If you are using XLR microphones for recording podcasts, you need a USB audio interface. USB microphones are connected directly to your PC, but XLR mics record the audio as analog signals that need to be converted in digital signals for your computer.
Now even the sound card in your computer can do the job, but it fails to give you professional and distortion-free audio that you need for podcasting. Even a cheap audio interface upgrades the sound quality of your recordings better than a sound card.
Also, if you are looking for a USB microphone to go with your USB audio interface, we have a guide on the best USB microphones that you should check out.
Also Read: – Best USB Microphones
In this article, we will look at some of the best USB audio interfaces for podcasters in 2020. We have selected some USB audio interfaces that support a range of XLR preamps so you can choose one that suits your needs the most.
Best USB Audio Interface for Podcasters in 2021
Let’s look at each option in detail.
Zoom U-44: Best Portable USB Audio Interface
- Compact and handy
- Can be powered with AA batteries
- Separate gain control for all outputs
- Affordable price
If you need a compact and mobile USB audio interface, the Zoom U-44 is for you. It’s small enough to fit in your palm.
The Zoom U-44 is a very flexible USB audio interface. It gets power on both bus power and two AA batteries. You can conveniently take it anywhere you go. You don’t even need a host device and use it as a self-contained device. It also provides phantom power to your XLR mics.
It’s a 4-in and a 4-out audio interface that enables you to record a podcast from practically anywhere. The more XLR preamps allow you to conduct interviews, live discussions, or simply record the music from wherever you want to.
The Zoom U-44 is equipped with high-quality mic preamps that can record up to 24-bit. You can connect it with your PC, Mac, iPad or simply make use of it as a standalone AD/DA converter and mic preamp.
The portable interface provides two combo inputs with independent gain control. It ensures the phantom power supply to both inputs. Input 1 supports both Hi-Z and MIDI I/O jacks for synchronization.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: Best USB Audio Interface Overall
- Easy setup
- Air Mod
- Sturdy Built
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is presented with a simple setup and hassle-free recording operation that makes it an ideal choice for beginners.
The audio interface comes with sturdy construction and a nice finish. The metal top looks classy, and it’s size is also smaller than the first generation Focusrite Scarlett. Though not as portable as Zoom U-44 but it is certainly compact enough to allow mobility.
It’s a second-generation audio interface with 2-in-2 interfaces. You get two mic preamps for interviews or playing instruments. Perfect if you do interviews or have a co-host on your podcast.
The audio interface is equipped with a high quality 24 bit AC/DC converter. It features a gain control button that also blinks red to remind when you need to adjust the gain control.
An interesting feature is an air mode that renders a distinctive high-end detailing to your sound recordings, making it sound more spacious and brighter.
The interface allows 48v phantom power that you can on and off as per your choice. You also turn on or off the direct monitoring button. It gives the option to monitor the sound as mono or stereo, which is important if you are connecting it with a stereo microphone.
The audio interface provides crisp sound quality. It can digitally convert up to 24bit and 192 kHz audio without any noise or hum. You get a low latency rate and super clear sound quality.
Overall, it’s a great choice for singers, instruments, and Podcasts and provides everything you are looking at in an affordable audio interface. It provides gain control for both XLRs and headphones.
M-Audio AIR 192|6: Best 2×2 Affordable USB Audio Interface
- 2-in-2 audio interface
- Low-latency audio
- Affordable price
Here is another budget-friendly USB audio interface. M-Audio AIR 192|6 allows you to capture clear and high-quality sound without putting a dent in your pocket.
This one is also a 2-in-2 audio interface that provides one XLR 1/4 TRS input and one ¼” instrument input. For outputs, you have the usual stereo and a headphone port that pretty much covers your all basic needs.
The professional-quality audio interface allows two mic preamps. It can convert 24-bit and 192 kHz sound recordings that is enough to capture the nuances from your sound recordings. It also provides sound-meters beneath each mic input that capture your performance as you need it.
The interface provides crisp sound quality with zero-latency technology. Its USB connection and a monitor mix control make it a hassle-free choice for any podcaster.
Steinberg UR12: 2×2 USB Audio Interface
- Rugged Built
- Well marked buttons
- Affordable price
- XLR and Hi-Z inputs
Here is a rugged interface for podcasters. UR12 is a sturdy tank with metal construction. It provides well-marked labels that make all options readily available for beginners.
