The market has by far the best USB-C audio interfaces available. These more modern devices replaced the previously prevalent USB-B port standard for audio interfaces. A USB-C port is present on nearly all recently released interfaces; however, performance is unaffected by the connection itself. Instead, given that more recent technology is shifting towards USB-C connectors, it is a widely accepted practice.
Bi-directional charging is one of the added benefits provided by USB-C. This implies that a USB-C cable with two ends can have either end attached to either the host or the receiver. Although the port type doesn’t actually speak to the unit’s transmission speed, it affects how quickly a connection is made, which significantly impacts latency.
The most recent USB connector is USB-C, used for data transport. USB was first developed to standardize communication between computers and ancillary devices like mice and keyboards. But, it was immediately used for additional functions, such as enabling artists to record using their DAWs. Type A and Type B connectors were USB’s initial connector types. Rectangular jacks of type A are easily identified and challenging to orient initially. Longer, skinnier barrel plugs known as Type B are typically found on the device side of a vintage USB connection. The most recent USB connector is USB-C, used for data transport.
The distinct types are eliminated with USB-C, allowing a cable to have a single connector on both ends. You won’t ever have to worry about inserting it incorrectly again because it is reversible. More excellent current delivery made possible by USB-C enables your power-hungry gadgets to operate more demanding analog circuits without running out of power. The most recent version of the data transfer protocol used in the background is known as USB4. It is a next-generation technology that first appeared in 2023. Despite this, USB 3.0 or below is required to power most common peripherals, including audio interfaces. Even USB 2.0 equipment offers sufficient speed for most music production operations.
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Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition
The UA Apollo Twin X Duo Heritage Edition has ten ins and six outs and is a premium USB-C audio interface. Several experienced audio engineers use it because of how little it is. Most of your connectors, including 4 TRS line outputs, an optical input port, and 2 TRS/XLR combination inputs, are located on the back of the device. A power switch, a 12V external power port, and a USB-C connection with TB3 support are also present. On the other hand, the front panel has a 14″ headphone output port and a specific instrument input socket.
Most of the Twin X Duo controls are on the main panel. Its central part is a sizable dial that serves various purposes, including adjusting gain and headphone output levels. The dial is located between several LED meters that you may use to measure the gain levels of your microphone, line, and monitor outputs. Eight buttons are located underneath this knob that can be used to choose between features, including Talkback, Phantom power, Pad, Dim, and Stereo. The monitor and input buttons are also available and can be used to switch between the channels assigned to the gain knob.
One of the most well-liked mid-range USB-C audio interfaces on the market is the SSL2+. With a 192kHz sample rate and 24-bit depth, it is a 24-interface. The device’s connectors are located on the back panel, including a MIDI I/O port, two XLR/line combo inputs, two balanced monitor outputs, and two unbalanced RCA outputs. Moreover, a USB-C port for powering the device is there (USB Bus-Powered). Separate settings for both input channels are included on the SSL2main +’s panel. These controls include a volume knob, a 48V button, a Hi-Z toggle, a line button, and a classic 4K mode switch. The 5-level LED meters also let you watch the input gain levels (10 dB sensitivity).
A sizable blue monitor dial that may be used to adjust the output volume is also included on the panel. Next to it are two headphones volume encoders marked Phones A and B, as well as a monitor mix that lets you switch between the input channels and the audio stream from your PC. A stereo button and buttons labeled 3 and 4 are also located adjacent to the monitor mix and the phone’s B knob, respectively, so you can designate which headphone mix is being changed by them. The SSL2+ is a relatively small tabletop form factor in terms of construction. Its design is standard, but a sturdy substance protects it. Although the controls are evenly spaced out and have a pleasant feel, we would appreciate it if they were more significant so that we could deal with precise settings much more accessible.
Due to how much it delivers for its relatively low price, the Motu M4 is one of the most highly appreciated mid-level audio interfaces among both professional and home producers. It is a potent USB-C audio interface with four input and four output channels. Most of its I/O ports are on its backside, including four balanced line outputs, 4 RCA (unbalanced) line outputs, 2 TRS line inputs, and MIDI I/O connections. Also, it has a power switch and a USB-C port that serve as the device’s only power source.
A 14″ headphone jack and the associated volume control are on the front panel. Two Line/XLR combination input jacks are included, each with a 48V toggle, gain dial, and MON button. A large monitor knob, a full-color LCD metering screen, and a monitor mix knob that you may use to choose the output audio sources are all included on this panel. Physically, the Motu M4 has a relatively small footprint, making it ideal for travel. It is protected with high-quality black metal, which means it can withstand some damage. It can still be carried in one hand and is still reasonably light. One of the few audio interfaces in its price range with a full-color LCD is the Motu M4. It was a valuable and comprehensive tool, contrary to what we had anticipated. Even though it has a tiny delay, it accurately represents gain and output levels.
Antelope Audio Zen Go
Antelope is a brand-new company, so it’s likely that you’ve never heard of them, but they’ve already released a few devices in the digital audio market. The Antelope Audio Zen Go competes with these capable products in terms of features despite being far more inexpensive than the Universal Audio Apollo Solo mentioned above or even the Apogee Symphony Desktop. It includes two line/instrument/mic combo inputs, but if you already have another interface with a SPDIF out, you may increase that to four (such as the Scarlett 6i6). Also, there are many output options, including two front-panel headphone outputs, TRS and RCA with independent volume controls, and more.
The Zen Go has a portability advantage over well-known rivals like the Apogee Symphony, in addition to the significant price difference. Because it doesn’t even require a power source, the “Go” in its name stands for that. It is more portable because it receives power directly through its USB connector. This interface comes pre-loaded with 37 built-in Synergy Core DSP effects, including EQ, reverb, and many well-known cabinet models and guitar amps.
Audient iD4 MkII
The Audient iD4 MkII is what I have at number five. At around $200, it’s the best USB audio interface on the market, making it an excellent choice for a typical home production setup. It has a basic connectivity configuration with two inputs and two outputs. It has a mic preamp and an instrument-level DI for connecting your bass or guitar (along with phantom power for condenser microphones). Moreover, a clever scroll wheel is included, allowing you to customize the program settings to suit your tastes. There is also a primary output for your speakers and headphones in addition to this.
It doesn’t need a separate external power source because the entire arrangement is fueled via the USB-C port. It’s also a convenient option for casual enthusiasts because you can easily link it to an iPad or iPhone using Apple’s camera connection kit. This model’s appearance and connectivity options demonstrate how carefully Audient put it together. You’ll never forget utilizing an entry-level interface with a well-rounded user experience.
Every time USB technology advances, the devices that rely on it also advance significantly because a simpler, more efficient connection equals ease of use. It also applies to the realm of audio interfaces! The industry is creating new performance benchmarks as connections get smaller and quicker.