Written by Guitar Chalk Editorial
Best Audio Interface Under 300 Dollars
PreSonus Studio 68C
The 68C doubles up on everything you get in the AudioBox, totalling four mic preamps (inputs) and four balanced outputs. For the top spot (in this price range) it was between this and the Focusrite 6i6, but the 68C wins out with a better LED front panel and a more intuitive control scheme.
For this price range we're looking the best audio interface under 300 dollars with with the following features: At least four inputs (microphone preamps), balanced outputs, 48V Phantom power, and either a really fast USB connection or Thunderbolt compatible. This criteria, along with our price range has led us to five audio interfaces that fall between $200 and $300.
Two of them use a Thunderbolt connection, while the other three use USB 3.0.
If you're looking for a list that's not so bound by price, checkout our roundup of best audio interfaces overall.
Here are the five I'll recommend in this article:
Best Audio Interface Under 300 Dollars (our five picks)
- Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 USB
- PreSonus Studio 68C USB
- Zoom TAC2 Thunderbolt
- Resident Audio T4 Thunderbolt
- Zoom UAC-2 USB
What's the most ideal situation?
These audio interfaces are above entry level, though are still very affordable.
I'd recommend them for home studios where you might be recording multiple instruments or even higher-level studio spaces that want a simplified recording setup with a professional-esque feature set.
What am I paying for when going from the under $100 range to this price range?
The best audio interface under 300 should have either four channels (bump up from two in the under $100 audio interface category) or a Thunderbolt connection.
More balanced outputs are also likely (the 68c has four total).
In the Focusrite 6i6 you also see two headphone monitor jacks for allowing two people to listen to a mix simultaneously.
Most of the time, it's a simple increase in i/o capacity that pushes up the price.
Two More Great Options in this Price Range
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6
Zoom TAC-2 Thunderbolt
Best Audio Interface Under 300 Dollars (five picks)
1. PreSonus Studio 68C
You get four inputs and the four balanced TRS outputs, which is a great setup for those who run more than two studio monitors. The controls on the front panel are also very well done and easy to use (well-lit LED indicators for gain levels).
The 68C does everything that the AudioBox does and more. It's just a higher-functioning box that's only going to be worth it to you if you need the additional inputs and outputs.
When it comes to audio interfaces, note that inputs and outputs are almost always going to be the most significant pricing factor.
If you don't need the extra inputs, I'd consider defaulting back to the PreSonus AudioBox.
IDEAL FOR: Home Studios or Mid-Level Recording Environments
2. Focusrite Scarlett 6i6
The front of the 6i6 houses two mic preamps and TRS line-in combos, while the two inputs on the back are analog TRS only. This is a little less flexible than the 68C, though does keep pace with four balanced outputs.
It also has two headphone monitoring options, which could be helpful for band or group recording where two people need to hear the mix.
Recording three parts like an acoustic guitar, keyboard, and vocal source would be right in the 6i6's wheelhouse.
IDEAL FOR: Multi-instrumentalists and small bands
3. Zoom TAC-2 Thunderbolt
The appeal of the Zoom TAC-2 is the Thunderbolt connection. Otherwise it's a fairly simple setup with two channels and two outputs.
While there's some limitation here, those that don't need the additional channels, but want the reliability of a Thunderbolt connection can get into the game for under $300.
If you use it with a DAW like Pro Tools, you should be close to zero latency.
IDEAL FOR: Pro-Level DAWs
More Options Under $300
These three interfaces are our top picks in this price range, though a couple more that deserve an honorable mention include:
How do I measure recording quality?
For devices in this price range, recording quality should always be top-tier. Look for the digital conversion numbers, which would ideally be 24-bit and 192 kHz.
How do they connect?
These audio interfaces, whether via USB or Thunderbolt, would connect to a PC or Mac via their respective ports, just like a printer would to a computer. Most of them are class compliant, meaning they don't need additional drivers to work with your operating system.
What about compatibility?
If you get a Thunderbolt device, you'll need to make sure your computer has a Thunderbolt port. Most Macs have this port, and you can actually buy video cards for PCs now that have a Thunderbolt port built in as well.
Otherwise, compatibility with hardware and DAW software is almost a given. In fact, the Focusrite Scarlett devices come with a lot of software that you can use, including a lite version of Pro Tools.
For most major DAWs and recording suites, compatibility is a non-issue.
Which features matter the most?
While I've touched on some of the features to look out for in this article, like inputs and connection types, I've gone through them in detail in our main audio interface buying guide.
I'd recommend starting there if you want to read up more on the general technical considerations.
In the $200 - $300 price range, you can expect to see some nicer connection options like Thunderbolt, as well as an increase in channel and output counts. I'd expect four inputs for most of these devices and four balanced outputs for your studio monitors to connect to.
Bonus material would include multiple headphone monitoring jacks, and the Thunderbolt option. The best audio interface under 300 dollars should have at least some of these features.
Also, if you plan to use condenser mics, make sure you remember to get an interface with 48V phantom power.
Your Questions and Comments
If you have additional questions about audio interface setup or about the devices listed here, feel free to leave those in the comments section below.