The Sound card is the music producer’s best friend: it helps in processing incoming and outgoing audio signal, connects band or DJ into the software world and gives an ability to use professional quality studio monitors.
Our selection of best sound card for music production include the best for various applications such as professional use, mobile and DJ use as well as beginner use, offering the best value for the money.
For DJ’s – Novation Audiohub 2×4
For beginners – Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 2nd Gen
For professionals – Antelope Audio Discrete 8
Best Sound Cards For Music Production
Buyers Guide 2020
Audio Interface Product Reviews
1. Novation AudioHub 2×4
Best sound card for DJ’s
The AudioHub 2×4 features 2 RCA line inputs with selectable gain switch, 2 TRS balanced jack outputs and 4 unbalanced RCA outputs.
Separate headphone socket features an output select switch and you will find 3 USB type A sockets for connecting USB devices.
The top panel has 2 volume controllers for outputs 1&2 and 3&4, a separate headphone volume control as well as indicator LED’s showing input and output activity as well as USB ports in use.
Portability and the ultra low latency performance is where AudioBus 2×4 shines. 24-bit 96kHz capable converters are provided by Focusrite, which means the audio quality is spot on.
The build quality is also rugged enough for the unit to be thrown into backpack and to the road. Unit features surprisingly loud outputs and the RCA input accepts phono for connecting a LP player.
The built-in USB hub is a welcome addition, especially when connecting with USB keyboards, other controllers and even an iPad (although not supporting charging through the port).
The unit can be USB bus powered using type B cable, which connects AudioHub 2×4 to your computer or using a separate power supply, which comes included in the package.
There are no additional MIDI DIN ports on the AudioHub 2×4, which is a minor drawback, but not really a limitation as any USB-MIDI adapter can be easily used. If you wish to connect a microphone or require anything other than unbalanced inputs, you’re out of luck.
Novation AudioHub 2×4 is an excellent budget option for anyone who values simplicity and portability.
AudioHub 2×4 ships with Lite edition of Ableton Live 9.
2) Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 2nd Gen
Best sound card for beginners
The Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 features 2 Scarlett mic preamp equipped mic/line/instrument inputs at front and 2 balanced TRS line level inputs at the back of the unit.
There are further 4 balanced TRS outputs and separate S/PDIF in/out connectors for digital connectivity as well as MIDI din connectors at the back and two dedicated headphone connectors at the front.
Mic preamps are phantom-powered using a separate switch and there are level controls for both as well as main out, and both headphone outputs.
The red and green colored led rings as well as LED’s provide visual feedback for the two main inputs as well as MIDI and USB port status.
Focusrite has clearly thought out the playability of the product providing two separate headphone mixes and a very low latency: the second generation Scarlett unit can reach an impressive below 3 ms latency, which enables seamless playback experience.
Microphone preamps are open and clear sounding, while offering a wide gain range, making it easy to use it with both low and high input devices.
The instrument inputs sound great with guitars and basses.
The converters in this unit are 24-bit 192kHz capable and solid Focusrite quality.
The unit is too small to put in a studio rack but at the same time remains small and rugged enough to be portable, which is great news for taking it on band rehearsals.
Provided MixControl software is easy and intuitive to use and the bundled Focusrite Creative Pack is an impressive addition, offering both ProTools First and Ableton Live Lite 9 DAW software as well as a mouth-watering collection of great plugins provided by Focusrite, Softube and XLN Audio.
The “gain halo” LED indicator rings are beautiful and helpful but should provide a safe gain zone indication before reaching 0dBFS.
Scarlett 6i6 connects to computer via a USB 2.0 port and requires a external PSU, which is included in the package.
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 2nd Gen is an impressive budget sound card offering solid performance, a well-thought out selection of inputs and outputs as well as great software to get started, making it an excellent choice for small bands and project studios.
3. Antelope Audio Discrete 8
Best sound card for professionals
Antelope Audio interfaces are targeted at high-end recording studios and alike, and their Discrete 8 offers discrete console-grade Class A mic pres, hardware-level microphone preamp modeling, FPGA effects and Antelope Audio’s clocking technology.
The front panel includes 2 analog combo-inputs and two headphone connectors, while there are 6 further mic/instrument/line inputs, 16 channels of ADAT optical in/outs, S/PDIF coaxial in/out connectors, monitor and reamp line connectors, an 8 channel line out bracket connector, a single word clock input and 3 output connectors as well as a footswitch connector at the back.
Dedicated controls at front handle gain for 8 analog inputs, main output as well as headphone levels, while a three-button operated colour display provides visual feedback.
There is also a separate talk-back button at the front of the interface.
Antelope Audio Discrete 8 is oozing of quality.
The fully discrete mic/line preamps have a very good noise performance of -128 dBU (A-weighted) offering a 121dB dynamic range.
Needless to say, the preamps are very clean and offer a solid sonic performance.
But the real catch of the Discrete 8 becomes in the form of FPGA FX, or chip-based zero latency 3D microphone preamp modeling provided by Accusonic, which is designed to work extremely well with Antelope Audio’s Verge and Edge condenser microphones (not included).
At the time of writing, the modeling is limited to 10 classic amps, 19 modeled EQ’s, speaker/amp emulations, classic valve and FET compressors and a reverb, but the collection will be growing in the future.
The unit offers sample rates up to 24-bit 192kHz.
The clocking options are spot on with sample rate options from 32 kHz all the way to 192kHz.
The provided ConnectAFX plugin can access all of the unit’s settings from inside the DAW.
The line outputs are a little on the light side, providing only +20dBu maximum output and it’s said that the early driver versions were experiencing latency issues in use for limited number of users.
Unlike many other products, Discrete 8 doesn’t come bundled with additional software.
The unit can be connected to computer via Thunderbolt or USB type B connector and an external PSU is provided for powering the device.
Antelope Audio Discrete 8 is a product that leaves little to desire for.
It packs genuine innovation and user-friendliness in an astonishing package, that keeps on giving.
A dedicated sound card can sound like a big investment, but it’s important to understand that quality is a sum of all components used in the process.
Investing into a sound card is a real step towards professionalism and enables you to route signals flexibly in and out from the computer.
Dedicate time into researching the available options and find a sound card that is most suitable for your individual needs and budget.