The best USB audio interfaces under $200 to record/produce music in 2020

You don’t need a studio to record your music anymore, it’s 2020! We’ve got you sorted for the top recording interfaces at the best value for money.

The barriers to recording high quality channels of your instruments and voice have been broken down. Recording studios are still great, but you can get a quality, multi-track recording all from the comfort of your home for just a few hundred dollars and a little mixing know-how.

Here we’ve compiled our list of the best audio interfaces which you simply plug in through USB to start recording with high quality sound. If you’ve got a favourite that we didn’t list below then share the love in the comments and tell us why you think it’s great!

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – $159

Focusrite are often touted as the best audio recording device-makers at their low price for their great sound and build.

The 2i2 is the middle child of the Scarlett range packing 2 mic preamps/inputs. The little box has 24-bit, 192kHz converters packed inside to offer high quality recording via a simple USB connection in a portable package.

The Scarlett interfaces are the most popular in the world and for good reason. Each purchase also comes with a bunch of software to get you making music including Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live Lite and 3 months of Splice Sounds. Find out more here.

Yamaha AG06 – $199

It’s been a few years since Yamaha launched their AG series and they’ve stood the test of time, even as many new alternatives launched.

The AG06 is a 6 channel mixer with 2 track, high resolution audio recording and playback. With phantom power built-in you can record a range of microphones and the flexible Hi-Z input allows for recording from any instruments. Studio quality D-PRE mic preamps will ensure that any recordings sound professional.

The mixer comes with built-in effects that can be applied with 1 touch for compression, reverb and tube amp simulation. Just plug in and go using the bundled Cubase AI music production software to record into. Find out more here.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 – $189

The best of Native Instruments new line of audio interfaces, the Komplete Audio 6 offers a serious bang for its buck. There are 6 inputs that record in 192 kHz / 24-bit audio making a professional sound well within reach.

With high-definition recording, ultra-low latency, and a wide range of inputs and outputs the Komplete Audio 6 offers a wide range of possibilities in a small cheap package. Whether you’re recording instruments, microphones, synths, MIDI, drum machines, or anything else you are sorted.

For the price this is easily one of the top audio interfaces out there. Ready for recording at home, on the go, or at a gig in a size that can slip in a bag pocket. They also offer a cheaper version with less inputs at $79 if you don’t need as many capabilities. Find out more here.

PreSonus Studio 24c – $159

PreSonus offer a simple and highly capable solution to recording at home or on the go with their Studio series.

The 24c features a 2-in and 2-out audio interface with phantom power for high quality microphone recording. A built-in MIDI interface means you can connect up keyboards and modules faithfully and record them straight in to your computer with full control.

The recording interface comes included with PreSonus’ award-winning Studio One recording software to set you up with all you need to get recording. Find out more here.

Nord unveil their new keyboard at NAMM

Nord are known for making some of the best, high quality, beautiful, and diverse synth keyboards in the world and there’s a new one on the way.

The Nord Wave 2 is a powerful 4-part performance synthesizer combining Virtual Analog synthesis, Samples, FM and Wavetable with an intuitive layer-focused interface. With 4 independent synthesizers in one the Nord Wave 2 offers exceptional possibilities for layering both classic waveforms and samples.

With 48 voice polyphony, innovative performance features and hands-on controls, the Nord Wave 2 offers outstanding sonic possibilities with advanced layering and tweaking on the fly.

MAIN FEATURES

General
  • 4-part Synthesizer with dedicated volume/pan faders
  • Sample, Virtual Analog, Wavetable and FM synthesis 
  • 48 voice polyphony
  • OLED Displays for Program and Oscillator sections
  • 1 GB memory for Nord Sample Library 3.0
  • User replaceable samples
  • 61-note keyboard with Aftertouch 
Performance
  • Advanced Arpeggiator with Polyphonic Trig mode
  • Gate feature for rhythmic effects
  • Advanced Morph features with Impulse Morph
  • Master Clock control of Arpeggiator, LFO and Effects
  • Vibrato with 3 Delay modes and Wheel/Aftertouch assign
Oscillators
  • Analog: Basic, Shape, Multi, Sync and Noise with up to 16 oscillators
  • Samples
  • Wavetable 
  • Advanced FM with harmonic and inharmonic algorithms
  • True Unison mode
Modulation
  • LFO with five waveforms
  • Flexible syncing and routing options
  • AD/AR envelope
Amp
  • ADSR Amp envelope
  • Transient Attack Mode
Filter
  • 12/24 dB lowpass, lowpass M, band pass, high pass, and LP+HP
  • Filter Drive
  • ADSR envelope
Effects
  • FX section with Tremolo, Pan, Ring Modulation, Chorus, Ensemble and Vibe.
  • EQ section with Drive
  • Advanced Delay section
  • Reverb section with five sizes + Dark, Bright and Chorale modes

Find out more about the upcoming Nord Wave 2 here. There isn’t currently a release date or price for it.

