12 best sound cards for the studio

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

The market of specialized equipment for sound recording today allows almost anyone to arrange a fully functional studio at home with the possibility of a full cycle – from direct recording to post-production. The key element in this set of equipment is a dedicated sound card for the studio. The editorial staff and analysts of the RankQuality.com service studied the market at the turn of 2019-2020 and prepared an overview of the best models that showed the most worthy results both in independent tests and based on feedback from real users.

How to choose a sound card for a studio

First of all, let's briefly clarify what a sound card for a studio is in general, how it differs from a regular sound card (even if it is good and of high quality), and what should be guided by when choosing a specific model.

What is a sound card for a studio

The information will primarily be important for beginners to avoid confusion in concepts. A sound card for a studio has almost nothing to do with even the highest quality and most expensive internal sound card that connects directly to the computer's motherboard. It is an external device with its own controls and a set of interfaces, which are not and cannot be in a conventional 'sound device'.

Why isn't a regular sound card suitable for a studio?

At a minimum, the built-in sound card can only record one signal source at a time. Already this limitation is enough to make such a device not suitable even for basic tasks of the most modest home studio. But the disadvantages don't end there. Even the highest quality internal sound card can delay the signal, fail in every possible way, and record extraneous noise and interference generated by the rest of the computer hardware with almost 100% probability. In the end, the internal card, during intensive work, decently loads the processor and takes up a significant portion of the RAM, which also does not contribute to any kind of high-quality recording.

Important parameters for choosing a sound card for a studio

  1. The first parameter, which may not seem so important, is the connection interface. In fact, a lot can depend on it, and in reviews this parameter is often almost in the first place.
  2. The vast majority of studio sound cards on the market are connected via USB 2.0. Less often – USB 3.0, which is already much better, since it provides a higher data transfer speed, and when recording multiple sources, this matters. Even better – thunderbolt / type-C – such interfaces are usually equipped with sound cards that are maximally adapted for computers and wearable gadgets Apple. And finally, firewire is a high-speed interface that guarantees comfortable operation. But, unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer devices with this type of connection on the market, since it is morally outdated, and manufacturers massively refuse to support it, and in new computers it is practically impossible to find it at all.
  3. An important difference between studio sound cards is the bit depth of the DAC / ADC. The average and quite acceptable value is 24 bit, but the higher this figure, the better the recording will be.
  4. Another important point is the signal-to-noise ratio. For simple inexpensive sound cards, a value in the range of 75-90 dB is normal. More 'advanced' studio sound cards should already show a better ratio – around 100dB. Top sound cards are characterized by the value of this ratio already from 100dB to 114dB in nominal.
  5. And another parameter that can greatly affect the quality of the recording is the harmonic distortion of the DAC / ADC signal. Simply put, this means the very purity of sound, which is not clear to everyone in terms of the definition of the term. And here the value should be the less the better. Optimally, if the THD is within 0.001-0.0009%.
  6. Finally, the one that minimizes latency and improves recording quality in general is the ASIO (audio stream input / output) driver. The proprietary development of the Steinberg company has the widest distribution, although in recent years more and more conversations in the professional environment have been conducted about the imminent appearance of a better alternative.

Rating of the best sound cards for the studio

Nomination a place Name of product price
The best sound cards for entry-level studio 1 Behringer UCA 222 RUB 1,507
2 ESI MAYA22 USB RUB 5,050
3 IK Multimedia iRig 2 RUB 2,990
4 Roland RUBIX22 RUB 9 170
Best sound cards for mid-range studio 1 Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen RUB 9,000
2 Native Instruments Komplete Audi o 6 RUB 18 610
3 Steinberg UR44 RUB 18 490
4 Zoom UAC-2 RUB 15 988
The best top sound cards for the studio 1 MOTU 4pre RUB 48,890
2 Arturia Audi oFuse RUB 43,930
3 Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd Gen RUB 32 100
4 Universal Audi o Apollo Twin MKII DUO RUB 52 800

The best sound cards for entry-level studio

Now let's move on to the review and take a look at a selection of the most inexpensive sound cards for an entry-level studio. These are quite reliable and generally good devices, which have proven themselves well, and their initial class is explained not so much by quality as by basic characteristics. They are ideal for beginners taking their first steps in studio work at home.

Behringer UCA 222

Rating: 4.7

BEHRINGER UCA 222.jpg

One of the most inexpensive studio sound cards that perform well in a home recording studio. The manufacturer is one of the largest companies in the field, Behringer, headquartered in Willich, Germany. Production is directly established in China.

