Best USB audio interfaces for low latency [2020 Guide]

Madalina Dinita
by Madalina Dinita
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best usb audio interface low latency

Low latency audio interfaces are audio interfaces that are designed to minimize the issue of audio latency. This is something that can ruin sound quality, especially when it is at a level that is detectable by the human ear.

There are numerous caused for why low latency occurs, and it can happen in a variety of cases, such as during the recording stage, during playback, during DSP, or during transit.

If you run into this issue and are looking to minimize it, then you need a good audio interface. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the best audio interfaces that can deal with low latency.

Note: Deals are subject to change. Keep in mind that the price tag often varies. We recommend going on the vendor’s website to check the price. Some of the products may be out of stock by the time you’ve made your purchasing decision. So, hurry up and hit the buy button.

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What are the best USB low latency audio interfaces?

1

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2There’s a reason why the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2  is the most popular audio interface in the world, and that is because it focuses on good sound, ease of use and beginner-friendliness.

This model is compact yet versatile, with two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps,  and it also ensures super-low latency and the same class-leading sound quality and digital conversion that the Scarlett line of products is known for.

Pros:

  • Two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gains
  • Two instrument inputs designed for seriously hot pickups
  • Conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz/24-bit
  • Cue mix switching, with four analog outputs

Cons:

  • May sometimes emit static

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2

M Audio M Track 2X2

M-Audio M-Track 8X4MThe M Audio M Track 2X2 provides you with high-quality signal capture in a way that has never been easier thanks to the brand-new Crystal Preamps.

These provide you with a transparent, low-noise solution is that ensures that you get the best quality audio from your microphone or any other instrument that you may be recording at the moment.

Pros:

  • 24 bit/192kHz resolution
  • Crystal Preamps that deliver pristine, transparent sound
  • +48v Phantom Power accommodates all microphone types
  • Hi-Speed USB connection with USB/Direct balance knob for zero-latency monitoring
  • Includes both standard USB and USB C connection cables
  • Dedicated XLR+¼ inch TRS combo input and ¼ inch instrument High Z input
  • Rugged metal chassis
  • Large central control for easy volume adjustment
  • The tabletop design provides easy access to critical controls
  • Stereo ¼ inch outs
  • ¼ inch headphone out with independent level control

Cons:

  • The occasional quality control issues

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3

PreSonus Studio 24c 2x2

PreSonus Studio 24c 2x2Focusing on sound quality above all else, the PreSonus Studio 24c 2×2 operates at up to 192 kHz for the ultra-high-definition recording and mixing of all your songs.

You also have multiple high-quality converters on every input and output and PreSonus’ professional-grade XMAX-L mic preamps allow you to record complex musical harmonics smoothly and naturally.

Pros:

  • USB-C bus-powered
  • 2×2 audio interface with MIDI for macOS and Windows
  • 24-Bit resolution
  • 44. 1, 48, 88. 2, 96, 176. 4 and 192 kHz sampling rates
  • 2 mic/instrument/line inputs with mix-l solid-state mic preamps
  • +48V phantom power (global)
  • 2 balanced ¼” TRS main outputs with front-panel level control
  • 4 ladder-style LED level meters (2 input, 2 main output)
  • Stereo headphone output

Cons:

  • The occasional quality control issues

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4

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 is a compact and flexible 2-in, 4-out USB audio interface that makes it easy to perform and record studio-quality audio even at low latency.

The fact that it is so compact and only powered via USB makes it great for jobs on the road.

More so, the small casing hides two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps, super-low latency, MIDI I/O, four analog outputs and the same sound quality and digital conversion as the rest of the Scarlett range.

Pros:

  • Eight analog inputs
  • Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit
  • Super-low roundtrip latency for using your plug-ins in real-time without the need for DSP
  • Focusrite iOS Control

Cons:

  • May have software issues

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5

M-Audio M-Track 8X4M

M-Audio M-Track 8X4MThe M-Audio M-Track 8X4M is a USB audio interface made to provide you with pretty much all the studio-grade features you could expect.

Not only is it durable and does it provide crystal-clear sounds, but it also comes with plenty of software tools as well. These include the Pro Tools First, M-Audio Edition, Eleven Lite, Ableton Live Lite, and more.

Pros:

  • 24-bit/192kHz resolution for professional recording and monitoring
  • High-speed USB connection with USB/Direct balance knob for zero-latency monitoring
  • Rugged metal chassis
  • Large central control for easy volume adjustment

Cons:

  • The price tag

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Closing thoughts on USB audio interfaces for low latency

Many people think that creating music is just a matter of pulling a few strings and pushing a few buttons, but they fail to realize the work and issues that appear during professional studio recording sessions.

One such issue is low sound latency, and if you too want a way to deal with it, then getting an audio interface specifically designed to tackle this issue is a must.

FAQ: Learn more about audio interface devices

  • Can you use a USB mic with an audio interface?

Audio interface devices don’t support USB as an input source, therefore you cannot plug your USB mic into the interface.

  • How does an audio interface work?

An audio interface works by converting analog signals into digital signals.The audio interface captures the vibration from the microphone which is then sent to the analog-to-digital converter. The converter changes analog data into digital data which is then sent to your computer.

  • Does it matter what audio interface I use?

Your audio interface plays a very important rol when it comes to recording audio. The preamp in the interface amplifies the microphone signal. Tthe quality of both the preamp and mic impact the quality of your recording.

  • Do you need a mixer if you have an audio interface?

If you use an audio interface for recording, you don’t necessarily need a mixer. Your DAW software already supports the features you’d normally find in a mixer.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and updated in February 2020 for freshness, and accuracy.