It’s an ultra-compact audio interface that you can easily move or take along. The audio interface features one XLR mic preamp and one Hi-Z instrument input. However, if you are looking for stereo recording, you should consider another option.
The audio interface offers a 24-bit resolution that provides good range in this price range. It is specially designed to capture all the subtleties and expressiveness of any music source. It offers a wide frequency range that can handle all sorts of music sources.
Overall, it’s a budget-friendly option that suits those podcasters who work with one mic and have a limited budget.
BEHRINGER Audio Interface: Best Audio Interface with MIDI I/O
- Built-in MIDI I/O
- 4 Mic Preamps
- Single Screen features
Here is a USB audio interface for those who need more mic preamps along with a MIDI interface. The interface comes with all the connectivity options required for microphones, MIDI devices, or musical instruments.
The audio interface features four astonishing world-class MIDAS-designed preamps. It offers 192 kHz resolution that can work with the most demanding applications. The interface allows zero-latency for monitoring the recordings.
There is no delay in returning signals that give clarity and perfection to your recordings. It provides a simple setup and is compatible with all operating systems. The audio interface has a built-in MIDI I/O that allows you to connect with keyboards or all other types of MIDI hardware.
The USB interface provides a simple Digital Audio Workstation for mixing, processing, and sharing your music with the world. It features a single-screen interface with outstanding DAW features.
Overall, it’s a quality option for those who are looking to upgrade their existing audio system. With four inputs and outputs and
PreSonus Studio 68c 6×6: Audio Interface with 6-mic Preamps
- USB-C audio interface
- 6-mic preamps
- Includes a MIDI interface
- Low latency rate
This one is an ultra-high-definition USB-C audio interface for professionals. The interface is suitable for small to mid-sized studios.
It comes with an integrated music production software. The USB-C interface is easy to connect with Mac or Windows OS and enables you to compose, record, and produce without hassle.
The audio interface provides 2-in and 4-out connectivity options. It provides 48-V phantom power for mics. All of its line output levels are DC coupled and send control voltage.
With all these the Studio 26C offers a MIDI interface as well that allows you to connect it with a keyboard, sound module, or another control surface.
The USB interface provides 192 kHz that produces ultra high definition recordings. With the minimum latency rate, the recordings are smooth and natural without any audible distortion.
The best part of having the Studio 26C is its portability. It’s a small interface with all-metal construction. Its sturdy built and small size makes it an excellent travel partner.
Tascam US-4×4 USB Audio: Best USB Audio Interface With 4 Mic Preamps
- Ergonomic design
- 4-mic preamps
- TRS input for balancing signals
Tascam US-4 is a USB-2 audio interface and mic preamps that provide quality audio and an ergonomic design.
It’s a great option for those who need more mic preamps. The interface offers 4-in and 4-out mic preamps that are perfect for talk shows, music production, and a range of other studio recordings.
The USB interface provides ultra-HDDA mic preamps that offer 58 dB gain control. That means nearly inaudible noise and distortion specs in your recordings.
It’s mic input features a special XLR cable that would also provide phantom power to your mics. It also provides a special TRS input jack for balancing line-level signals with professional processors and synthesizers. The inputs can be used for direct recordings of instruments like guitars.
The audio interface provides both the headphone and line input volume control. You can control the volume even when the interface is connected with the PC monitor.
It comes with a slim and ergonomic design. The solid metal construction makes it durable and easy to move as well. It’s angled design keeps you comfortable while working on the desktop.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin: Best Expensive USB Audio Interface
- High-end audio interface
- Great sound quality
- Real Time monitoring with UAD Plug-ins
- Best for music production
Universal Apollo Twin is a complete analog studio with the Realtime UAD plug-in processing. It’s a US version of Apollo twin audio interface with a sturdy built and great performance. So far, it’s the most expensive option on our list but provides better sound quality and functionality.
Universal Apollo twin allows you to record and mix through the full range of UAD with zero latency. The audio interface provides the highest dynamic range and breathtaking sound clarity.
Overall, it’s a quality option that provides UAD powered Plug-ins and Realtime tracking and monitoring. Universal Apollo Twin is an excellent choice if you add music in your podcasts as well.
