So you're looking to buy (or sell) an audio interface, and you're wondering what price would be acceptable. Having a good comprehension of audio interfaces and their applications will help tremendously in understanding the cost of an interface.
How much do audio interfaces cost? Audio interface prices range from a few dollars to several thousands of dollars. From consumer-grade USB-TRS cables to high-end multi-channel studio solutions, the variety in designs maintains a wide price range. Price factors include the number of channels and the analog and digital processors.
In this article, we'll discuss why audio interfaces cost as much as they do and take a closer look at real examples of audio interface pricing.
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Table Of Contents
- Price Factors Of Audio Interfaces
- Are Expensive Audio Interfaces Better?
- Price Ranges With Audio Interface Examples
- Related Questions
Price Factors Of Audio Interfaces
Here is a list of the general factors that determine, to some extent, the selling price of an audio interface.
- Parts/IO: The specific parts and the number of individual parts of an audio interface are a big determining factor of cost. The number of inputs and outputs also plays a major role in determining the price of an audio interface.
- Part materials: The cost of materials is a factor in audio interface prices as well. The differences in price between the ideal material and less-than-ideal “good enough” material will vary from part to part.
- Labour/craftsmanship: Many reputable audio interface brands manufacture their interfaces in smaller batches or even one at a time. This allows for extreme attention to detail and expert craftsmanship to shine through in their interfaces, which produce high-quality and consistent products. These manufacturing techniques cost much more time (and money) than cheaper assembly line types of manufacturing.
- Product testing: Perhaps another part of labour is the intense testing that high-end audio interfaces of reputable companies go through before ever reaching the customer. This, of course, takes time and energy and warrants more money. Through thorough testing, the audio interfaces can be assured to be performing at their full potential before their first use outside the manufacturing facility.
- Research and development: It’s no mystery that the high-end audio interface companies are the ones that tend to be industry leaders in innovation. Buying from high-end manufacturers helps them to continue to develop awesome high-quality interfaces.
- Advertising: Whether you like it or not, advertising is an often necessary part of business. Few and far between are the audio interface manufacturing companies that do not spend money on advertising.
- Brand name/recognition: Though this may seem silly, brand names do count in the audio industry.
- Customer support: Many high-quality reputable audio interface manufacturers offer excellent customer support, warranties, and repair services. This, of course, also costs money, and sometimes this is made up in the original purchase costs of their interfaces.
- Company overhead: Like any brick-and-mortar product-based manufacturing business, they need to make a profit on their products in order to pay employees and keep the lights on at their facilities.
Are Expensive Audio Interfaces Better?
Before we dive deeper into the prices of audio interfaces, the question of whether expensive interfaces are better is worth addressing.
Are expensive audio interfaces better? In general, expensive interfaces perform “better” than inexpensive interfaces. Improved technical specifications such as AD/DA converters, internal DSP, sample rates/bit-depths, latency, preamps, inputs/outputs, connections, phantom power, and software controllers all increase the overall price of an interface.
So expensive interfaces offer better overall functionality and quality. However, they're not always the most practical options for a given situation.
Is a top-of-the-line audio interface like the Prism Sound ADA-8XR better than an inexpensive M-Audio M-Track Solo? Are they even worth comparing?
Well, suppose you're running a high-end professional recording studio that requires the best A/D and D/A conversion, clocking/synchronization and modular flexibility that money can buy. In that case, the $9,000+ Prism Audio ADA-8XR is a fantastic choice. However, if you're only starting out and need an upgrade from your computer's internal sound card and a single input for tracking, the $49 M-Audio M-Track Solo is the better choice.
So which audio interface is better? The Prism Sound ADA-8XR certainly offers more functionality and improved performance, but the M-Audio M-Track Solo is likely a better choice for more people. Of course, this is an extreme example, but it illustrates an important point: it all depends on the situation.
Though this is a vague answer to “are expensive audio interfaces better?” it's the best answer I've got for you.
Price Ranges With Audio Interface Examples
As mentioned, the price range of audio interfaces is vast (ranging from a few dollars to 5-figures for a single unit).
