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Budget Audio Interface Suggestions
Old 10th June 2019
  #1
Here for the gear
Budget Audio Interface Suggestions

Hey GearSlutz, looking for some recommendations.

I'm in the process of building a little home writing studio. I want to upgrade my interface. When I was just a student my little Steinburg UR22 was okay, but not good enough for the kinds of recording I want to do, for obvious reasons. So I'm in the market for a new interface.

My challenges are as follows:

a) I am running an older 2009 iMac, so theres no Thunderbolt connectivity or USB C, so older USB 2 and 3.0 interfaces are where I want to be. Dont want to go as far back as firewire - again, for obvious reasons.

b) With all the other things I'm investing in, plus a baby on the way I'm on a bit of a tight budget. I'd like to spend no more than $500-$600 CDN.

I'd ideally like something with 8 or more inputs, just so I can plug everything in and leave it at the ready.. I also get that at that price point, it may be a challenge.

I've looked at the PreSonus Audiobox 1818VL - used around $300 or so, I think $550 is the most expensive I've seen..
The PreSonus Studio 1810 also looks good at $550.. would prefer something rack mountable, but not a deal breaker necessarily..
On the budget end, there's the Behringer 1820 U-Phoria.. That might be too budget though from what I've gathered.. thoughts?
Then there's the M-Audio M-Track Eight. Familiar with the brand but not that particular interface..
And then I found a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Gen 2 for around $550 as well.. Not as nice as the new Clarrett stuff but the Clarrett is WAY out of my budget. From the reviews I've found, I think I'm leaning toward this one, but it's also near the top of my proposed budget and there may be something cheaper that's competitive??

If you can't tell, I'm a little lost on this one.
In terms of my recording needs, I just want something with enough inputs to leave all my mics, midi instruments, etc. plugged in, that has a decent enough pre to record nice clean audio.

What do you think, GearSlutz?
Old 10th June 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 

If you want something that’s both supported on older systems and will work with current/future systems...has good converters/pres, I would highly suggest in a good brand like MOTU. They have a reputation for maintaining driver support for a lot longer than most...and build interfaces that last. For your budget that probably means an Ultralite. The latest model is the AVB, which sits about the top of your budget new...but if that’s too much of a squeeze there’s the mk4, etc.. I use a 1248 which is pretty killer.

I would pass on Behringer/M Audio unless you’re dead broke...especially M Audio, just say no...

I’ve heard good things about the modern Tascam models but haven’t used it myself.
Old 10th June 2019
  #3
Gear Addict
The U-PHORIA UMC1820 has nice pres and is simply unbeatable at the price - a perfectly good interface that will serve you well.
Old 10th June 2019
  #4
If you're okay with used, you can find some good deals out there. After a while of searching for deals on it, I found a MOTU 828 hybrid (firewire and USB supported) for a little over $350, including shipping, from a Guitar Center across the country. Not sure that'd be fitting your requirements since there's only 2 preamps, but it's got MIDI, 8 analog inputs, 8 analog outputs, digital I/O, and more, so it might be an option worth looking into. Or at least look at Guitar Center's used section to see if there's anything there that suits your needs. I will give this warning - before I found the one on Guitar Center's site, I bought one from ebay and after getting it I found that the lcd screen was very very dim (not 100% dead but, pretty much unreadable), and had to deal with sending it back for a refund. So, you should be careful where you order from - I think Guitar Center's return policy is pretty solid and quicker than dealing with ebay (I think you can return to your local store regardless of which one you bought it from).
Old 11th June 2019
  #5
Gear Addict
 
Tashez's Avatar
 

Buy second hand and get something decent . I like the the RME stuff . I picked up a API A2D and it was worth the extra money . You can buy new but it will never be better than a nice second hand semi pro unit .
Old 11th June 2019
  #6
The UMC1820 isn't that bad actually. It's probably on par with that Focusrite you mentioned. Price tag doesn't necessarily denote quality. I returned my Zoom H6 because of how awful it's preamps were. They were probably worse than the Xenyx preamps on the older Behringer gear. And the H6 cost me twice as much as the UMC1820

