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Best Audio Interface for a Home Studio: A Detailed Guide

Audio interfaces are an essential piece of equipment for recording live instruments. If you’re building a home studio, like I currently am, you’ll want to know what the best audio interface is for your needs and budget.

The best audio interface for a home studio is the Steinberg UR22C MKII. This is due to the combination of its low price and high quality components and connectivity.

This is my decision based on the research I’ve conducted. I’ve included all of my reasons below, as well as what you should consider when buying an audio interface, and a useful comparison table!

Note: I’ve also included an affiliate link to the Steinberg UR22C MKII . If you choose to buy a product through this, or any link on this page, I’ll get a commission payment from Amazon at no additional cost to yourself.

Audio Interface ModelPriceInputsOutputsOther Features
Steinberg UR22C MKII£1292 x Combined balanced 3 Pin XLR and 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS
1 x 5 Pin MIDI
2 x Balanced 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS
1 x 5 Pin MIDI
USB 3.0
48v Phantom Power
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)£1382 x Combined balanced 3 Pin XLR and 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS2 x Balanced 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRSUSB 2.0
“Air” Mode
48v Phantom Power
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen)$239 / £2092 x Combined balanced 3 Pin XLR and 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS
2 x Balanced 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS (Fixed Gain)
1 x 5 Pin MIDI
4 x Balanced 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS
1 x 5 Pin MIDI
1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) Headphone
USB 2.0
“Air” Mode
48v Phantom Power
M-Audio AIR 192|14$299 / £2694 x Combined balanced 3 Pin XLR and 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS
2 x Unbalanced 1/4″ TS (Variable Gain)
2 x Balanced 1/4″ TRS (Fixed Gain)
1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) MIDI
2 x Balanced 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS
2 x Fixed Balanced 1/4″ (6.35mm) TRS
1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) MIDI
2 x 1/4″ (6.35mm) Stereo Headphone
USB 2.0
48v Phantom Power
A table comparing the price, inputs, outputs, and other features of common audio interfaces used in home studios

What is an audio interface?

An audio interface, also called a sound card, is a piece of hardware that lets you connect external instruments to your computer, usually with the aim of recording them into your DAW.

It’s an essential piece of equipment for music producers who want to record live instruments or interface with their DAW, such as using your DAW to control your hardware instrument via MIDI.


When it comes to inputs for your audio interface, it’s important to know what you will be using it for to ensure that you have enough inputs for your needs.

For example, if you intend to make songs on your DAW, then you will likely only be using 1 input at a time for most instruments.

In this case, having an audio interface with 2 inputs that can record simultaneously gives you what you need as well as having the flexibility to record stereo, such as with some synthesizers, or to record vocals and a guitar together for an acoustic set.

If you’re looking for an audio interface that you can leave your instruments plugged in all the time and be ready to record at convenience, then an audio interface with more inputs like the Steinberg UR44C will be better suited for you. This is also the case if you want the flexibility to be able to perform live music too. You can also use it without having it plugged into a PC!

Here’s an Amazon affiliate link to the Steinberg UR44C.


For outputs, it’s important to know that most audio interfaces record over USB. This means that your outputs will be used, in most cases, for connecting a pair of studio monitors.

For this reason, I recommend that having 2 outputs is enough in most cases. 

If you have a larger studio, and want to connect different devices for monitoring, or want to send the audio out for FX processing, then the Steinberg UR44 may be the better option for you.

It’s also worth mentioning that a headphone output is a standard feature with most audio interfaces, which will also allow you to monitor and mix your audio.


MIDI Input and Output (MIDI I/O) is the ability for an audio interface to both receive and send audio from and to devices, respectively.

Having MIDI I/O gives an audio interface great versatility as it means that you can control MIDI devices from your DAW. For example, you could send the MIDI instructions for a complex melody directly from your DAW to your synthesizer, and then record the sound without having to play it.

For me, this was the deciding factor on which audio interface to recommend.

This is a great feature for producers who want to get more out of their equipment, or save time when recording. It’s also an essential feature for live performance, as you can trigger your device to play at certain times.


A preamplifier, or preamp, is a piece of equipment designed to boost the amplitude of your instrument’s signal which gives you a cleaner signal with less noise. They can also be used to shape the colour of the sound, as in the case of vacuum tube preamps.

Almost every audio interface will have some form of preamp, but not all disclose the type of preamp, which can affect the sound.

I’ve had a look through the technical specifications of the audio interfaces on the table towards the top of this article, and only the Steinberg UR22C MKII lists the pramps used. For me, the transparency provides me with more comfort and assurance around the product I’m buying.

For reference, the preamps are given as “Class-A D-PRE”. A Class-A preamp means that it reproduces the entire audio signal, as opposed to a Class-B which reproduces either the positive or negative of the sound wave. Class-A records at a better fidelity and won’t have the crossover distortion that comes with Class-B’s.

The “D” refers to discrete, which means that the preamp isn’t integrated into the circuit, which is usually a sign of better design.

You can also buy preamps by themselves, which may give you some flexibility over your tone. For higher end home studio’s, you may consider investing in a dedicated preamp.

Sample rate and bit depth

I’ve covered sample rate and bit depth in length in this article, but essentially they directly impact the audio quality of your recording.

Most audio interfaces record at 24-bit/192 kHz which is more than enough. As noted in my article, you’d have a hard time noticing any difference between a recording 24-bit/192 kHz and  16-bit/44.1 kHz, which is the standard for CD’s.

The Steinberg UR22C MKII has a 32-bit depth, which theoretically gives you more headroom and should improve your signal-to-noise ratio, but again, you probably won’t notice a difference!

Power Consumption

If you’re running a home studio, you might be concerned about the electricity bill that your audio interface is using!

The truth is, the cost of using the audio interface is negligible as it draws its power from your PC’s USB port. These ports have a maximum output of 2.5W for USB 2.0 or 4.5W for USB 3.0. It’ll likely be costing your fractions of a penny for normal use.

For example, the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 requires 900mA power, which would cost $0.0055 or £0.004 for 24 hours use (based on a tariff of 18.54p/kWh).


You should now have a better idea of the audio interface that is best for your home studio. My recommendation is the Steinberg UR22C MKII, as it comes at a reasonable price, has great features, and enough inputs and outputs to suit most applications.

If you’re still undecided, you should consider the following when researching for your audio interface:

  • How many inputs do you need?
  • Do you need MIDI I/O?
  • Will you be using it for live performances?
  • What quality are the preamps?

If you have any questions, or think I’ve missed anything, get in touch here.

Related Questions:

Is an audio interface necessary?

An audio interface is a necessary piece of equipment for recording live instruments into a DAW. This can be achieved using a dedicated audio interface, also known as a sound card, or an audio mixing console.

What is the best audio interface for under $200

The best audio interface for under $200 is the Steinberg UR22C MKII. This is due to the combination of its low price and high quality components and features.