Home Audio Interfaces The Best Budget Audio Interface For Home Studio Recording

The Best Budget Audio Interface For Home Studio Recording

In this Audio Interface Buying Guide, we'll cover 3 fantastic solutions and also go into what makes an interface so important

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…

If you’re just getting started in home recording, you’re in the right place.

I’ve been dabbling in all things home studio since 2007 and I’ve gained a lot of experience over the years.

I’d like to share some of that with you here!

In this article, I’m going to help you decide on an affordable audio interface; arguably the most important component of any studio.

We’ll cover a few really excellent options as well as go over what it does and why it’s so crucial to have.

By the end,

you should be much more comfortable purchasing one but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Before we get started, it’s important to note that many companies have different versions of the same interface.

For example, the Scarlett Solo has one combo TRS/XLR input on the front for recording while the 2i2 has 2.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll differentiate them as need be within the scope of the write-up.

Finally, I will try to stick to $200 and under!

With that, let’s dive in.


Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Chillin’ in studio 🙂 This is the 1st generation model. They have since come out with a 3rd!


Supported Sample Rates: 44.1kHz all the way up to 192kHz

Instrument Inputs

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz ± 0.1dB
  • Dynamic Range: 110dB (A-weighted)
  • THD+N: <0.03%
  • Maximum Input Level: 12.dBu (at minimum gain)
  • Gain Range: 56dB
  • Impedance: 1.5MΩ

Microphone Inputs

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz ± 0.1dB
  • Dynamic Range: 111dB (A-weighted)
  • THD+N: <0.0012%
  • Noise EIN: -128dBu (A-weighted)
  • Maximum Input Level: 9dBu (at minimum gain)
  • Gain Range: 56dB
  • Impedance: 3kΩ

Line/Monitor Outputs

  • Dynamic Range (Line Outputs): 108dB
  • THD+N: <0.002%
  • Maximum Output Level (0 dBFS): 15.5dBu
  • Impedance: 430Ω

Line Inputs

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz ± 0.1dB
  • Dynamic Range: 110.5dB (A-weighted)
  • THD+N: <0.002%
  • Maximum Input Level: 22dBu (at minimum gain)
  • Gain Range: 56dB
  • Impedance: 60kΩ

Headphone Outputs

  • Dynamic Range: 104dB (A-weighted)
  • THD+N: <0.002%
  • Maximum Output Level: 7dBu
  • Impedance: <1Ω

No best-of list is complete without at least one Focusrite recommendation amirite?

There are few things in life as safe as buying one of these things.

Never leaving your apartment is sorta safe, sure, but who wants to do that?

I can honestly say that all the hype this thing has received over the years was truly warranted.

It’s also amazing that as of this writing, the 2i2 currently has over 42,000 reviews with a 4.7 overall star rating.

That’s patently absurd; in the best way possible.

And, in addition to that, the price has only risen around $20.

When you ponder that I bought a 1st generation model way back in 2014 at $149, it still seems like they’re giving them away.

The only reason I sold mine was that I got a new Laptop running Windows 10 and it wasn’t compatible anymore.

I went interface-less for a few years after that due to personal reasons, but I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one again given how reliable it was for me in the studio.

I created and mixed many beats using the 2i2/JBL LSR305 combo and I can say without a doubt it was worth every penny.

Clean preamps, low latency, the whole 9 yards.

Focusrite has added the air feature in their newest iteration; one that adds extra clarity to your acoustic instruments when recording.

In addition to that, I never had any issues with it.

It’s a simple plug-and-play USB that supports up to 24-bit/192kHz and also comes with a 3-Year warranty.

Not that you’ll really need one.

The 2i2 at its price is incredibly robust and in no way feels like a cheap product.

This has been a pretty big selling point over the years; the model I owned was simply one of the most reliable pieces of equipment I ever purchased.

Front Panel

The front panel contains the following:

  • 2 combo TRS/XLR inputs
  • The instrument and air buttons
  • The gain knobs
  • The 48v Phantom Power button
  • The direct monitor switch
  • The Volume Potentiometer
  • A 1/4″ headphone jack and the accompanying smaller volume pot

Back Panel

On the back are your TRS line outputs which you’ll use to connect to Studio Monitors as well as the USB jack for your PC.