I definitely agree with buying better stuff used if you can find it for cheap. I got the UMC1820 because I wasn't able to find much in that price range used.
Old 11th June 2019
  #7
Quote:
b) With all the other things I'm investing in, plus a baby on the way I'm on a bit of a tight budget. I'd like to spend no more than $500-$600 CDN.
The MOTU Ultrlite MK3 hybrid is right in your price range and has 8 analog inputs 92 mic pre and (6 line ins and the 2 mic pres can be line ins also) and 10 analog outputs to meet your needs, with MIDI ins/outs and SPDIF in/outs
Old 12th June 2019
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

You might still want to consider a clarett if you are upgrading for sound quality reasons. The scarlett 18i20 and behringer 1820 are not bad but even the scarlett 2nd gen uses older cirrus logic converter chips. Same goes for behringer. I’d pick the scarlett over the behringer as it has a volume display and slightly better specs / latency. I’d say its worth the 200 dollar difference. But the clarett 6 pre usb is about 100 dollar more than the 18i20 and a significant step up! It’s pretty much high end sound wise. You can always expand it if needed.
Old 12th June 2019
  #9
Here for the gear
 

Consider the Tascam 16x08. I have one paired with a 2009 MacBook Pro and it's been great. decent pre-amps, lots of ins and outs. I can record a 6 piece band with a three separate stereo headphone mixes which is rad.
Old 13th June 2019
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by StupidDisco View Post
You might still want to consider a clarett if you are upgrading for sound quality reasons. The scarlett 18i20 and behringer 1820 are not bad but even the scarlett 2nd gen uses older cirrus logic converter chips. Same goes for behringer. I’d pick the scarlett over the behringer as it has a volume display and slightly better specs / latency. I’d say its worth the 200 dollar difference. But the clarett 6 pre usb is about 100 dollar more than the 18i20 and a significant step up! It’s pretty much high end sound wise. You can always expand it if needed.
Any idea if the Presonus 1824 is any better than the UMC1820 sound wise, or should I save for longer and get the Focusrite Clarett 8Pre?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dohreetoh View Post
Any idea if the Presonus 1824 is any better than the UMC1820 sound wise, or should I save for longer and get the Focusrite Clarett 8Pre?
I cant tell. It’s an entry level device so i suspect it will not be in the clarett range sonically / latency wise , but this needs testing. I cant find any info on the converter chips being used in the 1824 and 1824c. Presponis says ‘high end’. It says 114b dynamic range so could still be eg older cs4272’s, same as in scarletts / behringer umc’s (clarett has newer / better chips with better range specs). Obviously converter chips isnt the whole story (analog circuit matters a lot too). The presonus seems to have quite some gain on the mic pres (80db) though, much more than the scarlett which is nice if you need to drive sm7bs.

The thing with the claretts is, that it has very good specs to begin with (that exceed the entry level stuff) and in practice has shown to compete with (very) high end gear, at least sonically / latency wise. The higher end gear basically has more features than the claretts and perhaps a few more db range and more gain but sonically the gap is much much smaller or absent. This gap is clearly and audibly there between the clarett and the entry stuff.

Dont get me wrong, any modern interface will be decent / nice but up to a certain point there are clear audible differences.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
JAT
Lives for gear
Audient if you can wait to add digital expansion. The TAscam us 2020 is a good bet for 8 channels out of the box. I like the audient tone better but the TAscam stuff is nice sounding, effective and priced right.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
Lives for gear
 

The Tascam 16X08 is a killer interface for $299. You get 8 Burr Brown Mic preamps, 8 line level inputs and 8 line level outs.
You can record with all 16 inputs and you can use 8 outs for feeding a mixer or looping hardware effects through aux busses.

I have a couple of the Tascam US-1200 units which are the 6 channel versions and I can verify the preamps are clean and quiet.
Latency is very low too. I think its 12 milliseconds in or out and 32 round trip. The units are all metal rack units, no plastic junk with high quality pots and connectors.

The money you save can be put towards updating your computer or buying additional mics. If you want to run the 8 line inputs with mics you can buy an 8 channel mic preamp. I bought one of those inexpensive Nady units and I run all the drum mics into it. Then I route it through a patch bay before the interface. This allows me to bypass the external preamp and record directly into the line level inputs by simply plugging into the front of the patch bay. Makes things quite convenient.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
Gear Nut
 

