Best 2 Channel Audio Interfaces at Every Price

An audio interface is the path to getting your music into your sound editing software. If you need a way to record music one or two parts at a time, then a 2 channel audio interface is a great option. You’ll save money, and you can still find products that will give you a professional level recording.

The best 2 channel audio interface is one that has all the connections you need (instrumental, mic possibly with phantom power, MIDI), has gain dials and good preamps for every input, and low enough latency for you to record effectively.

There are dozens of different options for audio interfaces, and if you’re not exactly sure what you need, you should check out this audio interface buying guide.

Recording My First Album With a 2 Channel Audio Interface

After playing in bands for years and mostly playing music written by other people, I decided I’d like to write and record my own music for a change. This was about 10 years ago now.

I did the whole thing for like $150.

I bought a cheap, but not super cheap, 2 channel M-Audio interface that came with a free version of Pro Tools.

I used that free version of Pro Tools to record, edit and mix the whole thing. And it didn’t allow any plugins, not even free plugins. So I recorded that whole thing without any EQ!

And it actually turned out pretty decent.

In all honesty I only needed one channel.

I used an electric drum kit with a midi connection to do all the drum parts. And a keyboard with midi to do every other instrument I wanted (if you know me you know I love horns).

When to use a 2 channel audio interface

Many musicians don’t need more than 2 channels when recording. For example, if all you need is a guitar and vocals, then you can record both parts at the same time with only 2 channels.

I actually recommend getting the fewest number of channels you need. There’s no reason to get a 16 channel audio interface when you only need 2 channels. The quality of your recording has nothing to do with how many channels your interface has.

Basically, it boils down to this:

If you can record every audio part with only 2 channels, then a 2 channel interface is enough. Considering this, it’s actually easier to discuss the scenarios where 2 channels aren’t enough.

When 2 channels aren’t enough

Here are some scenarios where you’ll need more than 2 channels to record:

  1. You want to record an acoustic drum set with multiple mics (most common reason for sure)
  2. You want to record more than 2 parts simultaneously. For example, you’ve already recorded drums and want to record bass, guitar and vocals together.
  3. You want to record any instrument (or ensemble) with more than 2 mics. For example, you’re recording a small orchestra and need several microphones placed around the group.
  4. Any scenario where you’re recording more than 2 distinct parts at the same time
  5. Any scenario where you’re recording 1 part with more than 2 microphones

That’s pretty much it. For most home recording scenarios, 2 channels is enough.

You can record an acoustic drum set with one or two mics, but for best results it’s usually best to mic up each drum head individually.

If you don’t even own more than 2 microphones, then you’ll most likely be satisfied with a 2 channel audio interface.

Best 2 Channel USB 2.0 Audio Interfaces

The primary reason to pay attention to your audio interface’s connection technology (USB 2.0 vs 3.0 vs Firewire, etc.) is because of recording latency.

USB 2.0 is theoretically capable of recording with latency levels below human perception. However, in my personal experience with USB 2.0, I’ve dealt with enough recording latency to affect my ability to play my parts.

It will absolutely get the job done, but you may find that you’ll need to mute your part in your recording software to get a good recording.

Under $150 – Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen

  • One XLR mic input with 48V phantom power
  • One 1/4 inch instrumental input
  • Preamps for both inputs
  • No external power needed
  • No MIDI connection

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo tops the list of low end USB audio interfaces in today’s market. You can connect a microphone with or without phantom power as well as an instrument with a 1/4 inch jack.

Each input gets its own gain dial and there is a headphone output as well as left and right line outputs. Both input lines also get their own dedicated preamp.

Consider reading: My top 4 MIDI Audio Interfaces

Your recording quality will be good, though not professional quality. And for a USB 2.0 connection your latency should have minimal affect on your recording performances.

There is no MIDI connection, so look elsewhere if you’re hoping to record a synth or e-drum kit.

It’s a great value and is perfect for solo artists recording guitar and vocals.

Under $200 – Mackie Onyx Producer

  • Two inputs, each with XLR mic or 1/4 inch instrumental connectors
  • 48V phantom power for both inputs
  • Preamps for both inputs
  • No external power needed
  • Does have MIDI connection

The Mackie Onyx Producer is the more versatile brand of a 2 channel audio interface. You get two inputs and both can function as either an XLR microphone connection or a 1/4 inch instrument line.

There are preamps for both inputs, 48V phantom power for both inputs, and each input has its own dedicated gain dial.

I never buy an audio interface without a MIDI connection because I typically record my drum parts on an E-drum. If you have this requirement as well, then you’ll be happy to know the Onyx Producer has MIDI in and out.

You’re paying a bit more here for improved preamps, more flexible inputs and the MIDI input. This is a very good audio interface at its price point and is capable of producing high quality amateur recordings.

Best 2 Channel USB 3.0 Audio Interfaces

USB 3.0 offers higher speeds and thus lower latency. This is incredibly useful while recording if you like to hear your current recording coming through the mix. If there’s any noticeable latency then you’re part will sound behind which can seriously throw you off (I know from experience).

With USB 3.0 connection you should have no latency problems with your recordings.

Under $250 – Audient iD4 MKII

  • 1 mic preamp with 48V phantom power
  • 1 input that fits mic or instrument lines
  • No outside power supply needed
  • Comes with free version of Cubase
  • No MIDI input

The Audient iD4 (and the iD14 which we’ll look at next) is one of the best value audio interfaces on the market today.

Depending on how you look at it, you could call this either a one or two channel interface. It doesn’t support two simultaneous recording channels, you can only record one thing at a time. However, the one channel accepts 1/4″ instrumental line and XLR mic lines, and the interface treats those two lines differently.

The two separate paths each have their own gain dial and the signals pass through independent paths to maximize the sound for vocals vs. instruments.

The iD4 is hailed as recording sound that is as clean as much more expensive interfaces.

One thing to be aware of is that there is no MIDI input. I have often recorded drums on MIDI, and used my keyboard with MIDI to access a huge range of different sounds. If you need this (like me) then this is not the interface for you.

Under $500 – Audient iD14 MKII

  • 2 mic preamps with 48V phantom power
  • 2 inputs that fit mic or instrument lines
  • No outside power supply needed
  • Comes with free version of Cubase
  • No MIDI input

The Audient iD14 is more or less the same product as the iD4. The obvious difference is that the iD14 has more inputs and outputs.

It has two of the inputs that accepts either the instrumental 1/4 inch jack or the XLR microphone line. Both inputs will support the 48V phantom power microphones.

There are still only two gain dials on the iD14, one for each of the two inputs. This is very similar to my old M-Audio interface and those two dials have always served me well.

Again, the iD14 has the same exquisite recording quality that can match interfaces twice the price.

And again it has no MIDI connection, which limits you to recording acoustic sounds.

Overall, if you want to record vocals and/or any instrument which plugs in with a 1/4 inch jack, then you’d be hard pressed to find an audio interface that will give you better results than the Audient iD4 and iD14.


When choosing an audio interface, the biggest blunder you can make is getting one that doesn’t have the features you need. The second biggest blunder is buying when you could have gotten more for your money.

The four audio interfaces on my list are among the highest quality products for the price today. As long as they have the features you need, you won’t be making a purchasing mistake with any of them.

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