6 Best Audio Interface for Live Performance

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Best Audio Interface For Live Performance

The music industry is difficult to break into. All music producers know this. Yet, here you are, planning for your live performance to a crowd of people. 

This is an achievement you should be proud of. Now, you need the best audio interface for live performance to have full control over your set and sound.

Live performances are an adrenaline rush. But not having the right equipment and audio interface for your stage show is a recipe for disaster.

It can be hard to choose which audio interface is right for your musical needs. Read through this ultimate buying guide for the best live performance sound setup!

Best Budget Pick
M-Audio AIR|HUB
Best Overall
Native Instruments Komplete Audio Mk2
Best Professional Audio
Audient ID44
Table of Contents

Best Audio Interface For Live Performance

1. Native Instruments Komplete Audio Mk2

Best Overall

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Mk2

This modern-designed, smooth-edged audio interface offers the best value with its excellent sound. This all in one high-performance audio interface is easy to take on the road with you for your gigs.

With a durable build quality and compact design, the Komplete audio interface is perfect for both the studio and stage. The Native Instruments Komplete Audio Mk2 has many added features that put it at the top of our product review list.

The DC-coupled outputs, MIDI I/O ports, and multiple headphone line outputs will make your music recording and mixing easier, smoother, and more enjoyable than ever before.

This is an easy overall pick for the best audio interface for live performance on this list.

Features:

  • High-performance 24bit/192kHz converters
  • 6 inputs for all of your performing requirements, including a MIDI interface port
  • Direct monitoring of your recording
  • USB bus-power, no power supply
  • Software bundle, including MASCHINE Essentials, Ableton Live Lite 10, Replica, Monark, Solid Bus Comp, Mod Pack, Complete Start, Traktor LE 3 and a discount voucher

Pros

  • High-quality recording ability
  • USB powered making your stage life easier
  • MIDI I/O ports for all of your musical mixing needs
  • 2 headphone outputs
  • Great software bundle included in your purchase

Cons

  • No monitor outputs besides your headphones
  • CV (control voltage) not as smooth using line outputs

2. M-Audio AIR|HUB

Best Budget Audio Interface

M-Audio AIR-Hub

The AIR|HUB is the 3-in-1 audio interface for great music. This audio interface provides excellent recording and playback all in one device. The software included with this audio interface is another reason this is the best budget audio interface on this list.

If you are looking for quality and value, this is one of the best audio interfaces for live performance for you.

This high-grade monitoring station has a headphone amp with independent volume controls along with multiple USB ports for your gear and easy charging.

The AIR|HUB audio interface has a high-quality sound performance. It will make your decisions while mixing an easy feat.

Features:

  • 24bit/96kHz sound resolution for monitoring
  • 2 stereo outputs and 1 headphone output with independent volume control
  • 3 USB ports for all of your USB gear
  • Includes both USB Type-A and USB Type-C cables
  • Software bundle including Pro Tools – First M-Audio Edition, Eleven Lite Amp Modeling, AVID Effects Collection, AIR Music Xpand!2, and Touch Loops

Pros

  • Brilliant for a home studio or stage sound
  • A 3-in-1 device for musical needs
  • Easy to set up
  • A compact interface making it easy to move

Cons

  • Needs external power supply, in addition to a USB port
  • No LEDs

3. Audient ID44

Best Interface for Professional Audio Quality

Audient ID44

After 20 years of experience, Audient has only improved. The Audient ID44 is the audio interface with the best converters in the industry.

Releasing the cleanest sound, the ID44 is perfect for any live performance. Achieve distortion-free sound with high-performing converters and the best low-latency DSP mixer.

Your harmony is sure to be magnificent with the Audient ID44’s many microphone preamps. The expandability feature in this audio interface is another bonus enabled by the ADAT connectivity.

Features:

  • High-quality 24bit/96kHz converters
  • 4 A-grade mic preamps
  • 2 instrument inputs
  • 2 sound outputs 
  • ADAT connectivity

Pros

  • Impeccable sound quality
  • Easy to use and set up
  • Robustly built
  • Expandable interface

Cons

  • Beware of phantom power switch-on circuit

4. Universal Audio Apollo Twin

Quality Audio Interface for Professionals

Universal Audio Apollo Twin USB Interface

The Universal Audio Apollo Twin gives you professional quality recording, playback, and live performing abilities. The next-generation AD/DA converters give you an almost zero latency sound.

You can record, mix, and track your music in real-time with the UAD Powered Plug-ins. The Apollo Twin’s Unison mic also lets you track and re-create your recording in a way that software cannot copy.

This audio interface is superior in every way with its state-of-the-art features. Start making your music better than all your competitors with the piece of equipment.

