Home > Guides > The best audio interfaces under $1,000
PreSonus Quantum 2626 Design

The best audio interfaces under $1,000

Shopping for the best audio interfaces under $1,000 has never been easier. Gone are the days when recording decent audio meant having to shell out thousands of dollars on recording equipment.

These days, it’s easy to spend just a few hundred dollars on equipment, and specifically a good audio interface, that sounds almost as good as a top-level studio.

Of course, there are dozens of audio interface options out there in the sub-$1,000 price range, and they’re not all created equal. That, however, is why we’ve put together this guide.

Before buying an audio interface, it’s worth considering a few things. For starters, you’ll want to think about the number of inputs and outputs you need from your audio interface.

It’s generally a good idea to get more inputs and output than you think you’ll need. This allows you to grow a little and record more instruments down the line.

It’s also a good idea to consider how the interface will communicate with your computer — whether you need a USB-C compatible interface, or prefer to go with an interface with an older connectivity method.

And, of course, you’ll want to think about price range. All of these audio interfaces are under $1,000 — but $1,000 might be a little expensive for some, so we’ve included far cheaper interfaces too.

Without further ado, here are the best audio interfaces under $1,000.

Best audio interface under $1,000: PreSonus Quantum 2626

PreSonus Quantum 2626 Main
Best audio interface under $1,000
PreSonus Quantum 2626
With the Quantum you get 26 inputs and 8 preamps. It’s MIDI compatible and comes bundled with StudioOne.
Pros
26 inputs
8 onboard preamps
MIDI I/O
StudioOne DAW included
Cons
Only works with Thunderbolt 3
Fairly expensive

If you have $1,000 to spend on an audio interface and want the best interface out there, then the PreSonus Quantum 2626 is simply the way to go. The interface boasts a ton of I/O, a great design, and more — and we think it’s able to go head to head with interfaces much more expensive.

This is the first of a few PreSonus interfaces on the list, and for good reason. PreSonus is known for building excellent-value interfaces, and it has pretty much cornered much of the market in the sub-$1,000 price range. The PreSonus Quantum 2626 boasts a number of features you would normally expect on more expensive interfaces.

For example, the interface offers up to a hefty 26 inputs, and up to 26 outputs, with eight of those inputs coming in the form of built-in preamps. You’ll also get MIDI support. Last but not least, it connects to your computer through Thunderbolt 3, making for a fast, latency-free recording setup. Last but not least, with the interface you’ll get PreSonus’ StudioOne recording software, which is getting better and better every time it’s updated.

Best compact audio interface under $1,000: Universal Audio Arrow

Universal Audio Arrow
Best small audio interface under $1,000
Universal Audio Arrow
If you want to get into the world of Universal Audio but don’t need many channels the Arrow is a fine choice. Great preamps, conversion, and access to their robust suite of plugins.
Pros
Two UA preamps
Easy to read metering
Allows you to use Universal Audio plugins
Cons
Only works with Thunderbolt
I/O is on rear of unit
Buy From

If you do want to take advantage of the new Thunderbolt 3 standard in a compact form-factor, then there are a few options for you. Perhaps the best of those is the Universal Audio Arrow, which is a compact, well-designed interface aimed at small studios that won’t need to use a ton of inputs at once.

The Universal Audio Arrow has two mic pros built in to it, and as you would expect from a Universal Audio device, they sound awesome. On the front of the interface, you’ll get LED input and output indicators and a few monitoring controls, while on the back is where you’ll find the two preamps and outputs, as well as the Thunderbolt port. Safe to say, this preamp is a beautiful device — but it’s probably not the best choice for larger setups.

Best converters in an audio interface under $1,000: MOTU M Series

motu m series
Best converters in an audio interface under $1,000
MOTU M Series
Pros
Sabre ESS32 converters found in much more expensive interfaces
Good I/O
Accurate front panel metering
Cons
Bus power only
No monitor mute or dim

MOTU has always been a company that offers some of the best conversion in audio interfaces at any price point. The M Series comes with ESS Sabre32 converters that are also used in interfaces that cost into the thousands.

The M Series comes in two, four, and six channel models, and the I/O is one of the most appealing features. Depending on the model there are inputs with phantom power and direct monitoring, dedicated 1/4″ monitor and line outputs, RCA monitor and line outs, and MIDI in/out.

Accurate front panel metering gives you an easy visual reference over signal levels. The loopback function is great for podcasters and streamers that don’t want to twist knobs and deal with menus.

Everything is housed in a sturdy, ergonomic metal enclosure with a small footprint. The price point is incredible considering the wealth of features, and the only real downside is they are bus power only. So if you work on a laptop using it will reduce the battery life while it’s in use.

