Updated: Jan 9
Recording at home does not have to put a huge hole in your wallet. Audio interfaces are one of the most accessible pieces of gear money can buy, and it's one of the most essential pieces of gear for recording quality tracks at home. It's important to have something that will capture your guitar playing with unmatched clarity.
Here I'll share the five best budget audio interfaces for recording metal guitar at home. These interfaces come with essential features, and are bundled with software to get you started on your recording journey ASAP.
Although these are cheap interfaces, you'll be happy to know that these produce extremely high recording quality.
1. PreSonus Studio 24c | $160
The first interface on our list is the Studio 24c from PreSonus, coming in at a whopping $160. This interface comes PACKED with essential features for recording and monitoring yourself.
One awesome feature is the blend knob. You can monitor and blend the signal going directly into the interface, and with the signal coming out of your DAW. This way you can choose or blend which sounds you want to monitor with, and will make your life MUCH easier when hearing yourself in real time.
Another cool feature is the MIDI input and output in the back of the unit. This is perfect for use with keyboards, synths, or just about any MIDI instrument that you have laying around. This is also the only interface on this list with MIDI inputs and outputs, which makes this even more of a bargain for it's low price!
Best of all, it comes with Studio One Artist, which is a trial version of Studio One. So with this, you can potentially cross the DAW off your wish list! That's a pretty insane value for $160 if you ask me.
2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 | $169
The Scarlett line from Focusrite is one of the most well known interfaces, and for good reason. It's industry-standard recording quality, durable design and reliability make it one of the best interfaces for home recording and professional use. The 2i2 comes in at about $169, and although its not the cheapest in the Scarlett line (that title belongs to the Scarlett Solo), it definitely has the most insane value at its price point.
Just like the 24c, it has two inputs, a headphone output, and stereo monitor outputs. However, it lacks the MIDI capabilities that the 24c has.
The input gain control knobs have a very unique feature. The knobs have a color wheel around them, and their color changes depending on the level of your input. If your levels are low or safe, the light is green. However, if your signal is too hot, the ring will light orange and red. This is a really intuitive way to track your input, and takes a lot of guesswork out of gain staging your inputs.
The Direct Monitoring feature is a huge advantage for those looking to record tight takes. It monitors anything going into your input(s), like your mic'd up amps or modelers, with absolutely zero latency. However, it doesn’t have the option to blend your monitoring with your DAW like the Presonus.
This interface also includes an “air” option. Enabling this will give a little bit more high end and character to whatever you’re putting in. It can definitely add a very cool characteristic to most guitar DIs, and even vocals.
Best of all, this interface comes with Pro Tools First, which is a beginner version of Pro Tools, the standard DAW used in the music industry. So you can cross your DAW off your list!
Taking these features into consideration, the Focusrite's Scarlett 2i2 is an absolute steal at it's $169 price point.
3. Universal Audio Volt 1 | $139
Universal Audio seriously shocked me when they announced such a cheap piece of gear. Universal Audio makes top-tier audio gear, and the Volt 1 comes packed with all the features from both interfaces above, plus a few awesome goodies.
This interface is a 1 input, two output interface with a stereo headphone output. It also has a direct/host monitor switch, and phantom power for microphones. Very similar to the last two interfaces.
However, the best coolest feature on this interface has to be the "Vintage" switch. When toggled on, your input is colored by an emulation of a popular Universal Audio preamp, the UA Audio 610. Mind you, the real preamp costs a whopping $1200. Having this in such a small, cheap package is absolutely mind blowing. This will open up so many tonal opportunities with your guitar, or even vocals!
Volt also comes with a ton of amazing software. It's bundled with software like Melodyne (an industry standard vocal/instrument tuning software), Abelton, Virtual Drummer, and so much more. For only $139, this is absolutely insane value. If you are looking to get recording on a budget, this is definitely the way to go.