The audio interface is essential in your home studio. Let’s take a look at the best 8 budget audio interfaces under €200.
What is an audio interface?
The audio interface connects the different parts of your home studio. Think of your computer, studio monitors, headphones, microphones, and external instruments such as an electric guitar, synthesizer, or drum machine.
The audio interface converts analog signals into digital signals and vice versa. In addition, it allows you to play synthesizer plug-ins smoothly with a MIDI keyboard.
Why do you need an audio interface?
An audio interface is a user-friendly addition to your home studio, even if you’re not recording. It ensures that your DAW software plays audio smoothly and without delay. You can easily connect your microphones, instruments, headphones, and studio monitors and start making music right away.
How to choose an audio interface
Before you buy an audio interface, you should consider which inputs and outputs you need and how you connect it to the computer (USB, thunderbolt, or firewire).
Also, pay attention to the recording quality of the audio interface. Some cheaper options, for example, record in up to 48 kHz/16-bit. I would go at least for a comfortable bit depth of 24 bits. Then you get a higher dynamic range and less noise in your recordings.
In the article How to choose the right audio interface, you will learn what to look for when purchasing an audio interface.
Let’s take a look at the best 8 budget audio interfaces under €200.
The best 8 budget audio interfaces under €200
As a starting music producer, you don’t have to spend more than 200 euros on a decent audio interface. Do you have a smaller budget? Then you can make great music with a budget audio interface for less than 100 euros.
Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD offers tremendous value for money. It includes 2 microphone instrument inputs, 2 inserts, 2 jack outputs, 4 RCA outputs, and MIDI IN/OUT. You connect it to your computer without a power supply via USB 2.0.
The U-Phoria UMC204HD records in up to 192 kHz/24-bit quality. The excellent MIDAS preamps ensure an optimal signal with little coloration and noise. This way you get good-sounding recordings.
2 microphone instrument inputs with inserts
The connection options are unprecedented for this price range. The 2 microphone instrument inputs feature an instrument/line switch, 48V phantom power, and inserts. LED lights warn you if you turn in too much gain. This way you will not get clipping during the recordings. The inserts on the back are ideal for guitarists who want to play and record their effects live. A drum machine or synthesizer can be connected to the MIDI IN/OUT to be controlled via your DAW software.
After switching on the Direct Monitor function, you will not be bothered by latency on your headphones during recording. This way you can play and sing in parts without any problems.
Tracktion software included
The UMC204HD is built like a tank thanks to the metal housing. After registering on the Behringer website, you can download and install the Tracktion DAW software.
Presonus Audio Box USB 96
The Presonus Audiobox USB 96 is ideal for on-the-go. It has 2 microphone instrument inputs and 2 balanced line outputs. Thanks to the MIDI I/O, you can control even older hardware such as synthesizers or drum machines via MIDI.
High recording quality
The Audiobox USB 96 makes high-quality recordings of up to 96 kHz/24-bit. That’s more than enough for any music project. The 2 microphone/instrument inputs are equipped with preamps with 48V phantom power. For example, you can record vocals and acoustic instruments with a sensitive condenser microphone.
Each input has a separate signal control. During fine-tuning, the LEDs help you make the settings. They light up red if you turn in too much gain. This way you always get a good usable recording without clipping.
Compact metal housing
The Audiobox USB 96 has a USB 2.0 connection for desktops and laptops. The cable is included. You don’t need an extra power supply, it gets it from your computer. The metal housing is compact (14 x 14 x 4.5 cm) and can take a beating.
Studio One Artist included
The included Studio One Artist software is more than worth the purchase price. It includes 26 effects, virtual instruments, and unlimited tracks. It’s certainly not a lite version like those of other audio interface packages. This way you can immediately start making music. The software does have a learning curve but is known for being very user-friendly.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd gen
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is popular among aspiring producers and singer-songwriters. It’s very user-friendly and offers excellent sound quality for little money. The compact design fits easily on your desk.