Bose are shutting down all stores in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan

Bose are closing 119 stores worldwide meaning hundreds of job losses, saying that retail outlets are no longer needed.

Renowned audio-tech makers Bose have announced a major closure of their retail stores across the globe. All of their walk-in shops across North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia will be shut down over “the next couple of months”.

The company says that whilst they are still seeing strong sales, the majority of their retail is done online. The necessity for physical retailers that customers can walk into is no longer there. Whilst it offered a chance for customers to come in and try their equipment, the company reckons that is no longer a commodity for their business.

Bose’s vice president of global sales, Colette Burke said: “Originally, our retail stores gave people a way to experience, test, and talk to us about multi-component, CD and DVD-based home entertainment systems. At the time, it was a radical idea, but we focused on what our customers needed, and where they needed it – and we’re doing the same things now.”

They intend to keep open roughly 130 stores in Greater China and the united Arab Emirates. Additional stores in India, Southeast Asia, and South Korea will also remain open.

Sadly these store closures ultimately mean hundreds of lay-offs across their branches internationally. Bose have promised that they will be “offering outplacement assistance and severance to affected employees. Additional details, including the number of employees affected, will remain private.”

Their first store opened in 1993 in the United States and focused around showcasing their home theatre systems. They evolved with the times and now focus their output on noise-cancelling headphones, TWS devices, portable speakers and smart speakers.

Burke added: “It’s still difficult, because the decision impacts some of our amazing store teams who make us proud every day. They take care of every person who walks through our doors – whether that’s helping with a problem, giving expert advice, or just letting someone take a break and listen to great music. Over the years, they’ve set the standard for customer service. And Everyone at Bose is grateful.”

The Akai MPC One is their cheapest beatmaker yet

Akai are taking the beats outside of the box with their most compact, most affordable MPC controller yet.

The MPC One is the exciting new, all-in-one music production controller revealed by Akai at NAMM 2020. The controller works completely on it’s own so you can mix and produce tracks all using the MPC One and nothing else.

The One has a 7″ multi-touch screen that shows your tracks, sample libraries, effects and more. Using the screen alongside the classic MPC pads and all of its push buttons and knobs for control, the One offers a full music production suite of power in a compact package.

Of course it still works with your PC or Mac so you can produce using your DAW. With 2 stereo 1/4″ input/outputs and MIDI in/out you can connect up all of your instruments and devices to control and record. There are also 4 TRS CV/Gate jacks.

There are 2GB of pre-installed content so as soon as you plug it in you can start creating. Samples and loops come from a range of great sound-makers including Sample Tools by CR2, Rawcutz, F9, Decap, MSXII Sound Design and MVP Loops.

The MPC One can connect to your network, giving it access to Splice and their vast network of samples. Unfortunately though, despite being their smallest offering yet the MPC One doesn’t pack a rechargeable battery making it fully portable.

Akai are set to release the One in February for $699 / £639. Find out more about it here.

Solid State Logic launch 2 new affordable audio interfaces for bedroom producers & musicians

Solid State Logic are taking their studio expertise and squeezing it down into a size made for everyone and anyone.

If you know Solid State Logic, you probably know the name from one of their huge mixing consoles designed to be in a professional studio. Sure, you could take them home but it would have to replace the sofa. Well no more, as SSL’s renowned audio consoles are getting a cheaper, compact offering.

SSL have announced the SSL 2 and SSL 2+ USB audio interfaces. They both offer 2 inputs for recording instruments and mixing using SSL’s renowned studio quality technology at a size that can be used easily in the home studio or for bedroom producers.

Both interfaces come with ‘class-leading’ mic preamps, legacy 4K analogue enhancement, studio quality monitoring. The main difference between the SSL 2 and the SSL 2+ is that the + model comes with 2 extra outputs.

They come bundled with Solid State Logic’s very own software bundle, which includes: SSL Native Vocalstrip 2 + Drumstrip plugins, Avid Pro Tools + 23 plugins, Ableton Live Lite, Native Instruments Hybrid Keys + Komplete Start, and 1.5GB of quality samples and loops from Loopcloud.

Affordable, small audio interfaces for home recording are widely available from some of the most iconic names in audio manufacturing. Solid State Logic’s entries are a little more expensive than many on the market but considering their iconic status and compared to their expensive studio desks it’s great value for money.

SSL 2 – $229.99

Your professional personal studio.

• 2-In / 2-Out USB Audio Interface

• 2 x SSL-designed microphone preamps with unrivalled noise performance and gain range for a USB-powered device

• Legacy 4K – analogue colour enhancement for any input source, inspired by classic SSL consoles

• Professional, high-current grade headphone output, with plenty of power

• 24-bit / 192 kHz AD/DA AKM Converters – capture and hear all the detail of your creations

• Easy-to-use Monitor Mix Control for critical low-latency monitoring tasks

• Balanced monitor outputs, with stunning dynamic range

• USB 2.0, bus-powered audio interface for Mac/PC – no power supply required

SSL 2+ – $279.99

Your professional collaborative studio.

