5 Best Audio Interfaces for Budget Home Studios in India (USB): Best Buying Guide

Recording gear is becoming more affordable by the day. The quality of sound, which could only be produced in a professional studio, can now be achieved in the comfort of one’s bedroom.

That’s right!

Bedrooms have turned into studios. The advent of Audio Interfaces has made this possible.

An Audio Interface is perhaps the most important part of a home studio. This is because everything is ultimately routed through it. Therefore, it is very important to choose one that best fulfills your present and near-future needs.

But how to choose the best Audio Interface (USB) for your specific needs?

We have got you covered!

Also read: How to Set-up a Budget Home Recording Studio in India

In this article, we have handpicked the 5 Best Audio Interfaces that you can easily find online and also made a comprehensive Buying Guide, and included a FAQ section to ease your buying process a little more!

In a hurry?

Here are our top recommendations for the Best Audio Interfaces for Budget Home Studios in India:

  1. Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 (Lowest-Price Option!!!)
  2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rdGen (Our Budget Winner!!!)
  3. Audient iD14 (Our Winner!!!)

What to Look For?

USB Audio Interfaces have become really popular because people are switching from desktop computers to laptops or even smartphones that only have USB ports for connectivity.

Most Audio Interfaces are plug and play, some might require additional drivers to start functioning. Here are some of the vital things to consider while buying one of these for the home studio:

Connectivity

connectivity-audio-interface-usb

The variety of USB ports available these days might leave you rather confused. Audio interfaces usually either have the standard USB 3.0/2.0 or USB-C type connection.

You would need to make a choice depending upon what is supported by your host device.

Most audio interfaces cannot operate unless they are detected by a host computer.

Connectivity, therefore is the single most important factor while choosing an audio interface.

Build Quality

Whenever too many cables are involved, accidents are bound to happen! You might drop your interface from a table or bed. Audio Interfaces should be robust enough to tolerate a certain amount of abuse. Of course, that does not include smashing it with a hammer!

The chassis of the audio interface should be tough. Cheaper interfaces may have a plastic build. Good interfaces, on the other hand, have metal chassis that are tough enough to handle more than a few drops or falls.

Go for an interface with a metal chassis if you want something that lasts and have the budget for it.

Input Channels

inputs-budget-audio-interface

USB Interfaces have a limited number of input channels. This number determines how many instruments you can record at the same instant.

A singer-songwriter might require just two channels – one for an instrument and the other for a microphone. A full-band setup would require many more channels.

The number of channels has a big effect on the price of the interface.

Therefore, for a budget studio, the use of a mixer in addition to the interface might be a wiser alternative.

Input and output channels in audio interfaces usually require XLR or 1/4th inch connectors. Combo XLR inputs are more convenient than standard 1/4th inch and XLR cables. This is because combo XLR inputs can accommodate both.

Outputs

outputs-best-audio-interface

Outputs on an audio interface are used for live monitoring. Different interfaces provide different numbers and kinds of outputs. The most popular ones are the headphone-out and the stereo-out (where left/right channels are separate).

Ideally, individual volume controls should be present for both headphone-out and line-out.

Ease of Controls

ease-of-control

While it is good to have a variety of controls for better customisation, they should be simple enough to understand and use. The controls should be easily accessible and the cables should not come in the way.

Sometimes, in order to reduce cost, multiple functionalities are attributed to a single knob – making matters rather complicated. Dedicated control knobs for individual channels are a better option.

Software Compatibility

daw

Audio Interfaces usually come with drivers that need to be installed before use in order for your computer to be able to detect the device. The driver software must be compatible with whatever platform you are planning to use it on.

In order to determine its compatibility, you have to know which operating system your computer runs on. For instance, certain drivers may be supported by a Windows PC but not by a Mac or vice-versa.