The UCA 202/222 models are capable of recording and playing back line-level stereo signals with decent quality, out of proportion to what even the best built-in cards are capable of. Even with a very modest set of features, this series contains a decent headphone preamp. And if there is a desire and opportunity to use a higher class technology, this model will provide the ability to connect thanks to the optical S / PDIF output.

Key technical characteristics of the audio interface are as follows: 16-bit DAC; maximum bit depth of the DAC in stereo mode – 48 kHz; ASIO version 2.0 is supported (a rarity for cards of the lowest price segment); EAX is not supported. More subtle characteristics that may interest connoisseurs are as follows: input impedance – 27 kOhm; output resistance – 400 Ohm; sampling frequency – 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz; nonlinear distortion factor – 0.05%; signal-to-noise ratio – ADC 89dB, DAC – 96dB.

The situation with interfaces at Behringer UCA 222 is as follows. There are two RCA connectors for input; there are also two RCA jacks, one independent 1/8 “TRS stereo headphone output, and the aforementioned digital optical S / PDIF output. The device itself is connected via USB 2.0.

Externally, the device pleases with its miniature dimensions (22x88x60mm with a weight of 0.12kg) and a very spectacular design in bright red color. Behringer UCA 222 is actually a portable card that can be easily used in conjunction with a laptop in the most dynamic conditions – a rugged case protects the device from shock loads.

The manufacturer's warranty for this model is 36 months.

Advantages

  • unexpectedly high quality results at an extremely affordable price;
  • ASIO 2.0 support;
  • there is a digital S / PDIF output;
  • 3 years manufacturer's warranty;
  • miniature sizes;
  • durable body;
  • stylish design.

disadvantages

  • often there are problems when working on computers Apple;
  • SPDIF is often antiphase at high frequencies.

ESI MAYA22 USB

Rating: 4.6

ESI MAYA22 USB.jpg

The second number in the selection of the best sound cards for an entry-level studio according to the version is one of the most successful models of the MAYA line by ESI, namely MAYA22. At the beginning of 2020, newer models have already been released, but we will consider a model that has been well proven by time and thousands of users. This card is already much more expensive than the previous one, but in absolute terms it remains in the cheap segment.

The difference in price in this case is more than justified – this model is equipped with quite high-quality microphone preamplifiers, it needs phantom power for operation, there is also a HiZ instrument input and a line input. As for the sound recording quality, both ordinary users and specialists are generally unanimous here – it is quite high. True, a significant part of users note a characteristic crackle when working through the ASIO driver, but at the same time, the rest of real users do not note such a problem in their reviews.

Key technical characteristics of the sound card are as follows: bit capacity of DAC and ADC – 24 bit each; the limiting frequency of the DAC in stereo mode – 96 kHz; dynamic range of DAC / ADC – 108-102dB; support for ASIO driver version 2.0; there is no EAX support.

This model is equipped with two output connectors (two channels), one independent 1/4 “headphone output. The set of analog inputs is much wider: two RCA connectors; one XLR connector; two 6.3mm jack input connectors; one microphone input; Hi-instrument input Z. The card is connected to a computer via a standard USB 2.0 interface, it does not need additional power, enough power from USB, plus phantom power.

Outwardly, this studio sound card is as compact as the previous one, literally pocket-sized, and can be easily used as a portable one. The design is quite stylish, the body is made of durable plastic with a predominance of metallic shades in the color.

The manufacturer provides a 12-month warranty for this model. If for studio purposes the functionality and characteristics of this model are not enough, in the same line there is a more 'advanced' model – MAYA44 USB +, but it is almost twice as expensive.

Advantages

  • compact size, portable;
  • microphone preamplifiers;
  • high-quality recording;
  • ASIO version 2.0;
  • balanced output;
  • stylish design.

disadvantages

  • there are cases of intermittent crackling when working through ASIO.

IK Multimedia iRig 2

Rating: 4.5

IK MULTIMEDIA IRIG 2.jpg

Continuing the review of the best sound cards for the studio according to the version of a more highly specialized device than the two previous ones. Namely, the iRig 2 guitar interface by IK Multimedia. The company was founded in 1996 in Italy, and now it is a large international manufacturer of equipment of this kind.

