Have you ever purchased an expensive audio interface and were so excited to try it out and create all sorts of stuff with it, only to find out it’s not compatible with your MAC?
If you create music, and that’s not your definition of heartbreak, then I don’t know what is.
I understand the struggle, and that’s why I came up with this guide – so you can save time and focus on producing some great music instead.
Continue reading to discover the best audio interface for your MAC!
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
Focusrite Scarlett 8i6
Best Audio Interfaces for Your MAC
1. Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 – Best Overall
If you’re looking for something high-performance, Focusrite is ALWAYS the answer.
Known to always push the boundaries of innovation, Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 is just an example of the brand’s grand vision.
This 3rd generation audio interface from Focusrite is one of the best audio interfaces out there.
Let me tell you why.
- Has a front panel with 2-combo 1/4″ XLR inputs, associated level controls, and a large knob for its master monitor level.
- This panel features the mic preamps and the “Air” feature.
- 1/4″ headphone jacks with their own level control.
In terms of input/output, it promises seamless connection through its USB ports, and you can even save your custom I/O preset for easier recall.
You get the MIDI interface and another four inputs for line-level instruments on the back panel.
And that’s not all. Have I mentioned that it’s LIGHTER and more portable than other high-end audio interfaces?
Despite being light, it’s a high-functioning recording studio protected with a full-metal case and rubber feet.
Why Is It the Best Among the Best Audio Interfaces?
I absolutely adore the mic preamps of Focusrite!
The “Air” feature is designed to transform your recordings, give you options while tracking, and INSPIRE you while you’re making music.
This feature is SUPER easy to use.
- It’s one button push, and there’re no latency issues, so you can be sure that your sound is clean and clear of any artifacts.
- The input controls have gained halos, too.
It’s also super VERSATILE as it brings another dimension to vocals, especially on spoken word sections.
Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 will help you achieve crisp, “radio announcer voice” sound quality if you work in the broadcasting industry!
- If you want to brighten your track’s vocals, you can use this audio interface on your room’s mics to bring additional clarity.
- This feature is designed to produce GREAT sound quality by minimizing noise.
- It’s the perfect size for live streaming, compatible even with Mac Mojave OS, and is the most flexible desktop interface for its size and price.
You also get Focusrite’s Control software, which includes settings for the global device parameters, internal DAW routings, and outputs. You can also create custom mixes here.
- AMAZING sound quality (super clean starting from the input)
- Low latency driver performance
- No problem connecting a USB port from MAC users
- A lot of options for the I/O so that you can connect A LOT of external devices
- Features a MIDI interface
- Needs an external power supply to work
- Does not work as well with Windows devices
2. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 – Best Budget Pick
If you want a good audio interface at a lower price, the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is a perfect choice.
It has a MIDI interface and USB-powered audio that is compatible with both MAC and Windows, which means you can also work with other people’s devices.
This interface comes with the Studio One Artist DAW software, which comes with 6GB of third-party resources.
However, I’ve found that it runs smoothly on other recording software, too!
- It comes with two inputs and two outputs, along with class-A mic preamps.
- This means it has the highest fidelity as it reproduces the whole audio signal, but it also needs more power.
- This audio interface boasts a compact and rugged design. It’s sturdy and durable, thanks to its heavy-duty steel chassis.
Of course, it comes with a few shortcomings.
It has a 24-bit resolution, but it has slower sampling rates than the other best audio interfaces.
Is This Audio Interface Worth It?
As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s why I recommend looking past this powerhouse’s price.
For starters, it allows you to connect your synth or MIDI controller.
It can sample at a maximum rate of 96 kHz, and it more than makes up for its slower-than-others sampling rate with its broad frequency range and simple USB connection.
It’s the best among audio interfaces priced below $100 and has a 1/4″ headphone output in the back panel.
Although it has only two I/O, it has balanced TRS monitor outputs and a USB type B connector.
Now, while the PreSonus Audiobox USB 96 has good sound quality compared to more expensive models, it’s not perfect.
You can overcome this with the right microphone and the right gain setting.
PLUS, this audio interface is made for very small setups, such as people starting to create their own music or building their own DIY home studio.
The audio quality aside, the build quality is GREAT!
This interface is housed in a metal chassis, which is unusual for its price. This makes it great for traveling.
However, one possible downside is that the software – PreSonus Studio One – has to be used while connected to the Internet – which might be a hassle if you don’t have a stable data connection outside.
