The audio interface is today’s most affordable path to recording music in your home. While some products are trying to create marketing noise by touting ridiculously high sample rates or bit depths, the reality is that every interface today can hit the necessary numbers.
The way audio interface’s differentiate themselves in this day and age are through features and recording quality.
There are plenty of scenarios where the typical 2 channels simply aren’t enough (for example, recording an acoustic drum kit).
If this is you, then keep reading to see my top picks for audio interfaces than can record 4 inputs at the same time.
How I’m Defining “4 Channel”
There are a few different ways to define “4 channel” when it comes to audio interfaces. I’m considering any product that has 4 separate recording inputs to be 4 channel.
That means that if a device does not allow you to record 4 parts at the same time, then it will not appear on my list.
Interfaces with 2 inputs that can accept either XLR mic input or 1/4 inch line will typically advertise themselves as a 4 channel audio interface. Since they can accept 2 different inputs types in their 2 inputs, they call it a 4 channel.
I don’t consider these to be 4 channel, so you won’t see anything of those products on my list.
When Do You Need 4 Channels?
There are many recording situations that would require 4 channels (and plenty that would require more than 4).
The simplest way to think about it is you need 4 channels any time you need to record the output from 4 microphones simultaneously.
Here are some examples:
- You want to use 4 microphones to record an acoustic drum set
- You want to record 4 different parts live (for example, vocals, guitar, bass and drums)
- You want to record any single part with more than 2 microphones (they don’t really make 3 channel audio interfaces)
- You want to record multiple vocal parts all together
- You’re recording an ensemble with 3 or 4 microphones
Honestly the possibilities are many. Any time you want 3 or 4 inputs to be recording at the same time you’re going to need a 4 channel audio interface.
What If You Only Need 2 (or 1) Channels?
So far, I’ve never had a scenario where I needed more than 2 inputs for recording. I record my drum parts on my Roland TD-4 electronic drum kit with a MIDI audio interface.
And I only use two inputs when I’m recording two instruments at the same time.
For many home recording artists, 2 channels is always enough.
If this is you, then I strongly recommend looking for a 2 channel audio interface. You’ll save money, and you don’t have to sacrifice any quality in your recordings.
Always Do This Before Buying An Audio Interface
One of the most frustrating situations to be in when you get your new audio interface is being unable to get it working with your home computer. Most of the time this happens because there is a problem with the software connecting your device to your computer (or there is no software).
This software that connecting your audio interface to your computer is called a “driver.”
Every interface will have a number of drivers to connect to different computer setups. For example, you would need different software to work with Windows 7 or Windows 10. And so on and so on.
Many audio interfaces will work perfectly with one setup, but will have issues with a different setup. Maybe one will work great with MacOS X 10, but will have a lot of issues with MacOS X 9.
When you become interested enough in an audio interface to consider buying it, you should always do some research to make sure that
- The product will actually work with your home setup
- It’s unlikely to have major issues on your home setup
In my opinion the best way to do this research is to read through bad reviews for the product and then check the products specifications.
The 1 and 2 star reviews for an audio interface will usually have a handful of people who had driver issues. This is a good place to pick up on possible problems you may have with the driver software.
You can also just check the available drivers for a product by searching “[Product Name] drivers” and clicking on the (usually) first result in Google. This will tell you if drivers are actually available for your system for that product.
That should be enough to avoid a major problem. So now let’s get on with the list!
Under $200 – Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD
- More features than nearly all other interfaces in this price range
- 4 mic preamps (with phantom power)
- MIDI input and output
- USB 2.0 connection
- Requires external power
I’m not sure there’s another product out there that provides so much for such a low price. This Behringer U-Phoria comes with 4 flexible inputs (XLR microphone input or 1/4 inch line) each with a mic preamp and 48 volt phantom power.
Obviously, you can’t spend under $200 for an audio interface and expect studio quality sound. No interfaces in this price range can provide that.
But the U-Phoria does provide recording quality on par with other products in the price range, plus it adds two inputs/preamps.
Plus this interface has a MIDI connection and MIDI output, which is also quite rare among the sub $200 audio interfaces. And I never buy an interface without MIDI (though you may not want it).
This product is a huge value for home recording artists who have a need for 4 simultaneous inputs.
Under $500 – Roland Rubix 44
- More features than most interfaces in the price range
- 4 mic preamps
- MIDI input and output (and Roland does MIDI very well)
- Requires external power
This Roland Rubix 44 is another great value audio interface for home recording artists. It comes with 4 versatile inputs (XLR microphone input or 1/4 inch line) each with their own dedicated preamp with 48 volt phantom power, and dedicated gain dial for each channel.
2 of the 4 inputs have Hi-Z capability which is intended to keep external noise out of your instrument line inputs. The Rubix 44 will give you clean, high quality recordings.
And if you’re like me then you want an interface with MIDI. Well this interface has it, and Roland has been doing MIDI exceptionally well for as long as I have been recording (more than 12 years now).
This audio interface provides high quality recordings, and is capable of a bit depth of 24 bits and sample rate of 192 kHz. Both of these values are higher than what you need (usually 16-bit and 44.1 kHz).
Overall, the Rubix 44 is an excellent mid tier audio interface that will do MIDI very well.
Over $500 – DiGiGrid D Cube
- Professional quality
- 2 high grade mic preamps
- No MIDI input/output
- Connects via ethernet (so won’t work with most laptops)
- Requires external power
The DiGiGrid D Cube is what I would classify as a professional quality audio interface. It takes away some of the additional features you find even on the sub $500 interfaces, and makes up for it in quality.
It has four inputs total. Two are XLR microphone inputs with high quality preamps and 48 volt phantom power. The other two are dedicated 1/4 inch instrument lines. Again, sacrificing versatility for quality.
The theme with this audio interface is that it picks only a couple things and does those things exceptionally well.
That means if you need to record vocals and instrumental parts, and nothing else, then you can get professional quality recordings for less than half the price of most other professional level interfaces.
That also means that if you need to do something else, like record with MIDI, or record more than 2 mic parts (or more than 2 instrumental parts) simultaneously, then the DiGiGrid G Cube doesn’t have the features you need.
And before buying this item verify that your computer can connect to it. It connects via Ethernet, which is somewhat unusual for an audio interface, and won’t connect with most of today’s laptop computers.
For home recording artists who want to mic up their acoustic drum kit, make live recordings, or any number of other things, a 4 channel audio interface is what you need.
The three products outlined today are providing excellent values within their price range. two for their extensive features and the other for its exceptionally high quality at a low price.