Music producers need an audio card to produce high-quality tracks. These cards can be used for recording vocals, strings and keys in either home studios or professional recording facilities.
A quality audio card should feature multiple inputs and outputs, including a microphone. It should also feature a headphone jack as well as support for MIDI commands.
1. Apogee Duet
The Apogee Duet audio card is an ideal choice for musicians seeking a superior recording interface. It’s user-friendly, boasting world-class preamps and an exceptional DAC.
The Duet offers two channels of Apogee AD/DA conversion and two world-class microphone preamps, making it the ideal choice for music producers or engineers looking for a top quality interface to build their studio around. Plus, it has USB MIDI I/O and ESS Sabre32 DAC technology to deliver unparalleled sound quality.
Duet provides superior sound quality with up to 192kHz/24 bit resolution, using the same award-winning technology used by top recording pros. The ESS Sabre32 32-bit Hyperstream DAC with Time Domain Jitter Eliminator delivers unsurpassed dynamic range and ultra low distortion free from input jitter, enabling audio capture at its highest resolution.
Apogee Soft Limit, the legendary technology to prevent digital clipping, provides several more decibels of apparent level than other digital converters – creating a wider soundstage and more nuanced imaging of the source audio.
One of the most essential elements in any audio interface is a mic preamp. The Duet offers two of them, each offering incredible gain and 48v phantom power to record any source from vocals to instruments to acoustic guitars with ease. Apogee engineering keeps noise and distortion down even when cranking up the gain levels.
The XLR and 1/4″ inputs are ideal for connecting external mics, line level devices and other sources like guitars or keyboards. They can be set to either phantom or line voltage, making them compatible with a variety of recording software programs.
Another useful feature is the lightning connector connection to an iPad or iPhone, allowing users to create professional quality recordings while on-the-go. This is perfect for musicians who need to record their guitar or vocals wherever they go.
The Duet features an integrated USB 2.0 port, making it compatible with both Mac OS X and Windows operating systems. Plus, its ability to be powered from a wall socket means you can use it anywhere there’s an electrical outlet!
2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface is ideal for musicians who require a straightforward audio interface with plenty of features. It supports sample rates up to 192 kHz and comes equipped with software and effects so you can start recording right away. Plus, its direct monitor button lets you hear real-time zero latency audio through headphones or speakers without passing through your computer – perfect for soundchecking and ensuring levels are set correctly!
The 2i2 also has an impressive feature called ‘Halo’ signal indicators that illuminate when your input is receiving a good signal. Green means you’re getting excellent sound quality, while red means clipping has occurred. This makes it much simpler to determine your levels and when gain needs adjustment.
Another useful feature is the ability to record directly from guitars and pianos using line inputs. These have an instrument/line switch and take either XLR or 1/4-inch inputs.
The 2i2 mic preamp features Focusrite’s legendary Air circuit, providing exceptional audio quality when tracking vocals and acoustic instruments. Equipped with 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters, these new mic preamps enable you to capture and reproduce your music with crystal-clear clarity.
These microphone preamps also feature an ‘Air’ setting that recreates Focusrite’s iconic Air effect from their original ISA mic preamp, giving your voice and acoustic recordings a brighter, more open sound. Furthermore, the 2i2 includes two pairs of balanced 1/4-inch instrument inputs ideal for guitar or bass instruments.
Finally, the 2i2 features wired analogue protection circuitry on its inputs and outputs to protect your interface against power surges.
The 2i2 is an ideal option for anyone wanting to enhance their recording abilities, and its feature set makes it suitable for any genre or level of musician. Furthermore, its ease-of-use is unmatched – just plugging in its USB cable connects it directly to Mac or PC, plus there’s a large software bundle available that includes Pro Tools, First Focusrite Creative Pack, Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle and Focusrite’s Red Plug-in Suite.
3. Apogee One
The Apogee One is a compact yet powerful audio interface designed for mobile recording. It boasts an integrated omnidirectional condenser microphone and quality D/A converters, making it the ideal choice for musicians on-the-go. Compatible with Macs and iOS devices, the Apogee One also comes with its own convenient breakout cable to connect external instruments and microphones.
The One works perfectly as a plug and play device, so there’s no need to install any software before recording. Plus, it’s fully integrated with Logic Pro X so you can control the gain of microphone and instrument inputs through its channel strip interface.
It’s an ideal tool for mobile recording, having been used by artists such as The Chainsmokers. With its aluminum chassis and direct monitoring capabilities, you can be certain of getting superior sound quality when recording.
For its price point, the One is an ideal addition to any musician’s studio. Its omnidirectional microphone makes it perfect for podcasts, interviews and even recording song ideas and jam sessions. Compatible with both iOS and Mac computers, its Maestro app lets you control hardware parameters like input selection and low latency monitoring directly from your phone.
Another outstanding feature of the One is its multi-function encoder knob, which lets you adjust input gains for microphone and instrument inputs as well as output volume. This is controlled by a small dial that lights up when engaged; it can be accessed both directly from the front of the unit or through Maestro app for Logic Pro X.
Unlike many of its rivals, the One also features a headphone output for monitoring. Unfortunately, it is located on one side of the interface which feels unwieldy; perhaps it should be placed higher up or in the centre?
The Apogee One offers the same award-winning sound as its sibling, the Duet, but with more flexibility due to its iOS and Mac compatibility. Plus, it’s cheaper than its rival – an important consideration for budget conscious customers – while still working perfectly as a plug-and-play audio interface just like its bigger brother does.
4. Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Duo
Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin X Duo Thunderbolt 3 audio interface is perfect for songwriters, engineers and producers looking to record superior-sounding tracks. Part of their Apollo series designed specifically for desktop recording, this model boasts world-class A/D conversion with 24-bit/192kHz resolution and 127dB of dynamic range.
The Twin X Duo is compatible with UA’s free LUNA software and features on-board buttons for essential functions like +48V phantom power, monitor switching, stereo linking, talkback mic and high-pass filtering. Furthermore, it integrates with UA’s Console software, providing a complete music production environment featuring real-time monitoring, talkback mic and DSP-accelerated UAD plug-ins.
UA’s Apollo series has long been a top choice among musicians for its exquisite analog sound, and now the Twin X Duo brings that quality into your own studio. With class-leading audio conversion and Unison preamp integration for UAD emulations of classic analog hardware, you can get spot-on sound in any DAW.
Unison technology goes far beyond typical software modeling and emulation, as it physically alters input impedance and gain staging before sending signals to your DAW. This enables you to run a variety of UAD plug-ins – including some of the most sought-after models – with virtually zero latency for direct monitoring or recording through them, just like using an excellent tube preamp.
To get you started, the Twin X Duo comes equipped with 14 UAD-2 plug-ins that cover most common studio tasks, like compression, EQ, reverb and guitar amp simulation. Plus there’s even more choice once you sign up for an UA account; they will send you plenty of offers that can help build your UAD library.
The Twin X Duo also comes with an array of built-in UAD hardware emulation plugins, such as the UA 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ and Teletronix LA-2A Tube Compressor. All are great tools for making recordings sound more professional, and the Twin X Duo offers them at a budget friendly price point. But what truly sets it apart from other interfaces in its class is its ULTRA-TIGHT integration between it and LUNA; providing an incredibly close-to-analog workflow which cannot be achieved through software alone.