- Recommended Audio Interface For Macbook Pro
- Audio Interface For Macbook Pro
- Best Audio Interface For Macbook Pro 2015
Connecting Your Audio Interface Logic Pro supports plug-and-play for audio interfaces, making it possible to connect and turn on a new audio interface while Logic Pro is running. An alert appears when you connect a new device, and prompts you to select and confirm the audio interface and driver that you want to use. Nov 22, 2020 The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (11 x 8.4 x 0.2 inches) has a smaller footprint than the 13.3-inch MacBook Air (12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches), but the iPad Pro's thinner chassis will be a plus for many.
Whether you’re starting a new home studio, or improving an existing one…
There’s no single purchase more confusing than the audio interface.
Because among the dozens of options…
Each one is designed to meet the demands of a specific “type” of studio.
At one extreme, a small $100 interface might be perfect in a simple bedroom studio…
If all you need is a single pair of outputs for your studio monitors.
At the opposite extreme, a pro studio that requires dozens of INs/OUTs might need several interfaces, each costing $4000 or more.
Needless to say, matching the right interface with the right studio is tricky even for the experienced. And for beginners, its 10x worse.
Which is why for today’s post, I’ve created an in-depth guide to help you find the perfect option for your studio.
So let’s get started. First off…
The 5 Key Features to Look For
Because of the fact that audio interfaces have so many features, it’s difficult to know which ones matter, and which ones don’t.
So let’s talk about that now. In particular, these are the 5 key specs to focus on:
- DAW Compatibility
- Interface Connectors
- Input/Output (I/O) Count
- Input Channel Types
- Form Factor
And here’s why:
1. DAW Compatibility
In general, most DAW’s work with most interfaces…but not always.
If you don’t yet have a particular DAW that you are loyal to, then you need not worry here.
Because 90% of the top DAW’s will be compatible with any interface you choose.
However if you alreadyhave a DAW you want to continue using, be sure to verify compatibility on the company’s website. And just to warn you, this info is often hard to find.
You would think they would just post DAW compatibility in the interface’s product description, right? But it rarely happens. Usually it’s buried somewhere within an FAQ page.
While it’s not clear why this is done, my best guess is that these companies prefer not to advertise their current DAW compatibility, because they have no guarantees of future compatibility.
A particular interface might be compatible with your DAW today, but it may not be in a future release. And while that’s not likely to happen, it’s always possible.
Which is why personally, I prefer to use a DAW/interface combo made by the same company. Later in this post I will give you some good examples of these.
However, since there are only a few companies that make both, the downside to this solution is that it severely limits your options.
2. Interface Connectors
When connecting an audio interface to a computer…
There are 4 cable options commonly used:
- USB– which is typically seen on cheaper home studio interfaces, and offers the slowest data transfer rate.
- Firewire– which is used on more expensive home studio interfaces, and offers a significantly faster transfer rate (nowadays these are becoming less common).
- Thunderbolt– which has recently become popular with newer semi-pro interfaces, and is way faster than either USB or Firewire.
- PCIE– which has long been the standard connection for professional interfaces, because it offers additional processing power and extremely fast data-transfer.
While USB is by far the slowest of all 4 options, it is still more than fast enough to get the job done for the vast majority of home studios.
So if you’re on a budget, USB is what I recommend.
But whichever type you choose, remember to double-check that your computer has the appropriate connection.
3. Input/Output (I/O) Count
On a typical interface, I/O counts can range anywhere between:
- 1-2 on a simple interface, to…
- 20+ on a professional one.
And the number you need for your studio depends mainly on the number of tracks you plan to record/monitor at once.
- Solo musicians – may need only 2-4.
- Songwriting teams – who work in small groups, want at least 4-8.
- Engineers who record bands – should have as many as possible (16 at least).
Also…electronic drum kits alone can sometimes require 8 inputs if they offer separate channels for each part of the kit. So take that into consideration if you plan on using one.
4. Input Channel Types
One thing recording newbies often fail to realize is…
When counting the input channels of an audio interface, manufacturers could be referring to any number of different input types.
However in almost all cases, it includes some combination of these 3:
- Mic Input – which allows you to connect a mic directly to the interface.
- Line Input – which requires the addition of an outboard mic preamp to be used as a mic channel.
- Optical Input – which is a type of “digital” input that requires the addition of BOTH an outboard mic preamp, and digital converter w/ “optical out” to be used as a mic channel.
Now here’s what this means for you:
If you want to use your interface “as-is” without adding a multi-channel mic preamp, you might have less available inputs than you think.
