The best budget audio interface | 2 Solid Options!

Hi friend and Welcome!

When I think of the best budget audio interface, a couple of great options come to mind. Before we get into what they are, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

the best budget audio interface

the best budget audio interface

What I will bring you in this review

I will outline my top pick, and then give an honorable mention towards the end. For the top pick:

  1. Ratings/Best Price
  2. Specifications
  3. Summary
  4. Build Quality
  5. Sound
  6. Pros
  7. Cons
  8. Video Review
  9. Who this interface benefits?
  10. Consensus/Conclusion
  11. The differences between each
  12. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

  • Amazon: 4.5/5 (Over 685 reviews) | Check eBay!
  • Guitar Center: 4/5 (Over 25 reviews)
  • B&H Photo Video: 4.5/5 (Over 90 reviews)


Front panel

  • 2 line/mic/instrument combination inputs – high quality XLR/¼” TRS Jack Combo. What is XLR?
  • 2 Line/Instrument switches
  • 2 Gain knobs
  • 2 Gain halo signal indicators
  • 48V Phantom power switch
  • Direct monitor switch
  • Large monitor level dial
  • USB Connection LED indicator
  • Headphone output – ¼” TRS Jack
  • Headphone level knob

Rear panel

  • 2 balanced monitor outputs – ¼” TRS Jack
  • USB 2.0 Port
  • Kensington Lock slot


I really love this interface. Over the last couple of years it’s become somewhat overrated, but for good reason. It’s just an amazing little unit, and hovers around the $150 mark consistently. It’s about as simple as a sound card gets, and does it’s job wonderfully. If you’re wondering, yes it is an external sound card, aka an audio interface which is just it’s technical name. What is a Soundcard? Check out Preamp vs. interface and find out the differences! Also check out my page on Your audio interface for some general information if you’re unfamiliar with them.

Basically it replaces a mediocre to poor internal sound card that your computer or laptop provides, and dramatically increases sound quality.

There are three main uses with this one in particular:

The best budget audio interface

The best budget audio interface

  1. They will power your studio monitors. What are studio monitors?
  2. They will power your XLR condenser microphone. What is the difference between a USB microphone and an XLR microphone?
  3.  You can plug in your headphones as long as they come with a 1/4″ adapter. Most entry to mid level cans come with one nowadays. This makes the 2i2 great for monitoring and referencing back and forth. There’s a small volume knob for your headphones as well as a large one for your monitors.

When you purchase an interface like this one, you will need a couple of different types of cables. Luckily for you I’ve made it easy! When I was first searching for interfaces, I got overwhelmed trying to figure out how to hook it up. The two cables that are generally used:

  • XLR cables
  • TRS cables. TRS vs. TS (The differences).

Check out my page on Cables & Wiring for some more info!

Build Quality

As for build quality, it’s phenomenal. It’s not heavy nor light. I would say it’s in between, but feels solid. Fortunately you’re not really going to be moving this around a lot unless you want to take it on the go, but it’s rugged enough to hold up. I’ve had mine since 2014 with no issues at all. I literally plugged it in and haven’t looked back since.


I don’t have much to compare it to, but I’ve read a lot about this unit and it pairs up well with so many different microphones. I have mine joined with the JBL LSR 305’s and they sound remarkable powered by the 2i2. Perfect entry level combo! Check out my JBL LSR 305 Review!


  • Great value.
  • Price to performance ratio is remarkable.
  • This unit is built to last.
  • Very quiet, pairs nicely with The JBL’s.
  • Also pairs well with a variety of affordable microphones.
  • Records acoustics very nicely.
  • Build quality is solid.
  • Flexibility. Combo units enable TS (instrument cable) as well as XLR (microphone, etc.)


  • Static can be heard when turning up and down the volume. No effect on sound.

Check out this super informative review!!

Who this interface benefits?

  • Those looking to record guitar
  • Those looking to record vocals
  • Those looking to pair this with a nice set of studio monitors
  • Those looking for exceptional value
  • Those who are new to home recording and need an affordable, reliable solution to their dilemma.


I have nothing but good things to say about this puppy. The build is solid, it looks great in studio, it’s quiet, and it powers my monitors with no problems. My computer also recognized it immediately upon hook up, and there hasn’t been one driver issue or malfunction since I purchased it. I record vocals with it beautifully as well.

In the open I talked about a bad times with the M-Audio Fast track pro. My experience with the Scarlett 2i2 has fortunately been the complete opposite! Highly recommended.

