These days being able to do everything from the comfort of your home is important.
The same applies to recording music. When it comes to home studios and music production, audio interfaces are invaluable equipment.
And if you’re serious about your at-home music production, getting an interface with a DSP may be a worthwhile investment for many artists.
With a DSP, you can have better control over your audio to deliver professional quality work.
Without further ado, let us guide you through our little catalog of the best audio interfaces to choose from!
Apollo Twin X
5 Best Audio Interfaces with DSP on the Market
1. Best Overall – Apollo Twin X
The Apollo Twin X has top-quality internals that allows for the cleanest analog to digital and digital to analog conversion.
It boasts a dynamic range of 127db and a low noise of -117 THD+N.
Of course, you also get a plethora of onboard DSP effects from Universal Audio’s plugin library.
You’ll get an amazing variety of effects such as reverbs, preamps, EQs, all the bells and whistles!
You can even emulate some iconic guitar amp sounds with these plugins.
The Apollo Twin X also got very detailed LED light monitoring on the top for adjusting your levels at a glance.
It’s bundled with free DAW software, just in case you haven’t got one yet.
Like its predecessor, the Apollo Twin MkII, it supports Thunderbolt. It has preamps for 2 mics and 1 instrument.
For analog inputs, you have 2 x XLR-1/4″ for instrument and mic line in and 1 x 1/4″ Hi-Z.
It also has an Optical Toslink input. It has 2 x 1/4″ for studio monitors and a 2 x 1/4″ line out. Lastly, it has a 1 x 1/4″ TRS headphone output
- High-quality sound
- Extensive plugin library
- LED Display
- Very minimal latency
- Unable to connect as many instruments/mics as other offerings in the market
- At the top of the price bracket
2. Best Value – Apollo Solo
Universal Audio is an iconic manufacturer, and it’s not surprising they appear in this list twice.
It feels somewhat natural that the Apollo Twin X is at the tippy top, and the “little brother” following just a little bit behind.
Now, if you wanted to get the Apollo Twin X but just didn’t have the budget, the Solo may be the choice for you.
Largely, the Apollo Solo and the Apollo Twin X are very similar.
You may be wondering, “What is missing from the Apollo Solo that the Apollo Twin X has if that’s the case?”
Well, there are a few critical features to consider with the Solo in relation to the Apollo Twin X.
Let’s start with the DSP processing.
The Solo isn’t as powerful compared to the Twin X, and because of that, to put it simply, it can’t process as many effects simultaneously as the Twin X.
You’re also given fewer plugins than the number of plugins you receive it you’re getting the Twin X.
Last but not least, if you thought the Twin X had few input/outputs, the Solo has even less than the Twin X.
It still does have that LED display on the unit to monitor your levels at a glance.
The inputs of the Solo include 2 XLR-1/4″ combo and a single 1/4″ Hi-Z. The outputs are 2 x 1/4″ TRS monitor outputs and a headphone output.
The Solo supports the Thunderbolt 3 for Mac and a USB version for a PC. Be sure you’re getting the right version for your use case.
- High-quality audio
- LED Display
- Low latency
- Not meant for heavy effects processing workloads
- Very limited I/O
3. Best Budget Pick – Yamaha AG03
Here is an audio interface that’s perfect for beginners. Introducing the Yamaha AG03.
The Yamaha AG03 is pretty well-known in the audio world for ANYONE, from podcasters to live streamers to musicians.
But considering it’s an entry-level product, the Yamaha AG03 is still a feature-packed offering.
It has many features that someone with a live stream or a podcast would appreciate. There are a few controls that you can conveniently do on the fly.
The AG03 has a fader that goes from muted to +6db.
It has an easily reachable compressor/EQ button, which turns on or off the compressor/EQ. You can control the parameters of the compressor/EQ via the included software.
There is also an easily reachable effect on/off button. Like the compressor/EQ, you can tweak the effects further in the included software.