Because as you’ll notice, interfaces often have 16 or more total input channels, but only 2-8 mic inputs.
So without any additional gear, the “real” number of inputs on your audio interface is the mic preamp count, NOT the same as the input count.
Now that you know…make sure you actually have enough channels for your purposes. Otherwise you will be sorely disappointed.
NOTE: Two other input types that you should also look for are DI inputs (if you play guitar/bass), and MIDI inputs (if you use any type of keyboards/MIDI controllers).
5. Form Factor
A fancy jargon term used by computer geeks…
“Form factor” simply refers to the physical size and shape interface.
The two form factor options are:
- Desktop Interfaces – which are smaller, and sit on your desk next to your computer.
- Rackmounted Interfaces– which are larger, and mount in a standard size rack unit.
For beginners, I recommend starting with a desktop interface, because they’re cheap, easy-to-use, and require no special mounting or peripheral devices. You just plug them in and start recording.
With intermediate/advanced studios, rackmounted interfaces are typically better, as they tend to offer more I/O’s, as well as greater flexibility with signal routing and organization.
Now that you know what to look for, let’s check out some specific models.
Best Desktop Interfaces
For the vast majority of people reading this article, who only want a cheap interface that will allow them to record their music at home…
I recommend a 2-6 channel USB desktop interface, which normally costs between $100-$300 on the low-end, and $500-1500 on the high-end.
Currently, the top brands for these “types” of interfaces are Presonus, Focusrite, Avid, Universal Audio.
Here are the models I recommend from each brand:
Presonus AudioBox 96 (USB connection)
(includes Presonus Studio One Artist DAW)
- AudioBox USB 96 – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- AudioBox iTwo – (iPad Compatible) – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
Who do I recommend these for? – Beginner studios on a tight budget who want a bundled interface/DAW combo.
Focusrite Scarlett (USB connection)
- Scarlett Solo – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- Scarlett 2i2 – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- Scarlett 4i4 – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- Scarlett 8i6 – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- Scarlett 18i8 – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
Who do I recommend these for?
Beginner studios on a tight budget who already have a 3rd party DAW they prefer.
Focusrite Clarett (Thunderbolt connection)
- Clarett 4Pre – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
Who do I recommend these for?
Studios of ALL levels that don’t need a lot of I/O’s and can afford the price tag.
Apogee (USB connection)
- Apogee One – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- Apogee Duet – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Apogee Quartet – (Amazon/Thomann)
Who do I recommend these for?
Intermediate studios that don’t need a lot of I/O’s, or beginner studios that can afford the price tag.
Avid (USB connection)
(Bundled with Pro Tools 12 DAW)
- Pro Tools Duet – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Pro Tools Quartet – (Amazon/Thomann)
Who do I recommend these for?
All Beginner/Intermediate studios who want to use the industry standard Pro Tools DAW.
NOTE: While the Apogee Duet and Quartet are “Mac Only” interfaces, the newer Pro Tools Duet and Quartet are compatible with both Mac and PC.
Universal Audio (Thunderbolt connection)
- Apollo Twin SOLO – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- Apollo Twin DUO – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- Apollo Twin QUAD– (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
Who do I recommend these for?
Recommended Audio Interface For Macbook Pro
Intermediate/advanced studios who want pro studio quality, in a home-studio-sized package.
If for some reason of the previous options aren’t to your liking…
Here are 2 more great budget desktop interfaces to check out:
Audio Interface For Macbook Pro
- Audient iD4 (USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Audient iD14 (USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)
And here is 1 more great high-end desktop option:
- Antelope Audio Zen Tour (Thunderbolt/USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)
Best Rackmounted Interfaces
For the purposes of this article, let’s define an “intermediate” studio as a home setup that requires a higher I/O count to meet the demands of some of the more complex recording tasks.
If that’s the type of studio you need, I recommend an 8+ channel rackmounted interface.
Again…the best interfaces in this category are made by Presonus, Focusrite, Apogee, Universal Audio, and Antelope Audio:
Here are the top models I recommend:
- Audiobox 1818VSL (USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Firestudio Project (firewire) – (Amazon)
- Studio 192 (USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Scarlett 18i20 (USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Clarett 8Pre (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Clarett 8PreX (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Ensemble (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Apollo 8 (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Apollo 16 (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Antelope Audio Zen Studio – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Antelope Audio Orion Studio – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Antelope Audio Orion32+ – (Amazon/Thomann)
While any of the interfaces we’ve covered so far are more than capably of producing “professional” results…
There’s higher class of audio interfaces that we have yet to cover.