The mentioned narrow specialization of iRig 2 implies that this miniature device is designed specifically for connecting guitars to devices based on iOS or Android. Actually, this, as can be seen from the nomenclature, is the second version of the interface, which at one time became super popular among musicians (and not only amateurs), and earned the most positive feedback. The sequel also made a splash in the marketplace, and in Western countries anyone who records guitar compositions at least occasionally has this device in their arsenal. The secret is simple – the connection is elementary, and with just a smartphone in a couple of taps, you can record a demo or a whole game in very decent quality. True, it is no longer suitable for concert performances, but this model does not apply for such tasks at all.

IRig 2 comes with a standard cable for connecting to the receiving device. Of the interfaces, the card is also equipped with a jack-socket for connecting the instrument itself, an output mini-jack for headphones, a дюймов-inch jack-output for an amplifier. There are also knobs that make it possible to turn the combination of iRig 2 and a wearable gadget into a stage effects processor. In general, this miniature device allows you to emulate a wide variety of effects pedals, cabinets and many other subtle nuances of guitar sound.

Now let's take a closer look at the main technical characteristics and important innovations that the second version of iRig received against the background of the first. The card has an inherent sensitivity in the range from 20Hz to 20 thousand Hz – this fully covers the possibilities of human hearing. The input impedance is 380kOhm.

An important innovation in the second version is the ability to switch FX / THRU between 'dry' and already processed signal for sending to the amplifier. Also here we see a mechanical wheel for adjusting the input sensitivity. iRig 2 also contains a built-in preamplifier and even a TRRS connector, which allows signal transmission in both directions without problems when connected to a wearable gadget. This, by the way, is considered by experts and users to be almost the main value in the updated iRig.

Outwardly, this sound card, although one and a half times larger and more massive than the first version, weighs almost nothing in absolute terms and does not exceed the size of an iPod Touch. And on the back there is even a clip with which the device can be attached anywhere – on a strap, on a belt or on a microphone stand, which, by the way, is also included in the package.

Advantages

  • miniature sizes;
  • ease of connection and use;
  • availability of important interfaces;
  • built-in preamplifier;
  • simple emulation of guitar effects;
  • equipment.

disadvantages

  • unstable work on devices with Android (no problems with gadgets Apple);
  • according to some estimates, the noise level is too high.

Roland RUBIX22

Rating: 4.5

ROLAND RUBIX22.jpg

The selection of the best sound cards for the studio according to the version is completed by one of the most popular models in the lower price segment, manufactured by the Japanese company Roland Corporation. Since 1972, the company has specialized in the production of musical equipment and related software. The technique of this class is made in China.

This is the 'youngest' model in the RUBIX line, and for more options, you can look at a more serious option, at least the same RUBIX24. But here we are talking about the simplest devices at the lowest price, and in this regard, the 'twenty-second' is the best option. Despite the relatively limited functionality, the card is capable of providing 24bit / 192kHz DAC bit rate mode without problems, showing studio quality and providing the lowest possible signal delay.

Key technical characteristics of the sound card: bit capacity of DAC and ADC – 24 bit each; the limiting frequency of the DAC in stereo mode – 192 kHz; dynamic range of DAC / ADC – 109 / 104dB; ASIO driver version 2.0 is supported; EAX support is not provided.

The situation with RUBIX22 interfaces is very attractive. Here we see two analog output connectors; one independent headphone output; two 6.3mm jack connectors for the input; two XLR input connectors; two microphone inputs; instrument input (Hi-Z) and even two MIDI interfaces for input and output.

This model, like all the previous ones, does not require a separate power supply, but the one provided by the USB 2.0 interface, through which the device is connected to the computer, is sufficient. The metal case is equipped with solid and reliable shielding, which adds advantages to the card in terms of immunity to external interference. The delivery set includes specialized software Ableton Live Lite-version.

This model has a one-year manufacturing warranty.

Advantages

  • purity of sound;
  • metal shielded case;
  • minimum signal delay;
  • MIDI interfaces for input and output;
  • a sufficiently high quality headphone amplifier;
  • appearance.

disadvantages

  • frequent problems for users with drivers and installation even on Windows 10;
  • user complaints about the usefulness of balanced outputs.

