Best Audio Interface Under 500 Dollars – Complete Guide

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We all want the best professional sounding quality recordings and mixes as possible from our audio interfaces. What we don't want as home recording studio owners, aspiring musicians, and podcaster is to go broke to achieve this.  Despite what you may read in audiophile forums, you don't need super expensive audio interfaces with the "best converters" to achieve professional results. That's why I've created this post to show you the best audio interface under 500 dollars, and I've broken them down to suit your particular needs.

Best 1 channel Audio Interface

Best 2 Channel Audio Interface

Best 4 Channel Audio Interface

Best 8 Channel Audio Interface


Best 1 channel Audio Interface

Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Generation)
The Focusrite Scarlet Solo (3rd generation) is an amazing audio interface with Focusrite's award winning preamp built in.
I'm a huge fan of Focusrite audio interfaces. I have used many, and I currently use one now for all my recording and mixing needs.
All of the Scarlett 3rd generation models have a USB-C port. Just connect your device of choice with your laptop or computer using the supplied USB-C to USB-A cable whenever and wherever you want to record. This connection upgrade is not only more convenient it also boosts device speeds and makes latency virtually undetectable. 
This is great for the Solo singer, guitar player, or podcaster, who want's pro quality clean recordings without having to dig too far into your pockets. If you just want an easy to use audio interface that works and gets the job done for your solo needs, this is for you. You can plug in a mic and guitar/bass at the same time.
  • One of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more Open sound. One high-headroom instrument input to plug in your guitar or bass. Two hum-free balanced outputs provide clean audio playback
  • High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
  • Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever
  • Includes Pro Tools | first Focusrite creative pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube time and tone bundle, focusrite’s Red plug-in Suite, 3-month splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive keys virtual instrument, All available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Limited time offer: free audiority deleight and distortion 1 plug-ins upon registration and download
Pros
  • Great Mic Preamp
  • Includes Free DAW software (Protools 1st and Abelton Live Lite)
  • very durable and reliable
Cons
  • Not Midi Compatible
  • Only 1 headphone jack
  • No instrument pads for loud sources

Behringer Audio Interface UMC22

Another super affordable option is this Behringer 1 channel audio interface with a Midas designed mic pre.
This is another great option for the singer songwriter who wants to plug in their microphone and guitar to quickly and easily lay down their next song idea or acoustic demo.
I believe the Midas Designed preamp is the same that goes into the popular live sound digital mixers like the Behringer X32. I have one of these live boards for my live band performances and they sound GREAT!
I have never used this brand of interface in my studio, but I do use Behringer for  live shows with my X32 compact digital mixer. Read the pros and cons, and reviews on the purchasing links to make a proper decision. The reviews do lean way more to the positive side with happy customers, so a $58 investment is not too risky if you ask me.
  • 2x2 USB audio interface for recording microphones and instruments
  • Audiophile 48 kHz resolution for professional audio quality. Drivers-mac, no driver required or coreaudio supported. Windows available as download from behringer
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.
  • Streams 2 inputs / 2 outputs with ultra-low latency to your computer, supporting Mac OS X* and Windows XP* or higher
  • State-of-the-art, MIDAS designed Mic Preamplifier with +48 V phantom power
Pros
  • Solid construction (metal)
  • Supports professional quality 48v condenser mics
  • Very clean sound
  • Low lag overall; has a bypass for monitoring output when necessary
  • Functionally similar to the $100 Focusrite product
Cons
  • No Audio Drivers - May have difficulty setting your interface up correctly with your system. Pro Tools does not officially support ASIO4All drivers which is typically what you get from Behringer
  • Some reviews say it has a hiss in the audio at higher levels
  • Support not very helpful
  • Powers via USB only
Behringer Audio Interface UMC22

Best 2 Channel Audio Interface

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Generation

I absolutely love this little beast of an audio interface. It was my go to for years before I upgraded to it's 8 channel big brother. I had the 2nd generation, and this is the new and improved 3rd generation. It's great for solo artists, vocal and guitar, and podcasters.
I've even recorded drums using one mic on the kick and one mic used as a mono overhead to capture the rest of the kit.
Some of the product features...
  • Two of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more Open sound. Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Two balanced line inputs, suitable for connecting line-level sources
  • High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
  • Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever
  • Includes Pro Tools | first Focusrite creative pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube time and tone bundle, focusrite’s Red plug-in Suite, 3-month splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive keys virtual instrument, All available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Limited time offer: free audiority deleight and distortion 1 plug-ins upon registration and download

Pros

  • Reliable Pro quality Mic Preamps
  • Durable
  • Direct Monitor mode to reduce Latency (delay in playback signal)
  • Comes with Free DAW software and more.