High-quality sound recordings
The Scarlett Solo records audio at up to 192 kHz / 24-bit, higher than most audio interfaces in this price range. Frankly, it’s also more than you’ll ever need. For example, 44.1 kHz / 24-bit is more than enough for me. It also takes less storage space than recording with higher sample rates. You can adjust the sound quality via the settings of your DAW software.
Suitable for vocals and instruments
The Scarlett Solo is suitable for recording vocals and instruments. At the front, you’ll find 1 microphone input for microphones and 1 instrument input for the guitar and keyboard. The microphone input features 48V phantom power for sensitive condenser microphones. The instrument input has a Hi-Z button. This way you can plug in and record an electric guitar directly. Hi-Z amplifies the guitar’s signal. So you don’t need a DI box.
The sound signal is controlled via the 2 gain knobs. The Halo LEDs around the gain buttons are useful: green, orange, or red. This way you immediately see if the signal is recorded too loud. If the LEDs light up green, you’re always on the right track.
The microphone input is equipped with a special Air function. Pressing the Air button should make your vocals or acoustic instrument sound “lighter”. This is clearly audible in the higher frequencies. They come out a little more. Of course, you can also use the equalizer of your DAW software for this, but it is a nice function to experiment with while recording vocals.
Volume and Direct Monitor
The large Monitor button controls the volume of the studio monitors and headphones. There is no separate volume knob for headphones.
The Direct Monitor button is useful for recordings. This way you can listen back to yourself directly. During a vocal performance, you will not be bothered by delayed audio through the DAW software.
Guitar, vocals, or recording with software instruments and effects: the flexible Scarlett Solo can do it all. Various DAW software, instruments, and effects plug-ins are included (Ableton Live Lite, Avid Pro Tools First).
The Behringer UMC404HD is an excellent choice if you need more than 2 inputs. It features 4 microphone instrument inputs. This way you can record a 4-man band live. I don’t know how they do that at Behringer, but the price under 120 euro is incredible.
Of course, Behringer had to cut back on something. The UMC404HD has a slower USB 2.0 connection, but that’s fast enough. The supplied power adapter provides the power supply.
4 microphone instrument inputs with inserts
The 4 microphone instrument inputs work with MIDAS preamps and 48V phantom power for sensitive condenser microphones. This way you can record vocals and acoustic instruments in detail. Recordings are made at a maximum of 192 kHz/24-bit quality. The large dynamic range ensures good recordings without noise.
For guitarists, the insert option on the back is very attractive. For example, you can connect effects pedals directly to the audio interface to record live in your DAW software.
Ideal for multi-instrument studios
The increased number of inputs is not only attractive for recording a band, but also if you have several instruments in the studio. For example a guitar, synthesizer, and drum machine. While making music, all you need to do is turn on the appropriate instrument to start recording immediately. Optionally, you can connect a synthesizer to the MIDI IN/OUT on the back.
While recording, you won’t be bothered by playback latency. Via Direct Monitor, you listen directly to the instrument on your headphones.
Thanks to the metal housing, the UMC404HD can easily take a beating. Due to the 4 inputs, the audio interface is a lot larger and heavier than other products in this price range.
Presonus Studio 24c
The Presonus Studio 24c is a compact audio interface with many possibilities. It has 2 microphone/instrument inputs with 48V phantom power, MIDI IN/OUT, and balanced outputs. It has a fast USB 3.1 connection and is compatible with Windows PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
The Studio 24c makes high-quality recordings of up to 192 kHz/24-bit, more than you’ll ever need. For most projects, 44.1 kHz/24 bits will be enough.
Presonus’ XMAX-L preamps ensure good recordings with low noise. The microphone/instrument inputs each have their own gain control. The handy LEDs show whether you are turning in too much signal. This way you don’t have to look at your DAW software on the screen. You get 48V phantom power for a condenser microphone with a push of the button.
With the handy Mixer control, you can mix the analog signal from your instruments and microphones with the sound of your DAW. This way you can easily make a monitor mix for recordings. On the back, there is a MIDI IN/OUT for older synthesizers, drum machines, and MIDI keyboards.
Studio One Artist bundle included
As with the Audiobox USB 96, the complete Studio One Artist bundle is included with 26 effects, virtual instruments, and unlimited tracks. This way you can immediately start making music.