Best sound cards for mid-range studio

Now on to the second part of the magazine's roundup of the best sound cards for the studio, where we look at devices with more capabilities than the previous group. For the most part, these sound cards are on average more expensive than any of the previous ones, but there are copies and are almost equivalent.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen

Rating: 4.9

FOCUSRITE SCARLETT SOLO 2ND GEN.jpg

And we'll start with the most popular sound card for home studio in Russia. In fact, this is an entry-level sound card too, and is relatively inexpensive. But it was developed specifically for guitarists, and has some nuances in the characteristics that give it noticeable advantages over devices with similar functionality. The manufacturer is a well-known British company Focusrite, which has been operating since 1985.

The entire Scarlett line is known for its elementary ease of connection and use, combined with excellent sound quality, and the second generation of Scarlett Solo is a clear confirmation of this good tradition. The sound card works seamlessly with both PCs and Macs, is excellent 'friends' with Pro Tools (this and other software is included in the package), and seamlessly interacts with almost any digital sound workstation.

Let's analyze the key technical characteristics of the Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen. This sound card accepts a frequency range from 20 to 20 thousand Hz; the dynamic range is 106dB; THD + N DAC and ADC – less than 0.002%; equivalent noise level -128dB; gain range – 50dB; the limiting frequency of the DAC in stereo mode – 96 kHz; limiting ADC frequency – 192kHz. ASIO driver version 2.0 is supported. EAX is not supported.

The situation with the interfaces of this model is as follows. There are two analog output jacks (two channels), an independent headphone output with 48V phantom power; two input analog channels; one jack 6.3mm jack; one XLR connector; one microphone input; instrument input (Hi-Z).

Dry numbers should be supplemented with a few comments. Scarlett Solo 2nd Gen lets you record guitar and vocals on separate tracks. This makes life much easier for the musician, because if something turns out to be wrong with the vocals, then the guitar will not have to be re-recorded, but only the vocals. Well, the effects can also be applied separately. The exceptionally low latency makes it possible to apply effects in real time in a way that is simply not possible with most studio sound cards in this class.

There is also a simple, but obvious element of the convenience of setting the ideal level in this model. Each mechanical level control is surrounded by a luminous halo. And if the recording is at the optimal level, the halo glows green. If there is something wrong with the level, the glow of the halo switches to red.

Another plus of this studio sound card is the actual portability. The linear dimensions of the device are 144x44x119mm, the weight is only 0.43kg. You can literally take it with you wherever you go, connect it to a laptop, and record elements of the composition at any time, whenever inspiration comes.

Advantages

  • sound quality;
  • extremely low latency;
  • recording vocals and guitar in separate tracks with the possibility of separate application of effects;
  • visual indication of the optimal level (glowing halos around the controls);
  • strong body;
  • portable;
  • ease of use.

disadvantages

  • rather weak preamplifier for the microphone input;
  • cracking occurs when opening parallel applications (a common occurrence even with high-end cards).

Native Instruments Komplete Audi o 6

Rating: 4.8

NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KOMPLETE AUDIO 6.jpg

Now let's consider a sound card for a studio, which can be safely attributed to the middle class without any conventions. This will become clear even with a cursory glance at the technical specifications. The manufacturer is the German company Native Instruments with headquarters in Berlin.

This model is de facto universal, but according to the intention of the manufacturer Komplete Audi o 6 was developed as a specialized audio interface for DJs. This will be seen in some technical moments, and even the standard software includes specialized DJ programs, plugins and virtual instruments. Part of the software is developed by Native Instruments itself, and part is from Steinberg.

The higher class of the device is already noticeable at least by the number of interfaces. Here we have 4 analog inputs (jack 6.3mm jacks) and the same number of analog outputs, 2 independent digital S / PDIF channels (coaxial jacks); instrumental entrance. The connectors themselves are balanced with a decent signal swing of + 11dBu. In addition, there are MIDI input and output interfaces. High-quality converters Cirrus Logic CS4270 24 bit 96kHz. ASIO driver version 2.0 is supported. The drivers for both PC and Mac with flexible latency adjustment are also pleasing. The dynamic range of the DAC / ADC is 102 / 98dB; THD DAC / ADC – 0.01 / 0.013%.

As for the latencies, here it is minimal for sound cards of this class – just under 9ms in 44kHz mode and a minimum buffer of 32 samples. On a separate output, the delay is half that. For USB2.0 connection, this is ok. However, unless absolutely necessary, such a small buffer is still not recommended, since then any sharp load on the operating system can, and most likely will, cause a characteristic crackle – the 'disease' of many sound cards for the studio.