Buying Guide for Selecting the Best USB Audio Interface For Podcasters
USB audio interface comes in great variety. They differ in the price range, and the difference lies not only in their quality, but also the option they provide. So here are a few things that you should consider while selecting an Audio Interface for podcasting.
• Number of Inputs
Before you buy the audio interface, you need to be sure of what you need. The first thing to consider is how much input you need to connect with the interface.
Now that depends on the format of your podcast and what you do. If you are a solo host, you may not need a very sophisticated system. You can simply buy a one-line interface and go with the recordings. That saves money, and it is pretty simple to handle as well.
If you intend to interview people or have a co-host of some sort, then you will be using more than one microphone. That means you should carefully gauge the needs before selecting how much mic preamps your audio interface should offer. You have 1-8 inputs to select from. So basically you need to select an audio interface depending on the number of mics you will be using.
Also, inputs are for inline or instruments. If you are playing music for your podcasts, you should consider the instrument inputs as well.
• Phantom Power
You will need 48-v phantom power. Condenser microphones need to be powered. Unless you are using a dynamic mic, you need to charge your microphone with phantom power coming from your audio interface. Almost all USB audio interfaces offer 48 volts phantom power, but still, you need to double-check before you select one.
• Number of Outputs
Not only you will be recording the podcasts and sending it to your PC, but you might want to listen to the recording in real-time or afterwards for processing. So you need to consider the outputs that an audio interface is offering. Also, it is convenient to have a volume control option with the headphone output for adjusting the volume right from the interface.
If you want to incorporate additional hardware, you need to consider the number of outputs an audio interface is offering.
• MIDI I/O
Not all audio interfaces offer built-in MIDI I/Os. So if you are looking to connect an external keyboard input for synchronization, you need MIDI inputs and output.
Most of these audio interfaces are compatible with more than one system. However, it is still essential to look at specs and see whether a particular audio interface is compatible with the system you use. Once you check the compatibility, you also need to check on the connectivity option. Some of the audio interfaces can be connected with USB-C, 2, or 3. Always check if a particular audio interface can be connected with your PC or other devices.
• Physical Appearance
The physical appearance of the audio interface may matter more than you think whether you will be placing it on your desk or mount it on a rack behind the monitor. You also need to consider the size and weight of an audio interface if you intend to take it along while travelling, or you just need it for studio recordings. So consider all these options carefully before you select an audio interface.
• Special Features
Beside some of these basic features, you might want to look at some special features. For example, if you intend to play instruments like the guitar or piano, the interface should have a special connection for that. You may also need a guitar amplifier. Some audio interfaces offer digital signal processing chips and have built-in mixers. These chips allow you to make use of the audio interface as a standalone device. The price of these audio interfaces can go up high depending on these special features.
The budget is probably the most important factor to consider for selecting the best USB audio interface.
You can get a decent audio interface under $100 easily, but you may not get the number of inputs you require. So a less pricey option may provide fewer inputs that can be limiting.
If you are selecting an audio interface with more line inputs that do not mean you will get a better sound quality. The extra price probably is what you are paying for more inputs. So that’s where it becomes tricky.
Make sure you select the audio interface that only provides the number of inputs you need. The price should be for the quality of sound and low latency and not the number of inputs.
Buying an interface with four inputs is only a waste if you are not going to use that many microphones. You might look for the two mic inputs within the same range and get better sound quality.
Choosing the best USB audio interface is not very difficult if you know your needs. Make sure you choose a good quality audio interface with the right inputs you need. Buying an audio interface with more line inputs that you don’t need would needlessly increase the price and may not give the best quality.
We have enlisted several USB audio interfaces with a variety of options for your convenience. Look for the one that provides enough inputs and outputs that fits in your budget.
Also, if you’re looking for a complete podcasting setup that goes well with a USB audio interface, check out our full guide on the best podcasting equipment to know exactly what you need for a great setup.
Jeremy has been running several online businesses behind his laptop for the past 5 years and he has worked as a freelance web developer previously. A trained marketer by profession, he also has Ruby on Rails and web development knowledge. His forte lies in eCommerce, SEO and content marketing. He’s been featured on Vice, Thrive Global, YFS Magazine, Forbes and several other publications. He prefers to connect with people on LinkedIn.