Buyer's Guides

Best Budget Audio Interfaces in 2024: Start Recording Today

If you’re looking to turn your computer or laptop into a music-making machine, an audio interface is an important investment on your musical journey. And don’t worry if your budget is low, because choose any of the budget audio interfaces on this list, and even a basic laptop is suddenly a music studio at your disposal.

An audio interface is often one of the first ports of call when musicians, producers and DJs make their first studio purchase. It’s a piece of kit that allows you to record instruments, monitor on studio headphones and connect to studio monitors. So to make sure you have all the bases covered, we've rounded up the best budget audio interfaces for your home or project studio.

Behringer U-Phoria UMC22

  • A ‘true’ budget audio interface
  • Plenty of ins and outs

Boasting the kind of low price able to make any budding producer euphoric, Behringer’s U-Phoria UMC22 easily earns its place among the best budget audio interfaces thanks to costing less than a mid-priced dinner date in London. But does it also earn its place as a good interface?

Well, considering it costs less than half the price of some of the big boys on this guide, you will have to accept a certain degree of getting what you pay for. For example, the max resolution is 16-bit, which will likely be fine for most users, but it’s one detail to note down. But with that said, if your deal breaker is needing an interface that is below $100/£100 (and this one is way below that), you could do quite a lot worse than going with the German music tech wizards on this one.


Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1

  • Solid build that doesn’t sacrifice great looks
  • Loads of free software to play with

Berlin’s Native Instruments are slightly more famous for their software than their physical gear, but you need much more than fame to land a place on this best budget audio interface inventory. The Komplete Audio 1 is a fantastic option for the many bedroom producers of the world, with an impressively strong build and eye-catching design.

And with it being part of the extensive Native Instruments multiverse, you get a generous amount of free software, including effects and plugin synths that many would probably pay the same price for. A fantastic bundle collection to get you going on your music and interface journey.


Steinberg UR12

  • Includes a basic version of Cubase
  • The interface most likely to withstand a beating

While not being the youngest model on this list, this is very rarely a reason to disregard a piece of music gear. In fact, in the world of music tech, it’s often the older heads who provide the very best results. And Steinberg’s UR12 is no exception to this.

You may know the name from the incredibly popular DAW Cubase, but Steinberg also enters the best budget audio interface conversation with one of the sturdiest built items on this list with its metal casing, and it even includes a stripped-down version of Cubase. Note that the main and headphone outputs share a volume control, in case that’s an issue for you.

Check out our guide on the best DAWs for more information about Cubase and digital audio production suites.


IK Multimedia iRig HD 2

  • The astute choice for recording guitar
  • Great size

And now, over to Italy in our best budget audio interface ponderings. IK’s iRig HD 2 has its own special quality, in that it's largely aimed at those looking to record guitar in their music production. That said, you can still use the iRig with any electronic, monophonic instruments.

Hooking up to both USB and Lightning connector cables, this audio interface works happily with Mac, iOS and PC. And because IK’s specialty is for mobile use, it’s one of the most pleasingly mini interfaces you’re likely to find — it will fit in your pocket! It’s definitely worth a look if you only have a small studio space, or lack thereof. The trade-off is the lack of monitor outputs, but you can connect either headphones or a guitar amp.


UAD Volt 1

  • Many features you don't normally see at this price point
  • Great suite of free software

Universal Audio have always had a very firm footing in the world of audio interfaces, and their more recent Volt series extends that to the world of the best budget audio interfaces. And besides being an all round excellent interface with great sound and brilliant build, what separates it is the amount of extra features that most budget interfaces don’t come close to.

There are the two buttons labelled instrument and vintage — hit the instrument button if you’re connecting a guitar or bass, for example. The vintage button “gives you the rich, full sound of this iconic UA preamp, thanks to it’s built-in tube emulation circuitry”, according to the UAD website. Note you also receive access to Ableton Live 11 Lite, Melodyne essential, free Marshall guitar amps and effects, and a lot more.


Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen3

  • Simpy one of the most popular audio interfaces ever released
  • Comes with great plugins

Whenever the best audio interfaces on the market come into discussion, there’s almost no way Focusrite won’t be mentioned. Their range are the favourites of many beginner, intermediate and pro-producers. This is thanks to their pre-amps being very well liked, and you’re in very safe hands for great quality recording on a budget.

The aforementioned pricier siblings of The Scarlett Solo are also very popular, but this interface more than earns its place in the Focusrite line with its solid build, lovely aesthetic, excellent pre-amps, bundled plugins and otherwise keeping its features down to just what is really needed.


Presonus Studio 24c

  • MIDI connectivity
  • Great value

Many of these audio interfaces reach this ‘best of’ list because they are excellently suited to any musical task. For example, while some might be best suited for use with guitars, the Presonus Studio 24c is quite exceptional with whatever you throw at it, whether that be music, vocals, or spoken word.

The MIDI connectivity included on the back of this interface is a fantastic feature, and you may also fall in love with the Universal Control software, giving this unit the ability to ‘loop back’ on itself. This gives the possibility of routing audio between different applications, no extra cables required, and making it a brilliant option for both musicians and streamers.


Audient iD4 MkII

  • Extra headphone output is very handy
  • Great features and add-ons

Born in quaint and leafy Hampshire in the UK, Audient are by no means a posh entry on this best budget audio interface list — it’s a terrific interface at such a reasonable price point. Upon launch, the original iD4 was Audient’s smallest interface so far, and the MkII makes this great bit of gear even better with faster USB transfer speed and the option of USB-C connection.

And even though it’s a great audio interface to get you cracking with your recording and music production, the free ARC package adds lots of plugins, virtual instruments and effects so you can start making music immediately. The extra headphone output and the smart scroll wheel are lovely features, also.


Motu M2

  • The interface that keeps selling out for good reason
  • A great option if you’re a fan of new toys

The MOTU M2 is a very recent offering from the New England-based audio brand and it has been selling like hotcakes. Throughout 2020, it was frequently out of stock as recording enthusiasts rushed to get their hands on it amidst the COVID pandemic. Therefore it’s undoubtedly among the newest and most exciting names amongst this best budget audio interfaces compendium.

While the A2D in the M2 is just as smooth as their previous interfaces, the real standout feature is the two preamps located on the front of this compact device. There are preamps that cost four times as much as this interface, and they don’t provide nearly as much clean gain as the MOTU M2. It’s a fantastic interface and one to consider if you can manage a budget of around £200/$200.


Best Budget Audio Interface - Frequently Asked Questions:

Does an audio interface improve sound quality for recording?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons audio interfaces were created in the first place. Since they’re mostly designed to do this job, you can rest assured that all of these budget interfaces listed here, not just the more expensive ones, usually do this very well.

Without one, you are relying on your computer’s onboard soundcard, which is already under a fair amount of strain, without worrying about music recording and production. For an audio interface, it’s much more effortless, hence the superior sound quality for recording.

Does an audio interface improve playback?

Again — yes, yes, and yes. Without an audio interface, budget or otherwise, any sound generated by a computer is in the form of a digital signal which then has to be converted into an analogue signal by the onboard sound card. This means there will be a drop in quality due to electromagnetic interference and this becomes especially noticeable when the volume is turned up.

No problemo for an audio interface, which will reproduce any digital signal with far greater accuracy. So expect superior clarity and no unwanted noise when playing music at higher volumes.

You’ve read the article; it’s now time to turn your laptop or computer into a lean, mean, music recording and production machine. All the very best as you go about choosing the budget audio interface that was destined for you.

Further reading: 

Best Audio Interfaces to Suit Any Budget

Starting a home studio setup

Best audio interfaces for podcasting