I’ve been asked few questions regarding audio interfaces that are under $300. Believe it or not there are quite a few audio interface units that produce good results. I have used quite a few of these myself before purchasing my Apogee Duet. If you are a recording singer-instrumentalist there are some very good options at your disposal. I have used Presonus, Zoom, IK Multimedia, Tascam, Behringer, all with good results.
I’m a big ZOOM fan and prefer their products to any other. The support is great, knowledgeable. You don’t have to go through the typical phone menu systems to get support. You call Zoom, a tech answers and your problem is solved. I’ve been using ZOOM since purchasing a Zoom H4n in 2005. I have recently replaced the H4n with the ZOOM H5. I use the Zoom R16 to record band performances, practices and get my initial scratch recordings.
I had been a loyal Tascam user (Portastudio’s), for many years, until I had a DP-24 Portastudio die after 4 months. I was so upset to find that Tascam warranties only cover 90 days labor, 1 year on SOME parts. So, I was stuck with a repair bill on a 4 month old unit. I haven’t bought Tascam since.
The IK Multimedia IRIG products are so easy to use, easy to carry, very portable. Perfect for a spontaneous, quick recording. HOWEVER, these units tend to sound a bit muddy and only have one input/output. But definitely quick, easy, and worth the money.
The Focusrite products have good reviews, loyal users and boast many units under $300. Most of these units are decent, basic audio interfaces. I haven’t used Focusrite and can’t vouch for their performance. But, reading other reviewers opinions of Focusrite I would not hesitate to purchase any of their units.
I’ve used Behringer mixers (X1622USB, X1832USB) for some nice recordings. The downside is that you can only output 2 channels.
If you are only recording a few tracks, have a fairly new PC/Mac and use a decent microphone you should be able to create some pretty amazing songs. Problems don’t usually kick in until you start to multi-track over 4 tracks. In my experience the more you edit, record, add the more noticeable the latency and loss of sound. I have read articles claiming that latency can be controlled by adjusting the direct – out, sound signal with the processed – out, sound signal volumes. I like to hear the effects on my instrument and vocals as I’m playing/recording and this is not a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
For basic 2-4 track recording/editing you should be fine with any of the under $300 audio interfaces I have listed here. If your needing more tracks, editing, live recording, crystal clear recordings you may need to jump up to the more expensive units.
I prefer the standalone recorders for the scratch track. If I start with the Macbook/Duet/Logic Pro, my creative mood has passed by the time equipment is configured and setup. I enjoy the simplicity of plugging in a guitar and mic, put the GoPro on a mic stand, play along with music on my iPad using the Songbook or Onsong apps, hit “record” and the magic begins. Some of these recordings are good starts to a multi-mix, some not so good. But, it’s always enjoyable for me to sit with the songs I love and record them and hear what I can do with them. After recording 5-10 songs I’ll let them sit in a folder until I’m ready to come back and mix/edit them. Some are good, some are not.
I’ve had incredibly good results using my Zoom R-16 (both as an audio interface and a standalone recorder) and the Zoom H5 (even better sound), no latency, good sound, easy to use, and they both always work when I’m ready and the songs are always there in my RAW folder, with audio and video for when I have the time/motivation to go back with overdubs, vocals and instruments using my Apogee Duet and Logic Pro.
Most of my recordings start out with either the Zoom R16, Zoom H5 or Zoom H6.
You can hear my music HERE