• 2-In/4-Out USB Audio Interface

• 2 x SSL-designed microphone preamps with unrivalled noise performance and gain range for a USB-powered device

• Legacy 4K – analogue colour enhancement for any input source, inspired by classic SSL consoles

• 2 x Professional, high-current grade headphone outputs, with plenty of power and the ability to create a second independent headphone mix for the 2nd performer

• 24-bit / 192 kHz AD/DA AKM Converters – capture and hear all the detail of your creations

• Easy-to-use Monitor Mix Control for critical low-latency monitoring tasks

• Balanced monitor outputs, with stunning dynamic range

• Additional unbalanced RCA outputs for easy connection to DJ Mixers

•  MIDI I/O

• USB 2.0, bus-powered audio interface for Mac/PC – no power supply required

Both audio interfaces are available now and can be found from dealers online.

Roland have re-designed the Grand Piano for 2020

The Grand Piano has never looked more different with this prize-winning design come to fruition by Roland.

Roland have premiered the GPX-F1 ‘Facet’ grand piano, a concept that has been years in the making. The piano looks entirely different to any piano you’ve seen before and looks like it’s fresh out of a sci-fi comic book based on musicians of the future.

The design of the Facet Grand Piano is based upon Jong Chan Kim’s design that won the competition for Roland Digital Piano Design Awards in 2015. Designers around the world were asked to design their idea of the ultimate “Concert Grand Piano” and Kim’s prize earned the Grand Prize and has now become reality.

After years of discussion and design meetings, Roland finally unveiled the Facet Grand Piano at CES 2020. It’s unique style makes it look like it’s floating, eschewing the traditional large bodies of grand pianos for a sleek, slimline design.

The piano is packing Roland’s latest piano modelling sound engine, keyboard and speaker system for a powerful and authentic sound when played. It’s modern design allows it to be digitally connected so it can access digital content and provide unique visual expressions displayed on the piano lid.

Roland say: “The cabinet introduces a unique aesthetic that challenges perceptions, it also delivers the ultimate piano sound experience to both player and audience. As well as presenting a unique and exciting profile, the angular construction also helps project the ideal sound elements.

“We optimised the sounds from our latest PureAcoustic Piano Modelling technology and multispeaker Acoustic Projection System to perfectly match the potential of this piano.”

Find out more here.

Introducing Korg’s build-it-yourself headphone amp and overdrive pedal

Korg are launching a new range of DIY kits so you can get hands-on and build your own music equipment.

Last September Korg announced their new Nu:Tekt range of DIY music gear that comes disassembled to be built by the purchaser. Their first devices to be bought in kit-form have been officially announced and will be available next month.

First up is the HA-S headphone amplifier that will provide your headphones with high quality, powered audio. With their built-in Nutube technology the amplifier offers the warmth of tube-powered sound in a compact, stable package. The HA-S’ transparent case means you can see inside at the glow of your analog vacuum tube.

The HA-S has a special NFB (Negative Feedback) switch, that allows you to choose from a high fidelity clean and pristine sound, or a warmer, more harmonically rich sound as expected from a vacuum tube. When the NFB switch is ON, the distortion ratio and frequency characteristics will be modified, creating a really detailed and clean sound.

For advanced users who want to customize their amplifier even more, the circuit diagrams are readily available, making it really easy to change discrete components and make your own and unique headphone amp matching your desired tone and performance.

Korg have also announced the arrival of their OD-S overdrive pedal kit. The DIY pedal building pack lets you customise and build it to suit the sound you want to get with your overdrive.

The OD-S features 2 gain knobs: One standard gain and another Tube Gain for adjusting the vacuum tube powered amplification. The OD-S also features Korg’s Nutube, triode vacuum tube for a powerful and rich tube-driven sound.

The OD-S also incorporates a switch that lets you choose between 2 different overdrive types (with different Low – High ranges) along with True Bypass; making it an ideal pedal for live performances. For advanced users who want to customize their tone further, the modification-friendly layout allows you to change out discrete components to create your own unique pedal to match your desired tone and performance.

The HA-S kit will be available next month for $350 whilst the OD-S pedal kit hasn’t gotten a price yet but will launch next month as well. Expect to see much more from Korg’s exciting new Nu:Tekt range. Find out more from their website.

Korg’s Wavestate brings the sound of 90s vector synths back to 2020

Korg have announced the exciting return of one of their shortest lived, yet most influential, synths in a bigger and badder build.

