A 24-channel audio interface can take a recording studio to a whole new level.
First of all, most of the best quality interfaces available today are capable of more than 24 simultaneous channels, so you could just be taking a leap in quality.
But also, 24 simultaneous audio inputs offers more options and flexibility. From recording large groups live to ridiculously comprehensive mic setups, 24 channels can open up all kinds of new possibilities.
24 Channels vs. 24 Inputs
When an audio interface claims that it supports 24 simultaneous channels or more, that’s different from saying that you can plug 24 different analog inputs into the interface.
In fact, I’ve never seen an interface that was able to accept 24 analog inputs. The most I’ve seen is 16, and typically 8 is the maximum that you’ll get even from top of the line audio interfaces.
So when we’re looking at these interfaces we have to keep this in mind.
Note: some interfaces claim to be “24 channel” when they actually only provide 12 inputs and 12 outputs. In my book, this is 12 channels. Every product I’m recommending is capable of 24 inputs.
How to achieve 24 simultaneous channels
In order to record signals from 24 microphones all at the same time, you need more than just a single audio interface.
From the interface’s point of view, the way this is achieved is with a combination of analog inputs plugged in to the interface and digital signals plugged in to an ADAT input on the interface.
These digital signals will often come from some sort of analog to digital converter, where your additional analog inputs will be plugged in.
So the big picture often looks something like this:
- 24 microphones are used for a recording
- 8 of these microphones are plugged directly into the audio interface
- 16 more are plugged in to one or more analog to digital converters
- The analog to digital converter connects to the audio interface through ADAT inputs
There also has to be some coordination of the converters and the interface in terms of when the audio samples are taken.
But with this type of setup you can achieve 24 or more simultaneous channels through an audio interface.
When 24 Channels are needed
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never recorded 24 channels in one take. I’ve just never needed it. As a home recording artist, I generally record one instrument at a time, and the most complicated recording setup for me is acoustic drum kit. I use 7-8 mics to record my acoustic drum kit, and I’ve rarely had use for any more than this.
But sometimes you do want (or need) that many. For example:
- Live recordings of a group that needs up to 32 mics, for example an orchestra or a band with an enormous drum kit
- Choir recording where you want lots of control over individual parts
- You want lots of microphones to capture ambient sound for a recording
- Any other scenario where dozens of mics are being used for a single recording
Most commonly you’ll only need this many inputs when you’re recording an entire group together, either for a live recording or a full group in-studio recording.
So now that we have all that out of the way, let’s proceed with looking at some great audio interfaces capable of supporting 24 simultaneous channels.
Affordable Option – PreSonus Quantum 26×26
- Single interface capable of 26 simultaneous channels
- 8 built-in analog inputs with preamps
- ADAT, S/PDIF, XLR and 1/4 line inputs
- Thunderbolt 3 connection, Mac and Windows compatible
A single PreSonus Quantum interface is capable of up to 26 simultaneous inputs. It comes with 8 built-in flexible inputs (all accepting XLR and 1/4 line), each with a dedicated preamp. So for 90% of your recordings, the interface itself is more than enough.
However, in order to reach the 26 channel maximum, you will need to completely fill in the analog inputs and the two ADAT inputs. When recording at the full capacity, only a 48 kHz sample rate is possible. If you want to go up to 96 kHz sample rate, you will only have 18 channels available.
This actually only gets you to 24 channels, so the additional 2 channels are from the MIDI input and the S/PDIF analog input.
This product connects to your computer with a Thunderbolt 3 cable, and thus is able to achieve very low latency under decent conditions.
And yes, this interface is compatible with both Mac and Windows
If you’re looking for a more affordable way to increase your channel count, the Presonus Quantum 26×26 is a great option.
Top Pick – RME Fireface UFX+
- Capable of up to 94 simultaneous channels
- Premium parts, professional quality
- 12 built-in analog inputs
- MADI connection which allows for massive track counts
- Also accepts ADAT, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, XLR, and 1/4 line
The RME Fireface UFX+ is currently on my wish list for my next audio interface. Keep in mind I don’t record with 24 simultaneous channels (I think 12 is the most I’ve ever needed), but for me this interface has everything.
I use MIDI extensively and the Fireface has 2 MIDI in/outs. It accepts ADAT, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, XLR, 1/4 line and the MADI connection which on its own provides up to 64 simultaneous channels.
RME is known for making the highest quality recording gear available, and the Fireface comes with pretty much every feature a sound engineer could want as well.
Bit depth maxes out at 24 and sample rate at 192 kHz, and while you won’t get those numbers with the channels maxed out, you can get close with 24 channels.
This 24 plus channel audio interface connects via Thunderbolt or USB 3.0. The latency you’ll experience, especially with lower channel counts is well within the requirements for human ears.
Another plus: RME drivers just work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a complaint of RME drivers regarding compatibility with any system
Overall, the RME Fireface UFX+ is among the highest quality audio interfaces on planet Earth, and is more than capable of handling 24 simultaneous channels.
Value Pick – MOTU 8M 24×24
- Capable of 24 simultaneous channels
- More affordable, still a very high quality product
- 8 flexible analog inputs built-in
- 2 ADAT digital connections
The MOTU 8M is very similar to the PreSonus Quantum 26×26 we looked at earlier (just an overall higher quality product).
It has 8 built in flexible analog inputs that accept 1/4 line or XLR. And just like the Quantum, all 8 of these inputs have good quality preamps.
The MOTU also has two ADAT inputs, which allows for up 16 channels of digital audio to pass through the interface. And just like the other interfaces we’ve looked at, this MOTU interface will require additional gear in order to reach it’s 24 channel potential.
The big differentiator here is that the 8M offers a higher quality, cleaner transfer of audio information (and thus a better recording) than the PreSonus Quantum. It’s quality is close to that of the Fireface, but comes with a significantly lower price tag.
Obviously the Fireface has more connection types, more simultaneous channels, and likely a slightly higher overall quality. But in most cases these things are negligible, and the price tag certainly is NOT negligible.
Overall, the 8M is a great value. It ditches some of the features you find in units like the Fireface, but doesn’t compromise quality, and the result is a high quality 24 channel audio interface for about half the price.
The three 24 channel audio interfaces we’ve looked at today are all great products for their respective prices. The RME Fireface UFX+ is among the best audio interfaces on the market today (at any price), the MOTU 8M provides 24 channels of high quality audio for about half the price (and half the features), and the PreSonus Quantum 26×26 is a very affordable way to get 24 channels recorded.
Depending on your needs, and your budget, any of these could be a great fit in your recording studio.