6 Of The Best USB Audio Interfaces Under £100

IntroductionBack to top

6 of the Best USB Audio Interfaces under £100

In this article Music Matter round up 6 of the best USB Audio Interfaces for 2015 under £100, featuring many popular brands such as: Focusrite, M-Audio, Steinberg, Presonus along with cheap Audio Interfaces from Alesis and Roland.

So why USB – or more accurately, USB2? Well USB is found on almost every computer in the world and even some tablets, so there are unlikely to be any issues with compatibily when it comes to interfaces that use it. A USB audio interface is great for recording multiple tracks simultaneously and will generally have input connections for microphones, instrument level signal (such as electric or semi-acoustic guitars) and line level equipment such as keyboards and synths. Most of the interfaces listed below do supply +48v phantom power, all the interfaces below are USB bus-powered which means they draw the power they need from the computer rather than requiring a sepearate power supply. This makes them an ideal choice for portable audio recording.

When looking to buy a USB audio interface be sure to include these important points into your thinking: What types of input and output connections are on the interface, they could be mic, line or MIDI so make sure they match what you specifically require. The compatability to your laptop or computer is also important to find out, whether it 's Window compatible, Mac compatible or both. Another important point to consider is the audio quality, a clear indication of the recording and playback quality is the Bitrate and resolution so for example; 24 bit/96 kHz is faster at processing than 16 bit/48 kHz and therfore should result in higher recording and playback quality.

Index

Key Points To Consider Before Buying A USB Audio InterfaceBack to top

USB
The main difference between USB 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 is the rate of data transfer speed (12 Mbps, 480 Mbps and 4 Gbps respectively).
Bit Depth  This is the amount of bits of information in a sample, it directly corresponds to the resolution of a sample.
Sample Rate The number of samples of a sound that are taken per second to represent audio digitally. The more samples taken per second, the more accurate the digital representation of sound.
Phantom Power Sends the correct power (+48v) to a studio condenser microphone via an XLR socket and cable enabling amplification of the mic.
Input/Output Connections that you will use to record (input) audio and process that audio information to your audio recording software or playback devices such as speakers (output).
Software The majority of USB Audio Interfaces are supplied with free recording software so you can start making and producing music immediately.

Audio Interface Connection Speed ComparisonBack to top

Connection Type Speed (Mbps)
USB 1.1 12 Mbps
FireWire 400 400 Mbps
USB 2.0  480 Mbps
FireWire 800 800 Mbps
USB 3.0 5 Gbps
USB 3.1 10 Gbps
Thunderbolt 10 Gbps
Thunderbolt 2.0 20 Gbps

1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2Back to top

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Excl. Tax: £75.00 Incl. Tax: £90.00

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With Scarlett 2i2 your recordings will sound just how you want them. Two combination inputs with natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps, line level inputs and newly-designed instrument inputs let you record anything you want. Even seriously hot guitar pick-ups. Two 1/4 inch balanced jack outputs let you connect to professional studio monitors, turn up the volume and totally immerse yourself in sound.

Input/Output    2 in / 2 out
Connection USB 2.0 
Bit Depth / Res 24 Bit / 96 kHz
System Windows PC, Mac OSX
Features 2 Mic Inputs, +48v Phantom Power
Software Red 2 & 3 Plug-In Suite, Ableton Live Lite

 

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Front

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Rear

 

Music Matter Recommends  The Focusrite features Two Focusrite microphone preamps as well as light and compact portable interface that easily fits in a laptop bag, paired with it's excellent digital performance with 24-bit resolution at sample rates of up to 192KHz and rugged anodized aluminum unibody chassis. Gain knobs with surrounding halo indicators for each input (red indicates a too hot signal) makes it great for monitoring your input signal. it also features a Direct monitor switch on the front panel that allows for hearing what is being recorded through speakers or headphones, without the signal having to go through the computer which in turn avoids latency.
Useful Links  View All Focusrite USB Audio Interfaces

2. M-Audio M-Track Plus MK2Back to top

M-Audio M-Track Plus mk2
M-Audio M-Track Plus (Mk2)
Excl. Tax: £70.00 Incl. Tax: £84.00

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The M-Track Plus (mk2) delivers studio-grade 24-bit/96 kHz audio resolution in a compact and friendly format that is ideal for any user. This versatile interface accommodates any input, from an electric guitar to a professional condenser mic—and phantom power is provided. Ideal for on-the-go musicians, the sleek M-Track Plus features a durable metal case to withstand the rigors of the road.