Outwardly Komplete Audi o 6 looks solid and expensive, like a real professional device. The panels are made of 2mm thick aluminum, the top is glossy glass. This model does not have any software mixer for 'ideological reasons' of the manufacturer – all controls are strictly hardware and are located on the body, including a large metal 'knob' in the upper part of the body that controls the output level. Headphone output is independently adjustable. The indication of input levels is well implemented – by changing the brightness of the LED on the top panel.

Advantages

  • sound quality;
  • many interfaces;
  • DJ 'specialization';
  • minimum delay;
  • visual indication of levels (change in brightness);
  • spectacular appearance.

disadvantages

  • clicks and stuttering under heavy loads on the OS (not on all systems);
  • 'rustling' of sensitivity regulators after some time of intensive use.

Steinberg UR44

Rating: 4.7

STEINBERG UR44.jpg

Further in the selection of the best mid-range sound cards for the studio according to the version, we will consider a model that many users and specialists position as a professional device. There are quite good reasons for this, since the UR44 (a more advanced version of the previous model U242) has much wider functionality than any of the previous ones, it allows you to successfully record even a small musical group, and it costs quite a lot. The manufacturer is the well-known German company of the same name, Steinberg, headquartered in Hamburg. For many years it has been famous in the market for high-quality musical instruments and related equipment.

The UR44 differs significantly from its predecessor. First of all, the number of channels and interfaces, excellent work with Cubase, hardware DSP, a special Class Compliant mode for optimal compatibility with iPad and corresponding music applications on iOS, and a number of other nuances.

From the U242, this model inherited a sturdy metal case, full support for operating modes up to 24bit 192kHz, combined XLR / TRS connectors, MIDI input and output connectors, two independent headphone outputs. But the manufacturer decided to abandon digital interfaces in the new model, which caused discontent among some fans of this series. The sound card itself is connected to the computer via USB 2.0. It needs a separate power supply to work – USB alone is not enough.

In soundcard software, the dfpMixFx control panel is of great interest. It is she who controls the built-in hardware mixer, and is really implemented at the highest level. There are also software level indicators. But for completeness of visual control, the manufacturer also provided hardware indication – an LED on the device itself, signaling a PEAK overload when -3dB is exceeded.

Effects The software of the card allows you to turn on each channel separately. There are many ready-made presets for different custom scenarios. Also, there is a REV-X reverb send from each channel.

Another important innovation of this particular model is the four options for guitar processing, which the hardware DSP 'allows'. It can be your choice: 4 mono; 1 stereo and 2 mono; 2 stereo and 2 mono with guitar processing; 1 stereo with guitar processing. And you need to remember that at the maximum values ​​of the 176.4kHz or 192kHz modes, no processing will work, but this is quite natural.

Advantages

  • almost professional level;
  • many interfaces;
  • dfpMixFx software control panel is flawlessly implemented;
  • is able to record a whole small musical group;
  • 4 options for guitar processing;
  • small size (portability), but separate power supply is required.

disadvantages

  • no digital connectors;
  • there is no signal presence indicator, but only an overload (rarely causes any complaints).

Zoom UAC-2

Rating: 4.7

ZOOM UAC-2.jpg

The selection of the best mid-range sound cards for the studio according to version is completed by one of the most popular models among guitarists – the UAC-2, produced by the famous Japanese corporation Zoom, which specializes in the production of professional musical equipment.

This is the first sound card in our entire review that connects to a computer via a high-speed USB3.0 interface. This plays an important role in ensuring minimal latency while playing the instrument, but it is not the only factor that determines the popularity of this model. Most of all, the card is in demand by those musicians for whom this minimum latency is critically important, as, for example, guitarists who constantly use guitar emulators.

This is the main advantage of the model, but otherwise this sound card for the studio is a solid midrange, capable of reproduction at a sampling rate of 192 kHz and a bit depth of 24 bit, equipped with a built-in DSP mixer. That is, quite expected parameters for a sound card of this class. Other important characteristics: dynamic range of DAC / ADC – 120 / 118dB. The declared signal-to-noise ratio is 120dB, independent tests show about 115dB when powered from the USB bus, which is very good in this price category.

As for the most important advantage mentioned above – minimum latency, independent tests have shown the UAC-2's ability to provide a latency with a minimum buffer of 32 samples in 96kHz mode in just 2.2ms. This is more than good. For the more common 44.1kHz mode, the minimum buffer will be 24 samples, and in this case the delay, according to independent research, does not exceed 3.67ms. This is incomparably less than any other form factor with a USB2.0 interface, where the latency will be at least 9ms with a buffer of 64 samples.

