Updated: January 25, 2020 by Richard Cole
Technology of home recording has progressed so much in past several years. If you wanted to record something and make it sound good, you used to need a dedicated sound card, a fast computer and specialized recording gear. Those who just wanted an affordable setup were left with little to no choice.
Thankfully, today we have USB audio interface devices that do most of work. Recording at home has become more or less a plug-and-play process, with very little effort required to make everything work.
Today we’re set on finding out what is the best audio interface under 200, so let’s take a look at what’s currently available on the market.
Music Skanner List – Affordable Setup
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has been on the market for quite some time now. The fact that they changed very little since the first version of this device speaks volumes about its quality.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is one of the most proven USB audio interfaces you can find. It is the choice of both recreational and professional users who need a portable system they can use on the go. Because of this, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is our editor’s choice.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 offers what you could consider the basic array of features. You get two channels with XLS/TRS inputs for mics and instruments, and dedicated gain knobs for each channel.
The preamp found in Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the same one you will find in their more expensive gear, and works great. You get up to 24-bit/96kHz A/D resolution, which allows for great sound reproduction. With this device, you also get Ableton Live Lite and a number of plug-ins.
When you first unpack the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, you immediately notice the build quality. The case is made of quality aluminum, and it feels sturdy enough to endure just about anything you can throw at it. Knobs and buttons don’t feel cheap, and there is no free travel in any of them.
For an affordable unit, Mackie Onyx Blackjack has a lot to offer to its users. This audio interface device is not on par with other, more expensive products when it comes to more advanced features, but it’s more than great for home use and home recording. Its core attributes are the affordable price, and the quality of sound.
Instead of developing a brand new entry level device, Mackie’s crew decided just downgrade their existing devices, but keep the most important components. This guarantees quality of sound, and no hiccups.
Layout of the Mackie Onyx Blackjack is rather simple. On top you have two input channels which support the standard XLS/TRS jacks. Gain knobs are above the inputs, and you also have a switch that selects line or instrument setting for the device.
On the right side you have two knobs for monitor control and phones volume control, along with a switch that engages the phantom power mode.
Best thing about Mackie Onyx Blackjack is the quality of mic preamps that come installed with this device. Mackie used the same hi quality preamps they install in their full size mixers, which is pretty amazing considering the MSRP of this audio interface.
Blackjack comes with full DAW support for both Windows and MAC operating systems, along with a copy of Traction 3 DAW.
There is nothing flimsy or cheap about the Mackie Onyx Blackjack. The case is made of folded steel capable of taking bumps and falls to a certain extent. Naturally, you probably don’t want to throw this thing around the room, but if it accidentally falls from your desktop, chances are there will be no consequences.
Switches and knobs are pretty much standard stuff, with no apparent free travel or unnatural movement. Blackjack is a great little audio interface for anyone who travels often but needs that ability to record.
PreSonus is a household name when it comes to portable audio interface devices. They made a lot of great equipment back in the day, and they continue to deliver great products to this day.
PreSonus AudioBox is one of their more affordable products which became pretty popular both with recreational and professional users.
AudioBox from PreSonus sports your average layout with some differences when it comes to position of the knobs that may not be immediately intuitive. Aside from the standard two channels with XLS/TRS support, and dedicated gain knobs, you also get latency-free monitoring, phones volume control and 48V phantom power.
The two preamps found in PreSonus AudioBox are top of the line components, giving you more than enough headroom to play with. You can expect a very good quality of sound from both of these, no matter if you’re recording via microphone or an instrument of some sorts.
Like with most of the devices in this category, you get some kind of DAW software in the package. With PreSonus AudioBox you get the incredible Studio One 3 Artist edition. This software alone is good enough reason to look into this audio interface. You also get an abundance of third party plug-in and other additional material to work with.
One thing you won’t have to worry about with PreSonus AudioBox is breaking it.
The case is made of heavy duty steel, and almost every other exterior detail is made of metal. You can literally drive over this thing and it will keep on working.
To sum up..
These three devices are in our opinion the top of the line when it comes best audio interface under 200 dollars. Some are more expensive than others, but no matter which one you choose, you will be more than satisfied.
These days choosing the right audio interface isn’t that hard and differences between products in the same price range are often minute.