Input/Output    2 in / 2 out
Connection USB 2.0 
Bit Depth / Res 24 Bit / 96 kHz
System Windows PC, Mac OSX
Features 2 Mic Inputs, +48v Phantom Power
Software Ableton Live Lite, Cubase LE

 

M-Audio M-Track Plus

M-Audio M-Track Plus MK2 Front

 

Music Matter Recommends  The M-Audio M-Track Plus MK2 is a Pro-grade audio recording with up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution, it comes in a Solid metal chassis and low profile design. It features dedicated Channel Line/Instrument controls for receiving line-level signals and plugging in instruments directly as well as (2) XLR+1/4” combo inputs with phantom power for recording vocals, guitars, bass, and more. The Channel-specific LED VU meters provide real-time visual feedback of the audio signal and the Zero-latency monitoring with USB/Analog Direct Balance control adds to its accuracy. (2) Balanced 1/4” main outputs with dedicated level control with a Headphone out comes with an independent level control for private recording and mixing. In addition it includes Waves plugin bundle (AudioTrack, Eddie Kramer Effect Channel, and TrueVerb) to add a professional finish to your production.
Useful Links  View All M-Audio USB Audio Interfaces

3. Steinberg UR22 MK2Back to top

Steinberg UR22 MK2
Steinberg UR22 MK2
Excl. Tax: £88.33 Incl. Tax: £106.00

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With a 24-bit/192 kHz sample rate the UR22 Mk2 provides incredibly high audio quality whilst the innovative latency free hardware monitoring means you can monitor your performance in real time without any latency. Additionally the two class-A D-PRE microphone preamps offer a transparent and detailed sound perfect for capturing dynamic and natural vocal performances.

Input/Output     2 in / 2 out
Connection  USB 2.0 
Bit Depth / Res   24 Bit / 192 kHz
System  Windows PC, Mac OSX
Features  2 Mic Inputs, +48v Phantom Power
Software  Cubase LE

 

Steinberg ur22 front and back

 

Music Matter Recommends  The Steinberg UR22 is a 2-In / 2-Out USB 2.0 Audio Interface that features 24-bit/192kHz with phenomenal analog and digital circuitry. Coupled with 2 x Steinberg's D-Pre Class A discrete mic preamps with +48V phantom power and latency-free hardware monitoring for perfect audio recreation, there's also Cross-platform compatibility for Mac OS X and Windows that includes Cubase AI music production software.
Useful Links  View All Steinberg USB Audio Interfaces

4. Presonus Audiobox USBBack to top

Presonus Audiobox USB Recording Interface
Presonus Audiobox USB Recording Interface
Excl. Tax: £61.67 Incl. Tax: £74.00

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If you are a mobile musician or podcaster on a tight budget who relies mostly on software except for a couple of mics or instruments, and your computer is equipped with USB but not FireWire, we have just the recording interface for you: the AudioBox USB. This simple, handy little box connects to a computer via USB 1.1, so it works with virtually any PC or Mac, not just newer models.

Input/Output     2 in / 2 out
Connection  USB 2.0 
Bit Depth / Res   24 Bit / 48 kHz
System  Windows PC, Mac OSX
Features  2 Mic Inputs, +48v Phantom Power
Software  Studio One Artist 2

 

Presonus AudioBox USB Front

Presonus Audiobox USB rear

 

Music Matter Recommends  The Presonus AudioBox USB has 2 dual-purpose front-panel input channels, each with high-quality mic preamplifiers, 2 combo mic/instrument inputs and Individual channel-trim controls with 0 to +35 dBu mic gain range for great audio capture. The +48V phantom power for condenser microphones and Mixer control (blends the input signal with the computer playback stream for zero-latency monitoring) also represents great audio recording quality. The Additional software makes this an even more inticing product with Studio One® Artist 2- PreSonus’ revolutionary new digital audio workstation, with unlimited track count and 6+ GB of 3rd-party resources. With Studio One's Nimbit® extension, you can immediately start selling your music.
Useful Links  View All Presonus USB Audio Interfaces

5. Roland Tri CaptureBack to top

Roland Tri Capture With Software
Roland Tri Capture USB Audio Interface
Excl. Tax: £82.50 Incl. Tax: £99.00

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The new head of its class is the multifaceted TRI-CAPTURE USB interface — a unique, compact audio interface optimized for personal and mobile recording, vocal and guitar recording, and streaming-internet applications. With its mixer-like design and dedicated front-panel controls, TRI-CAPTURE makes it easy to mix, control, and monitor a variety of signals.