Best USB Audio Interfaces in India 2020

Model

Bit Depth/Rate

16bit/48kHz

24bit/96kHz

24bit/192kHz

24bit/192kHz 

24bit/96kHz

Free DAW

Tracktion

Ableton Live Lite, Cubase LE

Studio One Artist

Ableton Live Lite, Avid Pro Tools

Cubase LE

Input/Output

XLR combo + 1/4" Standard / RCA stereo + Headphone out

XLR combo + 1/8" Standard / RCA stereo + Headphone out

2 x XLR Combo / 1/4" Stereo + Headphone out

2 x XLR Combo / 1/4" Stereo + Headphone out

2 x XLR Combo + D.I. + Optical Input / 2 x 1/4" Stereo + 2 x Headphone out

Audio Quality

Build

Overall

Every Audio Interface in this list can provide you with studio quality recording. The associated price tag has nothing to do with audio quality.

However, there are certain features in each of them that make them unique in their own right. It is only a matter of what you really need to get started.

Here are some of the best Audio Interfaces that are currently available in the Indian Market:

Behringer U-PHORIA UM2

  • Inexpensive
  • Good quality recording
  • Free DAW available with downloadable plugins – Tracktion
  • Plastic build
  • Low Sampling rate

The Behringer U-Phoria UM2 is as good as it gets for a really inexpensive price tag. This is a proper low price audio interface with a maximum sampling rate of 48kHz might not sound as impressive as the others but it is good enough for home studio use.

The build quality is average with an all-plastic body. It is connected using a standard USB cable with the interface-end having a B-Type port.

It has two inputs in the front – An XLR combo input channel for microphone or instrument and a 1/4th inch input for an additional instrument. The XLR combo input houses a XENYX pre-amp. It can also power condenser microphones by turning on 48V Phantom Power.

The interface provides two separate outputs for monitoring. A headphone out is provided along with stereo outputs for studio monitors. Latency is very low. However, in case any latency is experienced, the direct monitor button can be used to eliminate it.

This Audio Interface comes with a free DAW named Tracktion. Free downloadable plugins and effects are also provided with it. Other popular DAWs like Pro Tools, Ableton Live etc. are also compatible with this interface.

This audio interface is perfect for budding singer-songwriters who want to record their music with decent quality. It is also very useful for recording podcasts and voiceovers.

Bit Depth16 bit
Sampling Rate(Bit-rate)48 kHz
ChassisPlastic
InputsXLR combo + 1/4th inch standard
OutputsRCA stereo + 1/4th inch standard Headphone-out
Phantom PowerYes
Pre-ampSingle on XLR input
Signal IndicatorSeparate LEDs for signal and clip indicator
Frequency ResponseNA
Dynamic ResponseNA
DAWTracktion
ConnectivityUSB-B (interface) to USB-A(host computer)
MacOS RequirementsMac OS X
Windows RequirementsWindows XP or higher
Power SupplyBus powered only
Value for MoneyMedium

Zoom U-22

  • Very handy and portable
  • Ableton Live license provided
  • Can be both bus and battery powered
  • Plastic build
  • No separate 1/4th inch input other than XLR combo

One of the most portable audio interfaces in the market, the U-22 can be powered by 2 AA batteries. It can also be powered by a micro-USB connector at the back. The U-22 is capable of recording at 24bit, 96kHz. This is a pretty decent audio resolution, even by studio standards.

Even though it is made of plastic, the interface feels surprisingly solid in your hands. The edges provide a good grip and it is easy to hold. It has a usual USB connection with a B-type port at the back.

It has a mic level XLR combo input along with a 1/8th inch line-level input (for keyboards etc.). It’s such a tiny little interface, but also has a pre-amp circuit with the combo XLR input. You can even connect a condenser microphone as this interface has built-in phantom power.

Besides the inputs, a 1/8th inch headphone-out is provided for direct monitoring and near zero latency. The rear houses stereo outputs.

This interface usually comes with a license copy of Ableton Live. However, it is also compatible with most of the commonly used DAWs.

With 2-AA batteries, you get around 4 hours of operation time. The Zoom U-22 is not only perfect for travelling musicians, who want to record live performances in high-quality audio, but also equally well suited for a small home studio.

