The 5 Best Budget Audio Interface

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best budget audio interface is, then I’d recommend the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 USB Audio Interface as the best one.

With the rise of live streams, church activities are now accessible to churchgoers in the comfort of their own homes. Naturally, it would be wise to invest in equipment to deliver better quality video and audio to the viewers.

Through the advent of technology, it is now a breeze to record audio, especially when you know how an audio interface works.

Through this article, we’ll learn everything you need to know about audio interfaces. From what audio interfaces are, how they work, and the list of things you need to consider when choosing one.

Here are the Best Budget Audio Interfaces we will be reviewing:

What is an Audio Interface?

An audio interface is a device that allows you to connect all your audio gear to your computer. With an audio interface, you can do a lot of things. Recording audio, monitoring the audio with studio headphones, and playing back your work for editing. Audio interfaces can also be a replacement for amplifiers when you need one asap.

How Does an Audio Interface Work?

Audio interfaces convert analog signals into digital audio. This way, the computer can read the audio, thus making it easy for the computer to process the audio. But before the computer can process the audio, the digital audio needs to go through a medium first. The medium connection can be through USB to FireWire or Thunderbolt or PCI/PCIe card.

Audio interfaces enhance the sound output of the audio you input. Unlike sound cards, audio interfaces offer high-resolution output, thus giving a better quality of sound.

Why Do You Need an Audio Interface at Church?

Your computer already has a built-in sound card that works as an audio interface. But, if you’re planning to record audio for your church, a sound card won’t be enough. This is the reason why buying an audio interface is the best option. You can record instruments, monitor the audio on studio headphones, and playback your audio work on studio monitors.

Things to Consider in Choosing the Best Budget Audio Interface

Here is the list of things you need to determine when selecting the best budget audio interface for your church:

What inputs and outputs (I/O) do I need?

This is one of the questions you would have to answer before choosing an audio interface. For starters, the most basic option is a two-channel desktop interface that allows you to record a single stereo signal at once.

What kind of computer/device connectivity do I need?

The compatibility of any devices you wish to buy should be the top priority. It would be a waste of money if you bought an audio interface that isn’t compatible with any of your available devices. The good news is most of the budget audio interfaces in the market are compatible with both Mac and Windows.

What level of sound quality do I need?

The sound quality depends on the performance of the preamp included in your audio interface. Although the bitrate contributes some factors to it, the result depends on the preamp. If you want high-quality outputs, then it would be better to invest in high-quality external preamps.

Do I need bundled software?

Most of the time, we save time and money from the bundled software that comes with our devices. But sometimes, the software included is not enough to give us the desired result we want. So, to prevent causing this type of delay, research what kinds of software comes with the audio interface. Keep in mind that a lot of software the comes with the device is the demo version of the actual program.

What’s my budget?

You should always keep in mind the designated budget. There are many devices nowadays that perform high-quality output that’s half the price of a high-end brand. Do not think of having a budget as a negative. Think of it as giving you the ability to explore the market for high-end finds at low-end prices.

Choosing the Best Budget Audio Interface

Here is the list of things to look for when choosing the best budget audio interface for your church:

Bitrate and audio resolution

The standard bitrate for budget audio interfaces is 24-bit and 44.1 to 96kHz for the sample rate. Both these values are enough for you to perform recording vocals and instruments. Although this does not determine whether the audio quality would be good, it is still essential to know these specs.

Inputs, outputs, and connectivity

Most budget audio interfaces offer 2-in-1 ports that allow the product to be flexible to all. This means that you can connect your mic and guitar to the same port. These types of ports simplify connections for users. Manufacturers also lessen the cost to produce by having 2-in-1 ports. Although if you’re looking to use more than one instrument, you can opt for an audio interface with many ports.

DAW and device compatibility

A digital audio workstation (DAW) depends on which device you’ll use the audio interface. Most budget audio interfaces are compatible with both Windows and Mac. This can also include tablets and smartphones for those who want to record at home. But, if you want an audio interface with the broadest possible range of operating systems, choose one that is USB Audio Class Compliant. This allows you to connect any device without needing the manufacturer’s drivers.

Software included

Most budget audio interfaces include bundled software that allows you to do the essential functions of an audio interface. Still, be sure to read the specs to make sure you’re getting the demo version or the full version of the software. There are situations where the demo version is enough. This is why it is crucial to think ahead; would the software included be enough for the work I’m about to do? The good news is that some brands offer to have full versions but with an extra fee.

Dimensions and weight

If you’re looking for an audio interface that you can bring around for events, look for one that fits in your laptop bag. There are a lot of audio interfaces in the market that weigh less than five pounds. Most brands include their product’s dimension and weight on the specs.

Warranty

There is no need to fret; even budget audio interfaces have warranties. Even when you’re on a budget, you should always look for the device that has the most outstanding value to your money. No matter how cheap a device is, always go for those with at least a 1-year warranty.

Extra features

In the same case with the warranty, extra features make your buy worth the money you spent. One brand offers a Loopback facility as their audio interface’s additional feature. Loopback lets you use the output of software and use that as an input recording to different software. This extra feature is suitable for those who will use the audio interface for their live streams and podcasts.

If you are using condenser microphones, those types will be needing a small amount of power to function. This is where you need to look for audio interfaces with phantom power. This extra feature does is to send small amounts of energy to the microphone for you to use it. Keep an eye out for “+48V” if you need phantom power with your audio interface.

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 USB Audio Interface

The PreSonus AudioBox offers two front-panel combo mic/instrument inputs for audio recording. It is both built for the studio and the road, depending on where you plan to use it. If you do plan to bring it on travel, its USB 2.0 bus allows you to plug it in your laptop and record from anywhere you are. Its “screaming-loud” headphone output guarantees you can hear your music loud and clear, even when you’re in noisy places.

