Best of 2022: You might wonder what there is for audio interface manufacturers left to achieve. After all, there’s already a multitude of highly capable boxes on the market that do a great job of getting high-quality sound in and out of your computer.
But times change, and audio interfaces are changing with them. Increasingly, we’re seeing features that are targeted directly at podcasters and streamers, such as loopback modes that enable you to mix mic and instrument inputs with audio from any apps you might be running. Widespread adoption of USB-C connectivity is notable, too.
We think it’s fair to say that audio interfaces are also starting to look a bit nicer, becoming devices that you’re happy to have front and centre on your desktop. More intuitive controls mean they’re getting easier to use as well.
Based on our shortlist, we asked you to vote for the best new audio interface of 2022. There were some pretty strong contenders, but there can be only one winner, which is…
1. Universal Audio Volt 4 & 476p
Having struck gold in 2021 with its one- and two-channel models, UA got a bit more expansive this year with a couple of new four-channel Volt audio interfaces.
Like the existing Volt 476, the Volt 476p has a built-in 1176-inspired compressor. However, it dispenses with the line inputs on channels 3 and 4, replacing them with two additional mic preamps, bringing the total to four.
Each preamp can be switched to Vintage mode for an “album-ready” sound – this emulates the tone of UA’s classic 610 tube preamp – and you also get three compressor presets that are tailored for recording vocals, guitars and synths/drum machines.
The Volt 476p operates at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution and also offers dual headphone outputs, 48v phantom power, direct monitoring and MIDI I/O.
The Volt 4, meanwhile, doesn’t have the built-in compressor but is the first of the cheaper Volts to offer four channels. There are two preamps that offer the aforementioned Vintage mode, and line inputs on channels 3 and 4. Again, there’s 24-bit/192kHz conversion, 48v phantom power, direct monitoring and MIDI I/O, but just the one headphone output.
2. Audient ID44 MKII
The ID44 was already an impressive bit of kit, but the MkI always looked a bit ‘meh’ in its uninspired silver and black livery. What a splash of paint can do.
Less trivially, the iD44’s primary strength was the superb quality of its mic pres and converters. The MKII version ramps up the performance even further. Somehow, Audient has managed to improve the iD44’s Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC) THD+N figure by an impressive 9dB to a class-leading 112dB.
The Digital to Analogue Converters (DAC) are similarly pristine, with imperceptible noise and 126dB of dynamic range.
iD44 (MKII) also has a new all-digital internal Audio Loopback feature that enables users to capture playback from multiple applications on the computer, all at the same time as the microphones that are plugged into the interface.
A new dual headphone amp, meanwhile – with both a 1/4-inch jack and a mini-jack – means that now three sets of headphones can be plugged in at once.
Audio quality is where the ID44 MKII really shines; everything else is icing on the cake. But that icing is layered deep and tastes exceptionally sweet.
3. Focusrite Clarett+ OctoPre
Most audio interfaces offer two or maybe four mic inputs. If you want to record multi-mic’d drums or simply want more mic inputs, you could opt for one of the few interfaces with eight mic inputs. However, many interfaces include additional line or digital inputs that enable you to extend your mic input options by using an additional mic input device.
This is where Focusrite’s OctoPre comes into play. Part of the company’s prosumer Clarett+ USB audio interface range, OctoPre is a mic pre and A-D, D-A converter with no computer interfacing.
This not only makes it pretty easy to understand, but also means that you can pair it up with any manufacturer’s suitably equipped interface.
It offers improved sonic performance over the original Clarett devices, with a lower noise figure on both inputs and outputs, better dynamic range and new A-D and D-A converters.
OctoPre was already great and this refresh brings it into line with other Clarett+ units. It’s not cheap, but it’s an excellent way to extend your I/O.
4. Audient Evo 16
With the EVO 16, Audient didn’t so much add to its EVO audio interface range as completely redefine it. Whereas the EVO 4 and 8 are compact, portable devices, its big brother is a full-on 24-in/24-out studio device that offers some rather clever features.
EVO 16 is designed to sit on your desktop or in a rack, and is notable for the inclusion of a full-colour screen. This is contextual, so will display different information depending on what you’re doing.
The screen helps to enable a one-knob control system, and means that settings can be made without you having to look at your computer monitor. Adjustments are displayed in real-time.
EVO 16 comes with eight EVO preamps that offer 58dB of mic gain, while the converters give you 121dB dynamic range. You also get the EVO range’s Smartgain feature, which can be used to automatically set the gain for all eight channels simultaneously at the touch of a button.
Expansion potential, meanwhile, is aided by the inclusion of optical I/O – you can add up to 16 extra channels of mic preamps via ADAT and SPDIF.
Audio quality is where the ID44 really shines. Everything else is icing on the cake, but that icing is layered deep and tastes exceptionally sweet.
5. Arturia Minifuse 4
Arturia’s MiniFuse 1 and 2 audio interfaces were released into the wild back in 2021, but it took another year for MiniFuse 4 to make it to market.
A 4-in/4-out interface (the clue’s in the name), this offers 110dB dynamic range and equivalent input noise of -129dB. MIDI I/O and a USB hub are also onboard, and there are dual headphone outputs.
