. It is an excellent interface that offers great versatility if you are looking for one of the best audio interfaces under $500.
M-Audio M-Track Eight
The large collection of popular interfaces from M-Audio are among the most stylish on the market. The M-Track Eight proves this point perfectly and shows a streamlined, somewhat retro look that we love. This rack-mounted interface has eight analog inputs (combo XLR/TRS ports) and just as many outputs. Each channel has its own graphical measuring cluster and can be finely tuned for optimum performance. As we emphasize more of the M-Track Eight, it is packed with M-Audio’s highly acclaimed Octane Preamp technology, which is among the best audio interfaces under 500 dollars. It also comes bundled with a number of first-class software.
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
The respected audio software company Native Instruments shows off their hardware capabilities with the Komplete Audio 6 – a four-channel audio interface that does things its own way. The German brand uses a standard desktop interface design, although the top panel is used for controls and LED indicators, so you can immediately get an idea of what is going on. Under the hood, the hardware is pretty high-end and delivers crystal clear audio no matter what. Of course, as you would expect, it comes with some of the excellent Native Instrument software, including 3 GB VSTi and other plug-ins. Overall. this is one of the best audio interfaces under $500.
What To Expect From The Best Audio Interfaces Under $500
So you’ve found a few extra dollars to make the leap from an audio interface of less than $200 to something in this range of less than $500? Excellent! In fact, you have doubled your options and can find an audio interface that will become a very useful partner in your recording adventures. In this section, there are numerous upgrades that you simply can not find in the entry categories. To make this article easier to follow, we will subdivide these functions into different segments, including I/ O options, designs, connectivity, internal hardware, and software.
Upgraded I/O options
Let’s start with probably the most obvious upgrade to enjoy the best audio interfaces under $500 – better input and output options that can meet the demands of busier studios and more complex recording scenarios. Forget the one, two or four inputs of the budget categories, here you will usually find standard eight or more entries, with some units reaching up to about 18 entries. It is worth noting that these are not all analog inputs. For example, in an 18-input device, you will typically find eight standard XLR/TRS combined ports and 10 digital inputs such as SPDIF ports and ADAT connectors. Whether you really need the digital I/O cluster depends entirely on your needs, but the fact that they are there makes this category very attractive.
If you look at the actual design or form factor of the interface, you will see differences in this range. At this price level, most models were designed to be used on a desktop, sit next to your laptop and take up relatively little space. Now, however, we are starting to see application-specific interfaces, in other words, rack-mounted designs. These interfaces fit neatly into a rack and can easily be screwed to the sides. As you probably know when you shop in this price range, racks are one of the best ways to organize your audio equipment and almost everything that is not an amplifier or mixer can now be put in a rack. If you have a big studio and you’re running racks, buying a rack-friendly audio interface is perhaps the best way to go.
One of the best things to invest in your audio interface is the choice of connectivity. Many budget models usually run on standard USB 2.0 (with average speeds of 480 Mbps), which is very acceptable. Many of these best audio interfaces under 500 dollars still use USB connections with great results. However, some of the most modern interfaces really put the USB 2.0 standard to the limit. When you drop up to $500 in your audio interface, you will find a number of other connectivity options, including Thunderbolt models.
Of course, microphone pre-amplifiers and A/D converters are the core of every audio interface. As you can imagine, units in this price range usually have a much better version of this hardware than the budget models. Many brands will use their flagship preamplifiers, just like Roland with their Octa-Capture technology. They have taken the hardware directly from their most popular mixers and integrated them into the interface. If you are serious about recording music and you need the clearest recordings and the best possible quality, then a first-class pre-amplifier is important.
The best of audio interfaces is how they tend to scale in a natural way. Those in the affordable entry-level model are great for smaller home studios, and while you work your way up, you’ll see devices that are suitable for professional use. The Best Audio Interfaces Under $500 we mentioned today are a great example of professional audio interfaces. With both desktop and rack-mounted units, USB and Thunderbolt devices, we hope that our list and guide has given you a good idea of what’s in this range, as well as a bit of inspiration. Whatever you ultimately go for, we hope that it will give you a reliable recording pleasure for years to come!