Unlike the previous model, the Zoom UAC-2 does not need additional power, since USB3.0 by definition passes more current – up to 900mA, which is enough for operation. However, the developers in this case acted wisely and provided a separate power connector 'just in case', for example, if the sound card is not connected to a PC or laptop, but to iPad.

The electronics of the device are housed in an exceptionally sturdy aluminum case without a single plastic part. Front panel made of 2mm thick aluminum plate.

Advantages

  • extremely low latency;
  • USB3.0 connection interface;
  • built-in DSP mixer;
  • no additional food is required, but this possibility is provided;
  • sturdy aluminum body.

disadvantages

  • not supported by ASIO;
  • rather weak amplifier for studio headphones.

The best top sound cards for the studio

The third and final selection of devices in the magazine's review of the best sound cards for a studio includes top models that are already suitable not only for a home studio, but also for more serious tasks. Let's clarify that here we are talking about more or less affordable equipment, which, for financial reasons, can afford, if not everyone, then many musicians and bands. Professional equipment costing several thousand dollars or more is a separate topic.

MOTU 4pre

Rating: 4.9

MOTU 4PRE.jpg

Let's start this part of the review with an interesting solution from the well-known and reputable American brand MOTU. It is a kind of hybrid of a professional sound card for studio and mixer. This model first saw the world more than 10 years ago and turned out to be so successful that it is still produced and is in sufficient demand for the company to continue replicating the series. This is despite the fact that over the years the market could not fail to appear comparable in capabilities models at a more attractive price. But the MOTU 4pre is so proven by time and thousands of users that it inspires unlimited trust for stable demand.

The quantity and quality of inputs and outputs is respectable. Namely – 6 inputs and 8 outputs, all of them can work in parallel and independently. Among them we see 4 microphone inputs with preamps, 4 channels of analog outputs, digital S / PDIF, two stereo headphone outputs, two hi-Z guitar inputs and a line-level stereo input.

The second highlight of this model is two options for connecting to the master device. So, you can connect the MOTU 4pre via a simple USB2.0, and if the computer has this capability, then you get a big advantage in the form of connectivity via the high-speed Firewire interface.

Finally, the third 'superpower' of this model is the built-in eight-channel digital mixer. This hardware mixes and routes the signal from all six inputs to any two outputs. Hardware controls are located on the front panel, and each analog input is equipped with a separate level control knob. Headphone out and main out are also independently adjustable.

The card equally adequately 'cooperates' with both Windows and operating systems Apple. The package includes a set of cross-platform CueMix FX software, where all the rest of the magic of this sound card for the studio happens – graphic mixing, audio-instrumental analysis, oscilloscope, spectrograms and much more.

The MOTU 4pre is ideal as a concert device – it can easily work without a computer. You just need to connect power through the standard adapter, and the card will work completely autonomously.

Advantages

  • a combination of studio sound card and mixer functions;
  • many entrances and exits;
  • hybrid method of connecting to a computer – USB2.0 or Firewire;
  • cross-platform software;
  • the ability to work independently without a computer.

disadvantages

  • low maximum DAC frequency.

Arturia Audi oFuse

Rating: 4.8

ARTURIA AUDIOFUSE.jpg

Now let's look at an interesting device Arturia Audi oFuse from a well-known developer and manufacturer of professional audio equipment (Arturia is based in Montbonneau-Saint-Martin, France).

This is a compact sound card for the studio, and at first glance you might doubt its high class. However, the first glance is deceiving, since Audi oFuse is characterized by a surprisingly developed architecture, and with a deeper acquaintance, the map can pleasantly surprise.

The first major advantage of this model is its amazing versatility in terms of interaction with sources. You can connect anything to it, any line-level and digital sound sources – guitars, microphones, DJ vinyl turntables – all this Audi oFuse will 'pick up' and adapt without any problems. In addition, the sound card contains inserts for connecting external processing, has its own DSP-processor on board, is equipped with a Talkbox microphone, a separate port for reamping guitars and even a special ground.

Now, as a confirmation of all this splendor, we will give specific technical characteristics of Arturia Audi oFuse. So, the card can operate up to 24bit / 192kHz; has 4 analog inputs, 2 instrumental and 2 microphone; 4 analog outputs; 2 analog inserts; pairs of input / output interfaces – ADAT, S / PDIF, WordClock and MIDI. For line inputs, the balanced impedance is 20kΩ and 10kΩ is unbalanced; maximum input level – + 24dBu; dynamic range – 117dB; amplification range from -15 to 36dB; THD + N -106dB.