So what kind of audio interfaces can we expect at certain price points? I've placed a variety of interfaces in the following price ranges according to their manufacturer-specified retail prices (MSRPs).
Please note that the following prices are in USD. I will add links to online stores to provide pricing examples.
The Price Ranges
Audio Interfaces Under $50
At under $50 USD, we have relatively uncomplicated interfaces that often have noticeable drawbacks, such as latency and connectivity issues. Of course, they are designed to work properly, lest they not make it to market.
These devices generally have a single channel input, simple monitoring (headphone and/or mono/stereo output), volume control, and a single connection (typically USB).
Let's consider a few examples of audio interfaces under $50 USD.
At ~$19, TC Helicon's GoGuitar is super simple in design but lacks the flexibility of connectivity and does cause noticeable latency in some cases. This unit has a 1/4″ instrument input along with a 1/4″ headphone and line output. The interface connector is a 3.5mm TRRS, and the device is compatible with a variety of apps for iOS, Android, Mac and PC devices.
Sure this is a good price and a decent product, but it may require additional adapters to connect properly to cell phones and computers as well as to speakers, which would require an amplifier.
Related article: Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks
At ~$38, the Behringer U-Control UCA222 offers two analog mono coaxial inputs and outputs (for monitoring), USB connectivity and an additional S/PDIF optical output. Unfortunately, the reviews aren't so great due to issues with noise and distortion along with sample rate/bit-depth compatibility.
Behringer is featured in top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
~$49 will get you an M-Audio M-Track Solo, which is at the very low end of what would be considered a “studio” audio interface. As the name would suggest, it features a single mic input (mic/instrument combo jack) with optional phantom power but also features a second instrument input, for a total of two inputs.
Each input has its own gain control, and the output volume is also controlled via a third knob. Outputs include a 3.5mm headphone out and left/right mono coaxial/RCA main/line outputs. The interface connects via USB and supports up to 48 kHz sample rates.
Related article: What Is Phantom Power And How Does It Work With Microphones?
M-Audio is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Audio Interfaces Between $50 – $200
From $50 to $200, we get into the price range of lower-end studio audio interfaces with additional functionality but limited inputs/outputs/routing and lower-quality components (which make for manageable but far-from-perfect specifications).
I can't precisely call these interfaces “consumer-grade” as I've personally used interfaces in this price range professionally (that is, to make money in my home studio). That being said, you'll often find these interfaces in small project studios of musicians and hobbyists and not necessarily in high-end professional studios.
With that, let's consider a few examples of audio interfaces in the $50 – $200 range.
At under $100, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD is a great example of an affordable but good-quality interface. Of course, it's far from top-of-the-line, but for small project studios, 2-mic podcasting and amateur producers, this interface is a fantastic choice.
The UMC202HD is a 24-bit/192kHz, 2-channel USB 2.0 Audio Interface with 2 MIDAS Preamps (with combo jacks, pad and phantom power).
The Direct Monitor function provides latency-free input monitoring, and the preamps are genuine MIDAS preamplifiers with ultra-clear sound with plenty of headroom.
As an aside, Midas is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 10 Best Live Sound Mixing Board/Console Brands
• Top 11 Best Mixing Board/Console Brands For Home Studios
The Audient iD4 MKII is a 2-in/2-out USB-C Audio Interface for Mac/PC/iOS. It has 1 mic/line combo input with a microphone preamp (the same as in Audient's ASP8024-HE recording console), 1 instrument input with JFET direct inject, bus power, 2 headphone outputs (6.35mm and 3.5mm), and a software bundle.
This entry-level audio interface is superb value for home and mobile music producers, packing large-format console performance into a sleek desktop chassis.
Audient is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Audio Interfaces Between $200 – $500
We begin seeing more professional-grade audio interfaces in the $200 – $500 range, but we're far from the best of the best. Drummers' rejoice as decent interfaces with more than 2 inputs can be purchased at this price range.
Again, I've used interfaces in this range professionally. However, these interfaces are more common in small project studios and, as mentioned, are typically the entry-level options for recording drums and/or full bands/ensembles.
