Audio Interface Recommendations ~$500

Any PC audio interface recommendations? I would like to stay around $500. When traveling I currently use a Focusrite 4i4 gen 2 and am noticing audio glitches. I primarily use the interface for VSTs. I like to layer multiple VSTs from kontact sample libraries (Albion1), Lunaris, etc). The RME babyface seems highly recommended but it seems odd that it doesn’t have 1/4 outputs. If I am paying that much for an audio interface, I want it to have everything I need. In a perfect world, I woud like a 5 pin midi input on the interface.

I like some of the focusrite gen 3 products but can’t find much information on if the VST processing is much better than the gen 2. I have been on the fence about putting out $500 for a new audio interface. Should I expect a big difference between my current gen 2 focusrite and something new…like will I be able to layer 5 VSTs and play them in real time? My computer is pretty new and pretty fast so I don’t think it is the limiting factor especially since when I am at home I don’t have these audio glitches. At home my “audio interface” is my Roland RD88 keyboard which has a built in autio interface.

I find it difficult to search for an audio interface for VSTs. There doesn’t seem to be an easy performance metric you can just compare across interfaces like looking for number of ins/outs. I feel like I could get option A for $200, option B for $500 and don’t really have a clue how differently these will perform.

Thanks for any suggestions and helping me decide if I shoudl pull the trigger on a new audio interface.

-Andrew V. Romero

Anything RME. Having TotalMix in your corner is a huge advantage.

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+1 for this. I’ve got RME in my studio and out live.

Rock solid drivers, great hardware and Total mix allows you to put any signal anywhere.

Neither have ever let me down through many Windows iterations and 10+ years of live gigs.


RME Digiface USB & ADA8200:
rocksolde, lowest latencies, 8 analog ins, and outs, TotalMix, headphone out, massive capabilitis to expand if necessary (up to 24 I/Os).
If you add a small Midi Interface you will get everything somewhere around 550

Here an example where I placed everything into a rack:

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EVO 8 Audio Interface - Make great recordings effortless

Spec wise in that price range I’d look for a bare minimum of ±5VDC analog sections and preferably ±15VDC. And a reputation for efficient, stable driver. Nowadays, the converter chips are all going to be decent in that range and IMO, the analog voltage spec is much more important since it dictates I/O headroom.

Thanks for the suggestions. RME seems to get the best recommendations across the board. I am mixed on RME Digiface USB & ADA8200. Part of me really likes the idea of having that many mic inputs. I was considering something like the Focusrite 18i20 for the mic inputs…I wouldn’t use them often but would be nice to have. Then the other part of me really dislikes going from carrying my computer and audio interface in a backpack to transporting this setup. Bringing a rack mounted setup is logistically hard where I play…plus I would need to bring along a midi interface. I wish RME had a smaller device with a midi port, a couple inputs, a set of 1/4 outputs and a set of xlr outputs. The RME babyface comes close but the physical layout of this device is just odd and I’m not too excited about having a midi dongle…that just seems like it won’t last over time plus the only outputs being xlr seems odd.

Anyone have experience using some of the standard smaller stuff like the motu m4, kontact audio 6, stenberg ur22? Should I expect better performance from these than my current Focusrite 4i4 gen2? I have been happy with whatever built in interface my Roland RD88 keyboard has in it.

I have briefly considered the RME Fireface UCX II. It is a nice physical layout, has midi inputs, but the cost seems super high given the 2 mic inputs. If this had like 8 mic inputs, I would be tempted but it just seems really expensive, like 8 times more than other products with similar features.

If Focusrite is in the starter league and Fireface is in the Pro league, what is a good mid-league?

-Andrew V. Romero

KA6 is fine.

I wouldn’t touch the UR22. One of our players was using one yesterday and was getting drop-outs. It’s not the first time we’ve had this, but it eases when we aren’t running backing tracks on his system. Then was told by player 3 that he’d had the same thing with a UR22 and he’d ditched his.

