Best Soundcard for Music Production

Are you looking to buy a soundcard for your music production? This article covers all you need to know about sound cards and audio interfaces.

WHAT IS A SOUNDCARD?

One thing is certain: Music producers seem to have an unending list of things to buy. One of these such things is a sound card or audio interface- although they are not quite the same thing.

A soundcard is a hardware that is under a computer program’s control and provides input and output of various audio signals to and fro your computer.

Both external and internal audio devices are that are used for professional audio applications are called soundcards.

However, soundcards are not used as often as they were once before.

WHAT IS AN AUDIO INTERFACE?

An external audio interface is hardware that converts normal sounds and notes from the microphone and instruments to signals that your computer can understand.

It also transfers audio from the computer to outputs like a headphone or a monitor. This is usually done through USB cables.

 

BEST SOUNDCARD FOR MUSIC PRODUCTION

WHAT DO I NEED INSTEAD OF A SOUND CARD?

Rather than a soundcard, you need an audio interface. An audio interface is essentially the same thing as a soundcard. However, an audio interface is built for more modern devices such as your pc.

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10 BEST AUDIO INTERFACE FOR MUSIC PRODUCTION

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 4
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit at 192kHz
  •         Connector: USB-C
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: Yes

REVIEW

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is our first choice for many reasons. Not only does it feature two amazing mics preamps, but it also has the Air mode which perfectly replicates the stage. It gives your vocals a nice and bright sound.

This audio interface features two high-headroom instruments plugs. You can plug in your guitar or bass in those ports. It also has two balanced line inputs. There, you can plug inline-level sources such as drum machines and correcting synthesizers.

It also features four balanced outputs. Those are for sending out audio to effect pedals as well as clean monitoring.

Lastly, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 features high-performance converters. That way, you can record and mix at 24-bit/ 192kHz

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has worked to earn its spot on this list and promises top efficiency for buyers.


Pros

  •         It features improved preamps.
  •         It has a very low latency
  •         The Air Mode emulates stages beautifully
  •         This audio interface features efficient drivers that don’t crash
  •         It features the new ISA transformer preamp emulation option.


Cons

  •         The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 drivers are efficient but the windows drivers aren’t so easy to install
  •         It requires main power
  •         The monitor and headphones both have the same volume control

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The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is efficient and affordable. The audio quality it gives out is superb. A single trial on this audio interface will show just why there is so much hype about it.

BEHRINGER UMC 404HD Audiophile 4X4 24-Bit/192 kHz USB Audio/Midi Interface with Midas Mic Preamplifiers Black

BEHRINGER UMC 404HD Audiophile 4X4 24-Bit/192 KHz USB Audio/Midi Interface with Midas Mic Preamplifiers Black

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs:
  •         Audio Resolution: 24 – bit/192 kHz
  •         Connector: USB-C
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: Yes

The BEHRINGER UMC 404HD is another great audio interface and it takes the second spot on our list.

It features a 4-in/4-out config that is packed with four preamps, each with dedicated use. Note that for the price slapped on this interface, it is shocking to see it having four dedicated preamps. Not many other audio interfaces in this price bracket have this feature.

The preamps are not only transparent, but they also have impressive sound quality. The BEHRINGER UMC 404HD has a packed panel. With it, you’ll have access to the gain knobs, line switches, jack inputs, and even pad switches.

The jack inputs are for dedicated in/out channels that are connected to the preamps. Each channel has its own control so that it is easy to tweak and edit.

The BEHRINGER UMC 404HD packs more punches yet. It is fitted with a monitor mix, A/B monitor switching, and even a stereo/mono switch. With the stereo/mono switch, you can audition your mixes.

Behringer has equipped it with A/B monitor switching, monitor mix, and a stereo/mono switch that will come in handy when you want to audition your mixes.