Bit Depth24 bit
Sampling Rate(Bit-rate)96 kHz
ChassisPlastic
InputsXLR combo + 1/8th inch standard
OutputsRCA stereo + 1/8th inch standard Headphone-out
Phantom PowerYes
Pre-ampSingle on XLR input
Signal IndicatorSingle LED for signal and clip indicator
Frequency ResponseNA
Dynamic ResponseNA
DAWAbleton Live Lite, Cubase LE
ConnectivityUSB-B (interface) to USB-A(host computer)
MacOS RequirementsOS X 10.9.5 or higher, iOS 7.1 or higher (for iPad)
Windows RequirementsWindows 7 or higher
Power Supply2 AA battery/Bus powered
Value for MoneyHigh

PreSonusStudio 26 c

  • Very sturdy build
  • Can be connected with external interfaces and recording gear
  • High dynamic range
  • High audio resolution
  • Both XLR combo inputs have preamp
  • A/B button to switch between main and cue mixes
  • Metered LED indicator for signal level
  • Larger and slightly heavier
  • Slightly expensive

One of the best audio interfaces in a budget, the Presonus Studio 26c, provides a resolution of 24bit, 192kHz. This is equivalent to the industry standard.

It has a nice display with input level indicators at the front that is very easy to read while recording. Also comes with an A/B button that can be used to switch between a main and cue mix.

With metal chassis and knobs, the Studio 24c is built to last. It is also bigger and slightly heavier than most other interfaces on this list. It has a USB-C type connection at the back but is compatible with USB2.0 as well.

At the front, the Presonus Studio 26c houses 2 XLR-combo inputs. Both these inputs have pre-amplifiers. Therefore, both inputs support mic, as well as line levels. Built-in 48V Phantom power, for condenser mics, is also present. There is also a MIDI input at the back.

This interface has 4 balanced, TRS stereo outputs- two main and two line outs. The main outputs (left and right) can be connected to studio monitor speakers for monitoring. The line-outs can be connected to external interfaces or recording gears.

There is a headphone-out for monitoring via headphones. Both the headphone-out and the main-out can be controlled via separate volume knobs in the front. Along with these outputs, a MIDI output is also present at the rear.

Presonus Studio One Aritst DAW and plugin suite is provided with the interface. The Studio 26C can also be used with other popular DAWs.

Everyone starting from singer-songwriters to DJs and professional music producers can find this interface to be useful. The Studio 26c can not only be used for home studios but also for small professional studio setups.

Bit Depth24 bit
Sampling Rate(Bit-rate)192 kHz
ChassisMetal
Inputs2 x XLR combo
Outputs2 x 1/4th inch stereo,1 x 1/4th inch standard Headphone-out
Phantom PowerYes
Pre-ampBoth inputs
Signal IndicatorMetered LED for signal level
Frequency Response20Hz – 20kHz
Dynamic Response110dB
DAWStudio One Artist
ConnectivityUSB-C (interface) to USB-C/USB-A(host computer)
MacOS RequirementsOS X 10.9.5 or higher, iOS 7.1 or higher (for iPad)
Windows RequirementsWindows 7 SP1 or higher
Power SupplyBus powered
Value for MoneyHigh

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rdGen

  • Robust build
  • Small form-factor
  • High audio resolution
  • 2 XLR combo inputs with pre-amps
  • Options of multiple popular DAWs
  • Good compatibility and easy to set up
  • Air-circuit boosts higher frequencies
  • Has only signal and clipping indicator and not signal level meter
  • Slightly pricey

Endorsed by many popular artists and bands, Focusrite Scarlett has become the most popular choice of audio interface for home studios. It features a bit depth of 24 bit and a sampling rate of 192kHz. The 3rd Gen definitely has some big improvements over the 2nd gen.

For e.g. there is the air-circuit button that brightens up the sound by boosting the higher frequencies. Therefore, it is worth the upgrade if you already own the 2nd gen.

The Scarlett 2i2 has a metal chassis which makes it very robust. However, the front and side panels are made of plastic. It is also surprisingly small in size in spite of its capabilities. The 3rd Gen features a USB-C connection at the back with a USB-C to USB-A type cable.