With that, Focusrite says this:

You’ve heard it a million times. More people use Scarlett than any other interface in the world. We’re a four million strong community including some of the biggest names in music history. We’ve officially gone platinum.Focusrite

I don’t doubt it for a second. This thing is the village bicycle of audio interfaces for sure.


Motu M2

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H!


  • Sample Rates: 44.1 – 192kHz
  • Mic/line/guitar inputs: 2x XLR/TRS “combo jack” mic/line/Hi-Z guitar inputs Independent preamp gain, 48V phantom power and monitor switch for each input.
  • Analog Outputs: 2x 1/4″ TRS line out (balanced, DC coupled), 2x RCA (unbalanced) analog out (mirrored), 1x 1/4″ TRS stereo headphone
  • Computer I/O: 1x USB-C (compatible with USB Type A) 2.0 audio class compliant
  • MIDI I/O: 1x MIDI IN, 1x MIDI OUT, 16 MIDI channels to/from computer host
  • Headphone: 1 1/4″ TRS stereo phone
  • Phantom Power: 2x individual +48V
  • Power: Bus Powered via USB
  • Gain Range: 60dB

Motu’s claim to fame is its ultra-low latency solid metal M2 that can easily drive mics like the Shure SM7B and SM57.

This interface also has very good preamps and it’s super easy to set up; no power brick is required. 

On the front, there are 2 combo TRS/XLR inputs that you’ll use to connect your microphone or guitar.

Next to that, the gain knob and 48v Phantom power button.

The middle contains a 160×120 pixel full-colored LCD featuring clear, detailed level meters for all inputs and outputs.

I’ve owned a few interfaces and none have this feature.

On the right is the volume potentiometer, 1/4″ headphone jack, and headphone volume pot.

Motu (an acronym for Mark of the Unicorn) equipped the M2 with the ESS Sabre32 Ultra found in interfaces costing thousands of dollars.

If you’re familiar with my blog, I place high value on the ESS variety chips due to their incredibly clean sound, and the M2 is no different.

Low Latency

I think it’s safe to say this is incredibly important.

Any amount of delay as you’re recording will make your voice sound like 2 voices overlapping, and if you’ve ever experienced this, you know firsthand it can make you want to punch a hole through a wall.

Motu’s M2 delivers class-leading, ultra-low 2.5ms Round Trip Latency (at 96kHz with a 32 sample buffer).

Most reviews I’ve read claim around 3 or 4, but they may be sampling at 48kHz.

In any event, the M2 is incredibly fast and you’ll really appreciate it when working on projects in the studio.

Back Panel

The back panel contains a MIDI input and output, a pair of RCA outs, and a pair of TRS outs.


the Motu M2 is a fantastic option around the $200 mark and punches way above its weight class.


Universal Audio Volt 2

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Official Review: Here!

Universal Audio Volt 2 Review

  • Form Factor: Desktop
  • Display: None
  • Channels of I/O: Analog – 2 Inputs / 2 Outputs
  • Maximum Sample Rate: 24-bit/192kHz
  • Number of Microphone Preamps: 2
  • Gain Range: 55dB
  • Input Level Adjustment: 2x Knob
  • Expansion Slots: None

Signal Processing

  • Pad: None
  • High-Pass Filter: None
  • Solo/Mute: None


  • Analog Audio I/O: 2x Combo XLR-1/4″ TRS Balanced/Unbalanced Mic/Line/Hi-Z Input (Front Panel), 2x 1/4″ TRS Balanced Monitor Output, 1x 1/4″ TRS Unbalanced Headphone Output (Front Panel)
  • Phantom Power: 48V, Selectable On/Off (Applied to All Inputs)
  • Digital Audio I/O: None
  • Host Connection / USB: 1x USB Type-C
  • Host Connection Protocol: USB 2.0
  • USB (Non-Host): None
  • Sync: I/O: None
  • Network I/O: None
  • MIDI I/O: 1x DIN 5-Pin Input, 1x DIN 5-Pin Output
  • Wireless Connectivity: None

Digital Audio

  • Sample Rates: Up to 192kHz
  • Sample Rate Conversion: None
  • Bit Depths: 24-bit
  • Latency: Zero-Latency Direct Monitoring
  • Sync Sources: Internal


  • Power Requirements: AC/DC Power Adapter (Not Included) or USB Bus Power
  • AC/DC Power Adapter: 5V DC (Not Included)

Packaging Info

  • Package Weight: 2.205 lbs.
  • Box Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.2 x 7.3 x 3.9″

Universal Audio Volt 2 ReviewPerhaps I’m a tad biased, but after owning the Volt 2 for some time, I can confidently say this is a fantastic little unit and well worth the asking price.