*Honorable Mention*

Steinberg UR22

Steinberg UR22

Steinberg UR22

Ratings/Best Price

  • Amazon: 4.5/5 (Over 85 reviews) | Check eBay!
  • Musicians Friend: 4/5 (Over 15 reviews)
  • Sweetwater: 4.3/5 (Over 30 reviews)
  • B&H Photo Video: 4.5/5 (limited reviews)
  • Guitar Center: 3.5/5 (limited reviews)


  • Converters: 24-bit
  • Sample Rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192 kHz
  • Analog In: 2 x XLR Combo Microphone/Line (front panel), 2-pin hot
  • Analog Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ TRS phone Line
    1 x 1/4″ TRS phone Headphone
  • Digital Input Connectors: No
  • Digital Output Connectors: No
  • MIDI In/Out: 2 x 5-pin DIN MIDI In, Out
  • Other Connectors: 1 x USB
  • Headphone Output: 1 x 1/4″ TRS phone with volume control
  • Maximum Input Level: Microphone: -10 dBu, Line: +16 dBu, Instrument: -4 dBV
  • Input Impedance: Microphone: 4kΩ, Line: 20kΩ, Instrument: 470kΩ
  • Gain Range: Microphone: +16 dB to +60 dB, Line: -10 dB to +34 dB, Instrument: -8 dB to +52 dB
  • Maximum Output Level: +10 dBu
  • Output Impedance: 150Ω
  • Meters: 2 x LED peak indicators
  • Power Requirements: USB bus powered
  • Temperature (Operating): 32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 6.2 x 1.8 x 6.2″ (158 x 45.4 x 158 mm)
  • Weight: 2.2 lb (998 g)

System Requirement:


  • Intel Dual Core CPU
  • OS X 10.5.8, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 4 GB of free HD space
  • 1280 x 800 display resolution recommended
  • CD-ROM drive
  • USB component port
  • Internet connection required for installation, activation, account setup and personal / product registration


  • Intel or AMD Dual Core CPU
  • Windows XP SP3, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 4 GB of free HD space
  • 1280 x 800 display resolution recommended
  • CD-ROM drive
  • USB component port
  • Internet connection required for installation, activation, account setup and personal / product registration

The Steinberg UR22 is a very similar option to the Scarlett 2i2. There are a few main differences between them:

  1. The UR22 has MIDI capabilities while the 2i2 doesn’t. So if you were planning on using a MIDI keyboard, you may want to go with the UR22. What is MIDI?
  2. It’s also said to have higher quality preamps, which is an improvement in sound overall. Bit depth and sample rate is also a bit different. Just know that most people record in 44kHz or 48kHz, so you really won’t be able to tell a huge difference in each. 96kHz is more than enough. My article on bit depth vs. sample rate goes into this stuff more in depth
  3. Latency is said to be a bit lower on the UR22. What is latency?
  4. UR22 comes with Cubase while the 2i2 comes with Ableton Live lite.
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: 24 bit/96kHz sample rate
  • Steinberg UR22: 24 bit/192 kHz sample rate

Other than that they are in the same class, and come in at roughly the same price with very similar star ratings.

Final Word

If you need MIDI capability, the obvious choice is to go with the UR22. An added bonus of course is the fact that the preamps are said to be a little better/cleaner. There is a MKII version of this model, and overall it seems better, with over 70% 5-star reviews as opposed to 64% for the original. There were also a lot less 1 star reviews for the MKII as well. Overall the Original got a 4.5 while the MKII got a 4.3.


Because I own the Scarlett 2i2, and have had zero problems with it since 2014, it seems like the obvious go to choice. It’s 4.5/5 star rating on amazon out of over 600 reviews is extremely solid, and it powers my LSR 305’s with ease. It also works well with a plethora of different microphones, so you can upgrade and what not when you want. The bottom line is that people go back and forth on which of these interfaces is best. Before you purchase, know exactly what you will be using it for. That will make the decision a bit easier.


Well that’s about it for today my friend. I hope you now have an idea of the best budget audio interface, and came away with some knowledge!

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know down below or Contact me!!

Which of these sounds crispier to you? Let me know as well!

Until next time.. all the best and God bless,


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Be sure to check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!


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  1. In looking through your site I see lots of great reviews that I can immediately use in my search for a sound system set up that will support my upcoming podcasting venture.

    This particular review on audio interfaces was useful for me. Both options you mention, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and the Steinberg UR22 both seem like workable solutions for my needs.

    I like the fact also that neither of these will break the bank, yet they will provide the level of service I need. As you say, depending on whether you plan on using a MIDI device, the Focusrite will do.

    Flexibility is a concern for me, I do have some musicians around the place, so I will likely go with the Steinberg UR22. Is there any particular mic that you would recommend for this audio interface?

    • For the Steinberg UR22 (as well as the 2i2), any entry level and most mid level condensers will sound really good. It depends on what you would be using the mic for. Let me know! A good entry level overall voice-over/vocal mic would be the AT2020. A phenomenal upgrade from that would be the 2035! Hope to hear from you again!


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