Audio Interfaces:  The Best of the Cheap


PCI Interfaces

(add a mixer with preamps or separate preamps).  The Mixer

MAudio Audiophile 2496
M Audio's Audiophile 2496 card is the latest addition to its highly successful Delta family of soundcards. The Audiophile 2496 is an all-in-one high fidelity soundcard solution for a wide variety of applications, ranging from multi-track recording to computer-based home theatre.  Tweak: Add a mixer, Good budget card.  A decent Mixer for this card it the Behringer Xenyx 1204USB Has the alt3-4 bus you need.  Avoid mixers without this bus! (i.e., don't go cheaper.. you may regret it).  If you have to stay under 200 for both then instead go look at the Tascam USB 2.0 interfaces that don't need a mixer.

M-Audio Delta 1010LT 24-Bit 96kHz PCI Card
The 1010-LT offers the professional performance required by today's most popular software programs, and provides you with features like 24-bit 96 kHz recording, zero latency monitoring, and digital mixing.   Tweak: When you need more i/o and will add a mixer with lots of busses, direct outs, or sends, this is a super value.  A good mixer for this card is the Mackie 1642VLZ3 or equivalent.  Great for a person with a couple of keyboards, a few mics, guitars. 

M-Audio Delta 66 Audio Interface
The Delta 66 was designed for the person requiring an audio card with professional features and performance, but with a price tag well below that of typical pro gear. Tweak:  A good Mixer is the Mackie 802VLZ3  Good system for the songwriter composer.  Also good for Jammin' with a friend


See my PCI interface chart



Firewire Interfaces typically will work fine without a mixer

PreSonus FireStudio Mobile FireWire Audio Interface
Finally, a new-generation, studio-quality FireWire interface that you can use anywhere! The PreSonus FireStudio(TM) Mobile combines the superior analog-circuit design and advanced platform technology of our acclaimed FireStudio rack-mount interfaces with the ability to run on bus power in field applications. Now you can have enhanced audio performance for music recording and creation anywhere you can lug your laptop!  Tweak:  Highly recommended-Mac or PC.  Lots of inputs!

Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 FireWire Audio Interface
The Focusrite Saffire PRO 24 is the latest in Focusrite's new generation of FireWire audio interfaces. As with all Focusrite interfaces, Saffire PRO 24 is the best sounding interface in its class, attentively designed with recording musicians and the modern home studio in mind. Tweak: The newest of the batch shown here.

Apogee Duet FireWire Audio Interface (Macintosh)
Duet is a portable audio interface that features the amazing sound quality that made Apogee Electronics famous. With control functions built directly into Apple's Logic Pro, Soundtrack Pro and GarageBand software, Duet empowers you to create professional recordings effortlessly.  Tweak:  Mac Only!  Made for Logic!

Digidesign Mbox 2 Pro FireWire Audio/MIDI Interface
The Mbox 2 Pro is a portable, high-definition audio/MIDI production system that delivers truly professional sound quality. Packing an impressive variety of connection options into a compact interface, Mbox 2 Pro puts powerful multitrack recording and mixing capabilities into your hands, so you can create wherever inspiration strikes. Mbox 2 Pro also includes award-winning, industry-standard Pro Tools LE software and a huge collection of pro effects and instrument plug-ins to get you started creating right away. Tweak: A good way to start with Pro Tools LE Excellent for the DJ PTLE rig. 

See my Firewire chart


USB 2.0 

Some of these are very good values.  Really inexpensive too! Good for plugging in and recording 1 track at a time

Tascam US100 USB 2.0 Audio Interface
TASCAM's US-100 breaks the price barrier for great-quality recording into your computer. The microphone input captures great-sounding performances, or you can plug in your guitar or bass directly into the instrument-level input. Stereo line inputs can be switched to RIAA phono level for digitizing your vinyl collection from your favorite turntable. The USB 2.0 connection guarantees playback without hiccups on your Mac or Windows computer, and the compact aluminum construction withstands the hazards of the road, studio or dorm room.  Tweak:  I still can't believe they got the price so low!

Tascam US144 MKII USB 2.0 Audio Interface
The most popular TASCAM 4-channel USB audio interface has been updated with better audio specs and a fresh new look for the US-144mkII. The US-144mkII starts with two great-quality XLR microphone preamps with phantom power for condenser microphones. There's also a pair of balanced line inputs and a guitar-level in for direct recording of electric guitar or bass. A pair of S/PDIF digital inputs and outputs is also included, for a total of four inputs and outputs at up to 96kHz/24-bit audio quality. Tweak: Good for the person who likes to plug in and record, vocals, keys, guitar, bass a track or 2 at a time. 

M-Audio Fast Track MKII USB 2.0 Audio Interface
Turn your computer into a powerful music production studio with the M-Audio(R) Fast Track -- the best-selling recording interface in its category. Featuring a simple "plug-and-play" USB connection, Fast Track is the easiest way to record guitar, vocals and more with your PC or Mac. Simply plug in your instruments and you're ready to rock. Fast Track even offers phantom power so you can use professional-quality studio condenser microphones like the M-Audio Nova.  Tweak: Basic i/o, no frills.  Should I say that again?  Basic i/o, no frills.

M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB 2.0 Audio Interface
The M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8 x 8 audio/MIDI interface takes M-Audio's acclaimed mobile recording line to the next level with high-speed USB 2.0 connectivity, MX Core DSP mixer and four preamps with award-winning Octane technology.  Tweak: 4 preamps and line inputs gives you flexibilty.  I'd rather run Pr Tools M-powered on this than PTLE on an mbox2

Tascam US1641 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface
With sixteen inputs, the TASCAM US-1641 is the ideal choice for musicians to record the whole band to a computer  Tweak:  This one can record the whole band, without a mixer even.  Super low price for all this i/o.  One of the best values I've seen, ever!

see My USB2.0 chart