Features:

  • High-performing 24bit/192kHz sound conversions
  • 2 ultra-performing technology for mic preamps and non-latency sound
  • 1 headphone jack and 2 line outputs
  • 1 instrument input and 8 channels of digital input
  • Real-time UAD processing

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Strong monitor control
  • Real-time tracking
  • Controllable monitoring in cascaded Apollo system

Cons

  • No thunderbolt cable supplied with the product
  • Cannot control preamp settings in cascaded Apollo system

5. Apogee One

Ultra-Portable Audio Interface For Live Performance

Apogee One Silver

A portable device, the Apogee One is a beautiful piece of equipment. The built-in mic allows you to record and playback music with ease.

Its Class-A technology is simple but effective. You don’t need to be a sound engineer to know how to operate this mini audio interface.

You can also play and record your instrument of choice with ease using the Apogee One!

Being a lightweight and mobile audio interface, the Apogee One is easy to take with you wherever you wander off to.

This is an easy pick as the best audio interface for live performance if PORTABILITY is your number one priority.

Features:

  • Built-in mic
  • 1 instrument input
  • 1 headphone output
  • AC adapter

Pros

  • Great sound quality
  • Easy to use
  • Built-in mic
  • Able to run on batteries

Cons

  • The single stereo output resulting in manual cable switching
  • Only compatible with Mac and iOS

6. Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd gen)

Reliable and Professional Interface

Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 2nd Gen

The Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd gen) boasts world-leading sound. It’s a reliable pick as one of the best audio interface for live performance and professional gigs.

This Focusrite audio interface is for the pros while having an affordable price range.

Multiple I/O ports on the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 allow you to record instruments and vocals at once. This feature is perfect for simple editing and mixing, both live and in recording studios. 

The high-quality, low-latency sound of the Scarlett 6i6 audio interface gives a new edge to your performance. This audio interface is perfect for your musical needs if you want to record more than one or two instruments at a time.

The included software, such as Pro Tools, creates easy music-making, mixing, recording, and performing.

Features:

  • High-class 24bit/192kHz converters
  • 4 analog inputs, including 2 mic preamp inputs
  • 2 instrument inputs
  • 4 analog outputs for studio and live performance sound
  • MIDI and SPDIF outputs and inputs

Pros

  • Well-designed and robust
  • Great sound quality
  • Easy set-up and usability
  • Helpful softwares included

Cons

  • Not optimized for Windows, but is compatible

Audio Interface Buyers Guide  

Performing live is stressful enough. That’s why we created this audio interface list in the first place — a quick, easy comparison list of audio interfaces packed with information.

The following section will make it easier for you to pick the right audio interfaces to lessen that performance anxiety all performers go through.

mixer vs audio interface cartoon letters

Mac vs Windows

Consistency in sound is key to music.

When it comes to your operating system, consistency is just as valid. It’s easier to transfer files between programs and devices when they are all under one operating system — Mac or Windows.

The same concept goes for performing live. When your audio interface is compatible with both Windows and Mac, your life is instantly easier. If you only use Mac or Windows products, choose the audio interface that best suits your chosen operating system.

Laptop vs PC

Laptops are portable. It can be highly beneficial for performing. You can move with your music to every gig you get.

A PC, however, is often more powerful. You can power more devices on a PC without overheating your CPU. The only downfall with a PC is that you can’t take it with you, at least not easily.

A lot of these audio interfaces are for desktop use. It means that you can use either a PC or a laptop. It really comes down to personal preference and your musical needs.

DAW

Your digital audio workshop (DAW) is the software you will be using for creating your tracks. You have a few options here and there, but the main two DAW programs we recommend are Ableton and Logic Pro.

Logic Pro is an Apple product. It is a powerful program with great effects on plug-ins, instruments, and nine MIDI inputs for recording and mixing needs. If you are using a Windows device, however, you cannot use this program.

Ableton Live is a popular program with bountiful music-making options. Ableton has three variations: Intro, Standard, and Suite. All of these options are great for musicians with ranging effects plug-ins, instruments, and MIDI keyboard inputs. Ableton is compatible with Windows and Mac, so that’s a plus.

Live Performance

You want to be the best on stage. Depending on the size of your musical act, you may need to choose an audio interface with more or fewer inputs.

The lower the latency levels of an audio interface, the better the sound.

Choose audio interfaces with the lowest latency for the least distortion.

Inputs and Outputs

The inputs and outputs of an audio interface are all about sound.

What are your fans hearing? What are you playing to them?

The amount of outputs and inputs you need is dependent on how many musicians are playing with you.

  • Inputs – XLR and Instrumental Line: The XLR input is for your mic and refers to the number of vocals you can record. The instrumental line is for your instruments, and how many you can record. Higher quality inputs will give you better recording quality.
  • Outputs – Balanced Stereo and Headphone: What are your fans hearing? Or, better yet, what do you want them to hear? The higher the quality of your outputs, the better your music will sound. For live performances, you want to be able to plug in large speakers, so a balanced stereo output is something to look for.
  • Budget – Be aware of what you can realistically afford when purchasing an audio interface. Don’t overextend your wallet before you’ve filled it. You can always upgrade your audio interface when you are more advanced in your career.