The 2i2 has 2 XLR combo input channels with both channels having pre-amps as compared to only one in the 2nd gen. Of course, 48V phantom power is available for connecting condenser mics.

The rear has L/R balanced TSR 1/4th inch line outputs. There is also a headphone out in the front. Both outputs have separate volume control. The direct monitor button has both mono and stereo modes. This is an upgrade from the 2nd gen.

As far as DAWs are concerned, the Focusrite Scarlett comes with license copies for Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First Focusrite creative pack. It also comes with some additional plugins like Focusrite Red 2 and Red 3.

The Scarlett 2i2 has been very popular with singer-songwriters in the past. The 3rd gen promises better dynamic range, lower latency, and additional features that make it more desirable than its predecessors. 

Bit Depth24 bit
Sampling Rate(Bit-rate)192 kHz
ChassisMetal (Plastic front and back panel)
Inputs2 x XLR combo
Outputs1/4th inch stereo, 1/4th inch standard Headphone-out
Phantom PowerYes
Pre-ampBoth inputs
Signal IndicatorHalo LED signal and clip indicator around input gain knobs
Frequency Response20Hz – 20kHz
Dynamic Response111dB (mic), 110dB(line)
DAWAbleton Live Lite, Avid Pro Tools
ConnectivityUSB-C (interface) to USB-C/USB-A(host computer)
MacOS RequirementsOS X 10.12 or higher
Windows RequirementsWindows 7 SP1 or higher (Windows 10 needed for Pro Tools)
Power SupplyBus powered
Value for MoneyVery High

Audient iD14 Mk2

  • Best sounding D.I. input
  • Small form-factor
  • All metal build and aluminium knobs
  • Dual headphone-out
  • Mixer knob to blend direct and DAW output
  • Metered LED indicator for signal level
  • Latency can be an issue depending on the DAW and the computer
  • Relatively lower sampling rate

Even though it has a lower resolution at 24bit, 96kHz, the Audient iD14 is definitely the best sounding interface in this lot. Because of class-leading converters, the sound is as clean as it can possibly be.

The Audient iD14 is built like a tank with an all-metal chassis and aluminium control knobs. The form-factor is very small, which makes this interface perfect for the road. It features a USB-B type connection at the back.

The iD14 has two inputs – a combo XLR and a 1/4th inch JFET D.I. input for instruments. Phantom power is also available for condenser mics. Both inputs can be panned from left to right using a control knob at the top.

The output side is more interesting for this interface. This is the only interface on this list to have dual-headphone outputs. You can actually connect two headphones at the same time.

Balanced stereo output (Left/Right) is available for connecting monitors. A dedicated control knob can be used to blend the output between direct and DAW playback.

Like any other Audient interfaces, the Cubase LE DAW is available for free after the product is registered on the website.

This is a very portable audio interface that can be used by singer-songwriters who are always on the road. The dual-headphone out can be used for listening to music using two different headphones at the same time.

Bit Depth24 bit
Sampling Rate(Bit-rate)96 kHz
ChassisMetal
InputsXLR combo, 1/4th inch standard
Outputs1/4th inch stereo, 1/4th inch and 1/8th inch standard Headphone-out
Phantom PowerYes
Pre-ampBoth inputs
Signal IndicatorMetered LED signal level indicator
Frequency Response20Hz – 20kHz
Dynamic Response114dB
DAWCubase LE
ConnectivityUSB-C (interface)
MacOS RequirementsOS X 10.8.5 or higher, iOS 6 or later (for iPad)
Windows RequirementsWindows 7 SP1 or higher
Power SupplyBus powered
Value for MoneyVery High

Verdict

Even though the Audient iD4 is the best sounding Audio Interface in this list, the Scarlett 2i2 takes the prize of best budget or low price Audio Interface.

The main reason behind this is that the Scarlett 2i2 is really easy to set up and has the least compatibility issues. This makes it easier to use for beginners.