- Compatible with both Mac and Windows
- Zero-latency when drivers are installed
- The best audio interface below $100
- Uses Class A mic preamps
- Full-metal housing for durability
- The bundle includes Ableton Live Lite
- Allows mixing of the input signal with the playback stream
- Knobs are a little crowded
- Software needs to be used while connected to the Internet
- Slower sampling rate than others
3. Steinberg AXR4 – Best Value
If you want something high-powered and can DO everything that you want it to, then let me present you with the Steinberg AXR4.
This powerhouse has a thunderbolt audio interface, which supports high-resolution and high-performance data through a single port.
For this audio interface, Steinberg partnered with Rupert Neve for his ‘Silk’ technology while recording.
- You can use these algorithms per preamp to distort the signal with varying harmonic footprints.
- If you want to give your music a classy edge, this is perfect for you!
Being one of the best audio interfaces, you have dual headphone outputs on the right side.
Have I mentioned that it has EIGHT additional 1/4 input and output ports?
It has a MIDI interface, too, and it boasts an eye-catching 384kHz recording rate through a 32-bit integer resolution.
If that isn’t powerful enough for you, I don’t know what is. You can be sure that it produces only high-quality audio with those numbers.
In terms of its mic preamps, it has a hybrid mic developed by Yamaha, and it’s also compatible with all major audio software.
What Makes This Audio Interface Worth My Money?
You can think of it this way: the Steinberg AXR4 is the product of ALL the musical geniuses and awesome brands coming together!
Have I mentioned the word clock with SSPLL jitter reduction technology?
- Super Suppression Phase Locked Loop (SSPLL) is a company trademark for minimizing audio band jitter.
- Like all great audio interfaces, seamlessly connecting many devices is a dream.
- But, as more clocks are added, this creates jitters, which this system eliminates. Genius, huh?
Its USB connectivity is SuperSpeed USB 3.1, and it also has USB-C connectors or the standard USB cable.
With these options, you can connect all devices, regardless of their USB type.
You also get Yamaha’s REV-X reverb algorithm, resulting in a high-density and rich sound that’s sure to make every recording a professional one!
Another phenomenal feature I love about this interface is its Sweet Spot Morphing Channel Strip, which consists of a three-band parametric equalizer designed for the user to achieve a highly musical sound.
If you’re part of a large production, like theaters and live concerts, this is one of the best audio interfaces for you, and its powerful audio quality is just one of the perks!
- Great audio interface for its price
- Allows for a lot of instrument inputs
- Top-of-the-like audio quality
- Allows for two headphone outputs
- Perfect of live recordings
- Not beginner-friendly
4. Audient iD4 MkII
This new audio interface is everyone’s favorite right now, and for good reason. For starters, it’s an all-around portable home studio.
Let me explain that a little more.
Like most audio interfaces, the Audient iD4 MkII has a simple two I/O with a mic preamp and phantom power for condenser mics.
And yes, it has dual headphone outputs.
- If you want to work on the go but forgot your Macbook, you can also connect this to your iOS devices through Apple’s camera connection kit.
- It utilizes the ScrollControl virtual scroll wheel, where you can use the volume knob when you need to work on your DAW or even dim your studio monitors.
- PLUS, it comes with a JFET instrument input, headphone jacks, and console-style monitoring control.
With all of these in the package, it really is THE best audio interface for portable recording.
And if that isn’t enough, it’s also SUPER easy to use!
So, whether you’re a veteran producer or someone exploring the world of audio interfaces, the Audient iD4 is never the wrong choice!
This sleek audio interface is powered through USB-C and features an upgraded dynamic range compared to its predecessors.
You can also balance the zero-latency monitoring through the speaker button.
- High-quality audio among audio interfaces below $200
- One of the most compatible audio interfaces for Mac
- Great value for money
- USB 3.0 connection is required
5. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII is fairly similar to many USB audio interfaces, but what sets it apart is it allows for two inputs and six outputs.
With this audio interface, you can have almost zero-latency monitoring, PLUS it connects to both Windows PC and MAC OS.
It’s also super easy to understand, so beginners won’t have trouble using it!
The Apollo Twin MKII also has two line outputs, two analog monitor outputs, and eight digital input channels. It has a great mic preamp for anything that requires a voiceover.
It features a UAD DUO Core processing for tracking, and you can use its LUNA recording system for premium conversion of your music.
I like to think of it as singing into a real preamp, with no delay between input and output.
This is the real definition of direct monitoring.
The Apollo Twin audio interface offers superior desktop audio conversion at 24-bit and 192 kHz and sports class-leading technology with built-in talkback and dedicated monitor functionality.
- Integrated recording software resulting in seamless audio conversion
- Low latency monitoring
- No delay between input and output
- Great for voiceovers
- No thunderbolt cable to connect to computers
- Only works on MAC and Windows PC but is barely supported in other OS
6. Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Remember when I said that Focusrite is one of the best brands in the world of audio interfaces?
