We ditch the studio and discuss the 5 best portable audio interfaces for musicians who want the freedom to record anywhere and at any time.
These days you don’t have to be signed to a record label or rely on getting that sweet advance to afford studio time. In fact, you don’t even need to go to a studio anymore. Thanks to the portable audio interface, you can get studio quality recordings almost anywhere. Whether you’re at home in your bedroom, in a hotel room on tour or you’re recording music with a friend at their house, there’s a portable audio interface out there that will allow you to make top quality recordings on the go and pack away neatly in your backpack, or in some cases, your pocket!
Today, we’re going to look at the top 5 best portable audio interfaces, in price ascending order, that will let you get professional level recordings instantly and at any time. We'll also throw a couple of bonus items in there, as more are revealed.
1. BandLab Link Analog Audio Interface
We simply had to have the BandLab Link Analog audio interface in this list, as this is one of the best portable recording interfaces available today, that again, fits in the palm of your hand.
This is truly a device for musicians, podcasters and interviewers on the move as it allows you to make extremely high-quality recordings directly to your iOS or Android device. You have a Neutrik Combo Jack Socket (XLR or 1/4” Jack) so you can record via microphone or a line level instrument such as electric guitar or keyboard. The BandLab Link has a built-In rechargeable battery that can be charged via USB, so you’re free to record without a power source up to 8 hours – ideal for travelling musicians and journalists and a great way to get your ideas down when inspiration strikes.
Adjust the gain via the gain knob, record with any iOS or Android DAW including BandLab, GarageBand, Music Memos, FL Studios and more, and monitor your mix via the built-in headphone socket. At just 70mm wide, and 42mm high with a depth of 77mm, this will fit easily in your pocket or backpack! Although it only weighs 378g, the non-slip foot makes it stick to the desk or working surface so you’re not pulling it around whilst you’re recording. This is the best portable audio interface for those who record directly to tablet or smartphone.
2. Roland GO:Mixer Audio Mixer for Smartphones
The Roland GO:Mixer Audio Mixer is one of the best portable audio interfaces on the planet right now. Thanks to its easy-to-use and simple layout, the GO:MIXER makes it extremely easy to record high quality audio straight to your smartphone or tablet and is a perfect option for journalists, bloggers, vloggers and those who need to record for social media purposes.
There’s inputs for microphones and line level instruments, all of which can be connected at the same time for instant capture of your music. If you want to lay down some demo tracks or record high quality synced audio and release it straight away without hours of editing, this is the best option available – no more relying on your phone’s noisy mono microphone. The plug and play construction means you’re ready to plug a mic in at and record any time, whilst the GO:Mixer smartphone connection powers the unit. There’s also connection cables for iOS and Android devices included and the unit can also be used on desktop for capturing and editing audio.
You can mix your input sources on the fly and edit anywhere anytime. Ideal for travelling musicians and those who need a hard-working portable audio interface that fits in the palm of your hand.
Check out our 2-minute demo with Andy from PMT Manchester
3. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface is an incredibly powerful portable audio interface that allows you to create 24-bit studio-quality recordings anywhere, anytime. An easy to use front panel gives you all the control you need over your 2 channels. You have 2 x XLR + ¼” combo inputs with switchable phantom power, allowing you to power any microphone and connect your line level instruments.
The major reasons that this makes our best portable audio interfaces list is down to its USB bus powered design, incredible sound and near-indestructible construction. Not only will the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface get its power from your PC, Mac or laptop, but it will also power your microphones and allow you to get pristine, dynamic sounds that capture all the subtle nuances of your playing or singing and be totally fine rattling around in your backpack or guitar case whilst you’re on the go.
A budget friendly, portable and professional level audio interface ideal for musicians and vloggers – all for under £75.
4. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 MKII USB Audio Interface (2nd Gen)
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 MKII USB Audio Interface (2nd Gen) is one of the most widely used (and well respected) audio interfaces in the world of music. In fact, it’s the best-selling USB audio interface in the world thanks to its super-low latency, class leading sound quality and the inclusion of the award winning Scarlett mic preamps.
This small and very portable audio interface allows you to record both microphones and line level instruments through 2 XLR/Jack combo inputs at studio quality, anywhere, anytime. Both inputs have independent gain stages and the 2 x 1/4 inch balanced jack outputs at the rear allow you to hook up your unit to professional studio monitors and mix direct from the interface. Thanks to the fact the interface is connected and powered by a USB cable from your PC/Laptop/Mac and provides phantom power to your microphones you’re ready to record at any time.
In addition, Focusrite have made it easy to set up and record straight out of the box by including a whole host of different recording software options for you to choose from including Ableton Live Lite, the Softube Time and Tone Bundle as well as Pro Tools First Focusrite Creative Pack, 2GB of Loopmasters samples and free plug ins every month with the Focusrite plug-In Collective.
Small, compact and great value for money - if you want professional level recordings wherever you are, this is a great choice and one of the best portable audio interfaces available today.
5. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2
The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 is one of the best-looking portable audio interfaces on this list, designed to provide recording musicians with an easy to use and extremely easy to operate option. Bear in mind, if you want to go smaller the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 is also available, at under £80.
You have 2 combi-XLR/Jack inputs which provide 48V phantom power, so you’re ready to record vocals with condenser mics, guitars and any other line level instrument at a moment’s notice. The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 offers 24-Bit, 192kHz hassle-free recording with zero latency monitoring, so you’re ready to go whether you’re recording a band, artist or award-winning podcast.
The smaller size and hard-wearing outer chassis makes it a great portable audio interface for roving reporters. The VU meter keeps you informed of your levels, a large volume knob ensures you can make quick adjustments and the Input/host mix allows the option to hear playback while recording – perfect for podcasts.
If you’re making tracks on the fly, in a hotel room or just want the option to record in any environment you’ll appreciate the fact you get a whole host of recording software and plug-ins included such as MASCHINE Essentials, Komplete Start and more.
Finally, it’s USB 2.0 powered so you don’t need any batteries or external power supplies as you can power it via your laptop or desktop computer. A perfect portable audio interface for those who want a little more style to their kit.