Audient iD4 MKII
The Audient iD4 MKII is an easy-to-use audio interface with 1 combined microphone/instrument input and 1 instrument/line input. Thanks to the clear controls, you will be recording your first tracks in no time. The iD4 MKII is only suitable for modern computers with USB 3.0.
The iD4 MKII has a beautiful design and is easy to operate. It is particularly compact (13.3 x 12 x 6 cm), so you can easily carry it in a backpack. On the front, you will find 1 instrument input for electric guitars and 2 headphone connections. The microphone/instrument input with 48V phantom power is on the back, as are the outputs for the studio monitors.
The control panel on the top is very well-arranged with knobs for gain, monitor mix, and volume. Monitor Mix controls the mix of the microphone/instrument inputs and the DAW software. That’s great for live recordings.
The large volume knob controls the output to the studio monitors and headphones. The volume knob also works as a push button to instantly mute all sound. With the iD function, the volume knob turns into an encoder for parameters in your DAW software.
Improved dynamic range
The iD4 MKII records in high-quality of up to 96 kHz/24-bit. Thanks to the improved dynamic range, you get good recordings without noise.
Suitable for any headphones
You can connect any type of headphones (with wire) on the iD4 MKII. There is even 1 mini-jack and 1 jack connection available for this. The headphone jacks work simultaneously. This way you enjoy listening to music together with a friend.
For Cubase users, the Steinberg UR22C is a very attractive option. This high-quality audio interface has 2 microphone/instrument inputs, 48V phantom power, and Hi-Z for guitar. The metal housing is built like a tank. So you can take it anywhere to make music on the go. It connects to your computer via the fast USB 3.1 cable.
Huge dynamic range
The UR22C works with the same technology as Steinberg’s more expensive audio interfaces. You can record instruments and vocals in high quality at a maximum of 192 kHz/32-bit. The bit depth offers a huge dynamic range. You can make clear recordings without noise.
Real-time effects thanks to DSP processor
Effects can be added in real-time thanks to the built-in DSP processor. These include the REV-X reverb, Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip, and Guitar Amp Classic. All DSP effects are also available as a VST plug-in. This gives you the option to add them later while mixing on the computer.
D-Pre Preamps by Yamaha
The UR22C features the warm and transparent sounding D-Pre microphone preamps developed by the parent company Yamaha itself. This way you get detailed recordings with vocals, guitar, and other instruments. Synthesizers and drum machines can be connected to the MIDI IN/OUT.
Mix button for direct monitor
During the recording, you can listen directly to your vocals or guitar by using the mix button. This way you won’t be bothered by delayed audio while playing a new track. There is also a separate volume control for both your headphones and studio monitors.
The included software makes it possible to start making music right away. You get Cubase AI, Cubasis LE, dspMixFx, and the aforementioned effects bundle.
An audio interface with 8 microphone/instrument inputs under €200? Yes, that’s possible! Behringer proves it with the impressive UMC1820 USB audio interface. The price/quality is truly amazing.
Heaps of connectivity
The UMC1820 has all the connectivity you need to connect all your instruments in the studio at once. You can easily connect your microphone, guitar, keyboard, or synthesizer in one go. After switching on the desired instrument, you can immediately make music and record parts on the computer.
In addition to the 8 microphone instrument inputs, there are 10 line outputs, 2 separate connections for headphones, ADAT, SPDIF, and MIDI IN/OUT. Impressive!
Warm sounding recordings
The MIDAS preamps ensure that you get good warm-sounding recordings in high 96 kHz/24-bit quality. There is also 48V power for sensitive condenser microphones to record vocals and acoustic instruments. The high dynamic range gives noise no chance. Of course, you can choose a lower quality in your DAW software to save some disk space.
USB 2.0 and power adapter
The well build UMC1820 measures 48 x 13 x 4.6 cm. It’s connected to your computer via USB 2.0. A power adapter is included for the power supply.
USB 2.0 is slower than other interfaces
These are the 8 best budget audio interfaces of 2021. Which is your favorite audio interface? Do you have any questions? Feel free to put them in the comments!