My experience with the UR22mkII is good. Never had any problems with it. I also bougth one for my daugther. However, we just use them at home, with Cantabile and DAWs (Cubase and Cakewalk). I have never tested it in a live situation.


I use a MOTU M2 for mobile/concert live and it works well. I am playing guitar, singing, plus a prerecorded/mixed track.

For the M2, I use the two audio inputs for a vocal mic and guitar, the MIDI input for the FCB1010 foot switch mostly to start/stop songs, and the two audio outputs to feed the Bose system and the house system if needed, and the USB-C interface for the laptop.

If you have Facebook, here is a link to one of a series of posts I made public for a dry run concert I did in June and the topic on this post included the M2:

Another post from the series including a short live video so you can see it works:

Our UR22 problems could simply be that the driver requires more of the computer’s resources to work well, which is fine if the computer can deliver, and doesn’t make it a bad thing per se. We are getting better performance from a KA6.

My main interfaces are all RME (Babyface, Fireface), but I‘m getting great performance from the Zoom UAC-2 as well - good low-latency performance, rock-solid, and it has DIN MIDI in/outputs.

I’ve also experimented with the EVO series - good low-latency performance, but I’ve found the software a bit unreliable, so not ready to recommend fully



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important to know: the Digiface doesn’t have a built-in DSP, so no reverb, channel EQ or compressors. Not so much an issue if you simply want great input/output performance, but the reason I went for a Fireface for my studio - love the built-in reverb for vocal monitoring and using channel EQ and comp for my talkback mic.

The Digiface does have all the fancy TotalMix routing capabilities, so if you don’t need the FX, it is a great option.



Another complete RME fan here (several Babyfaces and a UCX II) … but with one caveat: MIDI control. TotalMix is a killer app - ultra flexible and reliable - but I can’t sufficiently control it from external MIDI.

I run an array of rather complex rig setups, depending on the situation. I’m also a bit of nut about latency reduction since it really affects how I play my primary axe - a Sylphyo WindSynth.

I use an external MIDI controller - a Faderfox EC4 - to implement a custom mix of all my routes through the UCX II and it works great. I would love to tightly integrate TotalMix ™ into this scheme so that appropriate routes (e.g. the dry hardware synths to outputs) could take advantage of TM’s direct monitoring.

Yes, there is an ARC USB (I have one), but it’s a separate device and I can’t integrate it with C4 and my rig setup. Yes there is the Mackie Control protocol, but that seems to be proprietary, and RME is apparently under a non-disclosure with Mackie and can’t release the MIDI implementation details. Spent hours hitting TM with custom MIDI streams trying to find additional commands that do things. From what I can tell, there is note even a complete implementation of all of the TotalMix features … so it’s a losing game on that front.

That said, I still highly recommend RME for all the other good (perfect!) things they do …

I’m a fan of glitch free first. I have used Steinberg, presonus, soundcraft, even peavey and Behriger audio interfaces on many stages with no problems. The interface is not the only bottle neck. Also, the efficiency of using C3 has a lot to do with it, as well. Just in case your favorite audio interface still let’s you down. Just my opinion.


maybe this helps?

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Good to know, that’s one I’ve had my eye on for a while.

I’ve created my own MCU-compatible control surface in MIDI Designer Pro. The controls are not such a secret - I found the details fairly easily, and some I could guess.

Since people are talking up interfaces that have served them well, if you’re a guitar/bass player check the IK Multimedia Axe I/O Solo. It has a solid driver, MIDI DIN in/out, a mic input and a special instrument input that allows you to switch from “Pure” to “FET” for the preamp and an input impedance knob called Z-Tone and finally a switch for active/passive pickups.

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I’ve been using the Presonas Quantum 2626 for a couple years, and I’m continually blown away by it. Extremely low latency, rock solid driver, nice preamps, the most transparent sound of any interface I’ve owned. But it is Thunderbolt. And it’s rack mountable.