You also get an XLR/TRS combo mic line 3 x 1/4″ line inputs.
It has one 1/4″ headphone output and a 1/8″ one for outputs. It also has two 1/4″ for your monitor outputs.
It has a USB connection for your computer.
- Very cheap considering that it has onboard DSP
- Very versatile considering the price point
- If you want to get more serious with your production, you will most likely need to upgrade.
- The build quality isn’t as high-quality compared to the other choices.
- Only has one mic line with the preamp; it has a 3.5mm for mic line but is way too hissy to be used in a more professional setting.
4. PreSonus Studio 1810C
This is an updated version of PreSonus’ Studio series.
What did they change in this iteration? Much like the jump from Apollo Twin MKII to the Twin X, the main changes in this version update are connectivity and converters.
This iteration of the Studio series now supports USB C. But don’t fret; they also include a USB C to A cable in the box for those who don’t have upgraded desktops and laptops.
Their upgraded converters allow higher quality analog to digital conversion (and vice versa) for the cleanest, crispiest sound recording.
One of the things PreSonus likes to brag about this series is the XMAX preamps that come with the unit.
- With this preamp, you have a huge range of gain for your line inputs and mics.
- No need to worry about adjusting your very sensitive mic to this audio interface since the interface adjusts for you.
This unit also has an LED display on the product’s front panel, which gives you nuanced info on your audio levels.
With this, you can monitor on the front panel itself whether you’re on the verge of clipping your mics or instruments.
The onboard DSP on this interface allows you to create four different mixes.
The unit also comes with free DAW, Studio One Artist. Speaking of software, it also comes with the Studio Magic plugin suite. It includes plugins from Arturia, Brainworx, and a few more.
This unit allows for 2 mic and line inputs or 2 mic/instrument/line inputs with the XMAX mic preamps.
It also has 4 balanced 1/4″ TRS direct-to-ADC line inputs and 8 channels of ADAT Optical Input.
If you want to use MIDI keyboards or electric drum sets with it, you can definitely do so, thanks to the MIDI I/O inputs on the back panel.
In terms of outputs, it has 2 balanced 1/4″ TRS main outputs, 4 balanced 1/4″ TRS line monitor outputs, and 2 stereo headphone outputs.
- Wide gain range preamps
- Wide variety and number of IO
- LED display
- More than one headphone output
- Mobile devices like phones or tablets can’t output enough power for it
- Some users have experienced less than satisfactory customer service from PreSonus
5. TASCAM US-16×08
You can probably tell from the front panel alone, but the main draw of the TASCAM US-16×08 is the HUGE array of I/O.
The 16×08 in its name stands for the 16-in and 8-out.
It has a staggering 8 XLR preamp inputs and 8 line outputs. With a mic line like this, you can definitely use this audio interface to mic up an entire drum set, no problem.
It also has an additional 6 line-ins and 2 instrument plugs.
Not only that, but it also has a MIDI I/O for your electronic percussions or keyboards.
It also has one 1/4″ headphone output for your monitoring purposes.
The DSP on this unit has a 4-band EQ and compression for each input channel. It provides near-latency-free mixing.
It has USB connectivity for your computer.
- Multiple mic inputs; perfect for drum micing.
- Multiple monitor outputs.
- Also has MIDI I/O.
- Not as portable as the other options on the list.
- According to some users, the software it comes with isn’t the most user-friendly.
Things to Consider When Buying an Audio Interface
There are a few things to look out for to have an informed purchase, and the same goes for an audio interface.
Let’s go through the list of what you need to know/consider when buying an audio interface.
Now, this is the most no-brainer of no-brainers, budget.
Of course, when we’re buying something, unless you’re a billionaire, how much money you can allocate is one of the most important considerations.
We all want all the bells and whistles in our equipment. But we’ll always be limited in what we can reasonably afford.
But don’t lose heart. There is such a thing called diminishing returns.