Would the Tascam US- 4x4 represent a large enough upgrade sound quality wise over my Scarlett 18i8 to warrant making a jump? I've been looking for a cost-efficient next step, and it's difficult to find something with 4 pres that doesn't shoot way up in price. Though, this thread has me thinking that Tascam interfaces may be a notable upgrade for LESS.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goat Punishment View Post
Would the Tascam US- 4x4 represent a large enough upgrade sound quality wise over my Scarlett 18i8 to warrant making a jump? I've been looking for a cost-efficient next step, and it's difficult to find something with 4 pres that doesn't shoot way up in price. Though, this thread has me thinking that Tascam interfaces may be a notable upgrade for LESS.
I doubt it. While both the scarlett en tascam sound good/ great they are purposely segmented as entry level. They have intentionally been designed in such a manner that they can position higher end stuff above them. It’s in their interest to make sure there is a difference sound and feature wise, otherwise no one would buy their higher end stuff. Competition mitigates this somewhat, so you get pretty good stuff for cheap these days, but pretty much all manufacturers have a segmented product range.

Now again the thing with the clarett is that its audibly a step up from the clarett and sounds so good/clear it wins or equals against even higher end stuff sonically in terms of conversion, or the gap is really small. The remaining difference is the e even higher end stuff still has more features, but conversion wise kinda plateau.


So no, i dont think the tascam gets you in another ballpark conversion wise.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StupidDisco View Post
I doubt it. While both the scarlett en tascam sound good/ great they are purposely segmented as entry level. They have intentionally been designed in such a manner that they can position higher end stuff above them. It’s in their interest to make sure there is a difference sound and feature wise, otherwise no one would buy their higher end stuff. Competition mitigates this somewhat, so you get pretty good stuff for cheap these days, but pretty much all manufacturers have a segmented product range.

Now again the thing with the clarett is that its audibly a step up from the clarett and sounds so good/clear it wins or equals against even higher end stuff sonically in terms of conversion, or the gap is really small. The remaining difference is the e even higher end stuff still has more features, but conversion wise kinda plateau.


So no, i dont think the tascam gets you in another ballpark conversion wise.
Thank you for that! Would the next step up be something like the Clarett Pre4 or the Audient ID44? I've seen good things about both.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
solveforq's Avatar
 

I'd recommend going Motu as well. It's well engineered equipment.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by solveforq View Post
I'd recommend going Motu as well. It's well engineered equipment.
Yes. All brands make good stuff but segment product lines, differentiating also on sound / conversion quality.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goat Punishment View Post
Thank you for that! Would the next step up be something like the Clarett Pre4 or the Audient ID44? I've seen good things about both.
maybe. I have no experiences with it. I am a bit puzzled by the 96khz spec on a 4 input unit, makes me suspect its a bit older converter tech (not bad per se). 96khz is fine but newer higher end chips all go to 192khz. Of course the circuitry matters as well but the specs is at least something you can read beforehand. Also wonder how it does latency wise and would personally miss the midi connections.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
Here for the gear
 

Julian Krause does a nice comparison

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUXIsOg1Oi0

Behringer UMC22 looks hard to beat.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt.campbell View Post
Hey GearSlutz, looking for some recommendations.

I'm in the process of building a little home writing studio. I want to upgrade my interface. When I was just a student my little Steinburg UR22 was okay, but not good enough for the kinds of recording I want to do, for obvious reasons. So I'm in the market for a new interface.

My challenges are as follows:

a) I am running an older 2009 iMac, so theres no Thunderbolt connectivity or USB C, so older USB 2 and 3.0 interfaces are where I want to be. Dont want to go as far back as firewire - again, for obvious reasons.

b) With all the other things I'm investing in, plus a baby on the way I'm on a bit of a tight budget. I'd like to spend no more than $500-$600 CDN.

I'd ideally like something with 8 or more inputs, just so I can plug everything in and leave it at the ready.. I also get that at that price point, it may be a challenge.

I've looked at the PreSonus Audiobox 1818VL - used around $300 or so, I think $550 is the most expensive I've seen..
The PreSonus Studio 1810 also looks good at $550.. would prefer something rack mountable, but not a deal breaker necessarily..
On the budget end, there's the Behringer 1820 U-Phoria.. That might be too budget though from what I've gathered.. thoughts?
Then there's the M-Audio M-Track Eight. Familiar with the brand but not that particular interface..
And then I found a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Gen 2 for around $550 as well.. Not as nice as the new Clarrett stuff but the Clarrett is WAY out of my budget. From the reviews I've found, I think I'm leaning toward this one, but it's also near the top of my proposed budget and there may be something cheaper that's competitive??

