- The best audio interface for a PC can suit many needs, including latency-free microphone connectivity and reducing overall latency in live band monitoring.
- The Universal Audio Apollo Twin X is considered the best overall audio interface, with excellent preamps and the ability to track and add color with plugins.
- The Audient iD4 MKII is recommended for serious recording, with crystal-clear preamps and recording sample rates up to 192kHz.
- The Audient EVO 4 is a compact device suitable for mobile users, offering great monitoring and instrument preamps.
- The SSL2+ audio interface from Solid State Logic provides stable monitoring and vintage color, making it a popular choice for live monitoring.
What is the best audio interface for a PC? An audio interface can suit many needs. You might find yourself in a situation where you need latency-free microphone connectivity. An interface also helps with reducing overall latency in a situation like monitoring a live band. Even if you aren’t into audio production, it might still be worth your while to have it on hand.
An audio interface can act as both a headphone amp and a means of allowing you to record external instruments. I use one daily for audio post-production, so I feel like I’ve got a fairly decent grasp on what makes for the best of the best when it comes to PC and Mac use alike. Today’s guide is a deep dive into one of my favorite subjects and one of the biggest choices you’ll make in audio. Here are my top picks:
- Best Overall: Universal Audio Apollo Twin X
- Best for Serious Recording: Audient Audio Interface iD4 MKII
- Best Compact Device: Audient EVO 4
- Best for Live Monitoring: SSL2+ Audio Interface
- Best Budget Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
- Best for Loop-Back Recording: Presonus Studio 24c
- Best for MIDI Connectivity: Universal Audio Volt 2
Best Overall: Universal Audio Apollo Twin X
- Record and mix with Elite-class A/D and D/A conversion
- Two Unison-enabled preamps
- Onboard UAD DUO Core processing
- includes UAD plug-in bundle
- 127dB D/A dynamic range
When it comes to the best audio interface, the Apollo Twin X might be the cream of the crop. This is an expensive piece of hardware but comes with a plethora of features to separate it from other options. Universal Audio’s major selling point is the unison preamps found on all of their DSP-driven devices. Further, you can use the Apollo Twin X with any of the plugins enabled to track and add color.
This helps to mimic the workflow of recording to analog outboard gear but at a fraction of the cost. I know plenty of hobbyist audio engineers who would love the ability to track on an SSL or API desk. With an Apollo Twin X, you get most of that feel and quality. However, you don’t have to pay costly calibration fees every year from a licensed technician. Check out the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X on Amazon.
|It has excellent preamps.
|It doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable.
|There is an intuitive hardware design.
|Installing for Apple Silicon is difficult.
Best for Serious Recording: Audient iD4 MKII
- Class-A microphone preamp
- High-speed USB-C connector
- Compatible with Mac, PC, and iOS
- Two headphone outputs
- Recording sample rates up to 192kHz
The Audient iD4 is built with serious recording in mind. If you’re looking for crystal-clear preamps and superb gain control, the iD4 is for you. I’ve had the original model for the last six years and it is one of my favorite audio interfaces. Tragically, the power supply on mine is starting to go so I’ll be in the market for a new one soon.
The iD4 offers recording sample rates up to 192kHz, which is well beyond what most users might need. Affordability is another great feature of iD4, as it is priced quite competitively compared to other audio interfaces with the same feature set. It doesn’t have the tracking features you’d find with the likes of the Apollo Twin X. That is fine considering how stellar the device is otherwise. Check out the Audient Audio Interface iD4 MKII on Amazon.
|It has a great JFET instrument preamp.
|It needs USB 3.0.
|There is plenty of gain on the vocal preamp.
|The iD4 could have more inputs.
Best Compact Device: Audient EVO 4
The Audient EVO 4 isn’t going to be the best fit for everyone. This is intended for mobile users who might be leaning on an iPad or laptop to do their recording. Carrying around something massive like the iD4 or Apollo might not always be doable. As such, you’ll want something far more compact. The EVO 4 accomplishes this goal with a degree of ease.