Pros

  •         It is compatible with Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, Ableton Live, etc.
  •         LED indicators and MIDI compatibility
  •         Great value for money
  •         It also includes MIDI compatibility and LED indicators.
  •         Software suite with recording software and plug-ins.
  •         Audiophile 24 – bit/192 kHz resolution

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Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Two-Channel Audio Interface

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Two-Channel Audio Interface

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 2
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  •         Connector: USB 2.0
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: No

REVIEW

The Native Instruments Komplete is a very portable machine. Asides from its weight, it also features a trim design. It comes with identical microphone/instrument inputs. On the space-saving XLRs, you can find the connections. They also have individual switches that allow you to select and deselect particular instruments.

At the top of the Native Instruments Komplete’s panel, there are several USB indicators as well as input meters. That is where the headphone output is placed.

One of the best features of the Native Instruments Komplete is its range. It features tight hardware that showcases the design and technology that went into creating it.

Its software is high up there too. The performance of this machine doesn’t disappoint. It features input selector controls as well as a plus level that gives quick access to the front panel.

When you buy the Native Instruments Komplete, you get Maschine 2 Essentials, Replika delay, Ableton Live 10 (Lite), Solid Bus Compressor, and Monark Synth. At the back of this machine is a USB connector as well as a Kensington Security slot and TRS jacks.


Pros

  •         This audio interface is lightweight. In addition to its compact and portable design, it would be quite easy to move it around.
  •         It features a nice 5-part input meeting


Cons

  •         The brand doesn’t have the best customer service 

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If you’re pairing this machine with the right tools, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a nice time with it.

SSL SSL2+ 2-In/4-Out USB-C Audio Interface

SSL SSL2+ 2-In/4-Out USB-C Audio Interface

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 2/4
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit at 192kHz
  •         Connector: USB-C
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: Yes

REVIEW

The SSL SSL2+ is a professional audio interface. If you’re looking for something to set your production aside from amateur-like productions, this is the interface for you.

It comes with 2 SSL-designed microphone preamps as well as two professional, high-current grade headphone outputs

With this interface, your recordings will have the professional and sleek sound that all producers aim to have.  Even though this option isn’t as expensive as a lot of other great interfaces, it carries way more than you could imagine for its price.

The SSL SSL2+ was created after the SSL 2. They are both similar, however, this version features a MIDI input, a headphone out, and two additional outputs. You can use the headphone out to monitor different mixes.

This interface also features a 4K button. When you use this, you can give your recording an extra feel and presence, giving you the perfect sound.

It also features a high-end boost that gives totally professional vibes. The SSL SSL2 combines Mic and Line inputs. It offers the impendence setting. This will allow you to switch from bass or guitar signals to those from a drum machine.


Pros

  •         It gives you cool tools for professional monitoring
  •         This model features great preamps and a decent signal path
  •         It features the 4k button which is a nice and new addition 


Cons

  •         It doesn’t have a power switch
  •         It isn’t designed with a full metal body
  •         The headphone plugs are located at the back

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Steinberg UR22C 2×2 USB 3.0 Audio Interface with Cubase AI and Cubasis

Steinberg UR22C 2x2 USB 3.0 Audio Interface with Cubase AI and Cubasis LE

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 2
  •         Audio Resolution: 32-bit at 192kHz
  •         Connector: USB-C and USB 0.3
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: Yes

REVIEW

The Steinberg UR22C is one of the best audio interfaces on the market. It offers up to 32-bit/192 kHz audio resolution.

One thing that sets this interface apart from others is its build. It is built to withstand frequent use. It features an all-metal chassis. However, apart from looking good, it sounds good too. It is very efficient and versatile.

Not many interfaces have drivers that are fully compatible with ASIO, Core Audio formats, and WDM and still have drivers that support both Mac and PC. It also features a USB 2.0 placed at the front. You can use this to connect to a host computer or an iPad.

It comes with Class-a D-PRE mic preamps that make it perfect for recording a full range of expressions from any audio source. It also features a separate headphone level control.