This audio interface allows you to connect different mics for an easy-to-use stereo recording system. Or, if you want to do voice recording with instruments, you can do so simultaneously. Its mix control gives you control over the input signal and the computer playback; that way, you can listen to your audio in real-time.

The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 USB Audio Interface is perfect for both novice and professional audio recorders. AudioBox’s built-in software, Studio One Artist, is complete with all your recording needs and is easy to use.

Pros:

  • 2-channel USB 2.0 interface 
  • 2 high-quality Class-A mic preamps for great sound
  • 2 high-headroom instrument inputs and MIDI I/O for recording
  • 24-bit/96 kHz recording and playback using Studio-grade converters
  • Compatible with both Mac and Windows audio-recording software
  • You can also use your smartphones together with this audio interface

Cons:

  • This budget audio interface has a warranty included, but you would have to request it from customer service first.
  • The placement of the knobs is so close together; it takes time to get used to which is for a specific function.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

This audio interface features a third-gen mic preamp that assures you of high-quality audio recording. It also comes with a switchable Air Mode that gives your recording an open and brighter sound. The two hum-free balanced outputs guarantee a clean audio playback. Besides studio-quality recordings, the software setup is so easy and quick. Easy Start lets you record and plays your audio back minutes after you’ve finished setting up.

If you’re using this during your travels, you can connect this audio interface to your Mac or Windows laptop through a USB cable. Plus, there is no external power needed for the audio interface to function.

Pros:

  • This device is perfect for those who aren’t tech-savvy
  • This unit is perfect for home and office setups
  • This budget audio interface is easy to use; you do not need extra cables or external drivers
  • This product has a step-by-step video tutorial when you have trouble setting it up
  • This budget audio interface has three years’ worth of warranty

Cons:

  • Setting the software up takes a bit of your time; make sure to research beforehand.
  • You may experience some delay in the playback of the recording

Behringer U-PHORIA UMC202HD 2-Channel Audio Interface

This audio interface boasts a two-channel USB port that provides a clean sound output. Its two channels allow you to use them together, a mic on one port and an instrument on the other. Expect no delay of playback from using them at the same time, making this perfect for musicians.

If you want a budget audio interface that blends in with your work table, then Behringer’s sleek and compact design is the one for you. Or if you want a unit that’s easy to travel with, this product’s design is perfect for that as well.

Pros:

  • Compatible with popular recording software like Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, etc.
  • Streams 2 Inputs / 2 Outputs with Ultra-Low Latency
  • 2 state-of-the-art Midas designed Mic Preamps with +48 V Phantom Power
  • This unit is easy and ready to use, straight from the box
  • It has a solid and professional feel, both in appearance and sound quality

Cons:

  • Need to buy a splitter if you want to plug in more than one headphone
  • The unit has a static issue and needs to be grounded in a 220V environment

Audient iD4 MKII USB-C Audio Interface

This audio interface features a 2-in/2-out USB-C interface with one microphone preamp. You can record vocal and instrument audio at the same time and expect excellent sound quality. It is compatible with Mac and Windows, which makes it perfect for beginners. But if you want to use this with your iPad, the seller advises using an Apple Camera Connector.

You can expect clear and transparent audio from this interface. Plus, with its ultra-low noise, this audio interface lessens background noise from your recording. The body of the interface has a gunmetal casing. You can assure that it would be safe when you travel.

Pros:

  • This product provides 2-in/2-out USB-C Audio Interface for better dynamic range
  • It also provides excellent 1 mic preamp performance
  • This budget audio interface comes with phantom power and bus power
  • The quality of the body of the interface feels sturdy
  • Compatible with Mac/PC/iOS software bundle

Cons:

  • It gets hot quickly since it doesn’t have an on/off switch
  • This product may not be compatible with some mixers

Mackie Onyx Artist 1X2 USB Audio Interface

If you’re looking for an audio interface to use for live streaming or just for your audio projects, the Mackie Onyx Artist 1X2 USB Audio Interface is the one for you. This audio interface is perfect for budding singer-songwriters and content creators. There are two inputs, one designated for the mic and the is for the instrument. With zero latency, you can track your audio in real-time.

This audio interface is compatible with Windows. OS requirement for Mac users is OS X 10. 8. But you can use this on its own if you prefer to use it as an amplifier. The body has a built-like-a-tank design to survive everyday use.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Boutique-quality with class-leading fidelity and dynamic range 48V phantom power
  • High-resolution 2 in x 2 Out 24-bit/192kHz recording zero-latency
  • Bus-powered USB 2 with no power adapter needed 
  • Includes traction music production software
  • The body of the audio interface is made of metal

Cons:

  • You may experience sudden drops in connection with the audio interface
  • The cables tend to tangle and get in the way
  • If you need more inputs, this may not be the audio interface for you

Conclusion

The pandemic has shaken us from our comfort zones. Even the church has jumped to the opportunity of conducting live streams for Sunday services and other activities. And to cater to these changes, the church staff needed to upgrade and buy equipment to deliver good quality audio and video. So, finding the best budget audio interface for your church is a must.

The best budget audio interface I recommend is the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 USB Audio Interface. Its best feature is the easy-to-use stereo recording system that lets you use multiple inputs simultaneously. It comes with over $1000 worth of recording software including Studio One Artist, Ableton Live Lite, and Studio Magic plug-in suite. Then you can listen to your audio in real-time using their mix control with zero latency. 

Alex Shute
AUTHOR
Alex Shute
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow. In his free time, he enjoys perfecting pour-over coffee, smoking meats, and discovering new cycling routes around Southern California.