Korg’s Wavestation made the unique sounds cemented in time by the X-Files theme and the music of Genesis and Depeche Mode. With it’s unique form of synthesis the sound laid a distinct blueprint for it’s users to experiment with.

Using vector synthesis, Korg combined samples together to create Wave Sequencing and a whole new world of sound. By cross-fading multiple samples together the synth was capable of creating sounds with a totally distinct and evolving motion.

Korg have harnessed the essence of what made the Wavestation and it’s 90’s successors so renowned and enhanced it for the modified return in the Wavestate. Wave Sequencing 2.0 has been built from the ground up again to develop upon their creation and present it to a brand new audience of sound makers.

Korg said alongside their announcement: “The Wavestate is designed from the ground up for a new generation of musicians, producers, and composers, taking cues from sources as diverse as modular synths, groove boxes, and algorithmic composition. The compact form-factor, with 37 full-size keys, transports easily and fits neatly into any stage, studio, or desktop setup.”

The original Korg Wavestation looked like a keyboard with some functional buttons for customisation. The Wavestate takes it’s design to the next level with dials galore for filters, envelopes, LFOs and effects to truly customise and refine in-depth the sounds you’re synthesising as you play.

The original Korg Wavestation in all of it’s plain glory

What’s new with Wave Sequencing 2.0:

Wave Sequencing 2.0 splits apart the timing, the sequence of samples, and the melody, so that each can be manipulated independently. Also added are new characteristics including shapes, gate times, and step sequencer values. Each of these is a “Lane,” and each Lane can have a different number of steps and its own start, end, and loop points.

Every time the sequence moves forward, the individual Lanes are combined to create the output. For instance, a sample may be matched with a different duration, pitch, shape, gate length, and step sequence value every time that it plays. You can modulate each Lane’s start, end, and loop points separately for every note, using velocity, LFOs, envelopes, Mod Knobs, or other controllers. Each note in a chord can be playing something different!

Lanes can also randomize the step order every time they play, with realtime control over the range of included steps. Finally, individual steps can be randomly skipped, with a modulatable probability from 0 to 100%. The result is organic, ever-changing sounds that respond to your control. The four onboard arpeggiators can interact with Wave Sequences for even more possibilities.

Korg’s Wavestate is expected to start shipping very soon for $800 / £699. Find out more about the new Wavestate synth from Korg’s website.

Roland unveils their first MIDI 2.0-ready keyboard

The latest MIDI keyboard controller from Roland features a bunch some exciting things, most importantly MIDI 2.0 functionality for the first time.

Roland have just announced their A-88MKII keyboard at NAMM. The 88 note MIDI keyboard controller will be their very first MIDI 2.0 ready controller for when the new technology launches.

The keyboard will be ready to take advantage of the latest advanced technologies. The soon to launch power of MIDI 2.0 as well as USB-C connections for bus power and single cable connectivity will make for one of their most powerfully connected keyboards yet.

Beyond the A-88MKII’s connective capabilities the keyboard offers some very special features. Roland have undertaken the controller’s construction with care to make it feel like a real instrument. Using robust wood on the keys rather than synthetic materials the weight, sensitivity and responsiveness matches an authentic Roland experience.

The keyboard is capable of layering sounds and instruments with 3 different definable zones. A set of RGB-lit knobs and pads give players extensive control over their playing and sound. There is also a classic pitch/modulation lever so that you can play expressively.

The A-88MKII extends your creative arsenal with three configurable zones, advanced arpeggiator, chord memory, and multipurpose pads that can trigger commands and events, and energise real-time performance. The keyboard can also be customised in-depth using the control app on macOS and Windows.

The A-88MKII keyboard is set to release in March at a price of $999.99. Find where you can buy it here.

Behringer’s CAT synth just stole the show at NAMM

Cats and synth’s are two of internet’s favourite sweethearts and Behringer have brought them back together with the unveiling of a new synth.

NAMM is the self-described, largest event in the world for music makers, music lovers, music tech, instruments and everything audio-based. There have been many new products and announcements to get excited about but Behringer’s new synth is the one on the drooling lips of many music tech enthusiasts.

An inspired clone of a classic 1970’s synthesiser called the Octave Cat, Behringer have revealed the CAT. Using the blueprint of the original’s modulation and filtering capabilities and omitting the keyboard, the CAT Synthesiser offers a desktop synth module with powerful customisation.

There is a dual VCO design powering the sound with unique blending capabilities between the two. VCO1 provides sawtooth, triangle and modulated pulse waveforms and can be used with VCO2, offering saw and square waves.

The CAT is set up to work with other synths and can be used with effects systems for an even more dynamic range. There are CV inputs for the two VCOs, VCF cutoff and resonance, and the VCA. There are also CV outputs for both envelopes in the modules.

There is currently no release date or price range for Behringer’s CAT synth but we’re excited to find out when we can get our hands on this great sounding module.