Size and Weight

Performing live means that you will be traveling around to different locations for your gigs.

Although thrilling, lugging around heavy equipment can get tiresome. Choose an audio interface that is lightweight and fulfills your musical needs.

Connection Type

Speed and compatibility are the main differences between these connection types.

USB connection is universal for both Mac and Windows.

Thunderbolt is used by Apple devices, while Firewire is used for Windows devices. Keep in mind what operating system you use when choosing an audio interface. You want them to all be compatible with each other.

Power Supply

  • USB: USB-powered leaves you with fewer cables since the device charges itself.
  • External: External power refers to wall sockets, powering the device through cables from a power source separate from the device itself.
  • Phantom Power: Phantom power allows the device to be charged from your mic.

Softwares

  • Free Mixing Softwares: Free mixing programs are great for the budget, but they’re not always optimal for your music. More often than not, the software is limited in the number of features it offers you.
  • VST Support: VST support can be greatly beneficial to your music range, opening up more features and effects for you to explore.
  • Compatibility: Always be sure that all of your software is compatible with the devices you are using, though. If you are using Apple solely, keep your software Mac and iOS friendly. If you are solely using Windows, the same consistency concept applies.

Studio Requirements

When it comes to electronic music, you will want access to MIDI I/O ports paired with good mixing programs.

For recording, you will want the best sound with the least distortion possible. When you are performing live, be sure to have the best equipment for your musical needs.

5 Best Audio Interface For Ableton Live Performance

Value Editorial & Buying Debates

We all look for value, and we all want to create amazing sounds.

One of these audio interfaces will ensure both of those aspects for your specific needs.

You need to be aware of your music performance and ensure you get the right audio interface for you.

Debating the differences between audio interfaces is a vital part of your success. Of course, you want the best device for your music and performances.

Here are a few ways to know which audio interface is the best for you.

How to Choose the Best Interface for Live Performances?

electric drum kit photo

Before you choose an interface, be sure to know what you need. Are you a solo act, a duo group, or a full band?

If you need to record instruments and vocals at once, the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 is the best option for you.

Prefer to add pre-recorded music and loops to your track? Then the Native Instruments Komplete would be better for you because of the MIDI I/O ports.

How Will One of These Interfaces Set You Apart?

The music industry is competitive. You are now performing live or, at least, you will be soon, but what will set you apart?

An interface with the best sound quality will reduce your performance stress levels.

Things to Look For to Differentiate These Products

With one of these high-quality interfaces, your live performing needs will be covered.

When choosing the right interface for you, it is beneficial to know what you need as a producer.

Here are a few things to look out for:

Converters

Sound quality is important for music, but it is paramount for live performances. You are competing against all the other live performers out there, so you want to stand out with the best sound. Looking for the higher-performing converters will put you ahead of everyone else in the musical performing industry.

Inputs and Outputs (I/O)

Keep in mind your needs as a producer. Do you need to record multiple instruments at once to showcase your band’s many musical talents? The Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 is perfect for you in this case.

However, if you want various options for recording and mixing, the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 is the best interface for you.

Set-up Ease

Performing live is an exciting experience. It can also be very stressful and nerve-wracking. Having an interface that is easy to set-up is a requirement, in our opinion.

The pressure of performing gets to even the most experienced of us, so choosing an interface, such as the M-Audio AIR|HUB or Audient ID44, is ideal stress-free performing. 

Compatibility 

Choosing an interface that is compatible with both Mac and Windows can be beneficial. If you solely use Apple products, and you always have your devices, the compatibility aspect is less important.

When performing live, you might not always have access to your laptop or device, so choosing an interface that is compatible with both Mac and Windows can make your life easier.

Expandability

Being able to expand an interface for more recording capabilities can be very useful to a growing musician.

If you are a solo artist or duo group but are looking to grow in the future, then an interface’s expandability should be something to look for. The Audient ID44 is the best option for this, and it is affordable too.

Affordability

Choosing a product based on price is not always the right decision, but sometimes we have to. Despite this, always choose the best interface within your budget.

It will give you the satisfaction of having a high-grade product knowing you have not short-changed your career to save a few pennies.

Conclusion

DJ doing a live performance

Performing live is an experience like no other. It’s thrilling and stressful ALL AT THE SAME TIME. This is why choosing the best interface for your performance is essential.

Having the right equipment for your needs that’s both easy to set up and produces high-quality sound is more valuable than anything else when performing.

The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Mk2 is our best choice for almost every musician. It releases a strong sound that is high in gain and low in latency.

The features of this product, paired with the software, will give you everything your musical career needs without any hassle.

About the author

Daniel Douglas

Daniel Douglas

After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Daniel became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.