Yup, that still holds true.
The Scarlett Solo is the smaller version of the 3rd generation series of the brand.
I love this USB audio interface because it doesn’t need an external power supply.
All you need to do is connect it to your computer and start recording!
Even with only one instrument input and two stereo outputs, it has a sampling rate of 24-bit and has super low latency monitoring, especially when bundled with Pro Tools.
To give you a little background about why Pro Tools is a GREAT thing to have with your audio interface, I’ll briefly explain what it is.
- It’s the FIRST creative pack of Focusrite that lets you mix and match different and interesting sound effects to your musical production.
- Here, you can also make your music more synthetic or warm.
- PLUS, it comes with In-Tune, so you can always keep your instruments sounding great!
From adding natural-sounding reverb to adding distortions, you can do everything with Pro Tools.
Whether you’re a veteran producer or you’re just starting out your musical Youtube channel, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is for those who want to work on the go!
- Compatible with both Windows PC and MAC
- Does not need to be plugged in
- Runs on 48V phantom power
- Comes with a digital software
- Needs to be plugged again into the USB interfaces when the computer falls asleep
7. RME Audio Interface BABYFACEPROFS
Looking for an audio interface that delivers the BEST sound fidelity without noise and distortion?
Well, the RME Audio Interface is what you’ve been looking for!
Out of all the best audio interfaces for MAC, I super love this one because of its BUILD. From the looks itself, the build quality is 10/10.
And I haven’t even mentioned its capabilities yet.
Aside from reliable audio circuits, drivers, and mechanics, the RME is designed with energy-saving technologies, which means you don’t need to plug this into an external supply.
Plus, it can also work on iOS devices. Cool, right?
What’s more, it works on the Full SteadyClock FS circuit for lowest jitter and highest jitter immunity.
This audio interface includes reverb and delay effects, and it also features an FPGA-based DSP mixer that can add a three-band parametric equalizer to all inputs and outputs.
With this one on your side, all you’d need to do is to start mixing your vocals and the guitars from the instrument inputs.
- Doesn’t have noise and distortion
- Works on MAC computers and iOS phones
- Powered through a USB port
- Limited connection to two mics and line inputs
- The software has a steep learning curve
8. Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2
Have you ever looked at an audio interface and fallen in love at first sight? That’s exactly how I felt with the Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2.
I’ll tell you why.
Like the other best audio interfaces for MAC, this powerhouse runs on 48V phantom power and has two combo inputs for mic and line with a combination of XLR and jack connectors.
This audio interface has mini inputs and outputs with an audio resolution of 192 kHz. When you’re selecting a Hi Z instrument, both of the I/O have a manual green backlit switch.
You can monitor an input signal on this audio interface with zero latency, and it also has MIDI inputs and outputs.
Along with this, you’ll get a bundled copy of Tracktion 7 and DAW Essentials.
It’s powered by OSX Core Audio drivers for internal processing, and there’s also a downloadable USB Driver for Windows 7.
In terms of build quality, the housing of the Mackie is compact, and the layout is easy to understand.
- Quality audio interface under $200
- Offers an input for MIDI
- Comes with a DAW
- The Input/DAW Mix control affects both the headphones and the monitor output
9. Arturia AudioFuse Studio USB Audio Interface
If you’re working on a live production and need more than one headphone output and multiple inputs, then the Arturia AudioFuse is for you.
With an allowance for 18 inputs and 20 outputs, you’ll never run out of options with this USB audio interface!
No other audio interface – at least on this list- offers more options!
You’ll find combo inputs and independent phone feeds along the front edge. The back part features speaker outputs for monitors.
In terms of connectivity, this audio interface connects via USB 2.
PLUS, the Arturia isn’t called a USB audio for anything, as it has a built-in USB hub in it. This provides three extra USB ports!
I absolutely adore the Arturia because it’s compatible with tons of possible audio sources and still maintains a great sound.
After all, this USB audio interface is highly configurable.
If you don’t want to stick with a specific driver or software, then you’ll like the Arturia. This plug-and-play interface doesn’t require a dedicated driver.
But, if you think you still need a familiar software, then it comes with a Control Center, and this software connects the Arturia and your chosen DAW.
- LOTS of connectivity options as it offers multiple inputs and outputs
- Maintains great sound
- Not limited to a company-specific driver
- Significantly more expensive than other audio interfaces for MAC
10. Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad
Like its predecessor, the X Quad has a 1/4-in Hi-Z input for connecting guitar and a 1/4-in headphone output.