The Steinberg UR22C is very easy to operate too. Most of its features are displayed on the front panel. It also has a Hi-Z in for recording the bass and guitar. This isn’t a common feature despite how handy it can be. Lastly, it featured a +48V phantom power


Pros

  •         It has a Hi-Z in for recording the bass and guitar
  •         It gives out the professional sound quality
  •         It comes with Yamaha preamps that pair beautifully well with it and give it a clean sound.
  •         It features built-in DSP processing capabilities.


Cons

  •         The company doesn’t have efficient support for technical issues

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Mackie Audio Interface, Onyx Producer 2X2 USB Audio Interface with MIDI (Onyx Producer 2-2)

Mackie Audio Interface, Onyx Producer 2X2 USB Audio Interface with MIDI (Onyx Producer 2-2)

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 2
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit at 192kHz
  •         Connector: USB 2.0
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: Yes

REVIEW

This audio interface is a top-range one. It features two top-grade onyx mic preamps. They have an incredible range and XLR/TRS combo.

The Mackie Audio Interface is bus-powered which allows you to easily record when on the move without a power adapter. It also has a fast transfer speed and very low latency.

With this gem, you can connect to two microphones or instruments together. It features both jack and XLR connectors so you do not need to purchase a new cable irrespective of the connector that you currently have.

In addition, it features a large mix knob. This way, you can monitor your performer even while the recording is going on with absolutely no latency.

On the front side, there is a headphone output as well as one more. The front of the level knob that you can use to monitor. At the back, there are two different quarter-inch jack inputs. There, you can connect monitors. There are also 2 MIDI connectors


Pros

  •         It is very sturdy and durable
  •         It comes with a MIDI input and output
  •         It has a quality audio resolution capped at24-bit/192kHz
  •         It uses a lot of sound cards


Cons

  •         Several users have been said to have driver problems with Windows 10
  •         It doesn’t feature a power button

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The Mackie Audio Interface offers quality for your money. It won’t let you down.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 2/6
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit at 192kHz
  •         Connector: Thunderbolt
  •         Digital Connector: Optical To-slink
  •         MIDI: No

REVIEW

One major feature of the Apollo Twin MKII is the premium suite of 5 award-winning plug-in titles from Teletronix, Pultec, and UA that it comes with. This suite has a value of $1,300.

It also features a UAD DUO Core Processing. This can be used for tracking through vintage compressors, mic preamps, guitar amp plug-ins, and EQs.

Although the Apollo Twin MKII consumes a lot of electricity, it is easily forgivable. Its preamps, for starters, make up how much electricity it uses. They are powered by the Mic/Line and Hi-Z ins.

This makes up for low-quality microphones as they can save the day by adding a professional feel to your recordings.

The control panel has a very simple design. There is a big dial and a couple of buttons. The dial is for input gain control and also volume remote. At the side, there are buttons that allow you to tweak the preamps, mute the monitors, or work with the phantom power.

The signal paths on this audio interface are very impressive. They work hand in hand with uncomplicated software. This means that even if you aren’t a pro, you’ll find everything rather easy to use.


Pros

  •         This audio interface is durable and efficient
  •         It comes along with UAD-2 plugins


Cons

  •         The interface needs a main power
  •         The thunderbolt cable doesn’t come with the package

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The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo is an audio interface for the books.

Audient iD14 MKII USB-C Audio Interface

Audient iD14 MKII USB-C Audio Interface

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 2
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit at 96kHz
  •         Connector: USB-3.0 & USB-C
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: No

REVIEW

The Audient iD14 MKII is definitely a top audio interface to be listed. It features both a jack and a mini-jack connection. This interface was designed very similarly to the input stage of a classic valve amplifier.

The headphone amp on this interface can drives headphones up to up to 600Ohms. It also features a virtual scroll wheel. With it, you can quickly input settings and make adjustments. You can even write in automation without having to fully stare at the screen.

The Audient iD14 MKII features the iD4. The iD4 is hardware that has two inputs and outputs. Not only does it have a decent preamp, but it also has a phantom power option. If you are not familiar with this, it can help you when you make use of a condenser mic.

This interface features an instrument input for your guitar or bass. One great thing about the Audient iD14 MKII is that it doesn’t need extra power. If you have a USB socket, you are good to go. It comes with a connection kit for Apple devices. This allows you to plug it into your iPhone or iPad and use it.