You're unlikely to find the perfect specifications in these interfaces, though they do tend to perform well in most situations.
With that, let's look at a few audio interface examples within the $200 – $500 price range.
The TASCAM US-4x4HR is a 4-in/4-out USB-C audio interface at just over $200. Each of its 4 inputs features separate XLR and 1/4″ inputs. Its Ultra-HDDA mic preamps offer 57 dB of super-clean gain. The interface also offers MIDI (via a dependable 5-pin MIDI in/out) and comes with software (Cubase LE). It's compatible with Mac/PC/iOS.
Cubase is featured in My New Microphone's Top 7 Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) On The Market.
It offers the typical monitor balance along with 2 1/4″ headphone outputs and 4 balanced 1/4″ TRS line outputs. The US-4x4HR supports sample rates up to 192kHz with notably low latency.
Related article: What Is Microphone Gain And How Does It Affect Mic Signals?
TASCAM is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
The RME Digiface USB, as the name would suggest, is a USB audio interface for Mac and PC. At just under $500, it offers a whopping 32 inputs and 32 outputs via 4 optical inputs/outputs, which accepts either ADAT or S/PDIF. SMUX and SMUX4 are supported, providing superb flexibility, and the TotalMix FX software makes routing the I/Os and monitoring signals easy.
This bus-powered audio interface handles up to 24-bit/192kHz digital audio. It has a 1/4″ headphone jack for monitoring, and multiple zero-latency monitoring mixes can be routed through the outputs via TotalMix FX.
RME Audio is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.
$499: Universal Audio Apollo Solo Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface with UAD DSP (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
The Apollo Solo is at the low end of Universal Audio's renowned line of Apollo interfaces. This 2-in/4-out, near-zero latency Thunderbolt 3 audio interface features UA's Solo DSP Accelerator that effectively runs UAD plugins without taxing the computer's CPU whatsoever. The Apollo Solo comes with UAD's Realtime Analog Classics bundle, which includes 14 incredible audio plugins (AAX 64, VST, AU, RTAS formats):
- UA 610‐B
- Marshall Plexi Classic Amplifier
- Teletronix LA‐2A Legacy (featured in Top 10 Best Optical Compressor Emulation Plugins)
- UA 1176LN Legacy (featured in Top 11 Best FET Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW)
- UA 1176SE Legacy (featured in Top 11 Best FET Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW)
- Pultec EQP‐1A Legacy (featured in Top 8 Best Passive EQ Emulation Plugins For Your DAW)
- Pultec Pro Legacy
- Precision Channel Strip
- Precision Reflection Engine
- Precision Delay Modulation
- Precision Delay Modulation L
- Raw Distortion (featured in Top 11 Best Distortion Plugins For Your DAW)
- Ampeg SVT-VR
This powerful entry-level UA interface has 1 SHARC Processor, 2 Unison Preamps. The Solo offers enough I/O for most small tracking sessions with an instrument input, two analog outputs, and a high-quality headphone amp/output; the Solo offers enough I/O for most small tracking sessions.
LUNA compatibility allows for a detailed recording, editing, and mixing environment, with full software-based control over your interface's parameters on both Mac and PC.
Universal Audio is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Audio Interfaces Between $500 – $1,000
Between $500 and $1,000, we begin to see more professional-quality interfaces. Though we're unlikely to see any of these in high-end studios, they make great choices for small recording setups in home or semi-pro studios.
The technology within these interfaces is a step up from the $200 – $500 range, and the I/O is often more plentiful and flexible. Of course, there are often tradeoffs when it comes to I/O and overall performance at this level.
Let's consider two audio interfaces within this range: one at the lower end and one at the higher end.
The Roland UA-1010 comes in just above $500. It's a USB 2.0 audio interface with 10-in/10-out and exceptional 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA conversion resolution.