Cons

  • Only one Headphone Jack
  • Only one set of outputs on the back for speakers
  • Not Midi Compatible (upgrade to 2i4)

Behringer U-phoria UMC20HD


Again, just like the 1 channel option, this Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD is a great budget friendly option for your home studio needs.
This one has 2 channels for mic or instrument lines, pads on each channel for loud volume sources that need to be reined in a little so they don't clip, Direct monitoring to avoid latency on playback, and one headphone jack.
It's perfect for the solo singer songwriter, or podcaster who want's the option of having an extra mic for their guest or co-host.
  • 2x2 USB 2.0 audio interface for recording microphones and instruments
  • Audiophile 24-Bit/192 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.
  • Streams 2 inputs / 2 outputs with ultra-low latency to your computer, supporting Mac* OS X* and Windows XP* or higher
  • 2 state-of-the-art, MIDAS designed Mic Preamplifiers with +48 V phantom power
I've always been scared to go for the "cheapest" gear, but the reviews on these Behringer interfaces are proof that people are really liking these. Again, I have not used the interfaces, but I do use the Midas designed pre amps in my live X32 compact digital mixer and I can't complain.
Pros
  • Sturdy Build
  • Direct Monitoring
  • 2 inputs/channels
  • Pads on each channel
  • Very Affordable
Cons
  • Reported Driver Issues
  • Bad reviews of Hiss in the audio sometimes
  • USB Powered
  • lack of customer support reported
  • Not Midi Compatible (upgrade to UMC204HD)
Behringer UMC204HD (Supports MIDI)
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PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2 USB Audio Interface


One of my first recording sessions for drums was done on the 8 channel version of this little beast. The preamps were clean, the set up was easy, and it did it's job. I had rented the 8 channel version from a music rental shop in Austin, TX and it simply did what it was supposed to do. I have no complaints about the bigger version, and I'm sure this smaller 2 channel version is just as reliable.
Some of it's key features...
  • Bus-powered USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface
  • Compatible with almost all recording software for Mac and Windows
  • 24-bit resolution; 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz sampling rates
  • 2 combo mic/instrument inputs with high-performance, low-noise, high-headroom mic preamplifiers
  • Includes Studio One Artist DAW software and 6+ GB of third-party resources
  • Includes the Studio Magic Plug-In Suite
  • Frequency Response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Pros
  • Small but durable
  • Easily portable
  • Clean Preamps
  • Studio One Artist DAW software included
  • Midi Compatible
Cons
  • Only one headphone jack
  • Only one set of outs for speakers
  • No instrument pads

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2x2 USB Audio Interface


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Best 4 Channel Audio Interface

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd gen

You may be starting to see a theme here. I am very fond of the Focusrite audio interfaces. When you're on a budget but still want a quality pruduct these interfaces don't disappoint. I've never owned this particular model, but I have owned it's little brother and I currently use it's bigger brother. They simply work.
This model has 4 mic preamps which gives you a lot more versatility when it comes to recording multimiced instruments like drums, or if you have multiple podcast guests.
Some key features...
  • Four of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more Open sound. Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Eight balanced line inputs for connecting synthesizers, drum machine and other line-level sources. Four monitor outputs with anti-thump technology and speaker switching
  • High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
  • Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever
  • Includes Pro Tools | first Focusrite creative pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube time and tone bundle, focusrite’s Red plug-in Suite, 3-month splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive keys virtual instrument, All available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Limited time offer: free audiority deleight and distortion 1 plug-ins upon registration and download
Pros
  • 4 Mic Pres
  • 4 monitor outputs
  • Free DAW software
  • Durable, portable, reliable
  • 2 headphone Jacks
  • 12v DC powered
Cons
  • A little more pricey than it's competitors, but you get what you pay for
  • I really don't have a lot of cons for this product.

