My top 5 best audio interfaces for mono or stereo guitar home recording are:
#5 – M Audio Profire 610
In my opinion this was the best portable audio interface Avid was offering before the new Mbox. And even though the new Mbox can be considered superior they are still close. When the new Mbox came out one of the first things I did was A/B its output against the Profire, and other than the midrange coming out a little more aggressive in the Profire they were very close. The Profire offers a ton of features for a lower price. Enough outputs for a 7.1 setup, sampling rates all the way up to 192 khz, very good mic pres and a comprehensive routing software.
#4- Apogee Duet 2
Many consider the Apogee Duet the best audio interface at its price. But as good as this interface is it would not be my first choice. Sound wise there’s no denying that the Duet has set a standard ever since it came out. And now in the 2nd version it has a new design and new components. But I still find the high end a little ‘sugary’ to my taste. It’s a great compliment to synth presets, but for distorted guitars where definition in the midrange is the name of the game it doesn’t do it for me. Vocals don’t seem to get much character, the cable for the analog connections is flimsy, and as cute as it might look I’d like to see more than one knob.
#3- Motu UltraLite Mk3
The Motu UltraLite Mk3 is a very attractive interface, you could not expect more features for its price and size: 10 inputs, 14 outputs, digital I/O, USB/ Firewire connection, built in effects, a software version of the famous LA-2A compressor, a digital mixer, sample rates up to 192 khz…it goes on and on! And if that wasn’t enough it’s one of the only interfaces in this size that features a time code reader and generator, something that even though it’s not that popular among musicians it can be very helpful for those recording sound for picture.
#2- Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP
One of the most successful audio interfaces was the first Mbox, and one of the main reasons for its success was their Focusrite mic pres. In fact, one of the most asked questions about the newer Mbox interfaces is: Who made the pres? most wanting to hear Focusrite as the answer. But now that since version 9 Pro Tools is open to most audio interfaces Focusrite has become one the preferred choices by the users of this DAW. The Saffire interfaces have an impressive sound, a total of 16 inputs and very good mic pres of course. But probably the icing on the cake is the included plug ins. EQ, compression and reverb latency free for tracking. Plus their VRM algorithm that emulates the monitoring rooms of professional studios in headphones.
#1- Avid Mbox 3rd Gen
A few years ago when Avid decided to consolidate their product line and retire the Digidesign brand many were skeptical of what this would mean. But if there’s one product that has evaporated all doubts is the new Mbox line. These interfaces feature most of the same digital components as the Apogee Ensemble and Duet, but the signal path has a more efficient design and the mic pres are superior. I’ve witnessed many blind tests against competing choices and almost always the participants end up choosing the sound of the Mbox.
Thanks for reading!