It features the same quality preamps and metering as the iD4, but it is substantially smaller. This wouldn’t be my first pick for your first audio interface. However, for portability, this is one of the best audio interface options for PC you’ll find at the moment. I know a few folks who rely on these for running sound out to PA systems for their live sets. Check out the Audient EVO 4 on Amazon.
|It has great monitoring and instrument preamps.
|The flat box look isn’t inspiring.
|There’s an easy-to-use encoder dial for gain control.
|An angled front would make inserting cables easier.
Best for Live Monitoring: SSL2+ Audio Interface
- 2-In/4-Out USB interface
- 2 x SSL-designed mic preamps
- 2 x high-current grade headphone outputs
- USB connectivity
- Compatible with Mac and Windows
Solid State Logic is audio royalty, and this SSL2+ audio interface is proof. After pioneering the mixing desk in the 1980s, SSL has remained a constant fixture in studio spaces. You’ve likely heard multiple hit records made on an SSL desk. You can get a little slice of that legacy with the SSL2+. It doesn’t feature the same dynamics controls as a channel from a 9000 series desk, but you get the color.
The biggest selling point for me is the stable monitoring solution on the SSL2+. I’ve used these in other studios and thought it was quite handy for listening to guitars and vocals being laid down. The added vintage color you can add on the preamp adds a touch of nostalgic warmth to whatever you’re recording. Check out the SSL 2+ Audio Interface on Amazon.
|There are only two inputs.
|RCA outs aren’t the best choice for monitors.
|It has great and accurate monitoring.
|Thre are only two inputs.
Best Budget Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 Gen4
- 2 x Scarlett 4th Gen mic preamps
- 2 x Hi-Z instrument inputs
- 4 x line inputs/4 x line outputs plus MIDI I/O
- 120dB dynamic range
- Auto gain
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 is recommended to beginners for good reason. Focusrite is no stranger to creating audio excellence. The Scarlett line of audio interfaces has had successful iterations one after another, much to wide critical acclaim from hobbyist users. Now, I wouldn’t recommend one for studio use. However, for users looking for a little extra power for recording, this is it.
The preamps are solid enough, I’ve tracked plenty of guitars and heard vocals through them. What is going to make a big difference with recording material is going to be your choice of mic at this price point. By the time you outgrow the preamps and capabilities of this device, you should be well-seasoned at pro audio as it stands. Check out the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 on Amazon.
|It has clip-safe recording functionality.
|It’s not optimized for Apple Silicon.
|This interface offers great clean preamps for beginners.
|RCA outputs aren’t the best for studio monitors.
Best for Loop-Back Recording: Presonus Studio 24c
- Bus-powered 2-in or 2-out USB-C interface
- Two XMAX-L solid-state mic preamps
- 24-bit or 96kHz recording and playback
- Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAW recording software
- LED monitoring and low-latency direct monitoring
Loop-back recording isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for an interface that natively supports it, Presonus’s Studio 24c might fit the bill. I’ve used Presonus products on and off for a decade or so. The build quality and preamps on the Studio 24c aren’t my favorite but they work. What makes Presonus’s audio interfaces worth noticing is the extra features.
I love the metering on the front of the device, especially at this price point. Often you won’t find something this robust in an audio interface at this price point. The loop-back recording is the real star of the show. Looking at it from the perspective of a beginner, I’d honestly suggest the Volt 2 or Scarlett if you need something to learn the ropes on. Check out the PreSonus Studio 24c on Amazon.
|It has clean and useful preamps.
|It has cramped control configuration.
|Loop-back recording is always handy.
|The headphone jack is on the rear of the device.
Best for MIDI Connectivity: Universal Audio Volt 2
- Compatible with Mac, PC, and iOS
- Record vocals and instruments with Vintage Mic Preamp mode
- 24-bit/192kHz audio conversion
- Headphone amp and direct monitoring
- MIDI connections plus 48V phantom power
The Universal Audio Volt 2 might be the most beginner-friendly interface you’ll find. You’re only getting a pair of audio inputs and outputs, which is fine for most purposes. Where the Volt 2 excels is the addition of MIDI functionality. You can use this to automate things like your pedalboard, and synthesizers, or even plug in controllers to sequence software instruments as needed.