If you can't tell, I'm a little lost on this one.
In terms of my recording needs, I just want something with enough inputs to leave all my mics, midi instruments, etc. plugged in, that has a decent enough pre to record nice clean audio.

What do you think, GearSlutz?


Hey I am first time responding in forum. So any mistake then pls forgive me. In my opinion You may try SSL latest mixer "Six". Personally not used it. Moreover budget wise it is some what expensive. But since you have enough experience I would like to suggest you SSL. Demo shows it is very versatile too and also sounds good. In fact 3 yrs back I was using scarlet 18i20 which I used for around 2 yrs and but now I using prism sound atlas.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
Here for the gear
 

You might be interested in a used RME Babyface, I think they are not expensive on eBay, as the Babyface Pro has taken over as the current new product. I use the old Babyface for great quality home recording, with super reliable drivers (on Windows here, but i'm sure it's fine on Mac too). It has just 2 microphone inputs (mic/line) but is also expandable with ADAT for an extra 8 channels. Make sure the break-out cable is not damaged, (this is the weak link if you buy used) or even consider buying a replacement cable to ensure reliable connnections to microphone and monitors.

I use the Behringer ADA8200 to connect other line inputs or mic preamps. Despite being Behringer, it sounds fine if you don't push the input gain too much, and it is jolly cheap new. It also doesn't overheat like the older ADA8000.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
Gear Addict
The OP seems to have gone AWOL....

Anyway FWIW the Roland Octacapture is great... really clean and very solid.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
Highly recommend RME

Hi. I would (as mentioned above) have a look at RME.
I can wholeheartedly recommend them. Highly stable, and built to last. RME also supports devices decades old, which speaks volumes IMO.
An RME UC or FF800 should not be overlooked, even if they are getting older, and use FW (you already have that built in )
All the best.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
JAT
Lives for gear
The tascam us series use the same quality of components across the line, as I understand it. And there isn’t that much diff between the us and their top of the line uh 7000 ( tho I keep the 7000). Same family sound.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
Here for the gear
another +1 for MOTU, especially if you need "legacy" support. I am still onn an old 5.1 MacPro running OS 10.6.8 (!!!) and all my audio and MIDI interfaces are still supported, in fact, Digital Performer until the most recent update still worked on my OS. (DP 9.5 works, but DP 10 requires a newer OS) There are also a few mod / upgrade options--- I have 2 Black Lion Audio modded MOTU units.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
Lives for gear
 
Piedpiper's Avatar
You can sometimes pick up an old Digi 002R with Black Lion Audio's Signature Mod for under $500. The drivers are supposedly not currently supported but they still work fine. It is firewire, but, again, it works fine. The point is that it offers hard to beat quality with the mod. Many people are dumping them out of fear of not being supported and thinking that the newer interfaces are a sonic upgrade when they are actually a downgrade. The Signature mod alone is $1350 + shipping and well worth it at full list price, so buying it used premodded is an absolute steal. Something to consider.

And don't worry about the 96k limit. Dan Lavry, designer of many of the top digital converters, claims that anything above 88.2k is actually detrimental.

http://www.lavryengineering.com/pdfs...lity_audio.pdf

Last edited by Piedpiper; 4 weeks ago at 05:34 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #28
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StupidDisco View Post
maybe. I have no experiences with it. I am a bit puzzled by the 96khz spec on a 4 input unit, makes me suspect its a bit older converter tech (not bad per se). 96khz is fine but newer higher end chips all go to 192khz. Of course the circuitry matters as well but the specs is at least something you can read beforehand. Also wonder how it does latency wise and would personally miss the midi connections.
Is there a 4 preamp option that you recommend in the $5-600 Used range, that does represent a signicant enough upgrade from the 18i8?

I'm hoping for as much clarity as possible, and ease of use.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
Gear Nut
 

I should also clarify. I'd be open to MORE pres, but not less. Also, I've grown a bit tired of the dull sounding Scarlett pres. Just sort of rolled off top-end sound that seems to muddy up a mix when compounded.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #30
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goat Punishment View Post
I should also clarify. I'd be open to MORE pres, but not less. Also, I've grown a bit tired of the dull sounding Scarlett pres. Just sort of rolled off top-end sound that seems to muddy up a mix when compounded.
Clarett is a big step up in terms of clear conversion and essentially gets you straight into the high end ballpark, at least sonically / conversion wise.
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