The further one goes up the price bracket; the less noticeable the improvements are compared to a tier below.
But that’s what the best value and best budget picks are there for.
Your Use Case
It would be best to consider what you want to use it for.
All the features you want to look for in a unit hinge on this consideration. Consider the following questions when looking at your options.
- Are you producing music?
- Are you recording voiceovers?
- Are you planning on running a podcast?
- How many instruments do you plan to connect to it?
- Are you connecting a mic? Does it need phantom power?
It would help if you thought of HOW you’re planning to use the interface and the FEATURES you may want to have in your potential audio interface.
And since this is an article about DSP, think about whether that’s something you need as well.
We’ll have a dedicated part below talking about why you would want DSP below!
Somewhat related to the use case is the connectivity of your interface.
Connectivity is related to your use case because you have to consider what will be going into your interface.
- How many instrument ports do you need?
- How many mics do you need? Do they all need power?
- How many headphone outputs do you need?
- What format of inputs and outputs do you need (XLR, RCA, 1/8″, etc.)?
- How many monitor outputs do you need?
- Do you need MIDI I/O?
Other than what will be plugged into your interface, it would help to think of what your interface itself will be plugged into.
- Will you be connecting your interface via USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt?
- If USB, what type of USB connector do you prefer?
- Is the computer you’re plugging into a PC or a Mac?
There will also be some units that support more than one option, so if you want a jack of all trades, those may be perfect for you.
Be sure to check which is best for you and your computer.
Obviously, your interface needs to sound great. Here are a few things to look out for regarding the sound quality.
- Make sure it has a low amount of noise. Look for Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N), which is indicated with a number. The lower that number, the less noise the unit will be outputting.
- Look for the dynamic range that a unit can process. Dynamic range refers to the difference between the quietest and the loudest signals that a unit can process.
- You should also check for the frequency response. This spec will show how accurately your unit can process frequencies across the audible spectrum.
When you buy something, you want your unit to last. Here are a few things to ask when looking for build quality.
- How is the chassis built? Is it made of sturdy metal or plastic?
- Would you rather have metal rather than plastic?
- How do the knobs feel? Do the knobs feel solid enough?
- Are the connectors and headphone output robust enough to withstand constant plugging and unplugging?
Unfortunately, some of these are hard to ascertain just with a quick glance at the product.
One option that you may want to take is to go over to the forums and ask the owners of said units for their thoughts on the condition of their unit after a few years of use.
You may also ask what parts break first to find ways to prevent it from an early failure.
Digital Signal Processing (DSP): Do I Need It?
So a regular audio interface can convert analog signals to digital signals, adjust your input and output levels, all that good stuff.
But an interface with DSP capabilities is a step above the rest.
What Is It?
DSP is short for digital signal processing.
Let’s try to explain this as simply as we possibly can.
With onboard digital signal processing, you can process the input signal before it even reaches your DAW or digital audio workstation.
To put it simpler, you have built-in effects on your unit.
So with a DSP, you can apply several DSP effects like reverb, compression, filters, EQs before the signal can even reach your DAW.
Benefits of Built-In DSP
Okay, we’ve explained what digital signal processing is, but what is the point of having onboard DSP processing if we can apply these effects on a DAW anyway?
There is a very practical use for onboard DSP.
Applying effects with a DAW will no doubt put a strain on your computer’s CPU. A DSP can take some of that processing load AWAY from your CPU.
Because of the strain on your CPU, it might even just slow down your workflow in general.
Another advantage is that you can apply these effects with very little latency.
So can have real-time feedback on what your vocals, electric guitar, drums, whatever, will sound like!
Say goodbye to your latency issues!
So with all this information, you should be able to find your new interface!
Remember to keep in mind why you need an interface, and that will be your guide throughout your search.
We hope this article has somewhat helped you on your audio interface search, and may your future audio recordings be clean and crisp!