This interface features 8 mic preamps (4 on the front and 4 on the back) with DSP for cue mixing. 6 of these inputs have combo jacks for mic/line, and 2 have combo jacks for mic/hi-Z. The other 2 inputs are in a stereo coaxial S/PDIF connection. Outputs include 2 1/4″ TRS (Main), 6 1/4″ TRS and a stereo coaxial S/PDIF along with 1 1/4″ TRS for headphones. It also features fully functional MIDI I/O.
The UA-1010 is designed with 40-bit DSP-driven cue mixing onboard, allowing users to set up four independent stereo mixes quickly and easily. Its preamps feature AUTO-SENS functionality for automatically setting optimal input levels for all preamps. Low latency is achieved via the stable VS STREAMING driver, and the interface even comes with Ableton Live Lite Software.
Ableton Live is featured in My New Microphone's Top 7 Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) On The Market.
Roland is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
At just under the $1,000 mark, we have an interface from a brand best known for its world-class portable recorder devices. Sound Devices' USBPre 2 USB audio interface only has two channels, but the design and audio quality make its price tag worth it.
Compatible with both Mac and PC, the USBPre 2 features top-notch 24-bit converters capable of up to 192kHz sample rates. The two mic preamps of this interface are the same as those found in Sound Devices' renowned 744T digital portable interface; they're super-clean with extended bandwidth, 48 V phantom power, limiters, high-pass filters, and a 15 dB pad.
Additional inputs for line-level sources and consumer audio electronics, as well as S/PDIF optical Toslink digital devices, are also available. Balanced outputs on XLR connectors with dedicated level control can be used to drive line or mic-level inputs. The high-output headphone amplifier can drive a wide range of headphones.
Audio Interfaces Between $1,000 – $5,000
Audio interfaces above $1,000 are generally of high enough quality to suit the majority of professional applications. The question then becomes about which interface specifications are required.
At these price points, we should expect intricate I/O routing with a decent number of inputs and outputs (often made possible with software). The high-quality components used in these designs also generally offer such things as high-end mic preamplification, low-latency, high-resolution conversion, internal clocks, and even internal DSP to free up computer CPU.
Some interfaces at this level are modular in design to facilitate flexibility in performance and future add-ons for growing studio professionals.
You may notice, too, that many models in this range are designed to mount into standard 19″ racks. This is common among professional audio equipment for powering and space issues.
Let's now consider three audio interfaces in the $1,000 – $5,000 range.
The MOTU 8pre-es is a 24-in/28-out Thunderbolt 2/USB 2.0/AVB audio interface in the $1-5k range. It features 8 mic preamps (as the name suggests), 8 TRS outputs, 2 ADAT I/O, word clock I/O and talkback control.
This interface also featured an in-depth built-in mixer with onboard DSP effects to free up CPU. It's compatible with Mac, PC and even iOS.
The 8pre-es offers stunning audio quality with ESS Sabre32 DAC with round-trip latency as low as 1.6ms at 96kHz. Use up to 52 simultaneous audio channels to achieve your tracking, mixing and playback goals in the studio or live. This unit works equally well integrated into a pro studio or as a standalone mixer.
Related article: How To Fix Microphone Echo And Latency In Your Computer (7 Methods)
The Prism Sound Atlas is a USB Audio Interface and AD/DA Converter with 8 mic/line combo inputs (with highly-transparent mic preamps), 8 analog inputs/outputs, ADAT I/O, S/PDIF I/O, and 2 independent headphone outputs. It features world-class clocking technology and reference-grade conversion, making it a superb choice as a professional audio interface and AD/DA converter.
The interface's built-in digital mixer offers complete routing flexibility, including monitoring for artists and surround-sound outputs. This modular unit can have option cards (sold separately) to facilitate direct interface with Pro Tools systems or Dante networks.
Pro Tools is featured in My New Microphone's Top 7 Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) On The Market.
Prism Sound's proprietary Verifile technology ensures sample-accurate audio for archival or audio forensics. This is a high-end interface equipped to handle your most critical audio tasks.
Prism Sound is featured in My new Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.
The Apogee Symphony I/O Mk II 16×16 is a Thunderbolt audio interface with 16×16 Analog I/O and 2×2 S/PDIF I/O priced just under $5,000.