Input/Output     3 in / 2 out
Connection  USB 2.0 
Bit Depth / Res   24 Bit / 96 kHz
System  Windows PC, Mac OSX
Features  3 Inputs, +48v Phantom Power
Software  Cakewalk Sonar LE

 

Roland Tri Capture Front

Roland Tri Capture rear

 

Music Matter Recommends  The Roland Tri Capture is Affordable, easy-to-use interface for guitarists, vocalists, and other musicians, it also works great for video production, web streaming, and creating podcasts with unique LOOP BACK function. With XLR mic input with phantom power, plus 1/4-inch input with Hi-Z switch for connecting a guitar directly it's incredibky easy to set-up. The Stereo AUX input with dedicated volume control and Balanced 1/4-inch TRS outputs and headphone jack passes information perfectly and along with its Low-latency ASIO driver; recording and playback at rates up to 24-bit/96 kHz this is a great little device to have.
Useful Links  View All Roland USB Audio Interfaces

6. Alesis Core 1Back to top

Alesis Core 1 With Software
Alesis Core 1
Excl. Tax: £40.83 Incl. Tax: £49.00

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Introducing an audio interface designed for the modern musician: Whether you’re recording via PC, MAC, or even iOS devices using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit (not included), the Core 1 is prepared to capture your ideas in pristine 24-bit audio. Housed in durable sand-blasted aluminum, and equipped with a space-conscious combo input XLR+1/4” input jack.

Input/Output    1 in / 2 out
Connection USB 2.0 
Bit Depth / Res   16 Bit / 48 kHz
System  Windows PC, Mac OSX
Features  1 Mic Input 
Software  Cubase LE

 

Alesis Core 1 frontAlesis Core 1 Rear

 

Music Matter Recommends  The Alesis Core 1 is a ultra-compact with its 1 XLR+1/4" TRS combo input with gain knob makes it incredibly small, you can still record up to 24-bit, 48 kHz audio into virtually any software and record on your iPad or iPhone via the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit (not included), a Guitar / Line level switch for use with a guitar or bass and a Stereo headphone out with level control also adds to this products service. And it looks great with its Modern sand-blasted aluminum housing. It also includes Cubase® LE recording software so you can get started immediately.
Useful Links  View All Alesis USB Audio Interfaces

USB Audio Interfaces Under £100 Comparison ChartBack to top

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 M-Audio M-Track Steinberg UR22 Presonus AudioBox USB Roland Tri Capture Alesis Core 1
Input / Output 2 in / 2 out 2 in / 2 out
2 in / 2 out
2 in / 2 out
3 in / 2 out 1 in / 1 out

Connection

USB 2.0 USB 2.0
USB 2.0
USB 2.0
USB 2.0
USB 2.0
Bit Rate / Res 24 Bit / 96 kHz 24 Bit / 96 kHz
24 Bit / 192 kHz
24 Bit / 48 kHz
24 Bit / 96 kHz
16 Bit / 48 kHz
System  Windows PC, Mac OSX Windows PC, Mac OSX
Windows PC, Mac OSX
Windows PC, Mac OSX
Windows PC, Mac OSX
Windows PC, Mac OSX
Phantom Power Yes Yes Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Mic Inputs 2 2 2 2 1 1
Analogue Inputs 2 XLR / TRS Combo 2 XLR / TRS Combo 2 XLR / TRS Combo 2 XLR / TRS Combo 1 XLR, 1 TRS, 2 AUX (L+R)  1 XLR / TRS Combo
Digital Inputs NA NA NA NA NA NA
MIDI Inputs NA NA 1 x 5 Pin Female 1 x 5 Pin Female
NA NA
Analogue Outputs 2 TRS (Balanced L+R) 2 TRS (Balanced L+R)
2 TRS (Balanced L+R)
2 TRS (Balanced L+R)
2 TRS (Balanced L+R)
NA
Digital Outputs NA NA NA NA NA NA
MIDI Outputs NA NA 1 x 5 Pin Female 1 x 5 Pin Female NA NA
Headphone Outputs 1 x Mini Jack 1 x Mini Jack
1 x Mini Jack
1 x TRS (6.3mm) 1 x TRS (6.3mm) 1 x Mini Jack
Bus Powered Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
DAW Software Ableton Live Lite Ableton Live Lite, Cubase LE Steinberg Cubase AI Presonus Studio One Artist 2 CakeWalk Sonar LE Steinberg Cubase LE
Additional Software Scarlett Plug-in Suite Waves Plug-in Bundle NA Nimbit Extension NA NA