BEHRINGER Audio Interface, 4-Channel (UMC404HD)


Best audio interface under 500
This Behringer UMC404HD looks pretty awesome! With 4 Midas designed preamps on the 4 XLR/Instrument 1/4 cables inputs, and pads on each channel this gives you a lot of flexibility.
I also like the mono/stereo switch that allows you to quickly pop your mix into mono for EQ checks. I also really like the Monitor A/B section where you can switch easily between 2 sets of speakers to reference your mixes on different sources to get the balance just right.
With the multiple outputs in the back you can easily set up a 2nd pair of monitors.
It also has line level inputs in the back to hook up external compressors or FX hardware if you have it. I'd like to get my hands on one of these and test it out. It can also be powered by it's USB cable.
Some Key Features...
  • 4x4 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface for recording microphones and instruments
  • Audiophile 24-Bit/192 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.
  • Streams 4 inputs / 4 outputs plus 1x MIDI I/O with ultra-low latency to your computer, supporting Mac* OS X* and Windows XP* or higher
  • 4 state-of-the-art, MIDAS designed Mic Preamplifiers with +48 V phantom power. "Built-like-a-tank", impact-resistant metal chassis Designed and engineered in Germany
Pros
  • Midas Designed Preamps
  • Pads on each channel
  • Mono/Stereo switch for monitoring
  • A/B monitor switch for quick referencing on different speakers
  • Multiple outputs
  • Midi Compatible
  • Very Affordable
Cons
  • Only one dedicated headphone jack (you can add on a headphone amplifier later if need for more headphone input/outputs)
  • Only 1 switch to turn on 48vPhantom power across all channels. Be careful on Mics that don't need phantom power.
  • May have difficulty finding and setting up the correct drivers for your setup. Make sure you research what drivers you need and if they are compatible with your laptop/Desktop Computer.

Best 8 Channel Audio Interface

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (3rd & 2nd Gen)
I currently use the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd generation as my main 8 channel audio interface. Looking at this 3rd generation in pic above, has me wanting to upgrade because it has some new functionality that will make my life a little easier when I'm recording.
For one, it has a pad on each mic pre instead of just the 2 on the front on the 2nd gen. It also has a dedicated talk back switch with built in talk back mic right on the interface. I don't have this option in the 2nd gen and it's a pain when you're trying to communicate with the musicians on recording day without this function.
It also has a function to switch between 2 sets of speakers for different monitoring references. This is a great function when mixing and you want to hear 2 perspectives to get your EQ balance right.
I just love Focusrite audio interfaces. For me they are my go to for my home studio set up.
Some Key Features...
  • Eight of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more Open sound. Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Four monitor outputs with anti-thump technology and speaker switching, and onboard talkback functionality with built-in, front panel talkback mic. Eight balanced line inputs for connecting synthesizers, drum machine and other line-level sources
  • High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz
  • Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever
  • Includes Pro Tools | first Focusrite creative pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube time and tone bundle, focusrite’s Red plug-in Suite, 3-month splice subscription, and your choice of one free XLN Addictive keys virtual instrument, All available via download upon purchase and registration
  • Limited time offer: free audiority deleight and distortion 1 plug-ins upon registration and download
Pros
  • Great Mic Pres
  • Pads on each Input
  • Dedicated talk back mic
  • 2 speaker monitoring options
  • 8 Line outputs
  • Midi Compatible
  • ADAT and S/PDIF compatible
Cons
  • Only 2 Dedicated Headphone Jacks (can add more with a headphone amplifier)
  • Not a 48v Phantom power dedicated for each input. You can only turn on/off on 1-4 or 5-8 (not a deal breaker)

BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC1820


Best Audio Interface Under 500
Just like it's little brothers this 8 channel Behringer interface packs a lot of punch and functionality for the price.
8 Midas designed preamps with pads on each preamp input (line or mic). 2 speaker monitoring options, Mono/Stereo imaging switch (great for EQ moves), and 2 dedicated headphone jacks. Plus a lot of Line outputs for adding external hardware.
Like I've mentioned before, I have not owned these interfaces, but I do own and use the Behringer X32 compact digital mixer for my live shows which has the same Midas Designed Preamps, and I love the sound! No complaints so far.
If you're on a tight budget, but want the functionality of an 8 channel audio interface like the Focusrite, this may be your other option. The positive reviews on this product are undeniable.
Some Key Features...
  • 18x20 USB2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface with ADAT I/O for recording microphones and instruments
  • Audiophile 24-Bit/96 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.
  • Streams 18 inputs and 20 outputs of ultra-low latency audio to your computer, supporting Mac* OS X* and Windows XP* or higher
  • 8 state-of-the-art, MIDAS designed Mic Preamplifiers with +48 V phantom power
Pros
  • Midas Designed Preamps
  • Pads On each channel
  • Multiple Monitoring Options
  • Plenty of Outputs for addition external hardware
  • Stereo/Mono Switch
  • Very affordable
  • Solid Build
Cons
  • May have issues with Driver compatibility with your setup
  • No Talkback Mic function (like the Focusrite)
  • Only 2 Headphone Jacks (can add more with a headphone amplifier)
  • You can only turn on/off 48v Phantom Power in batches (ch 1-4 and 5-8)

Presonus Studio 1824 Audio Interface


My first ever drum drum recording inside my home studio was done on one of these. I rented it from a music store in Austin, TX because all I had was the focusrite 2i2, and I wanted to record 8 channels of drum mics.
It was super easy to set up, the mic pres were clean, and it got the job done. It doesn't have as much bells and whistles as the Focusrite 3rd gen or the Behringer above, but it's up there with them in quality and functionality. It was worth mentioning for sure!
Some key features...
  • 24-Bit/192 kHz, USB 2.0 18x18 1U rack mounted audio interface (8x8 at 192 kHz)
  • 2 mic/instrument/line inputs and 6 mic/line inputs all with XMAX Class A mic preamps and +48V phantom power
  • 8 channels of ADAT Optical I/O (4 channels at 96 kHz)
  • 2 ¼” TRS balanced main outputs
  • 8 ¼” TRS balanced DC coupled line outputs
  • 2 stereo headphone outputs with independent mix streams
  • S/PDIF and MIDI I/O; BNC word clock output
  • Flexible routing, zero-latency monitor mixing, and control-room integration with included studio One Artist
  • Monitor mix control with free UC surface for Mac, Windows, iPad, and Android
  • Studio Magic plug-in Suite included
Pros
  • 8 clean mic pres
  • Many output options
  • Midi Compatible
  • ADAT S/PDIF Compatible
  • Free Studio One Artist DAW Software
Cons
  • No Pads
  • No easy switchable separate monitoring for extra monitors (referencing)
  • Only 2 dedicated headphones (like all the rest in it's class you can add a headphone amplifier to add more )
  • No talkback mic built in like the Focusrite
  • No Stereo/Mono switch like the Behringer

Conlusion

As you may have noticed, I love the Focusrite Audio interface Line (2nd and 3rd Generations). Although the 3rd generations have more bells and whistles, the 2nd generations are just fine and I am still using the 18i20 2nd gen as my main interface.
The only reason I would upgrade to the 3rd is because some new monitoring functions and talkback mic options. It's not necessary, just a luxury.
I would not recommend them if I have not used them for years in my studio. I have not had any problems whatsoever with them. I do have a video explaining the somewhat complex monitoring software (Scarlett Mix Control) to get you up and running on the 2nd generations. The 3rd generations have a new monitoring software I believe and I do not have a tutorial on that at the moment.
The Behringer line of audio interfaces comes in 2nd, and for some models are tied with the Presonus Line.
The overwhelming amount of positive reviews on the Behringer line is a good indication that these things get the job done. As always, some products may have defects and may not work with your particular computer setup (drivers). So before purchasing, do some research on what drivers you will need and if these products are compatible with your system.
I hope this list of the "Best audio Interface Under 500 Dollars" has helped you narrow down which one suits you the best for your needs.

Scarlett Mix Control Tutorial (2nd Generation)

I believe this mix control software is only available on the higher input interfaces in the Focusrite Line. Maybe starting with the 4 channel?
Let me know which audio interface you use and what you like about it. If you have any other options you think should of been added to this list let me know in the comments below!
Thanks! - Scott Wiggins

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