This state-of-the-art audio interface features Apogee's latest flagship AD/DA conversion and a super-flexible modular I/O that offers up to 32 inputs and outputs. The interface can easily be controlled via the intuitive 4.3″ TFT touchscreen display. The modularity of this unit allows for simple (though pricey) expansion of the setup as audio needs grow.
Let's consider the I/O:
- Analog: 16 balanced inputs on two 25-pin D-Sub connectors
- Digital: two channels of S/PDIF coax; up to 192kHz on one RCA connector
- Analog: 16 balanced outputs on two 25-pin D-Sub connectors
- Digital: two channels of S/PDIF coax; up to 192kHz on one RCA connector
Apogee is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.
Audio Interfaces Between $5,000 – $10,000
In the $5-10k range, we have super high-end audio interfaces. This is a lot of money to spend on an interface. Still, if you're running ultra-demanding sessions in the studio, high-channel-count live events, or keeping up with complicated broadcast audio demands, you'll likely find what you're looking for in this range.
Let's consider a couple of high-end audio interfaces in this price range.
$5,495: Apogee Electronics Symphony I/O Mk II SoundGrid Chassis with 8×8 Analog I/O, 8×8 Digital I/O, and 8 Microphone Preamps (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video)
This unit is a souped-up version of the Apogee Symphony I/O Mk II mentioned earlier. This model comes with additional A8MP and 8×8 Mk II Modules and SoundGrid chassis.
$9,972: Prism Sound ADA-8XR Audio Interface with 16-Channel A/D & 8-Channel AES I/O (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video)
The Prism Sound ADA-8XR Audio Interface with 16-Channel A/D & 8-Channel AES I/O is a 24-bit / 192 kHz modular audio interface, offering flexible inputs and outputs, versatile clocking, and configurable routing. At just under $10,000, it's a perfect unit for demanding music and film production scenarios.
Let's consider a few specs:
- Analog audio I/O
- 1 x Stereo RCA Balanced Output
- 1 x 1/4″ TRS Headphone Output
- Digital audio I/O
- 1 x BNC Coaxial AES-3id / S/PDIF Output
- Sync I/O
- 1 x BNC Video Sync/Word Clock Input
- 1 x BNC Word Clock Output
- 1 x XLR 3-Pin AES11 Input
- 1 x XLR 3-Pin AES11 Output
- Other I/O
- 1 x DE-9/DB-9 RS-232/RS-485 In/Out
This rack-mountable interface also offers superb modularity with 2 Analog I/O Slots, 2 Digital I/O Slots, a Utility Slot, and an Internal DSP Slot.
Audio Interfaces Above $10,000
There aren't many audio interfaces above $10k to be purchased on the consumer market. The demands of such high ticket interfaces are often best solved with custom units or by the cooperation of multiple units.
That being said, there are some instances where audio interface designs are available to be purchased for more than $10,000. Let's consider a single interface in the SSL A32.
The SSL A32 is a 32×32 SDI Embedder/De-embedder Bridge to Dante IP Audio Network and MADI. It provides 32×32 line-level SuperAnalogue I/O to Dante and AES 67-based IP networks with redundant network connections. The A32 has eight SDI circuits, each with embed and de-embed functionality and dual Dante and triple MADI connectivity (two optical, one coax I/O).
For demanding studio and broadcasting projects, this interface is a beast.
Solid State Logic is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
What are the best audio interface brands? There are plenty of superb manufacturers of high-quality audio interfaces. The top 11 are as follows:
- Universal Audio
- RME Audio
- Prism Sound
- Avid & M-Audio
- Antelope Audio
- Apogee Electronics
- Solid State Logic
Read more in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.
Is an audio interface worth it? Audio interfaces are worthy investments for improving the audio quality and the digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converters of a computer. They also allow for more intricate routing and multi-tracking while improving monitoring flexibility over a simple sound card.
Choosing the perfect audio interface for your specific applications can be challenging indeed. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Audio Interface Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help picking your ideal audio interface.