You don’t get access to the colored tracking found on the Apollo Twin X, but that’s alright given the circumstances. Universal Audio knows how to sweeten the spot with over $1000 worth of audio plugins to get you started on your audio journey. These cover amps, mixing utilities, and so much more. The quality of the preamps on the Volt 2 is also stellar.
This is still very much a budget device, but this is where I would start if I were beginning audio production today. Check out the Universal Audio Volt 2 on Amazon.
|Great value for the money
|Might be a bit pricey for beginners
|Lacks the compression circuit of the Volt 276
How to Pick the Best Audio Interface for a PC: Step by Step
Picking the best audio interface for your needs is going to depend on quite a few different factors. The needs of a hobbyist podcaster are going to be far different than a professional studio. As such, there are a few considerations you’ll need to keep in mind when shopping around. These are:
- Inputs and outputs
- Sample rate and bit depth
Do keep in mind that a lot of these facets can lead to substantial price increases on an interface. A budget interface isn’t going to be the best solution if you’re looking to do something like record a full drum kit. However, we’ll go over some of these aspects more in-depth.
Inputs and Outputs
Each audio interface is going to have different inputs and outputs. The standard for most budget interfaces is going to be two inputs and two outputs. For most recording purposes in a bedroom production, this is plenty. When you start looking at multi-mic setups, this does present certain issues, however. A standard drum mic array is going to be around four microphones at the bare minimum.
As such, a garage band is likely going to need something with more inputs overall to make the most of things. You can’t make up for a bad recording, so you’re either micing each source one by one or purchasing a more expensive interface to get things to where they need to be.
Sample Rate and Bit Depth
Sample rate and bit depth have less of a consideration these days than 20 years ago. You still want something with the option of variable sample rates and bit depth, however. At a bare minimum, I would suggest the ability to do 24-bit sound. That leaves you with minimal dithering needed when rendering audio out. It should also reduce overall input noise when recording line-level sound.
Sample rate is more important in a mixing and mastering context. If you’re looking to do some sound engineering for yourself or a band, then higher sample rates are great. Dealing with digital audio is about learning to do away with things like digital noise while maintaining a stable connection to your computer.
At the bare minimum for the sample rate, I’d suggest 48kHz. That gives plenty of depth to the sound while giving a significantly larger noise floor to work with for recording and mixing alike.
Any of the interfaces featured in this guide should work with Windows and Mac. Things get a little dicier with pro audio when looking at Linux systems, but those aren’t preferred in any studio you’ll find. Macs are easier to work with when it comes to pro audio, as you can just plug and play. Windows systems will likely require system drivers and management utilities, despite all of the listed options being USB.
Windows needs something called ASIO to make the most of low-latency digital audio. Just about every manufacturer is going to have a proprietary driver to instantiate audio on a Windows system. Before purchasing any audio interface, make sure you read over user reviews to see if there are issues with certain Windows configurations.
What to Know Before Buying the Best Audio Interface for a PC
Finding the best audio interface for your needs is going to be a matter of figuring out what you need. A podcaster likely doesn’t need multiple inputs and the ability to track with audio plugins enabled. Just pick what has the inputs and features that work for you.
Using the Best Audio Interface for a PC: What It’s Like
Using an audio interface can be a transformative experience for anyone struggling with audio needs. Consider starting music production on a Windows laptop. Using your standard setup with a pair of headphones on the built-in soundcard means you’re going to be dealing with perceptible latency.
An audio interface is going to make that felt latency much smaller. It’ll still be present because there is latency present on any setup. However, if you’re looking to monitor things smoothly, an audio interface is going to make things much smoother as a whole.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Michael V Riggs/Shutterstock.com.