There are a number of manufacturers that have made a name for themselves by producing products with superior audio performance. Here are just 5 compact audio interfaces from manufacturers renowned for their high end audio performance:

1. MOTU MicroBook

Front and Rear Audio Interface

This small silver box may look a little innocent, but this is a serious piece of kit offering MOTU sound quality together with some serious analysis tools.

Build for Mac and PC, the MicroBook incorporates a 10 bus digital mixer enabling up to 5 different stereo mixes, 7 band EQ built in and compression.

It’s also bundled with a host of powerful analysis tools like and an oscilloscope, phase analysis, X-Y plotting and spectrograph.

Balanced line inputs and precision trim with save and recall settings make setting up a treat too.

Curated video for the MicroBook

Further reading

Feature Summary at the MOTU website

MicroBook User Guide

2.  Focusrite – Scarlett 8i6

8 Inputs and 6 Outputs via a single USB 2.0 interface, should be more than enough to get you started.  2 Focusrite high quality Mic pre-amps that double as DI’s ensure low noise and distortion, together with S/PDIF and MIDI I/O that complement the package well. A bonus with this device is the Mix control software and in particular the Focusrite Scarlett Plug-in suite featuring Compression, EQ, Gate and Reverb that come with it.

Plugins for Scarlett 8i6

It’s also worth noting that the package comes with Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station and 1 gig of royalty free samples.

Curated video for the Scarlett 8i6

Further reading

Product information on the Focusrite website

Sound on Sound video on You Tube for 18i6 and 8i6

3.  PreSonus – AudioBox/AudioBox Recording Kit

PreSonus USB Audio Interface

PreSonus is well known for the quality of its Pre-amps and inputs and outputs.  In this version the pedigree mic pre-amps and 24-bit converters perform particularly well given the price. XLR inputs, balanced outputs and also 1/4″ connection for headphone monitoring.  It has integrated MIDI I/O and is bundled with Studio One Artist software together with 4+Gb of 3rd party audio resources. It utilises the older USB 1.1 standard for computer connection, so even older systems should be able to make good use of it (make sure you check your specs for driver compatibility)

Audio interface, headphones, mic and leads

AudioBox Studio is also available. Which is a complete hardware and recording package that includes the M7 Microphone (with XLR lead), HD7 headphones and the fully featured Studio One audio & MIDI recording software.  Basically everything you need to get your creating started.

Curated video for the Audiobox:

Further reading:

Further specs can be found on the PreSonus web page for the AudioBox and AudioBox recording kit.

Read a review in Play Music

4.  Apogee – Duet²

The Apogee Duet² is a USB 2.0 interface specifically designed for Mac. As with all Apogee products particular attention has been paid to audio quality.  It has a luscious full colour OLED display, is capable of recording up to 24 bit /192kHz  and has configurable touch controls and a multi-functional controller knob.

Various Screens from Apogee Duet 2 OLED screen

Balanced outputs will also ensure that signal to your near field monitors is not tainted and an additional break out box is available if you need it (it comes with a break out lead carrying balanced XLR & 1/4″ inputs connectors and 1/4″ output connectors).

Curated video for the Duet²:

Further reading:

Specification and details can be found on the Apogee website

A review on Music Radar


5.  Mackie – Onyx Blackjack

Mackie Onyx Audio Interface

I love the rugged retro styling of this interface. It features true analogue path monitoring to ensure true zero latency monitoring.  Both channel inputs double as a DI (Direct Injection) for connection to guitars, basses and keyboards and the 48v phantom power will happily power a condenser mic. The unit also comes bundled with Mackies Tracktion 3 Music production software, so you can get started straight away.

Curated video for the :

Further reading:

Video showcasing the Blackjack

Further specs and product details can be found at Mackies’ website.

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