There’s some healthy competition in the under $200 audio interface market these days with audio manufacturers having realized the benefits of targeting the burgeoning enthusiastic home studio user segment.   Fortunately for us, in such an increasingly crowded space companies are having to pack their audio interfaces with quality components at lower price points in order to stand out.

With so many good options available selecting a USB interface can be a daunting task.  We’re here to help with our choices for the best audio interfaces under $200.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

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No surprises here, the highly regarded Scarlett 2i2 is one of the best USB interfaces you can get for your money.  Featuring Focusrite’s award winning preamps and a beautiful unibody metal shell the 2i2 sure makes for an enticing unit at first glance.

In terms of sound quality the 2i2 offers 24-bit resolution at sample rates of up to 96 kHz and the aforementioned mic preamps sound brilliantly clean and transparent.  Features are functional rather than excessive but with two inputs, direct monitoring, 48V phantom power and an independent headphone volume control the 2i2 offers everything you would need for a small home studio.

There’s several reasons the 2i2 is so frequently recommended.  Not only does it sound fantastic but the solid build quality and sleek looks help make it the interface to beat at such a cheap price point.  Make sure to check out our full review.
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Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

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At the top end of this price range we’ve chosen the NI Komplete Audio 6 for our winning five.  Aesthetically the unit is among the best here with an attractive silver and black exterior.  The unit is pleasingly robust, controls feel reassuringly smooth and the conveniently top mounted volume control is a classy all-metal affair.  Offering an impressive analog four ins/outs in addition to MIDI in/out this interface tops this roundup where flexible connectivity is concerned.  The USB powered unit supports up to 24-bit/96 kHz recording which in our roundup is on par with all but the Steinberg UR22.  Audio quality is crystal clear and the interface performed admirably across a range of tests with low latency and no extraneous noise to be heard.

For it’s price and features the NI Komplete Audio 6 completes closely with Focusrite’s 2i4.  At Audio Interfaced the team’s preferences are split but if you need the connectivity this interface offers then the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 is a superb choice.
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Steinberg UR22

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Pro audio mainstays Steinberg have created a solid interface in their range with the UR22.  Yamaha developed D-PRE microphone preamps combine with an attractive and rugged metal chassis for this 2-in/2-out USB interface.  Supplied drivers are problem-free and the supported 24-bit resolution recording at up to sample rates of 192 kHz is impressive for an interface at this budget price point.  Features include MIDI ports, 48V phantom power for condenser microphones, a Hi-Z switch, and direct monitoring control.  Steinberg have also thought to bundle in Cubase AI, a compact entry-level version of their acclaimed DAW.

The UR22 hasn’t garnered quite as much fanfare as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 but we found it competes favorably and is well worth a look if you’re needing a great USB interface on a similar budget.  Check out our full review.
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Focusrite Scarlett 2i4

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If the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2’s build and sound quality appeals but the featureset doesn’t quite meet your needs then you might want to consider splashing out a little more for the 2i2’s bigger brother, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.  The 2i4 additions boil down to four RCA stereo outputs, MIDI in/out, and a gain reducing pad switch for each input.  Users with moderately high output guitars may find the Scarlett 2i2 clipping the signal even on a low gain setting, and this is where the pad switches on the 2i4 come into play, alleviating the problem by reducing the input signal by 10 dB.

The 2i4 shares most other specs with the 2i2, featuring the same award winning preamps and aesthetics.  At under $200 the Focusrite 2i4 offers outstanding value for money.
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Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface

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Mackie’s Onyx Blackjack is the cheapest of the bunch listed here but the price (often available under $100) belies the obvious quality of the unit.  The metal-encased USB interface stands out among our linuep for its rather unique yet handsome looks, with its aluminum bracket propping the interface up a convenient angle for easy viewing and adjustment.

The Onyx mic preamps hold their own here, sound is clean and transparent with a notable amount of headroom yet introducing minimal noise and distortion.  Understandably at this price point the Mackie is fairly light on features but for entry-level use you’ll likely be covered with 48V phantom power for condenser mics, separate headphone volume control, and a number of LED indicators.

So overall, an inexpensive, good performing USB interface for basic desktop recording. It’s rugged, simple and reliable.  See our full review.
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