Best desktop audio interface under $1,000: Audient iD14

audient id14 mkii
Best desktop audio interface under $1,000
Audient iD14
The iD14 gives you great preamps, conversion, and expandability in a convenient desktop format.
Pros
Console-quality preamps
Good conversion
Expandable
Cons
None

Audient always crafted great large format consoles, but recently they’ve made quite a name for themselves in the smaller interface market. Their iD series is a line of desktop consoles that might be smaller, but pack plenty of punch.

It uses their Console Mic Preamp, the same found in their ASP8024-E large format console. The conversion is great, especially for a less expensive interface. They offer 121dB of dynamic range, so headroom shouldn’t be a concern.

One of the best parts? You can expand the channel count through ADAT or S/PDIF connections, making it a fine centerpiece as your studio expands. It features talkback as well, another feature you don’t normally see in interfaces this size.

Best audio interface under $500: Focusrite Scarlett 18i20

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
Best audio interface under $500
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
The largest Scarlett model gives you a lot of I/O, onboard preamps, and the Focusrite Red plugin bundle.
Pros
18 ins and 20 outs
8 preamps
2 DIs
Bundled plugins
Cons
More channels than preamps

While there are plenty of great interfaces under $1,000, you don’t necessarily need to spend that much. Why? There are some excellent devices under $500 too — like, for example, the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20.

The Scarlett 18i20 has a lot going for it, even in this price range. For example, you’ll get a nice 18 inputs and 20 outputs, with eight built-in Scarlett microphone preamps and two instrument inputs designed for hot pickups.

Focusrite has made headlines over the years for its excellent conversion too, and the Scarlett 18i20 is no exception to that rule. In the box, you’ll also get some pretty sweet software instruments and plug-ins, including the Focusrite Red plug-in suite, Avid’s Pro Tools | First, and more.

Best audio interface under $300: Audient Evo 8

audient-evo-8
Best audio interface under $300
Audient Evo 8
If you’re looking for a really compact interface from a great manufacturer, this is it. The coolest feature is SmartGain that adjusts the input gain automatically.
Pros
Very small format
SmartGain adjusts gain automatically
2 preamps and one DI
Cons
Not as full-featured as other options

Looking for something ultra easy to get started with? The Audio Evo 8 is built for just that. The interface is sleek and stylish, plus it makes things as easy to understand as possible.

It has two mic preamps and an instrument input built into, as well as monitor and two headphone outputs, a big volume knob, and a SmartGain feature that automatically adjusts your microphones’ gain without you having to do anything. That big knob actually controls the volume of a range of different things around the interface, including the headphone and monitor output. It’s pretty cool.

Best audio interface under $100: PreSonus AudioBox USB 96

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Best audio interface under $100
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
This ergonomic, two channel interface can run sample rates up to 96kHz and offers MIDI support.
Pros
Samples rates up to 96kHz
Ergonomic format
MIDI support
Good sonic quality
Cons
Two channels might not be enough

Simply want to get started with recording and don’t have much cash to set aside? The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is the audio interface for you. PreSonus has made quite a name when it comes to low-cost, high-quality products. The AudioBox 96 is no exception to that rule.

We reviewed the AudioBox USB 96, and found it offers excellent audio quality, with some great features like MIDI support — things that can seriously come in handy in an interface in this price range. The AudioBox USB 96 is also capable of recording audio at up to 96kHz, which is a step up from thee previous generation AudioBox, which was limited to 48kHz.

FAQ

Do expensive audio interfaces sound better?

More expensive interfaces do usually sound better overall. You’ll also find more consistent quality in general. Less expensive interfaces don’t all sound great, but there are some very good ones available, like those from Audient, Universal Audio, and PreSonus.

Does a cheap interface affect sound quality?

Price isn’t necessarily equivalent to sound quality. More expensive interfaces use better components. When it comes to sound quality you need to think about converter quality, preamps, and your playback system. Good monitors give you a better idea of how things actually sound, so you want a good set.

What is the best brand of audio interface?

In terms of the best audio interfaces under $1,000, Universal Audio, PreSonus, Audient, and Focusrite all make great gear. We chose the PreSonus Quantum 2626. The Universal Audio Apollo Arrow is great too, and gives you access to the great sounds of the UA plugins.

Christian de Looper

Christian de Looper was born in Canberra Australia, and since then has lived in Europe and now lives in sunny California. When he's not tinkering with the latest music gear, Christian is devouring news on new consumer technology.

Post navigation

The best audio interfaces for songwriters

Songwriters today need a quality audio interface that isn't too over the top. Here are the best options for interfaces that suit songwriters the best.

PreSonus’s Deep Flight One instrument library drops to earth

PreSonus is back with more goodies to share with the public. This time, with a unique new instrument pack, Deep Flight One.

Best budget channel strips: Get a classic sound without breaking the bank

Looking for some different options for front end than what comes with your interface? These best budget channel strips are a great start.

UAD 9.15 update brings brand new delay and preamp plugins to enjoy

Universal Audio updated its UAD software to version 9.15 recently. The change brings two brand quality new delay and preamp plugin tools.