Also, Focusrite provides a lot of popular DAWs along with its purchase.

FAQs

1. Why would you require a USB Audio Interface?

The basic functionality of an Audio Interface is to connect your computer and your analog/digital instruments, which can be anything from a MIDI controller (digital) to a guitar (analog) or microphone (analog). It is similar to the sound-card of your PC/Mac. However, its audio processing capabilities are far greater.

  • Multiple Input/output Channels

Audio-interfaces have several kinds of inputs and outputs. Multiple instruments/microphones can be connected at once depending on the number of channels that are present. The outputs can be routed to headphones, monitor speakers, amplifiers, etc. 

  • High audio quality

Digital audio quality is usually measured using two terms – bit rate and bit depth.

Bit rate indicates the number of bits (unit of digital information) transferred in a second or, in other words, the sampling rate.

Bit depth is a measure of the number of bits used to represent each sample.

Both these terms determine the quality of any digital audio that has been sampled from analog audio. The higher the bit-rate and bit-depth, the better the quality.

Nowadays, most USB Audio Interfacesare capable of recording audio up to 24-bits (depth) and 192 KHz (rate), which is also the industry standard.

  • Connecting high impedance input

Before you get turned off by the jargon, the term “high impedance input” simply means that the input signal is weak. Electric guitars, dynamic microphones, etc. are some common examples of a “high impedance input”.

BUMP: Check out the 9 Best Electric Guitar for Beginners in India

The signals from such high impedance inputs have to be boosted in order to get normal recording levels. The in-built sound card of your computer is usually incapable of handling this task.

The pre-amplifier of a USB Audio Interface has a workaround for this short-coming. It increases the gain of the signal, thereby making it louder! An Audio Interface may either have a single common or individual pre-amps for all input channels.

  • Phantom Power

Phantom Power refers to stepped-up 48V DC voltage that is required to power some equipment like, condenser microphones, which have active electronics inside them.

Some Audio Interfaces provide Phantom Power at one of their inputs. This enables the direct use of condenser microphones without the requirement of additional power supply.

2. Does using a USB Audio Interface improve recorded sound quality significantly?

Before getting into the technicalities, let’s first understand the term “quality”. What exactly is good quality audio? Does higher quality equal better music? Will your recorded voice sound like Rihanna’s?

Chances are slim if it did not already sound that way! This is because higher audio quality does not change the timbre itself. It just represents the recorded sound in greater detail.

Due to higher audio resolution (bit-rate and bit-depth), the quantity of digital samples extracted from the actual sound being recorded is much larger. Therefore, the recorded audio captures more details.

If you can get your hands on a good pair of headphones or studio monitors, you can experiment by playing two different qualities of the same audio through them. The lack of details in the lower quality audio file should be easily apparent.

Of course, the quality of audio also depends on the performance of the recording gear (microphones/synthesizers, etc.).  

3. Difference between Audio Interfaces vs. Mixers

Audio Interfaces and Mixers are two different things! Basically, Audio Interfaces are Digital-Signal-Processors(DSP). They convert analog audio, from our instruments and microphones, into digital audio, for our computers.

A mixer, on the other hand, combines multiple channels of audio into a single channel. Either might be equipped with additional functionalities like pre-amp circuitry, phantom power, equalizer, etc.

So, which one would you require? If audio recording is what you want, an Audio Interface is mandatory and indispensable. A mixer would be required only if your Audio Interface does not have enough inputs for all your gear.

A Few Words of Advice

Every day, a lot of high-quality audio content is uploaded on social media. This is because producing professional quality audio today is easier than ever before.

Video-based platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and audio-streaming platforms like Spotify, Amazon Music, Saavn, etc. have given all artists, a much wider reach.

While using an audio interface ensures high quality recording, it does not change the fact that music production is a skill. There are a lot of technicalities involved in it.

For instance, learning to use a DAW requires dedicated study and practice. The best music producers can produce professional-quality audio using the cheapest of audio interfaces.

Therefore, for the optimum use of any audio interface, minimal knowledge of music production is a pre-requisite.

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