In addition to its 55dB of gain, the Volt 2 also comes with a slew of plugins that make its asking price seem like peanuts.

Furthermore, one Amazon reviewer put it like this:

The description of this item didn’t say this, but when you redeem your software codes that this comes with, you also redeem every promotion that every one of those brands is running as well. Right now there’s well over $1000 in software to grab, totally free. This is already a good product, but I’d be happy with my money spent even it were literally just a chunk of wood because of all the software and tools you get with it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve saved more in money that I was planning to spend on software than I paid for this interface. This box has already given me a net gain just by existing.Amazon Reviewer

That added value for only around $20 more than the 2i2 pays for itself.

Another cool feature on the Volt 2 is vintage mode, which adds a touch of broadcast warmth to your voice and really sounds quite excellent.

Aside from all of those great things,

the Volt 2 is built wonderfully and is a breeze to use.

I haven’t had a single issue with it and it drives all of my headphones with ease.

These are ultra-clean, professional-sounding preamps and for the price, how could you go wrong?

Thanks to its built-in tube emulation circuitry, you’re essentially getting a vintage sound used to record artists like Ray Charles and Van Halen.

Pretty neat.

As with the others, the Volt 2 comes with 2 TRS balanced outputs on the back along with a USB Type-C jack for connection to your PC.

Universal Audio Volt 2 ReviewUniversal Audio Volt 2 ReviewUniversal Audio Volt 2 Review

All in all,

I think the Volt 2 is likely the best option for most people, but you can’t go wrong with any of these 3.

Update: It also just won an award! (second from top)

As it stands today, I think the 2i2, while an excellent product, isn’t quite the best anymore.

It was probably top dog some years back, but the inclusion of more companies providing extra value at roughly the same cost has brought it down a peg or 2 on the pecking order.

If you are looking for the maximum amount of gain in this price range, the M2 is certainly your best bet.

But, as an overall incredible value for the money spent?

It’s gotta be the Volt 2 with the addition of all that software valued at around $1000.

Learn More:


What is an audio interface?

Think of an audio interface as an external Soundcard; but it’s also a DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter).

A DAC’s primary job is to convert information your computer understands (1s and 0s) into the sound we understand (Analog).

A DAC also processes our voice and converts it to digital information for us to edit or listen to later.

When you scream obscenities into your mic (they call that rapping lol) your PC is sad but has to do its job anyway.

So an audio interface is cool because it can do both of these things, while a DAC/Amp combo is typically only used when listening to music through headphones or outputting the sound to a set of speakers via preamp outs. 

This is why an audio interface is so crucial.

It’s responsible for pretty much everything you do and acts as a centerpiece for your recording studio.

It’s the literal connection between you and your music. No interface = no recording – unless of course, you’re using a USB mic.

Even so, most professionals use an interface of some sort, and we want to be professional, right?


So you can imagine it’s pretty important to buy a good one.

The first interface I ever had was an M-Audio Fast Track Pro all the way back in something like 2006-2007 and let me tell you something: it was a piece of hot garbage.

I won’t get too much into it now, but I eventually discovered the 2i2 in 2014 and it was pretty much smooth sailing from that point on.

Before I leave you, just remember that all 3 of the options discussed today are incredibly good and backed by lots of great reviews + first-hand experience from yours truly.

So don’t get hung up on it.

The Volt 2 and Motu 2 may give you slightly better sound quality than the 2i2, but I’m also here to tell you that I’ve demoed over 60 Amps & DACS, and the differences, while they’re sometimes there, are incredibly subtle to the point where it doesn’t really matter.

So just go with one and don’t stress out about it!

Well, that’s about it for today folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on The Best Budget Audio Interface For Home Studio Recording and came away with some valuable insight.

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

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What are your thoughts on these? Do you think they’re worth the price? I’d love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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