Best AD/DA Converters for Audio Recording

An integral part of the modern recording process is converting an analog electrical signal from your recording microphone or instrument into a digital signal. This process is required in order to bring audio recordings into your audio editing software.

While I only have experience with lower end AD/DA converters, I have compiled a list of three converters at different price points and overall quality.

The list was created based on my own experiences and the feedback from other engineers who have purchased these products. The three on my list are among the best available in terms of overall quality and value.

What’s The Point of a Dedicated AD/DA Converter?

“My audio interface already does an analog to digital conversion!” you say. “Why would I need a dedicated converter?” you ask.

Well yes it’s true that most of your budget/value audio interfaces will convert an analog signal to a digital signal. There are two primary reasons to have a dedicated AD/DA converter.

1. You want more simultaneous channels for recording

Probably the most common use for an AD/DA converter is to unlock the full potential of your audio interface in terms of simultaneous channels.

You’ll find interfaces out there capable of over 100 simultaneous channels. But these interfaces don’t actually have over 100 inputs. So how in the world can they actually record 100 channels?

Well they need external gear to send them digital audio.

That’s where an AD/DA converter comes in.

In order to unlock the full potential of an audio interface, you often need an external AD/DA converter that can accept more inputs, convert them to digital, then send the digital audio to your interface.

2. You want a low latency audio interface that doesn’t do AD/DA conversion

But not all audio interfaces do analog to digital conversion. For example, PCIe audio interfaces get you the lowest possible latency during the recording process, but they don’t convert analog to digital.

To get professional results, you often need dedicated gear for each step in the recording process.

Yes, it’s going to cost you, but with gear dedicated to each signal conversion you’ll get the highest quality recordings possible.

Searching for High Quality AD/DA Converters

Here’s the thing, the only AD/DA converter I have any real life experience with is the Behringer ADA8200, which I am recommending on this list.

But AD/DA converters are incredibly expensive and I simply don’t have access to test these products in person. So most of this list is based upon a thorough study of reviews of those who have purchased the items.

Behringer ADA8200 Preamp and AD/DA Converter

  • Most affordable AD/DA converter I am aware of
  • Similar quality to budget audio interfaces
  • Eight flexible inputs that can be sent out via ADAT
  • Records only at 44.1 kHZ and 48 kHz sampling rate

Honestly, for amateur home recording artists like me, there aren’t a lot of products that do AD/DA conversion for an affordable price. Most comparable products are at least $1,000.

But the Behringer ADA8200 stands firmly in its place as the most affordable dedicated AD/DA converter on the market today (as far as I’m aware).

It has eight inputs that will accept XLR or 1/4 inch instrument line all with phantom power and preamps.

One possible drawback to the ADA8200 is that it only works with sample rates of either 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. For me, 44.1 kHz has always been enough, but I know engineers who use 96 kHz and wouldn’t want to sacrifice that. Bit depth is up to 24.

You will get noise in your signal comparable with audio interfaces in the under $1,000 price range, but you really cannot beat the value of the ADA8200.

Ferrofish Pulse 16 AD/DA Converter

  • Much higher quality (and price)
  • 16 inputs that accept 1/4 inch line
  • ADAT input and output
  • MIDI input that allows for remote control
  • No preamps

The Ferrofish Pulse 16 represents a much higher quality, cleaner analog to digital conversion. It also has 16 inputs and outputs (more is better, right?).

While reviews from those who have bought this converter (both on Amazon and Sweetwater) consistently praise its quality and low noise ratio, I would think twice before buying this converter for my home studio.

Two reasons:

  1. There are no XLR inputs, and all my home cables are XLR to XLR (though to be fair you can buy XLR to 1/4″ for a very reasonable price).
  2. No preamps

In reality, both of these are solvable problems. But both items (for me at least) would have to be solved by purchasing more gear.

Regardless, there’s no denying that fellow engineers and home recording artists have concluded that the Ferrofish Pulse 16 is an AD/DA converter that produces exceptional results.

RME ADI-8 QS 8-channel AD/DA Converter

  • Professional quality converter, arguably the best available today
  • 8 inputs that accept 1/4 inch line
  • ADAT, MADI and DB-25 input/output
  • MIDI input that allows for remote control
  • No preamps

RME is a German company that has been making exceptional professional grade audio gear for decades. The ADI-8 QS holds up to this reputation.

This converter offers up to 24-bit depth and up to 192 kHz sample rate, and it has every common input/output option available as well (ADAT, MADI and DB-25).

Inputs for the ADI-8 QS are also limited to the 1/4 inch line, with no preamp and no XLR inputs. This presents the same connectivity obstacles of the Ferrofish Pulse 16.

Honestly, there’s no reason to spend this amount of money on a AD/DA converter unless you are dead set on having the highest quality gear available. And if you are, you may also find that the 2-channel version of this converter is enough for your needs.

There are few setups that the ADI-8 won’t work with, and you’ll be getting the cleanest, highest quality analog to digital conversion available.


An important part of the process for recording music into your audio editing software is the conversion from analog audio to digital. If you’re not getting that from you audio interface, or if you need additional channels, then an AD/DA converter can solve your problems.

The three converters listed in this article are, according to myself and those who have purchased the items, among the best in existence today.

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