The 5 Best Portable Audio Interfaces (2023)
If you want to record with good sound quality then you need an audio interface. Many musicians and producers are frequent travelers so this article will take you through some of the best portable audio interfaces that you can easily travel around with.
Some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when buying an audio interface are the number of inputs, number of outputs, and phantom power.
My top recommendation for the best portable audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface. By far the most frequently used and well-rounded choice for many.
My second recommendation for the best portable audio interface is the Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 Computer Audio Interface. This is a budget option if you want a solid audio interface without breaking the bank.
The 5 Best Portable Audio Interfaces (2023)
1. Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface
When looking at audio interfaces that have both great quality and a great price, Focusrite Scarlett is usually at the top of the list. Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a great little portable audio interface that’s perfect for anyone looking to get a nice recording wherever they go.
It’s equipped with 2 simultaneous I/O with one XLR and one ¼” jacks and a split ¼” line out. It also has a USB 2.0 and USB-C connection for easy connection with any computer or tablet of your choice, iPads included. You can control the gain with halo technology, essentially giving you an easy visual aid in form of the LED light around the knobs that control gain, which turn red when you go over the line with your gain.
It has phantom power, so you can preamp anything that you can record while keeping the sound quality you need. It’s light, compact and in an aluminum shell, so it’s very road-friendly. The cost is very user-friendly, so you don’t have to splash out a lot of money for this sweet deal.
2. Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 Computer Audio Interface
Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 is a compact, and affordable audio interface with several options included. It comes with a combo XLR and TRS inputs, as well as a stereo output and a monitor output for headphones. It’s bus-powered, so you won’t need any additional power outlets apart from your standard USB socket through which you connect it to the computer.
It’s equipped with phantom power (48v power) and easy to use interface, as it has only three knobs through which you can control the whole thing easily. This is just what you need if you’re looking for a cheap, reliable option to have with you. It’s sturdily built and can easily take traveling with you wherever you go.
3. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo Heritage
UA Apollo Twin MKII Duo is a 2×6 Thunderbolt-connected audio interface with premium digital conversion and sound manipulation for analog recordings.
It has two combo XLR inputs, stereo lineout, and a stereo monitor output as well. On the front you have one big knob with several other buttons to control different options, making it quite easy to use.
Of course, for this, you’ll need to invest quite a bit, but if you’re looking for a high-end, quality product, this is your pick.
4. Roland GOMIXER Audio Mixer for Smartphones
Technology development has allowed us to easily record and mix sound on our smartphones. But the equipment needed for that is not that developed. Roland GO: MIXER is a perfect solution for anyone looking to record and mix their music on their smartphone.
With it, you’ll get 5 inputs – three ¼” jacks and two 3.5mm jacks for up to 5 instruments at the same time. It also has a monitor ¼” output and is connected and powered through a micro USB cable. It’s light, compact, and affordable -everything you might need to combine with your phone and record.
5. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 2×2 USB 2.0 Audio Interface Blue
To finish off this list is another low-end item. PreSonus AudioBox is a small, reliable, quality-made, and affordable audio interface. It’s connected and powered through a USB 2.0, with two combo XLR inputs and stereo outputs.
It also comes with a monitor output and a MIDI I/O, which is rare for these interfaces. When you’re recording you won’t feel any latency, as it has zero latency. It’s compact and easy to use and will give you a lot for not that much money at all.
Should you get Mixer or Audio Interface?
When you think of a recording studio you usually think of a huge mixer and an engineer masterfully moving the sliders on it. But in reality, you don’t necessarily need a large hardware mixer.
Software development has made sound mixing digital. Sure some people still like doing it the old way with an analog mixer, but as a minimum, all you need is a simple audio interface to connect and transform your analog signal into digital for your computer to read. After that, you’ll just have to mix everything in your DAW (digital audio workstation software, such as Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, etc).
Also, you should know that some of the mixers on the market today do act as audio interfaces as well, so if you’re looking for it, you can get a 2-in-1 option as well.
What does an audio interface do?
An audio interface is, to put it simply, converting your sound from analog into digital, so that your computer can read it. It’s necessary if you want to record your sound through your computer with any decent sound quality.
How many inputs/outputs do I need?
The number of inputs depends on how many things you want to record at once. If you’re a singer/songwriter, you’ll probably need just two (one for your mic and one for the instrument). If you want to record more, you’re going to need more inputs (as for more instruments or mics at once).
As for the outputs, you should look out to have at least one stereo output, as well as a headphone/monitor out, to ease up your recording sessions.
Does the interface affect sound quality?
Since the audio single will be going through your interface, it has the potential to affect the signal. Ideally, your audio interface will record a clean signal.
If you invest in a decent quality interface, then the sound quality should be good. If you buy a low-quality audio interface, then you may get noise and distortion introduced into the signal.
Do I need phantom power?
If you have equipment that does need phantom power, then your audio interface will need phantom power. The most common item that people have that needs phantom power are condenser microphones.
Check your equipment before buying an audio interface to make sure it suits your needs.
Can I use a USB mic instead?
Sound quality recorded through a mic and audio interface is almost always a lot better than using USB mics. However, USB mics are better than nothing and they may suit your needs.
If you want to record multiple instruments at the same time, then you need to make sure that you have enough inputs. Also, be sure that you have enough outputs for your needs (e.g. mixing desk, routing to other gear, in-ear monitors, etc).
Also, you may require phantom power depending on what gear you’re using, such as condenser microphones, be sure to check the specs of the interface before buying.
My top portable audio interface pick is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface. This is the most popular and all-around choice out there.
My budget portable audio interface pick is the Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 Computer Audio Interface. If you want to spare your pockets but still have a decent audio interface then this is the one.