You can also engage the phantom power if you’re using this interface with a condenser mic.
I love the controls on the X Quad! They’re very intuitive; you just have to select what you want to control, and your options will appear.
It’s pretty easy, right?
This interface can handle up to 192kHz audio resolution while delivering organic and spacious sound. PLUS, you can also configure it for stereo operation.
If you’re looking for an interface with emulations from Neve, API, Manley, and Helios, then this powerhouse has what you need.
- Super easy-to-use
- Seamless conversion through Thunderbolt
- Organic sound
- Does not come with a Thunderbolt 3 cable
- Pricey compared to other models Universal Audio
Choosing the Right Audio Interfaces for MAC
Of course, you want to buy an interface that‘ll leave you feeling satisfied and meet your needs.
Regardless of where you are in the music and production industry, the correct interface can make or break one’s output.
Inputs and Outputs: How Many Will You Need?
When choosing an audio interface, I recommend looking at how many inputs and outputs it has.
For example, the Arturia AudioFuse Studio USB Audio Interface has about 18 inputs and 20 outputs, versus others that only provide two inputs and outputs.
The truth is, the number of inputs and outputs you’ll need DEPENDS HUGELY on what you do and why you need to use an interface.
- If you produce solo music at home, one or two inputs will be more than enough.
- But, if you want to record a larger production, such as a live band, you’ll need more than that.
Other interfaces also offer the option to use phantom power, which is a must if you want to use condenser mics.
Some also offer MIDI I/O, line inputs, and other options.
However, if you only want to use a MIDI keyboard, then you can easily plug this into your computer.
DAW and OS Compatibility
More often than not, interfaces come with their own DAW made exclusively by the same manufacturer.
You should check whether the DAW you’re using is COMPATIBLE with your new interface. If not, then check if the interface comes bundled with a DAW and other software.
You’ll get so much more out of your interface if you use the DAW SPECIFIC for it, especially if you want high-quality conversion and a seamless process.
Another important thing is OS compatibility. I know the interfaces I’ve mentioned are meant to be for Macs, but what if you need to use a Windows device?
Not every software that works for other OS will work on yours, and vice versa.
Make sure that the DAW you’re going to use is compatible with MAC OS, as it’d be inconvenient to use another DAW for an interface that already has its own software.
If you plan on using the interface with more than one laptop or computer, make sure that the interface is also compatible with other OS aside from MAC.
That way, you can continue working from one device to another and utilize synchronization between devices, so you won’t have to import and export your works in progress.
How to Set Up Your Audio Interface for MAC
Many audio interfaces are connected through a USB or Thunderbolt port. For iPhones or iPads, it’s connected through Apple’s cables.
Others offer digital connectivity, which is the easiest to set up.
The specs are indicated in the manual for your audio interface, and this’ll also tell you if you need an external power supply.
The number of outputs and line outputs are important too!
For example, if the interface can use phantom power, that means it’s intended to be used with a condenser mic, which needs an external power source.
Some interfaces require drivers from the bundle to be installed, while some are downloadable from the manufacturer’s website.
Another important thing to note is when your computer sleeps.
All the audio and MIDI drivers are unmounted when this happens, and you’ll need to mount them again. If this is a pain for you, I’ve got the solution.
- To solve this, update Mac Energy Saver in the System Preferences.
- Uncheck “Put hard disks to sleep when possible and check computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off”.
If you encounter more issues, you can try contacting the manufacturer or customer service.
You can also return the faulty product to have it replaced.This is why it’s also important to consider if the product has a WARRANTY.
If anything like this comes up, the manufacturer can replace it with a perfectly-functioning one.
I Have a Mixer. Do I Still Need an Audio Interface?
To answer this question, I need to differentiate a mixer from an interface first.
In simpler terms,
- A mixer is designed to blend audio sources into one stream.
- An interface is designed to record clean signals into one’s computer on separate tracks, whether vocals or drum machines.
A mixer already has built-in hardware for all the work it has to do, while an interface has to rely on software to work.
If you already have a mixer and are thinking of buying an audio interface, I recommend checking what your mixer can DO first.
What are the things it can’t do that an interface can do?
If your mixer has its own built-in USB interface, then the answer is NO; you won’t need a separate interface.
Take note that a USB mixer will have more hardware controls so that you can do more than record.
But, if you have a standalone mixing console and you want to start recording on your computer, then yes, you’d need a separate interface for that.
I know that looking for the best audio interface for your MAC can be difficult.
Regardless of the features you’re looking for like a switchable air mode or multiple I/O, there’s a perfect audio interface for you!
January 11, 2023 – minor formatting updates