What's the Best USB Audio Interface? At-a-Glance
- USB audio interfaces allow you to run one or more XLR mics into your computer
- They can offer an increased range of flexibility and options when compared to your typical USB mic setup
- USB audio interfaces tend to be small, light, and a lot less cluttered than a standard mixer
- The best USB audio interface for you will depend on your own unique budget, setup, and needs
- Read on to find out more, and to explore your options
Podcast equipment setups vary from person to person. Some podcasters prefer to keep things as simple and as minimalistic as possible. Others are always looking to add the latest shiny thing to their arsenal of audio gear.
The easiest way to get set up ready to record good-sounding audio is to plug in a USB mic. The quality of USB mics has come on leaps and bounds these past few years. That said, a lot of podcasters feel the desire to “graduate” to an XLR mic after a while, as they begin to explore ways to take their audio quality from good to great.
If this sounds like you, then you might also be in the market for a USB audio interface. Whatever XLR mic you decide to pick up (see our best podcast microphone choices right here), you won't be able to run it directly into your computer.
Of course, you don't even need a computer to run an XLR mic. You could plug it into a digital recorder instead. But if you record online with co-hosts or interviewees, or, prefer to record directly into your DAW, then getting yourself a quality USB audio interface is going to make a lot of sense.
What is a USB Audio Interface?
A USB audio interface is a little box that you can plug an XLR mic into. Sometimes, depending on the model, you can plug multiple XLR mics in.
A USB audio interface will connect to your computer by – funnily enough – USB. This type of setup gives you a lot more control and flexibility than your typical straight-up USB mic setup.
You'd also plug your headphones into your USB audio interface. It becomes both your input and your output. You simply need to select both these options when setting your preferences in your DAW or call recording software.
Struggling to Choose & Use Your Podcast Equipment?
Pick the right gear, and learn how it works: from USB mics to mixers.
USB audio interfaces tend to be smaller and lighter than your average gaming console. They're typically free from too many knobs and dials, and look a lot simpler than their mixer counterparts.
So now that you know a bit more about what they are, and why you might want one, what are the best USB audio interface options out there right now?
Best USB Audio Interface for Podcasters
‘Best' is always a very subjective term. Of course it's going to depend on your own unique needs, setup, and budget. You'll find a recommendation here that looks right for you.
Just a quick heads up, too, that we sometimes use affiliate links for products we review. This means we may earn a commission if you were to buy through them, though at no extra cost to yourself. Affiliates help support all the free content we put out on the site on a regular basis.
With that said, let's dive into the recommendations. Here are my favourite USB audio interface options to-date.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – The Best Seller Option
- Cost – $160/£150
- XLR Inputs – 2
- Size – 19.51 x 5.31 x 3.35 cm
- Weight – 640g
I've owned a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for many years now, and it's still an integral part of my home recording setup. This is arguably the world's best-selling USB audio interface and is used by millions around the world for recording audio and music.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 – The Durable Option
- Cost – $99/£72
- XLR Inputs – 2
- Size – 4.45 x 13.97 x 13.97 cm
- Weight – 912g
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is a great option if you're someone who records on-the-go a lot. Housed in a heavy-duty steel chassis it can, in PreSonus' own words, “take a serious pounding and remain completely reliable”. They proved this by driving over it in a truck. Case closed!
Rode AI-1 – The Minimalist Option
- Cost – $125/£95
- XLR Inputs – 1
- Size – 17.78 x 7.62 x 12.7 cm
- Weight – 454g
The Rode AI-1 may be more appealing to folks who record solo or online conversations. It's a minimalistic little interface that keeps things as simple as possible.
Full review coming soon!
Zoom PodTrak P4 – The Versatile Option
- Cost – $199/£199
- XLR Inputs – 4
- Size – 112mm x 155mm x 47 mm
- Weight – 290g
A new kid in town, the Zoom PodTrak P4 is a podcast-specific digital recorder which also doubles up as a USB audio interface. This means you'll be sorted to record up to four local participants and remote guests whether you're at your computer or not. Obviously though, with more options comes more complexity, which might put beginners off.
It's worth mentioning that, when used as a USB audio interface, you don't have the same multitrack options as you do when recording directly to the SD card. However, there's nothing to stop you doing both at the same time!
What's the Best USB Audio Interface for Podcasters? Summary
As I've said already, the best option for you is going to depend on your own unique needs, setup, and budget. By looking over the input options, price ranges, and listening to the sound samples, the chances are you'll have made your mind up by now.
For the vast majority of podcasters, based on the above, it's going to be a toss-up between the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and the PreSonus AudioBox 96. Folks looking to keep things dead simple and minimalist may opt for the Rode AI-1. The more experienced podcaster (or, someone who wants maximum flexibility) might want to splash out a bit to get all the options available with the Zoom PodTrak P4.
Need More Help?
If you're still weighing up what gear to buy, remember to also check out our Best Podcast Microphones roundup. You'll find all our top choices right there.
We also have courses on everything from equipment choice and setup, to audience growth and monetisation inside The Podcast Host Academy. We run weekly live Q&A sessions in there too, so you can get regular tips, advice, and support that's uniquely tailored to you.