Normally only seen in high-end pro studios, these multi-thousand dollar interfaces typically connect to a separate PCIE card which can only be installed on a desktop computer.
The typical reason studios acquire this type of interface is to upgrade to Pro Tools HD, which is the standard system used by the majority of pro studios in the world.
In terms of performance, they offer many premium advantages, including:
- Ultra-Low latency
- High I/O counts
- Premium Digital Conversion
- Multiple Connection Options
And while these interfaces would almost certainly be overkill for the average home studio…
It’s still good to know about them, just in case the day comes when you decide your studio needs one.
Some examples of popular interfaces in this category are:
- Avid HD 16×16 – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Apogee Symphony – (Amazon/Thomann)
Now one last thing…
Assuming you chose a rackmounted interface, you’ll obviously need a rack to store it in, right?
So if you don’t have one yet, check out this article:
Get the right Audio Interface for your Macbook, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro
There are a few things to watch out for if you have a late model Mac. First, the PCI interfaces are not going to work with any of the Mac Pros, and of course not with any of the Mac Books, Mac Book Pros or iMacs. Today's Mac Pro has a PCIe slot format. This will not work with PCI cards. Most of us would probably not need a Mac PCIe interface. Professionals with high i/o needs may want to go the MOTU PCIe route with a MOTU 24io, and a MOTU 2408 Mk 3. These are for large multi track systems with digital mixers. The Home studio enthusiast has many other options and they are mainly firewire options. That is what we'll mainly focus on here.
Tweak: This is the back of a Tascam FW1884, and audio interface with plenty of i/o. Click the pic to enlarge.
When comparing features like i/o be sure to check out these comparison charts
Firewire interfaces generally work well with the currentiMacs, MacBook Pros, Mac Minis and the Mac pro. Note that newer Macbooks do not have firewire. USB 2.0 interfaces are valid for those Macbooks and all the others as well. At the bottom of the page you'll find lots of polls, user reviews and discussions from our forums.
Keep in mind there are more audio interfaces that will work with your Mac. This is more of a list of those that should form the basis of your research. I am not including Digidesign interfaces here because they have done extensive compatibility theses on their website. That is where you should research matching your Mac to an appropriate Digidesign or m-audio interface.
When considering any audio interface there are 4 things that create the perfect storm for you.
- 1. excellent functioning drivers for your OS and applications
- 2. excellent sounding converters
- 3. excellent sounding preamps
- 4. sufficient and appropriate i/o for your studio
You can always add on different preamps and converters to nearly any audio interface. Preamps will plug into the line inputs and converters will use s/pdif i/o. But there are two things you cannot change, or fix, with the interface you eventually choose. You can't go in and re-write driver code. The drivers manage the 'traffic' from inputs to software to outputs and are at least partially to blame for latency issues, clicks and pops, and other nasties. Also you cannot change your i/o. If you get a box with 2 analog inputs and outputs, even if you buy a 100 channel mixer you can't change the fact that from the standpoint of the computer you have 2 channels in and 2 out and that will limit how many tracks you can record at one time to two. Its a great plan to get more i/o than you need. You can do this by choosing an interface with an ADAT 'lightpipe' input. This gives you 8 digital inputs into your system. You could add a rack of 8 analog preamps that have ADAT digital out.
The back panel of the MOTU 828mk3. Click the pic to enlarge
You can find audio interfaces for your Mac from $150 to $2,000 on this page. What is the difference? As above, quality of components for the preamps, converters and the number of hardware i/o. There is the research and development cost of making solid drivers, beta testing them among various applications, keeping the drivers updated through software and Operating system revisions. Finally there is the build quality of the box, brand name recognition, status in the professional community and how well the company follows Apple through its changes.
Low Cost (under $500)
PreSonus FireStudio Mobile FireWire Audio Interface
Tascam US1641 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface
Also, look at the Mackie Onyx 820i 8-Channel Premium Analog Mixer with FireWire Interface
Mid Cost ($500-$1000)
Motu ultralite Mk3
Motu 8 pre
Motu 828 mk3, Traveler
|Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 896mk3 Firewire Audio Interface|
Higher Cost ($1000.00 plus)
Tascam FW 1884
RME Fireface 400
|Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 2408mk3 Digital Audio Interface|
|Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 24IO 24-Channel Audio Interface|
Mackie Onyx 1640i 16-Channel Premium Analog Mixer with FireWire Interface
Best Audio Interface For Macbook Pro 2015
- Poll The Best Firewire Interface Under $300 for MAC is
- Poll The Better Firewire Interface for a MAC $300 to $500 is...
- Apple Discussions: Presonus Firestudio Project (See for Tascam us1641)
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