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The audio interface market has been booming recently, with each year bringing new devices that pack more features and advanced tech into ever more compact and affordable packages. The best-selling interfaces of 2022 include many streamlined two-channel units, a few mid-size desktop boxes with greater flexibility and even a couple of advanced rackmount models. With legendary console manufacturers like SSL and Neve joining the market alongside trusted interface brands like Universal Audio, Focusrite, Avid and MOTU, there’s no shortage of amazing audio interfaces here. Which one will be your next studio upgrade?
The venerable MBOX has been through many evolutions, and the Avid MBOX Studio represents the latest iteration of this flexible and user-friendly interface. With four mic preamps and two instrument inputs with variable-Z capability, four additional line inputs, dual stereo monitor and headphone outputs, and two effects loops, the MBOX Studio can handle anything from a multi-instrumental solo artist to a small band. MIDI, Optical, S/PDIF and Bluetooth I/O give the device even more flexibility, allowing you to connect almost any digital gear in your studio. Convenient loopback recording makes the MBOX Studio a great choice for podcasters, and the MBOX Ignition Pack includes a library of sound effects and music-making tools to get any project off to a professional start.
The ultra-compact 88M is built around two channels of legendary Neve preamps from the iconic 88RS console made famous by Abbey Road, Air and Capitol Studios. Each preamp is equipped to handle microphone, line or instrument-level signals, adding signature Neve color and character to any source. Dedicated send and return jacks for each channel allow you to insert your favorite analog outboard gear into your signal chain, effectively putting a miniature Neve console on your desktop. The 88M’s reference-grade ESS converters preserve that legendary Neve sound in 24-bit, 192 kHz quality, and the independent high-headroom headphone amplifier and monitor outputs ensure you hear every detail in perfect fidelity. The 88M also includes ADAT optical ports for expanding your system with up to eight channels of additional input and output.
Among desktop audio interfaces, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin has become almost a household name due to its pristine sound and powerful built-in DSP. Almost equal parts interface and monitor controller, the Apollo Twin X is built around a large monitor volume knob and LED metering suite that lets you keep eyes on all your input and output levels. A bank of six multifunction buttons gives you access controls for the dual Unison mic preamps, including phantom power, high-pass filter, pad, polarity and more; plus additional monitor controls including mute, dim, mono and talkback. UAD-2 DUO processing allows you to run UAD plugins directly from the interface to record through analog emulations of legendary gear, just like in a premium studio. Apollo Heritage Editions include plug-ins featured in UAD Spark, UA’s subscription plug-in collection that runs natively on Mac, allowing you to balance your DSP load between Apollo and your computer’s onboard processing.
Unlike the other entries on this list, the Orion 32+ Gen 3 doesn’t include any mic preamps or headphone outputs—instead, this interface is focused solely on providing lots of high-quality analog and digital I/O. With 32 analog inputs and outputs available via D-Sub connections on the rear, as well as dual ADAT In and Out ports, MADI and S/PDIF connectivity, the Orion 32+ Gen 3 boasts a whopping 64 channels of I/O via USB or Thunderbolt connections. All-new, mastering-grade converters offer improved dynamic range at high sample rates (up to 192 kHz), and Word Clock I/O allows the Orion to sync perfectly with other interfaces. This interface also comes with a complementary suite of real-time effects selected from the Antelope Audio FPGA FX collection, including the POWERFFC compressor, Clear Q EQ, Power EX expander, Auraverb reverb, Master De-Esser and Power Gate noise gate tool.
The SSL 2+ from Solid State Logic puts the brand’s legendary studio sound into a sleek two-channel interface with all the fixings to run a home or mobile studio right from your desktop. Both preamps feature a Legacy 4K button that engages an analog enhancement circuit emulating the sound of the famous SSL 4000 Series consoles with a slight presence boost and subtle harmonic distortion to bring out the grit in anything you run through them. SSL 360 monitoring software allows you to create individual mixes for multiple headphone and monitor outputs, giving you the flexibility to track a small group with ease. The included SSL Production Pack gives you access to a curated collection of software including Pro Tools First, Ableton Live Lite, Komplete Start, Hybrid Keys, SSL Native Vocalstrip 2 and Drumstrip. You’ll also get a 1.5 GB library of loops and samples from Loopcloud to spark your creativity.