Pros

  •         It is very easy to use
  •         It offers the scroll option
  •         It features a durable and fully metal design
  •         It gives out amazing audio


Cons

  •         The cables that come with it are short.

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The Audient iD14 MKII is quite perfect if you’re frequently on the go.

Audient EVO 4 USB Audio Interface

Audient EVO 8 4 In 4 Out USB Audio Interface

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 2
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit at 96kHz
  •         Connector: USB 2.0
  •         Digital Connector: None
  •         MIDI: No

REVIEW

The Audient EVO 4 is a very affordable option when it comes to interface. It is also one of the best you can get in its budget range.

It comes with two inputs that are placed at the back. At the front, there is a single instrument input. It also has two outs. They are for the main dial and the speakers. The main dial helps you control the output of your monitor.

You can plug in your guitar or bass here. However, note that when you plug in one input, the other was is overridden.

The Audient EVO 4 has a very simplistic look that makes it friendly to beginners. It is easy to understand and use.

Lastly, with the Audient EVO 4, you can easily hear your recordings clearly as it features a dynamic range of 113dB.


Pros

  •         Audient EVO 4 has a signature clear recording sound.
  •         It has a dial that makes it easy to operate
  •         It has a very sleek design
  •         The Audient EVO 4 is designed to be as uncomplicated as possible so that people who aren’t pros can use it easily.


Cons

  •         The monitors go mute once a headphone is plugged in
  •         The lights are oddly placed at the top
  •         It looks good but it doesn’t look like it was made from materials of the highest quality

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Personally, apart from the great design, I appreciate the Audient EVO 4’s simplistic look.

Arturia AudioFuse 8 Pre USB-C Audio Interface/ADAT Expander with AKG K 240 Studio Pro Headphones & XLR Cable Bundle

Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

SPECIFICATIONS

  •         Analogue Ins/Outs: 8
  •         Audio Resolution: 24-bit at 192kHz
  •         Connector: USB 2.0
  •         Digital Connector: ADAT I/O and S/PDIF I/O
  •         MIDI: Yes

REVIEW

The Arturia AudioFuse 8 is the last item on our list. Apart from its glowing specs, it has other amazing features. It is on the pricey side and has enough features to justify it. Despite that, it doesn’t have a bulky look.

This interface is compatible with iOS and Windows. Although its default connector is the USB2, there are other options to choose from.


Pros

  •         It is loaded with specifications and is aimed at professionals
  •         It features a lot of connectivity options
  •         It has an audio receiver
  •         It has 20 output and 18 input channels
  •         It has a built-in phono preamp for vinyl sampling
  •         You can easily choose between the two sets of monitors. The A/B switch can help you switch seamlessly


Cons

  •         It is expensive and except you can fully utilize the tools, it might not be worth it
  •         It has a lot of controls that can easily stress a beginner

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If you can use the tools and can afford it, the Arturia AudioFuse 8 will be amazing for you.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING AN AUDIO INTERFACE

When buying an audio interface, it is important that you know what to look for so that you can spending a ton of money on something that isn’t good enough.

Having a substandard audio interface can greatly affect a producer. Without the audio interface, a recording will not have a professional sound.

Here are some of the things to look forward to when buying an external audio interface.

  •         Resolution Of A Sound Signal: If you want a high-quality recording, you need to make use of the highest sound resolution
  •         USB-C: Usually, the highest sound card grades make use of the USB-C connectors instead of USB 3 or Thunderbolt.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I USE A SOUND CARD INSTEAD OF AN AUDIO INTERFACE

If you decide to use a soundcard instead of an audio interface, you will likely experience latency problems. Audio interfaces are much more functional and will be more useful for a modern-day music producer.

FINAL THOUGHTS?

If you want to keep recording as a side hobby, you might not need to make getting an audio card a priority. However, if it is your passion and you intend to get out professional-grade work from it, you need an audio card as soon as possible.

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