Separately, it is worth mentioning the parameters of the inserts: input resistance – 10 kOhm; outgoing – 33 Ohm; dynamic range – 119dB; input and output level limit – + 18dBu; THD + N -104dB.

The sound card is equipped with separate outputs for studio monitors and headphones. Moreover, the monitor outputs provide for switching (A / B), and the headphone outputs have a different form factor – 6.3 jack and 3.5 jack, and they are independent from each other.

The device can be powered via the USB bus or from a standard 9V adapter.

Advantages

  • many entrances and exits;
  • versatility in terms of interaction with a variety of sources;
  • high technical characteristics;
  • wide functionality;
  • Talkback microphone;
  • inserts;
  • compact size;
  • two power options – via USB or from a standard power adapter.

disadvantages

  • some non-fundamental comments of users.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd Gen

Rating: 4.7

FOCUSRITE SCARLETT 18I20 2ND GEN.jpg

The third number in this part of our review is the flagship of the series of sound cards for the Scarlett studio – a representative of the second generation of the 18i20 model. The manufacturer is the British company Focusrite, already mentioned in the article. Only now we will talk about a much more serious device.

This model is ideal for those who plan to record several different sound sources simultaneously with high quality and want all studio tasks to be entrusted to the strong shoulders of a single center. This is the center of the 18i20 2nd Gen.

Here we have as many as 8 microphone preamps (60dB gain) with phantom power, digital inputs and outputs, a MIDI interface, two independent headphone outputs, a WordClock port, exceptionally high-quality AD / DA converters and a whole separate monitoring section with rich features.

The sound card supports 24bit for DAC and ADC; the limiting frequency of the DAC and ADC is 192 kHz; signal to noise ratio – 128dB; dynamic range of DAC / ADC – 106 dB each; The THD of the DAC / ADC is 0.002% each. ASIO driver version 2.0 is supported.

The uniqueness of the configuration of this model deserves a separate mention. It includes the Focusrite Scarlett Plug-In Suite, an entire Ableton Live Lite version, and even a license for the Novation Bass Station software synthesizer.

Advantages

  • many interfaces;
  • separate monitoring section;
  • the highest quality AD / DA converters;
  • 8 powerful mic preamps
  • the ability to take on virtually all studio tasks;
  • complete set of software and licenses.

disadvantages

  • no serious complaints from users have been identified.

Universal Audi o Apollo Twin MKII DUO

Rating: 4.7

UNIVERSAL AUDIO APOLLO TWIN MKII DUO2.jpg

And the roundup of the best sound cards for the studio according to the version ends with something special. This is a compact device, but it is the most expensive even against the background of not at all cheap devices of the top group. And this is the only sound card in the review that connects to a computer or wearable gadget via the Thunderbolt interface. This is one of the important benefits. Actually, sound equipment with Thunderbolt interfaces is a kind of pride of the manufacturer Universal Audi o.

The DUO formulation in the nomenclature points to one important feature of this model. Namely – all its hardware is built around two DSP-processors SHARC DSP. This solution opens up a field of possibilities that are not available to any other sound card for a studio in our review. Namely – the ability to process a digital signal with UAD plug-ins altogether eliminating the load on the computer's hardware resources. All this work is done by the sound card itself.

The card is equipped with two inputs, one of which is instrumental Hi-Z; four outputs, plus a digital optical S / PDIF input. There is also a built-in Monitor Talkback feature. The Apollo Twin MKII DUO is capable of recording in a fairly standard 24 bit / 192kHz mode.

As for the sound quality in this case, it is unnecessary to give any arguments, since more than a dozen independent studies have shown the highest results. Professionals will appreciate the presence of Unison mic preamps, a set of analog modulation plugins, a lot of routing functions and all kinds of signal control.

The very favorable picture is complemented by the possibility of remote control of the monitoring system. It provides four modes of operation – Mono, Mute, DIM and ALT Monitors.

The device does not need additional power to operate – Thunderbolt is fully capable of providing sufficient current.

Advantages

  • two DSP-processors;
  • impeccable sound quality;
  • Monitor Talkback function;
  • remote control of the monitoring system;
  • no need for separate meals;
  • Thunderbolt.

disadvantages

  • many users consider the price to be unreasonably high.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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