One of the most ubiquitous entry-level interfaces of the last several years, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is still selling strong as of 2022. Although it offers fewer I/O options than the other models on this list, the third-generation Scarlett 2i2 offers two pristine mic preamps for a very competitive price. Both preamps can accept mic, line and instrument-level signals, and each channel features an “Air” switch based on the original Focusrite ISA preamp, providing enhanced clarity for vocals and instruments. Focusrite has always been known for putting high-quality AD/DA converters in their interfaces, and the 2i2’s class-leading chipset allows you to capture every detail in 24-bit/192kHz quality. Plus, the included Hitmaker Expansion features an assortment of plugins, virtual instruments and music-making tools from Antares, Brainworx, Softube, Landr, XLN Audio, Relab and more.
The RME Fireface UCX II packs a ton of I/O and features into a slim desktop form factor. In addition to dual microphone preamps and instrument inputs, this flexible interface features four line inputs and six line outputs, as well as digital I/O in the form of ADAT, AES/EBU and S/PDIF connections (not to mention MIDI). RME’s SteadyClock FS technology employs a femtosecond clock to reduce the jitter when converting between analog and digital, ensuring sample-accurate representation of your sound. The user interface might look a little more old-school compared to the other best-selling interfaces of 2022, but the vivid color display shows you all the input, output and status information you need to run a session in the studio or on the go.
Similar to the SSL 2+, Antelope Audio’s Zen Q Synergy Core combines the features of an audio interface with the convenience and control of a desktop monitor controller. The front panel is simple and user-friendly, with a large color screen for metering, a sleek volume knob and just three buttons to control it all with. Analog I/O includes two ultra-linear mic/line preamps with authentic console circuitry for classic warmth and sonic depth, two additional instrument/line-level inputs, two stereo headphone outputs, stereo main monitor outputs and two additional line-level outputs. ADAT optical input offers up to eight additional channels, while S/PDIF digital I/O brings even more flexibility. The Synergy Core platform adds built-in DSP to power 37 included analog modeling plugins with ultra-low-latency performance, similar to the UAD ecosystem. Best of all, through January 31, 2023, you’ll get a free Edge Solo modeling microphone, Bitwig DAW software and more than 50 plug-ins with your purchase.
The “big sibling” to the Universal Audio Apollo Twin, the Apollo X8, is a professional rackmount audio interface with all the bells and whistles. Totalling 18 inputs and 24 outputs, the X8 offers four mic/line inputs with preamps, two instrument inputs, eight line inputs, ten line outputs, S/PDIF I/O and two banks of ADAT S/MUX optical I/O. Like all Apollo interfaces, advanced onboard DSP allows you to run UAD plugins directly from the device, allowing you to enhance your sound on the front end. Dual Thunderbolt ports allow you to daisy-chain up to four Apollo interfaces and six total UAD-2 devices. With premium software tools like LUNA recording software and a suite of 10 award-winning plug-ins, there’s a lot to like here.
Among the first wave of compact desktop interfaces to offer 32-bit floating-point recording, the MOTU M2 delivers pristine sound with practically limitless dynamic range in a tiny USB-powered chassis. To keep the price point reasonable, the M2’s I/O is fairly limited, with just two XLR/TRS combo jacks and two line-level outputs for monitors (doubled on RCA and TRS jacks for compatibility with different types of speakers). Five-pin MIDI In and Out allow you to connect synthesizers and other digital gear, making the M2 perfect for solo artists who want to record crisp, detailed vocals, instruments and MIDI simultaneously. And, because it’s bus-powered via USB-C, you can take the M2 anywhere creativity leads you.
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