As is becoming common these days, MiniFuse 4 has a virtual stereo loopback channel that enables you to record audio alongside the inputs for easy ‘content’ creation, while the bundled software includes Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Intro and Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 6 LE.
In our review of the MiniFuse 2, we noted that it’s “a feature-rich device with some subtle yet handy options that you don’t always get at this price”. We also praised its intuitive operation, fine sound and appealing looks, and the MiniFuse 4 ticks all the same boxes.
6. PreSonus AudioBox GO
AudioBox Go is a super-simple audio interface that gives you everything you need to start recording.
This 2-in/2-out, 24-bit/96kHz device comes with a PreSonus XMAX-L preamp that offers 50dB of gain and +48v phantom power. This comes on a combo jack that also gives you a line-level input for synths, drum machines and the like, and there’s a second dedicated instrument input for electric and bass guitars.
There are balanced 1/4-inch outputs on the rear, and a headphones output on the front that comes with its own level control. A mix control is included for monitoring purposes, and there are also gain controls for the two inputs and a main output control.
Essentially, you just plug in, set your levels and, well, go. It’s that easy. This particular Audiobox is perfect for spontaneous, off-the-cuff recordings when the last things you want to worry about are complex routings, compression settings, headphone mixes and so on.
7. Focusrite Vocaster range
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the Vocaster interface range is designed specifically for podcasting. It comprises two devices, both of which promise great audio quality and to “remove technical hassle”, leaving you to get down to some serious chat.
Despite their simplicity, Vocaster One and Two (as they’re known) also come with podcast-friendly features such as Auto Gain, which will set your levels, and an Enhance feature to ensure that your voice sounds crystal clear. Three presets are included here to make things even easier.
There’s also a Mute button, so that you can quickly silence your mic if you need to, and a Loopback feature that enables you to stream pre-recorded segments (interviews, jingles, background music, etc) from your computer.
Speaking of which, the companion Vocaster Hub software enables you to set up, record and mix your show.
In short, If you need to get your podcast running quickly, one of the Vocasters will sort you out.
Promising to deliver great results wherever life takes you, the iRig Pro Quattro I/O features four low-noise mic preamps with phantom power, along with Hi-Z and line-level instrument, RCA and TRS inputs. You also get XLR balanced, 3.5mm stereo and headphone outputs, plus MIDI I/O.
The device is designed to work with your iPhone, iPad, Android device, Mac or PC right out of the box, but it can also serve as a standalone mic preamp or line mixer. It comes with a built-in limiter and offers direct monitoring.
The iRig Pro Quattro I/O also features a built-in “digitally enhanced MEMs” microphone, and there are optional stereo mic capsules. There’s a stereo mode that mixes up to four audio sources down to two channels for streaming or recording, with a mono mode extending compatibility for those who want to stream to social media.
In Multichannel mode, meanwhile, the XLR mic/Hi-Z instrument and mic/line combo jacks or RCA/3.5 mm stereo line inputs are routed to channels 1 to 4 respectively so that they can be sent to separate channels in your DAW.
Unashamedly multi-function and highly versatile – other features include a loopback mode and a built-in limiter – the iRig Pro Quattro I/O is exactly the sort of device we need in the increasingly multimedia worlds in which many of us operate.
9. Positive Grid Riff
The Positive Grid Riff is a slimline USB audio interface developed with electric guitar and bass players in mind. It can be fully integrated with the company’s award-winning amp and effects software, Bias FX 2.
The rugged metal enclosure houses a single 1/4-inch instrument input as well as a single 1/4-inch line-level output and 1/8-inch headphone output.
The oversized control knob located on top of the interface enables you to adjust various parameters of the Riff, from the input and output levels, direct monitoring level – for zero-latency tracking – and even to switch between three preamp emulations. This knob is also fully customisable and can be assigned to perform tasks such as changing amp models within Bias FX 2.
While this sleek, no-nonsense interface won’t get the hearts of experienced home producers or recording fanatics racing, it certainly will excite guitarists or bassists looking to get into home recording. Its uncomplicated layout and ease of use mean that players with zero recording experience will be able to set it up in minutes.
10. Apogee Boom
This year saw Apogee become the latest pro-grade audio company to release a more affordable audio interface, following the trend set by the likes of SSL and Universal Audio.
Boom is a 2-in/2-out device that connects via USB-C. There’s a little more to it than that, though, because it also has some onboard DSP. This enables you to record through the Symphony ECS Channel Strip; tuned by legendary mixer engineer Bob Clearmountain, this gives you analogue-style 3-band EQ, compression and drive.
Boom offers one 1/4-inch instrument input and one combi mic/line/instrument input. The onboard preamp supplies 62dB of gain.
At the other end of the signal chain, there are two 1/4-inch balanced outputs and a 1/4-inch headphone output.
There’s also a streaming-friendly Loopback mode. Configured via the Apogee Control mixer software, this enables you to blend and balance your analogue inputs with audio from any apps that you’re running, all ready to send to Twitch, YouTube or Instagram.
We should also add that, with its low-profile design and purple aluminium case, we think Boom looks pretty fine. This isn’t what really matters in an audio interface, of course, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.